Garden Year I: The Finale with Epilogue

Well, first of all, thanks for reading all the gardening journey posts.  As best I could, I have taken you every step with me from the vague idea of creating a front yard garden in 2014 up to the end of the first season. A lot of sweat went into prepping and tending the garden, and almost nothing turned out as expected.  Most of the coneflowers didn’t make it back. I ruined the butterfly bush, and the first black-eyed Susans were annuals, not perennials as marked. But that’s OK; it was a learning experience.  

The next spring, having spent winter thinking about the next steps, I was ready to start anew—slightly older and much wiser.  By then, I had read more books and found additional nurseries.  Watering had ceased to be a mystery, and more time could be spent learning from observation. To add color, I planted catmint and daylilies, resulting in an early spring lavender spray with peachy highlights every year since.  The hummingbirds soon heard about the salvia and joined in with the bees.

Catmint backlit by evening sun, Fuji 400, Maxxum 70, June 2019
Daylily, Lomography 400, Maxxum 5, May 2019

In that second year, I realized I had a “Death Valley,” an area close to the house where everything planted dies. I learned this after watching saliva, coneflowers, speedwell, and geum shuffle off their mortal coils.  Year two also brought the knowledge that aphids can be washed off plants with a stream of water and will cease to be a problem—a useful fact picked up from who knows where.  

Bee balm bud, Fuji 100 (exp), 800si, 100mm 2.8 Macro (AF), June 2020
Azalea Bloom Maxxum 5D April 2020

In year five, it finally occurred to me that the plants bordering the sidewalk had to deal with higher surface temps and drier soil than those closer in.  As a result, I removed the liriope, which always looked sickly by August, and tried ice plant and scaveloa. Neither made it, but verbena and angelonia are thriving in the heat this year.  

Now in the middle of season six, perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned is patience.  Gardens take time. Like people, plants have to find a place they are comfortable, and they must get along with their neighbors.    Looking back, thinking of all the worry and planning and missteps, I don’t regret one moment.  And if I had to start all over again, I would, and I would definitely take many more pictures.

Crocosmia, iPhone 4s, June 2018
Gardenia bush, iPhone 4s, May 2016

One would think that having all the perennials in place would make the garden boring after a while. Nope. Even with the same plants, it changes every year. Last year there was a big spray of crocosmia, this year back to normal. One year, the gardenia was so full of blossoms that it looked like a bowl of popcorn—this year, it’s resting on its laurels. The coneflowers, which developed an illness and were sickly for a few years, this year and last have had so many flowers that I had to stake them. The bell flowers which bloomed briefly, and died—so I thought—came back with full force pushing aside what I thought would be their replacements.

Well, as I promised a few months ago, this is the story of how the Martian landscape became a garden, and a place for me and my guests, welcome and otherwise. I’ll keep tinkering and adding to it when a place opens, but mostly I’ll be enjoying the view. You should too. 

4 Comments

  1. Jerome,

    So much hard work but as I read the story of your gardening journey there definitely seemed to be some parallels to the photographic journey as well. Since I just came upon your blog I am not up on all the film stocks you have shot but I must highly suggest transparency film. Those flowers will absolutely pop. I wish you could have experienced Kodachrome from back in the day. That film stock is probably my #1 all-time favorite.

    1. Author

      Bill, thanks for taking the time to read through my posts and offer suggestions. Receiving advice and information from those more knowledgeable is one of the main reasons I started the blog.

      I’ve spent the last year learning my way around photography. I’ve tried a variety of common emulsions from Kodak, Fuji, Lomo, and Ilford, but no transparency film. Recently, I’ve started buying gear—filters, diffusers, reflectors—with the goal of getting better flower shots. I still have a lot of exploring and learning to do.

      I’ve also finally learned enough about gardening to begin to explore and experiment there as well.

      You’re correct; the paths are parallel, and both are a form of meditation for me. Both also insist that I slow down and see and experience the world as it is—an unexpected blessing. I wrote the post, “The Shape of My Art”, months ago, and it now rings truer than ever.

      1. My background is in the field of technical illustration, rendered by hand on paper and board. Presently I create original works with mostly graphite and colored pencils. Back in the day I was quite proficient with an airbrush but the computer made hand rendered work pretty much obsolete, in a commercial sense anyway. I say that because that is one of the main reasons I got into photography, it provided a way to produce my own reference material for my personal artwork. As the years have passed the two fields have become inseparably woven together. Each discipline influences the other and this year marks my 43rd year as a photo retoucher, freelance since 1982.

        With that in mind you might consider taking a 32×40 white or gray board out into your garden and use it as a background to isolate specific flower specimens. This method gave me clean shots specifically for illustration purposes but it also creates a clean art shot of individual plants. My history is with film so I work to get it in camera. Anyway, something to think about.

        Keep pressing in and one day you will be amazed at how far you’ve come. This last quick tip and then I will close. Learn to become as proficient as possible with the least amount of gear and then when you do add something new to your kit you will be able to make the best use of it.

        I will look up the post you mentioned and give it a read.

      2. Author

        Thanks for another tip. I plan out my projects as learning experiences. This year the focus has been on developing and scanning to drive down costs. Also, I’ve spent much more time on metering and depth of field, and soon will start in on lighting.

        The garden peaks for 3-4 weeks, starting the end of May, so I am really bound by the rhythm of the garden. I’ll be practicing/testing in the fall while planning next year’s shots. This has really helped to keep me sane with all that is going on.

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