Sunday, 1 February 2009

Shopping for Seeds and Raiding the Archives

If this was a blog about my life, I would tell you about my discovery of Fleet Foxes and how their album is absolutely beautiful. I would tell you about how my boyfriend has nearly finished our new bathroom and how I have had to summon up all my patience, telling myself that I will be worth the wait. I would tell you about my successes at baking. (Andy is very good at cooking cakes and we are always in competition to see whose is the best) and I would tell you about my disappointment that HFW is charging £110 per ticket for the annual River Cottage members evening (hence we won't be going!) but I won't because this blog is about my garden and my photography. But if it was about my life, then I wouldn't have left it so long between postings as my gardening pursuits have only extended to looking out of the kitchen window.
I have stayed firmly indoors this January, apart from leaving the house for essentials, work and shopping for instance and I am pleased that we have now left that month behind. I don't do Winter very well and I have been feeling a tad 'down in the dumps' these past few weeks but with the promise of lighter evenings, my heart feels a little lighter today
I did venture out and took a turn around the garden once, only to find a plant which I had put in my summer house to protect from the frost had copped it. It was a succulent which I had bought on my trip to Trebah gardens in Cornwall, early last year. I wonder how my dahlia tubers will fare under their blanket of compost? This Winter has been considerably colder; the upside being that bugs and pests which have been surviving in our warmer Winters of late may have also gone the way of my Aeonium arboreum 'Atropurpureum'
Although I haven't done any physical gardening, I have been shopping on the Internet and made the most of Thompson & Morgans offer of free p & p. I ordered my potatoes for chitting. I chose Charlotte again as they were easy to grow and very yummy. I ordered garlic, which I am going to start off in modules in the summer house. I hope this will give them a better chance, away from the Winter wet. I am going to try more legumes this year. I ordered, Runner Bean 'Painted Lady' and Pea 'Hurst Green Shaft', and I am trying Parsnips this year for the first time and of course Carrots 'Adelaide F1 Hybrid. That's it for veg for now, so it will be onto ordering salads and tomatoes and I will be trying cucumber as well this year.
On the photography front, I read last weekend that an Austrian artist is saving Polaroid film from extinction. To celebrate, I reached for my Polaroid camera, from the shelf and promptly photographed my daughter with the remains of a bowl of melted chocolate, leftovers from the cupcakes I had just adorned. She was amazed that I had just fired off a Polaroid as I had been saving them for 'special' photographs only - an explanation ensued! (Not that she isn't special enough!)
In the absence of any new garden photography, I have raided the archives and found some images which I had scanned onto disc. These black and white photographs were made long before digital photography was even heard of. I photographed the plants on good old Ilford film and after developing the film, I took watercolour paper and painted it with silver gelatin (This had to be done in the dark, without using the red safety light ) After a couple of coats the paper was ready for the enlarger. Various exposures on test strips later, the paper could be exposed for the correct amount of time and then into the 3 baths and then a 4th holding a super fixer. The paper was then washed to get rid of the chemicals and you can see from the photograph of the closed sunflower, that not all the chemicals were washed off properly.

I showed these photographs to Val Williams, many years ago ( she was the curator at the
Hassleblad museum in Germany) and she liked them and said I should sell these to galleries. Sadly I didn't pursue this and now you can do this all in photoshop; it's no longer an art form.
I sometimes feel that photographers today have it oh so easy. It's just a matter of pressing a button. But do you really learn anything that way? The hours spent in the dark room, perfecting that one print has gone now. You certainly learnt by your mistakes but I wouldn't have it any other way. I feel quite privileged to be part of the 'old school' but equally love this new technology. The best of both worlds!


Arum Lily


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