Monday, January 29, 2018

Aloe Time at the Ruth Bancroft Garden -A Sunrise Photo Session

 The Ruth Bancroft Garden is extremely photogenic and those who arrange events there have been providing  the opportunity  over the last few years for photographers to access the garden early in the morning when the light optimum for photography. I've attended several photo classes that feature pre-opening entry into the garden allowing the photographer to take advantage of the light that is to be had before 10am. Last Saturday the photo session welcomed us in at 7:30am , with no structured class or instructor. We were able to wander the garden at will a full 2 and a half hours before it opened to the public, and because it is January plenty of drama was provided by blooming Aloes.

 In full disclosure, I am not particularly competent in Aloe naming, though I am on a crusade to improve this in 2018. I think because so many are not hardy or very marginal in my garden I haven't taken the time to learn more about them. Because I took very modest precautions with winter protection for those I do own and can claim 100% success, I am ready to push the envelope.



 Aren't they beautiful ?


I believe this is Aloe ferox. I bought 2 small plants last fall, and have them in containers. I have no idea where to put them . Don't trust me on the ID though.




 This is Aloe wickensii , lots of photographer activity around this clump of Aloes.


 The frost tunnel is still up at the garden and you can get some pretty nice
images inside the structure when the light is right.





And sadly, one of my favorite Agaves in the garden is a goner .This Agave gypsophila is blooming and on the road to well, the end of the road.


 And speaking of doomed Agaves... I love the asparagus quality on this one. To the lower right is one of the structures that RBG uses for rain and/or frost protection.


 Here are a few more Aloe-centric photos.




A grove of Aloe striata .




 Not sure what was going on here.



 But the Aloes weren't all that was going on.. If I could just get the damn snails to leave Agave 'Cornelius' alone I might be able to have nice clump like this. They are quite hardy here and are a nice size for a small garden.



 More Agaves ..







 The morning was pleasantly overcast but eventually the sun came out and we had to contend with the bright contrasty light of Walnut Creek. Going into areas that were in partial shade helped.









The Ruth Bancroft Garden is currently in the process of building a new visitors and education center. It was nice to see tantalizing glimpses of the construction over the temporary fence barrier. 


 




Thursday, January 4, 2018

In the Rear View Mirror--Road Trip to the Coast

 In October I took a few days off and traveled out to Mendocino. This is a place I find to be very restorative and full of horticultural interest; the latter being a contributing factor to the former. Because it's been a particularly crappy year at the office, the anticipation of this trip kept my spirits from descending into an abyss of gloom. I think all of us who garden are seekers of tranquility, and being in a garden--especially one where you really can't work--is deeply satisfying. As is my usual procedure I drove directly from home to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, an intensely scenic 3 hour drive. Since this trip took place at the tail end of the Tubbs fire, escaping the  smoke that was still hovering over our valleys was an extra bonus. The euphoria that always accompanies my drive to the coast was dampened somewhat by the burn areas I traveled though; many familiar and loved   scenes were gone, replaced with charred ground and blackened trees. Nevertheless, the moment when I turned off highway 101 to 128 which runs west through Anderson Valley to  the sea put my mind in that happy vacation place.

 I've blogged about this garden multiple times and have included links to those posts below.

 In the entry patio there was still plenty of color-this is a frost free climate and gardens can be enjoyed year round.



 The perennial borders wrap around a large lawn--out here on the coast where temps in the 70's are considered  a heat wave, lawns benefit from fog and rain. I doubt they have to irrigate much.


Conifers thrive here too, and this bed combines mosses, Sedums , Santolina and dwarf conifers. You can do things in this climate that would be unthinkable where I live.



 If you don't mind being cold most of the year it's a great place to garden



The Astelias are particularly fine in this garden. This one might be 'Silver Shadow'


 Another interesting combination pair moss with this Euphorbia myrsinites.


 Love the Banksias. I failed to get the name of this one--but those leaves !





 The fabulous Crotalaria agatifolia.



Knifophia multiflora




There was some modest fall color, very nice combined with still blooming shrubs. This area features Anigozanthos, Leucodendrons and Grevilleas


The Heather Garden was not at it's peak but is still one of my favorite spots in this garden with it's undulating mounds of Erica and Calluna along the path the connects the perennial border with the woodland garden.


Hydrangeas grow well here but there aren't a lot of them in the garden. I loved this burnished fall vignette.


The Gunneras also live happily in this mild maritime climate .


MCBG is known for it's Dahlia garden . In October some of the plants are waning but there were still a few flowers looking good even though the plants looked pretty weary. 




 This was the view from the little cottage I stayed in --I suggested to the proprietor that the Pampas Grass needed to be cut down to afford a better view for the guests. Pampas is an escaped invasive in coastal Mendocino County , but my hostess claimed that this cultivar was sterile. Her gardens were quite well done and she knew something about her plants -still I was skeptical about the Pampas.




 And a view of our beautiful coast



A few previous posts on this great garden.

https://gardenbook-ks.blogspot.com/2015/10/mendo-botanical.html#comment-form


https://gardenbook-ks.blogspot.com/2016/09/summer-at-mendocino-coast-botanical.html

https://gardenbook-ks.blogspot.com/2011/10/going-coastal.html


Saturday, December 23, 2017

In the Rear View Mirror -A Photo Workshop at Western Hills

 Way back in June (summer seems like such a distant memory) I attended a full day photography workshop at the iconic Western Hills Nursery -now known as Western Hills Gardens. Any visit here is a step back in time to the days when many of the exotics that we commonly grow now were rare, never seen and never sold except for here at Western Hills. I remember my first visit in the early 80's a new transplant  from Southern California. Though I had been in the nursery trade for almost 10 years , I was completely lost in a sea of plants I had never seen or heard of . I was not aware that I was visiting during a period of transition for the garden , that the subtle air of dishevelment  the lack of plant tags and the careworn infrastructure were all a sign that the resources to maintain the garden and nursery were dwindling.

 After years of uncertainty and neglect the garden found new stewards who are mindful of the historic nature of Western Hills and have worked diligently to restore it .You can read a very nice retrospective on the garden in this article from Pacific Horticulture .

 On this Sunday in June horticultural photographer Saxon Holt conducted a class for a small group of photographers. We had the opportunity to get into the garden early and  to spend a day there with our cameras.

  I had hoped for a bit of June gloom but it never seems to show up when you want it to and the day was sunny and cloudless. With Saxon as our guide we were at least able to learn a few strategies for foiling bright contrasty garden light .There were places in the garden where you just had to give up trying to photograph unless you were extremely gifted in the post-processing department.
 In spite of the light conditions Saxons workshops are always fun and informative, and most importantly plant-centric.

 You'll have to trust me when I say this plant-clad building is a classic example of redwood forest bohemian architecture , and the photo below it is the greenhouse.




I feel certain this peice of garden art was there when I visited in the 80's although the hanging may have been different.



I kept to the shade, and zooming in close can exclude the harsh sunlight.











 Still, I wanted to capture full garden views ; I used my exposure compensation but ultimately there was a lot of tweaking in Lightroom.









 Many of the images from that day were overexposed and had to be discarded, nevertheless even those had something to learn from. Bad photos can often be just as instructive as good ones.