Saying Goodbye & All That Jazz
Saturday, July 02, 2011
I have been walking in the garden almost as if I were seeing it for the last time. My roses are out and all seem to be clamoring to look at them and to indulge in their scent. I know that quite a few will be around when I return from Texas. But sadly the Gallicas and my albas, all once blooming, are saying hello but goodbye at the same time. There will be next year but one never knows. Much has been written about the short life of a butterfly but little about the longevity of plants other than trees. Some of my roses have been with me since 1986 when Rosemary and I moved to Athlone Street. But there is at least one that was here before. It says hello every year in lurid red/orange. All That Jazz may not have the elegance and snobbery of an old French rose or one of David Austin’s English Roses. But All That Jazz has persistence and with its longevity I would be sad to say a permanent goodbye.
In all the scans of many of the roses of my garden that you see here, not one is All That Jazz. I am sure that when I return it will make up for it and greet me. It will be nice to be home.
Me & My Dave Barrett Akubra Hat
Friday, July 01, 2011
During Expo 86 I had a couple of interesting photographic jobs involving the exhibition. One of them involved the Australian Pavilion. They gave me a call to tell me they need me to photograph a prominent Canadian guest, ex NDP Premier Dave Barrett. I showed up at the pavilion and suggested that I find something appropriately Australian to photograph the affable ex premier. I asked Barrett for his head size and went to the pavilion store and found a beautiful Akubra Snowy River hat. After the snap I asked the Australian officials if they were going to give the hat to Barrett. I was amazed to find out how frugal these Australians were. They told me the hat cost $85 and that was much too much for them to fork out.
I decided that since my head size was the same as Barrett’s that I would buy the hat as a souvenir. The hat has served me well (I don’t really like hats) for the special occasion of pruning my very long laurel hedge in either a rainy fall or rainy spring. The hat normally hangs from a hook behind the door of our guest bathroom.
I think that with age our head size varies inversely with our diminishing brain activity. In fact the hat really does not fit me anymore.
But here I am ready to go on a trip to a ranch in Texas and I have already gone through the agony of trying to stretch out the shafts of my Argentine Lopez Taibo boots
. Some years back I could have gone to the hat store on West Hastings (near the Cenotaph) and had the hat stretched a tad. In Spanish an horma is a device that stretches shoes. The same word is used for the device that does the equivalent for hats.
I looked around the house and found a pot in the kitchen drawer that is slightly larger than my Akubra hat. I have forced it in and after a couple of days I am happy to report that the hat almost fits me! A day more and who knows!
Me and my Lopez Taibo boots
The Return Of Rosa ‘Baron Girod de l'Ain’
Thursday, June 30, 2011
‘Baron Girod de l'Ain’. This rose could be regarded as a novelty when in actual fact it has it’s own garden worthiness. An interesting rose, flowers cupped and full, of bright crimson red with white edging to each wavy petal, fragrant and healthy. Growth can be a little floppy, dressed with dark leaves and stout thorns. Repeat flowering.
1.2 x 0.9m 4 x 3' Reverchon France 1897, Peter Beales
In 1974 Rosemary and I decided that we wanted to leave the uncertainty of Mexico City which we thought was not a healthy place for our daughters to grow up. So we put our house for sale and prepared to move to Vancouver. To our shock nobody wanted to buy our house and as we had left our jobs I realized I had to make money in some way. With a Pentax S-3, three lenses and loaded with Kodak Tri-X I began to take portraits of the children of wealthy Mexican families. Before long I was making good money and my neighbours were telling me, “Alex, fate is telling you to change your mind and to stay with us here in Mexico.” In many ways I thought they were right but we had made up our mind and we finally sold our house and moved to Vancouver. I wonder what would have been of my life and of my life with Rosemary and our two daughters had we stayed?
As we prepare for our 3700km to South Texas with our granddaughters I have been working in the garden. When I mow the lawn I usually do not use a grass catcher as the mulching mechanism of the mower leaves the cut grass on the lawn and this not only does not harm it but adds nitrogen back into the soil. This time around I have used the grass catcher and I placed the trimmings under my hydrangeas which are the first to suffer any kind of drought. After I dropping the grass trimmings I water them well and this mulch helps to keep the moisture in for a longer time. Also for reasons that are not yet know roses like to have grass trimmings at their base. Perhaps it’s the cooling action.
I have pruned back rhodos to let air and light into my darker beds. A three week vacation will mean that the garden will have to fend for itself. Bruce Stewart, my granddaughter’s father will be watering when needed and we have hired a gardener to mow the lawn in ten days. That should help to make the garden look pretty good.
What is sad is that we will not be around to see the glorious blooming of all of my roses. Most have given me a good show already even the once blooming Albertine is out but it will not hit its peak until a week from now. Rosa
‘Fair Bianca’ at its best might generate ten flowers in a season. At this point there are 15!
‘Complicata’ is huge and full of flowers as are my two mottled or marbled Gallicas, Alain Blanchard and Rosa
‘ Soleil Brillant’. Gallicas bloom only once but they make up for it by having lots of flowers. James Mason, Hansa and Charles de Mills are covered.
In a way I feel like my roses and the garden are beckoning like my Mexican friends did back in 1974 to change my mind. “Don’t leave us,” my roses seem to be telling me. “We will reward you with a display that will amaze you!”
I am not a bad gardener but I do kill some of my plants. I have come to accept that plants like humans have life spans and that these life spans can vary from plant to plant. Some are short lived. Some cannot take repeated wet weather or sudden frosts in March.
One rose that I have sorely missed is an exotic hybrid perpetual that smells like raspberries. It is a dark crimson red and the blooms feature a rare trait of a white edge on the petals. When you see Rosa
‘Baron Girod de l'Ain’ you see a most unusual rose. It is not easy to grow and it does not bloom generously. My specimen died three years ago and I miss how Rebecca with her beautiful French can pronounce the name.
It was about five years ago that one day I asked Rebecca in the car to describe and name all my roses. To my shock and delight she did not forget the Baron!
When the Baron died I knew that it would probably be impossible to replace it. Garden centers are not doing well with our changing times and their inventory has become simpler and boring. Exotic roses are not to be found in our area. That I found Rosa
‘Alain Blanchard’ at Garden Works is quite unusual but not as unusual as finding Rosa
'Gruss an Aachen' its stems dipped in protective wax (serious rose gardeners would never buy a rose in a pot with that wax!) at Rona. Neither rose would be available anywhere now.
Rebecca came over and I told her, “Rebecca I want to show you something.” I went to a spot in the garden, one where I had never planted a rose and pointed at a glorious crimson flower with a white edge on its petals.” Rebecca looked at it in amazement and with her beautiful French she said, “Rosa ‘Baron Girod de l'Ain’”.
I can only think that before my Baron died it sent a runner underground a few feet away and it grew and finally flowered today.
We are going to Texas but Rosemary and I will miss our garden, the roses and our cats. Leaving home is not easy even if the trip promises to be exciting. As excited as I am I cannot wait to come back and see if the Baron will be around to greet me.
Not Just Another Photo Credit
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
|Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C.|
My photos have appeared in countless publications around the world. Of late I am particularly proud that my photos of Canadian writer Robertson Davies
are on the cover of the first Catalan version of his Deptford Trilogy
. I have had a cover on Time Magazine and many other magazines of international stature. But today I felt particularly proud. Who would have known that my religion teacher, Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C who taught me back in 1959 would someday send me the following:
A brochure on the Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Edward’s is being put together. I would like to use the photo you took of me in the chapel with a woodcarving….may I have your permission to use that…of course, you will receive credit as the photographer.
They were going to shoot another picture of me doing woodcarving in the shop…but…on Monday I had surgery on my nose to remove a skin cancer….and I don’t look too photogenic with a big white bandage on my nose like a “life-guard”…
Bro. Edwin Reggio, CSC
St. Edward's University
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
|Rosemary's Centaurea dealbata cultivar|
I married my Rosemary in Mexico City in 1968 and I would tell my friends that the beautiful blonde that was my wife came from a small town on Ontario called New Dublin. From what Rosemary told me I gathered the town had one church, one cemetery and no school. In some ways my mother (a snob) thought I had married a farm girl even though Rosemary knew nothing about farming. In fact she had obtained, on her own merit, a scholarship to McGill. She was a brainy but beautiful blonde who just happened to come from a very small town. I soon learned that not only was all that but she was quite a snob.
Her snobbery is plainly evident should you visit our garden. I cultivate my roses and my hostas and Rosemary does accept that particularly now the roses give lots of colour to our garden. And in late August when her perennials look tired my hostas still look bright and fresh. For many years she did not allow yellow or orange in our garden and she always opted for blue and white. Of late she has mellowed and I have a lovely yellow single
(I am a snob, too!) hybrid tea called Mrs. Oakley Fisher. Rosemary grieved when I told her that this year our orange Rosa ' Westerland' had died in early spring.
If you happen to notice details you will spot gems in Rosemary’s choices. As an example there is a plant in the front of our kitchen bed (called that because it is outside our kitchen door) that occupies lots of space. I have asked Rosemary why it is she allows this plant to grow that side. The snob that she is she says, “ I like the foliage. It is interesting.” She has two specimens. The one that gets a bit more sun has two flowers. The one that gets almost no sun has lots of flowers. I wonder if Rosemary has ever noticed the flowers of this glorified blue-blood member of the low-class bachelor’s button family. It is called a Centaurea but Rosemary does not remember its cultivar name. From what you might see here you will realize that my Rosemary might be a snob, but she also can spot a beautiful flower even if she is not willing to admit it!
Death & Memory
Monday, June 27, 2011
Today I was driving on Burrard near Broadway and on y right I saw a little restaurant/café. I remembered that in that exact spot in 1980 there was as shop called Precision Camera Repair. It was there that Burt fixed my waterlogged Mamiya RB-67 that fell into a hot tub when I was taking pictures of beautiful fitness instructor Dana Zalko for Vancouver Magazine. I had my camera on a tripod on the edge and I had attached a heavy long lens. The tripod head loosened. The lens swung the camera down and the whole rig plummeted into the water. Burt fixed the camera in a couple of days and told me that what saved me was that it was not salt water. The film I retrieved and processed and it was just fine. Years later I kept going to Burt when he worked at Brighouse Camera Repair. When Brighouse closed in the late 90s I never heard of Burt again.
The location of the photo repair shop on Burrard lived in my memory as a sort of human, living GPS. Few would now know about it. As soon as I am gone, and a few more like me, the memory of that location will be nonexistent and in some curiously sad way Burt may be gone, too.
This tintype here is one of the best preserved tintypes I have seen. It was given to my wife Rosemary by her mother Marjorie perhaps 25 years ago. Marjorie Healey is dead. While alive she may have told Rosemary who the two women were. But Rosemary told me that she wasn’t interested at the time. There is nobody alive now who could ID the two long gone relatives.
Marjorie Healey’s maiden name was Cooper and her mother was Davis. On both sides of her family they were originally from Ireland. I note that in back of the women in tintype there are some low hills. Could those painted hills have been artfully mimicking the old country if the tintype was taken in Canada? Who knows?
But I feel sad, not for the women, who would not feel my sadness, but for myself because I have always known that memory and death are somehow at opposite poles. I try not to think about it but all I need is a little café, once Precision Camera Repair, to reinforce that some day my image (be it on an ancient old fashioned computer monitor, or in the form of a gelatin silver print) will be seen by someone who will not know who I am. I will be as dead then as dead can be.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Technical Information: I used two Nikon FM-2s. One had Kodak Tri-x rated at 800 ISO and the other had a "no name" President's Choice 24-exposure 800 ISO colour negative film made by Fuji. I used two lenses a 35mm F-2 and a 50mm F-1.4 For one of the shots the lens was an 85mm F1.4. After years of using a Mamiya RB-67 in a studio or on location but always with some sort of flash it felt liberating to be able to move around and concentrate on the picture taking. My subject Bronwen Marsden is a delight and I expect to take many more pictures of her. For some others look here