Photo Contest winners offer inspiration to winter-weary gardeners.

Himalayan blue poppy by Ann S. of Southworth, WA: “I took it with a Nikon D50, a digital SLR. The shady location, and the often gloomy weather we have here, seems to work well for shooting plants.” Take a look at the full-size photo or See more photos from the 2008 Dutch Gardens Photo Contest.

In the middle of winter, this gardener’s heart longs for flowers. Unfortunately, it’ll be awhile before I can get out into the yard. But it’s amazing how one beautiful photo, such as the poppy at left, can enlighten and inspire me. It’s from the garden of Ann S. in Southworth, WA. I look at her photo and say, “I’m going to grow that this season”!

Then, I write it down on a list. The list goes in my wallet. When April comes, with its overwhelming crush of plants and chores, I pull out the list. It keeps me from becoming distracted by the array of plants in the garden center. The list give me focus, and, because it’s in my wallet, it’s always on hand.

If you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at the photos we received for the 2008 Dutch Gardens Photo Contest. You’re sure to be inspired by some of the great shots we received. Ann’s photo is just one of more than 1,700 we received, and all are on view in the Dutch Gardens Photo Center. Maybe you’ll decide to enter a photo of your own in the 2009 photo contest.

This photo, from Cheryl Corrigan of Wixom, MI, won the prize for Best Flower Portrait. Take a look at the full-size photo or See more photos from the 2008 Dutch Gardens Photo Contest.

As for the blue poppy, it is from the genus Meconopsis, native to the Himalayas. Whenever you read about it, the word “elusive” seems to be in the first sentence. You can buy seeds and plants easily enough; the elusive part is the bloom. This poppy requires consistently moist soil, relatively cool temperatures and some shade. It’s not an easy combination in most of the U.S., where cool summers are not the norm. However, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, like Ann, you’re more likely to succeed.

“I had seen a large stand of them growing in Lakewold Gardens (a public garden near Tacoma),” Ann says, “and several other places around here and always aspired to grow them. After several failures with this plant I finally had beautiful blooms last year. I’m not sure that I did anything different; the main thing, I believe, is the location. Mine is planted in a small, crowded bed that gets some morning sun but is shady most of the day. What I especially liked about it is that it came up and bloomed and then kept sending up new blooms so that the one plant stayed quite lovely for weeks. It is tall and thin and does not take up much space although I’m hoping it will spread. I don’t believe I fertilized it or watered it much, but it is in a naturally moist location. I did stake it since it grew about 2 feet tall.”

David Grist

Online Content Coordinator, Gardener’s Supply