Red and Green

red and green 2015 (3)Popular wisdom says that red and green is the traditional color scheme for the Christmas holidays. Maybe it is. The December landscape in my zone is notable for its evergreens, and deciduous plants that bear red fruit. There are many theories about how those colors came to be associated with Christmas-most of them reference practices dating back to the middle ages. Insofar as holiday decor is concerned, there are lots of ways to say red and green. For those that appreciate a little variation on a much loved and traditional color scheme, there are infinite shades of red, and infinite shades of green.  The lime green of this flocked pick is striking in a sassy way.  The accompanying maroon red of the eucalyptus is muted, even a little moody.  The combination of the respective shades of red and green is interesting. Not at all what I would call the traditional Christmas red and green.  Each color is all the better for its visual relationship with the other.

red and green 2015 (1)On a cloudy day, the daytime color relationships are even more muted. Come dusk, that will change.  The topiary form is strung with red and lime green lights and glass garlands that will pick up that light. Every so often, a cluster of shiny lime green glass balls have been wired to the form. The greens in the bottom have 600 white lights, courtesy of two strings of garland lights. What at this moment has a very reserved appearance will amp up after dark.

red and green 2015 (2) The lights and glass balls on these forms have to be updated once in a while.  The winter weather is tough on them. This updating serves another purpose. Every year, little changes in the color and materials makes the winter pots look fresh. The dark red decor mesh is not a traditional red. It invites a second look.

red and green 2015 (4)My clients were surprised and pleased about this rendition of red and green. Though I have been doing their holiday pots for a number of years, no two seasons look quite the same.

red and green 2015 (6)The one pot off their second floor terrace is always viewed through the glass of the door wall. I think the brighter red is called for. I like it, paired with the maroon red of the eucalyptus. To follow are some pictures of other year’s red and green schemes.

Dec 19, 2011 028

Michigan holly

Creed 2 (12)

michigan holly 2

wreath 2014So should you like your Christmas pots any color scheme at all, as long as it is red and green, you still have plenty of possibilities to choose from.

red and green 2015 (5)They always ask me to place a little something on the gates into their neighborhood.  Here I always opt for the brightest version of red and green that I can muster. As in, Merry Christmas!


Festive, Please

to the nines (12)We do have clients who approach the holiday season with gusto.  Projects like these come with a big dose of celebratory feeling attached. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all – I enjoy it. Not all work is work. Some work is satisfying enough to call it fun.  The holiday work comes with some peripheral exposure to important or traditional moments in people’s lives. As in an extended family coming home for the holidays. This is work that has  very personal connotations. For starters, this client wanted every pillar in front festooned with garland. It seems natural that a landscape design and installation company could make the leap to seasonal gardening.

to the nines (5)Her lighting person had already wound strings of lights around each pillar. This was a little harsh looking.It only took a few minutes to take them down, and get the garland up first.  Since we would be adding garland to 6 pillars, it seemed like fewer spirals per column would look better.

to the nines (11)We put one length up from an uncut 50 foot roll, and unwound enough to make a decent puddle of greens at the bottom. We laid out all of the garlands in the drive, and cut them to the proper length. The top of the column has a molding.  It was easy to attach the first circle of garland with a zip tie above that molding. That architectural detail would keep the entire length of garland aloft.

to the nines (4)Yes, there were pots to do. Since there would be a lot of decorating outdoors, we kept the pots simple.

winter red (8)These pots will look as good all winter as they do for the holiday season.  I always appreciate a client who has a preferred color scheme in mind. Once I have that, I can put materials together that I think reflects the taste of the client, and the setting. Red, green and white would predominate.

to the nines (13)The outside of the house is festive indeed. The light strings were reattached on top of the green garland, for a much softer look.

to the nines (6)At the door, we filled another pair of winter pots, and added an artificial garland overhead –  to which we added eucalyptus, faux berries, and those beautiful bleached pine cones.

to the nines (8)That garland was repeated on the inside, over the doorways, and on the stair railings.

to the nines (10)Once we attached them, Marzela went back and fluffed every sprig, and made sure every element was facing towards the primary view.

to the nines (9)The pine cones were attached facing left on the left side, facing right on the right side, and facing down at the bottom of the swoop. If this seems fussy, it is.  But facing the materials on a garland has to do with establishing a visual rhythm, and repeating it. Part of the beauty of it is how it is installed.

to the nines (2)The mantel was done in noble fir attached to a bamboo pole across the top. The drops were lengths of the fir zip tied together.  In the center, a larger bloack of floral foam was stuffed with greens, poplar branches, and birds.  The bleached cones from the garlands were repeated.

to the nines (1)This porch is as green and festive as it can be. It surely is the garden version of “welcome to my home at the holidays”.  I like this.

At A Glance: Recent Work

week of Dec 1, 2015 (19)gray sticks, sparkle picks and lavender eucalyptus

week of Dec 1, 2015 (20)4 pots for the holidays and winter

winter containerplum eucalyptus and lime berry picks

week of Dec 1, 2015 (16) light ring on a stand/base that is covered with branchy twigs

week of Dec 1, 2015 (1)red and purple for the holidays

week of Dec 1, 2015 (14)a pair of winter pots

week of Dec 1, 2015 (8)contemporary winter pots

week of Dec 1, 2015 (9)twigs, pods and noble fir

week of Dec 1, 2015 (13)garland and pots

week of Dec 1, 2015 (11)hanging baskets with boxwood and berry picks

week of Dec 1, 2015 (7)flame willow

IMG_7467a plant stand

week of Dec 1, 2015 (15)steel topiary cone with grapevine and pine cone picks

week of Dec 1, 2015 (12)white eucalyptus and lime berry picks

December 4, 2015 258mixed greens

week of Dec 1, 2015 (6)cut tree in a wood box

December 4, 2015 267layered winter container

20151205_113446 (3)mixed green with extra incense cedar

week of Dec 1, 2015 (18)This fall pot looks too good to take apart.  We’ll come back later.

The Installation

holiday container arrangements 2 (1)I am always appreciative of how much of the construction of the winter pots we are able to do in the shop, once we get to the installation phase. The greens for this oval bronze container had been stuffed into a form several days ago.  We try to be very accurate about the size of those forms, especially given that they will last through at least 3 seasons. Once the centerpiece was set, we attached a collar of red sinamay. Sinamay is a polyester mesh available in various widths.  We run a wire through a length of mesh, folded in have, with long running stitches.  Once the wire is pulled tight around the centerpiece, it creates a wavy graceful collar that softens the transition from the greens to the centerpiece. Sinamay with a metallic thread is a simple way to say holiday, and is very simple to remove after the holidays. Marzela did all of the finishing touches.

holiday container arrangements 2 (7)We did have to shovel the snow out of the pots. Some pots had just the right depth of soil, once the fall plants were removed.  Others needed a little topping up.

holiday container arrangements 2 (5)Even though these centerpieces were large, it was a short and simple matter to cut through the foam holding the greens, drive the bamboo stake down into the pot, and add a few greens to the ragged edges. This gold sinamay adds a very festive and absolutely weatherproof holiday note. Sinamay is also known as decor mesh, and it is readily available, should you search for it on your computer.

holiday container arrangements 2 (4)This low rectangular arrangement was finished in its entirety in the shop.  We only added 10 stems of red twig to the center, once the installation was complete. This pot is festive and dressy.

holiday container arrangements 2 (6)Every pot got filled. If I have a container I do not intend to fill for the winter, I put it away. A container in the landscape that is left empty for the winter is a missed opportunity to garden. I have one very special, sculptural, and old French pot in my landscape that I never plant.  That empty pot, and the weather acting on it, has a significance to me that I cannot really explain.  Some garden ornament evokes very strong feelings, and that can be enough.  But all of these pots needed filling.  A winter life for a garden and its head  gardener can be a good life.

holiday container arrangements 2 (3)These concrete urns needed to be filled for the winter.  They are not especially fine pots, but there are six of them, and they punctuate a long terrace.  What we have in them is simple. Of particular interest is the choice of greens. Mountain hemlock branches are harvested from trees at very high elevations.  We have to take these greens early in the season.  I could not order them now. These trees are up high, and buried in snow by now. They are perfect for containers in exposed and windy locations. Even in cut form, they will stay green until the end of March.

holiday container arrangements (1)The pots and boxes in the back yard got installed today in fairly steady rain. Our high temperature today was 58 degrees-I will take that, and shrug off the rain.

holiday container arrangements (8)This client bought these French made orangery boxes from me in 2003. The oval medallion at the bottom of each side of the box details the year of manufacture. These French boxes, the history of the manufacture of which dates back hundreds of years, are very dear to my heart. There are no other garden boxes quite like them. They are as beautiful a box as ever graced a landscape. They inspired me to open Branch.   Though the oak and cast iron fittings are as solid as they can be, the paint has deteriorated. Weather takes its toll. We will restore them, at the end of the winter.

holiday container arrangements (4)There is not so much more to say about this installation, except that once a container arrangement comes out of the shop, and finds a home in the landscape, it is easy to see what they provide is like no other element. If you are a gardener, I would encourage you to add some pots to your landscape and garden. They are a challenge and a delight, year round.

holiday container arrangements (5)Landscapes with multiple levels of interest sustain the eye.

holiday container arrangements (2)I am not so fond of working in the rain, but today was different. My mind was on another topic entirely. The garden can be so satisfying, on so many different levels. Year after year. Moment after moment. This unusually late November warmth and rain was an experience I would have missed, had I not been out there filling the pots for the winter season to come. Some garden pleasures are so unexpected, simple, and so striking.

holiday container arrangements (7)rainy late November day

holiday container arrangements (3)the terrace in November

holiday container arrangements (6)This view out to the late November garden was beautiful. I have been working for these clients for going on 30 years. The holiday/winter pots fit right in. It was a perfectly rain soaked and fabulous November day.