Experimental psychologist Dr. Gustav Fechner first advocated it in 1848. Famed American horticulturist Luther Burbank endorsed the idea many years later. Prince Charles does it and what’s good enough for him is good enough for me.
People may think I’m talking to myself out there in the garden but I’m not. I’m talking to the flowers. And why not? They don’t answer back, give me any lip, and best of all, seem to thrive on a few well-chosen words of encouragement.
“Good job, peonies! Nice try, delphiniums! Better luck next year, hydrangeas!” (Sounds a bit like the Cubs, doesn’t it.)
I’ve always loved gardening and taking photos is, for me at least, part of the process. Just as taking shots of our girls in their pretty prom dresses was a given, so snapping pictures of the roses, irises and poppies in full bloom every year is a must.
“Beautiful! Just look this way, daffodils! Say cheese, lupines! Show us what you’ve got, foxgloves!”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Nature is a wonderful thing. It provides the most exuberant colors, intricate shapes and fascinating textures, all of which can be captured on film and pored over during the long winter evenings when every living thing outside lies beneath a blanket of snow, keeping our hopes and dreams for the next growing season alive until the first snowdrop valiantly pushes its way through into the sunlight.
Photos of hollyhocks, chrysanthemums and daylilies stand right alongside portraits of Grandma and Great Uncle Arthur in our albums. Some of the perennials in our garden have been with us so long they are just like part of the family now, and one can’t help feeling a certain amount of parental pride when, having carefully sown zinnia and cosmos seeds in the spring and tenderly nurtured them through flood, drought and rabbit attack, they finally burst into flower.
But like all children they are bound to get into trouble now and then. I was once accosted by an irate neighbor who launched into a diatribe aimed at “THOSE BLOODY MARIGOLDS!” (They had a tendency to spread themselves around and invade his garden periodically.) I remember drawing my breath in sharply and it was all I could do to stop myself from running and putting my hands over their ears. Or at least, I would have done if they’d had any.
There are many places in the Chicago area where you can take some very nice pictures of flowers. The Chicago Botanic Gardens in Glencoe is the first that springs to mind but there are other, less obvious locations.
Cantigny Park in Wheaton has some beautiful gardens which is in itself rather ironic when you consider that a large part of the grounds is given over to the commemoration of World War I, which was anything but a bed of roses.
The Shakespeare Garden, established in 1915 by The Garden Club of Evanston, is a picturesque and secluded spot on Northwestern’s Evanston Campus which proved to be so secluded that it would have been quicker for me to find and dig up Shakespeare himself, but the search was well worth the effort. A note of interest; all the plants and flowers growing here are mentioned in one or another of The Bard of Avon’s works.
Lurie Garden, located at the southern end of Chicago’s Millennium Park is certainly good for a picture or two. The garden is named after Ann Lurie whose $10 million endowment helps to pay for maintainence and upkeep. That’s a lot of lettuce in anyone’s parlance.
Of course, there are certain advantages to taking photos in your own back yard. You can do a little judicious pruning; get rid of a stray leaf or odd stalk that just doesn’t belong in the picture. Try doing that at the Botanic Gardens and you’d quickly be shown the exit; go in there armed with a pair of secateurs and a trowel and you’d probably find your mug-shot up on the wall with the ten most invasive weeds.
If you are planning on doing a spot of home garden photography, here are a few tips that might just be of some help.
There’s nothing like going out first thing in the morning and taking a picture of a rose petal covered in dew; but failing that, you can always take the spray bottle with you and give things a quick squirt. Just make sure that it’s water in there and not the leftovers from the color job you gave your hair the night before.
Try to avoid photographing flowers on a windy day. I’ve taken too many shots where the breeze has blown just at the crucial moment and produced a tantalizingly blurred image or worse still, blasted the subject out of the picture altogether. I have, on occasion, tried to pass some of these blurred results off in competition as artistic or experimental photography but the judges never seem to fall for it.
Don’t be afraid to scream if an earwig drops inside your shirt. The neighbors will merely think it’s creative genius at work. And above all, remember, in order to get the best results, get to know your flowers; have a friendly chat. You’d be surprised what a quiet conversation with a carnation can do.