A White Begonia, an Orange Hibiscus, and a Red Japanese Maple

From “Begonia (Begoniaceae)” in Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

“Begonias are named for Michel Bégon, a French colonial governor, by botanist Charles Plumier (1646–1704), probably to thank him for giving him a post as an official plant collector in the colonies. They have been used medicinally, while one Chinese species, Begonia fimbristipula, is commercially available as a herb tea….

“Botanical classification is complex and the subject of several recent research projects. These are very much enthusiast plants: currently 66 sections are recognised and some 10,000 cultivars have been raised over time.”

From “Hibiscus (Malvaceae)” in Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

“There are some 750 species of Hibiscus, whose name is derived from the Greek for the closely related mallow. Overwhelmingly they are found in the world’s tropical regions, both Old and New Worlds, and include trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals….

“In those temperate regions with warm and humid summers, the range in cultivation is boosted by a number of herbaceous perennial species from the U.S. Southeast, which have enormous flowers….”


Hello!

Here we are at the end of the first week of November, and a bit of fall color is finally starting to paint its way into my neighborhood.

Over the past few days, this Japanese Maple in front of my living room window has turned dark red, its leaves casting a red-orange glow over everything in that room. I’m fascinated by the color, because of its unusual intensity and something else: this maple has lived for years in the shade of a gigantic street-side Bradford Pear tree that has made several previous appearances here, but that Pear is no more. It split in two a few months ago during an intense summer thunderstorm, falling against a telephone pole at the sidewalk in front of my house, then last week the remaining half-tree was cut down by city workers. So now the Japanese Maple is no longer hidden in the shade, and when early morning sun lights up this window, it’s gorgeous! The wild-n-crazy begonia growing there looks pretty cool too!



These two galleries show the last of my late summer/early autumn photos.

The first three pictures are blooms from a begonia called “Senator IQ” — one of three I have in pots on a patio table under an umbrella, where it grows well in the moderate light and sends its tiny flowers over the edge of the table to seek out the sun (as plants like to do). I prefer this kind of begonia because its leaves are very dark green — and that with the shade from the patio umbrella makes it easier to highlight the white blooms with minimal background darkening in Lightroom.


Here are some flowers from an “Orange Hibiscus” — which was the name on the handwritten plant tag in the pot I purchased it in. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be its actual name, or someone just went for the obvious moniker. Anyway, I’ve renamed it OrangeOrangeOrange Hibiscus, because that seems to fit at least as well. The plant was mixed in with other annuals and perennials at the garden center, so I’m not sure if it will hold out through the winter and produce new blooms next year — but it’s still going strong and has added several inches to its leaves and stems despite cooler temperatures and darker days.

Here you see some of the blooms at various focal lengths through a macro lens. In several of the photos you’ll also see little swatches of pink or magenta near the center of the flower. At first I thought these were artifacts and started removing them in Lightroom, then realized (after a little research) that these magenta/pink highlights are colors in wavelengths intended to attract pollinators and direct them toward … the pollinating spot! Smart plant!


Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Late Summer/Early Fall Lantana (4 of 4)

From The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1917 edition) by Liberty Hyde Bailey:

“The culture of the florists’ lantana is relatively simple. It is grown under glass for bloom in cold weather and also in the open in summer. It has been improved in its usefulness as a bedding-plant of late years, largely through the efforts of French hybridists. The older varieties were mostly rather tall and lanky, later coming into bloom, and dropped their flowers badly after rain-storms, but were showy in warm and dry weather. The new varieties are dwarf, spreading and bushy in habit, early and free-flowering, and the heads or umbels of bloom average much larger, with florets in proportion; nor do they drop from the plants as did old varieties in bad weather….

“These newer kinds are not so well known as they should be. They are very desirable for any situation where sun-loving bedding plants are used, in groups or borders, window boxes, baskets and vases.”

From “Bedding Out” in Colour in My Garden (1918) by Louise Beebe Wilder:

“Lantanas were favourite bedding plants of yore….

“I remember that my father alway stood out for two lozenge-shaped beds of Lantana on the terrace in front of our old stone house, and how he gloried in their vivacious colours….”


Hello!

This is the last of four posts featuring photos of lantana plants in my garden. The previous posts are:

Late Summer/Early Fall Lantana (1 of 4)

Late Summer/Early Fall Lantana (2 of 4)

Late Summer/Early Fall Lantana (3 of 4)


Whenever I see the word “yore” (as in the second quotation above) — which is of course not often! — I can’t help but think about the Friends episode called The One with the Apothecary Table, where Rachel Green tries to convince Phoebe Buffay that the apothecary table she bought from Pottery Barn was anciently manufactured in historical White Plains and purchased from a flea market for the “old time pricing” of “one and fifty dollars”. There’s a short clip of the episode here, where the first three and a half minutes include two of the apothecary table scenes.

If there’s such a thing as post-consumerist humor, The One with the Apothecary Table is a great example, where the characters as a group simultaneously love and hate mass-produced products, yet respond to the subtle (or not so subtle) advertised messages by opening their wallets and stuffing their apartments with objects from a catalog-created theme.

The episode is a fun play on history also. Subsequently asked to identify an historical era other than “yore”, Rachel adds “yesteryear” — and “yesteryear and yore” briefly re-entered American vernacular as a way to describe ambiguous time periods in the past. I’ve used them myself sometimes, sometimes together and sometimes separately; and the cultural pervasiveness of a series like Friends is so strong that almost anyone who hears the terms knows they’re actually a reference to the comedy of the apothecary tables.

Yesteryear — for example, in 2018 or 2019 or 2020 — I wouldn’t have even tried to convert some of the lantana photos from the previous three posts to images with black backgrounds, because the tiny spaces embedded in the central portion of the blooms were too difficult to brush out without bleeding black onto the flowers themselves. Until I spent several weeks practicing — especially on the Lilies on Black Backgrounds series from this past summer (where I describe my black background technique) — I didn’t have enough experience with Lightroom’s brushes to fill these areas with black where the surrounding structure was as intricate as it is on these lantana flowers.

With macro photos like these, depth is largely a contrast and shadow illusion, an illusion that overlooks the fact that all photographs are two-dimensional renderings of what our eyes would perceive three-dimensionally. Bright-to-dark transitions typically register in our minds as front-to-back perspective, and shadows around edges (as muted as they might be) contribute to that recognition. In other words, if I didn’t leave some of the shadows around the edges of the pink flower buds, those image elements would look flat to the eye, and, as a result, the entire image would look unnatural and artificial.

If you look at one of the original images — say this one, of the first photo below — you will see green color from the plant’s stems and leaves surrounding most of the pink center buds. On my “first draft” of these photos, I kept that green intact, but since most of them had no other green, it seemed distracting so I decided to try and get rid of it.

To remove the green without brushing around each of the little pink pillows, I used a Lightroom feathered and circular brush the size of the pink section only and clicked on a bit of green color toward the center. The feathering setting for the brush kept the pink color intact, retained most of the shadows at the edges of each pink bud, and replaced the green with a black that matched the rest of the background with a single press of the mouse button. No more green — and Voila! — the blossoms themselves totally look like they’re suspended in mid-air!

Thanks for reading and taking a look!







Late Summer/Early Fall Lantana (3 of 4)

From The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1917 edition) by Liberty Hyde Bailey:

“Lantana have been long in cultivation, and it is difficult to refer the garden forms to botanical species. The species themselves are confusing. Most of the garden kinds are of the L. Camara type….

“In recent years, a strain of very dwarf varieties has become popular as border plants. The lantanas are free-flowering in winter and summer, but an odor of foliage and flowers that is disagreeable to many persons prevents them from popular use as cut flowers. They are very useful in window-gardens and the dwarf kinds make good subjects for hanging baskets….

“From the window they may be transferred to the open in summer, where they bloom profusely.”


Hello!

This is the third of four posts featuring photos of lantana plants in my garden; the first post is Late Summer/Early Fall Lantana (1 of 4) and the second post is Late Summer/Early Fall Lantana (2 of 4).

The botanical confusion allusion in my quotation from the Cyclopedia above made its way into my researching around the web for quotes about lantana. The short version of the story, which I finally got a handle on, is this: the plant’s colloquial name as lantana was co-opted from the name of an unrelated plant — viburnum lantana — and older books will sometimes refer to garden or wildwood lantana as viburnum instead of lantana. And, to stumble my brain even a bit more, garden lantana is a member of the verbena family of plants — and some references in historical sources simply refer to lantana as verbena, especially references to wilder variations as opposed to varieties cultivated for gardens.

Make sense? haha! If it’s in someone’s garden, and it looks like my photos, it’s lantana camara. If not, it’s not!

Botany is a hoot!

Thanks for taking a look!