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Link to original content: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/problem-solving/take-good-photos-plot-gardening-expert-helen-yemm/
How to take good photos of your plot, by gardening expert Helen Yemm | The Telegraph

How to take good photos of your plot, by gardening expert Helen Yemm

Do justice to your garden while it's looking good, gentle persuasion for a peony and a name for a mystery wall-plant

Sarah Raven's dahlia trial garden at Perch Hill, East Sussex
Sarah Raven's dahlia trial garden at Perch Hill, shot by Jonathan Buckley Credit: Jonathan Buckley

Every week, Telegraph gardening expert Helen Yemm gives tips and advice on all your gardening problems whether at home or on the allotment. If you have a question, see below for how to contact her.

Back to Basics

How to take decent photographs of your garden 

Gardeners I speak to all agree. We have been the lucky ones during lockdown – able to “lose ourselves” outside in what has been a blissful gardening spring. I have been taking pictures of my ultra-pampered garden to act as an aide memoire – I suspect it may never look quite as lovely again.

My previous garden was shot by professional photographer Jonathan Buckley (who takes Sarah Raven’s ravishing flower pictures). From him I gleaned a few pointers from which my own (exclusively phone) pictures have benefited ever since. They are common sense really, but I will pass them on, nevertheless.

  1. Get the habit of walking around, looking at your garden through a rectangle made by your thumbs and index fingers (take care no one sees you doing this, it looks frightfully posey). This will help you identify plant combinations that “work” in close-up, new angles and “vistas”, even in a small garden, of which you had previously been unaware.
  2. Eliminate the sky from your pictures (also, if you can, expanses of grass unless glimpsed through a veil of foreground plants). If you close in on your garden like this, it appears to have no boundaries (and could be anywhere, therefore). In photos, the planting takes on a special lushness.
  3. Do not expect pictures taken in the full glare of the midday sun to have any atmosphere: they will look flat and even vibrant colour may seem bleached out. Instead, get up early, when sparkling dew or spider web festoons may add a touch of magic. Or take pictures in the evening, when the light has a different kind of warmth and softness.
  4. In fact, light is everything. Learn where it falls to best effect in your garden at different times of day. Some plants, especially those with red or red-ribbed leaves (e.g. Begonia grandis evansiana, Cotinus ‘Grace’, Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’), look their most glorious when planted where they are backlit by the sun.
  5. Which brings me to the subject of colour: Something weird grips the minds of the people who name plants, especially new varieties. There is no getting away from it, “black” flowered plants (violas and petunias, for example), which are currently enjoying an extended moment in the sun (sorry) are not actually black. They are usually an intense, light-absorbing dark red.
  6. Planted en masse, with nothing to relieve the dead density of their colour, they look about as glamorous as widows’ weeds. Try planting them with a bit of bling to bring them to life: a touch of orange, cream or lime green, and they are transformed.
  7. And beware of nearly all plants that are described as “blue”. They are almost always purple and furthermore look very much more so in photographs. However, there are just a few basically purple plants that miraculously take on an unforgettably special luminous violet-blue at dusk and again just after dawn. Keep a look out, good people, for magnificent Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Paradise’ and Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’.

Tip for bee-friendly gardeners

Bee bricks Credit: nhbs.com

Just another brick in the wall? It could be a des res for solitary bees. Ninety per cent of our precious, pollinating bees are mild mannered and solitary, living and breeding in holes in wood, crevices in walls, or underground – and they are in decline.

A bee brick, installed in or just sitting on a warm wall, preferably south facing, can provide an inviting home for red mason and leafcutter bees. For bee bricks and blocks made in Cornwall from china clay waste (and for much more bee info), visit nhbs.com.

 

A peony that flowers poorly

Paeonia officinalis 'Eliza Lundy' Credit: gapphotos.com

I have a lovely deep red peony that flowers poorly every year, and this year has only produced three flowers and two tiny buds that didn’t develop properly. Can you tell me how I can persuade it to do better next year?

Mary O’Leary – via email

There was not enough detail in your picture to tell me where and how you are growing your peony, but poor performance is often linked to age. If yours has been undisturbed for years, it may have become gradually overshadowed by expanding trees and shrubs or crowded out by other nearby plants with which it has to compete for the light it needs to flower well.

Peonies also start to perform badly if they become too “buried” over time by regular mulch applications. They do not like more than about 2cm of soil over their crowns. They also object to winter waterlogging, and last winter here was a shocker.

All in all, it may be time to take the bull by the horns and move the peony and plant it in freshly enriched soil, in an open position, with its crown at the right level. Do the job in the autumn once the leaves have died back, ensuring that you take a wide, deep chunk of soil with it so that it may not even notice the disturbance.

A bone to pick with cotoneaster

Cotoneaster horizontalis Credit: Alamy 

There is a plant that has been growing on the west-facing wall of my parents’ house since before they bought it 50 years ago, with flowers that are not the prettiest and with no strong scent, that from late spring are absolutely covered in bees. Could you identify it for us? I should like to grow one for the bees in my own garden.

Georgie Hobbs – via email

The plant in your picture is Cotoneaster horizontalis, sometimes called fishbone cotoneaster because of the way the branches splay out. It grows best, as it does at your parents’ house, with its back against a sunny wall where its growth can extend for several feet in either direction. What you don’t mention is the profusion of red berries and rich leaf colour it produces in the autumn, at which point blackbirds home in on it (unless there is a cat in the house).

This cotoneaster is a bit of a midcentury throwback, that, together with pyracantha, were almost de rigueur apparel for suburban house walls.

You may find seedlings around your parents’ garden that you can transplant, although if there are other cotoneasters in the vicinity, you might find you have a (probably interesting) hybrid instead of the real thing. Otherwise, you may find a plant to buy at a good shrub nursery.

Consult the RHS Plant Finder for mail order suppliers.

 

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