At A Glance: Other Garlands

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This is a very big porch, that features a pair of large Branch boxes. Lacking a garland, this front door would look uninviting. A front door that makes a strong welcoming statement at the holidays is a front door that anticipates holiday gatherings between family and friends – that front door says come inside! A holiday landscape is celebratory. Friendly. And most of all, warm. A porch of this size is a lot of brick, stone and wood. Some green helps to warm the space. The magnolia garland is simple, and is lighted. Warmer for winter?  This makes sense in my zone.

holiday garland with a wreathA wreath at the top of the garland adds a lot of visual weight. This wreath has lots of materials attached to it. Though the garden has gone dormant, a holiday expression born from the garden is a pleasure all around.

holiday and winter garlands (1)I cannot explain why I am drawn to anything that has grapevine on it.  Rob found a local artisan who has been covering steel topiary forms and spheres with grapevine for the shop. We cannot keep up with the demand. A roll of grapevine provides incredibly stability and strength to an evergreen garland. The strength of a twirling roll of grapevine reflects the strength and purpose of every gardener. Our warm December aside, our holiday weather can be very cold and blustery. A grapevine adds a lot of volume to a garland with very little mass. Lights on that grapevine help to illuminate all of the other garland elements evenly.

holiday garlandAn artificial garland is fine on a covered porch.  Exposed to the sun and elements, an artificial garland will fade, no matter how beautiful it represents the forms and shapes of the real thing.

holiday and winter garland (2)With multiple garlands, plain and simple can be very effective. If I wind garland around a column, I like enough length to make a puddle of greens on the ground. I wind the evergreen garlands in opposite directions, given pairs of columns.

holiday and winter garland (11)Southern magnolia garlands have a strong visual presence. Those large glossy green leaves with their velvety brown obverse are beautiful.  Magnolia branches, leaves and garlands will dry.  Those glossy dark green leaves turn to a pale green, and finally to bronze. They curl as they dry. The leaves stick tight to the branches, all winter long. In mid December, a fresh magnolia garland is a delight.

DSC_7011My garland at home is different every year. This past year, faced with a number of leftover pink eucalyptus bunches, I took the plunge for pink.  After adding some orange in the way of copper curly willow to the mix, I was surprised at how much I liked the look.  A garland is usually viewed from afar. This means  big gestures and bold color choices may be pleasing.

garlandGarlands can be incredibly heavy. Hanging a garland is always in defiance of gravity.  A hanging mechanism is essential.  Years ago I would ask my clients if I could drill into the mortar between their bricks, and set screws to hold the garland. I have had clients forego garland, as they were worried this would damage the integrity of the brick, or be noticeable the remainder of the year. I can report that those homes where I have been hanging garlands from screws set into the wall for 20 years are still standing. A proper hanging mechanism is not only necessary, it makes the hanging easier.

holiday garlandIn this case, a light fixture over the door bore most of the weight of the garland. A substantially thick stone surround to the door provided a safe ledge for this garland.  Any garland more complex than this would require fasteners set in to the wall. So much of what is beautiful at the holidays and into the winter is the beauty of the construction and installation. I find this is true of anything in the landscape. A beautifully imagined dream for a landscape only becomes a dream come true when it is properly planted, or installed.

holiday and winter garlands (2)I have a particular interest in making and hanging holiday garland.  I would guess that springs from the idea that I need to wrap my winter season in something not only beautiful, but warm. The gray and the cold is next up for my garden-and me.  I am not a fan of the dormant season.  That said, I do what I can to make the winter a little more tolerable.

the front door for the holidayYesterday we planted tulips and daffodils for this client. We also hung a garland, and installed cut Christmas trees in their pots. The garland and these trees are lighted.  Their front door at dark will be welcoming. They are also ready for the spring. We planted lots of spring flowering bulbs. They are ready for holidays, and the coming of winter-and the spring to come. Every great moment in the landscape twinkles.

 

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.

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DSC_6791winter garland

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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..

At A Glance: More Holiday Garlands

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It’s December in the garden.  Time to hang it up.

 

The Holiday Garland

floral-picks.jpgConstructing evergreen garlands is not a job I would tackle.  I buy them already made from Dan Prielipp at my local farmer’s market.  He makes them up thick for me from a number of species of fir boughs. A 50 foot length is incredibly heavy.  So much wood in those boughs, and so much water.  I can put evergreen boughs together to decorate a mantel, but garland construction I leave to the professionals.  I am, however, able to decorate a garland. To tell the truth, that decoration is my favorite part.  I take the additions of decor to a garland seriously.  My crew will be hanging a very heavy and very long object from a home or commercial building. Anything I add to that should be strong and firmly attached.  The wired floral picks pictured above are an essential element of the construction.  My additions to the garland will require wood of its own.

garland-materials.jpgIt took most of today to decorate the garland I will hang at home.  I designed from the materials that were still available.  Detroit Garden Works has sold thousands of fresh cut branches, several hundred cases of fresh cut evergreens – and closing in on a thousand bunches of preserved eucalyptus.  As much as I love the eucalyptus, I had only 2 color choices left.  Pink, or black.  The winter season is black enough for this gardener.  Black at my front door-not a chance.  Too gloomy.  Pink it was.  Designing a garland for the holidays with pink-I rather liked the challenge.

decorating-the-garland.jpgAny element I add to a holiday garland gets put together ahead of time.  Under no circumstances would I set up a ladder next to a garland that has already been hung, and proceed to work.  First of all, it was 17 degrees today.  Secondly, any construction project asks for a work surface at elbow height, a full compliment of materials, and a better than full compliment of tools.  This garland will be decorated with magnolia stems, pine cones, and pink eucalyptus.  I put a bouquet together with a zip tie.  Once every element is arranged as it should be, I tighten the tie, and clip off the tail.

glued-and-wired.jpgI shorten all of the stems of the materials, insert a floral pick, wire the pick to the stems, and soak the entire affair with hot melt glue.  I want but one stem to go into the garland.  Many stems are not very cooperative with one another.  The garland is composed of boughs that are quite tightly wired together.  There are not so many spaces to insert other material.  One pick, to which all of the other elements are attached, goes into the garland.

garland-materials.jpgWhat next?  This is a design question that had much to do with color.  How would I make that pink flavored eucalyptus look like my first choice for a holiday garland? Luckily, fresh green looks good with just about any color. Nothing struck my eye, until I saw these small faux orange fruits.  I have no idea what fruit they intend to represent.  Mini persimmons?  Orange cherry tomatoes?  I wasn’t going to quibble about the thought behind these little fruits.  I needed to make that pink look good.

garland-decoration.jpgI made 18 of these small bouquets-all of them road and weather ready.  The orange and pink combination was starting to interest me. The pine cones seem so essential to any holiday garland.  There are so many different types and sizes.  We stock tropical as well as native cones; they all speak to the holidays and the winter season.  These magnolia branches are from a supplier that specializes in naturally grown, unpruned, and small leaved bunches. The large dark green leaf is a beautiful foil to the evergreen needles.  The brown felted obverse of the leaves is a gorgeous texture and color.

garland-decoration.jpgMy pink eucalyptus was beginning to look very festive.  I wasn’t all that worried.  Any materials can be put together in an interesting way. The holiday garland is an expression of warmth and celebration.  That expression can be realized in lots of ways.  In no end of color schemes.  No rules.  That simple moment when materials say hello to the imagination is pure pleasure.

assembling-the-garland.jpgA good many feet of this garland has been strapped to a stout bamboo pole. I like my garland straight.  Given that evergreen garland wants in the worst way to drape, I attach this particular garland to a pole.  A garland which is wired to a pole only needs a few points of attachment.  A pair or 3 screws, into the mortar joints. Holiday garland not only needs to be beautiful, it needs to be ready and friendly to hang.  My crew never complains about anything, ever.  They are unfailingly good natured.  This makes me determined to make an installation as smooth as I can.

garland-decoration.jpgIt took most of today to get this garland decorated, and ready to hang.  I glued and wired every bouquet to the horizontal part of the garland.  The garland that hangs down the sides of the front porch-who knows where the evergreen chips may fall.  A garland is guaranteed to twist until it comes to rest.  The additional decorations are glued and wired such that they could be easily attached to the sides after the garland is hung.

holiday-decor.jpgAs for my pots-pink eucalyptus, and curly copper willow.  I may add some coppery brown sinamay shot through with gold threads to the mix. My holiday at home is taking shape.