Epic Lilies (3 of 3)

From Lilies by Naomi Slade:

“The Victorian passion for botany is legendary. Daring chaps dashed around the globe and new species poured into gardens to the delight and amazement of all who beheld them.

“But gather plants together and, sooner or later, hybrids will emerge; sometimes naturally but often as a result of an irrepressible human desire to improve on nature. While fabulous, lilies had gained a reputation for being challenging and capricious to cultivate. They were exciting; they were expensive; and they were quite likely to die on you after a couple of years. Inevitably, they attracted a certain type of well-heeled horticultural brinksmanship, right up until amenable Lilium regale emerged, bringing down both prices and the level of skill required to cultivate this most desirable of flowers.”


Below is the last batch of photos of my Tiny Epic Asiatic Lily, a few more black-background renderings. The previous posts are:

Epic Lilies (1 of 3)

Epic Lilies (2 of 3)

Coming soon: more lilies!

With spring winding down, the summer varieties are starting to appear — and I’ve made several trips to Oakland Cemetery’s gardens to hunt down and capture some of the rather astonishing varieties that grow well there in large, cultivated spaces (as opposed to pots in my back yard). With a tropical rainstorms hitting my area over the next few days, I’ll be sticking pretty close to home, so will be sorting and processing white ones, yellow ones, red ones, orange ones, and blends of pink and red lilies that (I think) are new to the garden — or at least new to me. Stay tuned…

… and thanks for taking a look!





Epic Lilies (2 of 3)

From Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perenyi:

“The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the golden age of plant collectors: David Douglas who brought the Douglas fir, the Monterey pine and many other conifers to England; John Jeffrey who followed Douglas to the American West; E. H. [Ernest Henry] Wilson who gave us the Chinese dogwood, the Regale lily and the dazzling Davidia or dove tree that in bloom seems to be aflutter with white birds; Reginald Farrer, George Forrest and dozens of others who changed the face of our gardens….

Plant collecting was a dangerous business then. Douglas was torn to pieces by a wild bull in Hawaii; Farrar met his end in Upper Burma; Jeffrey vanished into the California gold rush; Forrest died of heart failure on his seventh expedition to Yunnan. And since that time the floral storehouses of western Asia have become if anything more difficult to penetrate….

“We hear no more of famous botanist-explorers or newly discovered specimens for the garden. Today it is the hybridizers who revolutionize our plantings, and of these none has wrought more changes than the American lily breeders in the last thirty years. We can now be said to dominate this field, though the lilies themselves have come from every part of the earth.”

From 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells:

Ernest Wilson, called ‘Chinese Wilson’ because he explored so extensively in China, just escaped sacrificing his life to lilies. He went twice to China, the second time in 1910, to collect the regal lily. He had gathered an enormous load of lily bulbs and was on his way home with them when his mule train was caught by an avalanche. He jumped out of his sedan chair just before it was hurled down a precipice. His leg was shattered by a falling rock. There was a mule train coming the other way, and the only way it could pass without, perhaps, causing another avalanche was for Wilson to lie on his back while more than forty mules stepped over him. He reached safety but was left with what he called a ‘lily limp.'”


I don’t normally repeat quotations from one blog post to another (in fact, it’s a “thing” for me to double-check my blog to be sure I’m not repeating quotes) — but I did this time because of the references to Ernest Wilson, a British explorer and plant collector active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first quote expresses the risks such explorers took as they scoured the world botanically; the second describes in more detail an occasion where one of them almost lost their lives in search of flowering plants.

I honestly never knew such things had occurred; it’s becoming a fun learning experience for me to begin seeing the historical through-line represented by the lives of botanists and naturalists. What I began by simply looking for neat quotations about the flowers I was photographing seems to be morphing into a new (for me!) view into history from an unfamiliar (and unexpected) perspective. I always start a new post by looking for quotations, and now end out digging a little into the lives and times of people I come across, gathering bits of new information in the way I like to learn — a rather messy accumulation that I don’t worry too much about sorting out but just pile on instead.

From a Western or European perspective, the period (roughly) from 1800 through the early 1900s represent the culmination of the “Age of Exploration” — which also coincided with expanding European empire, the rise of the United States as a world-influencing power, the explosion of technological and scientific inventions, and the gradual (though debatable) increase in leisure time. Botany, as a science, has undoubtedly ancient roots; but it coalesced and connected to consumer culture and leisure time during the 1800s as more people became capable of outfitting their homes and gardens with new, and even exotic, plant species discovered by the plant explorers or developed by horticulturists. You may have never thought about it this way, but the fact that you (if you’re a gardener, or even if you’re not) can acquire plants in handy packaging to populate your garden or feature in a kitchen window has a direct historical connection to the plant explorers of the past.

Or, in other words, your trips to a nursery or Home Depot to buy plants and gardening supplies are actually a late-Victorian era invention. Isn’t that something?


With a thankful nod to Ernest Wilson: The photos below are a second batch of Tiny Epic Asiatic Lilies from my garden (the first photos are here: Epic Lilies (1 of 3)), rendered with black backgrounds rather than bricks from my courtyard.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!






Epic Lilies (1 of 3)

From Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perenyi:

“The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the golden age of plant collectors: David Douglas who brought the Douglas fir, the Monterey pine and many other conifers to England; John Jeffrey who followed Douglas to the American West; E. H. [Ernest Henry] Wilson who gave us the Chinese dogwood, the Regale lily and the dazzling Davidia or dove tree that in bloom seems to be aflutter with white birds; Reginald Farrer, George Forrest and dozens of others who changed the face of our gardens….

Plant collecting was a dangerous business then. Douglas was torn to pieces by a wild bull in Hawaii; Farrar met his end in Upper Burma; Jeffrey vanished into the California gold rush; Forrest died of heart failure on his seventh expedition to Yunnan. And since that time the floral storehouses of western Asia have become if anything more difficult to penetrate….

“We hear no more of famous botanist-explorers or newly discovered specimens for the garden. Today it is the hybridizers who revolutionize our plantings, and of these none has wrought more changes than the American lily breeders in the last thirty years. We can now be said to dominate this field, though the lilies themselves have come from every part of the earth.”


Last year the pandemic shut everything down right about the time those of us with gardens in the Southeast would have just started hauling our donkeys to garden centers, stocking up on plants and flowers, dragging home bags of garden soil and pine bark … to begin the spring planting. With so many uncertainties and so much conflicting information flying around, I decided during the first shutdown to stay away from stores as much as possible — and so acquired nothing new for my garden, simply maintaining it and rearranging plants I already had.

But this year: a different story. On the day I hit two weeks after my second COVID-19 vaccine dose, I bought my first batch of new flowering plants in two spring seasons, including the delightful lilies featured in the galleries below (and in the next two posts). On that first and subsequent trips, I also acquired some new begonias, a hydrangea for a large pot, a hibiscus with orange flowers, four canna lilies (two of which joined the goldfish in my pond), bee balm, balloon flowers, and a couple of hostas. Most of them posed for photoshoots while still flowering (and the cannas are just starting to flower now), so will make appearances here over the next few weeks.

This plant is a Tiny Epic Asiatic Lily — whose flowers are a mix of yellow and orange in various saturations, with the centers of each bloom liberally sprinkled with cinnamon colors. The name cracked me up — I mean, isn’t “Tiny Epic” almost like describing something as “Small Big”? — but I think it’s named that way to differentiate this and other Asiatics from larger variants like the Regale lily mentioned in the quote above, or those lilies with big, trumpet-shaped flowers like those I photographed last year at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens (see Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)).

Thanks for taking a look!






Easter Sunday 2021: Yellow Daffodils and White Lilies

From “Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading” by Chrystos (Christina Smith) in When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, edited by Joy Harjo:

You’ve come gathering 
made a circle with me 
of the places I’ve wandered

I give you 
the first daffodil opening 
from earth I’ve sown.

From John Muir Ultimate Collection: Travel Memoirs, Wilderness Essays, Environmental Studies and Letters by John Muir:

The tall lilies are brought forward in all their glory … and the nearest of the trees with their whorled branches tower above you like larger lilies, and the sky seen through the garden opening seems one vast meadow of white lily stars.




Thanks for taking a look! and Happy Easter!

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (10 of 10)

From More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life by Guy Tal:

“I put the camera away. I needed to rein in my thoughts before I could hope to accomplish anything. I sat in the shade of an old pinyon pine and closed my eyes and breathed in the sweetness of its sap. I waited a few moments until the calmness of the place, soft and persistent, began to circulate within me…. Words and ideas appeared in my mind and I wrote them down, starting with this: ‘Preoccupation is the enemy of inspiration.'”

“For a long time I attributed such healing powers to writing but did not quite experience them in photography. This changed … when I began to practice photography as a contemplative pursuit, by which I mean that I began to place the creative process — the thinking and doing — above what anecdotal images, good or bad, may result. I take my time; I consider; I imagine; I operate my tools without the use of automated shortcuts; I appreciate the tactile feel of the controls, the way the image in my viewfinder morphs in subtle increments as I make small adjustments to settings and composition; I stop to savor the sensations of chill or warmth on my skin and the scents and sounds of my surroundings; I identify birds and flowers and butterflies and rocks around me, and make mental notes to look up unfamiliar ones. It takes time and attention, not only toward making an image but also away from other, lesser things. I realized that the solace I always found in writing was not about writing, but about the writing process, which by its nature imposes such contemplation. And, once realized, I learned that solace could also be found in other things, if practiced with the same mindset.”


Most Americans, I believe, have typically experienced the lame duck period between presidential administrations as something relatively benign — a transition of about two months where handoffs occur between the outgoing and incoming teams, largely unnoticed as we move deeper into fall and winter around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. But 2020 insists on ramming home the message that nothing is normal anymore. We get to witness the tragicomedy of a presidential campaign that won’t let go while the administration seems to have gone on break, only to spend its time in courtrooms where most of its cases fail and giving press conferences where “elite lawyers” drip with conspiracy theories, and, apparently, spray-on hair that can’t handle camera lights. Ah, well, such are the raspy, waning days of the Trump presidential family — not deserving that much of my attention since they will, without a doubt, be evicted in January 2021 — with their stunts becoming fodder for historians, sociologists, and psychologists of the future. Buh-bye!

If you would like to look forward instead of back, you can learn more about how President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and their teams are preparing to assume office in January, on their dedicated web site at Biden-Harris Transition, where the news page is frequently updated.

I told a friend of mine a few weeks before the election — as it looked more and more like Georgia would support the Biden-Harris ticket — that if that happened, I was going to deck my house out in blue lights for the Christmas holiday, as a way of personally recognizing the flip and win. Well, here they are — 2,500 wee blue lights — ready and patiently waiting to be unboxed, stretched out, and festooned (!!) among the tree branches, along the windows, and atop various pieces of living room and dining room furniture.

Christmas decorating turns into quite a project (I usually do a little project plan (not really! (ok, really!!))) that commences around Thanksgiving and never quite finishes completely; and I’m considering leaving the bluely-decorated tree standing until the presidential inauguration. We’ll see about that part; while the lifelike tree in all its actual lifelessness can certainly stay up that long, I may get a little weary of it blotting out my living room window by the first of January or so.

I went hunting for some fall scenes to photograph early last week … but weirdly, there still wasn’t that much color to see. It’s so different from last year, when the whole city just glowed yellow, red, and orange even before Halloween; yet with nighttime/daytime temperatures in the 50- to 80-degree range, leaves are just falling without changing color. Last year’s color extravaganza — created by a couple of deep-freeze days in early October — seems like it’s not going to be repeated this year, but I’ll keep trying. 🙂

Below, finally, are the last few galleries of the summer lily series of photos — the first of which is a before and after version of one of the images. Thanks for taking a look!






The previous posts in this series are:

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (1 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (2 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (3 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (4 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (5 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (6 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (7 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (8 of 10)

Summer 2020: Lily Variations (9 of 10)