Happy Holidays From Richard K

Five Golden Rings


Richard K has been reading Dirt Simple for some time now;  I know this, as I hear from him from time to time.  A committed gardener and reader from Cypress, Texas.  This past summer I got the chance to meet him in person-he was in the Detroit area on business.  What a treat it was to meet him face to face!  I heard from him Monday after posting pictures of the front of the shop just before dawn.  He left a comment saying that he had taken Rob’s idea for holiday light rings, and run with it.  He strung his hoops with gold lights-5 golden rings!  How perfect for the holidays.  I asked him to send pictures-which he did.  To follow are his pictures, and his comments about his holiday decorating-I am sure you will enjoy this as much as I did.  


My Five Golden Rings glow beautifully hanging from the trees.  They are captivating.  Simple, yet striking.  Next to gardening, Christmas is my next favorite hobby.  I love everything about it, especially Christmas trees and of course, the lights.


Here is another section of my yard which showcases my “Who-ville Pine” and my glowing orbs.  Since we do not have pyramidal conifers in my part of Texas, I had to make my own!  The glowing orbs continue to fascinate my family as well as our visitors!


 A full on view of the house.  Very traditional.  Wreaths in the windows, garlands on the balcony.  I don’t put lights on the house because it is a bit tall.  The glowing orbs out on the lawn are simple, yet striking.




 The driveway gate has a four foot wreath adorned with old fashioned blowmolds.  I really can’t stand these figures set out in the yard, but yet I find them charming when they decorate a wreath!  Ping-pong balls cover the bulbs of some unfortunately colored LED lights and soften the light to a warm glow.  I like to say that this is for our kids, but this bit of kitsch is a favorite of mine!


 The front porch is a bit more formal with white cyclamen and columnar junipers adorned with snowball, pearl and twinkle lights.  A Moravian star illuminates the boxwood wreath and boxwood garland.  Giant jingle bells adorn the wreath.

A black iron urn is ready for the holidays.


Our favorite garlands.  We made these years ago from spruce cones and crystals.  These are draped in every front window downstairs.


  And finally, our mantle.  Silver and white … one of my wife’s favorite color schemes.  Another favorite of ours is mercury glass … one can never have enough.  Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Richard K, your house and home dressed for the holidays is really beautiful. You have collections of various things-spruce cone garlands, mercury glass, blowmolds, and lighted orbs.  How you display your collections is interesting, and engaging.   As for your gold rings-this new collection looks  gorgeous hanging from your trees.  5 gold rings-very well done indeed.  Thank you so much for sending me these pictures, and agreeing to let me share them.  Happy holidays to you, too.

Home For The Holidays

After one’s friends and family, is there anything better in this world than home for the holidays?  I have friends and clients that regularly travel over the holidays. Better them than me;  I so like being home.  In my twenties I lived in North Carolina-the thought of that trip home to Michigan for Christmas still raises the hair on the back of my neck.  One year, I decided to come home by way of Washington DC-the trip across country to the midwest-a nightmare.  Glare iced over freeways meant sliding down the hills in the close company of giant trucks-no one was driving. We were all sweating and concentrating on staying alive.  Thank heavens Buck and I host our own Christmas, right at home.

Should it sound boring to you that I like being home, consider this.  I am home a small percentage of the day.  I leave at dawn, or in the dark; I come home at dusk, or in the dark.  I lived in my house for four years before I met my neighbors.  The prospect of being home during the day over a holiday-delightful. Just this morning I finally finished getting it ready for our celebration.

One Christmas Eve some years ago Buck and I decided to open one package; one thing led to another.  We now celebrate our Christmas on Christmas Eve.  On the menu for this evening-mac and cheese.  Our holiday is just about the two of us-so no need for a fancy dinner.  Chardonnay, mac and cheese, the exchange of gifts.  I so look forward to this.  Christmas morning we talk little, eat coffee cake made by Steve’s daughter Violet; we relax. Christmas night, Buck’s son will come for dinner-he is travelling here today from Alabama.  Buck will be cooking a good part of the day-which is what he likes.  I will be reading a good part of the day-what a luxury.  He cooks; I set the table, and head the cleanup detail. This I call a peaceable holiday.

The prospect of a Christmas tree did not much interest me this year. My so fabulous collection of grapevine deer interested me plenty.  I took a standing grapevine buck home for the holidays. A buck in the living room-surprising.  My Buck was amused and pleased that a traditional Christmas tree that last year was a thicket of magnolia branches in an urn had been replaced by a sculpture with his name. 

Some left over mixed cedar roping went on the mantel; the rest I pooled on the floor.  It took all of 5 minutes to evenly top the roping with 3 strands of  white lights. Preserving the natural curl of the cord as it comes out of the box makes them less noticeable than straight wire.  The light covers, two few cattail balls and a snowball later, I have a spot for the buck to stand.  

A necklace of lights may not be the most glamorous accessory, but it helps light the Buck, and a dark corner of the room.

Once I switch on those chartreuse mini lights and snow lights, the space has a much more festive look.

Any holiday expression that brings the idea of peaceable kingdom to the surface gets my interest.  I like the bugs.  I like the birds.  I like the raccoons and possums with whom I share my garden.  The cat I saw this afternoon jumping down into the fountain-I said hello.  The corgis-don’t get me started on them. The Italian paper mache goats Rob bought-I plan to decorate for the holidays around them for  a long time. 

The dining room sideboard is a small version of the peaceable kingdom. I did not need to do much more for a great holiday than come home.

Awl In

I did mention a few days ago that Buck graced me with a Christmas tool kit full of tools I had never heard of-just last year. I have had occasion this week to make use of one of his choices- a small blue tool called an awl. It makes holes.  Much of what I do at the holiday involves fastening; the ability to make holes can make ther process of attaching one element to another go fast.  My faux fruit is heavy; a solid core has a skin of some rubbery material.  How to fasten it to a banister garland or wreath involved some trial and error.  Awl in hand, I went to work.   

No florist’s pick is strong enough to penetrate the skin of this fruit.  My awl, armed with its long sharpened steel shaft pierced that skin without a problem.  Visualizing where that hole should be punched is not that tough.  I placed the fruit in the position I needed.  Any heavy hard cored, soft shelled thing that needs a hole and a slot substantial enough to attach it to a garland-it made sense to run the awl up the side of the fruit.  I hope I am explaining this clearly.  

I buy 18″ florist’s picks by the bale.  I have no idea what they are made of, but they have the strength of a kitchen skewer.  I was able to insert a length of pick just about the length of the fruit.  This apple is at least as heavy as the real fruit. As my holiday garland will be displayed in the air, I wanted to be sure that faux apples would not be raining down from above. A skewer every bit the length of the heavy fruit-I have leverage. 

A faux white pine garland wired with large cones is the base of this holiday garland.  The garland is not going on the mantle, or above the front door.  The plan is to hang the garland in the kitchen.  I have made a note to think about this for home.  Buck and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen-on our own or with guests.  Why not decorate it for the holidays?  Hmm.  My florist’s pick-I have a fruit at each end, threaded through the wire of the base garland. A lighter fruit at the top, the heavier apple at the bottom.  Naturally.     

This pick with a fruit at each end still needs to be wired into position.  If you have a place that needs faux garland, pass over the flat plastic cedar fronds.  Faux white pine needles provide great volume up front.  Those bristly needles are sticky happy to capture whatever you might add.  The green floral wire needed to attach ornament to to the garland-a dead ringer for the white pine needles.  I like a construction that isn’t fussy, but looks effortless.  

Once my fruit is secured, picked, and wired in, I need to add a distinctly holiday element.  I am a fan of plain holiday ornaments.  I can be a little more fancy-let’s have those plain holiday balls in a number of different sizes. As in berry clusters.  The matte red surface of these small ornaments makes my picked fruits shine.

The stainless steel lights over the sink take well to a little holiday garland.  Why not?  I have ideas, rules, and much to say about garden and landscape  design-all season long.  Frankly, sometimes I make myself weary.  At the holidays, I like to be less concerned about fine design, and more concerned about the simple pleasure of the season.  My distinct pleasure today-my awl. 

A kitchen ready for the holidays-so swell.

Almost Ready

Dec 16c 005I was finally ready this morning to install holiday decor for a client both inside and out; the wreath for the front door was the last thing to be loaded in the trucks. My clients have spent years restoring a beautiful late nineteenth century house; they moved in just weeks ago.  Though the landscape renovation just got underway before we ran out of good weather, we managed to get the granite driveway installed. The new front portico and brick walks are still under construction. But being in the late stages of a construction project does not mean they have to forego the holidays. 

Dec 16c 023A formal tree in the foyer is decorated all in red. Glass ball ornaments in clusters and berry picks suffuse the interior of the tree with a red glow.  Sparkly red ornaments of all shapes and sizes hang from the tips of the branches.

Dec 16c 020The space at the bottom of the stairs is a small one. Some of the lower branches of the tree spill into the stairwell going downstairs. A cloud of red sinamay shot through with metallic red threads finishes the tree at the floor.  The garland on the stair railings is plain-but for bouquets of berry picks, ornaments and satin ribbons on the newel posts. 

Dec 16c 028My client requested that the ceiling of her dining room be dripping with holiday.  I am sure she did not think I would take her request literally-but it seemed just the thing to do.  The glass drops pick up the light from the windows, and the chandelier; the whole room sparkles.  I can imagine it will look beautiful with candlelight. 

Dec 16c 033We pinned copper and pewter colored oak leaf garland at the top of each beam.  Coppery brown manzanita branches were zip tied together in a configuration that would allow for hanging the drops at different levels, and in different planes.  Natural reindeer moss is glued over the zip ties.  The contrast of the old and somber hand hewn beams with the delicate glass drops-lovely.  

Dec 16c 025The old fashioned cooking fireplace is draped in magnolia garlands which are fastenened at the corners with pewter colored leaf and pod picks.  Small custers of brown berries add a subtle shine to the garland.  I always hang magnolia garland with the leaf tips up.  As the leaves dry, they open, and fan out, giving the garland greater volume.  Garland hung with the leaf tips down will dry down, and be smooth and uniform in width. This is gravity at work.

Dec 16c 040The new portico outdoors still lacks lighting and finishing, but Christmas is next week.  The steel topiary towers were custom made for these large pots; they are wound with brown corded lights.  As the bed of greens is so massive, we did a mix for textural interest.  Large branches of magnolia grandiflora were zip tied together to make a shrubby form akin to the steel topiary form. 

Dec 16c 045
These three English made concrete planters are stuffed with mixed greens; their centerpieces are cardinal red twig, red glitter branches and red glitter leaf picks.  They make a big splash.  The planters are positioned to screen the side door from immediate view, and direct visual attention to the front door. 

Dec 16c 049

In the spring, the antique brick walkway porch, and new landscape will dress this area up considerably.  But for now, being ready for the holidays is a gesture in a good direction.