About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking Pictures in the Garden: Part 1

Hey everybody! My name is Christy and I'm a friend of Susan's - our daughters go to school together. Susan has invited me to share a series of posts with you, her fabulous readers, about taking better pictures in the garden.
Now, before we get too far into this, let me make it clear that I am not a professional. I don't belong to any associations and I haven't won any awards or been published anywhere that sounds impressive. I just love to take pictures! My interest has led me to take a couple of classes and over the years I've moved from simple point-and-shoot digital cameras to more complicated models. Currently, I am in love with my new Canon 50D. She's my baby. I take her everywhere in a pretty little bag with a matching, handmade camera strap. "Pretty" and "matching" count for a lot in my little world.
Ahem. Let's move on.
I figure that lots of you out there are taking your pictures with point-and-shoot digital cameras. Some of you may have invested in mid-level cameras and a few of you have probably really invested in cameras with lots of buttons and you don't know what to do with them. So, I'd like to start at the bottom and work our way to the top, okay?
All of the pictures in this post were taken with an ancient Olympus point-and-shoot 4 megapixel camera (!) and I aim to prove that even with an ancient camera that you're embarrassed to show to your friends, you can take better pictures than you are now!

Tip # 1: Turn off your flash!
Somewhere on your camera, you will see a little icon that looks like a lightning bolt or maybe a zig-zaggy arrow. Push that button! It might seem that, if you're shooting in the shade you need the extra light, but trust me - you probably don't. The camera's flash will probably give you ugly, harsh shadows and eye-cringing highlights that detract from the beauty you are trying to capture. Case in point -
Azaleas with flash:

Azaleas without flash:

Much prettier!

Tip #2: Try your macro setting.
This button probably looks like a little tulip or some other kind of flower. This is because your macro setting is great for taking pictures of flowers. Seems obvious now, doesn't it? This setting allows your camera to focus on a subject at a much closer range and, while bringing your subject into focus, will blur out unnecessary background details.

Regular setting:

Macro setting:

I really like how that rose turned out!

Tip #3: Make the most of the lighting conditions.
Gardeners all know that different places in your yard have different lighting conditions. We all plan and plant accordingly. Sunlight can affect your pictures just as much as it does your garden. Before you take that picture, take a minute to observe how the light affects your subject. Direct sun can create harsh shadows, just like your camera's flash does.
I really loved these collard greens at Susan's house, but I hated how the sunlight was making parts of the leaves blindingly white and parts of it covered with hard shadows.

So I moved in a little closer, hoping for a better angle. I really liked how the plant filled the frame on this shot - maybe it's just me, but I think it looks like a green, textured rose.

But I still think the light is too harsh. It still makes my eyes hurt a little.
So, I moved around to observe how the light was affecting my subject. Then I noticed that, from below, the light was shining through the leaves and making them glow.

Now, I really liked how the shot was framed on the previous one, but I love what the light does to the plant at this angle, and I think it's my favorite of the two. This is just a matter of personal preference.
But that little exercise brings me to my next tip -

Tip #4: Move around your subject.
My photography professor likes to say that people tend to "plant" their feet in front of a subject and just start shooting. If you do that, though, your pictures will look like everyone else's!
Susan has an adorable grouping of pots on her back porch (remember those free ones from a few posts ago?) and I wanted to take a picture of them. So I did - I took one from where I was standing.

Hm. It's really lacking something, isn't it? So, I tried getting down at eye-level with the grouping.

I like that, from here, you can see the little bunny's smile.
Here's another series of photos to demonstrate how moving around the subject and trying different things can give you very different photographs of the same subject.

And as you continue to move around and try different things, you are likely to settle on the "money shot" - the one you really love. It rarely happens with the first snap of the shutter for me. I usually take several shots before I really come up with the one I love and I am guessing the same will be true for you too. Here's what happened right at the end of this series:

This was my favorite shot from the whole morning!

A few other basic tips:
Your camera's manual is your best friend! Every camera is different. The buttons do different things and are located in different places. Read it and try out the tricks your camera can do.
Seriously. Just get out there and take pictures! Don't wait until the weather or the lighting is perfect or until you have the camera of your dreams. Great pictures can be taken with the simplest of cameras. It's really all about capturing your unique view of the world.
Try some photo editing software. There are lots of free ones like Picasa and The Gimp. Like I said, I shot all of these pictures with a very old, basic camera. I didn't really like how a lot of them turned out - especially in the shade, where they all looked a little blue to me. I took one that was pretty blue and did a very basic color correction in The Gimp. Check it out!


There is really so much more that we could talk about, but there's a lot of information in this post. I'll be back with a post about shooting with mid-level digital cameras and, if nobody's thrown any rotten tomatoes by then, a final post about DSLRs.
Thanks for listening to me ramble about doing something I love. Now, get out in your yard and take some pictures!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Floridata -- Photographic Plant Encyclopedia

Floridata is an online photographic plant encyclopedia created for Florida gardeners by Jack Scheper 10 years ago. Along with 10 gardening friends/contributors he maintains a database of 730 plus Plant Profiles/Lists from annuals to vines, and everything in between. It’s a great resource for researching potential plants for your garden.

Jack has created an invaluable resource for Florida gardeners. Floridata gets my vote as one of the top resource sites for Florida gardeners. If you’ll remember, Jack was generous enough to let me link our cold-hardy plants list to his plant profiles.

Here’s what you’ll find at Floridata:

Plant Profiles/Lists

* Plants are listed alphabetically by botanical name.

* Plants are categorized by Plant Tag Lists - 9 types of plant categories: annuals, grasses, palms, perennials, shrubs, trees, water plants and cactus/succulent.

* The lists organize plants by some special feature or characteristic (such as edible, fragrant, drought, tolerant, etc.).

Note: One of my favorite resources on the homepage are links to these “special feature” lists. It’s easy to click on “Fragrant Plants” or “Shade Plants” and find a list of plants with these features.

In addition to Plant Profiles, Floridata features articles and other resources.

* Photo galleries: azalea, butterfly, camellia, pepper, Florida scrub plant, Florida scrub endangered plants, animals of the Florida scrub.

* Butterfly Resources - life cycle, photo gallery of 45 species, plants that attract butterflies.

* “How to” Articles written by Florida garden experts.

Member Profile & Forums provide a way to connect with other Florida gardeners.

* As a gardener, you can create a Profile Page that includes information on your garden. Create your own plant lists, and include a link to your blog,

* Forums and discussion groups are available for members to participate in.

When not working on Floridata, Jack maintains his own online garden journal - Jack’s Gardener’s Journal - where he writes about his experiences in his garden - Floridune near Tallahassee.

Steve's Annual Hurricane Lily Sale

Spider Lilies for Sale!

It's time for Steve's annual hurricane lily (Lycoris radiata) sale. They are 50 cents per bulb plus postage with a minimum of 20 bulbs. Email Steve at chrstmn@yahoo.com for more info.

Steve Christman is a contributor to Floridata’s Plant Profiles. Find our more about Steve at Floridata.

Monday, March 01, 2010


If you're looking to add long lasting, low maintenance summer color to your garden...caladiums are a sure bet.

Caladiums are grown from tubers. There are several grades of tuber or bulb sizes available, but the large tubers produce plants with larger leaves.

Two types of caladiums are available...fancy leaved and lance or strap leaved. The leaves are heart shaped and come in a variety of colors and markings.

The University of Florida recommends that you plant the bulbs in mid-April in the central Florida area. They are available now in local nurseries or you can order them directly from the growers in Lake Placid. If you plant large numbers of bulbs, you will most likely want to order from a mailorder source for better pricing.

Two Lake Placid mailorder sources that begin shipping the first of March are:

It is my experience that bulbs sold in the local nurseries sell out quickly in the spring, so now's a great time to purchase the bulbs for planting next month.

Traditionally planted in the shade, these bulbs are field-grown in full sun in Lake Placid, Florida...the Caladium Capital. Most varieties perform better in shaded locations, but many varieties will tolerate full sun. The University of Florida's Caladiums as Potted & Landscaped Plants article provides good information on selecting and planting caladium bulbs, as well as a chart that specifies shade and sun varieties.

My neighbor has a large bed of all white caladiums growing in front of a dark green hedge on the side of their house. This large display of a single variety is stunning from April through October. It creates a calming and cooling effect in the landscape, and the simplicity of this area is fabulously beautiful. Everytime I drive by their house, my eyes are drawn to this area...it's just beautiful!