“When trellised grapes their flowers unmask, And the new-born tendrils twine, The old wine darkling in the cask Feels the bloom on the living vine, And bursts the hoops at hint of Spring.”
This is the second of four posts featuring two grapevines growing in my garden. For the first post and more on the series, see Tales of Two Grapevines (1 of 4). For this post, I selected images where I photographed the smallest leaves I could find.
Here are a few wee leaves from my Catawba Grapevine. The magenta color that will adorn the back sides of the leaves for a few days is evident even in the leaf bud, as in the first photo; though by the time the vine gets as large as shown in the last photo, the magenta will be gone.
On the Concord Grapevine, the unopened leaves (most of which were half the size of a thimble) are about the same color as they will be when they grow up, but even at this stage show the complex structure that the vine retains throughout its lifespan. The first two photos — whose buds always remind me of creatures from the Alien movies — show that intricacy. If you would like to see the detail in full-sized versions, click here and here — or select “View full size” when looking at the images as a slideshow.
You can also see in these two photos that the tendrils emerge from the same leaf cluster as the leaves, appearing as tiny scythes (curving to the left in the first photo and to the right in the second) in its early days. As the leaves continues to open, the tendrils stretch out on their own from the same connection points, then split into two or more independent threads.
“Vitis (from the Greek for the plant) includes approximately 60 species. The distribution is almost entirely temperate northern hemisphere with some penetration into South America…. Nearly all Vitis species are lianas, are wind-pollinated, and have roots that can store considerable quantities of nutrients during the dormant season. They form an integral part of forests, climbing up trees to produce their leaves, flowers, and fruit often tens of metres above ground level. They are particularly lush in woodland edge habitats, where their ability to cover trees may result in them being visually dominant….
“The appreciation of the grape vine simply as an ornamental plant is a recent interest — a few centuries, compared to the thousands of years the plant has been cultivated for its fruit and its fermented juice.”
“A climbing plant which needs a prop will creep toward the nearest support. Should this be shifted, the vine, within a few hours, will change its course into the new direction. Can the plant see the pole? Does it sense it in some unfathomed way? If a plant is growing between obstructions and cannot see a potential support it will unerringly grow toward a hidden support, avoiding the area where none exists.”
“When the tendril, which sweeps a full circle in sixty-seven minutes, finds a perch, within twenty seconds it starts to curve around the object, and within the hour has wound itself so firmly it is hard to tear away. The tendril then curls itself like a corkscrew and in so doing raises the vine to itself….
“Plants … are capable of intent: they can stretch toward, or seek out, what they want in ways as mysterious as the most fantastic creations of romance.”
This is the first of four posts featuring two grapevines growing in my garden. Even though I’ve posted pictures of these vines before (see Secrets Inside a Grapevine), I look forward to pushing my face and my macro lens into these two vines every spring and summer. Aside from the fact that they started as a gardening experiment (I didn’t know if they’d live because my back yard is heavily shaded), they ended out being among the longest living perennials I’ve planted (one now returning for seven seasons and the other one returning for eleven), I’m always fascinated by the shapes and forms they assume each spring. I’ve taken dozens of closeup photos of each one, attempting to approach them a little differently every time, trying out a variety of camera settings and using them as a subject to learn more about exposure, focal length, lighting and color.
There’s a wildness to their growth that at least partly accounts for my obsession with photographing them, and their largely unrestrained spread lets me create bits of drama with each image. Both vines continue to produce tiny new leaves throughout most of the summer, along with masses of tendrils that, occasionally, I snip from nearby bushes, plants, and even chairs to encourage them to take different paths. Both vines grow rapidly; like my wisteria and ivy ground cover, I keep an eye out for intrusiveness that can get out of control in a matter of days. Once their leaves drop off in late fall, I’ll trim each one back so that the woody stems are even with each plant’s supports, and it’s always entertaining (to me!) to see what tricks they have in store for the following spring.
This first vine — the younger of the two — is a Catawba Grapevine. It’s notable for the magenta colors on the back side of each new leaf, and many of the tendrils will start out as bright orange or red (as in the second photo) before they lengthen, start searching for targets, and gradually fade to light green as the leaves get larger and turn dark green (like the top leaf in the third photo).
The older vine, below, is a Concord Grapevine. It produces intricately structured leaves in a range of green and yellow-green colors, along with a large number of tendrils that (even confined by the pot and garden space it’s in) will reach nearly a foot in length before they latch onto something nearby.
The Concord’s more of a free-wheeler than the Catawba; its stems will stretch and hang suspended in the air much longer before the tendrils make attachments, which (from The Photographer’s point of view) can provide for some neat contrasts in colors, shapes, and lines.
This last photo is also from the Concord; it’s like a grapevine’s aspirational meme that I discovered one evening just before dark.
Imagine, for a moment, what this tiny leaf and tendril had to “know” about its surroundings to reach up, hook itself to that stick, and wrap around the stick to raise itself from the rest of the plant. Have a little fun and write your own caption! 🙂
“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.
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!
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:
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:
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.