I set off this morning – a perfect sunny Saturday – with the intention of focusing on the close-up or macro picture I need for Gardening Gone Wild’s May ‘Picture This’ competition.

3 Cotoneaster horizontalis

The brief is to specifically look at the effect of effective lighting in close-ups and macros. I took 172 shots; I have processed 23 to share. Not all are for the competition; and some I took for the competition didn’t even make it to the shortlist. Above: Cotoneaster horizontalis. Verdict: not competition worthy.

a Makoudam with swamp cypresses

From about the same position as the cotoneaster, I took the above shot down the Long Border towards one of the Swamp Cypresses on the Makou Dam. They will feature in the following shots as well.

a Makoudam from under swamp cypresses

The Swamp Cypress or Taxodium distichum is a deciduous conifer from the eastern USA. Its leaves turn a lovely cinnamon colour. but none of my close-ups qualify…

a Makoudam and  swamp cypress

The interesting thing about them is that each tree marches to its own drum. Some turn early, some late. But year after year they are consistent.

a Makoudam with swamp cypress reflection

As we make our way around the Makou Dam, there is the opportunity to photograph the progress at the site of The Garden Celebrating an Imperfect Universe. Don’t know about it? Find out more here.

a Site of the new garden

The Bugle I bought on auction from which the water will spill – the Celestial Trumpet – has arrived, and I’ve discovered that the dogs’ water-bowl, a flat, rectangular copper vase that was demoted when I tired of having a plastic bowl in the middle of everything, has the proportions of the Golden Rectangle (1:1.618)… I do think that the trumpet should rise from it…(besides anything else, I like the progression: vase>water- bowl>symbol of perfection)

a Site of the new garden 2

But I set out to take close-ups…

b Liquidambar avenue

Here is The Avenue – the Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) which make their way up through the Arboretum in a double avenue with azaleas between them and hydrangeas beneath them. (I took several hydrangea photos, but they don’t feature today.) The fallen leaves, in various stages of decay and catching the light, proved very photogenic.

b liquodambar detail

A detail from the previous photo, this does not quite qualify for the competition.

5 Dappled light on fallen leaves

But this one does…

6 Dappled light on fallen leaves

…As does this one.

d Mateczka

But this one doesn’t!

Autumn azaleas

Many azaleas are blooming. As always in autumn, the semi-deciduous mauve ones are putting on a spectacular show… perhaps there is a competition entry here…

1 azalea filaments

However I do anticipate my entry being an autumn shot…

d Off camera

This photo is exactly as it came off the camera. I’m not at all certain if it is an accident or was planned!

7 Japanese maple against the light

The Japanese Maples  are an obvious choice, though. This one and the next are Acer palmatum ‘Tricolor’ and the pink/cream/green variegation results in interesting autumn shades as well.

8 Japanese maple against the light

Hmmm – those two are more similar than I realised. The next is almost not recognizably a Japanese maple.

10 Mutated Japanese maple

I grew it from seed. It is a mutation, slow growing, actually rather messy in appearance, but fascinating. Instead of having hand-shaped leaves, they are reduced to just the central finger or, as in the leaf pointing upwards, separated into three leaves. In addition they are congested and appear at the end of twigs only, on a narrow, upright tree. It is now about 2.5m tall, and becoming more and more interesting. Although truth be told – it is more interesting in concept than in reality…

c View across freddy's Dam

This glimpse, stolen across Freddy’s Dam towards a Parrotia persica coming into its own, is rather romantic, I think. And forms a modulation between possible entries.

9 Red Plane

One of my proudest possessions is this plane tree. Instead of having yellow autumn leaves, they are red. What is more, they start turning in mid February and last till mid May. That is three months of spectacular autumn colour. I found it in a rural nursery in KwaZulu-Natal amongst yellowing plane saplings, and sneaked it away nonchalantly…This photo was taken up into the light, with some leaves showing their backs and others their upper surface, I liked this so much I cropped it closer:

9 Red Plane detail

I like this photo. It might be called an elegant composition. Sparse. Simple. To the point: this IS what the red plane is all about.

d Japanese Maple avenue

One last photo, of the Japanese Maple avenue on my way home, before – well, before the very first photo I took. The one I believe might well be my entry. And literally the first of the day. There were several more of this subject, but the first, impulsive and unconsidered, was the best. Interesting…

2 Elephant Ears

These Elephant Ears , or Alocasia, came to me from England, of all places. I bought the seeds, from Thompson & Morgan, as I recall, because they were said to repel moles. I doubt that they have done so, but in the process I obtained a wonderful foliage plant of a family that does not cope – usually – with our cold winters. These grow dramatically outside the staff’s house as one enters Sequoia Gardens – thus the pinkish background – and I intend introducing it into a few of my borders in spring. For simplicity and effectiveness of composition, for textural detail as a result of the lighting, I think this is the best of my attempts to date. Think of the theme: Lighting: look closer.



  1. Hi, Jack! I loved your pictures, especially the ones of the plane tree close-up and the elephant’s ear.

    By the way, I read this post first on my smartphone, but none of the pictures showed on it, so I reread it on the computer, where all of them showed up. I wonder why?

    And speaking of seeds from England, I just discovered 2 seedlings from a batch of 8 that I bought from a nursery in France 2 years ago! I knew I had one of them last year, but since then the second one has sprouted. Yippee!! They’re crosses between 2 fully double parents, so now I’m waiting impatiently until they bloom for the first time in 2 years or so!

    Cheers, and carry on the good work!

    • Thank you, Jill! I will keep looking for suitable subjects, but – with a further 150 exposures to process – I think this one remains my candidate for now…

  2. Now you’ve got me wondering which are the five finalists on your blog list. A different sort of challenge – which are the five I do read?

    And those macros with the light just so. I was trying today. I think I’ll have to pass.

  3. Pingback: WELCOME VIEW–AND GARDENING GONE WILD ENTRY « Sequoia Gardens Blog

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