Vining plants have a very special charm. Provided they have secure support, they take up little to no room in a garden. Most of them are energetic growers; this I especially appreciate in a plant. Wisteria gives new meaning to the phrase “willing and able”, but with proper support and ruthless pruning, their sculptural effect in a garden will rival their long and languid racemes of flowers in June. I would only advise that any thought of planting wisteria should be undertaken in tandem with where the iron will come from. Iron support, and iron fisted supervision are must haves. Any other scenario risks waking up to it growing in your bedroom window.
The grapes I grow at the shop you would not much want to eat- too sour. The green wine grape “Niagara” I grow for the beautiful color of its fruit, and its hardiness in zone 4-5. The first few years I wrapped the trunks; my black iron pergola heats up on a sunny day in January; the precipitous drop in temperature once night falls can cause the bark to crack. The soil here in no way resembles soil. Rocky, stony, and sandy is the order of the day, and the grapes seem to like it fine. The wild grapes on my fence grow like mad; we cut them back regularly during the course of the summer, lest the property be overrun.
Grapes are like any other vine-lax in habit, and best grown within the confines of a well run dictatorship. They are sterling performers with a good gardener at the helm. But like the willows and dogwoods I discussed yesterday, their strong suit is about the harvest. I will never grow grapes for the table or for wine; I suspect the art and science behind that is considerably more than I imagine or could grasp. But I do value the look and feel of ornament made from materials from the garden.
My shop has featured many garden ornaments made from vines and flexible twigs over the years. They never seem to loose their appeal. Those woven over a steel framework have an astonishing long life; they are as beautiful breaking down as they are brand new. Every year I pick up a large French basket from a client planted with a colony of medium sized agaves, amazed that it is still all of a piece. Enamoured as I am of Belgian design both inside and out, these airy, often hairy objects are a beautiful foil to brick, plaster, stone, concrete and iron.
Only in England would you find a business named The English Hurdle and Basket Center. Despite sounding like remedial center for floundering collegians, it actually produces vessels and baskets of great artistry. The graceful shapes belie the skill and strength needed to form them. The artist Serena de la Hey, for whom I have the greatest respect, creates truly inspired sculpture for the garden. My very first purchase for my shop in 1995 was a order for one of her boar sculptures. She is well worth a look; www.serenadelahey.com.
The framework that is visible here makes the object eminently renewable. Though the wood and bark of willow is remarkably resilient to weather, it will eventually deteriorate. I appreciate the chance to renew, redo, and rethink an object; this is a good part of the appeal of twig and branch sculpture.
Though this stag looks perfectly at home in my client’s landscape, it is made in California. The metal frame will last a lifetime. The willow is painstakingly woven; the sculpture is heavy and sturdy. Carleen’s life size animal sculptures are enchanting. I have seen enough of them to recognize which of her artisans is responsible for a specific piece. This is grape vine, beautifully rendered.
No matter whether contemporary or traditional in flavor, garden ornment from vine and twig has an appeal that sits right up next to my gardening bones.