Why It’s Important To Look At Your Garden From Different Perspectives ~ Times of The Day And Year

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Design

Years ago, I saw a movie called ‘Smoke’ in which a photographer went to the exact same corner every day on a busy street in Manhattan at exactly the same time to take a photograph. He went through this process because he wanted to show that nothing ever stays the same. Depending on the time of year, the weather and a host of other factors, he showed that each moment (seen through the eye of a lens) over the course of 365 days can never be duplicated.

This type of thinking bodes well for us gardeners in trying to slow down and be a bit more reflective in our own gardens. How many times have you heard the saying that you need to look at your garden ‘with fresh eyes’ in order to keep it artistically alive?

One thing I’ve found helpful in recent years is to take pictures of the same planting or plant combinations from a variety of perspectives. In these photos, my initial purpose was to take one picture of this late blooming aster and pennisetum. But as I walked around the garden, I became aware of how stunning and unique these two perennials looked from different perspectives.

                                                                                            

                                                                                            

I’m speaking strictly as a gardener, not a landscape photographer (I’ll leave that to Saxon) on how we can formulate new ways of seeing things all around us: in our own gardens, in nature, and in the world.

I can’t tell you precisely how all of these photos will translate into having an effect on my garden in the future. But I do know they give me an appreciation of some feelings and ideas that will leave a footprint in my unconscious and perhaps show itself at another time in my garden making.

                                                                                           

Fran Sorin

Fran’s book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, now considered a classic, was groundbreaking when published as no one had written about gardening in the context of creativity, spirituality, and transformation.

In addition to being a recognized garden expert and deep ecologist, Fran is a broadcaster, journalist, Ordained Interfaith Minister, and Soul Tender.

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Lisa at Greenbow November 16, 2007, 6:55 am

Oh yes, I think going on vacation and coming home a week or two later definitely lets you see your garden with fresh eyes. Especially if you go to a habitat that is much different than where you live. This always give me “visions” for my garden.

Kris at Blithewold November 16, 2007, 8:08 am

It’s never the same twice is it? Turn your head and glance back and there are changes. (I have had to pull myself and the camera away from views and plants that are more beautiful somehow with each half step I take.) I think that’s one of the reasons we keep gardening – it always feels like there’s something fresh to appreciate.

Layanee November 16, 2007, 9:41 am

The ever changing appearance of the mixed perennial border is a joy and constant learning experience. The photo journal is a real help when trying to maximize combinations!

Andee Carlsson November 16, 2007, 2:27 pm

I love the photos. Right now, I am so in love with the plants that grow well in semi-tropical Mexico that I tend to forget how stunning the plants in the colder zones are.And how beautiful the seasonal changes are in the garden. Thanks for the post and the photos.

Carol November 17, 2007, 7:39 am

We do need to take time to be more reflective and observant in our gardens. Sometimes we do that by getting away for awhile, other times, by just looking from all angles! Thoughtful post, thank you!

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

fsorin November 17, 2007, 8:34 am

Lisa-

I am a firm believer in traveling, visiting other gardens and the terrain and landscape of a new setting. I agree that often one’s best inspirations can come from what their eyes have feasted on in other places. Thanks for that thought. Fran

fsorin November 17, 2007, 8:37 am

Kris-

Am totally in concurrence with your thoughts
that one turn or step in a different direction allows for a very different perspective of the garden and/or group of plantings. For me, it happens most often when I’m down on all fours weeding and letting my gaze fall randomly on whatever grabs my eyes. It’s truly in those moments where I feel an overwhelming sense of grace and awe. Fran

fsorin November 17, 2007, 8:39 am

Layanee and Carol-

Thanks for your posts.

Layanee, I love your idea of keeping a photo journal. Although I do keep files of the garden throughout the season, you just gave me a new idea. Why not take photos of certain plant combinations throughout the season to see how they evolve….then you really can have a ‘histography’ of pieces of the garden throughout the years. Fran

fsorin November 17, 2007, 8:41 am

Carol-

Yep, getting away from the garden can often be the best solution for seeing our own garden with different eyes upon returning….especially during the growing season…where when I’m away for a week, I am shocked by what has transpired in my absence. Thanks for your post. Fran

fsorin November 17, 2007, 8:46 am

Andee-

Do you live in a semi-tropical zone? even though I live in Zone 6, I have frequently felt the urge to buy tropical plants that need to be overwintered. Yucca Do Nurseries’ offerings have always made me salivate. But over the past 5 years, I have found myself once again drawn to those plants that are either native or do well in my own climate. Thanks for your thoughts. Fran

Saxon Holt November 17, 2007, 6:03 pm

Fran says: “I can’t tell you precisely how all of these photos will translate into having an effect on my garden” but I will say, there will be unintended effects. We all take photos of what we think “works” and want to remember as we make future adjustments, but I bet most of us rarely look at most of those photos years later. A few “keepers” decoratae our walls and photo albums but the majority are … somewhere.
This is not an arguement to take less photos but rather to recognize that the mere fact of taking the photo causes us to study and appreciate the garden. I often find that when I am photographing my own garden I frame up photos that I never take. I look through the viewfinder and if the composition does not quite work I make a mental note of what it needs such as a complimentary color or contrasting foliage shape. Some gardeners may take the photo anyway to help remember but my point is to use the camera or photo as a tool to help the gardenh evolve not just be the static photo. “All these photos” Fran has of her garden help her visualize its future not just the remember the past.

I should make an entire blog entry on this subject someday…

jodi November 17, 2007, 8:50 pm

The beauty of digital cameras is that many of us take ever-so-many more photos than we did when we had to wait to have them developed–and we can go back to those digital ‘roll’s of photos later in the season, and see how much the garden does change, even from one time of the day to the next. Gardening, like photography, has so much to do with light–and with slowing down to really SEE, not just glance. Or so I’m learning as I learn more about photography–and of course always more about gardening! Lovely post.

fsorin November 18, 2007, 9:05 am

Saxon-

Your blog makes a good point but I want to add another. I actually think that photographing a plant combination (or whatever piece of the garden) from different perspectives trains our eye so that when we create other plant combinations, we will know ‘up front’ to take into consideration all of the different angles and distances from which the plantings can be viewed and appreciated….as well as in context with the surrounding landscape and plantings. Fran

fsorin November 18, 2007, 9:09 am

Jodi-

Great point you’ve made about digital cameras and the speed with which we can view photos shot. I also find that having a digital allows me freedom because I know that I won’t have to take the time and spend the money having them developed. It is a wonderful feeling to take some photos during the day and then download them on my computer later in the day. Sometimes I am amazed at what has been caught by the lens. Other times, when I feel that the subject matter hasn’t been shown in a favorable light (or it’s just a lousy picture), I am able to get outside and re-shoot immediately.

And yes, this idea of slowing down and actually SEEING is a huge one, Jodi. I think so many of us gardeners are as busy in the garden as we are in the rest of our lives. Your sentiments are a good reminder that slowing down and seeing is a worthwhile practice for all of us, including gardeners. Thanks for joining the discussion. Fran

Angela (Cottage Magpie) November 18, 2007, 8:08 pm

This happens to me all the time. I head out to take a picture of one plant, and pretty soon I’m noticing how the different plants look together. Next thing you know two hours have gone by. Two enjoyable hours, but still! I have to be careful when I enter the garden with a camera!
~Angela :-)

fsorin November 19, 2007, 5:20 am

Angela-

LOL….I know that feeling. I actually have learned to limit my camera taking time to when I have no other pressing work so that I needn’t keep checking the clock. Even for us amateur photographers, snapping photos can transport us to ‘another’ world. Fran

Sylvia Dorset UK November 19, 2007, 6:27 am

Saxon point about taking lots of photos and not really getting time to look back at them later is interesting. I have my garden photos as a random screen saver, it is surprising how often I leave the computer for a short time to come back to see ‘my garden’ on the screen. This helps to remind me of what has or hasn’t worked in the past. Also I do take photos of what looks awful – to remind me to change it!

fsorin November 19, 2007, 12:13 pm

Sylvia-

Good point about using old photos as a reminder of what not to plant in the future. I also find during off seasons, like winter, I peruse through my garden photographs and am surprised at what was captured in those moments. It acts as a wonderful reminder of the beauty that exists in all of our gardens. Fran

Jean December 9, 2007, 2:30 pm

I am so ingrained in working in my garden that it is difficult for me to relax and just look at it and enjoy it. A gardener who was being interviewed on my favorite gardening show, A Gardener’s Diary, concurred that she, like most gardeners, have a difficult time relaxing and just enjoying our gardens without seeing the work that needs to be done. I find that by taking pictures I am blown away by all the lovliness with none of the work to haunt me and I can really appreciate what I have done.

fsorin December 9, 2007, 4:59 pm

Jean-

I think your point is a well taken one…that by taking photographs of the garden, we instinctually slow down, enter a quieter zone and can more easily appreciate the beauty around us. Thanks for your comment. Fran