Summer 2020: Lily Variations (2 of 10)

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

“It was as if nature had fingered every leaf and petal that very day, readjusting every curving line and touching the colors of every corolla; and so, she had for not a leaf was misbent, and every plant was so placed with reference to every other, that the whole garden had seemingly been arranged like one tasteful bouquet. Here we lived a fine, unmeasured hour, considering the lilies, every individual flower radiating beauty as real and appreciable as sunbeams.

From “The Ecology of Perception: An Interview with David Abram” in Emergence Magazine:

“[Ordinary] human experience of the world is a sense not just that everything is alive, but that everything speaks, that all things have their expressive potency, although most things don’t speak in words. Everything is expressive. The colors shimmering from a blossom speak to me. They affect my mood. Of course, birdsong is a kind of speech, cricket rhythms, but even the splashing speech of waves on the rocks or the wind in the willows itself is a kind of voice that rushes and hushes through the chattering leaves.


It’s August!

If you’ve ever spent time in any southeastern U.S. state during mid- to late-summer, you know that heat, sunglass-requiring sun, and intense humidity punctuate most days — and on those days most outdoor activity takes place in the morning then starts to subside as the air heats up and thickens with moisture. During that same time, if you take a close look, you’ll already see tiny signs of autumn blending into the landscape, in the tendency of some plants and vines — in my garden, hydrangeas and grapevines — to shed their dried blooms or drop a few early leaves in response to days shortening ever so slightly. My Concord grapevine’s leaves are as reliable as calendars: their early yellowing and leaf-dropping starts right on time during the first week of every August, and I already know that within a few days, I’ll start cutting them back and twisting some of the branches to prep the vine for winter and for next spring. And one of my three Japanese maples produces spinner-like seedlings at this time of year, long before the leaves begin to change color and to the delight of squirrels that hang upside down in the tree like daytime vampire bats, filling their faces with seeds and discarding sliced-off bits of branches all over the courtyard for The Photographer to sweep up.

For whatever reason, my own Baja daylilies didn’t bloom this year, and with the shutdowns in the spring, I didn’t replace or repot them even when I realized they weren’t going to bloom. Gardens can be mysterious like that: sometimes they throw out a behavior change that leaves you wondering why a plant that flowered regularly for half a decade suddenly decided to do something different. Hopefully, next spring will see us all in better shape than we were this last spring, and some of the things I had to neglect will get the renewed attention they deserve. All the more reason, for now, to savor the large collections of lilies I found at Oakland Cemetery.

Here are three more galleries from my lily series — the previous post is Summer 2020: Lily Variations (1 of 10) — with the last gallery showing versions of those in the first two with the backgrounds removed. Select any image if you would like to see larger images in a slideshow.

Thanks for taking a look!





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Summer 2020: Lily Variations (1 of 10)

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

“So extravagant is Nature with her choicest treasures, spending plant beauty as she spends sunshine, pouring it forth into land and sea, garden and desert. And so the beauty of lilies falls on angels and men, bears and squirrels, wolves and sheep, birds and bees….

From Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit, quoting Walter Benjamin:

“[To] lose oneself in a city — as one loses oneself in a forest — that calls for quite a different schooling. Then signboards and street names, passers-by, roofs, kiosks, or bars must speak to the wanderer like a crackling twig under his feet, like the startling call of a bittern in the distance, like the sudden stillness of a clearing with a lily standing erect at its center.

From Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau:

“I have passed down the river before sunrise on a summer morning between fields of lilies still shut in sleep; and when at length the flakes of sunlight from over the bank fell on the surface of the water, whole fields of white blossoms seemed to flash open before me, as I floated along, like the unfolding of a banner, so sensible is this flower to the influence of the sun’s rays.


It was a big surprise to me a few weeks ago to come across at least a dozen different varieties of lilies growing on the cemetery plots, among the gravestones and mausoleums, and planted in memorial gardens at Oakland Cemetery. Actually, the whole experience of taking photographs of plants and flowers at the cemetery has been surprising: the variety of native plants throughout the property rivals sections of Atlanta Botanical Garden — which is now social-distantly opened again, but not yet deemed sufficiently safe by The Photographer. Although, to be fair — and despite the feisty, national-newsmaking conflict between Atlanta’s mayor and Georgia’s governor over mask mandates — the botanical garden and other public adventures have established their own masking requirements, so maybe in August or September when the temperatures drop a bit will see me returning there with my camera.

Irregardlessly (haha! that’s not a word!), I’ve enjoyed the cemetery differently during these two 2020 seasons, probably because it had been a few years since I’d spent a lot of time there — and during that time, the caretakers seems to have added a lot more flowering plants, bushes, and shrubs than I remembered. Hunting down and photographing the lilies was fun, partly because many of the plots were constructed three or four feet above the paths and roadways (you can see examples in the second gallery here) — to make it easier for nineteenth century women in their full bustles and petticoats to step from a horse or carriage onto the grasses and gardens — which gave me the chance to snapshot large drooping lily flowers from unusual angles. The last three images below demonstrate what I mean: I would have had to crawl on the ground (where the dirt lives!) to get to that vantage point but for the raised plots.

Select any image if you would like to see larger versions in a slideshow. Thanks for taking a look!





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A Handful of Rhodendrons

From The Reason For Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann:

“The earliest gardens in China are as old as the most ancient Egyptian gardens. The significance of flowers in Chinese culture is reflected in names from antiquity, such as hua, the word for flower. The ideal garden became a ‘timeless paradise’ as a retreat for scholars and hermits alike. Among the most cherished flowers grown in Chinese gardens since antiquity are chrysanthemums, gardenias, forsythias, magnolias, pinks, rhododendrons, roses, and wisterias….

“[Domesticated garden] blooms have a long association with Chinese culture, mirrored in its rich arts and literature traditions. China’s floriculture and agriculture contributed ginseng, the camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, mulberries, the persimmon, rice, tea, and all the various kinds of Citrus fruits to the rest of the world….”

“[Azaleas and rhododendrons] … symbolize temperance, passion, and womanhood (in China), along with fragility and taking care of oneself.”


I have one small potted Boursault Rhododendron in my garden, and it produced a handful of blooms a couple weeks ago — just before two days of rain and wind tore up the flower petals. Like many azaleas (azaleas and rho’s are relatives), rhododendron flowers are fragile enough that two days of post-blooming rain and wind dissolved most of them. By the time it cleared up enough for The Photographer to take a few snaps, there wasn’t much left to photograph, so for these images I used a macro lens and zoomed into the center of each flower where they were still intact. This was an experiment, I guess, because after following my typical post-processing in Lightroom, I used several Nik Collection filters to blur almost everything except the center focal points. I usually aim to enhance sharpness and detail, not reduce it, so I had to put my thinking-backwards cap on. Those same filters gave the petals in the backgrounds a bit of bright glow also — which nicely resembles the luminosity the blooms revealed on a cloudy but bright morning.

Select any image if you would like to see larger versions in a slideshow. Thanks for taking a look!



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