Favorite Photos of 2015

– Posted in: Garden Photography

I thought selecting my favorite photos of 2015 would be easy for my final Gardening Gone Wild  post of the year. That is, until I had to actually narrow down the choices.

What follows are surely 10 of my favorite photos, but I can’t say they are my absolute favorites – my overall list is 26.

This is a broad mix of photos, some from my garden travels, some of my landscape shots, some of my art and extractions, and some from work to be published next year. I do seem to dabble in many things:

Alnus tenuifolia - Mountain Alder; California native deciduous small tree, bare branches in winter in shrub border with Cornus

Alnus tenuifolia – Mountain Alder bare branches in winter in shrub border.

I still gasp when I see this photo, from the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Berkeley, California. I was shooting bare trees last January in that wonderful California native plant garden, and at the end of the day, after absorbing branches and patterns all day, these white branches of the Mountain Alder at the end of a border, with the garden in the background became a blend of shapes and colors I put into my art gallery.


Parkinsonia 'Desert Museum' hybrid Palo Verde, yellow flowering drought tolerant tree, with Century Plant, Agave in dry garden at Los Angeles Natural History Museum

Parkinsonia ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde tree at LA Natural History Museum

I made a trip to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum  especially to see the sustainable gardens that my friend Carol Bornstein is helping to create and curate. An early morning shoot with backlight allowed these Parkinsonia flowers to glow.


Oak trees (Quercus agrifolia) in California native plant garden around modern home on hill in evening light, Santa Barbara,

Quercus agrifolia in California native plant garden around modern home

High on a ridge in central California this modern home overlooks the Pacific ocean. These oak trees were planted to create sight lines within an entirely native plant garden.


Heteromeles arbutifolia 'Davis Gold' (Davis Gold Toyon) - A yellow-orange berried selection of the California native evergreen shrub

Heteromeles arbutifolia ‘Davis Gold’, Toyon – PhotoBotanic Extraction

I have been doing a series of PhotoBotanic “Extractions” over the years. An extraction is a botanic illustration from nature, where the elements of the plant are highlighted against the garden itself, as opposed to a studio illustration where the plant is drawn on a white background. This native Toyon shrub is a hedge by my front steps.


Webb Farmhouse, Meadow Garden, Longwood Garden, Pennsylvania

Webb Farmhouse, Meadow Garden, Longwood Garden, Pennsylvania

An entirely different native plant garden, here at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. This old farmhouse reminded me of Andrew Wyeth painting, sitting at the edge of the grand new meadow that is being planted at Longwood.


Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip poplar tree sprint leaves unfolding on tall trees with bue sky (Mount Cuba Center) Delaware

Liriodendron tulipifera – spring leaves unfolding with bue sky, Mount Cuba Center.

While on the same trip to the East Coast I visited The Mount Cuba Center For Piedmont Flora in Delaware just as the Tulip Poplar trees were budding out. This delicate moment of leaf unfolding is more fleeting than the flowering of more ornamental trees.


Acer palmatum dissectum atropurpureum, Red Cutleaf Japanese Maple tree, spring leaves unfolding, Winterthur Garden

Red Cutleaf Japanese Maple tree, spring leaves unfolding, Winterthur Garden

My trip to the East Coast was a lesson in leaf unfolding. Every day, in every different garden, I saw a different array of leaves budding out. Here is a beautiful Red Cut leaf Japanese Maple at Winterthur Garden in Delaware.


Connecticut meadow garden with native wildflowers; Larry Weiner Design

Connecticut meadow garden by lake with native wildflowers; Larry Weiner Design

On a summer trip to the East Coast I was able to photograph a couple of Larry Weiner’s beautiful meadow gardens in Connecticut. In this one, by a pond, the native flowers were in the lineup, seemingly just for me.


Nepeta ‘Walkers Low’, Oenothera pallida, and annual wildflowers bright yellow Layia gaillardioides and pale yellow Layia glandulosa; Kate Frey Garden

Nepeta, Oenothera, and Layia – pollinator flowers; Kate Frey garden.

Back in California, my friend Kate Frey, called me one day to say her bee pollinator garden was looking okay. Just okay?


Geranium nodosum 'Clos du Coudray', Robin Parer Geraneaceae nursery, art rendering

Geranium nodosum ‘Clos du Coudray’, Robin Parer Geraneaceae nursery

Perhaps my favorite project for the year was the new geranium book that my friend Robin Parer has just completed for Timber Press. The style of the book  places the flowers against a black background for identification. Creating these sorts of silhouettes for my PhotoBotanic illustration series was a joy.

I invite you to look at more of my favorite photos on my PhotoBotanic.com site. Next year I will be sharing more of my new books from PhotoBotanic here on Gardening Gone Wild.

Happy New Year to all. Onward into 2016 !

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic.com, 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 www.photobotanic.com. https://photobotanic.com
Saxon Holt

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15 comments… add one

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Linda Larson December 24, 2015, 6:34 pm

I visited Winterthur, Longwood & Mt. cuba in May this year. The Webb farmhouse shot is wonderful. I think I saw the same curly japanese maple tree in winterthur. The entry gate to mt cuba was magnificent Good choices on these gardens.

Saxon Holt December 24, 2015, 8:08 pm

I was there in late April and was amazed to see the leaves unfolding day by day.

Gayle Madwin December 24, 2015, 10:25 pm

I think the Japanese maple in the Winterthur Garden is hard to beat for classic appeal, and the bare mountain alders in the first photo are amazing in a whole new genre all their own.

I’m curious about the Webb Farmhouse photo, though, because I would have trimmed it very differently. I wouldn’t have wanted to cut off the top of the large tree in the upper left or the left half of the small tree on the left edge of the picture. Is there an advantage that I’m missing in composing the picture the way you did?

Beverly December 25, 2015, 8:52 am

The famous Winterthur estate is in Delaware, NOT PENNSYLVANIA.

Janice M LeCocq December 25, 2015, 11:29 am

Thank you, Saxon, for such a nice post. I always find your images inspirational and look forward to seeing them on Gardening Gone Wild! Have a very successful 2016

Saxon Holt December 25, 2015, 6:54 pm

Yikes ! I have corrected the mistake. Thanks Beverly. All those famous gardens are so close to each other. Longwood and Chanticleer in PA. Mt. Cuba and Winterthur in DE

Saxon Holt December 25, 2015, 6:57 pm

Thanks Janice – I appreciate your great comments and kind words. Best wishes to you to in 2016

Saxon Holt December 25, 2015, 7:05 pm

Gayle – Great question. I really appreciate you looking closely at composition since I teach about “filling the frame” and making every part of the photo be important. The large tree is cropped just enough to hold it in the frame. I think any air over top of it would be too loose. I call this the 60 minutes tv show effect, where you always see the top of the head of the person being interviewed cut off. Cropping in creates a sense of immediacy and tension.

The crop on the far left is much more subjective. I like leaving that little tree, hinting there are more woods off in that direction (as there is)

Green Gal December 28, 2015, 2:44 pm

Absolutely gorgeous photos! My favorite of these is the Connecticut meadow garden by lake one. Stunning!

Saxon Holt December 29, 2015, 10:27 am

Thanks Gal – More photos of that garden in my PhotoBotanic galleries:

Les December 29, 2015, 12:04 pm

I think my favorites are the Liriodendron, which easily calls to mind a favorite time of the year, and the Japanese maple, whose patterns are almost psychedelic.

Saxon Holt December 29, 2015, 4:49 pm

Thanks Les – The trees really captured me this year and especially when I travel I get captivated by what I don’t get to see in CA. (I am writing this from Tidewater – now visiting family…)

Caroline December 30, 2015, 10:27 am

the photos of the Liriodendron tulipifera and Japanese maple are my favorites. Happy New year!

Saxon Holt December 31, 2015, 12:45 pm

Thanks Caroline – That is now two of you that liked those same two photos. Hmmmmm – maybe a print project in the works. Happy New Year !

Jean at Jean's Garden January 4, 2016, 10:53 pm

Wonderful photos. I especially love those flowering eastern tree canopies.

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