Cut Branches For Winter Pots

cut branches for winter containersI have said many times over the course of the 7 years that I have been writing this blog – no northern zone gardener needs to close up shop with the first really hard frost. We can appreciate the season, we can be inventive, and we can defend ourselves against the long dark time. A thoughtfully planned landscape features trees with interesting bark, structure and fruit that warm the winter view. The skeletal remains of shrubs and perennials provide visual interest. Evergreens in the landscape are ever appreciated over the winter. A successful landscape is as beautiful in the winter as it is in the other three seasons. Designing a landscape that is consistently lively year long has been a life’s work for me. Any winter garden can be stunning. Many gardeners have made an effort to create a dialogue with their landscape that goes on day after day, all year round. Seasonally planted containers are a personal and engaging way to keep the story of the garden alive. Beautiful winter arrangements in pots can make the most quiet winter landscape glow with color, texture, mass, and light. The energy expended creating arrangements for winter pots results in a surplus of electricity sure to light the winter months. The most simple and easy to achieve celebration of the winter garden is container design and installation. It can be different every year.  It can be as elaborate as you wish, or as simple as the meeting of lots of twigs and lots of lights. I recently posted on the importance of including lighting in those winter containers. Choosing the most effective means to light a pot of course depends on what you plan to put in them.  We start with the branches. We have a grower who grows shrubs solely for their cut branches. His cut willow and dogwood branches are strikingly beautiful. That first fresh cut branch delivery day is a good day for all of us. The colors are brilliant. The lengths are generous. Once we cut the ties, each branch bunch branches out.

curly copper willowThe curly copper willow may start out as a thick stem at the base, but at the top, the multiple curly branches delight my eye with their cinnamon color and exuberant mass. These dancing cut stems set into a winter container arrangement will endow any gardener’s winter with color, texture, rhythm – and vitality. Many of the fresh cut branches we set into winter containers go on to root, and grow on and out in the spring. I cannot really explain the intense pleasure I derive from this, except to say though the life of the garden cycles through the seasons, it is always alive in some form.

curly copper willowOne pot on the porch for winter-it is enough. The arrangement is as wide as it is tall. A winter container featuring curly copper willow is showy.

cardinal red twig dogwoodRed twig dogwood is a shrub common in my zone. It tolerates wet feet, and likes full sun. I do not have a spot big enough in my yard to grow red twig dogwood, but I am happy to have the cut branches available to place in winter containers. The hybrid red twig dogwood known as “Cardinal” features branches a much more brilliant red than the species.

red twig dogwoodThis picture clearly illustrates the color of the hybrid Cardinal red twig, as opposed to the darker red of the species. No matter your taste in red, our twig supplier delivers well branched bunches of a uniform size. Red twig shrubs specifically grown for cut branches are regularly pruned, as the current year’s growth has the best color.

red twig dogwood centerpiece for wintrerThese gorgeous fresh growth red twig branches will become part of a series of holiday/winter container arrangements we will install next week.

yellow twig dogwoodYellow twig dogwood is of equally brilliant coloration.  The bark is supple and glossy. Some stems verge on chartreuse. These stems can easily be incorporated into garlands, or woven into wreaths.

yellow twig dogwoodYellow twig has a way all its own of picking up the light from the sun low in the winter sky.

yellow twig dogwoodThis contemporary winter arrangement featuring that yellow twig is accompanied by a group of pale yellow faux ball picks, and a generous skirt of variegated boxwood.

yellow twig dogwoodThat yellow twig does glow in the late and low afternoon sun.

black willowThis black twig dogwood is reputed to be a very slow grower. It may be slow, but it is beautiful. My grower rarely produces over 100 bunches a year.

flame willowFlame willow is a strong growing shrub that grows very tall, and does not produce much in the way of horizontal branching. These tall vertical branches are a coppery cinnamon color. One bunch in a container is a statement.  Multiple bunches in a container will make anyone stop and look.  I always hope there will be flame willow still available when it is time to do my own pots.

red twig dogwoodThese winter container centerpieces featuring flame willow, faux red berry picks, and incense cedar are set to go in to a pair of winter pots we will install next week. The color is saturated and in dramatic contrast to the late November landscape.

alder branchesI usually have to remind Rob to buy me fresh cut alder branches. They are not showy in color or height. They are garden variety fresh cut twigs. There is plenty to like about a material that is ordinary as can be. They represent the winter garden in a more subdued way.

container centerpiece with alder branchesThese container centerpieces featuring fresh cut alder branches, cafe eucalyptus and preserved gypsophila will eventually grace a pair of winter pots.  The look is quiet, subtle, and wintry.

red bud pussy willowThe red twig pussy willow from our grower is spectacular. The bunches are better than 5 feet tall.  The medium bunches come in at 4 feet tall.  The red, green and brown coloration is so easy to to appreciate, and work with.

red bud pussy willowred twig pussy willow branches for winter

tiger branchesThese tiger branches are new to us. They are harvested from a desert plant noted for its silvery gray bark, segmented by black horizontal bands. They are stunning indeed. Our clients think so too – we just got in our third shipment. I like to have a wide range of branches available. Beautiful natural materials are an invitation to participate in a little winter gardening.

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Luminous

winter and holiday lightingI have had numerous emails and calls about the holiday and winter lighting available at Detroit Garden Works. To follow is a a quick look at some of the different types of lighting that we have available. We do manufacture light rings from steel, as hoops that can be hung in a window, or a tree. We also manufacture light rings with spiked stands that can be pushed into the ground or a container. We string those hoops with incandescent brown corded mini lights, or LED light strings. Take your pick. We can string light rings to order. For more information on the sizes and prices, check out this page in the Seasonal section of the Detroit Garden Works website.  Any other questions, or a request for a shipping quote, email heather@detroitgardenworks.com.  Detroit Garden Works light rings

light ringslots of hoopla-love this

lumineo lightingA Dutch company designs and manufactures some of the best LED string lighting we have ever worked with.  The black cords are flexible, and not visually prominent. The color is as warm as incandescent lighting, and much more reliable and long lived. They are shatterproof, and are reputed to last 50,000 hours or 10 years. They draw very little electricity, so they are very inexpensive to run. They are an investment up front, but the ease of use and longevity helps to make stringing lights for a good number of holiday seasons easy.  For more information, see this page on our website:     Lumineo LED twinkle light strings

lumineo LED cluster light stingsLumineo also makes a cluster light string, where the lights are much closer together.  This lighted curtain has 4 strings of lights. There are those moments when fire power is the primary objective. As far as I am concerned, the more light I can add to my winter, the better.  For more information on these cluster lights, click away.  Lumineo cluster light strings

flocked artificial Christmas treeThis artificial tree from Lumineo features a cord breakthrough-the cords are clear, and are unobtrusive.  This tree does not need another thing added to it. A  flocked tree from Lumineo

edison lightsOn the opposite end of the spectrum, these light strings feature giant bulbs with multi strand filaments, designed and manufactured from inspiration drawn from vintage lighting   Rob calls them Edison lights, named after Thomas Edison, of course. The cord is heavy and thick. The lights draw a lot of electricity, and are expensive to replace.

edison lightsThis is our second year hanging them outdoors in our lindens. They are something else to see.   the Edison lights

LED lighted starDetroit Garden Works carries many versions of holiday and winter lighting-I like this. I am a landscape designer, who designs by the sun, or the lack of it. The coming winter season is more dark than light. Gardeners can garden with light this winter season. Just saying.

luminous-winter-lighting-8Battery operated LED lights on silver wire; so beautiful!   I am not convinced yet that battery operated lights can be used over time outdoors.  No battery likes cold conditions.  But I feel sure that the day is coming when battery operated lights will stand up and function perfectly outdoors.

lumineo star lightingLumineo star lights

lumineo star lightingLumineo star lights-these high powered short garlands are great for a mantle, a coffee table, or a powder room. The light is brilliant, set on a light surface.  Set on a dark surface, the light is more subdued. I so appreciate lighting materials that are obliging to a particular situation, and a particular person. The new LED lighting is so person friendly.  LED powered star garlands

 

battery operated LED lighted treesThese LED powered trees are battery operated.

luminariaNot a fan of light generated by electricity? I get that. So do our gardening clients. These laser cut steel fire powered luminaria are sold out. There are so many ways to light the winter night, both inside and out.  Choose what appeals to you. My winter and holiday container work is in full swing.  Thinking through the lighting comes before the selection of materials and construction. You’ll see.

 

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Holiday Preview 2016

open-house-7The kick off for the Detroit Garden Works holiday preview weekend is tonight.  I have spent most of the last 2 weeks helping to get the shop ready for our only evening event of the year. It is a party for all of those gardeners who shop here, and help keep our business going. We thank all of you.  It is also an opportunity for Rob to display all of his lighting ideas for the winter to come. If you are in the area, our event runs from 5 to 9.  We have complimentary valet parking, a light dinner, and drinks. It is terrifically good fun, should you have a mind to attend.  If not, the event goes on Friday and Saturday 9-5, and Sunday 12-4.  As there is more I have to do before 5, I will leave you with these pictures. And I will post more of the evening party for those who are too far away to come. Next week, I promise I will be back to writing-of course about the gardening season ahead. Hope to see you later!

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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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