At A Glance: A Gorgeous Entrance

making an entranceMy clients in Ann Arbor have an entrance to their front door that stops me in my tracks. Per my request, they sent pictures.

making an entranceThe proportion and scale is unusual and striking.

making an entranceThere is plenty of room for Banjo on the generously scaled steps.

making an entranceBanjo helping to make an entrance

making an entranceThis entrance is all of their own making. It is incredibly beautiful, is it not?

 

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The John Davis Roses

climbing roses (11)One of the many benefits of planting summer containers for a client that has had a landscape and garden designed and installed by us is the chance to see how that landscape is growing on. This client is 45 minutes away, so my visits are not all that often. I will drive out whenever there is a problem that needs some attention. But this yearly visit is never about trouble. It is about adding some seasonal plants to a garden that is the apple of its owner’s eye. She not only looks after it, she truly enjoys every bit of it. Planting her containers in June is a pleasure. The soil is warm, and the plants that have spent the early weeks of the summer protected from unpredictable weather in a greenhouse look great, and will handle the transplanting without issue. Though we planted 21 containers today, the big news of the day were the John Davis roses.

June 13, 2016 055John Davis is one of the Canadian Explorer Series of extremely hardy and disease resistant roses developed by Agriculture Canada in the 1960’s.  The goal was to hybridize garden roses that would not only withstand cold northern winters, but would perform beautifully in spite of it. John Davis is hardy in zone 3-think of that. There are quite a few roses in the series, all of which are good garden plants in my zone, meaning they are tough plants that shrug off the fungal diseases roses are famous for. They bloom as if there were no tomorrow. John Davis is a great choice for a not too tall climber that has the look of an old fashioned rose more often seen in England or California.

climbing roses (6)This is the 4th June for the John Davis climbing roses planted on each post of a pair of long pergolas that frame the view from the back of the house to the lake. Each was planted with a companion clematis, which range in color from white to dark purple. The clematis do not seem to mind the competition from these vigorous roses. Though John Davis usually tops out at about 7 feet, these roses are up 9.5 feet off the ground, and have started to grow over the roof of the pergola. I will be interested to see if they keep adding more height. I have planted John Davis in a number of gardens, almost all with great success.  This group has seemed happy from the moment they were planted.  The soil is heavy clay, and does not give its moisture up easily.  There is a constant breeze from the lake, which I suspect has something to do with the fact that I never see mildew or black spot on the plants. They get a yearly dose of rose tone, and extra water when they need it. All that remains is to stand back in June, and take in the bloom.

June 13, 2016 065The lax canes have had some support to attach them to the pergola poles, but that is not visible. The flowers are not particularly large, but there are thousands of them on each one of these plants. I am surprised that this series of roses is not more readily available in my area.   The roses we have available at Detroit Garden Works, including John Davis, had to be custom grown. I made arrangements for that almost a year ago.

June 13, 2016 047I understand the reluctance to grow roses.  They are ungainly plants that no one would have, but for the bloom and perfume.  They routinely fail.  I mitigate that tendency by planting the graft 2 to 3 inches below ground. No gardener wants diseased plants in their garden. Choosing roses with a clear track record of resistance to disease and hardiness is educated buying. The Canadian Explorer roses might be worth a look. I find that they are reliable in every regard.

June 13, 2016 110Roses in bloom like this is a garden experience like no other for a gardener who greatly values romance. Roses invoke romance like no other garden plant. I would go on to say that the big idea here is that any garden plant in the right place and endowed with the proper care will thrive. So much about the success of a garden depends on a thorough understanding of the horticultural requirements. I am rarely perfect in this regard. I have been known to short some greatly needed sun to sun loving perennials. I have placed my share of part sun perennials in shade that is too deep. I have exposed shade plants to blistering sun, in the hopes they will adjust.  I have planted perennials that require perfect drainage in soggy soil, in hopes I could skate by.  Suffice it to say that everything I have leaned about planting perennials has come from the plants.  Any plant that is unhappy will speak back to me, if I am inclined to observe, and listen.

June 13, 2016 080These John Davis roses in bloom are extraordinary. I can only claim that I somehow managed to put the right plant in the right place, in the beginning. What had happened over the past 4 years is a constellation of events attended by nature, and looked after by an extraordinary client. This does not happen so often. Thanks, Harriet.

June 13, 2016 053The day planting containers here was a moment I shall not soon forget.

climbing roses (10)June garden

climbing roses (8)Venus dogwoods in bloom

climbing roses (1)John Davis

climbing roses (7)The greater garden is just as beautiful.

climbing roses (5)oxeye daisies and amsonia “Blue Ice”

climbing roses (4)looking towards the lake

climbing roses (9)A June garden-what could be better?

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The Garland

evergreen holiday garlandA handmade holiday garland is a labor of love. There is so much involved. Expect to need lots of zip ties, and nimble fingers.  I do buy my mixed fir garlands already made up, at my local farmers market. But that length of cut boughs all strung together with twine is just the beginning.  We routinely add our own cut branches to the existing garland, so it is very thick. Warm for winter is a given. For this 50 foot garland, we split the garland in two, flipped one side, and reattached the two pieces at the center. This makes the direction of the greens face down equally on both sides.  I am not a fan of a garland whose branches go up one side, and down the other. That roller coaster approach disturbs the visual rhythm.  All up facing branches, or all down facing. Decide which look you like. A garland is too much work not to take seriously.

December 10, 2015 007Lots of our garlands are wrapped with grapevine. A 50 foot evergreen garland will take a pair of 35 foot rolls of grapevine.  Yes, we roll the vines around the garland in opposite directions, from the center. Grapevine is incredibly strong and resilient. We zip tie the loosely wired evergreen garland to that grapevine every few feet.  This creates a garland that is very strong, no matter how many pine cones you pile on. That grapevine is incredibly strong. It is a great vehicle for a string of lights. One 72 foot strand of 1000 warm LED garland lights will completely illuminate a 50 foot garland in one fell swoop. We attach the lights to the grapevine.  The grapevine stands proud of the evergreen garland.  The light encircling the evergreen garland will illuminate it.

20151209_120833A garland needs to be properly scaled to whatever architectural feature it means to celebrate. Big garlands are incredibly heavy, and require a number of people armed with ladders to install.  It is my good fortune that Buck sends his fabricators from Branch over to me for several weeks, during garland hanging season. Their fabricating jobs at Branch has given them a good idea of what it takes to accomplish a solid construction and a great finish. Once they hang a garland, they rearrange every element we have attached to it in a pleasing way.  Everything we wire on a garland is loosely wired, so we can rearrange once the garland is aloft. I can construct the most complicated work in the studio-those Branch men know how to get it up in the air, beautifully.

holiday garlandHanging a long and heavy garland may take four people. Yes, we do drill and set screws where we need to. A winter garland is a beautiful way to celebrate the winter season. It needs to stay in place the entire winter, through the snow and winds.  Do I leave garlands up all winter?  Oh yes.  A garland can tell a story about a garden, and a gardener. A thick garland adds a lot of warmth to a garden season which is dormant and cold.

DSC_6934A garland framing a doorway is welcoming and festive at this time of year. I would not do without a winter garland over my doorway at home. I often think about how any gesture in the garden is so much a response to a gardener’s relationship with nature. The garland framing my doorway tells all who enter that the garden welcomes them.

recent work (18)What I think about when I see this detail of a garland we install is about the relationships have been forged over the gardening season past. These materials reflect the taste of my client. Our good relationship makes it important to me to represent them as best I can. The winter is no gardeners favorite season, but there are lots of ways to celebrate and enjoy the off season. Warm and generous comes first.

holiday garlands 001We do all of the construction of our garlands in our garage. The approach to the work is such an important element of construction. We set all of our garlands on a string of cardboard boxes, at a height which is comfortable.  These artificial garlands to which we have added other elements will be installed indoors for the holidays have gotten a personal signature based on the taste of our client. Red, green, and white, she says. We are happy to oblige.

holiday garlands 004These bleached ponderosa pine cones are a major element, both in size, and in color. They are the organizing metaphor around which every other element – the sage green eucalyptus, the tallow berries, and the red berries – provides a supporting cast.

holiday garland (3)Those elements which get attached to a winter garland are wired together.  We decide in advance the frequency with which we attach them.  Typically, the spacing at the top is closer together than the spacing at the bottom.

DSC_6907At the top of this archway, every color and texture element essential to this garland is massed together. That density will fall off as the garland descends. I do not mean to imply any rule. This is a construction which I think looks good to my eye.  Every gardener needs to trust their own eye, and proceed accordingly.

holiday garland (1)Our construction in the shop is not so fancy.  The garlands get set up on a collection of cardboard boxes we reserve for this purpose.

holiday garland (2)The additions to the evergreens may have a number of elements.  I try to err on the warm and generous size and spacing.

IMG_7464holiday garland

DSC_6791winter garland

DSC_6911winter garland

Jan 6 2013 (16)Every year I install a garland on the shop of one type or another. Once the snow comes, our building looks snug and warm. The garlands over the windows are eyebrows of the garden sort. The best moment of any garland is what nature bestows in the way of winter weather. This is my idea of  great winter garland.  Yours might be entirely different. No matter your idea or construction, a winter garland is a way to warmly wreathe, and breathe, over the winter to come..

Picture Taking, Garden Making

Sept 14, 2015 003I have been tinkering some with taking pictures with my new iphone 6. I am not very technically inclined, meaning I have always used a cell phone as a phone, and not much else. But this phone is capable of facilitating communications of all sorts, and in very sophisticated visual ways. The photo feature produces images that are amazingly sharp and detailed. Even at close range, in the hands of an older person.The fact that it is light, and fits in my pocket, means that there is no need to plan ahead. I am almost always ready, for anything that strikes my fancy.  Or that unexpected, interesting, or enchanting moment.

image6 (9)I just learned that I can edit my pictures.  I can change or rearrange the composition.  This means I can set the four edges of the photograph wherever I want. I can crop-as in blow up the image to the edges I have set, to eliminate all of those unnecessary visual details.  This is the heart and soul of editing. Keep what matters the most, feature what brings an idea to life visually in its simplest and most dramatic form, and discard what distracts. This crop feature makes that easy. Even when it is not so easy, this camera is a great tool by which to learn. A photograph is two-dimensional-flat. How the composition of that two dimensional picture is handled can create the illusion of great depth. Think of it.  This phone has a filter feature.  Any photograph can be overlaid with a number of different transparent color overlays-like acetate gels over a lens. This cropped photograph of succulents got overlaid with a color overlay called chroma. That overlay gives the greens in the picture picture a more intense blue/green cast.

image5 (11)This overlay is called noir. Whatever the color of the overlay, it turns the greens in the original photograph to black. Succulents in black and white-a very different point of view. An interesting point of view.

image7 (11)This overlay is called “instant”.  I have no idea what that means.  I chose it for this picture, as it enhanced the natural pale and muddy blue green of the lavender and the flapjack. The red edges of the flapjack are now a muted, muddy and moody terra cotta color. This overlay does not accurately depict the appearance of the plants the moment that I took the picture, but it accurately depicts how I see these plants.

Sept 14, 2015 039Seeing is not only about the optics of vision. How people see things is overlaid by many layers.  History, experience, memory, desire-these are but 4 of 1004 factors that influence how any given person sees.  No one sees optically.  They see emotionally.  That complex organism we know as a person sees like no other.  For any designer, how they see is their most precious asset. Successfully communicating that seeing can forge an artist from a designer.

Sept 14, 2015 034My IPhone recorded this arrangement of flowers on my sunny daytime deck based on numerous scientific calculations about how to handle the exposure in the best and most pleasing way possible.

flowers 2A chroma overlay, with a bright light overlay makes the saturation of the color more intense. This photograph is edited.  I would guess that the editing would not read as well if the picture were printed.  Computers are glorified light boxes.  The light shines through the image, like those Kodak slides from 50 years ago. The intensity of the light is a pleasure to see.

flowers 3This overlay is even more intense, and dramatic.  The photograph begins to have an aura about it.

image15 (2)This sunny overlay saturates the color of my terra cotta pot. These pots are a pale peach, on a day with no overlays.  Here, the color is on fire.  The shadows on my brown chairs are blue. The pink and yellow flowers are brilliantly pink and blue. This edit is a happy edit.  A high  summer edit.

Sept 14, 2015 037This picture is as the camera read it.

Sept 14, 2015 036The same picture, edited, is an expression of how I felt, and what I truly saw, when I took this picture. How do I explain this in words?  Nature is a vast and ultimately a most important stage.  Everything of any consequence goes on there.  I have great respect for the story that is to come when the lights dim. The light is drama in and of itself.  The light and dark in a landscape-that relationship can be very dramatic.

image1 (16)If you are a garden maker, all of the above is of critical importance.  The composition. The editing. The plants arranged in a fresh or unexpected way.  The design that is is subject to a series of overlays that describe the maker. I feel quite sure that if 100 landscape designers were asked to create a design for the same space, every design would be different. Distinctively different. A designer and client that share certain overlays are bound to produce a project of note. A great landscape rings true, and is emotionally sound.

image15As for me, I like landscape designs that are simple, and saturated. Saturated with thoughtful composition.Saturated with shapes, color, textures, memories, events, and moments. I have not explained this very well, but that process by which gardeners create is loaded with mono, tonal, noir, chroma, fade, process, transfer and instant overlays.  A life applied to a landscape design-would that every project I do would have this overlay. Adding some light, dark, and color to this mix we call design- it could be brilliant.