The Collection

the collection (14)I will admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed constructing this collection of winter wreaths. That they will be boxed and packed away until next fall does not bother me in the least bit. There will be a season for them-to come.  Making them for a time yet to come has made me think about how gardeners invest their energy in a landscape or garden that will bear results some time in the future. Digging in tulip bulbs in unpleasantly cold conditions in late fall for the pleasure that is their blooming months later is a case in point.  It takes time for a seed to germinate, and grow on. Hellebore seeds germinate readily, and unless you are a passionate hybridizer, you can let nature take its course.  But that sprout is many years from its first flower.  And many more years from a handsome mature clump. Most things imagined, worked for, and accomplished in the garden involves time.

the collection (12)No matter what you put to a landscape, you will do the time. There is no getting around this.  I might plant a 10″ caliper beech, but I know it will be 10 years before that beech recovers from the shock of the transplanting process, and starts to grow.  If I plant a 1″ caliper beech, it could be many more than 10 years for that tree to grow to a substantial size. There is no getting around an engagement with the future. The investment in the future of a garden takes planning, lots of grime, and patience. In my own garden, I delight in the things I have done by instinct. I love the texture and smell of dirt. I have patience for nothing, but for my garden. That’s me. Not everyone has an interest in dividends which pay an unspecified rate at some vague date many miles down the road. But by and large, I find gardeners are willing to invest themselves in a process of growing on that may take many seasons to bear fruit. I see evidence of this all the time. I think this willingness to bet on the future of a landscape is a characteristic I really admire.

the collection (15)Those gardeners who think through a landscape design, and sign up for installing that dreamboat of a garden one shovel full at a time – bravo. I know plenty of gardeners who have moved mountains with a spoon. The garden they hope will be is all about the promise of the future. No wonder spring is that season that delights every gardener. The work of the previous year is one year older.  All of us who garden have a common bond. We dig as though we only have 10 minutes to live.  And then we wait.

the collection (16)The waiting can be next to impossible to endure. There are those who keep on gardening, as if possessed, even when the day is done, and the sky is dark. There are those who plant a whip of a tree, and watch it, as if they could not bear to change the channel.  I do not know any gardener who is happy about waiting.  But wait, they do.

the collection (17)This wreath, which took an inordinate amount of time to design, and an endless amount of time to make, might be my favorite of this January series. I love seeing the grapevine structure, upon which all else is built.  The bleached acorn tops and the preserved baby’s breath  are just about the same color. The acorn tops are some lighter than the gyp. I cannot really explain how this arrangement of color and textures speaks to me-but there is no need. It is all there, to be seen. Look quick, as Sunne is ready to box this up, and put it in storage.

the winter wreaths (6)After taking this outside to photograph it, I hung it back up on a wreath hanging suction cup affixed to the glass of my office door. At the end of the day, I came back to my office.  The suction cup had given way, and this wreath was face down on the floor. There is damage that will take a lot of time to repair. This is no different than all of the disappointments that dog gardeners routinely. Any investment can sour. Will I repair this wreath due to debut next fall-oh yes I will.

the collection (6)I have so enjoyed having my hands on a group of natural materials, and arranging them as I see fit. The making is all about the pleasure of this moment.  As a gardener, the moment I put my shovel to the ground is as sweet as it gets. I am happy to report that I am in that winter sweet space, having a great time.

the collection (7)wreath detail

the collection (10)wreath with dried limes

the collection (11)wreath detail

the winter wreaths (11)winter wreath

the wreaths (16)split pine cone wreath detail

the collection 24the beginning of the series

grapevine wreathI have one grapevine wreath left to go.  You can see the bare bones. I have hopes it will be the best of this series.



Making It Personal

custom (1) This January, I am spending some time making wreaths. I did not have the time for it in November or December, but late is better than next year. I enjoy all manner of making, whether it be a garden, a garland, a flower arrangement, a container planting,  a drawing of a landscape design, or the building a moss topiary sculpture. There is a lot of personal satisfaction in what I can make with my hands. Two hands driven by what I call reverie are hands at work-this I like.  A call for all hands on deck is routine for me, in the spring, summer, fall, and early winter. During the gardening season I need help. Hands on can be an adjective, but for me it is a way of professional life. Making wreaths in January does not involve gear, dirt, shovels, weather or others. I can be on my own. I can make them wearing my slippers. I can walk away when I want, and resume when I feel like it. I asked Sunne when the shop was due to close January 9 if she would please leave all of the grapevine, magnolia, and honeysuckle wreath forms, and all of our natural materials on the ground floor. All of what we had left from the fall and winter season is packed away on the tool room roof, but I have 25 square feet of materials not far from my layout table. I am delighted with this arrangement.

custom (2)A wreath requires an armature.  I do not make these grapevine wreaths, I buy them.  Though they are handmade, they are remarkably similar, one wreath to the next. There are those places where this plain hand made grapevine wreath would be perfectly stunning. But they could be just as beautiful as the beginning of something else.  Tinkering involves a span of time, and a pair of hands in concert with a point of view.

custom (3)Why be personal? I doubt I truly need to address this in any detail. Any personal expression is genuine. Any genuine expression is to be at least respected, if not admired.

DSC_3871I have always strongly subscribed to the notion that one can find interesting and noteworthy examples of personal expression anywhere and everywhere. But that aside, the best part of making something is the making.  It is absorbing and satisfying. That someone else might like or appreciate it is not the cake part of this. That would be the icing part. Cake with no icing tastes just as good as cake with icing.

January is the perfect time to make something that takes a long time to fuss over. As a gardener, it always seems like the winter stretches out in front of with, with no end in sight.  It’s good to have a project that benefits from having a lot of time for the making.
wreath making (2)A landscape design that looks rushed on paper will look even more rushed once it is implemented. A request for design during the garden season doesn’t always come with the luxury of a lot of time. A shorter amount of time means a need for a greater amount amount of focus and discipline. January offers the opportunity to be less focused on the end result, and more focused on the pleasure of the process. I welcome the reverie time.

wreath making (3)whitewashed acorn caps

wreatha layer of preserved gypsophila

wreath making (5)I am not sure if either of these are finished, as I don’t have to be sure. I have them hanging where I can continue to look at them. Maybe something else will occur to me.

wreath making (1)This is the wreath I am working on now. A few days ago, I removed the pair of split pinecones in the top center.  That took a fair amount of time, and they were both wired and glued in. But I had the time. It occurred to me that the cut surface of the pine cones would be more interesting than the intact surface. So I took that time.

wreath making (6)putting up the split sides

wreath making (7)My winter holiday comes after the holiday.


At A Glance: The Holiday At Home

holiday lighting (2)My holiday at home came very late in December. I do not even think of decking out my own home for winter until all of my work is done. That only seems fair. Buck and I are both used to the last minute nature of our holiday. This December 23rd, I was so glad to see my crew driving up and unloading what would hold down my landscape for the winter. Fortunately, the weather was so mild that the installation went fast. They were working. I was breathing a big sigh of relief.

holiday lighting (3)The Branch Studio people made short work of constructing and hanging the garland. As I like the garland hung straight across the top, we attach that section to a bamboo pole. The pole gets attached to the wall via screws that are set in the mortar, and concrete wire looped around the pole.

holiday lighting (4)the finish at the front door

December 23, 2015 004one of the four cast iron pots original to the house that are visible from the street.

holiday lighting (5)I have a very formal landscape. The tenor of the seasonal display is in sharp contrast to that sober and spare landscape. The contrast here is in form. The pots and garland are loosely made, and not all that formal. Contrast is a very important element in design. Too much of the same can be monotonous at best, or overwhelming at worst. Contrast makes each element look better. There is a lot of green here, but the textures vary.

holiday lighting (6)The grapevine garland is wound with lights. This will help to keep my porch well lit over the winter months.

holiday lighting (7)at dusk

holiday lighting (10)night light

holiday lighting (9)My front porch is lighted as best I can. If I have company coming,I want the way to the front door to be brightly lit. If I have a winter ahead of me, I want some entertainment and pleasure from the dormant landscape.

holiday lighting (8)Pots that are full up for the winter, and warmly lit make the quiet and dark a little easier to bear.

Flipping The Switch

night lightThe beginning of the winter season is marked by the scarcity of daylight. By mid December, it seems like it is dark most of the time. Winter days are likely to be gray days. It is no wonder that outdoor lighting is a hallmark of the holidays. I have always thought that holiday lighting is a form of winter gardening. The lights may outline the roof of a house, or decorate a specimen tree or evergreen, or be draped over the shrubbery. No one but the most ruinously serious of us thinks their holiday lighting will be subject to a taste test. The materials are relatively inexpensive, and people express their dismay with the coming of the dark, and the celebration of the holidays with abandon. I like all of the light at this gloomy time of year.

DSC_3753I will confess that most landscape lighting does not interest me-except during the winter.  It is light late in the summer, and equally as light early in the morning.  The light from the sky is like no other.  But once the skies go dark, in tandem with the landscape going dormant, I am more interested in some night light.  Rob’s lit spheres have been a staple at Detroit Garden Works for a number of years.  We manufacture raw steel circles that we infill with brown corded lights in 2 styles. We make them so they can be hung from a low branch of a big tree.  We also make them with long prongs that can be pushed into the ground in a garden. These light rings are more about winter light, than holiday light.  What a relief. It is OK to run those rings all winter long.

DSC_3765Winter containers are the perfect vehicle for some temporary winter lighting. The greens do a great job of obscuring the cords. When the dark comes early, it is a pleasure to enjoy what is in those pots day or night. The advent of warm light LED light strings means that lighting the landscape in the winter is an inexpensive affair. They draw so little power-about 1/10th that of incandescent light strings. The color of that light has improved so much in recent years. When LED string lights first came out, that cold blue light had no grace or charm whatsoever.
DSC_3754Electric light in the winter landscape adds a little sparkle to a gloomy morning and afternoon. Company coming to my house for dinner at 7pm are walking up to the front door in the dark.  Landscape path lighting is utilitarian.  Lights in the pots dispel the gloom, and say welcome.

DSC_3755My landscape lighting skills are poor to middling.  There are lighting designers who do an incredible job of featuring the landscape at night. Should I have a client who is interested in landscape lighting, I refer them. I myself am not interested in lighting design. I am interested in a warm, friendly, and unstudied look.

DSC_3756There are those places and moments when night lighting is theater. That theater is not my forte. I like a blush over the landscape. In the very late afternoon, the light in pots is as soft as it is sparkly. This much light is enough.

DSC_3804Once the skies go dark, those lighted pots glow. This brick wall is bathed in a warm subtle light.

DSC_3802This client has a covered porch, with no ceiling light fixture. One string of our 1000 light LED strings illuminate the perimeter of the ceiling, and each side of the front door. Another 750 count LED light string strewn on the floor of the porch around a grouping of pots makes this porch glow.  A winter with a glow in the landscape is a winter that has a landscape that is lively.

DSC_3797My advice this 6th day of January? Stay warm.  Plug something in.