by Guest Ranter Joseph Tychonievich of Green Sparrow Gardens
I'm sick of photoshopped pictures of plants in
I never really thought about the pictures in the
catalogs I drool over every year until I was at an academic conference in The
Netherlands a couple years ago and visited a company (which will remain
nameless) that produces marketing images for Dutch flower bulb companies.
I think the image above says it all: How do they
get the lovely image of a clump of daffodils growing in a perfect garden you see
in the catalog? A single flower in front of a green screen. I watched and
listened in amazement as they explained how they can take pictures of the same
flower from different angles then copy and paste them in front of a perfect
garden background picture. But I wasn't really horrified until they cheerfully
demonstrated how they also tweak the color of the flower to “make sure
the image has the true color of the real flower.” Right. I'm sure they are only
“fixing” colors which didn't photograph very well. They never adjust and
augment to make a flower brighter and richer colored than the real thing.
Are you kidding me?
Now when I get a catalog I scrutinize the images.
Funny how sometimes the flowers in the background are in just as crisp focus as
the ones on the front, funny how sometimes the flowers don't seem to cast
shadows on each other.
But even more strange is how often flower colors
are not quite what I would expect. Have you ever seen the tulip 'Blue Parrot'?
It is purple. There are no blue tulips, tulips don't have blue pigment, end of
story. But flip through some catalogs, or do a google image
search, and you'll see pictures of 'Blue Parrot' every color from the
authentic purple to a breathtaking true blue that rivals delphiniums and
Ordering plants sight unseen from a catalog is
always an act of faith, and it doesn't help to undermine it with blatantly
artificial images. I love mail order plants, I love curling up with a wonderful,
beautifully photographed catalog on a winter evening and dreaming of the garden
to come next year. I don't want to have to put the catalog down and pull up
google to try and find out if the color in the picture has anything to do with
the actual color of the plant. If I seen an astonishing plant that looks too
good to be true, I want to be excited about growing it, not rolling my eyes at
So, if any of you catalog people are reading this,
just STOP! I don't want to have to stop ordering from you because I can't trust
you. Maybe you can fool me once with a meconopsis-blue tulip, but when they come
up purple, guess who I'll never be ordering from again. How about some
wonderful, lovely, drool-inducing, REAL pictures in your catalog this year?
Joseph lives in Lansing, Michigan, where he's a grad student in horticulture.