Is YOUR Garden Ready for Its Close-up?

Internationally-Celebrated Photographer Saxon Holt Shares Design Tips for Creating Photogenic Native Gardens in Summer Workshop at the Botanic Garden

June 11, 2013

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Does your garden have the potential to be on the cover of a magazine, but you lack the skills to make it truly flourish in photographs? Cultivate the natural beauty of your garden through the lens of a camera with the help of internationally-renowned photographer, Saxon Holt. Learning how to take better pictures and design gardens which photograph well is the topic of the Summer Photography Workshop, hosted by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. This two-day event includes an Evening Presentation on Friday, July 5 from 6:00pm - 7:30pm and a Personal Workshop on Saturday, July 6 from 9:00am - 3:00pm.

image of book cover for The American Meadow GardenThe Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is pleased to have life-long gardener and photographer of 25 years, Saxon Holt, shed some light on the importance of “seeing” the essence of a garden, and how to make it beautiful in photographs. Mr. Holt, a published author and Photography Program Director at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, has been featured in publications including Pacific Horticulture Magazine, Smithsonian and MoneyMagazine. His newest book, The American Meadow Garden, written with John Greenlee, provides a creative, yet beautiful, alternative to the traditional lawn garden. In this book, Holt and Greenlee exhibit their different method of gardening – native meadows. Holt showcases samples of these grass ecologies in a diverse set of photographs that range from the gardens on the East Coast to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden itself. Through Holt’s photography, and commentary by Greenlee on the practicality and maintenance of the Meadow Garden alternative, The American Meadow Garden effectively “weeds out” the lawn gardens from the past and replaces them with a more natural and sustainable way of gardening in its place.

“A meadow isn't a random assortment of messy, anonymous grasses,” according to Mr. Saxon. “Rather, it is a shimmering mini-ecosystem, in which regionally-appropriate grasses combine with colorful perennials to form a rich tapestry that is friendly to all life – with minimal input of water, time, and other scarce resources.”

image of photographer Saxon HoltOn Friday, July 5 from 6:00pm - 7:30pm join Saxon Holt in the Blaksley Library for a lively presentation about how to become a better garden photographer and designer. Taking better pictures can be summarized with three strategies: be conscious of what you are seeing; think how the camera will see it; and take the picture in soft light. This Evening Presentation will focus on those three strategies and will ultimately teach attendees how to take better pictures of their gardens, and design gardens that photograph well. His book, The American Meadow Garden, will be available for sale and signing at the event.

On Saturday, July 6 from 9:00am - 3:00pm Mr. Holt will host a Personal Workshop limited to just 15 participants who will get a one-on-one learning experience. This Workshop will include an early morning group walk featuring visualization exercises, followed by an individualized photo shoot. Following the lunch break, participants will join an afternoon critique in a classroom setting. Students will download images to their laptops and select three images for group critique.

Lecture only: $30 members / $45 non-members
Lecture and Workshop: $140 members / $160 non-members
Reservations are required by calling 805-682-4726 ext. 102, via
email at [email protected], or online at

Tips from Co-Author John Greenlee

image of John Greenlee, author of The American Meadow GardenHow to create and maintain a Meadow Garden

  • Choose your meadow accents to go with the colors of the room from which you view the garden
  • Using strong statues and pots among swaying grasses creates a fine focal point in any garden
  • If hiring a landscape contractor, find out as much as you can about their work, request references, then check them
  • Prepare for planting! The site for your meadow should be weed free, properly graded, and have adequate moisture
  • Save water! Once established, meadow gardens do not need constant watering and fertilizing, thereby conserving resources
  • Chill out! Most meadows and natural lawns need only one or two cuts per year, thereby allowing the homeowner to just relax and watch their garden grow!

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About the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: 
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a 78-acre educational and scientific institution fostering the conservation of California’s native plants and serves as a role model for sustainable practice in Santa Barbara, California. The Garden was founded in 1926 and is among the nation’s oldest botanic gardens focused exclusively on native plants.

To arrange an interview or to request high-resolution photos, please contact:

SBBG Communications Coordinator
(805) 682-4726 ext. 132