Sparkle, Anyone?

winter sparkle (11)
My first introduction to sparkle may have been a dress my Mom wore to a New Year’s Eve party at the Whitney in the 50’s. The fabric was woven from metallic thread in white gray and black.  The dress was shimmery.  At some point I would have seen a sequined ball gown, or black patent leather shoes.  Sparkly fabrics and materials were reserved for formal evening events, when the daylight had vanished, and the party lights were dialed down low.  Sparkly materials pick up and reflect whatever light there is available. Sparkling materials seem to glow or shine from within.  In any event, all things sparkly, metallic, shimmery and glittery suggest celebration.  Sparkle at this time of year is a pleasure to the eye.

winter sparkle (8)The transition from the fall to the winter season is marked the coming of the cold, and the dark.  If I drive home from work at 5:30, it is dark.  If I drive in to work at 7am, it is dark.  November and December cold is bearable. But the dark can be daunting.  Winter container arrangements and outdoor holiday decor that incorporates a little sparkle will read better in low light. This is a holiday season, meaning there is cause to celebrate.  The copper curly willow, magnolia and boxwood in this arrangement have a glossy surface that reflects the light.  The poly mesh fabric is shot through with a gold thread every so often.  Arranging it in multiple curves and layers present lots of metallic surface area to the available light.

winter sparkle (12)Most of the green in my garden is long gone, but for the evergreens.  Needled evergreens present as little in the way of surface area to winter sun and winds-this helps them to conserve whatever moisture they have stored to survive the winter. I don’t expect or get sparkle from evergreen boughs, unless I have sprayed them with wilt pruf or vaporgard.  These waxy antidessicants will impart some shine to your cut evergreens. Burt there are other ways to introduce a little sparkle.  If you use artificial holiday picks in your outdoor containers, test them first.  A dunk in a glass of water will tell you just about instantly whether the material is suitable for outdoor use.

holiday-sparkle.jpgPoly mesh is not a natural material.  It is just what the name says it is.  It will have the same springy shape in March that it has now. Plenty of companies make plastic ornaments for outdoor use at the holidays, but glass ornaments are fine. We all have windshields, don’t we?  If I use glass ornaments outdoors, I glue on and seal the caps.  As long as you can keep water outside of the ornament, you should be fine.  Natural Michigan holly is notorious for dropping its berries fairly quickly.  A thorough soaking with vapor gard will add lots of gloss to that gorgeous red, and help prevent berry drop.

holiday sparkleSparkle comes in an incredible variety of textures.  Glittered picks reflect lots of light.  Plastic sprayed with a metallic coating glows.  Ornaments coated in glass or plastic beads refract an incredible amount of light.  Anodized aluminum wire comes in a wide variety of colors. Some paper wrapped metallic picks will survive the winter outdoors-as long as there is no rain.  Only snow. Snow resistant is much different than water resistant.  Should you have lots of rain in November and December, an acrylic sealer might help you out.

winter sparkle (17)We did this pair of Branch tapers for holiday and winter today. The topiary forms were wound with lights after I took this picture.  The big leaves of preserved silver eucalyptus reflect a lot of light. Lots of black picks with rhinestone dots will reflect the natural and artificial light.  Lots of the frasier fir boughs have small shiny gray ornaments wired to the tips.

DSC_6670There are lots of opportunities for sparkle here.  Located at the end of the driveway, these will transform and reflect the available winter light many times over.

winter sparkle (16)This third pot is located under the under hang, and will never get much in the way of light.  The silver glittered sticks in the center will make the most of whatever light is available.  I have clients for whom natural materials are the materials of choice.  Others like a little sparkle.  The best part of decorating the garden is that so many materials are available, anyone can assemble a group of materials that perfectly expresses their own individual idea of the holiday.

winter sparkle (6)The pale gold metallic picks in several heights, the cream and gold sinamay, and the pale gold pine cones in this pot are rather subdued in this pot during the day.  Come dark, the garland lights on the topiary form will create a whole lot of sparkle.

winter sparkle (14)Glass is a highly reflective material. There are enough shapes, sizes, and colors of glass ornaments to inform countless different holiday designs outdoors.

holiday sparkle.jpgIn a dark interior room, glass ornaments will gently shimmer.  The plastic bead garlands pictured here come in a 30 foot length for 6.00. They can create a lot of holiday cheer, for not so much of an investment.

holiday-containers.jpgI have yet to see a landscape visually harmed by a little sparkle at the holidays.  This is the time of year when a little celebration seems just right.

magnolia-wreath.jpgMy favorite part of this magnolia holiday wreath?  The pale chocolate string ribbon-shimmering.


The Glamorous Bits

I had a comment some days ago from a reader named Carol.  She wondered if I could talk about some ideas for adding some glamorous bits to winter containers.  Ilex verticillata, or Michigan holly, is my first choice for a glamorous addition to a winter container or garland.  That said, I find the berries on the holly will wither and fall like crazy, unless they are treated with Vaporguard.  Vaporguard is an antidessicant, much stronger and more effective than Wiltpruf.  I have some first hand experience with this.  Holly we sprayed with vaporguard was effective on those berries through February of last year.   

Without an antidessicant spray, holly berries will drop, and drop early.  These orange holly berries are new to me; we sprayed them upon delivery.  Paired with red bud pussy willow, there is a lot going on here visually.  The color is beautiful.  If you live in Michigan, you know that our winter color palette is about grey, more grey, and a dry brown.  This color is juicy, and saturated.  Glamorous.  Crabapples can fruit heavily, but even the “fruit persistent” varieites will drop, or be raided by birds early in the winter.  I would recommend seeking a little glam from other sources.  


Rob collects materials, and takes them outside to look at them.  He may revise his choices 5 times, before he commits to anything.  The big idea here-hold all of your materials in your arms, and decide if you are crazy about what you see.  If a combination seems to fall flat, keep looking. 

Rob finally decided on the following-the orange berries and bleached leaves contrast dramatically. Breathtaking, this.  The tall bleached sticks strongly contrast in form with the grey branched hackberry stems.  The combination of colors and forms here is truly beautiful.  


 This combination of materials lit from within by a string of garland lights-garden evening wear.  Garland lights?  We stock strands of lights that have 300 bulbs set in a 17 foot length.  This makes for lots of fire power, and not so much cord.  This is my light string of choice for winter containers.   For the holiday or winter season, turn up the heat.  Make a plan to light up the night.  It may be your most glamorous gesture comes at night.  I encourage all of my clients to light their winter pots, and keep the lights on all winter.  Why not?  That light is cheery, hopeful- dramatic.      

I am having a milkweed seed pod year-that grey and honey brown coloration is beautiful; the shapes of the pods on the stems-even more beautiful.  Were I to glam up these dry stems, I might choose platinum branches.  These are birch branches, sprayed a subtle silvery grey.  These branches can add a little sparkle to a milkweed winter arrangement. 

Faux red berries-every gardener hates them.  Until they take them outdoors.  Nested into a centerpiece of branches, they are jewel-like.  No bird will make off with them.  No winter storm will destroy them.  Make no mistake-faux berry stems look their age at the end of the winter season.  They age, as the winter goes on.  This aging is a good look.  They look so much more natural, in that dulled-down state.  But over the holidays to come, they sparkle.  Bright red at the holiday-everyone notices.  

These faux white berries are spaced sparsely on the branches-they have a natural look.  From a distance, they are entirely believable.  Each stem is individually wired.  Move them around.  To insert a branched faux stem into an arrangement without putting your hand to arranging each arm is what makes them look fake, and out of place.  Arrange those faux stems.  

These white berry stems make no effort to copy any real berry stems-but I still like them.  They look great in contemporary arrangements.  They add scale to a more sparse berry stem.  Working several stems together that are the same color can be very effective.  Effective?  Any expression that brings a smile to your face, or warms your heart-effective.  Winter sustenance-decide how you plan to represent this. 

Faux berry stems with sparkling crystal bits can add considerable glamour to you winter arrangements.  The degree to which you want to dress up-this is up to you.  If what the garden leaves behind is enough, there are materials.  If materials suitable for a cocktail party is enough-there are other materials. If a floor length sequinned gown is your idea of celebrating the holiday and winter, there are materials out there.  The materials are out there, for you to choose.  Choose.