Garden Frame: Catmint with Coral-Red Azaleas

Description:  A sprig of catmint (Walker’s Low) against a background of coral azaleas. The shot was taken in the early afternoon while the sun was high in the sky. 

Background:  Catmint blooms in early to mid-spring and has beautiful, small lavender flowers. Bees love it. I bought three plants from a small local nursery that specializes in less-common garden plants. I took this shot in the catmint’s fourth season (2019). The first two years were dicey. I planted the catmint in late May of 2016, and they had a difficult time that summer, looking so bad at times that I thought they were doomed. However, they did come back, but did not thrive until their fourth season. In the fourth season, they exploded, growing 18-24 inches and were loaded continuously with flowers. After five years, it’s clear that full-sun in Georgia is too much sun, so that, by July, they tend to turn an odd papery beige color and the blooms stop until fall. The day of this shot was warm and sunny with a mild breeze; the sunlight sprinkling over the flowers seemed to make them glow.  

The azaleas are a mini-success story. When I began gardening in 2014, I decided to remove all the azalea bushes because, for years, they had produced only a few blooms, and the plants themselves looked sickly and anemic. My wife objected to removing them completely, so, wanting to plant hostas, I moved the azaleas further west on the lot—fully expecting them to die. To my surprise, they bloomed brilliantly, producing a thick wall of gorgeous deep coral-red blooms! The year of this shot had ideal conditions–plenty of sun interspersed with rain. There was enough rain to assure plenty of flowers, but no frequent, drenching rains that knock off the blossoms. The catmint’s delicate lavender flowers and soft green foliage, seen against that coral-red wall, were stunning and compelling in a way that makes it obvious why cameras exist.

Technical: Minolta Maxxum 7, Maxxum 100mm f2.8 Macro, Fuji 400 Superia X-Tra (high, early afternoon sun with azaleas in fairly deep shade: commercial lab, home scan)  

Comments: Had I known better, I would have used a diffuser to soften the sun’s harshness. I also wish I had waited for a moment when the breeze had died down to aim at such a small target. However, I am quite pleased with the colors and the bokeh. This is one of my favorite images.

I decided to reproduce this photo this spring. Unfortunately, the weather was windy and wet, and the azaleas were soggy and lost their blossoms too quickly. Maybe next year…

1 Comment

  1. Very good article the explanation of the beautiful flowers were so meaningful and so were the descriptions of the process wonderful, wonderful.

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