Friday, June 7, 2013

The Significance of the Insignificant Flower: or,

As I've written several times before (see "My Macro Lens and Me"), I photograph with a narrow eye; expansive I am not. Once in awhile I can capture a barn in a field, but large areas of garden overwhelm my brain. Just like crowds and malls and large urban train stations, gardens in bloom distract and then quickly engulf me. I go into full sensory overload. However, unlike crowds and malls and large urban train stations, gardens don't make me shut down or feel the urge to flee. But I also don't feel the urge to pick up my camera. Where to focus when everything is singing (or screaming) to be photographed?

I AM working on this, but, for now, it's back to my macro lens. And what shows that off better than teensy, tiny flowers that look like points of light or nothing at all in a landscape photo?

For instance, Siberian Miner's Lettuce makes a lovely ground cover for part-shade, 

but you have to get close to really admire the individual flowers.  The common name "Candy Flower" makes more sense now.

Claytonia sibirica

 It's true that plants with distinctive foliage like the Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' are often grown just for the attractive green and white leaves alone.  And they're pretty cool. . . . I mean, leaves are good. . . . I like leaves. (sound of drumming fingers). . . . . Leaves are important. (more drumming)   However, I don't think I'd have bought the plants (I have several) without those tiny, blue flowers in spring.
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
And then there are the plants that offer little more than a boring clump of leaves that grow in the shade. At least the Brunnera is varigated. Take the bland (really bland) Epimedium. For me, they were just some plants that suffered silently in the shade until part-way into summer, they'd shrivel and die. I'd water the dead leaves. And watch them stay pretty much dead except for one or two that would revive. Exciting stuff. I mean the common names are things like "Bishop's Hat" and "Barren Wort."  What do you expect?   But THIS year was different! Not only are they thriving (yes, they weren't as dead as they looked), but they bloody well flowered!  A little.

Epimedium x rubrum

 Not the prettiest posies in the world, but there they were, waving around under the (boring) leaves, trying to get my attention.  And they did.

 Right now, my absolute favorite is the glasses-not-optional flowers of the 'Purple Fantasy' Fleeceflower:

Yes, the Polygonum microcephalum (Persicaria microcephala synonym) does have cool leaves and a kind of odd-ball shape filled with kinks and unexpected patterns. But the teensy, tiny flowers just blew me away. You REALLY need a macro lens and some cropping to get a close look. But it's worth it.

What are your favorite "insignificant" flowers?


  1. Mine would be the flowers of Wild Currant (Ribes americanum). Dangling charteuse flowers that are lovely in a mass, charming up close. I agree with you about Brunnera, by the way, and about foliage (yes, it's so important, right, absolutely) in general.

    1. I had to Google those. They ARE charming! Haven't seen them before. And I've found one great use for the Brunnera foliage is as a screen for the fading, flopping Bleeding Hearts.

  2. I find myself doing that, loving a lens for a while, looking closely at leaves, and foliage, flowers...and then suddenly wanting to take photos of wide open spaces.

    Sometimes I feel that I am so immersed in the details of life that I miss the big picture...but the details are so important.

    Great shots...and I still love Epimedium.


    1. My husband loves it too. He pointed out the pretty red edging on the leaves. I miss the big picture a lot. I'm terrible at landscaping.

  3. Love the details...and the Brunnera

  4. Thanks, Dee Dee! I appreciate it. You know, I'm all about the details. ; -)

  5. Hi Emily, I really like the close-up of the brunnera anf the "floating" heads of the claytonia. I guess my favourite insignificant flowers that I have in the garden would be those of thyme and rosemary.

    1. Thank you, Sunil! I love thyme flowers too, but my rosemary rarely flowers. Don't know why.