October 07, 2022  •  Leave a Comment



I have another confession to make this week. Last Saturday was our Oregon Day, thirty years to the day when our family arrived in Portland after our trip on our Oregon Trail from Washington, D.C. This week we will celebrate Fran's birthday, when she is once again one year older than me so that I canclaim my status as her "boy toy." In the midst of these events, I want to acknowledge that my wife, in addition to all of her other stellar qualities, has created an incredibly beautiful garden around our bungalow. This is all her doing, with little or no effort on my part, so much so that I readily acknowledge that it is her garden, created around my indifference, ignorance, and generally bad attitude towards working in the dirt.


                            TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS : FINAL VERSION

The only contribution I ever made to the garden was my brief devotion to planting tulips, when I realized that all I had to do was dig a hole, and that they seemed to come back every year. the only problem was that they would emerge in a blaze of glory, and then just be a mess which Fran had to take care of - she was not amused.

                             CANNA LILY : FINAL VERSION

                                                    ZEBRA (PORCUPINE)-GRASS : FINAL VERSION                                            

My tulip phase was followed by a Hosta phase, wherein I would buy any plant I saw, as long as it was a Hosta which could grow in the perpetual shade of our street, where giant Maples, now banned by the city, spread completely across 37th Avenue. When we turned the corner the temperature would drop at least 5 degrees. Since our address didn't read Laurelhurst or Ladd's Addition we did not get any leaf pickup. I stopped all efforts when I reached twenty bags one year, which we had to pay a surplus $5.00 a bag to get hauled away. After careful observation I observed that our tree was the last on the street to lose it's leaves, and that the wind currents seemed to bring everyone else's leaves right to our doorstep. My gardening efforts came to a halt both in front and behind our house.

                                                A CORNER OF THE GARDEN : FINAL VERSION

In my defense, which I sustain only to withstand the shame of my non-participation, Fran's garden started with more than two strikes against it. We have a very small lot, with very little privacy from our neighbors, and without knowing it we had bought on the "stupid" side of the street. In Portland, as opposed to back East, the hottest part of the day is the end of a Summer day when the sun has been beating down on our west facing garden for nearly eight hours. I could call myself a designer, even though I had never actually planted anything in my life, and considered any plant a gift from a God I constantly argued with but didn't quite believe in. Fran was certainly inexperienced as well, but responded to my lack of energy and unwillingness to engage in "stoop labor" with a drive to create a garden out of nothing.


                            PENSTEMON OSPREY FLOWER : FINAL VERSION

My inability to contemplate doing anything with our garden had in fact created a pretty good approximation of a prairie, dominated with, I kid you not, thistles so thick, and taller than Fran, that you couldn't even see our back fence, much less walk to it. Three events led to Fran's garden. The first was when our neighbor's fence actually collapsed, held up only by my thistles. I agreed to design a new fence and pay for the materials if my handy neighbor would build it. I finally had some privacy and something behind my house that I could believe in. Fran then paid to have the entire yard cleared of my prairie. Finally our friends agreed to plant an entire preliminary garden of flowers for their wedding. Fran was on her way.


                           LADY FOXGLOVE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

I designed the broad outlines of the garden, with a gravel path dividing the area into several sections. Fran had the rosemary bush removed, which had taken over anything the thistles hadn't controlled. I was told to get my rosemary elsewhere, which in my neighborhood was every other house within walking distance. Once Fran realized that I had very little interest in actually doing any work in the garden, any thoughts I occasionally offered were treated with the derision they deserved. As Fran's gardening experience and knowledge increased, my opinions became even less welcome. The garden was hers.

                           CAPE FUCHSIA : FINAL VERSION

There were two more garden conflicts between us. It soon became obvious that we had differing opinions on "volunteers", those plants which somehow arrived in the garden. These delighted me for some reason, maybe because I didn't have to do any work to enjoy them; Fran considered them a nuisance if not an outright affront. This was her garden, and neither me nor God had any say in the matter. The first image at the start of this essay is the last volunteer that was ever allowed even a brief stay in the garden. Our other conflict was over my misunderstanding of the "process", which demanded the purchase of such small plant speceimens at the garden store that I couldn't even appreciate them most of the time. This was then compounded by Fran's discovery of the discount section, which I derided as where they put "social worker" plants, which of course only endeared them to my social worker wife. I sometimes concluded that Fran's latest purchase was right out of the Monty Python skit - this plant you just bought is dead!


                            BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

Needless to say, I was completely wrong about almost everything in the garden and after ten years or so I get to enjoy pretty much a small paradise behind our house. I still only move the occasional bag of compost, and actually enjoy the garden more than I think Fran does, since like most "makers" she usually sees only what still needs to be done. But I have tried to get her to actually appreciate what she has create all by herself, starting from less than zero. The thing is that she so enjoys her puttering that sometime the only thing I can do is to try to get her to stop working on the garden. I know if we put in a lighting system she would work way into the night. When she retires I think that she should volunteer to weed in the Japanese Garden or the Chinese Garden in Portland to find another venue for her weeding energy.

                                                 BUTTERFLY BUSH, WHITE GAURA : FINAL VERSION

                             FRENCH HYDRANGEA :  FINAL VERSION

Almost all of these photos were taken on my iPhone, another argument for it absolute suitability for this type of photography. It is actually a fine macro camera, especially if you take the time to import the images into Lightroom and improve them there. I am sure that if you actually became proficient with some of the more advanced apps for the phone in the app store you could accomplish similar results there as well. As usual the key is cropping, simplifying, and exposure manipulation to highlight the subject instead of the chaotic surroundings. Sharpening is required as well, since every digital image, whether taken on a phone or a $10,000 camera requires some sharpening to counter the digital process itself.


I am by no means an outstanding garden photographer; I can only do my best in creating what I call "floral portraits" which concentrate on a single flower. I leave the overall garden images which can make sense of an entire garden scene to the professionals. I only hope that these modest efforts do some justice to the small paradise which Fran has created and she still lets me enjoy.