Cover Photo

– Posted in: Garden Photography

When the current issue of The American Gardener from the arrived I immediately read about my friend Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery fame and saw the .  And then a nice story by Duncan Brine about naturalistic gardening.  With apologies to fellow GG Wild blogger , I did not pay much attention to the succulent feature on Stonecrops.

The American Gardener cover

But then this week, I received additional copies of the magazine from the publisher – and a check for usage fees. This is always good news; but I had not recognized my photo on the cover, Sedum spectabile ‘Neon’.  It was not a photo I remember sending in to the editor months ago when they requested photos.

I send out lots of photos to publishers hoping to match their needs with my photos.  Often I will send out dozens with a hope that one or two will be selected and many times I don’t even see them when they are published.  Sometimes I forget what I sent out.  Even though I track them in my database, unless it is one of my own books, I don’t stay very involved in the process.

It is a cold fact of life that if I take a picture in your garden it could get published one day and neither you or I would know it.  It is a big reason I always get a garden owner’s written permission to publish photos before I click the shutter, and even so, there can be awkward situations.

Imagine you are the proud but private owner of a large, fine garden with a gardener as part of your household staff.  You want to share your garden but you darn sure don’t want uninvited garden tourists poking around, so you grant publication rights to a trustworthy photographer who promises to keep your identity safe.  Years later, long after your garden was published in a garden magazine, your maid comes to work saying how lovely the garden looked in a book she saw in the bookstore.  I got an earful on that one even though I had permission and the photo caption gave no indication of the garden location.

The photo of the ‘Neon’ stonecrop on the cover of  The American Gardener was taken few years ago when I was in Denver working on my book with Gwen Kelaidis.  I shot many Sedums at the and definitely remember this one:

Sedum spectabile 'Neon'

I much prefer taking loose shots of plants so that my audience gets a realistic idea of scale and companion plantings.  When I can create a tapestry affect, filling a whole frame with plants like this one with the Sedum mingling with some spent seedheads of a nameless Allium, I remember the photo as my own.  The tight shot of the solitary flower truss was a detail of that scene and I don’t even remember taking the picture.

This is how it looked before the magazine cropped it.

Stonecrop, Sedum spectabile 'Neon'

Notice they kept every millimeter they could at the top for the type and cropped up from the bottom so that the second and third flower anchored the bottom corners of the page.  Seems like a simple photo and it is, but the very fact that it is uncluttered with room for type made it a good choice for a cover.

I have said in previous postings that when I am working a garden, I try to remember to take vertical shots that might be used for a cover photo.  Funny that I remember to do it when taking the pictures, but I quickly forget I send them out.

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Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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