Garden memories

After another Garden Conservancy Open Day on July 14, Chester Higgins sent me a few iPhone photos of the garden. Chester isn’t just any visitor with a camera; he’s a well known and accomplished photographer with a long career at the New York Times. He even has his own Wikipedia page.

During the Open Day, Chester showed me some of his photos in black and white. Later, he sent me some of his images in color. I’ve converted them back to black and white (because they were a revelation to me) and made some edits to fit them to my blog format.

Chester said he’s interested in apertures, so here are two variations on a theme.

Several Inulas, erect and bunched like models, overhung by a willow, with a dash of grass from the side. An interesting study in texture and form.


The stairway up to the house terrace – like a jungle – in two variations.

And the “canal” pond, low and long.


Garden people may find Chester’s portfolio of photographs of large, dried leaves – Apparitions – of special interest. Rather amazing.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

11 thoughts on “Garden memories

  1. James thank you for sharing Chester’s photos. They are beautiful. I enjoy garden tours and have been to many. I haven’t been back to your garden since you lost your trees a few years ago because we are now spending our time too far away but, of all the tours I have ever taken I think yours is my favorite. Keep the photos coming.

  2. One of the talks I give is called Learning to Look: the Art of Garden Observation. A section of the talk is about how photographs can help (and hinder). I show the same scene in colour, flipped and in b&w. The b&w photos reveal a lot we can’t see when distracted by colour. The pairs of photos you posted are really interesting to study. What a difference there is in the two shots of the stairs — hard to think that a small shift in the point of view could have such a large impact. The horizontal/vertical contrast in the first pair is even greater; it is as if they are photos of two different places.

    Thanks for this post, James. Really interesting. And beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Pat. You touch on a subject I find very interesting. We know of plant blindness, but there are varying degrees of that. I do wonder if some people are unable to be taught “the Art of Garden Observation.” I had a recent experience at the High Line. I love the High Line and have visited for years. Its care is extraordinary. However, I recently visited with a friend from London. Apart from the fact of construction scaffolding over almost half the High Line, many plantings were looking really bad, highly stressed, some dead. There were dead, dried areas of astilbe’s and the Acer trifolium at the 10th Avenue square were defoliating (there appeared to be some refoliation, but they looked awful). Other areas looked overgrown and uncared for. But some areas, such as the bug leaved magnolias and their shaded groundcover plantings, were still up to usual High Line standards. My friend, who is a landscape architect very knowledgeable in planting, was in total agreement this is the only time the High Line has looked so bad. Yet the throngs of people there seemed to notice nothing at all, and even experienced horticultural/garden people I’ve asked say it wasn’t so bad. I’m rather mystified by this. So can most people simply not see the plants? Are they there for the experience and elevated view? Probably so. But why is no one with eyes to see asking what has happened? Perhaps there was an irrigation failure (certainly possible with the amount of construction all along the line) during our recent very hot spell. I don’t know what to think. Can even experienced garden people not see? Or are they simply reluctant to point to the problems and ask why?

      1. Sometimes people are distracted, talking and walking and taking their surroundings for granted. Why horticulturally aware people should ignore the sad state of plants is a mystery to me, too. As you say, reluctance to point to problems and ask why is a big factor. In countries where gardens and plants are more highly regarded than they are in North America, you’d probably hear the criticism. The High Line isn’t a personal garden, after all, where criticism needs to be balanced with courtesy. Perhaps people dismiss the problems as temporary. But there is always the scary possibility that they simply don’t notice.

  3. At Pat pointed out, B&W shots are a great way to see the garden and identify problems that were masked by color. I shot in B&W film for many years before switching to color and still return to it digitally when I need to rethink my garden. These gorgeous shots by Chester reveal the amazing texture and form in your garden – very evocative. I especially love the stairway photo and the pond photo. Thank you for a thought provoking post!

    1. Thank you, Lynn. Seeing Chester’s photos, I find I’m ready for the cleansing experience of seeing in black and white. Color seems a bit overwhelming now. But that may be just because my garden plants have grown so large, so rapidly, that I need to get some distance, some quite from the cacophony of color.

  4. When I saw these I was really struck — not just by how beautiful they were, but by the fact that they were by Chester Higgins, with whom I worked at the NY Times decades ago when I was the clerk on the Photo Desk, near the start of my journalism career. I did not know that his life had taken him down a plant-filled path, too, until I saw these. Thanks.

    1. Chester is a neighbor in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where I’ll deliver a bunch of Hakonechloa macra tomorrow. I’ll tell him about your comment. I think plants are only a small part of his photographic interest though.

Leave a Reply to James Golden Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *