“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” – Ansel Adams.

Whenever I look for photos, I try to let the scene speak to me; the beauty is already there – I only have to decide on the frame. I look for shapes and hope to see jigsaw puzzles – a neat packaged group of shapes, bounded by four edges, a frame just like the camera viewfinder, framed like any composition.

Recently I visited Gerhard Bock’s streetside succulent garden in Davis, California. The long narrow border is full of carefully consider shapes and in February the Aloe are blooming. In the middle a beautiful Blue Beaked Yucca, Yucca rostrata ‘Saphire Skies’ grabs attention, its silver blue foliage exploding like a starburst.

That pincushion ball of spikey foliage is a dramatic shape by itself, but when it falls directly behind one of the blooming Aloe such as the bicolor Aloe wickensii it becomes a radiant halo and the composition falls in place. I just have to click the shutter.

Aloe wickensii flowering succculent in Gerhard Bock garden in front of Yucca rostrata ‘Saphire Skies’

Given that shape to work with and seeing the yellow flowering ‘Moonglow’ Aloe on the other side of this composition, I am pretty sure I can find another photo on the other side of the Yucca starburst, duplicating the idea.

Aloe ‘Moonglow’ flowering succculent in Gerhard Bock garden in front of Yucca rostrata ‘Saphire Skies’

Once you find good shapes in a garden the camera will help you frame the jigsaw puzzles. I always use a tripod and carefully arrange how the shapes stack up in relationship to each other, but it is the garden that makes the photos.

More photos of Gerhard’s Garden can be seen in this gallery.


  1. I pre ordered my copy of Gardening In A Summer Dry Climate and started reading it as soon as it arrived. I can tell right now, my plant budget is going to take a hit this summer.

    Reading this book and Plants and Landscapes For a Summer-Dry Climates, my other favorite, I have come to realize that not only are the photographs wonderful to look at, they are educational, they teach the eye how to see. So, when I have a problem laying out my own garden, I strive to make it look like a Saxon Holt photograph. I couldn’t do better. Thanks

    • Thanks for the kind words and one of the reasons I think the photos are educational is I try to find gardens with mature plants. So when you get excited about all the potential plants for your garden, a word of caution is remember how big they might get.


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