|Alex Summers - 1995 - Horizont Camera
The plants in my gardens have faces. When I look at my primulas I remember my Rosemary who loved them. When I look at the roses, again they are all Rosemary. Why?
In 1987 when we began to garden in our large corner in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Kerrisdale, all I knew about gardening is that hostas did well in the shade. Our garden had lots of it. Years later Wolfram George Schmid told me that there was no such thing as a shade loving plant; “They are shade tolerant.”
One day Rosemary informed me that we were going to a meeting of the Vancouver Rose Society. I sat down on a hard chair and was subjected to the projection of over 100 bad rose slides.
But, as always, Rosemary was right and our garden, in spite of about 400 hostas then, had rhododendrons, ferns, roses, interesting trees, dwarf conifers and many of Rosemary’s unknown to me perennials.
Now in my Kitsilano garden, a small one it is, I have no more than 45 hostas. When I look at them they may have the face of the hybridizers I met who were responsible for introducing them.
From Rosemary I learned that all plants must have companions. My hostas share the garden. Because of its compact size you cannot see dirt. George Schmid called it “shoulder to shoulder” gardening.
I have had to amend the soil now for 6 years as there is a lot of clay. It was the red Atlanta clay that flummoxed George Schmid’s attempt to garden. Hosta‘Honeybells’ did just fine and of course the rest is history with the Giboshi Man.
When I stroll in my garden I immediately my thoughts go to the founder of the American Hosta Society, Alex Summers (my tocayo or namesake) who charmed me when I first met him at the 1992 Columbus, Ohio Convention.
There was something about this plain spoken (when you could understand his trademark mumble) erudite man that charmed me.
In 2001, on what must have been a hot and boring Vancouver Sunday in the summer, I looked at my scanner and wondered what I could do with it. I was much too shy to sit on it. I went out into the garden and spotted some lovely blooms on the Bourbon Rose, Rosa ‘Reine Victoria. I suspended two flowers over the scanner using a bamboo stick attached to the art deco lamp on my Edwardian desk.
|Rosa 'Reine Victoria' summer of 2001
It seems that I experienced beginner’s luck because the result was lovely. Since 2001 I have now amassed over 3000 scans.
I want to connect that first rose scan with Alex Summers.
The rose died a few years later as Bourbon Roses have a problem with our wet Vancouver springs. Somehow, and I will use the modern digital language, when I captured that rose in a scan, I captured a bit of its essence and soul.
Today while filing photographs and negatives labelled Washington DC 1995, I remembered I went on a job for an annual report. I had shingles on my way there. My memory is not sharp for some stuff. Argentine writer Jorge Luís Borges said (obvious?) that in order to remember you must forget.
In one of the contact sheets where I used a Russian swivel lens panoramic camera called a Horizont there were two snaps of Alex in what must have been his Delaware farm. I checked the dates for past hosta conventions and of course there was one in Washington that year.
Finding that photograph of Alex, which I am now only
starting to remember, is much like capturing Rosa ‘Reine Victoria’. Alex died four years later. The Horizont
picture and the charming portraits of
Alex wearing a beard somehow now make me smile as a I remember (I never did a
Borges forget) a man who befriended my granddaughter Rebecca. She was the only
one willing to sit with him in the bus tours in the 2003 Falls Church, Virginia