"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Martagon Lilies (1 of 3)

From “Lily” in Flowers in History by Peter Coats:

L. martagon (the word comes from the Turkish martagan, a special form of turban adopted by Sultan Muhammed 1) is sometimes thought… to be an English native; but the Turk’s Cap lily is more likely to have been brought by early travellers from Italy, Spain or Turkey….

“It is a tall graceful lily, with many small flowers in pyramidal clusters, each with reflexed petals, which give the individual flowers their likeness to a turban. In color the martagon is usually a rich freckled purple, an unusual mahogany red or waxy white.”

From “There Are Different Gardens” by Carl Sandburg in The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg:

Flowers can be cousins of the stars.
The closing and speaking lips of the lily
And the warning of the fire and the dust —
They are in the gardens and the sky of stars.
Beyond the shots of the light of this sun
Are the little sprinkles, the little twinklers
Of suns to whose lips this lily never sent
A whisper from its closing and speaking lips.


Last year when I learned that the Martagon Lilies featured in this post (and the next two) were commonly called Turk’s Cap Lilies (see, for example, Turk’s Cap (Martagon) Lilies (1 of 3), where I first discussed it), I took it for granted that “Turk’s Cap” and “Martagon” were interchangeable names for the same plant — which seemed perfectly reasonable until I found out that other lilies (like Lilium superbum) have also been doffed “Turk’s Cap.” This ambiguity — which is present in the Peter Coats quotation uptop — always bugged me a bit, mainly because I try to get better at correctly identifying the plants and flowers I photograph, even while getting help from sources like PlantNet. So this year I did a little more digging around, to see if I could clear up my name fog over “Turk’s Cap.”

In the book Lilies: Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden, author Naomi Slade explains that “the classification of lilies is… a bit of a headache.” She continues:

“Generally speaking, [lilies] are placed in one of nine divisions depending on their parentage, then assigned a series of letters that are designed to indicate the shape and habit of the flowers.”

She then describes the nine divisions, pointing out that three of these divisions — Division 2, Division 3, and Division 4 — include lilies with flowers in the Turk’s Cap shape. I was tempted to conclude that only these three divisions contained Turk’s Caps, but pretty quickly discovered that lilies in other divisions — such as Lilium cernuum in Division 5 and Lilium michiganense in Division 6 — bloom in Turk’s Cap shapes too. Ah, well, now I understand why Slade got a headache; but I think the best way to think about this is that “Turk’s Cap” is more properly thought of not as the name of a flower, but as the characteristic shape of some flowers, and what any of us know to be a “Turk’s Cap Lily” is more of a colloquialism, an informal way of referring to specific lilies that may also be localized to where you live (or where you see the lilies).

Slade’s description of the lily divisions is too long to quote here, but Wikipedia also describes the nine divisions (closely mirroring Slade’s explanation) at Lilium: Classification of garden forms — where the photos for lilies in each division are very helpful for visualizing how the similarities among variants get them classified as they are. For my purposes, I think I’ll get in the habit of trying to figure out what lily variant I’ve actually photographed when its shape is a Turk’s Cap, and I landed on Martagon for these lilies because of their dominant purple-red colors; the presence of dark purple (nearly black) spots on some of the flower petals; and the smaller size of the individual flower blooms. Further (though you can’t tell from the closeup photos below) the plant itself stood nearly six feet tall with several dozen blooming stems — both characteristics of (though not exclusive to) Martagon Lilies.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (5 of 5)

From “Places of Awe” in Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life by Colin Ellard:

“On Christmas Eve, 1968, Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders took a photograph that was destined to become one of the most famous images in human history. As the tiny spacecraft that he shared with astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell rounded the moon and revealed the blue globe of planet Earth, Anders raised a Hasselblad camera, exclaiming with all the enthusiasm one is likely to ever hear from a fighter pilot with the United States Air Force: ‘There’s the Earth coming up. Wow is that pretty.’

“Although very few of us have been lucky enough to travel into space and experience awe by looking at the Earth from a remote viewpoint, everyone has had experiences that they would categorize as ‘awesome’ (and not just in the recent banal sense of that word). When awe strikes us, we are certain of it. We can be overcome by awe when we encounter a dramatic natural phenomenon such as an inky starlit sky, a thunderstorm, or a majestic view of a mountain range or canyon, or even by simple reflection….

“[We] can also be overcome by awe in built settings…. Such experiences bring us outside the narrow confines of the body space, encouraging us to believe that our existence constitutes more than just a beating heart inside a fragile organic shell. We have a sense of boundlessness as the limitations of time and space that hold us aground are suddenly swept aside.”

From “As Imperceptibly as Grief” in The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson:

As imperceptibly as grief
The summer lapsed away,–
Too imperceptible, at last,
To seem like perfidy.

A quietness distilled,
As twilight long begun,
Or Nature, spending with herself
Sequestered afternoon.

The dusk drew earlier in,
The morning foreign shone,–
A courteous, yet harrowing grace,
As guest who would be gone.

And thus, without a wing,
Or service of a keel,
Our summer made her light escape
Into the beautiful.


This is the fifth of five posts where I’ve taken this summer’s daylily, lily, and amaryllis photographs, and recreated them on black backgrounds. This post features a last batch of amaryllis.

The previous posts are Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (1 of 5), Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (2 of 5), Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (3 of 5), and Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (4 of 5).

The poem from Emily Dickinson above is thematically about the ending of summer — a bit of wishful thinking on my part since we’ve been subjected to more days with excessive heat warnings in July and August than I’ve experienced since moving to the southeast. It does make a guy long for the cooler, breezier days of autumn — and even though those are quite a few weeks off, the slightly shorter days with earlier sunsets are good reminders that the seasonal change will come, just not quite yet.

Thanks for taking a look!

Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (4 of 5)

From “Old Pictures” in Living, Thinking, Looking by Siri Hustvedt:

“Photographs have long been seen as markers of the past, a way of preserving what was in what is….

Unlike paintings, which can invent a subject, photographs preserve a subject in a real moment in time. Despite the fact that well before the era of Photoshop, camera images were manipulated (remember the Cottingley fairies), it is an idea that has had long-standing power. What fascinates me most about photographs are their personal and public uses as tokens of memory and the fact that their efficiency, or lack of it, in terms of seeing and remembering, works precisely to the degree that they are not like visual perception and memory in the brain. Photographs are produced mechanically, which means that, unlike painting, they are created outside human perception, but, like paintings, they exist as representations outside our bodies. At the same time, we look at photographs with our eyes. The vagaries of human vision apply to photos just as they do to all other perceived objects….

“Perception and its crucial cohort, memory, are complex dynamic systems in the brain and have both implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious) features. Although scientists once subscribed to a primitive notion of memory storage — you perceived an object and then lodged it intact in your memory — neuroscientists now believe that when you retrieve a memory, you are not retrieving an original memory but rather the memory you last retrieved. In other words, we edit. Memory changes. It is now obvious that
the brain is not a camera; it is not a computer; it is not a machine. Despite the fact that new technologies are developing seeing-machines that can recognize people and objects, and many of us work with remembering-machines, our computers, every day, there is little lust for machines that, to use the neuroscience term, reconsolidate memories over time, that unknowingly rewrite or reconfigure the scenes and faces of the past. Digital alteration is a tool for the conscious, not the unconscious mind.”

From “Fairies” by Rose Fyleman in The RHS Book of Garden Verse by the Royal Horticultural Society:

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
It’s not so very, very far away;
You pass the gardener’s shed and you just keep straight ahead —
I do so hope they’ve really come to stay.
There’s a little wood, with moss in it and beetles,
And a little stream that quietly runs through;
You wouldn’t think they’d dare to come merrymaking there —
Well, they do.

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
They often have a dance on summer nights….


This is the fourth of five posts where I’ve taken this summer’s daylily, lily, and amaryllis photographs, and recreated them on black backgrounds. This post features a first batch of amaryllis.

The previous posts are Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (1 of 5), Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (2 of 5), and Daylilies, Lilies, and Amaryllis on Black (3 of 5).

I had never heard of the Cottingley fairies until reading about them in the book of essays by Siri Hustvedt, quoted above. This fascinating episode in the history of photography and image manipulation very nearly sent me down a new rabbit hole — or fairy hole (how rude!) — but for now I stuck with just reading the Wikipedia article and taking a quick look at the book The Coming of the Fairies by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame) and a few other sources. Having never read a Sherlock Holmes book — I’ve only seen various adaptations of Doyle’s Holmes in films and television series — I didn’t know that Doyle was interested in spiritualism, and, as such, was an early adopter of the fairies-do-exist meme. Doyle was highly influential in his treatment of the images as real, along with Edward Gardner of the Theosophical Society — who infamously stated that the images were “straight forward photographs of whatever was in front of the camera at the time.” This delightful equivocation is a fine example of how ambiguity about manipulated images helps move them into mainstream thought to get treated as realistic, when in fact they are not.

The Cottingley fairies hoax emerged during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century interest in spirit photography, the belief that cameras were capable of capturing images of ghosts and other supernatural entities, though the fairies were posited as real rather than as examples of characters from the spirit world. It was only in the 1980s — recent enough! — that the two girls that created the original five fairy photos publicly admitted they had faked the photographs, despite prior investigations that described how the images had been manipulated. It’s certainly a testament to the enduring power of images — even faked or manipulated images — that the genesis of these five photographs was still being discussed for decades after they were first produced.

I was going to post the five images in a small gallery here, then learned that the copyright status of the images is disputed — they’re not necessarily in the public domain — but you can see them in sequence with a concise overview of their history at The Cottingley Fairies as well as in the Wikipedia article.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

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