Winter Shapes and Forms (1 of 3)

From Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit:

“We tend to consider the foundations of our culture to be natural, but every foundation had builders and an origin — which is to say that it was a creative construction, not a biological inevitability. Just as a twelfth-century cultural revolution ushered in romantic love as first a literary subject and then a way of experiencing the world, so the eighteenth century created a taste for nature without which William and Dorothy Wordsworth would not have chosen to walk long distances in midwinter and to detour from their already arduous course to admire waterfalls….

“This is not to say that no one felt a tender passion or admired a body of water before these successive revolutions; it is instead to say that a cultural framework arose that would inculcate such tendencies in the wider public, give them certain conventional avenues of expression, attribute to them certain redemptive values, and alter the surrounding world to enhance those tendencies….

It is impossible to overemphasize how profound is the effect of this revolution on the taste for nature and practice of walking. It reshaped both the intellectual world and the physical one, sending populations of travelers to hitherto obscure destinations, creating innumerable parks, preserves, trails, guides, clubs, and organizations and a vast body of art and literature with almost no precedent before the eighteenth century.”

From The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals by Dorothy Wordsworth:

“What a beautiful thing God has made winter to be by stripping the trees & letting us see their shapes & forms.”


This is the first post in a three-part series about … what Dorothy Wordsworth wrote above!

I was a little puzzled at first about the phrase “shapes and forms” since my dictionary and thesaurus seemed to treat the words interchangeably; but, guess what, shape is shape and form is form! See The Difference Between Shape and Form or Shape and form (visual arts) if you, too, would like to be unpuzzled about these words.

These desiccated hydrangeas (probable either oakleaf or bigleaf hydrangeas) seem to keep many of their spent petals for the entire winter season, at least here in the southeast. I took these photos in late February, after quite a few winter rain and windstorms, yet their dried blossoms are mostly intact. Hard to shake the feeling the one of more of these is a cluster of moths (or bees!); and I half expected them to flitter away before I finished taking the photos.


The five photos below show the remnants of bluebird and blue billows hydrangeas, plants with fragile flowers that barely make it through the dog-days of summer here yet keep a few bleached-white, slightly shiny petals hanging around through fall and winter. These are from my garden (which is why I know their names) and it was fun to position them suspended in my macro lens against the muted backgrounds.


I’ve not yet identified these tiny yellow flowers, one hanging near the tip of a branch … and one in a black hole!


Japanese Maple trees and shrubs produce the most delightfully shaped leaves throughout the year, even in winter when they keep their fall color for a couple of extra months, shrivel up a bit, yet are still fascinating enough to capture my camera’s attention. The third photo below shows where the first two closeups came from: the branches of one maple hanging over a thick batch of English Ivy, which covered the length and height of a long, four-foot high stone wall. English Ivy is everywhere in my neighborhood (and much of Georgia, including many homeowner’s yards (like mine)), and is often used in place of grass (especially on homes built in the early 1900s) as a hardy, low-maintenance alternative to grass. Many people say you can take some cuttings, throw them on the ground, and they’ll root and grow — though I did try that and it didn’t work.

The leaf color below may appear a bit unnatural, but it’s what English Ivy looks like here in the early morning, after a night with below freezing temperatures. It will stay that way for a few hours, unfazed by the cold except for the color change, until the sun warms it back to a brighter, greener-green.


Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (2 of 2)

Hello! Below is the second of two galleries of Japanese Maple leaves in my garden, as the tree comes to life to signal the coming spring. The previous gallery — see Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (1 of 2) — was taken while the leaves were still wet from recent rains but for these photos I waited another day until the tree had dried out. That allowed me to get finer visual detail out of the berries, which should be apparent if you view any of the images full size.

Thanks for taking a look!

Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (1 of 2)

From Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo:

“[Leaf] shape varies not just between species but within species and even in individual trees. You could spend a lifetime attending to the variety of forms in a single species of Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), because leaf forms in cultivated varieties … vary from fern-like to star-shaped, from shallowly cut to deeply cut, and have colors ranging from chartreuse to dark green, red, maroon, and even pinkish. Tree lovers could check Japanese maple cultivars off their life lists the way birders do warblers, but the owner of a single open-pollinated Japanese maple could be equally entertained just observing the size, shape, and color of the leaves on the thousands of seedlings that come up under such a tree.”

A sure sign that spring is not too-too far away: a Japanese Maple right behind my house produces tiny clusters of new leaves decorated with red/burgundy berries. I took the photos in this gallery the morning after our long rains finally stopped (for a few days, anyway). Raindrops still clung to many of the berry pods, weighing them down and giving them a nice full look even though they’re typically smaller than a pea. The berries only last a few days and fall off as leaves open — after which I sweep piles of them out of the courtyard! — so I was glad to get a break in the rain and take their pictures.

Here are the first eleven images; I played around with background bokeh and colors — especially where blurry berries added a little red, yellow, and green — as well as some backlighting just to see how the shapes looked against filtered sunlight.

A second Japanese Maple gallery and more Oakland Cemetery architecture photos coming soon … thanks for taking a look!

Japanese Maple Spring Berries: A Gallery

For just a few days each year as spring starts to roll in, one of the three Japanese Maple trees on my property produces clusters of red seedlings along with the emerging leaves. The seedlings — which look like clumps of tiny berries — are much prized as a delicacy by the local squirrelry: it’s not unusual to see a scurry of squirrels embracing the branches, slashing at the seeds with their Freddy Krueger claws, stuffing them behind their pointy teeth … and gnashing away. I leave a bottle of antacid tablets in the yard, because — gluttons that they are — they always overeat. 🙂

Yesterday after another of our interminable rains, I took a crack at getting some photos of the red clusters — they’ll be gone in a week! — but it was a bit too dark, too windy, and raindrop blobs on the leaves weren’t cool-looking like my tiny bubbles. So I threw out yesterday’s images and after running some errands this morning, tried again. With (temporarily) drier weather, less wind, some soft light through an overcast sky, a little patience, and a bit of Lightrooming, I got better results today.

Thanks for looking!