Nature Photography: Coexistence: (No. 20) – Orchid Still Life II, Longwood Gardens

04 March 2019


Taken in Polamatic and edited in Snapseed and Stackables.

Orchid Still Life II, Longwood Gardens; Sally W. Donatello 2019 All Rights Reserved

Orchid Still Life II, Longwood Gardens; Sally W. Donatello 2019 All Rights Reserved

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request. 


While the calendar pronounces Spring’s arrival in a little more than three weeks, its easy for me to leap ahead and imagine the trajectory of kaleidoscopic changes in daylight and renewal. My seasonal purchase of seeds arrived weeks ago. They are perched where I can glance at them in the kitchen. All  I need to secure for the gardens are a few herbs, flowers and vegetables that I grow from plants. My “growing” method includes scattering seeds directly into their permanent place rather than starting them indoors. I find greater success having them have a permanent home.

After decades as a steward of the land, lessons multiply year by year. I do garden year round, never having more than a few days without tending the land in some small or larger way.

In the midst of winter’s fury the imagination begins to contemplate what will be maintained and what will be changed. Gardening is an evergreen process, never static. There is much to be done before the earth is ready for planting. And we’ve had an abundance of rain and occasional snow. The water table runneth over.

And part of me is still in hibernation mode. With the daylight growing I’m being pulled by inner and outer forces to begin daily chores in my gardens. It’s exhilarating on many levels, thrilling knowing that surprises always await.

In the Lens section is another example of a still life from Longwood Garden’s Annual Orchid Extravaganza. The conversion to black-and-white was realized as I envisioned what a black orchid would represent: simplicity and statuesque strength of purpose. The still life image was part of a large display of cultivated orchids that had a bonsai sensibility: trained for human visual consumption. And it was a blissful treat.

The thrill of Spring’s arrival keeps nudging and seducing my sensibilities. And until the warming of the air and drying of the earth I am content to dream and scheme about the birth of the season.


The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered and Shaped Human History by Thor Hanson (2016) is a book that melts into thoughts of Spring. Hanson places the seed on a pedestal where it belongs. He is a field biologist with the heart of a storyteller and he does his subject justice. Those interested in the natural world and gardening will be entranced. Here are some comments about its content:

“The genius of Hanson’s fascinating, inspiring, and entertaining book stems from the fact that it is not about how all kinds of things grow from seeds; it is about the seeds themselves.” –Mark Kurlansky, New York Times Book Review

“This is a charming book, inspired by Hanson’s forays into seed identification and dispersal with his young, seed-obsessed son…. Hanson’s twist of looking at human interactions with plants in their embryonic stage is new…. The Triumph of Seeds will engender thoughtful consideration of our joint future.”




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24 Responses to Nature Photography: Coexistence: (No. 20) – Orchid Still Life II, Longwood Gardens

  1. Amy says:

    So beautifully and artistically processed in black and white.

  2. Two images in one, it looks like, both negative and positive. The result as captivating.

  3. it’s been a long hibernation for me!! Wonderful image Sally!

  4. pattimoed says:

    Lovely montage, Sally. I’d love to see the black and white and color side by side. I’m not surprised you took the shot at Longwood. That’s certainly your place of inspiration. Here’s hoping you have some warmer days this week to enjoy your garden.

    • Patti, I know that it seems counterintuitive, but the color (at least for me) does not come close to the effect of the conversion. The leaves are almost colorless (a hint of green) and the flowers are a pale-pinkish orange. I’m about to dive into the garden. It’s our first clear day for weeks, and the temps are rising into the 40. Seems blissful. Thanks.

  5. Tina Schell says:

    Beautiful image Sally, almost own-and-ink. Hope spring is right around the corner for you. Been watching northeastern weather and it’s not been pretty!

  6. Your image is such a striking herald of spring’s emergence in the northern hemisphere. It’s made me think of dark skies, lightning, and thunderstorms which are a huge part of the season as much as colorful blooms.

  7. restlessjo says:

    Wonderfully dramatic, Sally 🙂 🙂 As you’ve observed, Spring has already marched into my part of the world, but this morning we have a little much needed rain. Probably have to call the walk off 😦

  8. Your photomontage is a beauty. It has an “underwater” quality to it, almost like we are looking through an aquarium’s glass wall at a wonder of the deep. Stay warm.

  9. Lignum Draco says:

    You have a very creative eye and mind, Sally. Do you also do sketchings/drawings? The Japanese aesthetic in Bonsai is quite fulfilling.

    • My creative energies are focused on photography, writing and gardening. I’ve thought about learning how to do Bonsai, It certainly is a challenging and fulfilling medium. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  10. I love the montage and the book sounds fascinating. I really hope spring is around the corner as the cold has gone on a bit too long for me this year. Today for instance, the sun is shining but with wind chill it’s -5!! Planning a Philly trip over Easter, but I imagine it will be nice by then. Can you get to Longwood Gardens by any sort of public transportation from Philly.


    • Longwood Gardens is thirty miles from Philadelphia. I do not know why public transportation that would go even remotely close to it. It’s quite a distance from the nearest train. I drive almost an hour to get there.

  11. Ulli says:

    Great shot, Sally – I am thinking about paintings with China ink.
    All the best,

  12. Angeline M says:

    Absolutely gorgeous, Sally, and I think an all time favorite for me.

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