Autumn is a glorious season in the garden. I took this photo in the gravel garden at Chanticleer last weekend. I like complexity (not chaos; there is a difference). This teeters on the edge, but I think the striking forms of the Yucca rostrata and Agaves and trailing blue-gray ground cover make a strong, legible statement against the tapestry of clashing autumn colors. The golden early morning light makes it work. The contrast is shocking, but evocative of sense of place, in this case, Chanticleer, where you learn to expect the unexpected.
I’d admired Rob Cardillo‘s photography for years. Several months ago, when I saw he would give a workshop at Chanticleer, I signed up immediately. Then as the time approached, I was busy beyond anything I had anticipated and asking myself why I had overcommitted. But the draw of a weekend of close work with Rob, and three days at Chanticleer, including early morning hours when the garden is closed to the public, provided the kick I needed.
Bringing the words of the English mystic, Julian of Norwich, down from the celestial to a more terrestrial level,
‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’
And it was.
I arrived early Friday afternoon to take a walk around the garden, which I hadn’t seen this year. I’d spent six weeks visiting gardens in the UK this past summer, so was curious how I’d perceive Chanticleer in that light. It still ranks at the top of gardens in America and easily matches my experience of the best of the UK gardens, though it’s different, very American in a way I haven’t been able to define.
I wasn’t concerned that we’d had a pretty hard frost the night before; I love frosted gardens and found the tall, black, stooled Paulownia spires and drying grasses a real delight. The intensity of colors thrown out by the dying plants makes for a particularly poignant time in the garden. There are so many surprises.
Once we met for a little socializing, dinner, and Rob’s kick-off presentation, I knew I’d have no regrets. This workshop was to offer me far more than I’d ever anticipated.
Rob, with the help of Lisa Roper, the Chanticleer horticulturist in charge of the ruin and gravel gardens, and Chanticleer’s de facto photographer, had us out at dawn Saturday morning ‘chasing the light’, and they stuck with us, offering help and advice throughout both days.
Rob gave us a number of pointers. One was to “shoot through windows.” Chanticleer offers lots of windows, especially around the Ruin. Here …
… looking out through a pergola from the hilltop gravel garden across the lawn to the main house, invisible behind the golden Larix, and here …
… looking out through one of the windows in the Ruin. And below …
… the entrance to the Ruin from the sporobolus meadow.
I couldn’t resist taking a shot in the Asian Woods. This doesn’t look particularly Asian, but it’s certainly autumnal, not un-Asian.
I think no one could resist this shot. Mine is certainly not the best.
I learned a lot in two days of fairly intense in-the-field photography, classroom critiques, and sitting in a darkened room as Rob projected our images on a large screen, processing them one by one, showing us the many different manifestations light can take when it encounters computer software.
And having just spent a weekend at the garden, I can’t help suggesting you buy Chanticleer’s new book, The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer, written by R. William Thomas, Chanticleer’s executive director, and its gardeners, with photographs by Rob Cardillo. (I’ll be writing a review soon.)
If you can attend this workshop next fall, do. If you can’t, visit Chanticleer–but next season–it’s closing for winter after Sunday, November 1.