Sunday, December 28, 2008

'Twas the Day After Christmas

Ginny Smith, ace Gardening Writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, profiled me for their December 26 edition. Here's the online version. She spent a few hours interviewing me earlier this month and even called my dear old Dad for a quote or two.

Michael Perez, one of the paper's top shooters, had a tough job finding a suitable background for a winter portrait but got creative with the framing. They also ran six pictures of mine.

Some of my blogging friends (Susan , Nan and Christa) picked up on the interview and gave the story an even bigger boost.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Les Knuckleheads

Welcome to our two new rescued friends! Romeo (top) and Sasha, resulted from Sue visiting a PAWS storefront shelter just to make a few inquiries. We were looking for a pair of dogs that had lived together and there they were stuck amongst the two dozen cats and kittens. Romeo is a Cocker Spaniel but Sasha's pedigree has defied everyone's attempts to unravel -- head of Boxer, chest of a Pitbull, legs of a Bassett and ears of a bat! She also gets these groovy Sharpei forehead wrinkles when she's puzzled. Both lovable as all heck but they have their issues. LOTS of energy expressed through running, chewing and barking -- the local squirrels are getting a workout and our cats are talking to their lawyers...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Princess and the Bulb

Just before Thanksgiving, I had the honor of documenting a celebrity gardening event at the NYBG. Their Seasonal Walk, a long border just outside the conservatory, has been thickly planted with a sophisticated mixture of flowering bulbs and perennials following a plan generated by two of the world's top garden designers, Piet Oudolf and Jaqueline van der Kloet (above), both of the Netherlands.
Borders within the bed were marked off by colored ribbon and thousands of bulbs were expertly distributed amongst the already planted perennials by Jaqueline and Frans Roozen, Technical Director of the International Flower Bulb Center. Despite the freezing temperatures, the garden crew followed behind and dug the rich mix of major and minor bulbs into the hard crusty soil.Tovah Martin, the demigoddess of horticultural writers, was also in attendance proving that frozen fingers and lips are still capable of asking good questions and taking notes.

The real media event followed the next morning when Princess Margriet of the Netherlands arrived with her husband Pieter van Voallenhoven and Todd Forest of the NYBG. Kneeling on clean burlap and using a trowel engraved with the royal crest, the Princess cheerfully popped a few tulips into the ground. This picture was quickly emailed to de Telegraaf in Holland to make page three that evening.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Someone out to get the passionate gardening vote knew that plant graffiti would be hard for any chlorophyll lover to miss. This scrawled message was spotted at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill in one of their Habitat Collections -- three small but deliciously designed gardens representing the diverse geographic regions of NC.

I've spotted lots of defaced beech trees and even some etched bamboo canes in my travels but this is the first cactus I've seen bearing a bumper sticker. Not that it matters, but I'll be voting for Opuntia this year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Amazing Space

A few outtakes from a recent assignment for the New York Times Home section. This one took me to a reclaimed lot in Baltimore where good folks from the Amazing Grace Lutheran Church built more than just a community garden -- they created a sacred space.
Nearly an entire block in size, The Amazing Port Street Sacred Commons includes a labyrinth, a vegetable garden and a lush grassy area surrounded by colorful murals and metal sculpture. It's hard to see any remnants of the trash and drug dealing that once filled these lots.

After the shoot, everyone left but I stayed a while longer hoping for a cloud or two to soften the harsh midday sun. The pretty light never really came but I did get to meet a few neighbors walking through the Commons. Despite the occasional sirens (and even gunshots) in the background, the conversations I had were sweet and uplifting. Open space=Open hearts.

This is one of about 120 public projects partly funded by the forward thinking TKF Foundation who believe that sacred spaces increase a sense of community and contribute to a deepening of human connections.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Anne's Tomatoes

Two pictures from a shoot with Anne Raver for the New York Times Home section. The bottom one ran last Thursday along with a handful of others detailing the chores and pleasures of fall gardening. Anne's family farm nestles comfortably into a rolling hillside of rural Maryland and we had fun putting these little stories together. So many wonderfully authentic details and Anne's delicious prose made for a sweetly compelling feature.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Goodbye to Donny

Sadly, after a month of illness, our beautiful little tough guy had to be put down yesterday. A wrenching decision, but he was no longer eating or drinking and could barely walk. The vets office handled him (and us) beautifully in a small private area that felt more like a guest bedroom with a small rug, sofa and soft lighting. He went gently but not without lots of tears and promises from us.

Without a doubt, he had more personality than any other animal we’ve shared our home with. Probably bred as a fighting dog, with both Pit Bull and Doberman genes, his ears and tail were clipped and docked but his soul was filled only with love and playfulness. Sue negotiated his rescue 14 years ago from a series of bad homes in our old neighborhood and he quickly became a dominant figure in our lives.

Always ready to take a walk, eat anything that could be remotely described as food and chase a ball for endless hours at a time, his enthusiasm lifted our spirits over and over. And when he wasn’t charging about, he enjoyed close contact and soaked up affection like sponge. May he rest in peace.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Night Crawl for Voodoo Doughnuts

It was evening in Portland and feeling the need to escape the rubber chicken, the gummy cheesecake and re-breathed air of the DoubleTree, C. and I took an walk outside. Perhaps as am antidote to working so much in the realm of daylight, I'm finding myself more and more attracted to the mysteries of night photography.

Urban spaces defined only by artificial light sources - tungsten, sodium vapor, mercury, neon - mix it up with a little moonlight to offer a new palette of possibilities. And one without any commercial sensibilities. What freedom!

Carrying one sensitive camera with a very fast lens, we strolled through the empty neighborhoods surrounding the hotel stopping every now and the to explore nocturnal colors, gestures and light. Realizing the need for a destination (not so much as a place to satisfy a sweet craving but as an arbitrary end point), we headed to Voodoo Doughnuts - open all night and sure to delight.

Asking directions a few times from strangers on desolate streets, we finally spot an eerie blue glow. Entering, we inhale the yeasty air, make our choices from the rotating dessert case, and sit at old school desks to watch the parade of night folks.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Big Leaves, Big Drama

Big leaves hog center stage in Chanticleer's August garden. Add a dash of hard sun and you can almost hear the photosynthetic pulse of these tropical giants. As much as I adore lotus blooms, their lingering seed pods have all the personality. Like articulated shower heads, they twist their twiggy necks to gape at their neighbors.

Canna 'Tropicanna' is as common as you get but it still grabs me when backlit. And it absolutely floors me when the light also wraps gently from the side.

And the Red Banana, Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelli', is made even more gorgeous when the shadows of a nearby fine-leafed tropical play over the bright green and orange bands. What this late summer foliar exuberance needs now is a soundtrack of sprinklers, crickets and ice cream trucks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chanticleer - a pleasure garden

Without a doubt, Chanticleer Garden is the finest public garden I have ever roamed. How fortunate that I live only 20 minutes away and can frequently savor their inspired horticultural displays. Chanticleer was on the Perennial Plant Symposium tour last week and I'm sure that jaws were dropping by the score as they toured the grounds. My twenty minute talk (condensed into 10 as I was pushing into the first coffee break) at Tuesday's plenary session was well received by at least one blogger, Kevin Neal. Thanks for the good press, Kevin!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Night Trees

Long time, no blog. I've been on assignment for much of May and June and haven't found the right moment to post. Here's a new twist on some familiar horticultural subjects. Photographed long after sunset in hotel parking lots, these trees still have presence and beauty.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Two of my books won prestigious awards recently. Foliage, penned by my extremely talented and uber-green-thumbed friend, Nancy Ondra, was one of the four titles chosen for the 2008 American Horticultural Society Book Award.

And the Guide to the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region, (authored by another exceptionally gifted and horticulturally subversive friend, Adam Levine) won a Silver Award of Achievement in the 2008 Garden Writer's Association Media Awards program for Book Photography and is eligible for a Gold Award to be announced later this year.

Two words for two awards: WOO and HOO!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beyond Marshmallow Peeps

Imaginative Easter treats fill a bakery window in Amsterdam. This holiday (like so many) has pagan roots and is derived from an equinox celebration honoring Eastre, the Saxon goddess of dawn and fertility (that's where the rabbits and eggs fit in!)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Miek's bulbs

Miek Stap is a Dutch wonderland of talent. Website designer, photographer, tour guide and snow sculptor are just a few of the many hats she wears. When I arrived in Holland, she picked me up from the airport, stopped at a local nursery and whipped up these tasty little flowering bulb arrangements while I was still reeling from the all night flight. Photographed in her kitchen and framed by two of her own garden images.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saturday Morning in Amsterdam

Just back from the land of toolips and stroopwafels and came across this engaging window scene. I hope to post more Holland images in the next few days.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vegetables in Repose

Jessica Walliser and I created this image for the cover of the wonderful and witty book she co-wrote with Doug Oster, Grow Organic. These guys are exceptional hands-on gardeners back in my home town of Pittsburgh and they wave that organic flag high. Jessica stopped at a friend's farm to load up on these gorgeous props and I can't recall an easier still life to build. Everything was do damn fresh!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cry Baby

Photographed this sweet smile from the bus riding back from a day at the temple gardens in Kyoto.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Swan Pond

Years after his mate died, Clyde the Mute Swan still patrols the watery corners of his domain at Morris Arboretum. Swans have been part of this garden's history since the original owners introduced the first pair, Lohengrin and Elsa, in 1905.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Eastern State Penitentiary

Opened in 1829, this controversial prison was based on a Quaker principal of repentance through isolation and hard labor. Prisoners were allowed little human contact and encouraged to silently reflect on their crimes. The radially designed complex spawned over 300 other prisons worldwide. Closed in 1971, the massive buildings and grounds decayed and are now a popular tourist spot, especially at Halloween.

Monday, February 4, 2008

New Website!

After long nights of screen staring and combing through files, I finally launched my new website. Designed and hosted by LiveBooks, the use of their templates make updating images a piece of cake. I especially like the diptychs and mirrored images this format inspires.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Swaddled Tree

Many of the street trees in Japan were propped with sturdy posts but this one in Tokyo's Shinjuku Gyoen Garden also sported a puffy coat. Not sure what the purpose of all this protection was but it sure gave the appearance of a bundled old man out for a long walk.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Witch Hazel in Snow

I do love witch hazel for it's sinus-piercing perfume in the dead of winter. This cultivar, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena' is gorgeous but, alas, not very fragrant. Wish I would have known that before I gave it a prominent spot in my front yard! I'm commitment phobic about trees in general. Choosing and planting something that lives for more than a few years always makes me hesitate. I've opened Dirr's book dozens of times only to end up with a long list of finalists and no front runner.

Liberty Bell Crack

Philly's famous bell has a new home across the street from Independence Hall. It's still visible 24 hours a day but is surrounded by a new visitor's center filled with interpretive displays. This is actually the third version of the bell. The first one cracked as it was initially rung in 1753 and was melted down and recast with more copper. The new one sounded flat and was again recast. It rang most famously (but perhaps mythically) on July 8, 1776 to announce a reading of the Declaration. This crack appeared sometime in the mid 1800's.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Adam in the greenhouse

What's more fun than unearthing old images and seeing them fresh! Here's Adam tending his pelargonium collection in the ancient estate greenhouse near his home. This was part of our first collaboration and resulted in a Garden Design feature.