And the entries just keep a’comin’…

13 06 2010

Below are three entrants (and the only entrants thus far, bless them) of my Polaroid Notecards Essay Contest. Thanks to Alex, Bo and CheyAnne for submitting their wonderful essays. Read more about the contest (you, too, could win!) here. Contest rules and regulations can be found here. And remember, just like the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes—if you don’t enter, you can’t win!

CONTESTANT #1
First up is Alex Solla, of Cold Springs Studio Pottery and Photography, in Trumansburg, NY. (Be sure to check out his website below—he and his wife, Nancy, create beautiful pottery in truly yummy colors!) To preface his essay, Alex wrote: “Alright Cindy, you win. I held out because I figured you would be inundated with stories and after the umpteenth,the last thing you would want is to hear yet another gardening story. Having held a few contests over at my pottery blog, I know that a lot of times, folks just don’t anty up. No clue as to why. So here’s your story:

Ten years ago this August, I bought the house we live in. A month later I met my wife Nancy. One of our first goals was to clean up the yard and prepare a veggie garden. For the most part this yard was as flat as a pancake. The only distinguishing features were tall white pines lining the driveway, a huge blue spruce next to a very old outhouse and between both…was this enormous pile of blackberry brambles and grapevine. Fifty feet on all sides—it was HUGE! We tried at first to mow it. Broke a very expensive old riding mower. Ripped the transmission completely out of the machine. Then we tried the age old jungle solution: the machete. After a few near misses with my shins, we called that experiment done. That night, as my wife and I sat soaked in sweat, trying to imagine the dirt under all that overgrowth, our neighbor arrived. Most folks have neighbors who go to work at a normal hour and mow the yard on the weekend. Not mine. He’s an excavator, so he is up before 5 a.m. revving engines of his dozers and backhoes and such. Well, he took one look at our project and zipped back over to his house. The next thing we know, he is driving a monster backhoe through our yard. He spent the next hour as the sun set, ripping out roots of grapevines that were huge stumps! He took all of this green and by the time he went home, we could see DIRT! With all the plant material staring us in the face, we took some of the other move-in detritus and made the most beautiful burn pile. A week later, we had cleared, fenced, rich soil.

Because of all that sweat and toil, the first plants to grow into this garden held a special place in my heart. I had never photographed flowers or plants before, but as soon as we had color that spring, I was out in the garden shooting every flower I could catch. This started my love affair with plant photography. Your blog has been a huge inspiration. Your color saturation is just amazing. If you ever have time, would you consider writing a tutorial about how you capture such fantastic images?

Alex Solla
Cold Springs Studio Pottery and Photography
Trumansburg, NY

Website: www.coldspringsstudio.com

Blog: http://oohmyheck.blogspot.com 

HEAD JUDGE’S NOTE: Alex wins extra points (and possibly extra notecards!) by shamelessly flattering the head judge at the end of his essay! And to answer your question about writing a garden photography tutorial—it’s in the works, so please stay tuned.

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CONTESTANT #2
Next up is Bo Mackison, of Seeded Earth Studio, LLC, in Madison, Wisconsin. Bo is a frequent contributor to WisconsinNative.com, writing and photographing for both the Wandering Wisconsin and Travel Green. Her photography has been featured in regional and national architectural magazines, national travel guides and in a book on Functional Architecture published in 2009.

I have only a fairly small garden, maybe four or five dozen perennials. And each spring and summer, these eagerly awaited for blooms are half eaten by the rabbits in my yard who are attracted by my gourmet floral dinners. They are particularly fond of my coral bells, sweet williams, and balloon flowers. I have taken to spraying the garden with a foul smelling concoction—organic and putrid. It reminds me of a spoiled milk, rotten egg combination, plus a few other horrible odors thrown in for good measure. It successfully keeps the rabbits away, so I can still enjoy looking at my flowers, but it totally prevents me from photographing my flowers.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if I could shoot and run. Grab my camera, hold my breath, run up, and take a quick snapshot. Unfortunately, that is not my photographic style. I like to get close when photographing my flowers. Really close. I like to study the angles and natural lighting, brush off specks of dirt and remove wandering insects. More often than not, I find myself lying on the earth, looking straight up the stem of a flowering plant, trying to capture an unusual perspective. I can do none of this when the plants are saturated in “Stinky-Rabbit-Keep-Away.”

I have solved my problem with a compromise. I spray my garden so I can at least enjoy the beauty of the flowers. And then I travel a few miles down the road to a wonderful garden planted by the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Horticulture. In a garden less than 2.5 acres, there are literally thousands of plants, many of them experimental, so there are many opportunities for me to look for that special blossom.

I truly have a feast of flowers to photograph, and without any assault to my nose. The garden’s tall fences do a great job of protecting the flowers and plants from hungry critters. And I can take my photographs at my leisure, sometimes spending several hours in the garden, often flat on my back, three or four days a week.

Yes, my idea of heaven on earth! Literally.

Bo Mackison
Seeded Earth Studio LLC
Madison, WI  

Blog:  http://seededearth.com

Website: http://historicplacesphotography.com

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CONTESTANT #3

And last, but not least, is CheyAnne Sexton, a talented watercolor artist and photographer from New Mexico.

Let’s see, where to start. Quite a few years ago, while I was raising our babies in a little mobile home park in the mountains west of Durango, Colorado, I started to garden. I loved this space we had been living in just because of the water available to use in the garden. The area was a canyon that ran north and south, so in the summer when it was blazing hot in the Colorado sun, my yard was in cool, wonderful shade. I loved this yard, but it was sadly very bare. Too many people had lived and moved away without caring about the earth around them.

An older woman in the neighborhood asked me to come and help in her yard and my husband agreed to watch the little ones. Her yard was overtaken with these beautiful little yellow flowers. I found out later that they were buttercups. I fell in love immediately. They had deep green leaves and bright, bright yellow cups about the size of my thumb. They spread by runners and grew short in the sunshine but longer and more leggy in the shade. Well, this woman wanted me to pull them all and throw them away. I couldn’t bare the thought of throwing these beauties out so I asked if it was alright to keep them myself. She assured me I really didn’t want to, but please help myself and please try to get them all. I had learned the hard way that it’s a lot easier to pull “weeds” if the ground is wet, so I soaked and pulled, and pulled and pulled them all. Her yard look so bare, I felt guilty, but I was so happy because I had soda cardboard flats full of these wonderful little creatures to take back to my own bare yard. Another lesson I learned quickly—It’s a lot easier to pull than plant! But plant I did, for quite a few days and still I had more left. I started giving them away to other neighbors and finally I left the couple of remaining flats lying by the strawberry bed, determined to not care if just these 40 or so remaining plants died, because I had already saved sooooo many. Even these grew from the little bit of guilty watering I did when I watered the strawberries.

These little buttercups grew everywhere I planted them and even beyond there to places out of reach. It was wonderful to watch. In fact, a few years later I dug up invading ones and sold them to a local nursery in town. Fun, fun, fun! Buttercups are still one of my favorite flowers to see. I don’t have any here in northern New Mexico and I’m not sure I will. They do like lots of water, and since we haul all our water for plantings, that amount is just not feasible right now. In fact, I have seen a similar variety growing by the acequias here. I have yet to investigate—I’m a little afraid that I would fall in love all over again with their sweet little yellow faces. I have been known to get out my trusty little foldable garden shovel for just such inspirations!

Blog: http://newmexicomtngirl.com/

Paintings and photography for sale:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/newmexicomtngirl/
http://www.redbubble.com/people/nmexicomtngirl
http://www.etsy.com/shop/cheyannesexton