A Belated Glance At Halloween

halloween-2016-12I know this post is 4 days after the fact. So sorry for that. I rarely am able to write a post in one sitting. Photographs for a post may take plenty of sittings.  I hope late is better than never! I do so enjoy the Halloween holiday, so I am writing belatedly.  It would be tough for me to let Halloween pass, unacknowledged. To follow is the stale news of my late fall gardening life. Rob made a point of choosing 4 pumpkins for me to carve for my Halloween at home. He knows I love that fall holiday that celebrates in a lighthearted way the coming of the dark time. Halloween is a silly gateway to those serious months in which there will be no gardening. I carve pumpkins, light them up, buy treats for the kids, and turn my porch light on. Buck fixes chili. It is a party that comes to us. The pumpkins Rob chose were big. The walls were thick. The rind was tough. Really tough. It makes sense that a very large pumpkin would have thick walls and a tough rind. How else would a pumpkin emerge, grow, and stand up? Nature at work is a study in how living things work. I am still learning. Love that party. Luckily, my carving day was this past Sunday. I had a whole day to deal with thick walls and the tough rind.

halloween-2016-13I had time to think over how I would carve these pumpkins.  Cutting a lid, and scooping them out took plenty of time. I have learned from many years of exposure to Buck that any task at hand requires a sensible and thoughtful approach to the work.  Years ago, I gutted and carved my pumpkins at home in the kitchen. How exhausting it was to haul those big pumpkins up a steep flight of stairs from the basement. I never liked that part. In the back of my mind fluttering around was why would I carry a pumpkin upstairs, and carry at least a third of it back downstairs? Why, indeed. This seemed not only inefficient, but not in the spirit of good fun. Fun that is too much work is not that much fun. Emptying every pumpkin of the seeds and goo permeated every surface of our kitchen. What a mess. For the past few years, I have cleaned out and carved my pumpkins at work, on a table at a perfect height for me to work. A giant trash was strategically placed to accept, via that miracle we know as gravity, all of what it takes to make a pumpkin ready for carving.

dsc_0114My pumpkins had those same incredible stems as all of the pumpkins Rob purchased this fall for the shop. His choices inspired lots of gardeners interested in representing the fall season. I was a happy member of that group. By the afternoon on Sunday, my pumpkins were ready to carve. Did I have a plan for the carving? No. Did I draw on the pumpkins? No. I just took up my knife, and plunged in.

halloween-2016-15The carved pumpkins took up residence the morning of Halloween day in the pots out front. The candle inside was all about fire power. I lit them at 4:30 in the afternoon. I knew they would burn at least 12 hours. Rob’s Belgian made outdoor candles emit a lot of light, and easily handle a windy night. Each pumpkin was encircled with a ring of faux black hydrangea stems.  Fake flowers have their moment.

halloween-2016-16I took pictures at 5:30 pm. That heavy duty candle had already turned my carved eyebrows black. The flame is obvious. What I did not see until I looked at this picture the next day was the fall color on my Limelight hydrangeas. The fall season in the garden is indeed beautiful.

halloween-2016-17I was happy to see that my group of 4 pumpkins were representing the spirit of Halloween in my garden. By 5:15 pm I was ready for Halloween. Meaning, I was ready for company. Buck and I did get company.

halloween-2016-2Trick or treat

halloween-2016-6trick or treat

halloween-2016-9Halloween  visitor

halloween-2016-4trick or treater

halloween-2016-3this green Halloween visitor was my favorite

halloween-2016-1kids with their family

halloween-2016-8more kids with their family

halloween-2016-11dressed to the nines for Halloween

halloween-2016-5another family celebrating Halloween

halloween-2016-10beautiful

Halloween 2016skull scary

img_4390three girls

img_4387horns on fire

img_4366Our house

img_4362-2lighted pumpkin after dark

img_4359pumpkin ablaze

img_4360well after dark

img_4416This Halloween visitor was a grandfather, escorting his grand kids through my neighborhood. He told me that his grand kids were afraid to stand next to him. How hilarious. The best part of Halloween? A lot of fun and mock horror celebrated by a community. Celebrating Halloween is a version of community gardening.

 

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The Boston Ivy, 2016

sept-2-2012-036I have been writing about the Boston ivy growing on the walls of the buildings surrounding us for a number of years. A storage business put up buildings all around Detroit Garden Works many years ago. Some of those buildings proved to be on our property after an as-built survey. We settled the problem amicably. They ceded 6 feet of their property opposite the front door of our building, as pictured above, in return for our tolerance of their encroachment on our property in the back. That giant cream colored concrete wall was visually intrusive on our space, and oppressively tall. We opted for a landscape solution. Of course! 10 Boston ivy in 2 gallon pots were planted in regular intervals all along that wall close to 20 years ago. It took the better part of 15 years for that ivy to cover that wall. Cover that wall, it has.

dsc_9582That leafy green wall is a delight. No one needs to squint, walking down the drive. Our driveway is garden like, no matter the season.  This intermittent planting of Boston ivy vines in 2 gallon pots has produced a thriving green wall almost 100 feet long, and 20 feet high. There has never been any need for special care, feed, or supplementary irrigation.  We do water when conditions are extremely dry, and when we think to water. Otherwise, we only take the time to enjoy the look. The science of how leaves change color is not totally understood, but my oversimplified version is as follows.  Leaves have 3 major pigments integral to their structure.  Chlorophyll, a primary pigment which gives leaves their green color, is necessary for photosynthesis.  The production of food to sustain life is indeed primary. Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction between sunlight and chlorophyll, the upshot of which enables leaves to manufacture sugar.  Sugar?  Another word for food. The other pigments hidden by the green that chlorophyll dominates are red and yellow pigments.

the-boston-ivy-024Every gardener is aware that our daylight hours are growing shorter.  Leaves respond to a shorter day length by slowing their production of chlorophyll.  This makes sense. The slowing of the production of chlorophyll is one of many mechanisms in plants triggered by the shortening days that directs them to slow down their growth before the end of the growing season. Once the production of chlorophyll wanes, the red and yellow pigments in leaves begin to show. Fall color. The temperature and rainfall may play a roll in the timing of fall color, but the most significant factor is day length.

the-boston-ivy-023 The popular hoopla about the dangers presented to masonry walls by Boston ivy is well documented.  I am sure there are still those who suggest that a covering of Boston ivy will bring down a building. This has not been my experience. How this vine grips a vertical surface is serious. The vine sends out sucker discs, or gripping pads, which hold the branches of the vine close to the wall. Have I ever seen any damage to our walls in 20 years-no. Many universities in the eastern part of the US, popularly known as Ivy league schools, feature buildings dressed to the nines in Boston ivy. They have been that way a long time. Our green wall requires little in the way of care. But it provides a stunning backdrop for all we have going on at the shop in every season. Once the season turns from summer to fall, I can count on the Boston ivy to tell a spectacular fall story. Every year is different. Some areas turn red, and others are yellow. Some spots are a mix of red and peach and yellow. Some leaves stay green until they drop.  Others are a fiery red. Every year, that tapestry of color created by these 10 vines is different.  Every year, the fall color is breathtaking. I have yet to tire of it.

the-boston-ivy-003Boston ivy is a very vigorous and self supporting vine. It needs a lot of width, a lot of height, and a huge space to truly represent all that it can be.  Who knew that 10 2 gallon pots of Boston ivy would look like this, 20 years later.

Detroit Garden WorksThe next 10 days at Detroit Garden Works will feature this particular year’s tapestry of fall color on the Boston ivy. Stop by, should you have a mind to see the 2016 version. Too far away? I will post more pictures. The easy part is my picture taking.  The miraculous part belongs to nature. Thank you, Madame Nature, for this moment.

 

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So What Do You Do With A Pumpkin?

pumpkins at Detroit Garden WorksRob has made 3 epic pumpkin and gourd buying trips in the past 3 weeks. Epic, as in 8 hour trips to pumpkin hybridizers within 80 miles or so in every direction of our shop. Epic, as in the relationships he has cultivated with growers who specialize in these fall fruits. I am sure the gross vehicle weight of the Sprinter loaded with pumpkins and gourds is equally epic. His vetting of pumpkins and gourds one could describe as rigorous. The pumpkins have to stand up on their own. They have to have long and beautifully shaped stems fresh from the picking. Many of those long stems are integral to the pumpkin body. They have great shapes. Unusual surfaces. Incredible color. Who knew there were  black or pale yellow or blue pumpkins? Considerable is the education I have had about pumpkins and gourds in recent years. They have colorful and descriptive names. Long Island Cheese. Knucklehead. Porcelain Doll. Many of them have already gone to gardening homes. Many more will snapped up this week, in advance of Halloween and in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

pumpkins at Detroit Garden WorksA  gardening customer came in today, her husband in tow. She and Sunne launched into a discussion about something or another. Her husband found a place to sit on a bench outdoors. Milo and I joined him.  Only moments later he asked me, so what do you do with these pumpkins? Hilarious, this. I burst out laughing. Indeed, what does one do with a pumpkin? To follow are my answers. As for the above picture, I would contrast a green and a white pumpkin, and shower them with green eucalyptus and some yellow fall leaves conveniently shed by a nearby linden tree.

Detroit Garden Works stand up for fall

Detroit Garden Works fill a wood box

Detroit Garden Worksmake a scene

Detroit Garden Worksplant a vintage bushel basket with a single grand white pumpkin, and face it down with white ornamental cabbage.

Detroit Garden Workshang it up

Detroit Garden Worksincorporate them into a fall container.

Detroit Garden Works go for the green

Detroit Garden Workscelebrate the season

Detroit Garden Workspile them up

fall-window-boxadd them to a fall themed window box

Detroit Garden Worksset the table

Detroit Garden WorksLine them out

Detroit Garden Worksfill the air space

Detroit Garden Worksspread them out

pumpkins-and-gourds-2013-38select a favorite

Detroit Garden Worksstack them up

Detroit Garden Worksbrighten up a dark spot

Halloween pumpkincarve them, of course

Detroit Garden Worksarrange them by color and texture

Detroit Garden Workscrate them

fall container arrangementgo for gourds

Detroit Garden Worksplump up a bench

Detroit Garden Workssort by size and color

Detroit Garden Worksload up a cart

Detroit Garden Worksset them on their sides

fall container with pumpkinsmake a statement

Detroit Garden Worksdress up an urn

Detroit Garden Workswarm up a porch

Detroit Garden WorksDoes this help?

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Beautiful Materials

beautiful-fall-materials-3A project in the garden asks for a lot of everything from a gardener. An interesting concept, and a design that clearly communicates that concept comes first. Anyone who has grappled with a design project knows how much work goes on behind the scenes. An idea about how to accomplish that design – an approach to the work – takes that much more time and thought. An installation may take two days, two weeks or two years. But any landscape project surely asks for beautiful materials. Beautiful plants are healthy plants. Doing a proper job of siting a tree, and digging a proper hole for that plant takes time.  It only makes sense to be sure the plant that is going in that hole is worthy of all the work it took to plant it. The cabbage pictured above is not only a healthy well grown plant, it is extraordinarily beautiful to look at.  The color is complex, and borders on iridescent. To my eye, the shape, texture, mass and color, is riveting. Beautiful plants are incredibly exciting, and make gardening such a pleasure.

fresh-cut-broom-cornBeautiful fall materials for containers are not only a pleasure to work with, they can inspire, inform, and direct the work. A landscape plan for a client may indicate a certain species of tree, but the final decision always rests with finding that specific tree that not only fulfills the design intent, but is beautiful.  There is no hard and fast standard about what constitutes beautiful. Everyone has their own idea. My projects are a a dialogue between a committed client, and my commitment to a great outcome for them. Sometimes the road is bumpy, but we get there.  I like it when clients fall for what I install for them. When I plant fall containers, I am very much focused on the beauty of the materials I have available to me. Broom corn is a staple in my fall pots. The stems droop gracefully, they are so loaded with ripe seeds. The corn-like leaves twist as they dry, and add another textural element to an arrangement.

unusual pumpkins A beautiful collection of materials from which to choose is an easy idea to grasp, but what it takes Detroit Garden Works to get to that collection is a process that is a full time job for my partner, Rob.  He travels all over this country, and in Europe, as he has for the past 20 years, to collect beautiful materials of all kinds. He shops locally, meaning he may travel in excess of two hours to a particular hybridizer’s pumpkin field.  I can count on his determination to put together a collection that inspires my work, and the work of our clients. We have had calls for weeks about the arrival of his pumpkin collection.  The fall container arrangements and plantings we install are all about the beauty of his choices of materials. He is the source for great materials for me.

beautiful-fall-materials-4He spent quite some time developing a relationship with a small company that produces dyed and preserved eucalyptus.  We carry their entire range of colors. This is a relationship going back 15 years. Preserved eucalyptus is a natural material that can sustain a container planting throughout the fall and the winter. The variety of colors available provides another element to any fall arrangement.

containers for fallThese centerpieces for a pair of fall pots involve a combination of gorgeous materials of all kinds, and my design for this particular client.  I owe a lot to those growers who made this possible. And of course to Rob, whose collection of materials make an expression like this possible.

container materials for fallPlanting pots for fall takes some of the sting out of the gardening season coming to a close.

fall pot by Deborah Silver This finished fall container warms up the architecture. It is a personal expression that documents an interest in nature. It will be a pleasure to look at throughout the fall. The next pair of fall containers we plant will look entirely different. That is the beauty of a collection of seasonal plants and materials that is wide and deep. There is no need for any pots to sit empty and silent at the close of the gardening year. Every gardener can shop their own garden as well for dried materials, branches and seed pods.

dsc_9454A little late day muted light adds yet another element to the mix.

cabbage at the side doorInto every gardener’s container life, a little fall is a good thing.

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