In the Limelight


On a verdant stage
Tender white smiles greet the sun
Bathe in their Limelight

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Master Gardener Demo Garden

I am so lucky to have this garden in my work backyard. I went out yesterday to see what insect wildlife I could shoot. It was so hot and humid, and there wasn’t much activity. It rained heavily last night, and with raindrops lingering on petals and cooler temperatures, I was more fortunate on my second attempt. Here’s some selections:

More photos on our Flickr gallery, where they can be downloaded and reproduced under the Creative Commons license: https://www.flickr.com/photos/carvel/sets/72157655011651581/show

If you are on a mobile device, the slide show may not play. View photos here.

Blue Agave

Properly  known as Parry’s Agave this beautiful mescal cactus that I photographed at Longwood Gardens in early May is a stunning photographic subject.

Magnificent on its own, I was curious to see how the “Tangled FX” photo app would render my photo of this specimen, which is  native to Arizona.   The large inset is the unprocessed original. I love playing with this new tech toy! 

And here is the original, uncropped photo done in the Waterlogue app:

 

Some purists might argue that using an app is cheating. I see it as a tool, with my original photograph serving as the core inspiration, allows me to experiment with my personal aesthetc. It is a legitimate form of artistc expression and creativity! 

A shot of tequila anyone?

All Tangled up!

Beside my addiction to gardening and taking photos of what I and other people grow, I am also enthralled with mobile device photography apps!

I found this nifty little number called Tangledfx (effects) and it’s the best $2 I have ever spent. I have been disappointed with many photo apps, but not this one.

Behold my original lacecap  hydrangea taken in my backyard, which looks lovely on its own

Then I tried one of TangledFX’s  filters, I think this is called Swirl. Kind of has a Van Gogh effect:

This one renders a stained glass look. It can be produced with white or black edges.


This one is a little more delicate than the Van Gogh (not the effect’s real name )

And this last sample I will show today is very ethereal. In the mood for a Fairy Garden? Waiting for Tinkerbell!


There are about 16 “presets” with the app. They add varying degrees of fibers, strokes, swirls and outlines. Some will make your photographs look like a cartoon or an expensive woodcut.

My garden, my flower, my photo—I feel I can take a lot of the credit, but with some help from TangledFX, the potential for some amazing pictures emerge. I could see these made into logos, or if printed on high quality paper, framed as very nice gifts.

You’re bound to see some more examples. Like any obsession, well, one has to be obsessed!  Next to my Waterlogue app, this photo app has to be my all time favorite for botanicals. But it works pretty good on animals too:

Master Gardeners are awesome!

I am very lucky to work in very close proximity to the Sussex County Master Gardeners, who are a volunteer corps of Cooperative Extension. I am not sure how many are in currently active in the county, but judging from their monthly meetings, we have more than 100 active volunteers. Each talented individual brings something unique to their volunteer service. We have Master Gardeners who write press releases, others who do training of staff and administrative work. Many go out into the community and teach at libraries and garden centers. Others answer phones on our seasonal helpline, and a large portion work in a teaching garden, known as the Demonstration Garden.  Recently my office moved toward the back of the building and my window overlooks the hydrangea section. I can see University of Delaware’s blue and gold tent, under which many free or very low cost workshops are offered during nice weather.

The Demonstration Garden is open to the public, who benefit from the clearly marked flowers, annuals, trees, shrubs and specialty attractions. Each year, something in the garden is added and changed. A big emphasis in the last few years or so has been on Accessible Gardening, or “Making Gardening Smart and Easy” by incorporating raised beds, pulleys and the  many tools that are available to encourage gardening at any age. I can still bend over and kneel to weed and dig, but it is going to get harder as I age. Good to know these resources are around. Nothing should stop anyone from gardening!  Sussex County Master Gardeners do however, have one special day, their Open House, this year on Saturday, July 13, when the Master Gardeners will be there in force, to answer questions, conduct workshops, sharpen tools and share their enthusiasm and knowledge. There is something for everyone; a children’s garden, with fun things to touch, taste and smell, a shade garden, and if I am not mistaken, a beautiful contemplative garden too.

When I retire, and if they’ll have me, I will sign up for the intensive and very thorough training offered by both University of Delaware and Delaware State University’s experts.  In the meantime, I am content to drift past the flowers and sneak a couple of photos on my lunch hour! If you are in the area on July 13, you can too! Here’s more information on the Sussex Master Gardener Open House and here is a link to pictures I took at the 2012 event.

Photos taken with my old Nikon D50, kit lens 55-200mm

Walk through the shade tunnel
Walk through the shade tunnel
Each year the Master Gardeners who tend to this demo garden, add garden art. Love this bird bath!
Each year the Master Gardeners who tend to this demo garden, add garden art. Love this bird bath!
They don't call it bee balm for nothing! These are a pretty shade of  magenta
They don’t call it bee balm for nothing!  Two are busy collecting. These Monarda are a pretty shade of magenta!
A perfect spot to contemplate, read, rest and smile
A perfect spot to contemplate, read, rest and smile
The view from my office window. Hydrangeas!
The view from my office window. Hydrangeas!
All plants are labeled with the common and official Latin name. Those plants that are native to Delaware have a special designation at the bottom right.
All plants are labeled with the common and official Latin name. Those plants that are native to Delaware have a special designation at the bottom right.
This bee has a pollen mother load on its legs!
This bee has a pollen mother load on its legs!
Touch and smell  - part of the Children's Garden
Touch and smell – part of the Children’s Garden
A bold burst of red, just showered by the sprinkler system!
A bold burst of red, just showered by the sprinkler system!
An Acuba and fern share a shady spot
An Acuba and fern share a shady spot
Coral Bells
Coral Bells. As an educational Demonstration Garden, all plants are clearly named.
Herb Garden. Think they'd mind if I snipped a few sprigs here and there?
Herb Garden. Think they’d mind if I snipped a few sprigs here and there?
The wonderful world of bees!
The wonderful world of bees!

Baby the rain must fall

Get out your rain slicker, grab your camera and enjoy the garden!

In Delaware, June 2013 has produced record rainfall. Makes going out to the garden a bit of an annoyance, but don’t let a few (okay, a lot) of raindrops deter you from enjoying what you love!  After a rain event, your garden is particularly beautiful.

The addition of freshly-laid raindrops adds a sparkle and glimmer to vegetation and provides a new appreciation for how all the elements work in concert!  This afternoon, we had one of those downpours that arrived sandwiched between sunny blue skies. Perfect petal posing conditions! Now if I could only capture that rainbow!

I have taken my fair share of straight on flower portraits. I submitted hundreds to the new HGTVGarden website and suggested about 20 or so for consideration as their “pic of the week.” But it was a chance photo of rosebush leaves, adorned only by recent raindrops, that earned the editors’ attention and me a $100 prize, which I immediately spent at a local garden store!  This was the photo:

Rain drops on rose leaves
Rain drops on rose leaves

This afternoon, once I saw the sun peep out, I made a dash and took these photos. I used a 85mm micro lens, but I could have easily used my kit lens (55mm-200mm)  and zoom in from a distance, using the flower setting. I get very good results using a shallow depth of field and stepping back from the subject and zooming to 200mm focal length. Certainly, a micro or macro helps! Most importantly, experiment when you photograph your garden. Take photos at different times of the day. A bright sunny day at noon is not necessarily the best condition for nature photography. Vary your angle and don’t be afraid to get close…or wet!

Here are the photos from today. The raindrops add the sparkle and interest on what might otherwise be an ordinary flower photo!

Knock out rose bloom past its prime gets some additional visual energy with raindrops
Knock out rose bloom past its prime gets some additional visual energy with raindrops
A red maple leaf intercepts the rain
A red maple leaf intercepts the rain
Thirsty lace cap hydrangea drinks up all it can!
Thirsty lace cap hydrangea drinks up all it can!
A raindrop dangles on a delicate coral belle
A raindrop dangles on a delicate coral belle
A Knock Out rosebud is bathed in June rain
A Knock Out rosebud is bathed in June rain
Oak leaf hydrangea blooms glisten in water and white!
Oak leaf hydrangea blooms glisten in water and white!
A bay laurel leaf has thrived in this rainy June month
A bay laurel leaf has thrived in this rainy June month
A violet lacecap hydrangea dances in the rain
A violet lacecap hydrangea dances in the rain
Heavy rains can knock off the blooms of a Knock Out rose bush, but this blooming bud looks beautiful in water beads
Heavy rains can knock off the blooms of a Knock Out rose bush, but this blooming bud looks beautiful in water beads