Garden Photo of the Day

Shape in the Garden

Focusing on structure and form

Kat in Northumberland County, Ontario, shared some photos and thoughts on gardening with children and embracing color in the garden earlier, and today she’s got a set of photos to share on the theme of shape in the garden.

For me, photographing the garden is almost as significant an experience as working in it. I had a camera as a teenager, and I remember how careful I had to be about how many pictures I took, since development of each roll of film was a major investment relative to my allowance. What an astonishing difference now, to have a powerful digital camera in my pocket all the time, to experiment with light and angles freely, to capture along with every image the day and the time that the plants in the garden looked this way, to follow the same structures through the seasons and to document the impermanent shapes for the moments they exist. And my gardener education has been aided by plant identification apps, giving real-time names and descriptions to what I find in the yard and at the garden center. I love the intersection of science and art in gardening, and photography is the best way for me to enjoy where they meet.

columbineThis columbine (Aquilegia hybrid, Zones 4–8), standing at attention, had the most personality of the garden blooms.

BaptisiaBaptisia has been planted throughout my gardens; if I have a signature plant, this is it. The structures change dramatically through the season, from the early colorful spires in spring, to the strong, shrublike growth in summer, and finishing with the Halloween shapes of blackened branches and seedpods in fall.

wild columbineThe wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis, Zones 3–8) is native to our area; I like how its nodding flower looks like a dragon.

PeoniesPeonies grow beautifully here, and mine came with the house, growing for decades long before we got here. They are late bloomers, and I wait for them eagerly, watching the neighbors’ peonies burst open first. Mine are late to the party but arrive super fancy and huge.

morning gloryLast year I experimented with growing moon flowers at the side of the deck. Now I’m experimenting with vines, with growing morning glories from seed and hydrangea vines on my garden arch, and with saving the offspring of a transplanted clematis, almost lost in a fit of weeding. This morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea, annual) held off blooming until fall and was one of the last flowers we had this year.

giant sunflowersOur giant sunflowers (Helianthus annuus, annual) were hosts to a diverse insect population. I feel like this picture, taken from below, almost shows the weight of the flower and the seeds. The stalks drooped soon after, and we decorated the back stump with the dried heads, leaving a feast for the local wildlife.

winter in the gardenWinter in the garden, when the last shapes are those made of metal, for specific functions, and the evergreens and columnar grasses. I’m counting down to next year already.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

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To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

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View Comments


  1. sandyprowse 01/31/2020

    Hello fellow Ontario gardener. I really enjoyed looking a the flowers in your garden and your enthusiastic thoughts on gardening. I am not familiar with Baptisia but will certainly write that down and investigate one for my Toronto garden in the spring. The winter photo is amazing too, thanks for including that.

    1. k0kat 01/31/2020

      Thanks very much! Enjoy the baptisia when you find it - just make sure you put it where it will stay. It’s a taproot so won’t like being moved later.

  2. rosys_villa 01/31/2020

    Oh wow! Your pictures are stunning and. your plant materials are reproducible here in Minnesota! Thanks so much for sharng your talents both in your garden and behind a lens.

  3. rosys_villa 01/31/2020

    PS -- your writing skills are impressive too. :)

  4. User avater
    user-7007816 01/31/2020

    You've inspired me to take more pictures next year. Your close-ups of flowers are stunning. Thank you for sharing.

  5. User avater
    simplesue 01/31/2020

    That was really enjoyable reading along with the great photos.
    I got a real feeling for you and your garden from this post.
    Nice the way you ended the summer story with the current season and a photo of winter.
    I like the concept of "a signature plant" for a made me think about what mine would be.
    I hope you post again and show us all of your Baptisia in it's various stages.
    Again, I really enjoyed your little story and photos on your pretty garden!

  6. btucker9675 01/31/2020

    Such a lovely garden! I love baptisia and had it in northern NJ. I planted one in my front bed here in NC, but it didn't really do anything so I'll be interested to see what happens in the Spring. Garden gloves fingers crossed!

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