I’ve been visiting Bluebell Cottage Gardens (http://www.lodgelanenursery.co.uk/) near Dutton for several years and have photographed it right from early Spring to late Summer, witnessing neatly edged flower beds with low clumps of new growth transform into borders overflowing with colour and texture. The garden is named after the adjacent bluebell woods which are currently in flower. I didn’t have time to photograph them on this visit (you’ll soon find out why!) but have done so before. The garden itself is lovely to stroll around, with some very different areas and lots of shady places to sit awhile. I think what I love about it is that it gives me the feeling that it’s do-able or achievable to some degree in my own garden. I could never create a garden like it by myself but I could take an idea and do something that is inspired by what I’ve seen. And chances are you can buy the plants in the nursery and also get advice from the owner, Sue Beesley.

I had a different reason for being at Bluebell Cottage Gardens yesterday – I had permission from Sue to sell pink cupcakes to garden visitors to raise money for charity – my daughter and I are taking part in Race for Life in May (if you would like to support us or find out what we’ve been doing visit our Race for Life page http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/janeburkinshaw0309). The wonderful cupcakes were very kindly donated by Heather’s Cupcakes – you can contact her on 078434 85500 or follow her on twitter @heathercupcakes.

At the end of a very enjoyable day selling sweet confectionary creations to lots of lovely and often very interesting people, I finally got chance to go into the garden. I was tempted to go straight home and put my feet up but Sue persuaded me to have a look at the tulips and I’m so glad she did. The early evening light was marvellous – I don’t usually get chance to photograph public gardens at this time of day. So the topic of this blog is inevitably light and how to maximise it.

The tulips were the show stoppers in the garden and are also my all time favourite bloom, both as a flower to appreciate in the garden and as cut flowers, but also as a photographic subject. My natural style is to get up close and photograph a single flower or a small group, with a shallow depth of field (only a small area of the shot in focus and the rest very soft and blurred, achieved by using the Av setting and choosing a low f value such as f2.8 – f4.0) as I love the painterly effect this creates.

However, I also wanted to capture some vistas of the garden so I made myself stand back and take some wider angle shots. It was as I was doing this that I saw how the low sun was backlighting some of the tulips, making them appear to glow from within. Usually I preach that you shouldn’t photograph flowers in direct sunlight, nor to shoot in the direction of the sun, but this was the time to break the rules and make the most of this magical light.

Once I’d satisfied my desire to get some close ups I hunted around for some viewpoints where I could capture the beauty and presence of the tulips within a larger vista. I looked particularly for places where they were still illuminated from behind by the sun and then tried shooting from different heights, simply standing or kneeling to see how it altered my perspective. It’s always worth experimenting with landscape and portrait shots of the same scene. I often do both and then choose later. I much preferred the landscape shot of the dark red tulips and the lower angle. I made the tulips the point of focus and softened the background to create a complimentary backdrop and to also give a flavour of the rest of the garden.

On the way home I stopped off at the supermarket to buy emergency Easter eggs (nothing like leaving it to the last minute!) and treated myself to a bunch of purple tulips. They’re lovely but nothing like as beautiful as those back lit by the sun in a garden where I could feel the last warmth of the evening sun, hear the sounds of birds calling and, bizarrely, listen to people chatting as they prepared their supper aboard a boat on the nearby canal.

This blog is also published on the Cheshire Life web site.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I’d love to hear your comments too!

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