Calendula – a balm to soothe and comfort the heart. Sending love and a hug to anyone who is in need of it today.
Haven’t the spring bulbs been gorgeous this year. They seem to have loved the cold April temperatures. March was mild and brought them into flower early. Then the cold weather and lack of rain made them last for weeks.
This is Leucocoryne ixiodes purpurea -or purple glory-of-the-sun. originating from Chile, these are bulbous perennials with grassy foliage and umbels of star-like purple, white or blue flowers in spring. The flowers are 2.5cm across and scented. Plant 10cm deep in very well drained soil, or in containers with lots of sharp sand.
And the tulips have had the longest flowering time I can ever remember.
THE GARDEN PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP
Andrea Jones (Timber Press £17.99)
The postman arrived to find me wobbling at the top of a step ladder, peering through a piece of black cardboard with a square cut out of the middle. “I’m composing photos of my garden,” I heard myself saying. Oh dear. How mad does that sound! I rather sheepishly climbed down and made him a cup of tea while he chuckled away.
Over tea and biscuits in the potting shed, I explained that my new photography workbook recommended using a piece of card to practise framing a view. It works close up, as well as for landscape views. I just had to learn how to squint through the cut out square- while up a ladder, and while keeping my balance. The postman declared it could all end in tears.
Anyway, as he continued his round, laughing as usual, I went back to my new book. Andrea Jones has produced a fabulous masterclass giving hints and tips on the best ways of capturing the garden.
Some of the ideas were a complete revelation. I had never heard of making a viewfinder to try out different angles. And I had never thought of looking down on my garden- or looking up. Most of my photos are straight shots, taken from a standing position. So I tried it out on these tiny species rockery tulips. Looking down:
I haven’t quite got the best shot. They are so tiny, I needed to move some of the stems out of the way. But it’s still an interesting view. I shall work on the idea.
And here’s another photo I took from a standing position. A glorious garden at Burghley House near Stamford, open for the NGS scheme.
Over the past 25 years, Andrea has built an international reputation for her photography of landscapes, gardens and plants. Among the many awards, she was voted Photographer of the Year by her peers at the Garden Media Guild. Her website for more information is andreajones.co.uk
Andrea suggests making a plan of action- rather than just casually wandering around the garden taking random shots (like I do now). Some of the best ideas I gathered from the book include:
Use a compass – a smart phone has a compass app- to get an idea of the light direction and potential shadows.
The best light for taking photos is the “golden hour” the first hour after the sun rises and the last hour of light before the sun sets. Use an online sunrise and sunset app to estimate the time.
Tripods make a world of difference for taking good photos. But if, like me, you are using a camera phone, a small piece of tack or Plasticine can be used to position a phone temporarily on a secure surface to avoid camera shake. I tried this on top of the garden gate.
If taking shots in bright, contrasty light, use your body to create a shadow and reduce the amount of light reaching the plant or subject of the photo.
Other headings in the book include: Photography in all Seasons, Photographing Pets and Wildlife, Working with Weather, Light, Macro, Micro, and Close-up, Essential Kit, and Catching the Moment.
I am working my way through the rest of the book. There are 10 inspiring gardens featured with step-by-step lessons on observation, storytelling, composing, and editing. Andrea’s book helps you take your photography to another level, whether you are using a smart phone like me, or have the latest DSLR. It’s a master course on capturing the magic of gardens.
Unfurling. My Black Parrot Tulip. A favourite this spring. Except, my foot is also in the photo. Sigh. I still have some work to do then.
Thank you to Timber Press for supplying The Garden Photography Workshop- in exchange for an honest review. I will leave you with my cat Grace who shares my home- and garden- and who sits very patiently while I practise my new photography skills.
Glistening in the sunshine, Euphorbia Mellifera stopped me in my tracks today. Such a strong honey scent. You feel you could almost spread it on toast! No wonder it is commonly called honey spurge.
Flowers: March to May
Soil: well drained
Hardiness: Needs winter protection. I throw fleece over the plant in January.
Best for: making a dramatic statement. An architectural or structure plant. Stands out in the border. Evergreen leaves with red edge and white central stripe.
Obtained from: crocus mail order
Warnings: not edible, despite the scent. Wear gloves as the milky sap is a potential irritant.
What’s looking good in your garden today?
Cold weather has held back the bluebells this year. They are still looking glorious. Last chance to visit Coton Manor tomorrow. Here’s some photos from our visit today. As usual, we started with a picnic. Spreading our rugs under the branches of some apple trees, we tucked into home-made bread and warming soup, followed by an array of cakes and shortbread. A great start to our garden visit.
Our little haven can be found at the far end of the car park. Funnily enough, we’d never noticed the orchard before. But full of blossom today, we could hardly miss it. Next we set out to visit the bluebells.
As you can see, the bluebells are at their peak of perfection. It’s a sight I’ll hold in my memory until next spring. That blue, with the unfurling lime green leaves, and the honey scent. Just glorious!
We found the dogs’ graves. What a peaceful resting place.
I wrote about visits to bluebell woods here mentioning Coton Manor and Hodsock Priory . For more information click on the highlighted words. Also look at the Woodland Trust website for bluebell woods all over the country. Be quick to visit. They are at their best right now.
First picnic of the season. We visited Hodsock Priory for the bluebells.
I wrote about Hodsock snowdrops here. Also a must-visit for bluebells. Last chance to see them this coming weekend 6th and 7th May, 10-3pm. I’ve shared more photos over on twitter @kgimson.
Do you have any favourite bluebell woods you like to visit? Are you a fan of picnics?