Jenny Lilly developed a passion for photography whilst studying for a degree in textiles and photographing plants for inspiration. Now a professional garden photographer, Jenny regularly returns to Winterbourne to photograph a garden filled with personal memories.
“I was bought a pro camera when I was in my 20’s by my late husband, Peter Lilly. He was a garden designer and I photographed his work. He used to ask me to help him with the planting plans for his garden designs, which is how I became knowledgeable about plant names. After his death 16 years ago, I decided to make garden photography my career in his memory, so that when I am photographing a garden I feel close to him.”
“I regularly attend all the RHS Flower Shows and had a commission from ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ last year to photograph Tracy Foster’s enchanting garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. I have photographed many Botanical Gardens all over the world and I also had the pleasure of photographing the gardens at Buckingham Palace in 2010 for a book on Pulhamite, called ‘Rock Gardens’ by Claude Hitching, for which I was the featured photographer – that was a real success!”
“I use depth of field a lot to focus the eye on particular aspects of a photograph. In latter years I have developed a more commercial style for magazines and books, as that is my bread and butter. A good garden will have many vistas which give depth to a photograph. I use a technique where I shoot through shrubbery or arches to give depth and form to a photograph – gardens lend themselves to this particular style of work.”
“When taking garden photographs, I would hope that I would never make a good garden look bad – I shouldn’t be doing this job if that were the case, but I can certainly make an average garden look good by using clever camera angles and good lighting. Wind is the enemy of a good garden photograph as the plants move too much for portraits. My other enemy of a good garden photograph is sunshine at midday, as the shadows are too heavy and colours become bleached out.”
“My late husband worked for Professor Marsland, the University of Birmingham’s Vice Chancellor, many years ago, and we lived nearby on-site, in No. 1 Lodge, Pritchatts Road, and part of his job was to water the plants in the nursery every other weekend. We were always in or around the grounds of Winterbourne before it was redeveloped into the attraction it is today.”
“It was very different then. We had access to all areas when there were no visitors – it was a real haven. The memories of my husband make it particularly special for me, as I feel close to him when I am in the garden. In fact in 2016 I dedicated a West Himalayan birch tree to his memory which feels particularly apt as we had a small copse of these in our own front garden.”
“I actually had an exhibition of my knitted textiles in the entrance hall of Winterbourne House about 30 years ago, when the building was used for offices. I know the garden so well, but I can always find something new to photograph, or use a different lens so that the style is different. Winterbourne doesn’t stay still though, so there is always something for me to photograph and always will be.”