– Posted in: Garden Adventures

Yellow pot on balcony

When I run across something visually engaging in a garden, I take a photo of it, even though I’m there to see or shoot other things. Intriguing shadows are among my favorite finds. I love the way a camera preserves something so transitory. Sometimes shadows transform an ordinary object or scene into something magical.

Buena Creek shoppers

Normally shadows are best early in the morning or late in the afternoon, but I got this great shot with the sun directly overhead thanks to an immense pepper tree’s dappled shade. This was taken at Buena Creek Gardens nursery in Vista, CA.

Desert door copy

The day I visited The Living Desert botanical garden in Palm Desert, CA, the temperature was around 105 degrees and the sun was brutal. Yet despite being a bit contrasty, this composition works, thanks to tree-limb shadows that curve toward the garden gate.

Cohen Sedum nus

I thought the shadow did such a good job of emphasizing the shape of the plant’s  leaves, I included it in this portrait of Sedum nussbaumerianum.

Cactus pads

This prickly pear cactus was poking through a fence alongside a downtown San Diego sidewalk. I walked about 15 feet past it and then turned back. Using my cell phone, I took a quick snap not of the cactus but rather of bristly shadows cast by immature pads.

Cactus field

This scene consists of vertical shadows surrounded by white spines illuminated by the late afternoon sun. This is the growing grounds of Desert Theater nursery, near my home in Escondido, CA.

Agave cropped

I’ve photographed this artichoke-like agave in my garden numerous times, usually looking down at its marvelous symmetry or from the side. But I like this photo best.

White daisies copy

You don’t need cactus or agaves for wonderful garden shadows. A few daisies will do.

Water drops

Shadows cast by splashing water onto handpainted Mexican tiles remind me of overlapping petals. The fountain is at Rancho La Puerta, Baja California.

Anderson mobile copy

My friend Patrick Anderson hung a whimsical sculpture from an eve of his home, where it casts an arresting shadow. Aren’t the eyeballs marvelous?

Walkway & view

This clifftop walkway in Laguna Beach, CA, has enough going for it without great shadows. But don’t you love the way the arc of the fence’s shadow echoes the coastline’s curve?


This Portland, OR garden was a bit too parklike for my taste, so I entertained myself by looking for unexpected beauty. My motto is, “If it’s beautiful, shoot it.”  I’ve never been disappointed.

If this has inspired you to look for shadowplay in your own garden (and beyond) please let us know what you find!

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog posts, newsletters, public speaking and workshops, photos, videos, merchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified. 

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Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin

Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
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