The Winter Garden: From Inside Out

It stands to reason that the winter landscape should provide interesting views from indoors.  Even if you are a dedicated a snow boarder, snow shoe-er, skier, snow man builder, or dog walker, there are those winter days that keep everyone wanting to be indoors. The landscape view out the windows needs to be a view well worth looking at. Why so? The winter season in northern climates is enough to threaten to separate a gardener from their garden. I am not going there. Any view is a welcome view. Even out the windows, in the dead of winter. A case in point: The overnight low last night was 19 degrees. Yesterday’s high temperature was 23 degrees. The temperature this morning on the way to work – just 13 degrees. Really cold. This is close to the borderline of stay inside weather for me. Unless there is some compelling reason to layer up and go out, looking out the windows is an exercise I relish, and depend on. Walking the perimeter of my house to look out the windows is a daily walk. I have no intention of abandoning the landscape in the winter.  This gardener is not on hiatus. The experience of it is just different now. This picture was taken through the glass in Buck’s morning room at 4:45 am. He gets up really early, and reads. Soon after, I come by to say good morning.  Then I look out the window. This was the scene out the window yesterday morning. The structure of the palabin lilac on standard was outlined with our overnight sticky snow.  The boxwood hedge has a modest snow hat. The cut tree in my side yard pot is wreathed in lights.  Though the holiday season ended a month ago, I love the light. It illuminates the entire garden all winter long. That light is a good idea, considering that it is dark by 6pm, and the night is just beginning to lift after 7am.  This look out Buck’s window the beginning of February looks good to me.

In the fall, I made plans to enjoy my winter view at the end of my driveway. I go to work every day, so no matter the temperature, this is my one written in stone daily foray outdoors. I do not have a view of my driveway pots from indoors. But I am here on my driveway every day, even in the winter. I filled the pots for winter. The lights in the greens are not so prominent during the day.  But they will come to the fore come nightfall.

The landscape portion of this view depends greatly on the change of grade, the steps, the fence, and the gates. Late last fall, Buck and his group built an arbor that arches over the approach the staircase to the gates. He removed the indented fence panels, and built the arbor on top of them. The winter view is better now. My pots have company of the architectural sort. We had many a conversation during the fall about whether to plant or not plant this arbor. Buck is an architect and fabricator, so he favors the arbor unsullied by vines.  I am a plant person, so of course I have been thinking about what might compliment and grow well on this arbor. The winter is a great time to be thinking about any changes or additions to a landscape. This conversation is ongoing. If you can be visually seduced by your winter landscape, you have done a terrific job with the design.

Some windows feature multiple views. The right view out of my bedroom window features the woody structure of the Princeton Gold maples, the yews weeping from a wet snow load, and a garden bench placed in close proximity to a life size moss sculpture of a cow. Lady Miss Bunny has spent 16 years in the garden, and looks good every season of the year.

The view out the French doors of our office to the far left of the bedroom window is notable for its strong mid ground presence. The iron fence you see now is the same iron fence you would see in all the other seasons. But the beauty of the winter view has everything to do with the winter weather.

The view straight out the bedroom window is organized by the fountain. Though it is one of the great pleasures of my gardening season to see and hear this fountain running, it holds its own in the winter. The landscape here is not complex. Maples and yews. The fountain surround and grass is blanketed with snow. They are the star of the show in the summer. It is the fountain and ornament that provide winter interest to this portion of the landscape.

The view out my front door is organized by the walk to the street. The boxwood is a snow covered mass that responds to and counters that walk in the horizontal plane. The landscape lights and the winter lights in the pots punctuate the view. Landscape lighting can transform a winter landscape.  Try it.

The side view out the dining room window features a lit container in the foreground.  A lit pot facing the street in the mid ground.  And a streetlight in the far ground. Once you add the structure of the boxwood, yews, the remains of the flowers on the hydrangeas, and the towering structure of the street trees, this view has a lot going for it. Depth, texture, and volume.  I can see all of this, out the window.

Landscape lighting adds so much warmth to the winter landscape. Of course I come home at the end of the day through the back door. But my view out the front door early in the morning assures me that my landscape is welcoming in the winter. For those of you who would protest about another round of night pictures, be advised that my experience of the landscape in winter is ruled by the gray, and the dark. And this view, from inside out.

I do have to go outside at the end of the day with the corgis. While they are sniffing around and running through the yard, I have a chance to see what my landscape has going on from my upper deck. The view down to the driveway is a warm one.

 

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The Work Of The Week Of December 12

holiday garlandholiday garland

winter entrysnowy entry

winter arrangement in lead egg cupwinter arrangement in a lead egg cup

modern winter containercontemporary arrangement

winter containers2 pots for winter

winter containerwinter arrangement with eucalyptus, tiger branches, and green spruce

contemporary winter containercontemporary winter pot

winter container with camellia branchesarrangement with curly copper willow, camellia branches, and mixed greens

containers for winter4 pots for winter

containers at the sidewalkpots at the sidewalkwinter garlandgreen and white garland

contemporary winter containercontemporary arrangement of twigs and lights, faced down with boxwood

lighted winter containercast iron cauldron with a lighted steel topiary form and spruce tips

winter containers with German boxwoodglazed pots with pussy willow, curly copper willow, and German boxwood

green winter arrangementwood box with pussy willow, German boxwood, incense cedar and variegated boxwood

winter containeralarge low container with alder branches, taupe eucalyptus, cone picks and mixed greens

winter containercustom container made by Branch with birch branches, cone picks, white and pale green eucalyptus and mixed greens

winter containerssmall winter container

winter garlandthe garland is up at the shop! We should be able to finish by the end of next week.

 

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The Week Of December 5

Be forewarned, there are an astonishing number of pictures about to come your way. Last was a very busy week for us. But for the pictures, it would all be a blur. My crew is great about photographing everything. They pictures of last years work help inform the work we are doing now. Smart phone cameras and text messages mean I can communicate with the group who is doing the installation while they are 0n site. I hate to have to go back and redo, but I hate worse if something does does not seem as good as it should be. How I am able to stay in touch with my crew means the work is all that much better, the first time around. I can be two places at once-in the shop, and on the job. My landscape crew helps on and off, but they have been finishing up the last of the year’s landscape projects. They will be back today to help out with the work ahead. Buck’s crew at Branch is working for me for the winter holiday season. They makes all of our garlands, and install them. They handle lighting issues. They also install containers.  Marzela and David have been focused on the construction of green blankets and centerpieces. All of us whittle greens for Marzela, as the lot of us can hardly keep up with her. David and Salvadore do a splendid job with construction centerpieces, and adding elements one at a time. I am lucky to have each and every one of this group of 10 people. They are independent, intelligent, and thoughtful. They express their opinions, but not at the expense of keeping up. We do this work together. They go the extra mile, routinely. You cannot teach what they have to offer. They came to me with good values, not the least of which is a commitment to doing a great job. A lot gets done in a week’s time.  You’ll see. What you will see in these pictures is a design direction from me, and a gifted making by them. I help with the fabrication, but I can walk away and come back later, knowing someone will have picked up my part and gone ahead with it.  I still have 15 projects to go. I will be happy if I can finish them by Friday next, but maybe I won’t. I will not push a project out there that is not ready. I am stubborn, that way. The work you are about to see has as much to do with the the relationship we forge with a client as the design and fabrication relationships.  We make a concerted effort to represent their taste. We try for better than they thought they could have it.

winter containers
classic English cast iron boxes with lighted topiary forms

Large Bulbeck lead planter arranged for winter with curly willow, plum eucalyptus, white berry picks, and noble fir

contemporary winter arrangement ready to be installed in a large steel box

late day sun on that large steel box dressed for winter

winter arrangements awaiting installation in a pair of Atelier Verkant stoneware pots on the same projectfinished winter arrangement with yellow twig dogwood, yellow fuzz ball picks and variegated boxwood

pair of handmade concrete pots dressed for the winter season with flame willow, red berry picks, incense cedar and mixed greens

traditional winter arrangement in an urn on a pedestal with red bud pussy willow, green eucalyptus, and mixed greens

winter pots flanking a company entrance with sumac branches, pine cone picks and noble fir

holiday garland and pots with red bud pussy willow, berry picks, bleached pine cones and German boxwood

a pair of Branch Hudson boxes dressed for winter with red bud pussy willow and fuchsia eucalyptus

classic traditional holiday arrangement with red berry picks, holiday sparkle picks, and red sinamay

fountain surround pots for the winter with grassy textured green picks and noble fir

atelier verkantaccompanying atelier verkant pot with silver sparkle branches, grassy green picks, frosted faux evergreen picks, noble and silver fir

a traditionally decorated green garland for the holidays

winter arrangements in classic French orangery boxes with curly copper willow, blue gray eucalyptus, and gold sinamay

pair of custom fabricated concrete planters with winter arrangements with red twig dogwood, plum eucalyptus and mixed greens

outdoor lighted tree decorated with poplar branches, faux cherry clusters and feather birds

a second lighted outdoor holiday tree dressed with poplar branches, feathered birds, and faux cherries.  For extra light at night, the entire trunk of the tree is wrapped with Lumineo LED light strings, ahead of lighting the branches

indoor holiday tree with blue gray glass ball ornaments, gold glittered banana stems, and gold plastic foil stars

winter containers with gray and white branches and picks

contemporary winter wreath and container

contemporary winter container with red twig dogwood, sage eucalyptus and mixed greens

winter pot with white painted branches, pine cone picks, and gray eucalyptus

finished winter pot with frosted pine cones lit from above

a pair of winter containers featuring white eucalyptus and noble fir. The steel garlic topiary forms are strung with lights.

That pair of pots at night

night light

This steel Bethlehem star fabricated and lighted for Christ Church Cranbrook was a project designed, engineered and fabricated at Branch. We delivered this sculpture, and we were there to assist with the installation.

the star shining

This morning, we will resume the work.

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On Their Own

winter potsI posted some time ago about the landscape I designed for my clients who live in a rural area outside Ann Arbor. They edited and installed that landscape on their own – to everyone’s  great satisfaction. I was happy indeed that they took my plan to heart, and edited it to reflect their point of view. Late this fall they planted a wide ribbon of grape hyacinths in the lawn beginning near the large round planter and running all the way to the road. There’s nothing like having a river of grape hyacinths to look forward to in the spring, is there? Eventually, there may be some trees on either side of that river.  Their last garden project of the season-the winter pots. They came to the shop the other day to with to consult with me about their plans, and look at materials. Of course they would do their winter pots on their own.

winter potsI spent plenty of time talking them through their design process.  They knew they wanted to use cut white birch branches, and spruce tips.  And they wanted to incorporate the color red. Their taste is tends towards the contemporary, but in a loose and brash way. Containers filled with natural materials informally arranged proved to be a strikingly beautiful contrast to their sober and spare landscape.

img_0191This post is not so much about what I advised them to do. It is primarily about what they did on their own. This winter pot is terrific.  I was delighted when Rich sent me this group of photographs. The greens in the bottom of this container are spruce tips, from Minnesota. Dan had them shipped in.  I have never seen them before. These spruce toppers sunk into the soil of a container looked like a forest of mini trees. This container is as good as it gets, in my opinion. It is relaxed, assured, and striking. The thin red twig branches against the stout birch branches-so beautiful.

winter potsI did advise them to light their pots. Their property is in a rural area. Absent a full moon, their property is shrouded in darkness. The light in the winter pots would be key to welcoming guests, and representing a warm winter. It took a bit of doing to convince them to spring for a 3′ diameter spiked light ring encircled with LED lights, but they eventually decided that my advice was good advice. After much discussion, they took that ring home with them. Set into their 5 foot diameter steel bowl container facing the road, that light ring not only illuminated what was in the pot, it lit up the walk to the front door.     img_4253The materials they chose? Mountain hemlock, for its feathery texture, and its longevity as a cut green. Noble fir is a cut green whose stout stems amicably support lights, and obligingly stay green throughout the winter. The magnolia branches in this container feature big leaves. Those big glossy green leaves are a nod to romance. The Michigan winter is spare and gray. Cut magnolia is luscious – juicy looking. The hollow birch bark rounds are chubby and charming. The faux red berry stems hover over all.  Happily, they will represent for many winters to come. The Lumineo warm LED light strings illuminate the greens.

winter containersThis is work that I am happy to share here.  I greatly admire what they have done.

winter container arrangementsaa

We provided the centerpieces for this pair of winter containers.  Our client did the rest. Lovely, aren’t they?

This planter was constructed by a client who shopped on line with us for some of her materials.

This client shopped at Detroit Garden Works for materials too.

These containers are the creation of a member of my group. I like that he had the enthusiasm to go home and make winter pots, after making them for others day after day.

I truly enjoy what people say back to me about the garden.

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