Too Much Fun

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Photography

I knew my Ribes sanguineum was crying out to be photographed.  A siren song really.   She beckoned and seduced me away from the solitude of a day indoors, her charms naked and ripe for the camera.

But where to start exploring this beauty?

Well, I didn’t start with this photo.  It took some serious ogling and getting acquainted before I could match up the “V” shapes of the Viburnum (left rear), to the vase shape of the Ribes, and still use the dark negative space to reinforce all those dancing lines and complimentary triangles.

I began exploring with a few standard opening photos.  “Oh, you look lovely today, let me take your picture”.  She was coy and led me on.  Brazenly she presented one of her voluptuous florets blushing with anticipation.

Ribes sanguineum

Too bold and caught breathless by her brazen display wrapped in leaves heralding her centerfold status, I pulled aside, hid behind a veil, re-focused, and made this same beauty more demure.

Ribes sanguineum

The softness and intimacy accented now with a wide camera aperture and telephoto lens, the voyeur peeks in on the maiden in her boudoir as she prepared to display her most delicate details.  “Come close” she whispered.

Ribes sanguineum macro flower

The macro lens now isolating one single tiny flower, its precious private unfolding is a secret known only to me and the pollinating bees.  And now you the salacious reader.  Have I revealed too much of her ? too much of myself ?

I now know well this most showy of  California native shrubs, a volunteer in my front meadow.   She now presents more complex angles, trusting my camera to flatter what she flaunts this day in the garden.

I have been watching her for nearly an hour by now and am relaxed, seeing better compositions, comfortable in her company.  My camera dances and captures momentary moods I would not have seen if I had quickly left after our initial passionate discovery.  Subtleties are revealed.  I back off a bit and see the photo that opens this post.

The most complex of all my work is often the last photo taken.  It can be an exhausting process finding that one culminating picture.  But I have studied this beauty for some time now, I see the symmetry of lines the branches make.  I see nature’s harmonious pattern of blossoms, replicated inversely in negative space that matches the dark holly leaves of my shrub border.  A tapestry of textures is my reward for having watched my sweet Ribes reveal her beauty to me.

Ribes sanguineum,shrub border tapestry

Once I make this picture I am done. I am spent and quickly walk away.  Ribes study complete . . . until the next siren song.  I think I hear the bold red call of R. sanguineum “King Edward VII” across the garden …. Too much fun.

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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Lisa at Greenbow April 7, 2010, 6:07 am

You rascal. You are having too much fun out in the spring sunshine. I have never seen this shrub before. It is a beauty.

My favorite California native . . . after my wife of course … – Saxon

Salix April 7, 2010, 8:48 am

Ribes along with forsythia are common – early blooming – garden shrubs in Denmark and your post brings happy thoughts.
Thank you for yet another photo “class” session.

The Ribes are so fine here and seem to seed themselves just where they belong – Saxon

Mr. McGregor's Daughter April 7, 2010, 10:27 am

I’ll never look at a Ribes the same way again.

I should hope not – Saxon

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings April 7, 2010, 12:42 pm

She is lovely. Thanks Saxon for such a revealing post.~~Dee

Spring does things to us all — Saxon

Laurie April 7, 2010, 3:06 pm

Thanks – I thoroughly enjoyed that!

. . . and I rather enjoyed it myself – Saxon

Shellene April 7, 2010, 11:09 pm

Phew…. That was quite an intoxicating description of Ribes! Now I must have one in my garden!

Very easy in California and wants to be pretty dry in summer. But even as a short lived shrub elsewhere it is well worth its exuberant display. – Saxon

Town Mouse April 8, 2010, 12:10 am

What a great color! I’m assuming she didn’t just blush because go got so close and personal — mine are a much paler pink. What fun!

Color seems to vary a lot. This one volunteered from a R.s ‘Claremont’ that up and died a couple years ago, and yes I am sure she is a bit flushed by all the excitement of spring. The R.s ‘King Edward VII’ I mention is a very hot red. – Saxon

Scott April 8, 2010, 12:25 pm

I wish i had room for more shrubs…and this would definitely be one I’d give a space. Every spring when I see them around town I fall in love all over again…and then their is the fruit!

Every autumn when I see the ripe currants I think I should eat them. But I know the birds prefer them more than I – Saxon

Chookie April 8, 2010, 7:07 pm

Oh dear, this is difficult. I take it the two sticks are the V-for-Viburnum, but don’t see why they’re important in the first picture. My eye is drawn to the right where the flowers stand out against the “dark negative space” (That right?). But I’m at a loss for the “dancing lines and complimentary triangles”!

Hmmm . . . Look at the picture as a whole, un focus your eyes and look beyond. It might help to look at a slightly larger and more distinct version by clicking on the image – Saxon

Dirty Girl Gardening April 9, 2010, 12:02 pm

These really are just wonderful shrubs… so easy to grow.

— for those of us who live in California. I have a feeling they would not do as well in humid or cold climates – Saxon

healingmagichands April 12, 2010, 12:17 pm

My, my, my! This was the most sensuous and sensual post I have read for quite some time. You really caught the whole aura of sexuality that flowers exude, and I really enjoyed the whole lay-out, especially the very intimate macro. That last photo would make a devilishly hard and beautiful jigsaw puzzle!

This post also made me long for the luxury of time with just one plant. I tend to get so distracted by the need to weed or mulch or whatever that I can’t just sit with the camera, the light, and the beauty before me. What I’d really like is if a convention of photographers would come over and explore the nooks and crannies of the garden I have been making here at the Havens. It would be so interesting to view it through other eyes and minds. If there is one thing that GGW has taught me, it is the incredible varieties of points of view that exist in this busy world.

Thanks for another wonderful post.

Linda April 20, 2010, 11:36 pm

I love your Ribes (and mine too). There’s so much to be said for a dependable, fuss-free native shrub, even in the damper Pacific Northwest.

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