Sometimes enjoying gardening has less to do with the smell of the earth and the sense of accomplishment when a coddled young start really takes hold. Sometimes it is stepping back and taking stock of how the light plays off the grasses, how the combination of colorful phormiums and succulents adds to the feeling of welcome at the front door or the serenity that little water feature creates. Sometimes it is about not just looking but actually seeing.
Garden lovers are often also book lovers. Coffee-table books abound that document heirloom roses with breathtaking close-ups, impossible shots of knot gardens that must have been taken from the roof of the nearby mansion, or portraits of ancient trees worthy of druid-like reverence. The photographers of such books sometimes get to stand in the light that they normally try to capture. One such luminous moment will happen this weekend when the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden hosts Saxon Holt for an illustrated lecture on Friday, July 5, and a very intimate workshop on Saturday, July 6, to explore the art of photographing native plants and landscapes.
Holt has also recently taken to challenging himself by utilizing some of the tools that the digital age has provided. Putting a digital photo on a computer screen and doing a little color correcting (machines don’t see the way humans do) is commonplace these days. Modern artists are stretching and warping images of common items to make them nearly unrecognizable, but rendered into another form of expression. Holt has been trying to enhance the inherent beauty of the subject of his photos. Individual flowers, palm trees, even garden views take on mythic qualities when put through the various filters available to the digital photofinisher. Evident from Holt’s galleries, however, is that he is as magical as the program he is using in creating unique representations of nature. Check them out at his blog site: saxonholt.com/blog/. Then step into the garden with new eyes.
Pests of the Month
• Giant whitefly. Wash off the minor colonies with a good blast from the hose; pick off highly infected leaves, and dispose of them in sealed garbage bags. Spread worm castings under the plants.
• Spider mites and thrips. Again, a blast of water will dislodge most of them; a summer oil spray (nontoxic to mammals and birds) can smother a host of insect enemies like aphids, mealybugs, scale, and those pesky mites. Follow manufacturer’s directions, and remember that any product that kills bad bugs may be killing the good ones, too. Use them only as a last resort.
• Caterpillars, including geranium budworms, garden cabbage worms, and tomato hornworms. Pick off by hand or apply Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacteria that attacks all members of the order Lepidoptera (including butterflies). Again, apply carefully and only when really needed to gain the upper hand. Pests in the vegetable garden can be safely knocked out with Bt, too, as it is nontoxic to humans and pets.
Chore of the Month
• A new set of weeds is poking up this month; chief among them is purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Hoe or pull it out, take it to the kitchen (delicious in salads), or the compost pile. Like many other succulent plants, it can re-root or continue to mature and release its seeds even after being uprooted.