In shade gardens Hosta are emerging with layer upon layer of their green leaves pushing upward from their rhizomes. Hosta is a perennial, herbaceous plant that can grow in either moist or arid soil. This lush plant plays an important role in gardens where light filters through trees. The long, ovate leaves of Hosta are ribbed with prominent veins that reveal a surface upon which light and shadow interact to create a rich texture.
A Little of Hosta History: Hosta originated in the wild in China, Korea and Japan. Japanese landscape architects developed this plant as an essential component of their design. In 1712 the Japanese government gave permission to the Dutch East Indian Trading Company to export Hosta. At this time the plant was not called Hosta. In the 17th century Englebert Kaempfer (1651-1750), a Dutch botanist and physician, first wrote about Hosta. He studied and created botanical drawings of two different Hosta plants. With pre-Linnaean descriptions, Kaempfer named them Gibbooshi, noting that the leaves were “plantain-like”, similar in shape to the leaves of Lilies. The Hosta flowers, as in Lilies, are funnel-shaped. When Linnaean nomenclature became the style for naming plants, Carl Thunberg (1743-1848), also a physician with the Dutch East Indian Trading Company, renamed the Hosta Aletris and classified it as a member of the genus Hemerocallis. Finally, in 1812 Leopold Tratinick, an Austrian botanist, once again renamed the plant honoring Nicholas Thomas Host, royal physician to Emperor Francis II as well as an avid botanist who studied and published books about grasses. In the late 19th century, Dr. Philipp Franz von Siebold of Leyden University owned a nursery where he cultivated many different types of Hosta. Through his work Hosta gained popularity in Europe. For about 100 years the variety of Hosta remained at around 30 different species. In the mid-late 20th century Hosta cultivars increased to over 2,000 varieties ranging in size, leaf color, variegation and texture.
Happy Spring! Plants slowly are sprouting and budding in the garden. It is still cold, but soon the awakening of nature will offer a trove of opportunities for new photographs. Green is the color of spring. It emerges in the translucent leaves on the trees or on the new growth pushing up through the soil. Early spring green seems delicate. In time this gentle green deepens as the leaves grow.
Photographing the milkweed seedpods was a wonderful experience. The process of creating these images was not as I anticipated. I always plan my photographs very precisely. While I grow most of the flowers that I photograph, in this case I collected the milkweed seedpods from a field in the country. My husband and I went out on a fall day and gathered an abundant supply of the milkweed pods still attached to the stems. I took the dried plants to my studio and set up the pods with background and lighting, all carefully planned.
Everything went as expected until the pods became heated under the photographic lights. Due to their increasing temperature, the pods started to open and the seeds were released even before I could complete the first photograph. It was so wonderful to watch the miraculous little structure break open and reveal its incredibly engineered storage of hundreds of seeds, all geometrically arranged within the pod structure. In a few minutes all of the seeds floated out of the pod. Once the process of release started, it could not be controlled or halted. I had a great day capturing on film this small aspect of nature recreated in my studio. By the end of the day I had created series of photographs depicting the release of milkweed seeds from their pods and a studio covered with this delicate bounty. I have dispersed some of the seeds into my garden and the rest I saved to remember the moment.
Daffodils, crocuses, and hyacinths are blooming. Warm days have replaced frosty mornings, and the rustle of nature is apparent. New Year’s Day should be the first day of the year when each person becomes aware of nature’s cyclical rejuvenation.
Photograph of early spring daffodil
William Wordsworth’s poem reflects the mood of spring.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the Milky Way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A Poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
Plants have universal appeal. Living in an environment rich with botanical life, humans developed a close relationship with the surrounding vegetation, whose nutritional wealth and diversity enabled mankind to thrive. As cultures emerged, people began to perceive and celebrate floral beauty. This aesthetic became a focus for artistic and social expression. We are fortunate to have eyes and intellect that can interpret form and color in ways that engage our emotions.