26 October 2007
Learning to See, and asking for feedback
The past couple of weeks have been really busy in my personal and professional life, and consequently most of the writing I've been doing has been to pay the bills (so I can buy more bulbs, obviously!) I'm also taking a photography course from the owner of our local camera shop, who is not only a good business owner and marvelous photographer but an excellent teacher. I'm of the school of my-camera-is-smarter-than-I-am because I've never really mastered the art of dealing with exposure, shutter speed, etc; I set things on auto in most cases and hope for the best, which is kind of a waste of an SLR camera's abilities. So it was time, and I'm learning lots.
What I really love about using this camera--especially when I take the time to use the tripod so that there won't be too much shake--is how I'm learning to see differently. The camera sees more than we do, I think, because it simply records what's in front of it--and we don't notice all the nuances of what's in front of our eyes until we see the photo, be it on a screen or on an actual print.
Sometimes, of course, we can't help but see. Behold the breathtaking beauty of the Japanese Royal Azalea, Rhododendron schlippenbachii, at my friends Sharon Bryson and Bill Wilgenhof's home, The Willow Garden in Antigonish. This plant stopped me dead in my tracks and incited instant plant lust...its flowers are lovely enough, but this fall colour made me exquisitely happy. Isn't it marvelous how it just leaps out from around its relatives and says, "here I am, worship me!"?
Although it's still early to tell how much damage we had, last night brought a touch of frost to our yard. Happily, I had spent some time yesterday afternoon repotting and tidying up the houseplants and bringing them indoors. Like others, I may possibly have too many houseplants for the space I have, but like others, I simply can't resist them. Especially flowering plants, which help me get through the dreariness of winter with their brilliant colours and forms. I love the electric colours and graceful blooms of cyclamen, which I tend to plant outdoors for the summer and fall months and then purchase new each fall.
But I also am soothed by the meticulous geometry of succulents such as this dramatic black aeonium, which has delighted me for several years now. The succulents prefer a lot of light to grow well, and that's sometimes a challenge in the house here, although currently everything is in my office where it will get south and east light.
If you had to pick only a couple of plants to grace your home, what would you have? An exquisite orchid? The dramatic and unusual Staghorn fern? A dish garden of cacti and succulents?
I have other questions too, as I'm preparing research for some upcoming stories, and who better to ask than other gardeners? These questions will be going out to my newsletter subscribers too, so if you're one of those you have a heads-up on the next edition.
This summer has been, in some ways, the summer of my gardening discontent--not because of weather or plants or soil or anything like that but because of health issues that have seriously limited my ability to work in my beloved garden. It's been frustrating, but it's also sensitized me to the challenges faced by other gardeners, whether they are older than me (I'm forty-something) or have illnesses or physical limitations. And because I've had one or two other gardeners ask about how to make their gardens less labour intensive so they can putter but still enjoy, without being overwhelmed by weeding, dividing, moving, pruning, composting, weeding, fertilizing, etc etc--chores they may love but find harder to do--I'm throwing the discussion out to others.
What CAN we do to simplify our garden labours? Again, I'm stressing that this is mostly for reducing heavy labour for those who can't work for hours in their yards--but it could also be applicable to families where both parents are working, or young parents with not a lot of time, but who still want the joys of a garden.
What are your thoughts, fellow gardeners?