The year 2022 was a good one in the woodland garden both for plants and photographing birds and mammals.
Proven Winners’ Rockin’ Deep Purple salvia steal the show
The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to look back over the past year in your garden.
Focusing on your successes can be an eye-opening experience and go a long way to help you better understand the direction you may want to go in the future.
On that same note, if you had your share of losses, it’s a good opportunity to learn from them and possibly go in another direction.
Deep Purple Salvia stole the show in 2022
This year, for example, I had great success with Proven Winners’ Rocking Deep Purple Salvia.
Not only did it perform beautifully in our two containers – blooming profusely throughout the summer and lasting well into the fall – but more importantly it was a magnet for the native bumble bees and hummingbirds.
Every morning the containers would be buzzing with native bumble bees and they became my focus while I was out enjoying coffee with our dog, Holly.
It didn’t take long for the hummingbirds to include these containers with the Rockin’ Deep Purple Salvia on their daily rounds, adding to my morning coffee enjoyment.
It was a small step to simply grab a camera and photograph the bees and hummingbirds as part of my morning and afternoon routines.
The situation created an ideal opportunity to test out a number of older digicams and lenses to review for Ferns & Feathers readers. If you have not had a chance to check out any of the reviews, most focus on the cameras’ usability in garden and garden wildlife photography. A sampling of reviews are highlighted here: Pentax Q, Canon Powershot Elph 500, Lumix-DMC ZS8, Pentax 300mm F4.5 lens.
Being out in the yard regularly also made it easier to watch how the light moved across the patio and identify the best times to photograph the flowers and their many visitors.
The following are a few images taken using Rockin’ Deep Purple Salvia as the magnet for wildlife. Go to the 2022 Photo Gallery for more images.
Monarda proved to be another success in the garden
Another hit in 2022 was the performance of our Monarda, which I moved from the back of the yard to beside our patio where I could keep an eye on it more easily and photograph the hummingbirds as they moved back and forth between the Monarda and Cardinal flower.
(More reading here on the combination of the Monarda and Cardinal flower.)
Together, they are a splash of red that is just irresistible to hummingbirds and other pollinators.
Again, by watching how the light played on the Monarda, I was able to focus on capturing images primarily of hummingbirds.
Native Blue Lobelia is another winner in the woodland
Another combination that worked for me in 2022 was the native duo of Black Eyed Susans and blue lobelia.
The Black Eyed Susans had been growing in place for a few years, but adding the native blue lobelia into the mix created a combination that worked both visually and for local pollinators who visited the area regularly. I’m particularly looking forward to next year’s results after the lobelia has had a year to establish itself.
More reading: For the full story on the native wildflower Blue Lobelia.
Gardening lessons to take away from this year’s success
By planting the monarda, blue lobelia and salvias close to the patio, I was better able to enjoy not only the plants but the birds and the pollinators that visit them regularly.
It was also much easier to care for the plants rather than try to keep them properly watered when they were located at the far end of the yard.
Next year, I plan to add more plants around the patio including searching out more Proven Winners’ salvias from their Rockin’ series. There are four different salvias in their Rockin’ line including two blue salvias and a fuchsia. (Link to Proven Winners Rockin’ series.)
Animals in the landscape
When it comes to visitors to the garden this year, I was fortunate enough to have several memorable moments.
The highlight this past garden season was capturing a number of photographs of our resident fox. The foxes have been around for the past few years, but capturing good images of them is not always easy.
Another benefit of being out in the garden trying to photograph the foxes, resulted in my best images of a skunk in early evening light light.
Both of these animals can be quite elusive if you are not prepared to photograph them and do your homework before hand.
By using a trail camera in the backyard, I was able to establish that both the fox and the skunk regularly came to an area in the garden near our open compost. From there, it was as simple as setting up my Tragopan blind and waiting for the animals to come along.
More reading: For my post on using a trail camera in the backyard
More reading : For my post on using a Tragopan photo blind in the garden.
I knew the fox came in late afternoon on its regular rounds, but getting the skunk around the same time and in good light was a pure bonus.
Being set up and prepared was, of course, the key to capturing more than just a grab shot of the animals as they made their way through the yard.
The Tragopan blind is important to help the animals feel unthreatened and act more naturally with a human in such close proximity.
While I used the blind for the fox, I did not need to use it for the skunk. Skunks don’t have good eyesight so, for the most part, it did not even know I was there. In fact, at one point it made a B-line across the yard right toward me until I gave it a hand signal that I was there. The hand signal was all it took for the little guy to head in a different direction.
I especially like the image of the fox (above) posing in front of the trail camera as it was capturing video and images of the fox.
The image of the cute little skunk involved a little luck. It came out of some tall grasses right beside me after I set up my camera in the garden. It walked over to a corner of the garden allowing for a more comfortable working distance.
Photographic lessons we can take away from a year in the garden
Observation is critical when you are trying to photograph birds, mammals and other backyard wildlife. Learning their habits and recognizing the times they are most likely to appear in the garden will greatly improve your chances.
There is nothing like spending more time in the garden and simply observing the goings on, but when that is difficult, the trail camera can do the job while you are away.
Most trail cameras will document any animals that come into your yard right down to the minute. If you notice a pattern, simply set up your camera and be prepared to capture images of your subject.
I’m planning to use the trail camera more over the coming winter through to spring and summer to help me capture more fox images this winter when the animals’ coats are in their prime.
Although the images from the trail camera are useable, it’s always better to capture the subjects with a real photographic camera to get the best results.
Looking forward to a new year
The coming year will present us with more challenges in the garden. But, by using our success stories from this past season and building on them, we can meet these challenges head on and come out a winner.
I had hoped to have real success with annual sunflowers (link to my post) this year and, although I did have some success with the native sunflowers, (link to my post) many of my seedlings and young plants were attacked by squirrels and other animals before they could mature and perform at their best. I did learn a few things, though, and next year my sunflower experiments will be much better.
Here’s to a new year.