01 December 2014
Let me know which you prefer and why. Click on each image to enlarge.
Last week was the finale of the annual Chrysanthemum Festival at Longwood Gardens. As many of you know, it is one of the premier horticultural centers in the United States, and I am blessed to have it within an hour’s drive to the north. Without a doubt this year’s autumnal celebration of the chrysanthemum exceeded previous exhibitions.
The staff at the gardens labored over a year creating, cultivating and training these gems of nature. Chrysanthemums have never been a flower that I covet. A small perennial variety has been a mainstay in my gardens, but that’s the extent of it. They’ve never truly wooed me. But I’ve been converted.
The strength of this year’s imaginative displays was its emphasis on training single stems to perform magical feats of artistry. Pockets of variously decorated containers rivaled any other floral celebration of this strangely fascinating flower.
The entire Conservatory was transformed with mums of single, semi-double and double blooms. Trained single-stemmed clusters in tiers or a ten-foot tall chandelier filled to capacity, or a 1,000-bloom arrangement (the largest outside of Asia) stunned with simplicity. While that might seem the wrong descriptor, the mums were trained to give the viewer variations on the theme that did not overwhelm. Even in the huge displays each flower could fulfill its duty.
Truly, each exhibit honored their exquisite and traditional characteristics. And most of the exhibits were single flowers that gave the attention needed to savor their qualities.
While the outdoors was being readied for the Gardens’ Christmas seasonal decorations of greens and lights, this indoor floral festival built dreams of possibilities for amateur and professional gardeners. While you cannot train a “normal” mum to do these feats of fancy, you can order special varieties and learn techniques to propagate and train them.
The Conservatory was lined in various variety of mums. All were attention-seeking containers with the large (almost) contradictory minimalist-seeming arrangements that captured most of my time. The entire space held 16,000 chrysanthemums, and it seemed far less. Most of the spatial planes were covered in yellows and whites, but the displays made it ever so easy to appreciate each variation’s colors.
It was a master plan that worked very well indeed. Sometime horticultural celebrations are so overstuffed with plants that you become visually saturated. This exhibition was just the right balance.
The festival honors the founder Pierre S. du Pont, who planted the Conservatory with mums in 1921. To be sure du Pont would have been pleased with this year’s presentations of Asia’s imperial flower that struts its Japanese influence. If you missed it, do try to attend next year.
In the Lens section are five images from the day’s adventure–an adventure whose day was so cold, it made the indoor experience a double joy. As I gazed at arrangements and plantings, one of the signs reminded that the chrysanthemum’s family tree dates back 3,500 years. To stand in their grace was to honor their interconnection between nature and human nature. The festival fulfilled its mission.
Of the day’s discoveries my favorite chrysanthemum can be seen in photograph 3#, the single, semi-double flower. The original was a soft yellow. But I knew from my initial impression that I wanted to record in monochrome its efforts to conceal (which is typical for this variety) itself. Of the many, many blooms that I spied this particular one had a special presence. It was trying so hard to keep some of its life hidden, and yet also to divulge some of its outward sparkle. I fell in love. It seemed to mirror the human condition, which was appropriate in a festival that brought together imaginative and skillful gardeners with the quiet eloquence of the chrysanthemum.
Tip of the Week: During seasonal changes I am reminded of swings in the weather. Not just the shift in temps, but those wild elements that accompany summer, fall, winter, and spring. Last week we had a fierce wind storm, which came with ice and rain. As I was searching for a photographer to introduce, I thought that I’d peruse the Internet for an artist who sought those outrageous elements. Nature photographer Bruce Omori is the owner of Extreme Exposures Fine Art Gallery in Hilo, Hawaii. His photograph “Volcanic Vortices”received the top prize in the 2013 Windland Smith Rice International Award. His work was selected from almost 20,000 submissions from photographers in 46 countries.
Omori describes how he captured the vortices: “On an early morning shoot at the Waikupanaha ocean entry, lava from the Kilauea volcano poured into the sea. This created a huge escape of steam, and as it rose, multiple vortices began spinning off of the huge plume. A vortex or two is a pretty rare sight—but when one after another kept forming, my fumbling with the lenses turned into a panicked rush to switch my telephoto to wide-angle lens to capture this awesome scene of seven vortices in a row.”
His work honors the violent and yet magnificent splendor of Mother Nature. To view more of his photographs click here and enjoy the results of his photographic adventures.
View other entries for this week’s challenge:
As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog.
If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature.
2nd Monday: Macro.
3rd Monday: Black and White.
4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).
5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.