Cut Branches For Winter Pots

cut branches for winter containersI have said many times over the course of the 7 years that I have been writing this blog – no northern zone gardener needs to close up shop with the first really hard frost. We can appreciate the season, we can be inventive, and we can defend ourselves against the long dark time. A thoughtfully planned landscape features trees with interesting bark, structure and fruit that warm the winter view. The skeletal remains of shrubs and perennials provide visual interest. Evergreens in the landscape are ever appreciated over the winter. A successful landscape is as beautiful in the winter as it is in the other three seasons. Designing a landscape that is consistently lively year long has been a life’s work for me. Any winter garden can be stunning. Many gardeners have made an effort to create a dialogue with their landscape that goes on day after day, all year round. Seasonally planted containers are a personal and engaging way to keep the story of the garden alive. Beautiful winter arrangements in pots can make the most quiet winter landscape glow with color, texture, mass, and light. The energy expended creating arrangements for winter pots results in a surplus of electricity sure to light the winter months. The most simple and easy to achieve celebration of the winter garden is container design and installation. It can be different every year.  It can be as elaborate as you wish, or as simple as the meeting of lots of twigs and lots of lights. I recently posted on the importance of including lighting in those winter containers. Choosing the most effective means to light a pot of course depends on what you plan to put in them.  We start with the branches. We have a grower who grows shrubs solely for their cut branches. His cut willow and dogwood branches are strikingly beautiful. That first fresh cut branch delivery day is a good day for all of us. The colors are brilliant. The lengths are generous. Once we cut the ties, each branch bunch branches out.

curly copper willowThe curly copper willow may start out as a thick stem at the base, but at the top, the multiple curly branches delight my eye with their cinnamon color and exuberant mass. These dancing cut stems set into a winter container arrangement will endow any gardener’s winter with color, texture, rhythm – and vitality. Many of the fresh cut branches we set into winter containers go on to root, and grow on and out in the spring. I cannot really explain the intense pleasure I derive from this, except to say though the life of the garden cycles through the seasons, it is always alive in some form.

curly copper willowOne pot on the porch for winter-it is enough. The arrangement is as wide as it is tall. A winter container featuring curly copper willow is showy.

cardinal red twig dogwoodRed twig dogwood is a shrub common in my zone. It tolerates wet feet, and likes full sun. I do not have a spot big enough in my yard to grow red twig dogwood, but I am happy to have the cut branches available to place in winter containers. The hybrid red twig dogwood known as “Cardinal” features branches a much more brilliant red than the species.

red twig dogwoodThis picture clearly illustrates the color of the hybrid Cardinal red twig, as opposed to the darker red of the species. No matter your taste in red, our twig supplier delivers well branched bunches of a uniform size. Red twig shrubs specifically grown for cut branches are regularly pruned, as the current year’s growth has the best color.

red twig dogwood centerpiece for wintrerThese gorgeous fresh growth red twig branches will become part of a series of holiday/winter container arrangements we will install next week.

yellow twig dogwoodYellow twig dogwood is of equally brilliant coloration.  The bark is supple and glossy. Some stems verge on chartreuse. These stems can easily be incorporated into garlands, or woven into wreaths.

yellow twig dogwoodYellow twig has a way all its own of picking up the light from the sun low in the winter sky.

yellow twig dogwoodThis contemporary winter arrangement featuring that yellow twig is accompanied by a group of pale yellow faux ball picks, and a generous skirt of variegated boxwood.

yellow twig dogwoodThat yellow twig does glow in the late and low afternoon sun.

black willowThis black twig dogwood is reputed to be a very slow grower. It may be slow, but it is beautiful. My grower rarely produces over 100 bunches a year.

flame willowFlame willow is a strong growing shrub that grows very tall, and does not produce much in the way of horizontal branching. These tall vertical branches are a coppery cinnamon color. One bunch in a container is a statement.  Multiple bunches in a container will make anyone stop and look.  I always hope there will be flame willow still available when it is time to do my own pots.

red twig dogwoodThese winter container centerpieces featuring flame willow, faux red berry picks, and incense cedar are set to go in to a pair of winter pots we will install next week. The color is saturated and in dramatic contrast to the late November landscape.

alder branchesI usually have to remind Rob to buy me fresh cut alder branches. They are not showy in color or height. They are garden variety fresh cut twigs. There is plenty to like about a material that is ordinary as can be. They represent the winter garden in a more subdued way.

container centerpiece with alder branchesThese container centerpieces featuring fresh cut alder branches, cafe eucalyptus and preserved gypsophila will eventually grace a pair of winter pots.  The look is quiet, subtle, and wintry.

red bud pussy willowThe red twig pussy willow from our grower is spectacular. The bunches are better than 5 feet tall.  The medium bunches come in at 4 feet tall.  The red, green and brown coloration is so easy to to appreciate, and work with.

red bud pussy willowred twig pussy willow branches for winter

tiger branchesThese tiger branches are new to us. They are harvested from a desert plant noted for its silvery gray bark, segmented by black horizontal bands. They are stunning indeed. Our clients think so too – we just got in our third shipment. I like to have a wide range of branches available. Beautiful natural materials are an invitation to participate in a little winter gardening.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Luminous

winter and holiday lightingI have had numerous emails and calls about the holiday and winter lighting available at Detroit Garden Works. To follow is a a quick look at some of the different types of lighting that we have available. We do manufacture light rings from steel, as hoops that can be hung in a window, or a tree. We also manufacture light rings with spiked stands that can be pushed into the ground or a container. We string those hoops with incandescent brown corded mini lights, or LED light strings. Take your pick. We can string light rings to order. For more information on the sizes and prices, check out this page in the Seasonal section of the Detroit Garden Works website.  Any other questions, or a request for a shipping quote, email heather@detroitgardenworks.com.  Detroit Garden Works light rings

light ringslots of hoopla-love this

lumineo lightingA Dutch company designs and manufactures some of the best LED string lighting we have ever worked with.  The black cords are flexible, and not visually prominent. The color is as warm as incandescent lighting, and much more reliable and long lived. They are shatterproof, and are reputed to last 50,000 hours or 10 years. They draw very little electricity, so they are very inexpensive to run. They are an investment up front, but the ease of use and longevity helps to make stringing lights for a good number of holiday seasons easy.  For more information, see this page on our website:     Lumineo LED twinkle light strings

lumineo LED cluster light stingsLumineo also makes a cluster light string, where the lights are much closer together.  This lighted curtain has 4 strings of lights. There are those moments when fire power is the primary objective. As far as I am concerned, the more light I can add to my winter, the better.  For more information on these cluster lights, click away.  Lumineo cluster light strings

flocked artificial Christmas treeThis artificial tree from Lumineo features a cord breakthrough-the cords are clear, and are unobtrusive.  This tree does not need another thing added to it. A  flocked tree from Lumineo

edison lightsOn the opposite end of the spectrum, these light strings feature giant bulbs with multi strand filaments, designed and manufactured from inspiration drawn from vintage lighting   Rob calls them Edison lights, named after Thomas Edison, of course. The cord is heavy and thick. The lights draw a lot of electricity, and are expensive to replace.

edison lightsThis is our second year hanging them outdoors in our lindens. They are something else to see.   the Edison lights

LED lighted starDetroit Garden Works carries many versions of holiday and winter lighting-I like this. I am a landscape designer, who designs by the sun, or the lack of it. The coming winter season is more dark than light. Gardeners can garden with light this winter season. Just saying.

luminous-winter-lighting-8Battery operated LED lights on silver wire; so beautiful!   I am not convinced yet that battery operated lights can be used over time outdoors.  No battery likes cold conditions.  But I feel sure that the day is coming when battery operated lights will stand up and function perfectly outdoors.

lumineo star lightingLumineo star lights

lumineo star lightingLumineo star lights-these high powered short garlands are great for a mantle, a coffee table, or a powder room. The light is brilliant, set on a light surface.  Set on a dark surface, the light is more subdued. I so appreciate lighting materials that are obliging to a particular situation, and a particular person. The new LED lighting is so person friendly.  LED powered star garlands

 

battery operated LED lighted treesThese LED powered trees are battery operated.

luminariaNot a fan of light generated by electricity? I get that. So do our gardening clients. These laser cut steel fire powered luminaria are sold out. There are so many ways to light the winter night, both inside and out.  Choose what appeals to you. My winter and holiday container work is in full swing.  Thinking through the lighting comes before the selection of materials and construction. You’ll see.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Nearer To The Last

winter container arrangementsMy entire crew was in today, after a 4 day Christmas break.We had a few late request winter container projects to do. They dove into the work, like they always do. We were down to the very last bits of the hundreds of cases of greens we had delivered in November. The day they arrived, I could not imagine that we would use them all.  Today we took a Korean fir Christmas tree that Rob had placed in the shop, and chopped it up for branches, so we would have enough. This client would get some very special greens. These two centerpieces with pussy willow and blue gray eucalyptus were already installed in my pots at home. They came back to the shop, to be integrated into a new scheme. My driveway pots will need another treatment. I am not the least bit concerned about having to redo them. There are always other choices that work.

December 30, 2015 013This client has a contemporary version of Nantucket style home.  She has a considerable interest in contemporary expression.  For a client like this, we work with materials in a different way.  A more sculptural way. The twigs in the center are artificial, and look like they have ice on them.  If we ever get some winter weather, they will be believable.

December 30, 2015 015No matter the aesthetic point of view governing a winter container design and construction, generosity is an important element.  Our winters are incredibly long, gray, and spare.  All the trees in their leafless state is a study in spare.  This means I like lots of whatever elements I choose to include in a winter container.  I greatly admire the lean chilly look, but what I really like is a warm and toasty response to winter. We shopped the field at Branch for these branches-we bundled lots of them up with steel wire. 4 bunches of a yellow green eucalyptus complete the look. This client has a fairly contemporary mindset as well.

December 30, 2015 017Winter color is the subject of no end of articles about the winter landscape. That color does not need to be rooted in the ground.  Willow and dogwood twigs, in their cut state, will endow a landscape stuffed in to a pot with great color the entire winter. I do not have room to grow yellow twig dogwood or copper flame willow on my small property.  But their cut twigs can energize a landscape gone over to the dark side. The appearance of the color inside the garage under fluorescent lights is a little jarring. Outdoors, on a cloudy day, that color will tone down considerably.

IMG_7765How I decide to dress a client’s containers for the winter-I cannot really explain that process even to my own satisfaction. I favor a subtle expression on this porch, as the architecture is so strong. Some yellow undertones are good with the warm color of the cedar shakes, and the wood pots.

IMG_7766These wood boxes are greatly over scaled for this front door. This was not my choice, but I have come around to like them. I like how much they make me think, before I do. Were these pots placed in a more open location, I would do them much larger. The space on this porch is restricted. How to make the arrangements large enough without them looking overbearing or obstructive is always a challenge, no matter the season. On occasion my client protests that the winter pots cannot be seen from the road. I don’t mind how much they blend into their surroundings. To my eye, the star of this porch is that dark blue lacquered door.

IMG_7772A rear porch has a pair of very large white boxes just outside the doors. Some years I try to match all of that white. As they are viewed from the porch windows that are close by, dark colors read equally as well.

IMG_7771Proper proportion is a design element that drives all of my design.  These greens are very low and very wide. Appropriate for these massive and simple containers. The dark blue eucalyptus has a cube of white eucalyptus underneath it.  This adds visual mass to that dark blue, while helping to bring out the blue color.

IMG_7769I do want to speak to the beauty I see in mixed greens for winter containers. We have so many conifers that grace our zone. Conifers that grow in the Pacific northwest are represented in our mix as well. Many conifers that would suffer in our extreme winters thrive there. I suspect the long and fairly mild growing season out there means that conifers can bounce back and regrow quickly when they are pruned for cut branches. Our mountain hemlock comes from very high elevations, and are only available for a very short time in early November.  Once the snows come to the mountains, the trees are impossible to reach. Silver fir was in very short supply this fall, for the same reason. On any given winter day in Michigan, the evergreens greatly endow the landscape.

IMG_7782The driveway pots we plant up for all four seasons.  Spring, summer, fall and winter. No pot needs to go empty over the winter.

IMG_7784The color of the yellow twig is indeed more subdued when it is placed outdoors.  Even so, it is visually lively, in a landscape that has gone neutral in color.

IMG_7775
Flame willow is aptly named.

IMG_7779The 10 containers we fill for winter here add a lot of look to the winter landscape.

IMG_7785We are wrapping things up.

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!