Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island

Boats in Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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   Earlier this year I made my second trip to Salt Spring Island – one of British Columbia’s Southern Gulf Islands. During my last trip I also had limited time, so I was able to check out some new areas this time around and more thoroughly explore some others. One area I spent more time in on this trip was Ganges. Ganges is an unincorporated town on Salt Spring Island and has most of the shopping and small businesses on the island. Ganges is also known for the Salt Spring Island Market in the summer. Ganges Harbour has a lot of marinas, boardwalks, and small shops along it’s waterfront. I spent a few hours there making photographs the morning of the second day on this trip. The first photograph here shows some of the small yachts and boats in one marina, with Moby’s Pub and a few waterfront homes in the background.

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Boarding a Seaplane at Ganges Harbour (Purchase)

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   In addition to boats and marinas Ganges Harbour has a small Seaplane Aerodrome used by Harbour Air and Seair Seaplanes. I don’t know where this Harbour Air Single Otter flight was departing to, but it likely was heading to Vancouver or YVR (the Vancouver area’s main airport).

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Purple Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus) in Ganges Harbour (Purchase)

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   This Purple Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus) and the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) were both in the intertidal zone below the boardwalk. I do enjoy photographing Herons as they tend to move slowly when hunting and make goods subjects. I didn’t have to worry about the Sea Star moving around either! I watched the heron for about 20 minutes, and recorded some video of it hunting as well. Apparently if being filmed, Herons know to grab their snack and immediately run out of the frame to eat it. I saw this Heron catch a number of small fish, but it always walked out of the frame before swallowing them, unfortunately. While photographing the Heron I was switching to different subjects such as various boats and the Sea Plane taxiing for takeoff before switching back to the Heron.

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Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Hunting at Ganges Harbour (Purchase)

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Stay tuned for a number of other blog posts with photographs from Salt Spring but if you can’t wait – you can see all my photographs from the island in my Salt Spring Island Gallery.

Lower Falls in Golden Ears Provincial Park

A Summer evening at Lower Falls on Gold Creek at Golden Ears Provincial Park, Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada.

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Summer Evening at Lower Falls in Golden Ears Park (Purchase)

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   A few years ago I photographed Lower Falls in Golden Ears Provincial Park during a period in June where there was relatively little water flow over the falls. I really like that photo but since then I’ve wished I had a photo of Lower Falls with higher water levels. During the winter and at the height of spring runoff – the water flowing over the falls consumes almost the whole width of the area. This can be quite a raging torrent, and the spray the wind may blow in your face can make both viewing and photography difficult. This year I thought that the amount of rain and the snowpack we had would sustain a higher flow than I’d photographed back in 2015, and I was correct. The photo above shows a more typical view of Lower Falls than that older photo.

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Lower Falls in Golden Ears Provincial Park (Purchase)

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   June is also my preferred time of year to photograph Lower Falls as the kids are still in school, the heat of summer isn’t yet here, and camping season hasn’t reached its peak. I’ve been to this falls on a hot summer evening and it would be nearly impossible to photograph as the place is covered in people. In June most are smart enough to not venture into the pools above the waterfall (people dying or being injured here has happened way too often) as the water flow is still quite high. Later on, however, the amount of swimmers makes any photography nearly impossible – so I’d recommend early – mid June as the perfect time for photographing these falls. If you get your timing right, you can also photograph some Streambank Arnica near the falls as well!

   I talked to someone from Toronto while I was photographing Lower Falls. His friend, and I don’t know what would possess someone to do this, hopped across the boulders downstream and wound up on the opposite side of the river from the falls. When he emerged from the forest he slipped and fell. I thought he was going to slide into the water, but he caught himself before he did, though his phone was not so lucky. The photo below shows where he slid, and the eventual path of his phone into the water. It did land in a fairly shallow part of the creek, however, so he spent about 10 minutes trying to determine how to climb down and retrieve it. This all seemed to me like I was about to watch someone die so I pointed out to his friend who had stayed on the viewing platform side of the river that many people have died in this spot when the current was more than they could handle. Despite a few calls to leave the phone, the guy jumped into the water near his phone (after taking off his shoes and socks) and retrieved it. The jump looked bad enough – but I had no idea how he was going to get back out! When I left he was still contemplating this, and had tried several routes out of there that had not been successful. I decided to leave. There was nothing I could do to help, and I didn’t want to watch anymore. As there were no stories in the news the next day I presume he found a route out and hopefully without injury. His phone was unlikely to be as lucky, as it was submerged for a good 10 minutes.

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Lower Falls in Golden Ears Park

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   I have to say that while photographing these falls I made a number of mistakes I wouldn’t normally make, and the cell phone guy distraction is the excuse I’ll use this time. I did encounter some blowing mist/spray that was problematic. It was nice to know I had a weather sealed camera and lens, though I don’t get them wet on purpose and still wipe them down as much as possible. While talking to the fellow from Toronto and watching his friend risk his life for his phone… I failed to wipe as much spray off my front lens as I should have. Unfortunately this meant that a number of compositions were not usable which was entirely preventable. The photo above does have some spray effects you can see in the trees along the top, but most were much worse. I would normally consider that photograph non publishable but it did show the area where he fell better than other images. I may go back and try my luck here in a few weeks. Even if there are too many swimmers in the water – it is a great, short hike through a scenic area – and that is always worth it.

More photos from this park can be found in my Golden Ears Provincial Park Gallery.

Spring Views at Saint Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island

Rowboat on the shore of Saint Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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Rowboat at St. Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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   Last week I headed back to Salt Spring Island here in British Columbia for a 3 day trip to photograph and visit friends. Last time I was on Salt Spring was in March of last year, and it was nice seeing the views with green grass and the leaves on the trees! I also had better weather overall this time around, with only some rain on my main photography day. As with any weather situation there is always something to photograph, so while I didn’t get as many of the wide, sweeping, ocean shoreline views as I’d wanted, the thin overcast cloud did work for many other situations.

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St. Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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   One of many locations I visited for photography was Saint Mary Lake. St. Mary Lake is between Ganges and Vesuvius, and serves as both a recreation area (fishing, swimming, boating) and drinking water supply. I was not able to find all that many publicly accessible spots around the lake to photograph, but this one along North End Road gave me these views of the docks, swimming platforms and general scenery at the lake.

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Private Dock at St. Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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   Most of the boats I came across at various locations on Salt Spring Island were not secured – usually just pulled up on shore. This kind of honour system would not likely work well in Vancouver! This boat in the first photograph was not tied up either. I’m sure the majority of the time this works out well for the boat owners on the island, but there was a sign next to this one asking for a boat to be returned that, evidently, had been liberated from it’s unsecured location.

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Swimming Platform at St. Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

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More photographs of this island can be found in my Salt Spring Island Gallery.

Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris) Blooming in Spring

Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) blooming in a backyard garden after a spring rain.

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Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) (Purchase)

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   One of the first (interesting) spring flowers that come up in the backyard garden are these Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris – formerly Anemone pulsatilla). I’ve photographed this plant a few times in the past, but it often flowers when we have a lot of rain and the flowers aren’t always this photogenic. I first became familiar with Pasque flowers by photographing the White Pasqueflower in Mount Rainer National Park. Pulsatilla vulgaris (native to Europe) are much smaller with similar seed heads but not nearly as tall as those seen in the mountains.

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Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris) (Purchase)

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More photographs from the garden can be found in my Garden Plants Gallery.

Iconic Locations and Iconic Misbehavior

Sunset light on Mount Shuksan reflected in the tarn at Huntoon Point in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest, Washington State, USA.

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Reflection of Mount Shuksan in a Huntoon Point Tarn (Purchase)

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   I’ve written and posted about this iconic location many times, as it is one of my favourites to visit in the early fall – the Mount Shuksan/Mount Baker area in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest of Washington State. The location in this first photograph is often photographed, but not nearly to the extent of the Picture Lake area nearby. There isn’t really a lot of things I can say about my trip here in the fall of 2017. I had good conditions, great light, and was planning on going back 4 days later. Unfortunately, there was about 30cm of new snow 4 days later, and the road to Artist Point was closed, so those ideas will have to wait until later in 2018. I am happy with my photos from the one day I had, but they don’t lend themselves to discussion as well as some of the bad photographer behaviour I witnessed while up there. So lets get into some of that – I feel I need to purge these stories from my brain from time to time for my own health. I’m sure these won’t surprise you much, especially if you’ve photographed at popular, iconic locations before.

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Evening view of Mount Shuksan (Purchase)

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   Most photographers reading this have probably seen others behave poorly while photographing the same locations. A few of these, I’m sure, are just awful people no matter what activity they are doing. I suspect others are just putting way too much pressure on themselves to copy exactly what they saw online or in a magazine. Generally I’ve seen most of the bad behaviour at an “iconic” location, or near one. Most of these locations can deliver a wide variety of weather conditions, seasonal changes and other variable that can making matching that magazine photo you have in your pocket… difficult. If that trophy is all you are there for, then you are probably going to have far less fun that I would. Some of the people having a bad time of it feel generous enough to make sure everyone around them feels the same way.

   One example of poor behaviour I witnessed was at the location of the first photograph here – the tarn at Huntoon Point. This is a relatively common spot to photograph, though I’ve never seen lineups here like I have at Picture Lake. When I was here a few years ago, there was a man standing further up on the hill occasionally tossing pebbles into the tarn in order to ruin the reflection for others. He seemed much more pleased about this than the other’s photographing there at the time. I can only guess he had his photo and was thinking that his work would some how be more unique if nobody else could shoot there the rest of the evening. If I’d been trying to actually get a shot there I’d just have wandered away rather than engage with him verbally. This is a location with great 360° views, so it isn’t as though there is a shortage of subjects in the area. Actually, to avoid a photographer like that I might have wandered to a nearby spot and shot the second photograph in this post – a view of Mount Shuksan with some great sunset clouds above it, and hints of fall foliage below. Last fall I photographed both of these scenes within 5 minutes of each other, and without a pebble tosser to move me on.

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Sunset over Shuksan Arm and Mount Sefrit (Purchase)

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   Anyone who has been to Artist Point and looked towards Mount Shuksan from there has likely seen the tarn just to the east of the parking lot. The trail along the ridge runs right past it. Last fall this was the scene of one of the worst bad photographer behaviour spectacles I’ve ever seen – mostly because it went on for over an hour. Initially I didn’t know a photographer was involved. There was a family walking through (and playing in) the tarn near Artist Point with loud music blaring from a stereo. Beach balls and other props (I presume) were floating around in the tarn. A number of people stopped, jaws open, and stared at these people. Most did not say anything, but some went over and there were raised voices and wild pointing at the various transgressions. None of this made any difference. Then it became clear that the individual who was addressing the concerns of passing hikers was a photographer, there to do some sort of family photo shoot.

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Evening view of Mount Shuksan (Purchase)

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   When she started shooting she got the family into one spot, then was yelling at the top of her lungs things like “wow this is the worlds most photogenic family”, “that is just adorbs”, “yeah baby!” and other antics that would have embarrassed even Austin Powers. I suspect some of the over the top vocalizations were to mock those who had dared suggest this was bad behaviour, or at least that is the only “excuse” I can see for it. After this debacle really ramped up a few more people then went over and asked her to turn the music off, as well as get back on a trail (I’d have been fine with them just sticking to the rocks). One old man, who looked like he wasn’t one to swear yelled, in apparent exasperation – “What the **** are you doing!?” loudly at her. People were stopped in groups and clearly talking about them. None of this changed the behaviour. The family itself didn’t seem to act like anything weird was going on. One woman I talked to said she was going to say something (I hadn’t, having witnessed the futility of others who had tried). I suggested she go and get a business card under the guise of wanting portraits of her family. This was an idea I couldn’t easily pull off with a backpack and tripod of my own. Not sure if she did that, but I almost wish I’d tried so I could mention her here, possibly. All that aside, I went further up the trail and had a wonderful time once I was out of earshot.

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Sunset at Mount Shuksan and Picture Lake (Purchase)

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   The above photo is the iconic spot where Mount Shuksan can give a great reflection in Picture Lake. I have stopped photographing here for the most part, but always stop and take a look, as it is a very nice view. I also enjoy the occasional shock and surprise when asked why I’m not taking my gear out of the bag. One of the reasons I don’t linger in this location tends to be the behaviour of other people, though most of those seem to be photographers. The tourists walk on the boardwalk, enjoy the view, and don’t seem to do much inappropriate for the most part. If you look at the photo above you can see on the far left the road is right next to the lake. Remember that the next time someone describes the arduous hike to this location!

The crappy behaviour I’ve seen at Picture Lake includes:

• Yelling at people parking along the roadside I mentioned above. One photographer abandoned his equipment entirely and ran towards some tourists screaming about where they had parked. The poor tourists got back in their car and fled the area. Yes, cars can kind of get in the way here, but it is also easy to change the composition slightly so they aren’t an issue.

• Photographers standing in a clearly marked “meadow under repair” off the boardwalk area – harassing others because they shoot the wrong brand of camera. “That’s how I know your photos are going to be garbage”. Like an internet conversation but in person, which is much, much worse. I wouldn’t say I appreciate this kind of “Gear Preaching” when I see it online, but at least I have something worse to compare it to now.

• In a different people and a different year entirely – but the pebble tossers have visited at this location too. Photographers throwing rocks periodically into the water in order to keep the reflection messed up, which is a pretty messed up thing to do.

• Photographer holding up a magazine with a photo of Shuksan and Picture Lake trying to match the shot. Again, in the closed “don’t step here” area.

• This last one was someone who was trying to be nice, but it is still a silly thing to do. I guess they thought I didn’t know what I was doing so they tried to stop me from shooting in a vertical orientation. “Oh no no wait… (comes jogging over to me)… this is a horizontal shot”. Had I been in a more surly mood I probably wouldn’t have just pointed out that I always tend to shoot both orientations. The vertical shot from that day is only one of two photos of Picture Lake I have ever sold. It didn’t work nearly as well in a wider format, actually.

Glad I got all that off my chest. We now continue our regular programming…

Views from the Traboulay PoCo Trail – Golden Ears and the Pitt River

View of the Golden Ears, Raven Peak and Osprey Mountain (left) and the Pitt River from the Traboulay Poco Trail in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.

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The Pitt River, Osprey Mountain, and the Golden Ears (Purchase)

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   It is relatively warm and spring-like now, but a few months ago I was still looking for winter photographs in my area of British Columbia. The Golden Ears (Mount Blandshard) are one of the nearest mountain views that I can reach from where I live, and so they are a frequent subject of mine. I have photographed them from many locations but hadn’t done so from the Port Coquitlam perspective, so I drove out to the Traboulay PoCo Trail in February to photograph the Golden Ears and the Pitt River.

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Osprey Mountain and the Pitt River (Purchase)

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   While the Traboulay PoCo Trail encircles Port Coquitlam entirely, I parked at the Prairie Avenue parking area and walked just the short distance between there and the DeBouville Slough. This gave me the great view (first photograph above) of the Golden Ears, the Pitt River and a few surrounding mountain peaks. I also made a few other photographs in this area, including this one of Osprey Mountain with some nice “belt of venus” sky coloration. This was not a view I’d anticipated, but that is hard to do in a location you’ve never visited. Some times trip planning on Google Earth etc is very useful, but it is never as useful as actually visiting a location.

   The last photograph here is a nice post sunset view – alpenglow on Mount Baker. The river in the foreground is the Pitt River in a spot near the DeBoville Slough while Mount Baker itself is in Washington State. I also made a photograph of Baker a bit earlier in the evening with what I would call “sunset light” on Mount Baker.

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Alpenglow on Mount Baker from the Pitt River (Purchase)

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   Not to wade to far into what is often a contentious discussion over the definition of alpenglow, but the photo above is exactly what I’d call alpenglow. The definition of alpenglow is that the light has to be indirect, so it is usually reflecting off of clouds or the atmosphere in some way. Sunset light can create a great glow, but is still direct light. So the photo I linked to above would be “sunset light” and the photo shown above is “alpenglow”. I see a lot of photographs where direct light is labelled as alpenglow. Alpenglow is great light, subtle, and is harder to find than good sunset light. Quite often it just doesn’t materialize when I am looking for it. I think this might be why actual alpenglow is a bit coveted, and why some want to move the definition towards something easier to obtain such as the direct sunset light. I do wish I saw light like this more often!

For more photographs from Port Coquitlam visit my Port Coquitlam Gallery.

Bee Hives in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley

Bee hives in an Abbotsford, British Columbia apiary.

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Bee Hives in Abbotsford (Purchase)

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   I was photographing a scene with farmland and Mount Baker the other day in Abbotsford, BC. This was to be my first stop of many on the way through Mission, the Harrison area and Agassiz. Some horses came over to the fence to say hello, but wandered off after they realized I didn’t have any treats or anything for them. With the horses came the flies, which was annoying. I made this photograph of the bee hives in the field (probably 60 feet away from me) soon after. I made 3 exposures. The first two were like this, and the third is very blurry. As I was making the 3rd exposure a bee flew partly up my nose (I thought it was a fly). After a failed “one nostril push” maneuver to get it out I grabbed it with my fingers. The result of this was a bee stinger lodged in that space between my upper lip and my recently invaded nostril.

   I had not been stung by a bee since I was a kid, and it is still the unpleasant experience that I recall. It felt a bit like I’d been hit in the teeth with something. I quickly got in my car (I’d been standing next to it) and looked in the rear view mirror. Sure enough, there was a bee stinger in my face. I tried to flick it out with a fingernail but it stayed put. I then remembered reading that you can get them out with a credit card or something flat like that. If you grab a stinger with your fingers, the round part above the surface will act a bit like a turkey baster – and you’ll inject all the venom into the wound. I wished to avoid this, and a quick flick with a credit card got the stinger out of my face. All in all it was probably only in there for 10-15 seconds. Not having had a sting for 25+ years, I wasn’t sure how my body was going to react. Things like this can swell quit a bit, so I cut my trip short (after only about 25 minutes) to go home and endure whatever messy aftermath was to befall me rather than it playing out in public. I didn’t want a golf ball sized swelling on my face when I was trying to photograph either. So I grabbed the freezer pack from my cooler, stuck it on my face, and drove home. As it turned out I only had some minor swelling and it all settled down after about 30 minutes (the ice probably helped). I went out again to shoot a local park after dinner. I guess it was a relatively good outcome that the worst of this was that I had to postpone my trip one day. I’m also glad that I managed to complete shooting Mount Baker and the farmland successfully so I won’t have to return to that spot!

For more photographs of bees and other critters take a look at my Animals and Wildlife Gallery.

Sweet Violets – Viola odorata – Flowers and Leaves

Flowers and leaves of Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) in a backyard garden.

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Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) Flowering (Purchase)

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   While I enjoy photographing winter scenes I don’t often get up into the mountains in the winter so I tend to shoot a bit less during that time of year. So when the spring flowers begin to emerge I usually wind up in the backyard photographing the first ones I can find. The flowers here are called Sweet Violets, and are aptly named. Even 50 feet away you can still smell the sweet scent coming off the flowers, especially on a warmer, sunny day. I photographed these flowers and leaves in the last days of winter, but it certainly felt like spring. V. odorata (you can tell where that scientific name came from!) goes by a few other names such as English Violet, Garden Violet, Sweet Violet, and Florist’s Violet.

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Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) – Leaves and Flowers (Purchase)

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   Due to their powerful scent it is not surprising that Sweet Violets have been used in many fragrances and perfumes. The flowers are also made into Violet Syrup which is then used in such products as scones and marshmallows. The leaves can also be eaten and are also used in perfumes.

You can see more garden photographs in my Garden Photos Gallery.