The paradox of living in a house within a garden that has a high international profile is that, until quite recently, it has tended to take the back seat as far as my photography is concerned. I juggle a full time job as a social worker (working at night and at weekends), with my garden photography (where my interest is really in whole gardens rather than individual plants) and a continuing commitment to actually work in our garden. In that juggling act it is hard to find to prioritise photographing my own garden.
Partly this is also because there are few magazines and newspapers that have not already featured the garden – in the UK at least- so placing the pics is not so easy. But there is also the fact that because I know the garden intimately and live with it as a constant background to my life, in some ways I find it difficult to “see” the garden with the fresh excitable eyes of a photographer visiting for the first time.
Winter changes all this. Then the weather has the ability to transform the garden into somewhere new and magical, even to me. Heavy snow changes everything. The hedges, weighed down by the think white blanket, bow and sag. The trees and shrubs change form and shape to become strange organic blobs and the sharp distinction between what is path and what are beds or borders is lost. The impact of heavy frost is not so dramatic but can be just as exciting.
What doesn’t change when photographing gardens in winter is the need for good light. On a grey overcast day those snowscapes will not “sing” no matter how clever I might be with Photoshop (and I am not that clever). And unless there is sun catching the frosted surfaces those architectural shapes and frosted outlines can look pretty dull. I have the additional handicap at the Veddw of our garden facing North and the slope of the surrounding hills means that for two weeks around the shortest day the sun never appears above the horizon. Time to have a lie in. And around the equinox the useful hours of daylight are very short indeed.
Fortunately we have a climate that can give us sharp frosts from November to March and snow might come any time in this wide window. Then, if I am at home and not needing to catch up on sleep and if the sun is in the garden and if I have not already booked to be in someone else’s garden I might well throw on my Salopettes, don the long socks and the wellies and get out there, excited again about what new ways I can find of seeing the garden.
Veddw House Garden is open to the public, to find out more information please click here to go to their website.
Charles Hawes lives in Monmouthshire and is co-creator with his wife, garden writer Anne Wareham, of their internationally acclaimed garden, Veddw, in Wales. Charles contributed all the photography to “Discovering Welsh Gardens”, which was published in 2009 and was short-listed for the UK Garden Media Guild “Book Photography of the Year” award. He also supplied all images for “The Bad Tempered Gardener” by Anne Wareham which was published in 2011. Charles is a keen long distance walker and blogs about this at charleshawes.veddw.com