Hooray for spring !

– Posted in: Garden Photography

My first daffodil bloomed today October 21. Want proof ? The camera never lies.

Narcissus ‘Ziva’

Wait a minute. Am I not the guy who says the camera always lies ? that we cannot believe the implied message of the typical garden photograph ? Now I want to use the camera to tell the truth ?! Yeehaw ! Now I’ve got you. What IS the truth?

Find another blog of you want that answer, but I do know the gardening that we each do in our own dirt is truth. Which is why I urge us all to do a little critical thinking when we see garden photos or read garden books. Those words and photos are someone else’s truth.

For me, in my Northern California garden, it is spring. When the first daffodil blooms, ipso facto, it is spring; and especially after the first rains when the earth comes alive it must be spring. It has been dormant for months, dormancy due to dry summer, not the dormancy of cold. It makes me crazy when I get photo requests from editors who want me to send photos to illustrate seasonal events. My truth, my experience, is not what most publishers want.

I also took this Camellia ‘Cleopatra’ photo today.

Camellia sasanqua ‘Cleopatra’

The Camellia sasanquas have been blooming to 3 weeks. They will bloom for 5 months – all winter. But didn’t I say it was spring ? What are the seasons ? Camellias in winter ? Do garden publishers want daffodils and camellias to illustrate October ? I guess I will let the camera lie and let them believe what they want to believe, and rant about truth and absurdity in a blog.

I have said many times that with my work as a garden photographer I hope to change the expectation of what one expects to see in a garden photograph. It all comes from my frustration as a California gardener dealing with a market biased toward Eastern assumptions.

Lest you think I make no concessions to “true” seasons I show more photos I took today: Stewartia monadelpha
stewartia autumn leaves

Yes we do have fall color in California.

and Cornus florida
cornus florida

Now look closely. See the swellng bud? the promise of spring….

Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic, a garden picture resource for photographs, workshops, and garden photography stories. A landscape photographer and award winning photojournalist with more than 20 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California.

Saxon Holt

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Pam/Digging October 22, 2007, 1:13 pm

“It all comes from my frustration as a California gardener dealing with a market biased toward Eastern assumptions.”

I hear you! When I moved to Austin from the Southeast, I found myself growing frustrated first with the plants I kept trying to grow—eastern plants ill suited to our alkaline soil, summer heat and drought, and mild winters. Then, as I began to fall in love with Austin’s own native beauty, and I learned the natural rhythms of this place (like California, Austin experiences a second spring in fall, as the weather cools and the rains return), I became frustrated with the beautiful gardening magazines that focused so exclusively on the temperate northeastern and northwestern climates.

Lately, I’ve seen more southern California and western gardens in the magazines, but there’s still a long way to go for equal representation. In the meantime, garden blogs—specific to place, with “real” photos—have filled that niche.

Angela Pratt October 23, 2007, 3:31 pm

Greetings, Saxon,

I’ve admired your photography for years and was happy to discover, thanks to Amy on Garden Rant, that you’re blogging!

When you say you live in northern California, I’m guessing that means the Bay Area? I like to call the Bay Area the “Land of Perpetual Springtime” because it seems like something’s always blooming, even in the so-called dead of Winter.

I live in Carmichael, just east of Sacramento, where we get a “real Winter” compared to coastal California , but a balmy one compared to much of the East Coast. In Winter here, we routinely put blankets on our citrus trees (ooh, how pretty for a magazine layout, huh?) and many of our summer garden jewels blacken or completely turn to mush with the first hard frost.

What I love about garden blogs is that we get to see and read about real gardens in real time, in their moments of perfection and imperfection. These gardens don’t have to be palatial estates, nor do they have to be devoid of hoses and dog toys and unfinished projects. I think garden blogging has exploded because readers really do want to see the incredible variety in gardens, and dirt, and imperfection. There’s beauty in all that.

Looking forward to many more of your garden photography musings. Your images are exceptional and I’d love to hear more about how you make them. Is it really true that you haven’t gone digital?!!! Do you use Fuji Velvia? Why is it that the prettiest light occurs when I want to be sleeping or getting ready for dinner? So many questions… ;-)

Ki October 23, 2007, 10:09 pm

Beautiful photos. I also have a Stewartia monadelpha but the leaves are not the uniform dark pink-orange like yours. It’s nice that the C. sasanquas bloom early, before the C. japonicas so there’s an extended bloom time if you have both species. I saw a photo on another blog that I thought was labeled C.sas. ‘Cleopatra’ but it looked all pink like my C. sas ‘Marti’. No matter, your flower looks exquiste especially contrasted with the dark green leaves.

max October 26, 2007, 6:24 pm

Saxon, I have bought many plants I never would have considered because of your photos, but I never felt deceived. Good photographers help you see things differently.