The Overview, the New and Shiny, and the Fantasy
Everyone reading this has been a provisional SLGC member at one time. As a soon to graduate provisional I offer a retrospective on what the current provisional experience looks like, with a focus on what new technologies have wrought, and a reflection on the power of GCA.
I imagine that many of the studies we provisionals have engaged in are time-honored and traditional: GCA scholarship, the charitable fund, garden history and design, and the panic inducing realization that a flower show class is not a course. Equally sacrosanct is participation in the holiday-time greens workshop with its orgy of evergreen scents, greens of every hue, and colorful ribbons. And then there are those activities that are most likely specific to Cleveland: the annual wreath creation for the Cleveland Botanical Gardens and participation in the Shaker Nature Center Plant sale.
There is one standard workshop that has undoubtedly been transformed by the New Age of Technology—the photography workshop with Ryn Clark, called “iPhone-ography.” The tech-wary may blanch at the thought of this new incarnation of the revered photography workshop, but a few minutes under Ryn's tutelage revealed how incredibly simple it is to gain a vastly deeper understanding of how to use that permanent appendage we all carry in our pockets or purses to create photos using an infinite variety of tools and settings.
Without even downloading the extensive list of recommended apps we were asked to acquire before the workshop, we learned that the phone's telephone itself has a series of easy to use settings that can greatly change and enhance the photo. By merely touching “mode” one can easily switch between the usual auto setting to night (augmented lighting), sports (quick speed), beauty face (magic), best photo (an amalgamation tool), panorama (assembles a 360 shot), continuous shot (3 photos/second), rich tone (enhanced realism), sound & shot (adds a few seconds of sound). Learning about that “mode” button could have been enough of a gain for all of us to go home right then.
But Ryn had more in store for us. She had carefully set up a group of still lifes for us to photograph, and then showed us how to alter them using the iColorama S, Hipstamatic 300 Camera, Snapseed and Mextures. Each of these apps allows the photographer to work directly on the phone with any picture and put it through a number of washes, filters, and effects for control of exposure, clarity definition, fade, depth of field, texture, grain, highlights and basically whatever you can think of! There is literally an infinite variety of ways to edit your photos. My favorite setting was “grunge” which immediately changed my lovely innocent floral still life into a kind of edgy, Boho, found-object that presumably was caught unawares in some artist's loft on the far edge of gentrification.
As wondrous and amazing as all the workshops are, the real function of the provisional experience is the integration into a community. Collegiality begins with one's fellow provisionals, with whom one stands elbow to elbow making endless finger sandwiches for the provisional tea, and soon extends to the knowledgable member/presenters who share their time and talents with us, as well as their homes and gardens. In the course of my two years we benefitted from the knowledge and teaching of Robin Schachat, Martha Marsh, Cathy Miller, Cathy LoPresti, Leslie Marting, Mary Bruce Rae-Grant, Ryn Clark, Margaret Ransohoff, and Isa Ranganathan. Dedication and generosity from all these women went above and beyond—for example when I missed the first year's horticulture workshop, Margaret Ransohoff hand-delivered seedlings to my porch which she had started for me! And we were mentored, hosted, organized and pointed in the right direction by the irrepressible Binney Fouts (my first year) and the indomitable Pamela O'Halloran (my second year). I affectionately think of them as den mothers.
Beyond loving the beautiful gardens that everywhere inspire and unite us as a People of Common Interests, I learned through my provisional experience that the Garden Club of America is an incredibly well managed, historical and extensive network of governance, activism and scholarship conducted at a club, zone, and national level. At a time when we are all wondering if a candidate will emerge with whom we can trust the country, perhaps GCA should just step into the void! World peace, anyone?