Wednesday Vignette – the difference light can make

Equisetum hyemaleSeeing this Equisetum glowing, lit by the afternoon sun, made me think of how important the proper lighting is to how we experience things. Had it not been backlit like that, I probably would have wandered right by it. As it was, I screeched to a halt, turned around, and ran for my camera.

Equisetum hyemale

Foliage or flower makes no difference. Once you’ve seen it presented like this, you kind of want to see it like that again… no? I know I do. Well placed light can elevate the mundane to the sublime, and rarely is that more true than in a garden.

Equisetum hyemale

A long time ago, I worked for a place that designed Aquariums for cities around the world. I remember working on a particular Sea otter tank. Our goal was to create the otters’ favorite place in a place where they could be seen by the public. If we were to have created these gunnite rock formations in such a way that their favorite hangout was out of sight of visitors, we would have failed. In a sense, this thinking could – and should – be applied to creating gardens too. To so many of us, the enjoyment of a garden is relegated to specific times – like early morning, or after work. Garden designers talk a lot about seasonality, and year-round appeal, but wouldn’t it be great if in addition to that, more designers would strive to place the most dramatic light catchers in places where their most vivid displays would correlate to the times they would actually be enjoyed? Granted, it would involve more research and time spent on-site than most of us usually get, and certainly a more in-depth knowledge of the end-users habits, but still… It’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it?

Equisetum hyemale - horse tail rush

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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29 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – the difference light can make

  1. Cath says:

    That’s so true, and often the dramatic light is at the start and end of day. It’s such a complex and lovely thing to think about, since you would have to take into account the movement of the sun over the seasons in terms of where it rises and sets, the different height of the sun at a particular time of day at each time of the year, the different habits of the people in different seasons – and then map that against the plants and the state they are in at different times of year. And then there’s the weather which can add seasonal dramatic lighting and the way that plants change over the years to affect light and shade in case you think you’ve got it cracked. 🙂

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh, I’m well aware of all that, Cath. There are so many aspects of the light itself. That’s why I said designers would need more time than they normally get, to get to know a garden. And of course, plants vary a great deal in their ability to turn translucent. Something to stew on indeed! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Wednesday Vignette – A Tough Day at the Office | Railway Parade House and Garden

  3. mattb325 says:

    That’s a beautiful capture of the light!
    Luminescence can make the ordinary, extraordinary.
    It is actually easy for garden designers to do what you say: I use sun calculations to ensure 10 year tree heights won’t cast a client’s house into dense shade in winter (this is especially important given how many evergreens I specify for use here in Australia), but given how many tools there are on-line, you can work out sun angles almost without ever stepping foot on a clients property.
    I often use this one: as it is lovely and visual and shows the arc via google maps for any time of the year.

    Here is my contribution :

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Matt! Oh yes – letting the light in in the first place is definitely key – thanks for the link! That, and selecting plants will take on that kind of glow. I suppose most would emit some kind of light, but certain plants truly excel at it – like grasses, bold, large-leaved tropicals, that sort of thing. I know I shouldn’t generalize, because most plants look fabulous when the light hits them right, but some are just extra spectacular. For example, I don’t grow Japanese Bloodgrass yet, even though it knocks me speechless when I see it done right. I just don’t have a spot where it will do that kind of thing – yet! I foresee some future change to that… 😉

  4. rusty duck says:

    I saw grasses backlit by a low sun at Rosemoor garden recently and it is definitely a trick I want to try in my own garden.

  5. FlowerAlley says:

    Good again. Light fills up certain leaves and flowers. Good placement means you don’t have to stoop down (or lie on the ground) to see this. My elephant ears are my favorite at this.

  6. Peter/Outlaw says:

    A great thought and beautiful pictures! My Wednesday Vignette can be found here:

  7. Beautimus, Miss Anna. Agreed on your points about garden design. At least at the nursery we can highlight to customers which plants will do what and guide them. That counts for something, right?? 🙂

  8. Alison says:

    With all the very tall Douglas firs surrounding my neighborhood, I seldom see the right slant of late afternoon or early morning light for capturing great photos. I just have to make do. My Wednesday Vignette bids good-bye to summer. It’s here:

  9. rickii says:

    My lead vignette is about light too…a different kind:
    You so eloquently put the whole concept into words.

    • annamadeit says:

      Light is such a timely topic this time of year, isn’t it? Especially since I was just stumbling around in the dark outside, with a hose in my hand, trying to water my dry garden. Mind you, that’s the only thing I miss about summer…

  10. Pingback: Wednesday Vignette: Autumn | Forest Garden

  11. What beautiful light! It is like magical stained glass. I have a series of vignettes of our first autumn foliage:

  12. Kris P says:

    It is beautiful, and you’re so right that gardeners need to take advantages of the little acts of magic nature provides us to work with. Coincidentally, my (somewhat late) Wednesday Vignette is also all about the magic of light:

  13. Evan says:

    Those equisetum stems are beautiful! Lighting makes a huge difference. My first day at the new job today involved visiting a landscape on Sauvie Island to move some plants and rework the design. I found myself thinking of how things would be lit when viewed from the house and other points around the property. It’s so open there, you can see the sun from rise to set. It should be taken advantage of. My vignette this week is about light, too! I also combined it with another post about the Gerdemann Botanic Preserve.

  14. annamadeit says:

    What an exciting task for a first day! Can’t wait to hear more…

  15. Pingback: Wednesday Vignettes: Flow | Forest Garden

  16. Pingback: Wednesday Vignettes: Fall Flowers | Forest Garden

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