Tuesday

10 Professional Garden Photography Tips

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1. On cloudless days, try to visit the garden early or late in the day to get the best light. The ‘golden hour’ is consider to be some of the best light for garden images and many phone apps such as ‘Sun Position’ by Stonekick tell you the start and end times are for that day.

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2. A breeze is the garden photographer’s worst enemy. If you’re hoping to do some close ups, check the five day weather forecast, and try to go on a day when the wind strength is low – preferably 6 mph or below. Take a Wimberley Plamp (Plant Clamp) or similar device.

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3. As far as lenses are concerned, a couple of zoom lens incorporating wide angle (for overall, establishing shots of the garden) to medium telephoto up to 200mm (for detail shots) will cover the general garden views. If you’d like to take flower close ups, a 100mm to 200mm macro lens will be ideal. Photography flowerbeds at an angle when using a zoom as it will help compress the border and bring plants in the background further forward. Try and avoid shooting the borders front on as these will often lead to very unsatisfactory images.

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4. A reflector and scrim will be handy for close up photos if the light is bright. A reflector, to help bounce light back into the shadows and a scrim to soften the light and make your subjects appear to glow.

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5. Always use a tripod! Yes I know they are a pain, but they will help slow you down and fine tune your composition for both close ups and general garden shots. It also allows you to work single handed so you can hold a reflector while still taking the photograph.

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6. Only Photograph really perfect subjects. Watch out for damages petals, watermarked flowers or slug eaten stems. Try and find a flower that is perfect before you compose your image.

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7. Check your viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Watch out for plant labels, bits of wire, dead leaves, even fence edges

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8. If you intend to sell your images to magazines they will require a range of images from establishing shots showing the overall site to midrange images down to macro shots. It’s easy to get carried away with close up shots, but remember to look for some wider garden views as well.

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9. For wider views, try and including some foreground interest to give depth to your photograph just as you would with any landscape photograph

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10. Although spring and summer are best for flowers, there are beautiful shots to be found in gardens at other times of year too – autumn foliage is always stunning, or seed heads sparkling with frost on a winter morning. Another favourite of garden editors is to see the same garden photographed during all four seasons. So don’t forget to comeback at different time of the year and record how the garden changes.
 

Breaking News RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 Medal Winners Announced

Chelsea Flower Show Medals Announced!

Congratulations to the Laurent-Perrier Garden, Best Show Garden, and all the award winners at the 2014  RHS Chelsea Flower Show!  I am of course delighted that I called the best in show winner in my MyGardenSchool predictions blog from seeing the show gardens yesterday!

Congratulations to Luciano Giubbilei - well deserved.

Chelsea Flower Show 2014

Chelsea Flower Show Gardens - Winners

Best Show Garden

The Laurent-Perrier Garden

Designed by Luciano Giubbilei

Best Fresh Garden

The Mind's Eye

Designed by LDC Design

Chelsea Flower Show 2014

Best Artisan Garden

Togenkyo – A Paradise on Earth

Designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara

Gold Medallists.

Great Pavilion

RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2014
Hydrangea macrophylla Miss Saori (‘H20-2’)

Ryoji Irie

Diamond Jubilee Award

South West in Bloom

President’s Award

Birmingham City Council

Best RHS Discovery exhibit

Sparsholt College

All Great Pavilion awards download (114kB pdf)

Friday

“A Game of Contrast” Former Students win Best Festival Garden 2014, RHS Malvern

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This is a blog by former student Ana Mari Bull who along with former fellow student Lorenzo Soprani won Best Festival Garden 2014, RHS Malvern.

How many of us dream of creating a show garden as soon as we graduate, but are put off because of the lack of funding or sponsorship? Years can go by and you get more involved in building up your practice, but the dream is still there, tucked away at the back of your brain, behind the planting plans and construction drawings that need to be finished yesterday. As you take on more work, you can feel the dream becoming more and more distant.

This was how I felt last year; I was up to my eyes in work, so I turned to my friend and fellow student Lorenzo Soprani for help. We worked really well together and it made the lonely existence of a freelance designer more bearable. In turn, he would pass work onto me when I was quiet on the work front. We soon found that we were in fact collaborating on every project we did, so in effect had become one practice. Work started to dry up towards the end of last year and the dream started to wiggle its way back to the front of our minds.

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Lorenzo picks up the story here, “It was late in January when my colleague and friend Ana and I decided to have a go at designing a show garden. To be honest I was not particularly busy and it is when the mind is at rest that those ideas spring to mind! But with not much income and no name so to speak to bring in financial backing, the chances of us being able to afford to do a show garden was still very much a distant dream. So having looked around for an opportunity I discovered that the RHS was re-launching the Malvern Spring Flower Show as the “RHS Malvern Spring Festival” and to celebrate that, they were giving away £3000 bursaries to help fund first timers in a new category of show gardens called the “Festival Gardens”. I decided fairly quickly to have a go and the design came very easily as having only 15 meter square to play with, the design needed to be simple. Once all the documents were sent off we did not think about it much, there was nothing to do apart from waiting and luckily for us the office phone was starting to ring again! It was on the 14th of March that we had confirmation that our design had been selected along with 3 others by the RHS panel.

Malvern Spring Festival 25 04 2014

At this point panic started to set in, as I feared that we couldn’t afford to do it. It was only at this stage in the process that we learnt the RHS where only giving us half of the bursary, the remainder would be paid at the end of the show once breakdown had been completed and the site was given the all clear by the organisers.”

With our design accepted so late in the day we had very little time to find the extra funding needed to top up the kitty, but it’s amazing how time pressures can make you focus. Having the RHS backing also helped enlist other sponsors.

The plants, hedges and all the hard landscaping materials were sourced, but we couldn’t find the specimen trees which were key to the design. It was now the last week in March, the end of the bare root season, and still we hadn’t found all of our trees. Finally, Lorenzo got a call from a nurseryman who had tracked down the last three trees from a nursery in Germany. It was the last day of lifting when we received an urgent email: are you taking the trees? All we had to go on was a poor quality photo. Without the trees we didn’t want to continue. We took them, hoping that these skinny looking ugly ducklings would turn into the magnificent swans we needed.

As well as having the RHS bursary, the designers of the Four Festival Garden were mentored through the build by the principal of a major design school in the area. The support and advice we got from her and from Nina Acton, the events co-ordinator for the Three Counties Showground was superb. For first timers, having someone on hand to reassure you is invaluable. The build wasn’t all plain sailing; the contractor who we had engaged to build our small wall didn’t turn up. It was at this stage that the fabled camaraderie which exhibitors say exists between those at the ground became apparent. A landscaper from another garden came over between jobs to build our wall, which he then also rendered for us, before being whisked off to finish the garden he was originally working on. Tools appeared when they were needed and disappeared just as quickly. The elves were at work. As we didn’t have a contractor we did all of the hard landscaping ourselves. I can’t take any of the credit for all the heavy jobs, which Lorenzo undertook as if he had been a professional landscaper for years. I can though, take half of the credit for the pebble path. Neither of us had done anything like this before. Having failed to find a video on YouTube on “how to build a show quality pebble path” we just got stuck in. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. The plants arrived on the Wednesday afternoon; it took us all day Thursday to place them and then the Friday to plant them up. We were on schedule. The plants had time to naturally reposition themselves before judging on the Wednesday and we were able to primp and preen to our hearts’ content. We were more than lucky with the weather during the build; the week of the show was quite something else, and judging took place in torrential rain and extremely high winds. Malvern is windy at the best of times, but this was excessive. From eight in the morning until nine at night we waited, wet, cold, and buffeted by the wind, for the medal announcements. Luckily one of the larger show gardens had built a sunken dining area with a pizza oven which had been burning all day, so as the evening drew to a close we all huddled together to keep warm. When the results finally came in, just after 9.00pm we were too tired to take it all in, as all we wanted to do was go home to a hot bath. The wonderful thing about RHS Malvern was that the next day, two of the judges came round to each of the gardens to talk through why we received the medal we did. This was so helpful. They were really engaging and very generous in their comments. We learnt a great deal as to how the panel think!

If anyone is thinking of taking their first steps into the world of show gardens, then RHS Malvern is the place to start. The support is fantastic, the setting is beautiful and the experience is very rewarding… Though now we’re hooked and can’t wait to do another one!

Don't’ forget to pack your thermals!

To contact LSV Gardens & Associates please click here

Thursday

Microclimates: How To Change Your Garden's Climate

While King Canute the Great, might not have been able to stop the tides, you may be surprised to know that you can change your climate….well at least to a certain extent!

You can improve and control the climate conditions within your garden by creating ‘microclimates’ for particular areas or groups of plants.

While you can’t control your countries regional climate, within that region, exposure to sunshine, wind or rain, makes weather considerably different from one garden to another. Open hillsides facing south get more sunshine than gardens hemmed in by buildings, hilltops are windier than valleys, and gardens along the banks of rivers or lakes suffer more fog than those only a short distance away.

These geographical differences combined with some clever planning by ourselves, create the individual ‘microclimate’ of our gardens or even for individual planting beds.

Understanding Heat

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Heat comes from the sun rays that warm up any surface they strike. Water is partially transparent to sunshine, so that the benefit of heat is spread over a large volume of water, raising its temperature very little in a short period. Glass, when clean, is almost entirely transparent to sunshine and it’s the objects underneath glass that warm up, rather than glass itself. Other materials heat up according to the materials of which they are made, and some of the best absorbers of heat in the garden are brick, paving stone and bare soil.

Although the sun is by far the largest source of heat, everything on earth is also a radiator in its own small way. On a sunny days,  no sooner have objects acquired heat from the sun,  they re-radiate some of that heat, for the benefit of anything nearby which hasn’t done so well. Hence a south-facing patio and house wall, will be a definite hot spot on a sunny day because of heat radiating from the surfaces. Also vege­table widely spaced in weed-free soil, will enjoy a warmer microclimate than a crowded flowerbed in a lawn.

Conduction & convection

Heat can also be distributed by conduction, through brick, downwards into soil and, particularly important, to the air that lies in contact with heated surfaces. Air so warmed, becomes lighter and rises upwards to be replaced by colder air from above which then warms in turn. Gradually warmed air spreads throughout the garden by this convection method, even circulating to areas receiving no direct radiant heat from the sun. On cloudy days, air temperature is pre-determined by its past history and the amount of heating it has received in other parts of the world.

Temperatures are similar throughout a garden, except perhaps for special very small areas. A chimney- breast wall can provide a favoured microclimate for a bush whose buds tend to get nipped by late spring frosts. It doesn’t hurt so much to lose expensive heat from indoors through brick if you can use it to benefit the garden. But for the best result in creating a warm micro­climate at that spot you must trap the heat under a polythene cover or lean-to, otherwise wind - which is only moving air - will whip it away before it accumulates.

Evaporation & water Loss

Wind is a thief of moisture as well as heat. All air contains water vapour, the actual amount depending upon whether its stock has been replenished by journeying across the sea or kept short by travelling across large expanses of land. At any particular temperature air has a maxi­mum possible capacity for vapour and this capacity increases with rising tem­perature. Moreover, so long as its vapour content is under capacity, air is thirsty for more and drinks from whatever source it can find - washing on the line, soil, or the leaves of plants.

Hence rising temperature on a sunny day, or an inherently dry air stream which come from the east, are both likely to denude a garden of moisture and it may be necessary to act the rain-god and alter the microclimate by artificial watering. The same necessity occurs on even a cloudy day, if a strong wind, damp or dry, is blowing. That merely means that a great deal of air is passing very quickly and taking lots of gulps of mois­ture in the process. A strong wind is a blessing to dry out soil after a rainy spell, but in drought conditions it makes already bad conditions worse.

Wind Protection

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If you add to these characteristics of wind its sheer brute strength and battering power, protection against it can be seen as a major objective in modifying the microclimate of a garden. Secure staking helps, not because it actually makes a garden less windy but because it tricks plants into thinking it is less windy by giving them extra strength to resist! The trouble is that wind cannot be stopped, only diverted. When it comes across a row of houses with passageways between, it funnels into the constriction and comes out of the exit with increased speed, rather like water forced through the nozzle of a hosepipe.

If wind encounters a wall, it either goes round the corners or over the top, giving increased speed in those areas because extra air is crowding through. Moreover, wind eddies back­wards in the relatively ‘empty’ space on the leeward side, sometimes with as nasty effect for plants situated there as if they had received the direct blast of air. A hedge or permeable fence gives better wind protection because it allows enough air through to prevent the eddy space behind, yet breaks the initial force of the blast.

Wind barriers

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The choice of site for a wind barrier may be obvious, like the end of a passageway which runs in the same direction as the most frequent winds. Or it may involve a difficult choice between incompatible factors. In Britain the coldest winds come from between north and east, the most drying winds from between north-east and south-east, gales come in any season from any direction but mainly from the western half of the compass. Damaging salt-laden winds in coastal gardens come from whichever direction faces the sea. You can’t protect a whole garden from every direction unless you risk undue stagnation of damp air in wet seasons.

Coastal gardens have little choice and must protect against onshore wind, even if this means some deprivation of sunshine in western and southern districts. Gardens in the middle of such coastal towns possibly have enough buildings between them and the sea to act as a preliminary barrier and have too great a need for sunshine for you to dare erect another barrier except against cold north winds. East coast gardeners in the UK have less heart-searching to make because by protecting against north and east winds they deal with both the cold, the dry and the salt winds without detracting from their quota of sun.

Glass as a barrier

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The ultimate protection against wind is a glass wall, but remember that if the wind blows in the same direction as a line of cloches the upwind end must be firmly closed to prevent air funnelling through. Moreover, if it is windy and sunny a watchful eye must be kept for the ‘greenhouse effect’ on air temperature. Air beneath the glass warms on contact with the heating surface of the ground, and if none can escape the same air gets heated over and over again and air temperatures and moisture evaporation rate increase very rapidly.

Such ex­cessively hot microclimates have killed dogs left in parked cars in the sun and can easily cause the collapse of plants. Some ventilation is essential, and perhaps an opaque wash over the glass as well would help the atmosphere in high summer.

Walls for protection

Although it is relatively easy to make the microclimate of a garden wetter than the general weather pattern ensures, there is little that can be done to prevent excess water in a rainy season except by enclosure and substituting artificial watering for rain. But it is helpful to remember that walls give considerable protection against rain unless it is driving straight onto the wall, and therefore beds alongside walls have different micro­climates on all sides of a house.

A wall facing south-east strikes a happy compro­mise between adequate sunshine without excessive rain, but the soil beneath may need topping up with water even in a very wet season. North walls are always very dry, though curious things can alter the microclimate even there. For instance, if you have plants under an overflow pipe, they will flourish better than the others because of their built-in ‘rainfall’.

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