An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

April 22, 2011

Morning Light

I have always been a morning person.  My parents tell a story from my childhood of the two of them being woken up not so bright, yet very early to the sounds of me on my rocking horse (one of those with the loud creaky metal springs).  Even now I usually stir before first light, but I like getting up to have the house to myself, enjoy a cup of coffee or take the dogs for a walk.  During the spring, these early hours are often the only time I can get in my own garden before heading off to help others with theirs.  Earlier this week the skies were clear, and as the sun rose out of the nearby Atlantic it created some amazing backlight, turning petal and leaf into pieces of glass.

Shortly after moving into our house, I removed the majority of what was previously planted.  One area that has remained relatively untouched was a bank of Azaleas that includes one of my favorites, George Tabor (Rhododendron x 'George Tabor').

Rhododendron x 'George Tabor'

Rhododendron x 'George Tabor' (2)

Another morning stunner is my $5 Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum).  I once worked for a competitor of Lowes and Home Depot that did not survive a three-way battle for the home improvement market.  The people I worked for were complete idiots when it came to knowing how to care for and sell plants.  My boss at the time told be to put all the Japanese Maples in the dumpster since they were losing their leaves and we needed room for Christmas trees.  I asked if I could have a few before I dumped them, but he could not give them to me outright, so I bought 3 for $5.

Acer palmatum (2)

My first rose of the season (not counting the Lady Banks) opened this week.  This is the shrub rose Caramba.

Rosa x 'Caramba'

Perhaps the showiest flowers in my garden, are the Bearded Iris, and they began opening this week as well.  The first one pictured was a pass-along plant given to me by a good friend, and it has travelled with us from a previous home, and I have also passed it along to other friends.  I do not know the name, but it is very tall, vigorous and has a nice fragrance.

Iris David and Rusty (3)

This little dwarf's colors always remind me of breakfast.

Iris germanica

This dark purple Iris is a re-bloomer, and like most re-bloomers, I have found that they set their own schedules.

Iris germanica (4)

I'd like to tell fellow gardeners that the combination below was a deliberate attempt to apply Pamela Harper's practice of creating color echoes, but in reality it is a more like a happy accident between Iris and Royal Purple Smoketree (Continus coggygria 'Royal Purple'), but I've done nothing to discourage their relationship.

Iris germanica (2)

This is the same Iris in close-up so you can see the sun lighting it like a church window on Sunday morning.  The Greek goddess Iris is most often associated with rainbows in mythology, but she also delivered messages between the gods and from the gods to us mortals, and right now I am all ears. 

Iris in the Morning Light

The picture above is my entry in Gardening Gone Wild's, Picture This Contest for April 2011. I was once told not to shoot in the direction of the sun, but I like what can happen when you do.  Sometimes you get great backlighting, sometimes you get unusual color flares, and as in this case you get rays from above, maybe all the way from Mount Olympus.


  1. You chose a beautiful photo! Good luck! They all had wonderful lighting.

    Love your irises.

  2. Love those quiet, alone early morning hours. Your photos are like a time machine: I'm looking two months into the future (well, maybe a little less, let's hope).

  3. Oh yes...I think I know the big box you refer too (assuming they also made it out west)...that is a great story about picking up plant bargains!

    I've always wished I were a morning person. But you either are or are not, there's no bending the facts.

  4. Les,
    Really good use of light on these photos. KUDOs on the irises too!

  5. Les,your photos, just mesmerizing. Great story line too. Good luck with the photo contest. Can I vote?

  6. Pam Harper would be proud. I like her use of color echoing throughout the garden....those Iris and Continus do the trick. Love the sunlit Iris, good luck.
    So Charlie and I are wracking our brains...used to be Hechinger became.??? oh got it! Age. hahahaa

  7. Gorgeous entry, Les. I also like the solid purple iris and the maple leaves very much.

  8. Nice pics. I planted my first iris in this garden only this spring. Hard to believe I've waited so long. Yes, mornings are for gardeners.

  9. I haven't looked at the other entries yet, but I think you made a winner. Nice.

  10. Les,
    Your shots in the morning light are superb. Pass along plants are always some of my favorites. Started snowing here this morning. Looking forward to bearded irises!

  11. Beautiful photos. Your selection for the contest is gorgeous. Good luck!

  12. If I'd been around when you were tossing those Japanese Maples away, you'd see me dumpster diving for sure.
    All of your photos could enter the contest and win. Morning light is ever the best!

  13. Good luck on the contest. It sure looks like a winner to me!

    Did you by chance work for Hechingers? It was one of my favorite home improvement stores when I lived in Fayetteville. Now no one ever seems to have heard of it. Some stores have awful policies on throwing away perfectly good plants. Home Depot is like that. Lowes will at least mark them down then sell them.

  14. Les, I have a Mother-in-law that dumpster dived at our local Big Box Store for plants and trees, then loaded them in her Lexus for the trip home. Always up for a discount and what is better than free, (and probably not legal). You macro is Iris sure to make the cut. Good luck. Donna

  15. Those last 2 pictures especially are stunners. What a beautiful combination, accidental or not. Good luck in the contest.

  16. Goregous, particularly that deep purple iris. Three acers for $5?! Worth working for an idiot for...

  17. Amazing shots. The Iris backed by Purple Smoketree are stunning! Good luck in the contest.

  18. Yeah, well, my Japanese maple is 18" tall and likely will die once it doubles in height, which is the usual die off height here in Nebraska zone 5 (you know, once they peek out into the winter winds from behind shrubs).

  19. Your photo of the Iris you've entered into the competition is the best I've seen so far! I hope you win!

  20. Alison,
    Thanks! I love my Iris too.

    Today it felt like two months into the future with temps just shy of 90.

    I agree with you on fact bendind.

    Thanks for your comments. I am more fond of the Iris than the photos.

    There is no voting, just the wise judgement of the Wizard.

    It was Hechinger's step child, Home Quarters. It was great in the beginning when things were allowed to run independently, then corporate messed it all up.

    The purple Iris almost made the cut for the contest.

    Yes it is hard to believe you waited so long.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence.

    It was so very hot here today, but not enough to wish for snow.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    They were not the only things I pulled from the dumpster. You would not believe what was thrown away.

    I worked for Home Quarters which was part of Hechingers. Now if I need to visit one of those places it is always Lowes.

    I am not afraid to take cast offs, be they plants or whatever. There has been more than one occasion where the back of the car is filled with something found on the street.

    Thanks for your best wishes.

    Yes working there did have its benefits, despite the management.

    Thank you so much for stopping by.

    Your comment reminds of the stunted forests that grow behind the dunes here. Once they reach above the dunes, the salt prunes them.

    Thank you so very much!


  21. 3 Japanese maples for $5?! Your observation about your former employers lack of hort-biz acumen seems spot on...

  22. Beautiful photo! The colors are warm and I love how the light catches the iridescence of the iris petal.

  23. Les, It’s a very rainy Spring day so I thought it would be a good time to check in on you and the other Blogs I follow. Can not be out in the dirt so I am here at the computer. I too love the mornings. Maybe it helps that I live on the shore watching the sun rise each day. Took a walk on the beach yesterday just to see if anything is starting to grow after this very long Winter. Posted some photos so I have a record that Spring does come at last! Love the Iris photos you have. MY dwarf Iris bloomed this week. It will be many more weeks before the Bearded Iris do their thing. Jack

  24. Beautiful and graceful looking flowers! They will surely be successful in the contest! Nice job Les!

  25. Let me guess...Builder's Square? They were the one's selling bird of paradise here in Denver one year. Good grief. Glad you rewarded yourself with those beautiful maples! i always look forward to iris season, they are so fun to photograph and, by the way, I'm going to steal your technique! Good luck in the contest!

  26. Very nicely done! We need to bottle that light and spread it around. Our Iris are just barely beginning to bud now. My own preference is for the next to the last with the full image of the Iris, but the color is great in either case...

  27. Congrats on the recognition of your Iris picture on Gardening Gone Wild. Your photos are always exceptional...

  28. I love using backlighting! I love the old fashioned iris - especially the ones that smell like grapes!

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. A while back I bought a stunning iris at Walmart for $3 in a discount rack. Nice photos and use of light and lens.