Rob Cardillo on Susan Harris's deck in Takoma Park, MD

Rob on my deck prepping for a shot

Suddenly, gardenbloggers and coaches are in the news a LOT, and a secret pleasure for anyone who’s been interviewed is to compare really stupid questions that nongardening journalists ask and the sometimes ridiculous things they want us to do for their cameras.  And here at GardenRant we’ve all hooted over a publicity shot of some model pretending to garden – in blindingly white slacks! 

But when Organic Gardening Magazine comes to town, there ARE no smirks of superiority on the gardener’s face.  Just the opposite, especially when the photographer involved is one Rob Cardillo (whom I’d coincidentally interviewed a while back), because he knows his gardens and how to capture them for the pages of a magazine. (Go ahead and drool over his portfolio of gardens.)

To begin with, he takes his time.  He arrived from Philadelphia about 3 in the afternoon and worked til 7, then showed up the next morning for another few hours.  I’d been asked to write a detailed outline ahead of time so he’d know exactly what the article would cover (about coaching, of course, but specifically my “tips” for spring) and he drew up a plan for illustrating all those tips.  But he didn’t just want to show color and any old fake action shot – no cliches, please!  And he didn’t want to demonstrate the same old advice that OG readers have seen so many times before.  So I was encouraged to suggest my own quirky tips and to hell with conventional wisdom!

See, a photographer with Rob’s background knows what’s new information for the readers and knows which shots are cliches – like the lady gardener carrying a pretty flower-filled basket – yech!  He knows how to create vignettes that tell a story.  And he knows exactly what it takes to create a winning cover – or so we hope!!  But that’s enough hints for now.  We’ll all have to wait til the issue comes out next spring to see the final result.

By Rob Cardillo for Organic Gardening Magazine

At  the risk of over-gushing, I’ll just add that when you’re busting your butt to get the garden ready and even running the vacuum indoors, then submitting to hours of bullying instructions from a camera operator or photographer, a little courtesy goes a looong way and Rob was a total prince.  He loaned me his hot-shot camera with the super-wide angle lens to capture my back yard and helped me find a wide angle camera that I could afford.  And he’ll be GIVING me the entire batch of photos after the article’s been published.  Woo-hoo!

I just hope these photos show how hard a real garden photographer works, whether by arranging some sedums in pots for just the right effect or closing in on some teeny tiny vegetables.

All right, gang, let’s get snarky!  My personal favorites are:

  • “What’s your favorite evergreen for spring?”
  • For the April issue of a magazine, “How do you install a spring garden?” The news that spring-blooming bulbs are planted in the fall really bummed her out.
  • “How many gardens do you have?”
  • Having just been told that many coaching clients need to be taught to prune because it’s complicated and hard to learn from a book, “So, how DO you prune?”

Anybody have some to contribute?  No names, please, just the juicy quotes.  I’m hoping that if we compile a list that’s ridiculous enough it’ll convince some editor somewhere to take the bold step next time of hiring an actual garden writer for that piece about gardening.  That was the reaction we had here at the Rant to some nonsensical questions by a freelancer for a women’s magazine: Gee, why didn’t they hire a freelancer who knows the subject?