Spring 2020: April Colors 2 (Catawba Grapevine)

From “Time” by Susan Hill and Rory Stuart in The Writer in the Garden by Jane Garmey:

“There is a continuity about the garden and an order of succession in the garden year which is deeply pleasing, and in one sense there are no breaks or divisions — seed time flows on to flowering time and harvest time; no sooner is one thing dying than another is coming to life….

“Perfect moments come in every garden…. To the very active gardener they may not be of great importance and usually they will be happy accidents, lucky moments when, chancing to glance up, the gardener will see that this or that grouping of plants at the height of their flowering looks exactly right, because of the way the light falls on them…. The moment will be pleasing but fleeting and its transience of little importance when there is satisfying work to be done….

“Awareness of when such moments are most likely helps to make them happen; they will not be entirely accidental but anticipated; everything will be planned to encourage them. This gardener will be out in the very early morning and from late afternoon, attentive to small changes in the quality of the light and the atmosphere, as well as to every nuance of the season, which combine to create perfection. Late sunlight will slant for just a few minutes on a variegated shrub placed against a dark, evergreen background; the assertive evening calling of blackbirds and the scream of swifts round and round the rooftops calms and stills as darkness gathers; pale flowers, translucent whites, pinks and chalky blues stand out in the dusk, sharp yellows and oranges are defined separately as dimmer, subtler tones retreat into the spreading shadow. Water on a pool goes dark blue and then black at one particular moment, just as the moon rides up into a clear sky. The dew rises and with it the fainter scents which have been blotted out by the heat of the day. Now, all should be quiet, still; the air is so transmissive that any sharp sound or acrid smell will startle and upset the delicate equilibrium in the garden. Conversation and even company are inappropriate…. 

“Such moments are to be enjoyed alone. They are the reasons why some people have gardens.”

Below are a couple of galleries showing early growth on a catawba grapevine in my garden. As new vines start to appear each spring, the leaf tips emerge with a distinct purple tint — almost like they’ve been lightly brushed with that color. It only lasts a few days, and I never even noticed it until I aimed a macro lens at the vines three or four years ago. Now, this color marks time in my garden — like the quotation above implies — and its a marker of early spring that fades to shades of light green shortly after it appears. The two galleries show a similar series of images; the second one includes variations at a closer zoom level.

Thanks for taking a look!




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Catawba Grapevine, Early Spring, Round Two

With the photos in the gallery below, I may have captured the last of the luminous colors appearing on my catawba grapevine, at least for Spring 2019. I took these pictures about a week after the first set, and the emerging shoots and leaves have doubled in size. Now, however — with another few sunny days having passed — most of the purple and magenta color has turned into green with splashes of yellow: the colors of the mature vine. The shapes of the shoots fascinate me, though, so there may be a Round Three gallery … and more!

I got insect-photobombed when taking these pictures; I didn’t notice until I was processing the photos in Lightroom that there was a tiny spider hanging out on the vine. The spider is in two of the photos, but I’m not telling which ones: you’ll have to look closely and find it for yourself. 🙂

Thanks for looking! I hope spring is springing for you too!

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Catawba Grapevine, Early Spring, in Black and White

A couple of weeks ago, I aimed a macro lens at some new leaves on my catawba grapevine and saw an unusual range of colors in its tiny shoots. I’ve only had the vine for about three years, and this may have been the first time I took a close-up look at it this early in the spring. Much of its orange, purple, and magenta color luminance — that you can see in the images here — is still apparent as the leaves grow, and I’m working on another set or two of similar photos. The vine made an appearance here last June in this post: Secrets Inside a Grapevine.

This is only the third time I’ve tried to convert a gallery of photos from color to black and white in Lightroom; for this set I used the same approach I took in my previous two attempts:

Before and After: Bradford Pear, Blooming in Black and White

Before and After: Camera Studies Camera in Black and White

This kind of black-and-white conversion makes the images more abstract, where the main subject takes on prominence while the backgrounds — originally consisting of softly focused and desaturated colors — fade even further toward insignificance, barely suggesting context or placement for the subject. These three screenshots, from Lightroom, show my typical adjustments:


Settings for Shadows and Blacks have the most impact on the image background; Exposure and Whites alters brightness for the main subject.

Black & White Mix changes the “gray level” for each of the original image colors, and adjusting these sliders is a good way to examine the effect of subtle color variations. I spent a long time micro-managing these adjustments. 🙂

These Sharpening and Noise Reduction settings may seem extreme, and would create distortion in a color image. With my black-and-white photos, however, they emphasized highlights and fine details instead.

I find it challenging to decide, with black-and-white processing, when I’m actually finished with the images. With color, there’s always a point where I feel like “I’m done” … but with black and white, I’m still learning how to recognize that shift. This is where I ended out; here are the final versions of the eleven converted photos:

If you would like to compare the color and black-and-white versions, select the first image below to begin a slideshow.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

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Let’s Pretend It’s Spring! (Photo Set 2 of 2)

The galleries below contain the second series of photos I took last week, of signs of spring life that are starting to appear in my gardens.

The first post and a bit about how the photos were taken and processed is here: Let’s Pretend It’s Spring! (Photo Set 1 of 2).

Thanks for looking!


Gallery One: Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing Hydrangea is often seen growing as a showcase flowering vine on large trellises, but mine are in two four-foot tall urns with lattice supports on opposite sides of my courtyard. Planting them in pots was one of my gardening experiments: the plant — while producing only a few flowers — grows wonderfully with a few hours sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Most of the leaves drop off in the fall after turning bright yellow (see the third image here: Wordless Wednesday: Fall, Fading) but then regenerate from these tiny buds every spring, the buds often starting to appear in late January or early February.


Gallery Two: English Ivy

English Ivy has achieved the distinction of being common, pervasive, and often, invasive. Some people believe that if you take cuttings and throw them on the ground, they’ll grow right where you threw them. While I tried that and it didn’t work, I think it could if the soil was damp and soft; I’ve put a few strands in a jar of water and seen them generate long roots in just a couple of days.

Many of the homes in my neighborhood were built above street level on lots held in place by three-foot retaining walls. As you walk through the neighborhood, it’s very apparent that the same landscaping style was established at about the same time, as the retaining walls were created from similar stone that has aged to nearly identical colors and textures. The front yards, including mine, were planted with English Ivy instead of grass, and the ivy is typically encouraged to cascade over the walls. Near my sidewalk, front porch, and front gardens, I keep the vines at bay with pine bark; trimmed back and bordered by the bark, it’s not hard to keep it from consuming the gardens (and the house!) because the sticky fingers it produces are easily detached from the bark chips.

It grows all year round, though much more slowly during the winter, and isn’t a bit intimidated by frost or freezing temperatures. Once a year, in late February or early March, it puts on a show with a blanket of new leaves in luminous green or yellow-green, similar to the smaller leaves in the last two photos. Then, after about a week, the leaves get larger and the colors blend into a darker green, and rapid spring growth begins for real.


Gallery Three: Catawba Grape Vine

The Catawba Grapevine winters with these tiny, hard, darkly colored nubs that are just starting to show signs of growth. The Catawba was previously featured here on my post Secrets Inside a Grapevine.


Gallery Four: Bluebird Hydrangea

Bluebird Hydrangeas — like many hydrangeas — can always be counted on to over-winter some buds and push out new ones as early as January, even if it’s a little cold. It’s almost hard to believe that from a couple dozen stems like this, a fully leaved five-foot wide blooming shrub will fill one section of my garden. Bluebird Hydrangeas were featured on this blog last year, here: Bluebird Hydrangeas from My Garden.


Gallery Five: Honeysuckle

I have one honeysuckle in my garden, due for replanting from a pot to soil this year, or at least to a larger pot. Honeysuckle produces clumps of multicolored flowers in a variety of complex shapes and sizes; this one opens blooms in orange and light purple — colors similar to the bud in the last photo — that look like tiny trumpets suspended from the branches. At this early stage, the new leaves push out from various points along the plant’s woody stems, starting out as sage or blue-gray in color, then gradually changing to contain more and more green as the leaves mature.


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