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Photographer uses garden at her Plaza-Midwood home as studio

By Emily Hedrick
Correspondent

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  • From boring to beautiful

    There was no grand plan. Deborah Triplett’s strategy for converting a plain backyard into a verdant showcase has been trial and error. The remainder was serendipity as she and friends added items found at antique yards, flea markets and along the road – trellises, arbors, bird baths and a big metal pig.

    Boundaries around various sections of the garden are created by wooden walkways which were being discarded by a friend. The newest additions are birdhouses from the home of her mother, who recently died.



The garden at professional photographer Deborah Triplett’s Plaza-Midwood home takes the phrase “pretty as a picture” to a whole new level.

When Triplett bought the modest bungalow in 1999, her photography business was based in a large studio across town. The lot was a “big, empty green space” with no grass, flowers or focal points. By 2001, Triplett, who was going through what she calls a difficult life transition at the time, started digging. And digging.

“I literally poured out my heart into my backyard,” she says. “It was very therapeutic. Gardening can teach lots of lessons, like ‘everything has a season.’ And ‘be flexible; be willing to change.’ And ‘have patience.’ There was a whole lot of digging in those days.”

One of the first additions was a fig tree, which grew so rapidly that it now provides shade for an ample patio. The garden continued to evolve. Triplett’s personality emerged in her plantings and the whimsical accessories that made their way into the outdoor haven she was creating.

Perfect backdrop

By 2006 Triplett had moved her studio to her home. About then, she realized, “Oh, I could use this spot or that spot (in the garden) for a vignette. It wasn’t a conscious decision to add outdoor backdrops, but clients seemed to love it,” she says.

These days, about half of her portraits are shot in the garden, which she has named Flowerhead Farm. The garden has served as background in photos of brides, children, entire families, corporate CEOs, pets – even a stark naked artist whose picture was made in the snow.

“It’s a great marketing tool,” says Triplett, who has worked full-time as a photographer since the early ’90s. Leaving the off-site studio and relocating her business to her home – and garden, which is her favorite spot in the world – was the best thing that ever happened to her professionally, she said.

It’s easy to understand why.

The garden has a deliberate fairy-tale quality, with a profusion of bloomers and vines that grow every which-way in the English cottage garden style. Nothing’s structured or manicured.

“Except for bamboo, I actually love invasive plants,” says Triplett, pointing to a stand of six varieties of mint. “They walk on the wild side; they don’t behave. Sort of like me!”

In recent weeks, the garden has been a riot of purple, pink and yellow from many varieties of roses, iris, day lilies, hydrangeas, jasmine and St. John’s wort. The goldfish pond in the center of the space is boasting water lilies in bloom. Shasta daisies in a pot make a festive splash on the patio.

A kitchen garden holds pride of place in the sunniest spot, with lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cabbage and cucumbers. A small herb bed is nearby.

The garden attracts a multitude of birds, bees and butterflies, and is the domain of Triplett’s calico cat, LaLa.

Finding a new spot

Triplett, 64, grew up in Elkin, and attributes her lifelong love of gardening to her grandmother, “who always had something growing in a pot.” As a visual artist, Triplett came to her garden project already with a keen eye for texture, composition and color.

She pulled it all together one day at a time. A bluebird-accented archway used in a wedding came from the bride who gifted it when the marriage ended. Benches of wood and mosaics dot the path. All have been repurposed from elsewhere.

Except for the pond, which was dug by someone else, Triplett has done all of the work herself. She uses no pesticides and enjoys sharing cuttings with fellow gardeners. There’s still no plan in place.

“I love sticking something in the ground and seeing what happens. If it doesn’t like that spot, I’ll find it a new spot that’s more agreeable.”

Similarly to photography, she has learned the skill of gardening mostly by doing.

“Gardening and photography are very similar,” she said. “I don’t view either of them as a job. They’re both works of love. There are lots of times that I simply have to get out and work in the garden. I’m as proud of my garden as I am of my photo portfolio – and isn’t it nice that they overlap?”

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