The Details

Better than twenty years ago, before a cell phone had been invented or a world wide web established, I would drive Rob to the airport for a buying trip to Europe. In those days we could have a cocktail in the lounge, and I could accompany him all the way to the boarding chute for a goodby. It was an emotional experience, that send off. The trip itinerary was sketchy at best. He had little idea where he was going, but that his plane would land in London or Paris or Brussels. Our main clues for overseas shopping came for foreign language magazines and travel books. I would be lucky to hear from him every 10 days for a few very scratchy phone moments. Few hotels had overseas phone service.

As anxious as I was to hear from him once he was abroad, he had his hands full, trying to locate his car and his lodging, driving in a foreign country, driving to shops that were either impossible to find or no longer in business. By the time he was able to call, I was beside myself with worry. He dealt with that in his usual bemused way. No one can dial down a fret fest better than he can. In retrospect, I incredibly admire his raw determination and courage. I doubt he knew at the time that he was charting unknown waters. Why would he? We were in the thick of trying to establish a shop devoted to fine objects for the garden. If you know Rob, you understand that his idea of fine objects and good design is never about money. Some things he purchases for the shop-ouch.  Others are eminently affordable. Witness the lighted winter pot detail above-all those weedy sticks came from the field next door. Add some lights, and voila.

Once he would return home, I would pour over his photographs. I was keen to absorb every detail. These were places I had never been. I wanted to experience his travels as best I could.  In those days, I studied his photographs with a magnifying glass. That close up view revealed so many of the details of the places he was seeing.  Those things that he arranged to have shipped home – that magnifying glass helped me to see those details that won him over. I cannot really explain this, but the magnifying glass helped make the photographs seem a little more real.

Our IT person extraordinaire Jenny explained to me how I could crop my photographs to make the details clearer. I will admit I have been playing around with the idea of magnifying certain details, given her instruction.  What I like is that I am able to focus on details that speak so much to the evidence of the human hand, and the relationship of one material, color, mass or texture to another.

This winter container arrangement was photographed in place after we installed it in the box.

The details are much magnified and easier to see now.

My crews are on a 6 day a week schedule right now. We have taken over the shop stock room for all of the construction. People who find there way back there are able to see how much time and skill it takes to put it all together. Then there is the installation phase, which we always hope is as quick and efficient as possible. The pictures of the finished work do not always do a good job of describing the details, both visual and physical. When it comes time to do this project next year, I will mark up the picture with the new design.

To follow are are some photographs of previous work under a digital magnifying glass. To any gardener who reads my journal, I suspect that the looks close up are the most descriptive view of the work. If you click on any of these pictures, you will get yet a closer look. Not all of them are in sharp focus-that is why I call them pictures and not photographs.

eucalyptus drifting down into the greens

a wreath on a second story window is artificial-“store bought”. We added 2 pine cone garlands in neutral colors on the edges, and spiced up the top.

winter berry

a layered look

grapevine deer with a holiday collar

white grassy picks

lighted

asymmetrical

glass drops in the rain

the natural shape and drape of the greens create an overall shape

detail

We get to see all the details up close, just like this.

Comments

  1. Your details also let us learn from afar; I pick apart each image in my mind thinking about what would work best for us. In the PNW, we don’t do the seasonal displays as you do. Our mild weather lets us use living material, although of course there are seasonal changeouts to manage the winter wet. However, I am influenced by your work and hope to add it to my repertoire.

    A specific question … do your dyed eucalyptus branches ‘run’? Are there vendors that provide a better quality dye job that don’t run? I’ve heard reports from designers in the Midwest who have had disasters, and I am leery of trying them in our wet climate.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Grace, our eucalyptus is not dyed. It is preserved with a glycerine formula that contains color. That color is absorbed through the stem into the leaves. Ours does not run. If the late winter and early March is wet, it will mildew on the surface of the leaves. On the white, or other light colors, I can see it, but mostly that mildew is not a problem for us. But I have never seen the color run. We ship our eucalyptus all over the country – I am sure this is one reason why. kind regards, Deborah

      • Oh that’s fantastic information, I’ve never heard of such a thing! Mildew makes sense and is unavoidable unless perhaps someone has the inclination to wipe them down with a mild bleach solution (not me!), but running dye would be a deal-killer. Forgive me for being obtuse, I didn’t know you shipped materials! I will explore my options.

  2. No one does winter containers like you and your team do. Everyone garden eye candy and an inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Stunning! Thanks for sharing.

  4. The wreath in the second photo is just stunning! Every year for a number of years as I decorate for Christmas I have you and Rob on my mind because I use two things that I learned about from your blog…..Rob’s lighted rings and the use of a particular ribbon (I think you called it sinamay but that spelling may be incorrect). You are so generous with your ideas and designs which makes it possible to produce something similar when it’s not possible to drive to your shop. So, once again thank you and Merry Christmas.

  5. Lovely story and perfect time for reading and inspiration.

    Thank you for the great photos and details.

    Happy Holidays!
    Kristen in DC

  6. Wonderful arrangements!

    I can’t find the glass rain drops at your store. I really like the drops hanging from the tree.

    Do you have a source? Much appreciated.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Susan, we do have the drops in the store! In the greenhouse-near the amaryllis. Ask someone to show you where they are. all the best, Deborah

  7. Lovely and inspirational! Truth be told, I always use a magnifying glass to view the details of your work. I never want to miss any details.

  8. Amazing. Inspiring. Over the top. Thanks. Hope I make it to Detroit someday Holiday wishes to you CRW

  9. Dianne McKinnon says:

    Such beautiful arrangements. Wish I could afford them!!! Just wonderful to see.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Dianne, I think our materials for pots are pretty reasonable. You should pay us a visit and see. A bunch of our eucalyptus is 14.95. Our fresh cut branches range between 15.00 to 27.00 a bunch. Our winter picks range from 6.95 to 15.95. A bamboo pole that would anchor two or three centerpieces is 6.00. A sheet of dry floral foam is 23.95. Our bunches of premium greens are less than what is offered at our local farmer’s market. You could make a good go at the materials for a pair of winter pots for less than a dinner out for two at a good restaurant. What is expensive? Our 18″ long branches of premium greens are over 100.00 per 25 pound case. Ouch. A case of greens stuffed into a dry floral foam base is a luxury, yes. You could just as easily buy a mixed fir wreath for the bottom of your pot at our farmers market for 14.00-35.00. My crew bills out at 60.00 per hour-a dollar a minute. You could bypass that charge all together. We coach, should you decide to install your own winter pots.
      Great winter pots are not about the expense. They are about great design, ingenuity and imagination. Once you have a design worked out, there are a lot of ways to implement that design. In my opinion, no passionate gardener should pass up a beautiful winter season. best regards, Deborah

      • Kay Perret says:

        Thanks for this thorough reply, Deborah. Wish I lived nearby, I’d definitely come for coaching!!

        Your blog is full of wonderful ideas, and I have implemented many of them.

        Thank you again for your attention to detail and for caring so much about what you do, and about us!

        Warmly,
        Kay

  10. inspirational as usual Deborah. the image of the wreath is stirring with the interior glowing through the wreath. we keep saying “we have to make a field trip!”

    I remember those initial days of heading to Europe to shop with endless questions whirling thru my brain, part fear, part sheer delight! these days I will also do auctions over there and that ramps up the anxiety level, but would not trade it!
    Rob’s eye is impeccable, and his taste in dogs!
    cheers
    debra

  11. Your photos magnified really do show the detail so nicely. The textures, colors and shapes are beautifully highlighted. Seeing both views is magnificent. It is amazing how your color combinations work, reds, purples, greens, whites layered and all so regal. Perfect for the holidays. Exploring the European markets for unique garden pieces must be challenging and at the same time great fun. I once saw a copper dragon that I felt would look wonderful underneath my Japanese Maple. Unfortunately, it was not for sale! For me, finding unique pieces makes gardening even more enjoyable.

  12. Died and gone to holiday heaven!

  13. Charisse Andrews says:

    Oh my, such divine arrangements. I adore the one with the magnolia leaves. I can hardly believe how much has changed in how we travel now, compared to just 10, 20 years ago. Thanks for sharing your story, it brought back similar memories for me also. Happy Holidays to you and Rob.

  14. Absolutely amazing, all of these arrangements. Just glorious!

  15. Absolutely over the top, you & Rob, such a sweet story. Thank you!!! I know you are busy busy! Ohh La La ~ ❤️

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