Here is an idea that I came across in a French town square. I plan to try in my own garden next year. These impressive towers of petunias and geraniums are planted in a series of tubs stacked on top of one another. Once the plants grow bushy they drape down to hide the tub structure.
Impressive towers of petunias and geraniums seen in France.
The camera – most modern digital cameras will do a good job. The pictures on this website were taken with a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300. I have had it for two years and am very pleased with it. The current equivalent, the W350B, is available from Amazon UK for under £120. The main things I look for in a camera are a good lens that will take close-ups and a compact design. This camera fits in a carry case that clips on my belt.
A sunny day – if you have a choice then wait for the sun to come out. It is easy to wait for the sun if you are taking pictures in your own garden. If you are planning some flower photography away from home then keep your fingers crossed for a sunny day.
The position of the sun – the direction of the light can make a big difference to the look of your picture. I like to have the sun to the left of my shoulder. This gives a good shape to the petals. I also like to take pictures with the sun in front of the camera. Not so much in front that it is shining down the lens, but forward enough to give good rim lighting.
Focus – it is important to have the main subject in sharp focus. My camera has automatic focus and it puts up a grid showing what area it has picked. The problem with automatic focus is that it may pick a point nearer or further that the main subject. The trick is to move the camera from side to side until you get the point you want and then lock it on by gently squeezing the shutter release button half way. Then frame your subject as you want it. Once the focus is locked keep the distance to the main subject exactly the same.
Composition – with flower photography it is usually best to get the main subject in the middle of the frame. Having said this other factors come into play. Pay attention to what is happening behind the main subject. Is there anything distracting in view? Moving around the subject may improve the background. It is often a matter of trial and error to find a pleasing composition.
Light and shade – strong sunlight creates strong shadows. You may be able to use this to your advantage by framing your main subject that is in bright light against a dark shadow. This will make it stand out more.
Viewpoint – if you have low growing flowers then it is a good technique to crouch down so that you are taking the picture on their level. On the other hand, with a wide open flower it is interesting to get above it and look into it. The key is experimentation with different viewpoints.
Distance – the distance from the camera to the subject depends on what you want to achieve. You may want a record of the whole plant or you may want a close up. I usually take several photographs at various distances. I like to get in really close wherever possible as this can give dramatic results.
Insects – if you can photograph the flower with a butterfly or a bee on it this can add drama. It takes luck and patience to get the insect in the right place since they tend to flit around. The delay between pressing the shutter release button and the picture being exposed does not help. If you can hold the shutter button at the half-way point so that it is focused and ready to go this helps.
Take more than one picture – the beauty of digital photography is that you can take additional pictures at no extra expense. Photograph your subject from different angles and distances. When you view them on your computer screen you can then pick the best.
1. Have flowering shrubs as the main feature of your planting. Choose an evergreen variety where possible so that your garden looks green in the winter months. Azaleas and rhododendrons are my favourites.
2. Use bark chippings to cover all exposed soil. The deeper the better, say 3 or 4 inches, to discourage weeds.
3. Use ground cover plants in areas between the shrubs. If these grow thickly enough you will not be troubled with weeds. My favourite is heather. There are varieties that flower at different times so with a careful choice you can have a display of colour through much of the year.
4. Have a paved area for sitting out and enjoying your garden. Well laid paving stones are very low maintenance.
5. Have as little amount of lawn as possible. My wife insists on having a lawn but it is quite small, just big enough to take a rotary washing line.
6. Use a hover mower to cut the lawn. This can be swung from side to side whilst mowing so it gets the job done quickly. Do not use a grass box; just let the clippings settle back on the lawn. The clippings will put energy back into the soil. Clumps of grass clippings can be brushed out to disperse them.
7. Plant the right plants in the right place. If the plants are happy they will thrive and you will have less work looking after them them. For example put sun loving plants in the sun and shade loving plants in the shade. If you have acid soil then choose acid loving plants. If you have dry soil then choose plants that will thrive in those conditions.
8. Plant up tubs with flowers that will give a colourful display throughout the summer. Busy Lizzie, begonias and geraniums are my particular favourites. Buy potting compost that has water-retaining granules to cut down on the frequency of watering. If the flower tubs are placed near the house the view from the windows will be enhanced.
9. Use beech as a hedging plant. It is slow growing so only needs trimming a couple of times a year. The leaves turn brown in the winter but stay in place so still form a screen. They drop off in the spring as the new leaves are appearing.
10. If you enjoy a garden barbeque choose one powered by electricity. Just plug it in and you are ready to go. No charcoal or gas bottles to purchase. No ashes to dispose of afterwards. My barbeque is on a trolley that I keep in the garage. I wheel it out at barbeque time, then I sit back with a glass of wine while the sausages sizzle.