A Handful of Rhodendrons

From The Reason For Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann:

“The earliest gardens in China are as old as the most ancient Egyptian gardens. The significance of flowers in Chinese culture is reflected in names from antiquity, such as hua, the word for flower. The ideal garden became a ‘timeless paradise’ as a retreat for scholars and hermits alike. Among the most cherished flowers grown in Chinese gardens since antiquity are chrysanthemums, gardenias, forsythias, magnolias, pinks, rhododendrons, roses, and wisterias….

“[Domesticated garden] blooms have a long association with Chinese culture, mirrored in its rich arts and literature traditions. China’s floriculture and agriculture contributed ginseng, the camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, mulberries, the persimmon, rice, tea, and all the various kinds of Citrus fruits to the rest of the world….”

“[Azaleas and rhododendrons] … symbolize temperance, passion, and womanhood (in China), along with fragility and taking care of oneself.”


I have one small potted Boursault Rhododendron in my garden, and it produced a handful of blooms a couple weeks ago — just before two days of rain and wind tore up the flower petals. Like many azaleas (azaleas and rho’s are relatives), rhododendron flowers are fragile enough that two days of post-blooming rain and wind dissolved most of them. By the time it cleared up enough for The Photographer to take a few snaps, there wasn’t much left to photograph, so for these images I used a macro lens and zoomed into the center of each flower where they were still intact. This was an experiment, I guess, because after following my typical post-processing in Lightroom, I used several Nik Collection filters to blur almost everything except the center focal points. I usually aim to enhance sharpness and detail, not reduce it, so I had to put my thinking-backwards cap on. Those same filters gave the petals in the backgrounds a bit of bright glow also — which nicely resembles the luminosity the blooms revealed on a cloudy but bright morning.

Select any image if you would like to see larger versions in a slideshow. Thanks for taking a look!



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Fourth of July in America, 2020

From America at War with Itself by Henry A. Giroux:

“The rise of dystopian politics … must be exposed and challenged on the local, national, and global planes. What is crucial is that the mechanisms, discourses, policies, and ideologies that inform authoritarianism must become part of any analysis that is willing to challenge the anti-democratic forces metastasizing within the United States today….

“This means, in part, focusing on the ongoing repressive systems that have been developing in American society for the last forty years. It also means drawing connections between historical forms of racial, ethnic, and economic violence that have been waged against indigenous communities, people of color, and the economically disadvantaged…. 

“It means finding a common ground on which various elements of an ethical society can be mobilized under the banner of multicultural democracy in order to challenge the interconnected forms of oppression, incarceration, mass violence, exploitation, and exclusion that now define the militant self-interest of corporatized American politics. It means taking seriously the educational nature of politics and recognizing that public spheres must be advanced in order to educate citizens who are informed, socially responsible, and willing to fight collectively for a future in which democracy is sustainable at all levels. This suggests an anti-fascist struggle that is not simply about remaking economic structures but also about refashioning identities, values, and social relations as part of a democratic project that reconfigures what it means to desire a better and more democratic future….”


I don’t have any firecrackers or sparklers, because I know better; I’d probably burn down the house, or at least set a few pine trees ablaze. I do, however, have red, white, and blue hydrangeas! And if you blink your eyes fast enough, they look like fireworks… or not! 🙂

Happy Independence Day, America! Let’s get our act together, okay?





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Spring 2020: April Colors 7 (Clematis in Bloom, 3 of 3)

From The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann:

“Before recorded history, all cultures collected, used, and admired flowers not only for utilitarian purposes, but for their elusive fragrances and ephemeral forms that, ironically, symbolized recurring vigor and even immortality. They have enthralled and seduced us, exploiting entire civilizations to enhance their sex lives and spread their seeds. We give and receive flowers as tributes, and to commemorate life’s many triumphs and everyday events. Flowers accompany us from cradle to grave. As spices, they flavor our foods and beverages. We harvest their delicate scents, combining them into extravagantly expensive mixtures, for perfuming our bodies to evoke passion and intrigue….

“Flowers inspired the first artists, writers, photographers, and scientists, just as they do today on street corners, in florist shops and farmers’ markets, in books, paintings, sculptures, and commercial advertising. They moved online with ease.”

From Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

“Spring comes, the birds sing in the trees once again, leaves return to the trees which lost them, flowers bloom in the high meadows and on the slopes, streams overflow with waters of melting snow. Through it all, the mountain continues to sit, unmoved by the weather, by what happens on the surface, by the world of appearances…. As we sit holding this image in our mind, we can embody the same unwavering stillness and rootedness in the face of everything that changes in our own lives over seconds, hours, and years.

“May we continue to give ourselves over to what is deepest and best in ourselves, over and over and over again, encouraging those seeds of our truest nature to grow and flower and — for the sake of all beings near and far, known and unknown — nourish our lives and work and world from moment to moment, and from day to day.”

Here we are, on the last day of the month … we made it through April, mostly hunkered down but with occasional outdoor excursions, observing the birds that still sang, the trees that waved to life in their varied shades of green, and of course the plants and flowers that unrolled Spring 2020 like a blanket of color, texture, and shape. What will May bring? More uncertainty, more unknowns, probably more confusion … and, for me, new collections of irises, wisteria, and spiderwort — from photos I’ve taken over the past few weeks — along with more photos of any other flashes of color that catch my eye.

For this last clematis collection, I altered variations of images from the previous two posts to remove the background — something that creates nice contrast with the purple, violet, and magenta colors prominent in these blooms. For the first gallery, I used Lightroom brushes to patiently paint the backgrounds black, following (in slow motion!) the outer lines created by each petal. For the second and third galleries (showing a Bernadine Clematis), I used radial filters instead of brushes, to create the impression of light fading from the center of the bloom to each petal’s edge.

The previous posts in this series are:

Spring 2020: April Colors 6 (Clematis in Bloom, 2 of 3): and

Spring 2020: April Colors 5 (Clematis in Bloom, 1 of 3); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 4 (White, Orange, and Red-Red); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 3 (Purple and Yellow (and Yellow and Purple)); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 2 (Catawba Grapevine); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 1.

Thanks for reading and taking a look! See you in May!





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Spring 2020: April Colors 6 (Clematis in Bloom, 2 of 3)

From The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann:

Most open by dawn’s first light or unfurl their charms as the day progresses. Others unwrap their diaphanous petals, like expensive presents, after dark, waiting for the arrival of beloved guests under a radiant moon. We know them as flowers. They are nature’s advertisements, using their beauty to beguile and reward passing insects or birds or bats or people willing to attend to their reproduction. The beauty of their shapes, colors, and scents transforms us through intimate experiences in our gardens, homes, offices, parks and public spaces, and wildlands. Importantly, flowers feed and clothe us. Their fruits and seeds keep the world’s 7.2 billion people from starvation. Flowers represent our past along with our hope for a bright future.

So what is the point of a flower exactly? Have you ever wondered about that? I know I have, so I started reading Stephen Buchmann’s book The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives (I am just on page ix) and the quote above is from the book’s preface. Normally I only include quotes here from books I’ve already read, but since I’ve got gobs and gobs of flower photos still to process and post (and more to take!), I think I’ll work through the book as I progress through the photos — and post about both. About halfway through the book is a section called “Flowers in Literature, Art, and Myth” that I imagine will be especially interesting to me as I often poke around trying to find references to flowers in fiction, poetry, art books, and photography books. I’ve never really puzzled that much about why I even like taking pictures of flowers (and plants and trees more generally); but like many things that stick to us as we grow up, I think that interest stems (at least partly) from exploring forests near my family home. I still remember the first time I came across a batch of tiny pink lady slipper orchids growing among shed needles of large pine trees while I was out wandering one day, and being fascinated by their delicacy and shape, and the luminous color woven throughout the shade of the trees.

The delightful flower below is a Bernadine Clematis, which made its first appearance here last year (see Clematis Variations: Gallery 1 of 2). One of the two plants I bought didn’t survive an unseasonable May 2019 heat wave; and the second while diminished in size quite a bit, sprang back enough to produce a small cluster of blooms. The first gallery below shows the blooms on the morning they opened, and the rest of the photos follow the blooms for a few days as they reached full size.

The previous posts in this series are:

Spring 2020: April Colors 5 (Clematis in Bloom, 1 of 3); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 4 (White, Orange, and Red-Red); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 3 (Purple and Yellow (and Yellow and Purple)); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 2 (Catawba Grapevine); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 1.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!





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Spring 2020: April Colors 5 (Clematis in Bloom, 1 of 3)

With most of my nearby worlds still shut down, my spring photography will for some indefinite time alternate between my-garden photo shoots and Oakland Cemetery photo shoots, both locations presenting plenty of subjects to keep me busy. On a nice day earlier this week, I did go over to Oakland for a bit of iris-hunting — as irises are making an appearance in any spot sunny enough to encourage them to bloom — and encountered more than a dozen varieties in every imaginable color between white and black. I had never actually seen black irises in real life; the black is strangely reflective of surrounding light, picking up deep purples from other parts of the flower that glowed in the camera’s viewfinder. Ah, but that’s for another day; this post doesn’t feature iris photos — I’ve got plenty of work to do on them before I can share — but it is the first of three posts featuring clematis blooms in my back yard.

When planted in pots, the growth of clematis vines is somewhat restricted, so all the blooms they’re going to produce for the season tend to come and go in a week or two. Mostly they’re already gone, having dissolved and blown away during some recent thunderstorms, so they live only here on my blog now rather than in the back yard. The first gallery shows a few of the flower buds on the day before they bloomed; the rest are, of course, some of the blooms.

The previous posts in this series are:

Spring 2020: April Colors 4 (White, Orange, and Red-Red); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 3 (Purple and Yellow (and Yellow and Purple)); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 2 (Catawba Grapevine); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 1.

Thanks for taking a look!




7 Comments