Gardens

My plan to take a walk in the garden this weekend came to nothing. We had a scare; a work contact tested positive for COVID. On Saturday we took an appointment for a test, and began to isolate. On Sunday night we found we were negative. Relief and frustration were the theme of the weekend. Relief at escaping the infection once again, and frustration about my plans for flower photography. So I had to search my hard disk for old images.

The featured image and the one above were taken in 2013 in Shillong’s Lady Hydari Park at the very end of October. The flowers are beginning to dry up. Photography made me begin to look closer at nature, and these photos marked a turning point for me. After looking at these flowers I found myself reading more about the structure of flowers. Each of these things, which I had taken to be a single flower should be properly called a pseudanthium, or a compound flower. Each is a collection of many flowers. It turns out that the lovely red and pink “petals” are each a complete flower. They are called ray flowers. Each of the central yellow flowers is also a complete flower and is called a disk flower. Single flowers only ever have three, four, five or six petals. Anything else is a compound flower.

I skip forty years

Lewis Carroll

I can hardly hope to match Carroll’s nonsense, but I skip four years to the next photo. It was taken on a rainy day early in October on the Kaas plateau. The plateau is full of plants which can’t be found anywhere else, and most of them flower in a week or two at the end of the monsoon. What I makes this image special to me is neither the flower, nor the whorls of hairy leaves which protect it, but the way the hairs prevented the rain water from wetting the plant . On this plateau, which is dry for nine months of the year, you can be sure that this is an adaptation which has survival value.

The next one is not a particularly beautiful flower, but three things give it a value to me. First, that it was the first flower I photographed after emerging from last year’s hard lockdown. Simple pleasures like walking in a garden seemed so unusual! I had only my mobile phone with me. But these phone cameras can now capture the delicacy of the light. That’s the second special thing about this photo: that the lovely mild colours were taken with a phone camera. And third, this is another kind of a not-so-simple flower. The large “petals” are modified leaves, and the real flower is the small five-petalled yellow thing.

This set of three images of the same flower come from the new camera I bought last year. It’s a great tool for flower identification. As I began to learn more about flowers I realized that identifying wild flowers is much easier when you pay attention to the whole plant. That’s why a wider view like the first is useful. But when you go close, those details require focus stacking; the image on the left is a composite with several different focal lengths. It also needed a digital equivalent of an ND filter to even out the light across the photo. The middle is a crop with one of the exposures, chosen to keep the focus on the yellow pollen sacs. The final photo is a closer crop of another exposure, which emphasizes the soft texture of the petals, and the way they repel the rain.

I wish I’d been able to walk out into a garden this weekend, but dipping into these old photos, especially viewing them in the different ways suggested by multiple challenges, was also quite a treat for me. It’s also a nice way to say thanks to people who have been trying to create communities from bloggers.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

36 comments

  1. In the place where I grew up, there were a lot of Mussaenda philippica trees in the neighborhood. My friends and I liked to pick the dainty yellow flower and stripped it off its petals to reveal a very sticky pistil which we then put on our forehead. I don’t know why we did that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Good news really, but the risks will eventually catch up with us. The good thing is that if you are fully vaccinated and not severly immuno-compromised then omicron seems to be very mild.

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  2. That’s a good way to describe our feelings during the pandemic….relief and frustration! I’m so glad you tested negative. That is a relief. We are trying to stay healthy, too. It’s a challenge now, isn’t it? Your flowers are gorgeous! I love the one taken after the monsoon. The protective device is fascinating and another of nature’s small miracles.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The info about compound flowers is fascinating – as so often I have learned something new from your blog 🙂 But I’m surprised you’re not even permitted to walk in your own garden while isolating? That wouldn’t be an issue here, as it’s private – we’re just not allowed to leave our own property.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was scrolling the Reader tab when I saw the Zinnia against your post. Couldn’t resist clicking it open immediately and now I know why :).
    These flowers made me so nostalgic. We used to have so many of them growing in our garden before. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Happy to hear you tested negative – it is a riot here now, the omikron. We have escaped it so far, but some of our friends had it lately. We don’t go out much either, so I understand your wanting to walk in the garden.

    Liked by 1 person

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