Every holiday and winter season presents material that quickly becomes a favorite. My favorite this year? Giant bleached pine cones from Spain. Don’t ask me the species-I do not know. They could be Ponderosa pine cones-but do Ponderosa pines grow in Spain? I can’t answer that question, but I can speak to the incredible beauty of these cones. Most natural pine cones are dark in color. This means their shapes and forms are not so easy to see. These bleached cones make every detail of their form strikingly clear. Anything pale colored in the landscape reads well from a distance.
I do have a landscape client with a big love for birch trees. When she built a new house, her only particular request was for birches. We did plant 4 Himalayan white barked birch in her drive court. Yes, they are susceptible to borers. Judging by how they look some 3 years later, she is doing a great job of looking after them. The white trunks look particularly beautiful with the pale stone walls and the cast limestone pots.
Her request for her winter pots came in the form of one word. birchy, please. Placing sections of birch logs in containers is not so easy. For 5 of her smaller containers, I opted for a collection of materials that might recall that pale cream to white birch bark. The three small pots on this wall featured cream white berry picks, paired with white eucalyptus. The cream berry sticks make the eucalyptus take on a blue cast. As the house has pale blue accents and blue stone, that blue in the pots is welcome. One very beautiful winter pick featuring match stick sized wood stubs attached to a stem was placed front and center. A dash of red with that blue white eucalyptus says holiday. But the star of the show are those pine cones.
Winter containers in the landscape help to keep the gardening season alive. These espaliered katsura trees in have shed all of their leaves. They have gone quiet and dark. The boxwood in this planter box have assumed their winter color. What is bright and beautiful right now are the pots.
Great winter pots recall in miniature a certain conversation between a gardener and nature. Those winter pots can shine, in this season noted for its darkness. Pale colors in a winter container landscape look fresh. The winter in my zone is known for the gloom and dark. A winter expression that is light, delights.
The bleached pine cones from Spain are a feature in these winter pots. Their mass and texture stand out. The creamy color is good with just about any other color you might have in mind. I have used them in both traditional and more contemporary settings. They are as architectural as they are natural.
A representation of birch in the largest of my client’s pots involved some engineering. Owen is a fabricator at Branch. He approaches every project with his own fabulous mix of gusto and sound engineering. Setting them perfectly upright is fairly simple. All the force of gravity is straight down. Setting them on an angle means they need a little more in the way of support.
This centerpiece of birch logs would need an anchoring mechanism. Owen took the largest of the birch sections over to Branch, and drilled a deep hole large enough to accommodate a bamboo pole. That pole would go deep into the pot. For additional strength, 4 short pieces of steel rebar would be wired together around the birch.
3 bunches of white eucalyptus softens the juncture of the birch poles. The conversation and fabrication that goes on in our garage in December is interesting and lively. I thoroughly enjoy every moment of this.