Monday, November 29, 2010

Favorite Summer Photos: A Rainbow of Colors

Stacked flower pots at Humber Nursery, Toronto

As we are now heading towards the end of the year, I thought I might do a weekly series of photo essays on the general theme of color which feature my favorite photographs of the past year. To start of the series, I am beginning with the theme "a rainbow of colors". So without further adieu, here we go:

Market flowers, Kingston Ontario

Wire cages, Humber Nursery, Toronto, Ontario

Above and below: Lucy Maud Montgomery Garden, Norval Ontario

Above and below: Market flowers, Kingston Ontario

Fresh fruit at the Brampton Farmer's Market

The Kitchen Garden stand at the Kingston Farmer's Market

Market flowers, Kingston Ontario

The Kavassalis Garden, Oakville Ontario

Watering cans, Humber Nursery

My front garden, Huttonville Ontario

The Sperling garden, Hamilton Ontario

My Japanese Maple

The Brickworks, Don Valley Ontario

Zinnas in a clear glass vase

Friday, November 26, 2010

What was the Worst Night Out you ever had?

One of the more prettier dayliles in my garden

In the past, I combed through glossy catalogues and ordered daylilies through the mail. Sadly, I found that when they came into flower the following summer, I was frequently disappointed. Too often, I would find myself thinking, "Humm...I probably would not have bought that color, if I had seen it first."

Last summer, I was determined to find a local source for lilies, where I could choose plants in flower and skip the nagging disappointment of mail order flowers.

The Hayfields Nursery field

When I saw an article in Canadian Gardening magazine about Hayfield Daylilies, located not far from Toronto-that was it! I was determined to go.

Now typically, we plan weekends filled with activities my husband and I will both enjoy, but in the case of the weekend in question, we each had specific things we personally wanted to do.

So we made a pack: (Mistake number one)

I'd go to the Tattoo at Old Fort Henry in Kingston, if he would take me daylily shopping on the way home the following day. (Old Fort Henry, a National historic site, is a 19th century British fort overlooking the harbor in Kingston Ontario).

 It seemed like a good deal at the time, but as time would tell, it turned out to be a high price to pay for a visit to a nursery...

On Saturday morning, we did have a great time at the Farmer's Market in downtown Kingston

My dear husband is in a small pipe and drum band and was excited as a school boy to see the Tattoo.

Me, not so much. A little pipe and drum music goes a long way with me! But, hubby was looking forward to it and like a good wife, I was doing my darnedest to get on board with the plan.

Second Mistake of the evening: Hubby was determined to get there early, so we could get prime seating. He wanted to be able to take lots of pictures and even shoot video of the show.

My thinking- it was enough to sit through- I mean, enjoy once- I wasn't going to need the photos or the video reminder. What's more boring than amateur home movies? Video of uniformed bands marching up and down a field. Trust me on this!

Third Mistake: We skipped dinner and decided, to opt instead, on a late supper after the show (in order to be assured of those afore mentioned good seats).

Sadly, hubby got the show start time wrong and we weren't just early, we were ridiculously early! And as I sat down on the rock hard, wooden stadium seating, all I could think was how glad I was that I had had the foresight to bring a magazine to read.

Finally the show started and I even enjoyed it a little bit.

But then, it started to drizzle and then, it started to rain. Big, fat, drops of ice cold rain, no less!

Sitting hunched under my umbrella, trying desperately not to get drenched, my back started to ache. The parade of bands started to drag and on...

and on...

and on...

They march up the field and then down the field and then to keep it interesting(?) they grouped in the center of the field for a pow wow.

I think you get the picture!

My stomache started to grumble and I tried to think, that soon, hopefully very soon, we'd be having a wonderful dinner in one of those a cute little restaurant that we had seen in downtown Kingston earlier that day.

City Hall in downtown Kingston

When I got tired of looking at the action on the field, in my boredom, I started to watch the scary looking spiders on the metal railing in front of me. I have never seen so many spiders in one place in my life!

Increasingly tired after a full day of travel, I began to dread of the inevitable crush of people leaving at the end of the show and the claustrophobic stone and brick staircase that we would all be packed into, like sardines in an can, as we exited the fort's upper terrace.

And then... just when my thoughts hit a negative bottom, there was a light on the horizon and I am not talking about the moon in the sky over the old fort.

The show seemed to hit a bit of a crushendoo and I perked up, thinking dinner at last... 9 o'clock sure enough, but still, not too late for dinner on a Saturday night. Heck, we could always sleep in the next morning.

But no, it seems life can be cruel.

It turned out it was only a 15 intermission! Sob! Apparently, there was still another hour of marching bands to savor after the break! Sensing my unhappiness, my dear husband offered to leave, but I could see he was enjoying the show. I could not bring myself to be so selfish as to drag him away.

I'll spare you any more of this sad tale and fast forward to the end of the night. The show ended sometime after 10. (Note: that's a full 3 hours of marching band music!) It was then too late for dinner. At any rate, cold, miserable and wet, all I wanted at that point, was a hot shower and my nice fluffy pillow back at the hotel. I'd like to tell you I fell asleep to happy dreams, but I was way too tired to do any dreaming at all.

Marriage certainly has its give and take, doesn't it?

Tell me though, and be honest, was I wrong in the first place, when I agreed to go to the Tattoo with my luke warm enthusiasm firmly in tow? Or make me feel better and tell me about the worst night out that you ever had!

On the brighter side of things, I did get to go shopping for daylilies the next morning.

To all my American blogging friends, I hope you are having a great Thanksgiving.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Volunteers that Lend a Gardener an Unrequested Helping Hand

Nothing endures but change.
Heraculitus (540 BC-480 BC), from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

If your vision for your garden is adaptable and you take delight in little surprises, then you may be interested in inviting self-seeding volunteers into your garden.

Forget-me-nots are probably the most familiar garden self-seeders. They look wonderful as an understory for tulips and early spring bloomers. The only drawback is that Forget-me-nots have a bad habit of turning into a bedragled brown mess covered in powdery mildew in late spring. You either love them or think they are an annoying weed!

While Forget-me-nots may be the most common, there are many other self-seeders that can add color to your garden. Here are some volunteers at work in my garden.

There are large sections of my garden under the cover of mature trees, and so I welcome anything that can take the shade. Under the canopy of a large maple, Violets add early spring color. Resilient little troopers, Violets have now self-seeded into both sunny and shaded crevices throughout the garden.

My neighbors across the street have a whole bed dedicated to Calendula, a happy orange and yellow annual. Before I knew it, I had uninvited Calendula in my own front garden. And now this year, just about everyone at this end of the block has Calendula in their garden! ( Just keep that vigor in mind!)

Growing up, I wasn't fond of Calendulas in my mother's garden, because though I like the flowers, I thought that the seed heads were kind of ugly. I didn't consider planting it in my own garden for this reason.

I must confess that in these last couple of years, I have come to better appreciate Calendula. Undemanding of anything but a sunny spot, it shows up every summer to add a punch of bright color to my July garden and keeps blooming until late fall. These days, I just lop off most of those ugly seed heads as they appear. If the plant gets messy looking, I rip it out.

Like Calendula, Feverfew is a happy-go-lucky flower that shows up in the oddest nooks and crannies. I welcome it wherever it turns up.

Whenever I see poppies, I think of my mother. She loved poppies and collected as many different varieties as she could find. A few years back, Mum sent me seeds in the mail and I have had annual poppies in my garden every year since.

Just be forewarned, annual poppies are such great self-seeders that can easily take over a flower bed if you let them.

Yellow Fumitory is another shade loving self-seeder. I love the fern-like leaves and it blooms non-stop all summer. It can spread readily, but any unwanted seedlings are easy to pull out.

Though, as you can see, I already have a collection of plant volunteers, I still have a wish list of self-seeding biennials that I hope to add to my garden. After seeing hollyhocks in a nearby garden in Norval, I'd love to add these tall beauties to my own garden. 

Even though hollyhocks like the sun (which is at a premium in my garden) and are prone to rust a fungal disease that leaves unsightly orange spots, I want to find a spot at the back of one of my borders for them.

Foxglove is one biennial that I keep trying unsuccessfully to introduce to my garden. I have tired plants in the past without luck, so next summer I think I will give seeds a go. If you have any tips for me on growing foxgloves, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soft Focus

An iris bloom with an odd choice of focus

Let me tell you about the most amazing photograph- the one I almost took!

The subject of this "almost" photograph was one of those unique moments in time when nature suddenly reveals herself in the most dramatic colors imaginable. 

Here is how the photo almost came to be.

Last weekend, we went to a wedding in the nearby city of Hamilton. We were heading home in the car on Sunday afternoon, when suddenly the late day sun broke through the heavy purply-grey cloud cover illuminating the golden colored fall landscape and bathing the sandstone exterior of Dundurn Castle, which we just happened to be passing, in the most amazing light. The scene was simply magical!

By the time I turned to my husband to remark on this apparition, the moment had passed. The cloud cover swallowed up the sunlight in one rude gulp and left the landscape with an empty, grey November wrapper.

The image is fixed in my imagination, but sadly I can not share its magnificence- I find I stumble and trip over my words- I best describe the world visually. That is why I like photography and painting.

These slightly blurry Astrantia flowers look as if they are floating on water.

While I am happiest working with visual images, this is not to say that creating them is not without challenges.

What is the hardiest thing for me when it comes to taking a good picture? Focus! Focus & Focus! 

I can't tell you how may times I have reviewed a batch of photographs only to be deeply disappointed to find perfectly lovely shots ruined by soft or misdirected focus. 

Sometimes, okay hubby would say a lot of times, I am way to impatient. As I said at the top of the post, moments pass and I get too wrapped up in getting it all on "film" before it disappears. 

And cameras can be uncooperative, mechanical things. I feel about cameras like I do about cars- as long as they run, I really don't care to look under the hood. While negotiating the buttons and knobs on our camera seem to be second nature for my husband, I struggle to learn how to use them to my advantage.

This a Yucca against a pale blue sky of a summer day- if only it were in better focus!

The blurry water bubbles at the bottom of the frame tell the tale- not quite in sharp focus- but I have to say that water always looks fresh, no matter how badly you mess up the shot!

This a shot that hubby took. (Yes, bad focus is catching!) 

Can you guess what it is? It is a glass of beer! 

It kind of looks like an abstract painting doesn't it? 

It was a super hot day and were sitting having a drink on a patio at the Royal Botanical Gardens. The image is the surrounding garden seen through the frost covered surface of the ice cold beer.

Some of my favorite soft focus images are of daylilies. I find when shooting daylilies it is hard to determine where I want to set the focus- the flowers petals?- the stamens?- the pollen covered anthers?

When a flower is delicate it seems less important that the focus is dead-on. This is borage (herb).

I have no idea what happened here. Camera shakes maybe? Can you guess what this surreal looking image is? 

It is a goldfish and the weird white blobs are air bubbles in the tank.

These fireworks are cilantro flowers. The focus was mistakenly set to the back of the flower.

Red and deep orange flowers can be tricky to photograph unless you have a good camera. 

This is me trying to shoot a nasturtium in bright sunlight with our older, not so great, Kodak camera. It is almost...maybe if you squint your eyes and move away from the screen in focus. The detail is lost on the flower petals...

but the intensity of the orange is kind of neat, don't you think?

This is dill-again a shot that hubby took. I am not sure if the dill moved in the wind or he moved the camera, but the result is this double looking image.

What do I like best about photography? Forcing myself to really see- to look closer, harder- not to overlook anything. Of course when you are that dedicated, you can get strange looks!

I was in a, dare I admit it publicly, Tim Horton's parking lot waiting for hubby to return with our morning coffee, when I saw this ornamental grass swaying in the wind. It was soft and feathery and so very pretty that I got out the camera to take a few shots. ( Hey, beauty lurks in even the most unexpected places!)

Didn't I get some oddest looks and prolonged stairs!! I am sure they either thought that I was certifiably crazy or maybe that I must be doing some weird surveillance work. (It was after all one of the more iffy Tim's, where they lock the bathrooms in the evening and make you ask for a key if you need to use it.)

I wish I could say that I was rewarded with perfect images.

It was the wind that did me in this time!

I found that I had only just brought the lens into focus when the wind whipped in and swirled the downy tendrils of the grass into a soft, blurry mass. I did get a few good shots, but most, like the ones above, were way too soft.

I never tire of looking at images and I have to say that there are some amazing garden photographs out there in the blogosphere. It is both a humbling and inspiring experience to read your garden blogs.

Now that its fall, what's was your favorite photograph you took this spring or summer?

Or maybe there is an awesome photograph that you almost took?