Posts tagged ‘glass lantern slides’

Winter Gardening Tips

The most important winter task is to take stock of your garden’s successes and failures. Mental notes are good, journal entries are better. There are plenty of mistakes to make, why repeat one?

Did you faithfully fertilize your garden during the growing season? If so, where are the leftovers? Don’t store them on your potting bench or your garden shed; bring them into an area that will remain above freezing. Some liquid fertilizers and pesticides become ineffective after freezing and thawing.

The winter months are the perfect time to take stock of the condition of your garden. Bonaire, West Orange, New Jersey, circa 1930. Ellen Biddle Shipman, landscape architect. Collection of the Archives of American Gardens.

The winter months are the perfect time to take stock of the condition of your garden. Bonaire, West Orange, New Jersey, circa 1930. Ellen Biddle Shipman, landscape architect. Collection of the Archives of American Gardens.

Take advantage of warm winter days; clean up garden debris. Pests and diseases can overwinter on and in dropped fruit, vegetables, leaves and stems. Keep the garden clean and reduce the chance for re-infections. Being neat has the added benefit of reducing the amount of chores necessary in the spring.

When you are cleaning up the garden, don’t cut back the stems of subshrubs: lavender, Russian sage, perennial salvias, etc. The stems provide protection and a bit of insulation for the crown and the dormant buds. Wait till you see new signs of growth in the spring before pruning.

Talk a walk around the garden periodically to check on plants that may have “popped out” of the soil. Fluctuating soil temps – freezing and thawing – can push the perennials and pansies you planted in the fall right out of their holes. Dig the hole a bit deeper, replant and then smooth mulch around the plant’s base. This should keep the plant firmly grounded.

Use branches of pruned evergreens to protect tender perennials from wintry blasts. Maybe your rosemary plant will finally survive the winter!

Careless use of deicing products can damage both the home and the environment. To prevent damage to your home and the environment, choose a deicer carefully. Use deicers according to the directions listed on the package, if possible use even less than is recommended. Do not use fertilizer to melt ice and snow – the nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer can harm your local streams and the Bay. Plant damage caused by deicers can often be treated by soaking the affected area with 1-inch applications of water three to four times in the spring. As an alternative to deicers – use sand, ashes, or kitty litter to improve traction on icy areas.

Remember to water plants on warm days in January, February and March especially if there has been a dry autumn. Evergreen plants, particularly those planted in the fall, are most susceptible to desiccation.

Remove snow before it can accumulate by sweeping the branches upward with a broom to lift off the snow without further stressing the limbs.

Motivated to grow ‘green’? Use organic seed in next year’s garden. Check with the National Sustainable Information Service ( for a list of suppliers of Certified Organic seed. Several seed catalogs located in Mid-Atlantic States appear on the list, including: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange ( in Mineral, Virginia, Landreth Seed Company ( in Baltimore, Maryland, and Seedway ( in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

-Cynthia Brown, Horticulture Collections Management & Education Manager


February 19, 2013 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

25th Anniversary of the Archives of American Gardens

Thanks to a grant from the Smithsonian’s Collections Care and Preservation Fund and just in time for its 25th anniversary, the Archives of American Gardens (AAG) recently completed a project to digitize nearly 3,500 historic glass lantern slides dating from the 1920s and 1930s in the Garden Club of America Collection.  These images are some of the most popular ones in the archives and document a wide range of gardens throughout the U.S., many of which no longer exist. 

Pullman Garden

Pullman Garden in Lake Forest, Illinois, c. 1930s. Because they were hand-tinted, glass lantern slides like this one were not always historically accurate. Note the autumn foliage together with colorful spring blooms! This is just one of nearly 3,500 lantern slides recently digitized thanks to a Smithsonian preservation grant.

 Glass lantern slides were projected on a screen with a ‘magic lantern’ to illustrate lectures.  (You might think of them together as the precursor to the now-rare slide carousel.)  No two slides were alike as each was hand-tinted, sometimes with colors that weren’t historically (or botanically) accurate.  Given the garden owner’s wishes or the colorist’s artistic license, a batch of flowers may have been transformed from their actual yellow tint to a livelier red with the stroke of a paintbrush.  In spite of their fragile nature (and any capricious colors), the glass slides are sometimes the only evidence left of a once opulent and fastidiously maintained garden.  Without these handsome artifacts, important components of America’s garden heritage would go missing.           

High resolution scans of all of AAG’s glass lantern slides—as well as thousands of other historic and contemporary garden images–are readily available on the Smithsonian’s Collections Search Center at .  The images provide an invaluable resource for landscape designers, historians, preservationists, scholars, students and garden enthusiasts engaged in the study and appreciation of gardens and garden design.  By capturing the changing uses, trends, fads and popular traditions embodied in gardens, AAG holdings foster a better understanding of gardening’s far-reaching contributions to America’s social and cultural history.

By the time Smithsonian Gardens’ Archives of American Gardens celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2062, who knows what current image format will be considered as fragile—and as valuable in terms of the lost information it holds—as the glass lantern slide?  

-Joyce Connolly, Museum Specialist

December 7, 2012 at 10:30 am 1 comment

Capturing a Garden’s True Colors: the Autochrome Process

In the early twentieth century, gardens were predominantly documented by hand-painted glass lantern slides. The painting process was a meticulous one as it involved the painstaking application of color to the flowers and foliage captured on the black and white positive. Not surprisingly, colorists (who were not horticulturists) often applied the wrong colors; purple irises were painted pink, and orange tiger lilies were painted yellow. Garden enthusiasts yearned to have photographs that not only depicted their gardens beautifully, but accurately.

Ca Sole Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1930

The earliest color photography, the autochrome process was developed by the pioneer fimmakers, the Lumière brothers. As Sam Watters writes in his book, Gardens for a Beautiful America, Frances Benjamin Johnston, the famous garden photographer, was one of the first in her business to experiment with this new additive color process. An autochrome plate consisted of a a glass plate coated on one side with microscopic grains of red-orange, green and blue-violet potato starch. Lampblack filled the space between grains and the top layer was coated wtih a black-and white panchromatic silver halide emulsion. Once the camera’s shutter was opened light went through two crucial steps; first, it would pass through an orange-yellow filter on the camera (which corrected the emulsion’s ultra sensitivity to violet and blue light); second, the light would penetrate the glass plate of colored potato starch before finally reaching the emulsion.

Western View, Virginia, 1931

The plate was reversal-processed into a positive transparency and at normal viewing distances, the individual grains of colored potato starch blended together in the eye, reconstructing the captured scene. Autochrome glass plates continued to be produced into the 1930s, falling out of style with the introduction of Lumière Filmcolor sheet film in 1931, then Lumicolor roll film in 1933. Sprinkled throughout the Archives of American Gardens’ collection, autochrome photographs not only beautifully and faithfully depict their subjects, but also testify to the intersection of garden design and photographic history.

Kristina Borrman, Katzenberger Art History Intern

August 3, 2012 at 8:00 am 1 comment

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