Plant Life Will Take Your Breath Away in These 13 Winning Images

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'Fireworks'. (Photo: Jill Welham/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

It may still be winter, but you can get a jump-start on spring with these stunning photographs of gardens, flowers and flourishing landscapes from around the world.

The International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) is "the world's premier competition and exhibition specializing in garden, plant, flower and botanical photography." In collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, IGPOTY announced this year's winners in 13 categories plus the grand prize winner out of 19,000 entries from more than 50 countries.

The overall winner, and this year's Garden Photographer of the Year, is Jill Pelham from North Yorkshire, England, for her image of allium heads, which you can see above. Pelham created the circular and fluid shapes by using a wet cranotype process, which she described in her submission.

This image of three Allium heads was created using a technique known as wet cyanotype. Two chemicals, ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, are mixed together to create a photosensitive solution which is painted onto the surface of watercolour paper and left to dry. This process needs to be conducted away from UV light, and once dry, the paper must be kept in a light-proof bag until it is used.Photograms are created by placing a flat object such as leaves or flowers onto the surface of the treated paper with a piece of glass over the top to keep it in position. The paper is then exposed to ultraviolet light – either the sun or a UV light. When using the sun, exposure times vary, depending on the strength of the sun, time of day, weather, time of year and the object being imaged. Wet cyanotype is a modified version of the 19th century photographic printing process, introducing moisture, in a variety of ways, onto the treated paper before exposure. The chemical reaction produces interesting fluid patterns and colours not normally present in a traditional cyanotype print. The resulting pieces are unique and present botanical prints in a different and painterly manner. Each piece is created with plants and flowers from my own garden and exposed using only the North Yorkshire sun.

The judges were impressed by how well Pelham has perfected her craft of wet cranotype over the years.

"Jill’s image has proven that even old techniques are still capable of relevance, originality and immense beauty. Her knowledge and passion for the process has resulted in an extraordinary exposure of the Allium, adding complex textures and color profiles analogous to the pioneering botanical cyanotype prints by English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins in the first half of the 19th century," said Tyrone McGlinchey, IGPOTY managing director. "The resulting exposure clearly draws from this rich and interesting heritage, but is unmistakably different in its approach and execution, making an image fit for the modern age in both its ability to communicate the beauty and importance of plant life as well as its capacity to represent the empowerment of women in art and science."

Pelham's "Fireworks" also won first place in the Abstract Views category. You can see the other first-place category winners below. These images and more will be on display on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and also will be part of a touring exhibition around the world.

Beautiful Gardens

'Bressingham Gardens in Autumn'. (Photo: Richard Bloom/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"Glorious early morning sun bathed The Summer Garden at Bressingham in rich, warming light. Ornamental grasses are featured with swathes of Aster and Rudbeckia." — Richard Bloom, photo taken in Norfolk, England.

Breathing Spaces

'Farewell'. (Photo: Andrea Pozzi/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"The sun had already risen and the dawn had been incredible. Wandering through the vegetation, however, I realised that the essence of the territory was only revealing itself in that moment. The extraordinary colours of the sunrise had dissolved, leaving behind a unique intimate feeling amongst one of the most beautiful mountain ranges on Earth." — Andrea Pozzi, photo taken at Torres Del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile.

Captured at Kew

'Lost in the Lush Beauty'. (Photo: Vincenzo Di Nuzzo/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"Opening the door of the Palm House at Kew is like entering a hidden paradise. It never fails to amaze me how fascinated and stunned I become in the presence of such natural beauty. I took this photograph whilst my friend was having a similar reaction to the sheer scale and abundance of lush tropical plants." — Vincenzo Di Nuzzo, taken Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London.

European Garden Photography

'Cork Oak Gazebo'. (Photo: Scott Simpson/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"There cannot be too many gardens in Europe that combine cork oaks (Quercus suber) with manicured gardens. I was commissioned to photograph such a place at a luxury real estate property in Andalucía. The garden had the added bonus of a raised gazebo, which was nestled amongst the mature cork oaks" — Scott Simpson, taken in Cádiz, Andalucía, Spain.

Greening the City

'Greenbelt'. (Photo: Halu Chow/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"I used infrared to precisely define the exact locations of plant life around the city, highlighting the scale and proximity of their presence. It is easy to forget the intimacy and importance of this relationship." — Halu Chow, taken in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

The Beauty of Plants

'Lotus Tango'. (Photo: Kathleen Furey/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"There are many stages of lotus growth on display at the Aquatic Gardens, but to come across two twisted dancing stems of Nelumbo nucifera was unexpected and quite magical." — Kathleen Furey, taken at Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington D.C.

The Bountiful Earth

'Colourful Fields'. (Photo: Suwandi Chandra/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"I hiked to the top of Pergasingan Hill early in the morning to catch the sunrise. The view was amazing as it overlooked the rolling hills opposite and Sembalun village below. Since most of the people here are farmers, they transform the valley floor into a patchwork of agriculture, growing rice, vegetables and even strawberries." — Suwandi Chandra, taken in Sembalun Lawang, Lombok, Indonesia.

The Spirit of Trauttmansdorff

'View Over Trauttmansdorff'. (Photo: Harry Tremp/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

The Spirit of Trauttmansdorff is this year's special award and celebrates the beauty and character of The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano, South Tyrol, Italy.

"The golden hour was just approaching when I captured this view of Trauttmansdorff in October, the green of the deciduous trees just starting to begin their autumn transformation." — Harry Tremp

Trees, Woods & Forests

'Misty Bayou'. (Photo: Roberto Marchegiani/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"The Louisiana wetlands are a giant tangle of canals, swamps and forests of palm and cypress trees that encompass the great Mississippi estuary. Populated by numerous snakes, alligators, birds and venomous spiders, the often-hostile environment is capable of stunning beauty. Every day at dawn and dusk we motored out on a small swamp boat – the only way to get around the bayou – looking for the best light and conditions. A fog finally descended around a singular majestic cypress (Taxodium), framed by the other trees and adorned with Spanish moss." — Roberto Marchegiani, taken at Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana.

Wildflower Landscapes

'Mount Rainier in the Mist'. (Photo: Robert Gibbons/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"I came across a spectacular array of summer alpine flowers on Mazama Ridge, including Castilleja, Lupinus and Anemone occidentalis, all adding character and texture to the scene as if by design." — Robert Gibbons, taken at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Wildlife in the Garden

'Starlings'. (Photo: Jonathan Need/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"A heavy snowfall brought a lot of hungry birds to my garden feeder. This old nearby tap provided a convenient resting place for this trio of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) while they waited for their turn to feed" — Jonathan Need, taken at Snowdonia National Park, Wales.

Young Photographer of the Year

'Ladies of the Meadow'. (Photo: Jake Kneale/International Garden Photographer of the Year)

"The rising sun backlit this group of lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis) in a Wiltshire meadow. I used the aperture to turn the water droplets into beautiful bokeh and created a smooth, clean and glistening background." — Jake Kneale, taken in Wilshire, England.