Writings about

the many life lessons

unearthed when we dig

in the dirt . . . and pursue

a range of other interests

in the constantly evolving

garden of life.


Monday, May 12, 2014

A garden, through the camera lens

Photographing a garden in full is difficult; no, impossible. There's no way a camera can depict most, let alone all, of a garden's features – no matter how small the space.

When I made that observation to a magazine editor as he was scouting my former garden in Connecticut before a shoot (Here's my effort from 2010), he smiled and said: "No worries, we'll bring the magic camera."

I've never had a magic camera, but from time to time I try to shoot the whole, hoping to give a sense of change and progress during the 11 months since I cleared the canvas for my new space here in Marietta, Georgia. This is what it looked like during and after the tear-out:




Fast forwarding 11 months, I shot the whole on a recent morning:


While change is evident, I cannot convey what the eye sees during a walkabout and some looks at various "rooms" in this becoming front garden. In the following images I try to do that – starting with the view from the porch.


 
Gravel path in earlier photo, dumping into "pond"/scree.


Walking toward the porch, looking left . . .



And, looking right . . .
. . . where the bonsai rack stands.
Looking at the house from the street, the driveway divides my garden into two spaces: the left side, in the images above. And the right side, which I call the wildflower/native plant/prairie space. Or, simply, the wild side.

Some of this space belongs to the next-door neighbors, as is typical in the cul. Gardening in a cul de sac often means gardening without boundaries.

Like the rest of my front, this space was torn out as much as possible. On the wild side, however, I've been challenged by virtually indestructible turf grass. I have dug through it to plant, I have dug out chunks of the turf, and I have poured vinegar and placed cardboard on some parts. Anything to avoid growing grass and wasting water and fuel maintaining it. Not to mention the noise.

Grasses, however, I love. I've bought a few, and some wild ones have appeared on their own. Here, they all grow together, along with flowers, clover and "weeds," which are simply plants one doesn't want.






Purple coneflower working hard in broiling sun.

Evocative broom sedge came in from the roadside.

Weeds and wild grasses came in from wherever.

The sweet smell of this clover tells why bees love to use it for honey-making.


In time I'll surround the bench with wild things. As the space was just beginning last year, it was clear that it appealed to birds, butterflies and bees. After a long hard winter, the birds are back and singing. Butterflies and bees should start returning any day now, and I'll be waiting – and working – for them.

(While I've planted hard in spaces in front of the house, I've also steadily added to spaces out back, where I grow woodland and old-garden plants. Someday soon, I'll try to capture the progress in images.)

30 comments:

  1. I appreciate the long views of your garden. One can see that you have done a lot of work since last year! I really like the view from your porch. As all of these plants mature, you will have a unique and beautiful garden, different from your last one but surely just as beautiful and with your personality! I remember how I felt when my front garden was very immature. The neighbors must have wondered what I was up to with all these plants dotted about, but time has brought fruition to my dreams. As the saying goes, in gardening all it takes is time or money… I'm my case, definitely both!

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    1. 'Preciate your great expectations and your perspective, Deb. You've certainly built a showplace.

      I've never built a garden (and I've built a few) that looked like much until it was five or six years old. And yes, costing more money than I want to count. So with this one less than a year young, I'm feeling ahead of the game. As it should be for a man of my age and condition.

      As for my neighbors on the cul de sac, forget the dotted plants; they were wondering why there were plants at all – instead of the expanse of grass that everyone else grows on the cul. I must say that some now do express appreciation for the beauty in a garden instead of a mere yard, even if they don't ditch the grass themselves.

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  2. I am very intrigued by your gardening concept of "no or little grass". My front yard must have grass as it is on a hill and much too large to remove grass but my backyard is the perfect place for a yard like yours. I may be "borrowing" some of your creative ideas. And I am beginning to see my back wood area covered in azalea blooms. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Hey, Dot, I fully encourage you to get off the grass track as much as you can. Since I did years ago, I've never regretted it, as I've found it much easier to be creative – considering the great range of plants and ornaments one can use after the grass is gone. Do let me know what you do.

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  3. Beautiful to see your vision taking shape.

    And yes, if there is one bane to my existence in suburbia, it is the noise of the mowing and trimming and blowing that accompanies yard upkeep. If only more folks would "see the light" and rip out (or minimize) their lawns for gardens as you have done! :)

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    1. Thanks, Aaron. The roaring machines have never resonated with me. Even as I understood intellectually how much easier it is to cut and blow and roar than to build and maintain a garden. Here's to less lawn, even in suburbia.

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  4. So much better and it's growing in quickly now. Hard to believe it's just a year since you took those first plant shopping trips and began to plant in the heat of the early summer.

    I especially like the wild side, it's interesting to see what pops up when you stop mowing and spreading chemicals. The bonsai rack is a good idea and looks good against the brick.

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    1. Time does fly, doesn't it. I know the wild side isn't for everyone, but yes, I love the mystery of what will be the next unknown grass or good weed.

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  5. ITS COMIN RIGHT ALONG ..Glad to see the overall picture!!

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  6. Hey, Lee,

    I love the garden you have built, from 'scratch' again. It is beautiful and beautifully photographed. The light is just right to show off everything.

    Here's to no grass, just ground cover. And in my case the forest floor is beautiful.

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    1. Hey, Barbara. Thank you on all counts; I was hoping I had one more good garden in me. On the light, I had enough sense to get out there early.

      A forest floor is a beautiful thing, isn't it.

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  7. Very nice! I have lots of "rooms" and tiers in my garden, too. Some were planted by the previous owner, and others have remained wild through various owners. I doubt the woodland part was ever developed, because it's a pie shape at the back of the lot. I love its "wildness" and the native woodland plants I find there. It will be great fun to follow the progress of your garden this summer!

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    1. Your garden illustrates how a gardener's ability and creativity and attitude come into play when one moves onto a piece of land. I could not imagine having no wild space. Glad you enjoy yours. I'm hoping more woodland plants show up out back.

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  8. This garden already has your stamp on it__and that is a good thing!

    You are unique , and it will be to.

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    1. Well, thank you, Rose Lady. I'm enjoying the process of stamping it.

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  9. I like the before and after shots. The long shots give more perspective of the rooms. Fun to see how the garden is coming along. Can't wait to see the back. You haven't presented that area as often. I can see that your efforts are focused on the front. Seeing how nice your bakers rack looks makes me think I should paint mine. Give it a new look. Something other than rust. ha...

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    1. Hey, Lisa, thanks. As you note, the back is at the back of my photo book. It's filling out but not as rapidly as the front. Nor will it be as dense. It will, however, contain some special plants, many passalongs, including those from you. As for your rack, rust adds a certain evocative touch. Go with it.

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  10. Everyone needs a wild side. I have to fight the lawn mower man over my wilderness. He just can't hardly bare the fact that weeds live here. Poor thing...not.

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    1. Lisa, your situation makes he happy I don't have a lawn mower woman.

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  11. It’s really nice to see some long shots of your garden, it gives a better sense of where things are. And it is nice to see all the hard work you have put in!

    I also have ‘rooms’ in my garden, although since my garden is so tiny it is more like being in a studio flat with everything on display, it has to be very tidy and the only way to divide it a bit is by putting up 'screens' here and there – like some tall plants.

    I too struggle with showing my garden the way I want to, my ‘magic camera’ is taking a video – and the last few years I have taken quite a few, they are so much better at showing space and where and how and so on. I love your Bonsai rack, I think I am going to borrow that idea in the future, when my collection gets a bit bigger :-)

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    1. Helene, I admire your talent in using images to convey your garden's fine design. And your rooms always show details that draw in the eye.

      I suppose videos might feel and look more like a walk through, but I'm still focusing on stills, so to speak.

      That rack, which didn't have good display for a while, has found its best spot. As for your getting one, look at it this way: The smaller your collection, the better display for each bonsai.

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  12. Yes, get rid of that turf grass, useless water hog that it is. Thanks for the tour, Lee. Such intriguing plantings and hardscapes. (Hate that word hardscape)

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    1. Glad you like the tour – and hate the word.

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  13. Lee, even without the magic camera, you have alot of magic going on here!

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    1. Thanks, Sue. Judging from the images of your fine garden, you're hogging the magic camera.

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  14. You've done so much work in such a short time! Are you going to rip out the rest of the grass? It would be so satisfying! The garden looks more like you with every post. :)

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    1. We who dig in the dirt are always trying to put our stamps on the land. And so it is with what i'm doing here. About ripping out grass on the wild side: I'm depending on the flowers and grasses and other meadow plants to overwhelm the turf. That plan is the epitome of optimism.

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  15. Wow! You've been working hard in the garden, Lee. Your "Lee May Original" garden is looking lovely! Just curious, will you incorporate a "Big Mama's" room/section? All the best! :-)

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  16. Hey, thanks for the wow, Beth. Oh yes, indeed, Big Mama will be represented in the back space, which will include woodland and native plants, old-garden plants and of course doodads. Cheers!

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