Greetings, and a Happy New Year !

Saxon Holt and dog Kona at Deer Island Preserve January 2017 photo by Mary Holt

Putting together a selection of my favorite photographs from the past year, is both the easiest and the hardest post to do every year.  Easy to find photos I love, hard to narrow it down to a few.

It’s easy to pick my favorite, a total solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event.  Yes, there will be other Solar eclipses, but I won’t see them.

We went to the tiny, tiny, tiny town of Ola, Idaho where there were no crowds and the total eclipse was more than four minutes, which gave me just enough time to overcome the wonder of it all and be ready for those four seconds when the diamond ring affect appeared just as a sun nudged past the edge of the Moon.

Another photo entirely dependent on the sun was this dawn at Anza Borrego State Park, where I went twice last year to photograph the spring wildflower superbloom.

The superbloom was particularly extraordinary as inspiration for gardeners, showing how the shrubs and perennials of the desert can blend together.

Natural desert garden – Echinocereus engelmannii, Hedgehog Cactus or Calico Cactus flowering in Sonoran Desert at Anza Borrego California State Park with Rafinesquia neomexicana, Desert Chicory, Chylismia claviformis, Brown-eyed Primrose, Blue Phacelia (Phacelia distans), Larrea tridentata, Creosote Bush, and Phacelia distans, Distant phacelia

Cactus, flowering shrubs, wildflowers, and perennials were all blooming in marvelous combinations no gardener could possibly improve.

The blooming was so profuse, the small canyons looks like demonstration gardens with flowers in the rock work and tumbling over the fine gravel in the bottom of the canyons to look like pathways.

Nature’s garden in Sonoran Desert at Anza Borrego California State Park natural gravel path with Yellow flowering Encelia farinosa, Brittlebush, Beloperone californica or Justicia californica -Chuparosa and rock outcrops

The superbloom moved south to north all spring, and a few weeks after Anza Borrego peaked, I went to Carrizo Plains where I was captivated by wide panoramas of wildflowers stretching for miles in the grasslands.

Grasslands have always fascinated me and I made a point to visit the Tallgrass Prairies in Oklahoma this year as I begin to formulate a project about grasslands and the potential for carbon sequestration.

So when I went to Colorado, for some photography workshops at the Denver Botanic Garden, I also made time to visit West Bijou Ranch, managed by the Savory Institute as sustainable grasslands for grazing, using techniques of regenerative agriculture.

Autumn landscape panorama West Bijou Ranch short grass prairie, Strasburg Colorado.

Denver Botanic Garden is certainly one of the most dynamic Botanic Gardens in the country, and seems to always be expanding and adding new exhibits.  I could easily spend days there photographing.

El Pomar Waterway and brick path lined with Pennisetum grass leading to Science Pyramid in Denver Botanic Garden

Photography workshops are always fun, as I always get to learn from the students.  I noticed the students in Denver clustered around the remarkable Calico Astor, ‘Lady In Black’, and found a remarkable combination of autumn flowering perennials.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Lady in Black’ Calico Aster (aka Aster lateriflorus Michaelmas Daisy) flowering in autumn mixed border at Denver Botanic Garden

And at my own workshop I made one of my favorite macro photographs of the year, when I noticed the central disc of the Corolla of the aster nearly matched the mass of asters behind them.

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Lady in Black’ Calico Aster (aka Aster lateriflorus Michaelmas Daisy) flowering at Denver Botanic Garden

Asters were the theme of that September visit to Denver as I found in this wonderful private garden design by Lauren Springer.

Prairie garden style; Scripter garden, Colorado; design Lauren Springer Ogden

Other private gardens I discovered in 2017 include two gardens built on steep hills:  Diana Magor’s backyard cottage garden:

Diana Magor Garden

and Jim Bishop’s incredibly steep garden of succulents.

Jim Bishop and Scott Borden garden

I have no idea how these gardeners are able to maintain healthy soils on these steep slopes.

I continue to photograph the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Morning view across McBean Wildfowl Pond in San Francisco Botanical Garden

There’s nothing quite like early morning light in San Francisco when the fog begins to lift.

A number of the garden beds are looking particularly good including the selection of summer-dry perennials in the mediterranean garden on Heidelberg Hill.

Garden color and textures in the Mediterranean Garden on Heidelberg Hill, with silver gray foliage perennial Greek Horehound – Ballota pseudodictamnus nana or False Dittany in demonstration section of San Francisco Botanical Garden

And I loved finding these ‘Electric Pink’ Cordyline in the New Zealand section.

Sometimes I photograph Gardens that have to be staged such as at the Spring trials.  Here at Syngenta, where they were featuring the remarkable new sunflower, Sunfinity™, I enlisted the support of photo stylist Linda Peters to create this scene.

Garden bed of Sunflowers – Sunfinity™

The devastating wildfires that struck Northern California were a catastrophe for thousands of people but for the environment, it has become an opportunity for regeneration, as the landscape has always been affected by fires.

At Pepperwood Preserve I noticed the fires must have moved quickly through steep hillsides only burning some of the trees as you can see in this panorama.

California native mixed Oak woodland landscape panorama, recovery after 2017 Sonoma fires, Pepperwood Preserve

In Sonoma Valley Regional Park some of the oak trees looked like ghosts after the fire as the bark turn to ash but did not fall off the tree.

Burned Oak trees with ashen trunks; Fire damage and recovery from Nuns fire October 2017, Sonoma Regional Park, California

I wonder how these California landscapes will recover over time, and I will continue to document this process.  Trees have a very special relationship to the land in California and I find continual inspiration all around me.

My daily walks with my dog Kona take me to the remarkable oak woodlands right around our house

January hike on Deer Isand with Kona dog under Valley Oak tree

And into the wetlands across the street.

Kona on morning walk, Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

My walks with Kona dog are found in my Instagram feed, where I always use the hashtag, get outdoors.  I hope my photographs might inspire you to get outdoors.  There is peace and beauty out there.  Go get some – and have a Happy New Year.

Gallery of Photos