Leaf Quiz

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Photography

A couple weeks ago, on November 19, I photographed 9 plants in my garden that had orange fall foliage.  Nine; one day; orange (not the yellows, not reds or greens); in my garden.  I was thrilled.  After years of planning my garden for fall color, I needed to get to work with my camera.

I decided to make a very special composite photograph of all nine leaves silhouetted on white background.  I’ll take you through the rather involved process, but for those who are the real plant nuts, we will have a quiz.  Can you identify all nine ?  As correct guesses come in, I will let you know which are correct and you can add additional comments.

The first to get all nine will get an original 12×18 signed print of one with all the silhouettes at the bottom of the post.  It is a limited edition of 10.  This first composite is nice but not so hard to do:

Click photo then click again to see larger

Acer palmatum  #1

Diospyros ‘Fuyu’

Rhododendron ‘Flame’

Stewartia monadelpha

Cornus florida

Cotinus ‘Grace’

Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’

Vitis ‘Roger’s Red’

Parrotia persica

As much as I love the native California flora, there are few plants that have strong fall color and none of these 9 here in my garden are native.  I don’t know why there is so little autumn color in the CA natives but since I love the warm glow of fall, I long ago turned to other plants for my front yard where I irrigate.

In order for the composite photo to mean something special to me, I wanted to photograph each leaf on the plant itself and not take it into the studio or put it under a flatbed scanner.  It is a much harder challenge on many levels, as wind, depth of field, and criss-crossing leaves make it hard to isolate a single good specimen leaf.

Here is the Japanese Maple tree leaf in the opening photo to this post.

japanese maple raw

The first steps were to correct the color and fix the defects.  There was big glob of dirt on my camera sensor (look at the window area) and several crossed leaf tips that had to be rebuilt in PhotoShop.  In order to create the silhouettes I use a PhotoShop plug in from Topaz Labs and then cloned in color from other parts of the leaf to fill it  out to the tips.

japanese maple with callouts

Now I had the silhouetted leaf and added type into a new layer of the cleaned up file.

maple tree leaf silhouette

Without getting too techno geek on the rest of the images, I will simply say I created a template for all nine cleaned up photos and dropped them in once they were cleaned up.  Note each leaf is in the exact same place as the original composite at the top.

leaves x9 no ID

For those of you who want to know the ID on all nine but don’t want to wait for me to fill in the post with the reader comments, if you click on the final image it will go to my PhotoBotanic Archive where you can order (Add to Cart) a personal license download for $0 with all nomenclature.  No one would peek there first before commenting on a guess would they?

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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DAY November 29, 2011, 6:59 am

No guesses from me!
I live on the opposite side of the country, and also work with leaves, mostly collected within a few hundred feet of my ceramic studio.
Instead of Photoshop, I use underglazes for colors, and fire the results at 2000 degrees, Instant fossil!

Very cool ! I am looking into a service that can make glazed tiles with photos but it pales in comparison to what you do. bravo ! – Saxon

Laura November 29, 2011, 9:06 am

Without cheating I think I can identify only 5

1 is the Acer
4 is the Cotinus
5 the vitis
8 the rhododendron
and 9 is the persimmon Diospyros

I might know they other trees but not from their latin names and for sure I can’t identify them by the leaves.

Lovely photos and even more wonderful composition.

I love the color of Fall.

OK Laura ! You have got us started.
1 is of course the Japanese maple – Acer palmatum
4 is Cotinus ‘Grace’ with her really big leaves
5 is Roger’s Red’ grape vine (now known to NOT be a CA native)
8 is the rhododendron ‘Flame’ named for the brilliant yellow orange flower by the way
9 is indeed the Fuyu persimmon nestled in an overlarge Morning Light miscanthus

Five done 4 left. For anyone following my Facebook page, 2 of the remaining 4 were identified on my wall a week ago… Saxon

Benjamin Vogt November 29, 2011, 9:34 am

Lovely, Saxon. It does take years to get plants into good color mode, and then it depends on the weather to boot! A lot of those leaves look itea and viburnum to me, not what you list. Argh.

Sorry to say my Viburnum don’t get this nice orange color. Saxon

Joni Holland November 29, 2011, 10:30 am

How cool was this? And I love the process!

Always fun to learn new things – Saxon

wyominglife November 29, 2011, 11:45 am

Ah, Saxon! You made me think of my college ceramics class where we did Raku firing techniques with leaves!

Thanks for the photo tips. I have done similar arranging only with real leaves modge-podged onto handmade paper and framed. Same effect and something I always enjoy looking at, especially since I live in Wyoming where our fall color can be very short lived.

Your photo version would last much longer.

Part of the idea of my process was to first show the leaf actually on the tree rather than out of context, though I must admit I love the idea of a real leaf being framed. – Saxon

Debra Lee Baldwin November 29, 2011, 12:58 pm

Here in Southern CA, we have liquidambar and pomegranates showing fall color. Nice post, Saxon — I always appreciate your photo tips and techniques!

We have lots of liquidambar here too though none in my garden. Many pistaches as well are in glorious color right now, but mine is yellow this year, even though I selected it in the fall for what was then its salmon/orange fall display – Saxon

vbdb November 29, 2011, 2:12 pm

Now this is my idea of art – how beautiful! The other dogwoods are #3 (C. Florida) and #7 (C. Eddie’s White Wonder). Although I think you meant “persica” for Persian Ironwood rather than persicaria, but I don’t know which is one it is – #2 or #6.

Thanks for the correction on my spelling for the Parrotia – which I will now correct in the post lest anyone else discover this…
And yes! you correctly identified the two Dogwoods. Two left… – Saxon

Dennis Westler November 29, 2011, 2:39 pm

Didn’t want to look at previous comments, so here are my guesses. It was not easy, except for of them. the Cotinus, Vitis, and Rhododendron were obvious, and the Acer was a giveaway! I was pretty sure of the Persimmon (so i hope i got that one right as well).
1.Acer palmatum
2. Parrotia
3.Cornus florida
4. Cotinus
5. Vitis
6. Stewartia
7. Diospyros
8. Rhododendron
9. Cornus “Eddy’s White Wonder”

OK Dennis – you did not get them all correct, though if you had looked at previous comments I bet you would have, because you are the first to be correct on the Parrotia and Stewartia. Are you following the comments ? You may want to add a new one with all correct. – Saxon

Dennis Westler November 29, 2011, 2:41 pm

Reading Saxon’s comment to Laura, I can see I was overconfident! Oh well…..

Keep trying Dennis, no one has the all correct yet. – Saxon

Louise Warner November 29, 2011, 3:43 pm

I had no idea you get such lovely fall colours in California. I’ve always comforted myself over living in a lacklustre climate (Z5A Ontario) with the thought that at least we get such a beautiful fall…

Acer palmatum #1
Diospyros ‘Fuyu’ #9
Rhododendron ‘Flame’ #8
Stewartia monadelpha #6
Cornus florida #7
Cotinus ‘Grace’ #4
Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ #3
Vitis ‘Roger’s Red’ #5
Parrotia persicaria #2

Louise you are close and each has been identified correctly by someone, but no-one has put it all together yet. Can you beat Dennis back to the comments to win the print ?

These plants were carefully selected for my Northern California garden and represent an isolated patch of fall color. Nothing like the overwhelming fall color you get. – Saxon

Jessica November 29, 2011, 4:23 pm

No guess’s from me but I love the intensity of the colors, and love your photoshop work!

Thanks Jessica – It’s fun to have a tool that enables me to express. – Saxon

Cheryl Renshaw November 29, 2011, 6:03 pm

Am I in time? Stealing blatently from the other replies, I get:

1. Acer palmatum
2. Parrotia persica
3. Cornus florida
4. Cotinus ‘Grace’ (mine is mostly brown and yellow with a few oranges)
5. Vitis ‘Roger’s Red’
6. Stewartia monadelpha
7. Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’
8. Rhododendron ‘Flame’
9. Diospyros ‘Fuyu’


Bingo! Stealing blatantly shows you are paying attention. You are correct and I’ll send you a print. – Saxon

Louise Warner November 29, 2011, 6:22 pm

I’ve switched the two Cornus around?

It should be:

Acer palmatum #1
Diospyros ‘Fuyu’ #9
Rhododendron ‘Flame’ #8
Stewartia monadelpha #6
Cornus florida #3
Cotinus ‘Grace’ #4
Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ #7
Vitis ‘Roger’s Red’ #5
Parrotia persica #2

Louise – Cheryl beat you by 27 minutes, clearly she “stole” your work. 🙂 I’ll send you a Artist Proof of the print. – Saxon

ESP November 30, 2011, 4:35 pm

Hi Saxon.
Curious, what is the Photoshop plug-in called?

There is a link to the filter in the post, from Topaz Labs – ReMask. Fun

Louise Warner November 30, 2011, 8:02 pm

What a great prize for me. Fall is my favourite time of year in the garden, and I’ve just moved into my first house and have very empty walls. This Artist Proof will get pride of place – I love your work. Thank you so much.

I think you will like it – a lot. Thanks for playing along. – Saxon

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