Sunday, March 03, 2013

Hebe, ambrosia and shrubs

click photo to enlarge
As far as I can see Greek mythology doesn't figure much in the education or interests of school children today. Yet when I was a child we were taught quite a bit about the subject, including some of the best known stories, and this made us (well, certainly me) want to know more. Alexander Pope said that "a little learning is a dangerous thing", and it certainly can be. However, in the case of me and Greek mythology it proved to be one of the catalysts that inspired a love of words and their origins.

It all started with "Ambrosia" creamed rice, a tinned rice pudding from Devon that first came on the market just before the second world war and was a family staple in the 1950s and 1960s. I discovered that the Greek gods fed on ambrosia and that Zeus and Hera received it (with nectar) from their daughter. It didn't take much research to discover that their ambrosia was unlikely to be the kind with which I was familiar, but the derivation of the rice pudding's name was something I found very interesting.

What has all this to do with a shallow depth of field photograph of a sprig of the plant, Hebe "Red Edge", I hear you ask. Well, the name of the daughter of Zeus and Hera was Hebe. She was the goddess of youth and cup-bearer to the gods until she married Heracles (Hercules to the Romans). When, later in life, I again came across the name Hebe it wasn't in connection with mythology but rather as a very useful, usually hardy, evergreen shrub that originated in New Zealand and South America, one that usually did well in the sort of coastal environment where I was living at the time. It's a plant I've always liked, and a variety that I particularly appreciate is the one shown in today's photograph. The blue-green of the leaf sits well with the red-purple of the leaf edges and makes it an attractive plant all year round. I was photographing our wych hazel when the very structured branches of opposing leaves caught my eye. I composed this shot to hint at the structure and clearly reveal the tip. Incidentally, I have no idea why this particular name was applied to this genus of plant!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 200 Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On