Category Archives: Photography

In Living Color

I very much enjoyed hearing your advice about selection of best image for the upcoming Flower Show Photography Contest. Thank you! The deadline for entries is today, so the photograph is at J&D Photos now being printed and mounted on black foam board.

Since there were wonderful comments about each photo, I thought you might enjoy seeing them in color too.  Look how different they are!


Beach Walk: Sunrise on Pawley’s Island


Can you hear the waves and feel the wind on your cheek?


Winter Reflections: Ashmore Heritage Preserve


So quiet and barely a breeze here. The dark red you see in front of the split-rail fence is a bog filled with hundreds of mountain sweet pitcher plants (Sarracenia rubra ssp. jonesii).


Solitude: Glacier Bay, Alaska


Alone in one of the most beautiful and remote places on earth, with 3,000 other guests and a crew of 1,200. You could have heard a pin drop.


Fresh Catch: Bald Eagle in Clover Passage, Katchikan, Alaska


There are simply no words to describe an experience like this!

Do the images look the way you thought they would?

Does the addition of color change your favorite?

After more thought, I eliminated two photos. Beach Walk was taken with my older camera and the resolution was not quite up to par. Solitude, one of my favorite photos of all times, was too risky. One of the contest guidelines noted works should “reflect the interests of the Garden Club of America,” and I was afraid the judges would discredit the photo because of the cruise ship.

The selection came down to the final two, but both had slight problems. The first, Winter Reflections, is dramatic but not unusual.  In fact, it looks like an image you would see in a calendar or made into a puzzle. Plus, there is a class for trees, which might influence its appraisal. Fresh Catch is dramatic, but the tips of the eagle’s wing feathers are not in the frame and the focus on the subject is good, but not fabulous.

In the end, I decided to take my chances with Fresh Catch.  Why?  It is as powerful as a monochrome image as it is in color.  Plus, your comments proved it is a subject to be reckoned with. I know the photo will be admired, even if it is not the winner.

Fingers crossed!

IAVOM and more…

Please don’t say, “Oh no, another Hippeastrum!”


Hippeastrum ‘Ambiance’

Well yes, but it’s the last one. Besides, it’s so beautiful with its clear white and clear red feathered together to create a blazing star. Unfortunately, the flower has no fragrance. The bulb does, however, have two bloom stalks, so it get’s a gold star for productivity, as well as this highlight for In a Vase on Monday.


Wow, what drama! Notice the very fine line of red outlining each petal.

Ordered just before Christmas from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, ‘Ambiance’ has taken it’s time, but I think it was worth the wait, don’t you? Even though many value these flowering bulbs as holiday embellishments only, I enjoy them best in the slower months of winter when I have time to savor their day-by-day growth and fabulous blooms.

One other note about these photos before moving on. I often complain about having too much shade (all shade really) in the garden, but you can see why my husband, Tim, and I fell for this home the minute we walked in the door. Though this sunporch was added just last year, we have similar views from the kitchen and bedroom. Since the land slopes away from the back of the house down to the river, we have the effect of living in a treehouse, with fabulous views (especially in winter) of the park-like golf course on the far side of the Reedy. It’s not only a beautiful setting, it’s also a wildlife haven. Blue herons and a variety of hawks are frequent guests.  Coyotes, deer, and raccoons are not uncommon, and we’ve even spotted owls, wild turkeys, otters, and beavers.

Here’s something else happening on the sunporch.


‘Chantilly’ seedlings under the grow light.

Tim has fixed a clamp to the window frame for a grow light, as I’m attempting to grow ‘Chantilly’ snapdragons from seed for an early April flower show. The seedlings get a short period of early morning light (as seen here), plus about 16 hours from the grow light each day, and are fertilized with dilute fish emulsion once a week. They look awfully spindly to me, though. Any suggestions?

I’m also registered for the Photography portion of the event, Class 2, Flowing Water, “A monochrome photograph of flowing water in any form.”

I’m having trouble deciding.  Which of these images do you think is a winner?


Beach Walk: Sunrise on Pawley’s Island


Winter Reflections: Ashmore Heritage Preserve


Solitude: Glacier Bay, Alaska


Fresh Catch: Bald Eagle in Clover Passage, Katchikan, Alaska





Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, January 28, 2007

I’ve always loved this photo. It captures many of the things I like best about the winter garden–blue skies, eye-catching bark, handsome evergreens, early bulbs pushing above the grass and, most importantly, bare branches etching a lacy pattern upon the earth as the sun sweeps across the sky.

I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the name of the sculpture or its maker, but I love the form of the spinning figure with outstretched arms and its placement among pirouetting crepe myrtles.

SHADOW is the theme of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. To see where others have found inspiration, visit:

West Country Gardens

I spend a good bit of time at the close of each year editing travel photos so I can share the best with those who joined me on the trip.  Here are a dozen favorites from the West Country Gardens tour, June 7-17.


Ridleys Cheer, Wiltshire


Cothay Manor, Somerset


Maperton House, Dorset


Forde Abbey, Dorset


Montacute House, Somerset


Milton Lodge Gardens, Somerset


Wells Cathedral, Somerset


Veddw House Garden, Monmouthshire


Aberglasney Gardens, Carmarthenshire


National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire


Dyffryn Fernant Garden, Pembrokeshire


Cae Hir Gardens, Ceredigion

There are many things I look for when visiting gardens, but I’m most interested in how they relate to the home and their surrounding landscape.  When reviewing my photos as a whole, I’m often struck by how many focus on those relationships.

As you can see, our visit to Wiltshire, Somerset, and Dorset was fabulous, and our foray into Wales was equally exciting.  We also squeezed in a visit to Highgrove House, exploring the Gloucestershire garden of HRH Prince Charles. Sadly, photos are not allowed at Highgrove.

Do you have a favorite among the group?

I’ll be visiting gardens in the Netherlands and Belgium in May.  If you would like to travel with me or consult my schedule for an independent visit, you can examine the full itinerary here.

Auld Lang Syne


Bodnant in June

The title “Auld Lang Syne,” a Scottish tune written by Robert Burns in the 1700’s, translates to “times gone by” and is about remembering friends from the past and not letting them be forgotten.

I finished editing photos from the June, August, and September garden tours just yesterday.  Sitting at the computer for hours on end can be exhausting work, but time spent on these photos was also a trip down memory lane as I reminisced over the many adventures shared with travel friends in past months.

Here are a few highlights, followed by the lyrics to the English translated version of “Auld Lang Syne.”  You’ll also find a link to the first bit of the song on the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” so if the chance comes up, you can sing with brash enthusiasm tonight.

Happy New Year and all the best to you in 2016!


Levens Hall, June


Gresgarth Hall, June


Arley Hall, June


Chatsworth, June


Scampston Hall, June


Hancock Shaker Village, August


Stockbridge, August


Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, August


Kiftsgate Court, September


Iford, September


RHS Wisley, September


Sissinghurst, September


Great Dixter, September

You’ll find the movie version of the song, “Auld Lang Syne,” here. 

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days o’ lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

We two have run about the slopes, and pulled the daisies fine, but we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since days o’ auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine, but seas between us broad have roared, since days o’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend, and give us a hand o’thine! And we will take a goodwill draught, for auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

And surely you’ll buy your pint, and surely I’ll buy mine! And we will take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!

Weekly Photo Challenge–Afloat

The photo below of milkweed (Asclepias), chosen to illustrate the weekly photo challenge, has a familiar story, as well as one you may not know.

Milkweed (Asclepias)

Milkweed (Asclepias)

Asclepias are among the best plants to attract butterflies, particularly monarchs, whose caterpillars feast on the foliage.  In fact, these plants literally keep the monarch afloat, serving as a lifeline as the butterflies migrate from Mexico to the US and Canada in spring and then return to Mexico in autumn.

In the 1940s, however, milkweed was prized for another reason following the Japanese capture of Java and the Philippines, the island homes of the silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra), which produced the seed floss that stuffed life preservers.

As it turned out, milkweed floss was a suitable substitute; it’s hollow, wax coated, flexible, and six times lighter than wool.  Just a pound and a half of milkweed floss could keep a 150-pound man afloat for 10 hours.

Folks across the country were asked to help collect milkweed pods and tens of thousands were gathered by farmers, civic clubs, school groups, and anyone willing to lend a hand.  In 1944 and 1945, millions of pounds of pods were collected to produce the life vests that came to be known as “Mae Wests,” a reference to the well-endowed figure of one of the soldier’s favorite pinup girls.



For more on this intriguing war story, detailed accounts can be found here and here.



Weekly Photo Challenge–Blur

When I read this week’s photo challenge–find beauty in a blur–I had to laugh because I’ve taken more than a few that qualify, just not with intent.

The pic below, however, made for tomorrow’s newspaper column on upcoming garden tours, focuses on the fountain and puts the house in a blur.  Why?  The curbside feature is not only eye-catching, it’s also the element in the landscape that announces, loud and clear, there’s something special going on.

Tully home on Cleveland Street, featured on the upcoming garden tour of the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs.

Tully home on Cleveland Street, featured on the upcoming garden tour of the Greenville Council of Garden Clubs.

To see where others found beauty, visit the weekly photo challenge at the Daily Post.

For Upstate gardeners, here’s the scoop on upcoming tours:

April 17 & 18:  The Greenville Council of Garden Clubs will sponsor “Harmony in Our Gardens,” featuring six gardens in the Augusta Road area, from 10 am to 5 pm on Friday and Saturday.  The Council’s home and garden at the Kilgore-Lewis House, 560 North Academy Street, is also open and will offer a plant sale and lunch options from food trucks in the upper parking lot.  Advance tickets are $18, tour-day tickets are $20.  For more information visit the Council’s website.

May 8 & 9:  The “Joyful Garden Tour,” benefiting renovation of the historic grounds of Christ Church, is scheduled for 10 am to 5 pm on Friday and Saturday.  This year’s event features six gardens in the McDaniel and Crescent Avenue area, plus the beautiful church gardens and grounds at 10 North Church Street.  Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 on tour days.  For more information visit the church’s website.


A Garden Place (Hortitopia)

On Saturday, I had the good fortune to hike with the Greenville Natural History Association, by invitation of Bill Robertson, an acclaimed Upstate nature photographer.   I was a bit worried about the expedition to Chestnut Ridge, especially after I saw the elevation profile.

Elevation profile of Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Elevation profile of Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve

Bill said he was only hiking the first mile, however, and I really should come along.   I’ve been eager to hike with Bill, who’s very generous with his knowledge and encouragement, and decided to plunge in.  Once I met up with the group at the car-pooling location on Saturday, I noted I was younger than most and was optimistic I could hold my own on the trail.

On the ride to the Heritage Preserve, I met and got to know Ian and Jane, members of the Association and frequent hikers.  I later learned Ian routinely hikes 10 miles several times each week and is an excellent photographer, as well as a photography teacher for OLLI at Furman University.

The early blooms on Chestnut Ridge are mostly the same as those in my woodland garden, primarily sweet Betsy trillium (T. cuneatum) and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), but it was instructive to watch the process of the photographers in the group, who true to Bill’s word, pulled up at the first area of native wildflowers while the rest of the hikers continued on towards the Pacolet River.

I took a few pics with my new camera, a Nikon D7100 which is well beyond my grasp of understanding.  On this occasion, however, I knew time was better spent watching Bill and Ian, who were taking macro shots using a tripod and diffuser.

Bill (holding diffuser) and Ian working on macro image of bloodroot

Bill (holding diffuser) and Ian working on macro image of bloodroot

Bill's bloodroot

Bill’s photograph, shown here, uses the stamens of the second flower to create a golden glow around the foreground bloom.

After a while, Ian decided to hike to the river to have lunch with Jane and, foolish in my new-found confidence, I invited myself to go with him to rejoin the group.  As soon as we topped Squirrel Mountain and began the steep decent to the river, I had serious misgivings because I knew the return trip could well get the best of me.

I love hikes that have a treat at the terminus and the Pacolet River didn’t disappoint.  Though the waterway is small, it is located in a deep valley gorge and offers a sandy bank at the river crossing that is perfect for a picnic.  When we arrived, the group was just dusting themselves off for the return hike, so Ian and I quickly ate a few bites.  Lynne, the hike leader, stayed behind to “sweep” and I was much relieved to have a second encourager as we watched the group quickly disappear up the trail.

Pacolet River

Pacolet River

On the return, as I usually do when I’m in over my head, I just put my head down and pressed the gas.  Though I was huffing and puffing, our small group was about halfway up Squirrel Mountain when Lynne spied a garter snake writhing beside the path.  Closer inspection showed the snake had snared a Southern Appalachian salamander (Plethodontid teyahalee) and we watched as the snake slowly worked its way from the amphibian’s mid-section down to the tail so it could turn its prey and devour it.

Common garter snake, about 18-inches long, with Southern Appalachian salamander

Common garter snake, about 18-inches long, with Southern Appalachian salamander

Garter snake devours its prey

Garter snake devours its prey

Needless to say, we thought this would be the trill of the trip, but we were surprised a second time only steps beyond the summit, when I discovered a Luna moth (Actias luna), just emerged from its chrysalis and drying in the warm sunshine.

Luna moth (Actias luna)

Luna moth (Actias luna)

Luna moth, drying its wings

Luna moth, drying its wings

If you look closely, the moth can be distinguished as a male by its antennae, which are larger and wider than those of the female.  Though not rare, the Luna is seldom found because its life is brief.  The adult doesn’t have a mouth or eat because its single purpose is to mate, and thus it only survives about a week.

Stopping along the way to photograph the snake and moth allowed me to catch my breath.  The return trip was strenuous, but luckily and with many thanks to Ian and Lynne, I made it back to the start of the trail without too much discomfort or embarrassment.

The name of this blog, Hortitopia, is a word (horti + topia = garden + place) made to describe, in part, the amazing region where I live.  I’m grateful every day to enjoy its unique and wonderful species diversity.  To learn more about the Upstate,  read my first blog post here.

A clump of sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) flourishing among a large patch of  spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica)

A clump of sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) flourishing among a large patch of spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica)

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.  ~ William Shakespeare

Weekly Photo Challenge–Rule of Thirds

Though winter remains in full force, I was at Litchfield Beach this past weekend and took advantage of the free time to get to know my new camera a bit better with a series of seagull photographs. One goal was to capture a shot to meet this week’s photo challenge, Rule of Thirds.

As noted by WordPress, “The Rule of Thirds is a photography concept that puts the subject of the photograph off-center, which usually results in blank space in the rest of the image. If you focus closely on your subject and use a wide aperture, your photograph’s background will also be beautifully blurred in that blank space. The blurred area behind your focal point is referred to as bokeh, and when executed well, it adds depth and artistry to an otherwise simplistic photograph.”

Here is the photo I thought best met the challenge…


And here are a couple more I like, just for fun.



Weekly Photo Challenge–Shadowed

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, winter 2012.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, winter 2012.

Oftentimes, the camera reveals things I don’t see at a glance, like the tracery of branches across a crocus-studded lawn.  This photo, made at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in mid-February 2012, was an instant favorite.  The image, taken to illustrate the seasonal beauty of bark on well-pruned crepe myrtle trees (Lagerstroemia), is enchanted by the slanting afternoon light and the female form, spinning in her reach, which seem to stir the trees into a waltz with their arms fling wide in exuberance.