Making a Photo

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Photography

It is not just unfair to most of my fellow garden bloggers that I get to work in my garden on January 17, the real agony is that I write about it.  I hear of frigid temps out there beyond California.

The shrub border that runs along my driveway ends by my office with 6 wonderful California native Manzanita shrubs (Arctostaphyllos densiflora).  I want to keep them under 6 feet so plenty of light gets into my meadow garden beyond, and this was the first year I pruned them.


A properly pruned manzanita reveals the sinewy mahogany bark but in my shrub border the limbing up left a visual gap where my low lavender hedge ends.  The photographer in me decided to try adding some urns as focal points.  The professional photographer in me decided to make this a lesson in making a photo.  So I must clean up the scene:


Adding fresh mulch, sweeping, and wetting all surfaces is a time honored trick in garden photography.  I often carry a few bags of mulch to shoots just in case.  This is not really a case of the camera lying but rather the gardener sprucing things up.  Most of the time our gardens are not posing for photos but whenever you think they are ready it is a simple matter to rake and sweep before even beginning.  I find the time spent sweeping a garden before a shoot invaluable to studying angles and contemplating what the garden is truly about.

Now let’s make a photo.  I want to draw attention to the border and away from the empty space.


The height of the three urns make a nice compliment to the lavender hedge and give the border a more finished look.  Note to self:  I need to add some fresh decomposed granite to the path at the end of the driveway in front of the Weeping Katsura; and if I am going to leave that Meyer lemon in that spot I need to be repotted to match the urns.  Even now in January I am planning for photos later.  Hmmm, I wonder if I should plant those urns with something ?


These purple foliage Phormium ‘Berkeley Red’ might be just the thing to pick up the color of the manzanita bark.  And I have learned my lesson about Phormiums planted in the ground – they become immovable monsters.  Much more elegant in containers anyway.


Might look nice later in the summer.  Ya’ think?

But I am certainly not ready to plant the urns now.  One big reason I used these urns to begin with was to see them with the urn shaped flowers of the manzanita.


In a couple weeks they will be in full bloom, their spent blossoms littering the ground like snow.  I think I got to this little project done just in time.

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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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