Hosta 'Halcyon' - Elegance in Blue
Saturday, July 18, 2020
|Hosta 'Halcyon' 18 July 2020|
In the late 60s while working at the famous English nursery
of Hilliers of Winchester, architect-trained, Southampton-born , Eric Smith
became its chief propagator. He worked in the walled garden for four years. He
came up with new hellebores, bergenias, brunneras, camassia crocosmia, kniphofi
and rheums but one cross made him famous. Most hostas flower in June. One in
particular Hosta sieboldiana and Hosta 'Sieboldiana Elegans' are big and
blue with thick leaves. Hosta 'Tardiflora'
flowers in September and has narrow, shiny green leaves. Somehow one of his
sieboldianas re-flowered in September so Smith used its pollen to fertilize the
Tardiflora's pod. From this cross arose a whole series of mostly blue hostas
called called Tardiana (Tardiflora/sieboldiana combined) grex.
My interest in hostas began in 1986 when we moved from a
small house in Burnaby BC to a large corner garden house in Kerrisdale, a
lovely Vancouver neighbourhood. There was a lot of shade. That is how I
discovered hostas as all the reading material of the time mentioned the hosta
as being shade loving.
When I joined the American Hosta Society and became a
card-carrying member I went to the yearly conventions. I quickly learned from
Atlanta resident, former designer of NASA launching pads, W. George Schmid that
there was no such thing as a shade loving plant. He called them shade tolerant.
Schmid wrote The Genus Hosta
which is the the taxonomic bible of the hosta. He
even learned Japanese so that he could study the plant in the wilds of Japan.
Halcyon - The Essence of Blueness
A Halcyon June in my Garden
By the time we left our Kerrisdale house four years ago to
move to our little garden in Kitsilano (and formerly populated by hippies)
I had amassed 600 hosta specimens. The large, rare ones I donated to the
Botanical Garden of the University of British Columbia. Many others I took in a
large rented van with our Gallica roses to our eldest daughter’s almost one
acre property in Lillooet, British Columbia. It is a desert canyon in which the
Fraser River flows through. In the summer temperatures can surpass 40 Celsius and
in the winter it can be minus 30. The Gallicas and my former hostas are doing
When I had to pick the hostas for our present garden I sort
of became a botanical Noah. I picked three hosta convention hostas, Potomac
Pride, Northwest Textures and Party Favor. The rest of the hostas that compete
with my Rosemary’s perennials and our 50 old and English roses are personal
I have a US 'imported" (when "importing" was something that many
gardeners did and never had to face the consequences they face now), Hosta ‘June’
and an authentic Hosta ‘Halcyon’ These two if grown from seed or anything not
division become poor copies of the elegant originals.
In time I have come to learn that the juvenile version have
narrow (lanceolate) leaves that curve inwards. As the plants mature they
perhaps forget the Hosta '
Tardiflora' of their parentage and begin to adopt the
rounder leaves of Hosta sieboldiana.
|Hosta tardiflora 4 October 2019|
Anybody who has grown hostas for a while knows that there is
one important protocol to follow when admiring any blue hosta. You do not want
to touch the blue waxy coating called bloom. The part you touch will revert to
green and it will not come back until the next season. The same happens if you
use powerful hose sprays or spray them with liquid fertilizer. If you happen to
plant your blue hostas under a cherry tree stuff will fall on the leaves and
you might have to gingerly remove the debris.
Since most gardeners plant their hostas in the shade as a
photographer I can inform you that there is a lot more UV light in the shade
and particularly on overcast days. Blue hostas will seem bluer and when
photographed with either film or digital cameras they will seem bluer. Why? Read here.
I find it amazing that with all the usual hoopla about
variegated hostas the Hosta ‘Halcyon’ for me is the ultimate elegant one. Many
hosta enthusiasts downplay the beauty of hosta flowers. Halcyon and the other
member’s of it Tardiana group and the sport
June all have bold flowers that are beautiful before they even open.
Anthropomorphizing a Legacy
Friday, July 17, 2020
|Rosa 'Abraham Darby' & Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snowflake' 17 July 2020|
For as long as I can remember holding a camera in my hand for the first time
with an Agfa Silette I bought at a Washington DC pawnshop, my interest in
photography has always been the human face. I have often told people that when
I see a lovely landscape I buy a postcard. I will not deny that I have indeed
taken landscapes, photos of sewing machines for Vancouver Magazine and that my
camera has drifted down from the faces of lovely women to places that these
days are verboten.
In this long stay-at-home period of my life at age 78 where
I wonder if I will be alive to travel when traveling is allowed I have lots of
time to think and few opportunities to pick up my camera.
I am not in the least interested in documenting sunsets or
sunrises, Vancouver art-deco buildings, totem poles, full moons and new moons,
skylines during the day and skylines at night. I have no interest in going to
Chinatown to photograph a fading ghetto or to record the horrors of the Dowtown
Eastside. I don’t want to shoot tall buildings with wide angle lenses or do
anything more than snapping my cats Niño and Niña with my Galaxy 5.
And I will not waste my time with selfies.
What I want to do is to photograph faces. But this now is
almost impossible. My two granddaughters, almost eager to pose for me I their
youth, avoid me and even warn me not to take pictures on the few times they have
come for a visit.
And so I scan the plants of our garden. I don’t tell all
those people who have discovered the close focusing capabilities of their
digital cameras or phones who are busy taking close-ups of roses and other
flowers in neighbourhood gardens. I would place these people in a darkened room
with uncomfortable chairs and force them to look at hundreds of these pictures.
Melatonin would be whiffed in the air.
There is no way of taking a photograph of a rose that you
have not grown or know with a digital camera or phone and make it look
What is the key?
The answer may seem crazy. Just note the title of this blog.
And part of this is that our roses talk to me. They beckon even though they
sacrifice being snipped. “Scan me now, I am at my best,” they whisper as I make
the rounds of our small Kits garden.
I started scanning my roses (they were only mine then, now
they are ours) in 2001. The purpose was to accurately record what they looked
like at 100% life magnification and as accurate in colour as I could muster. Even
then, as I was younger, I believe that I might have made a killing selling
these as inkjet prints to hotel chains. But I I was not interested then and
much less now.
The idea of accuracy has now been modified by my scanning of
roses with other plants and other plants without roses. I walk around the
garden and I am quickly inspired.
I may now have something in the neighbourhood of over 1000
scans in very large files that represent a record of the plants we have had,
died or survived in our two gardens and the one that our eldest daughter has in
her almost one acre property in Lillooet.
What legacy do these scans (I call them scanographs and I am
now a scanographer) have in the very near future of my returning to my maker?
Are they worth preserving? Is it enough that I exposed to great pleasure in the
exercise and that there is a relaxing comfort in removing dust imperfections
with my 17 year-old Photoshop?
I find that my almost obsession to photograph women in my
search of Eros is waning.
There is an erotic delight in scanning this Rosa ‘Abraham Darby’ and Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’ today
that is completely guilt free. The image delights me even if it is for naught.
The secret, of my pleasure is that I am taking portraits of
my plants. They are no less people than my Niño and Niña.
Anna Wyman - 1928 - 11 July 2020
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
|Anna Wyman circa late 70s|
It has taken 77 years for my concept of space and time to
change, even after having read here and there about Einsteinian time and space.
It all suddenly changed for me some twelve years ago when Vancouver
contemporary dancers Emily Molnar and Crystal Pite
discussed space, time and
movement in my studio.
The shortest definition of relativistic movement I have ever
heard came from Molnar (35) who said, “Movement
is the observer.” This means that from a position of rest we the observers
can discern the movement of a dancer on stage. Of time Pite (37) said, “The ephemeral of dance exists only in the
present movement. We are left with traces of movements that are gone as they
are being created. As we carve space with our bodies they leave a ghost, the
trail which affects our future moves and informs the observer of our past
I then understood that those past moves are much like the
contrails that high-flying jets leave in the sky.
|Anna & Trevor Wyman|
For many years I have photographed dancers in portraits and
dancing. I have frozen their movement with a fast shutter a few times but I
have mostly opted for the blurring swirls
that show movement more, than the peak
(when movement is zero) in a studio.
On Saturday I read the obituary for Anna Wyman in the
. This was an unusual one as it was written by her former husband,
who was (is) a paragon of stable pragmatism in this century that
seems to lack it. He is, thankfully alive but my writer friends Sean Rossiter
are not. I miss them as I miss the very much alive David Baines
In the last few days I have spoken on the phone with architect
Alan James, Georgia Straight Editor
Charlie Smith and one of the few
Vancouver Sun writesr still writing,
John Mackie. These folks converse without ranting and do so with as much
objectivity as possible.
All the above is just ancillary to how much I enjoyed (but
in sadness, too) Max Wyman’s obituary.
I went to my file looking for Wyman, Anna. All I could find
was Wyman, Max
. Then I remembered that I have a separate file called Dance. And
that is where I found Wyman, Anna.
Not too long ago I read that space in magazines and
newspapers is limited but on the net it is infinite. In the file I found four
sets of negatives. It seems I photographed Anna Wyman twice. In the late 70s
(when I took these photographs) I did not have the habit of dating the envelope
containing the negatives and contact sheets.
I do know that the magazine that sent me twice to take the
pictures was Vancouver Magazine. In those early days I remember a gentleman
with long, leonine hair that frequented the magazine. That is when I first met
Max Wyman. As to who would have written the article for which my photograph was
used (of the early session only one was used). Of the second session which I
took with a medium format camera I exposed only 9 frames (one roll of 120
When I looked that the contact sheets (3) of that early
session I suddenly realized that these were my first ever dance photographs. In
a couple of photographs you will see Anna Wyman and Max Wyman’s son Trevor.
I believe that John Mackie may have called Max Wyman to ask
him to write the obituary. If he did this was a brilliant idea. Both Mackie and
I agree on the sad fact that Vancouver has a poor memory for its past. I have
no idea how many people are subscribed to the Vancouver Sun (we are) so I
wonder how many people might know of the death of the dance pioneer that Anna
My photographs while tactile (I touched the negatives to
scan them) somehow felt like the above comments on space and time by Molnar and
Pite. They were fleeting. I remember
having photographed mother and son. But that was it. I am a tad proud of the
fact that my first photos of dance (Kodak Tri-X) are not all that bad. They
prove to me that my memory, not really forgotten, but newly remembered in
quantity did happen.
I feel lucky for that.
A Family Gathering - That Red Shawl Portrait Revisited
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
|Lauren Elizabeth Stewart 8 March 2012 - & 12 July 2020|
It was a bittersweet afternoon. My Rosemary and I hosted our
family and we had dinner together. It was special, but because it was so
special I remembered other previous gatherings that we may have taken for
granted. The immediacy of this one (the first since Christmas 2019
that sad note that things are not as they were or should be but surely they now
Our daughter Ale arrived from Lillooet at about the time
that Lauren showed up. Lauren had turned 18 on June 27th
and this was
the first time that the excuse of the family dinner became a reason for a
birthday portrait. I wanted to more or less replicate the photograph
I took of
her in 2012 wearing my mother’s red shawl. I did not push to forcing her to put
on the Mexican top she had worn for that occasion. We put emphasis on the pose
and expression. It was awfully easy and we only took five shots. But one should notice the almost impossibility of making the 2012 Ektachrome match up with the digital one.
But there were
two surprises. In one (I have no memory of my camera shutter when that picture
of her wearing her facemask was taken) the photograph serves to remind us of
the times. The second one, I took forgetting to connect the flash to the
camera. But my digital camera can take severe underexposure with digital
One of the glories of being a photographer is being able to
record the change of time in a subject’s
The family portrait, as much as I would have wanted to not
used facemasks, was much to dicey a situation so I self-timed it and we all
posed as we did. But in late afternoon sun the garden was in a low contrast situation
that I was able to shoot it without a light and we could go back inside and do
what we rarely do these days.