Archives for September 2009

Lamenting September

dsc06554The last two nights the temperatures have been in the high forties and low fifties.  Great.  I am on the deck last night- in my fleece-having a glass of wine, and contemplating the end of summer.   My plants in my pots have gone from gorgeous to grumpy. What to do? The topiary sculptures I make from natural materials in the fall and winter help me face the 6 months we have coming up in Michigan when the garden is dormant. The sculptures are set in dry florist’s foam-I use the John Henry brand.  This sculpture, made from a dyed and preserved grass, preserved reindeer moss, and paper dogwood flowers, helps me to bring the beauty of the garden indoors.

dsc06886Glass can make great containers for sculptures.  This vase by the Parisian artist Vanessa Mittrani is filled with white sand to give it weight.  I seal the sand in the vase with a giant blob of hot melt glue, and wedge the foam in the top.  Paper hydrangeas, mini-roses, and paper covered wire make for a sassy little something that reminds me of the garden. The purple paper hydrangeas bring out the purple/rust color of the wire in the glass.

dsc03690I consider paper a natural material, since it comes from trees.  This combination of paper hydrangea petals, and diminuitive paper daisies describe a classic topiary cone shape.  The flowery pompom at the top is constructed from individual dried bleached seed pods.

dsc03673Integrifolia is a plant native to Australia, and probably other places as well.  The leaves hold tight to the stems for a long time; they also take dye beautifully.  This topiary began with individual leaves glued to a spherical form in a pattern reminiscent of an artichoke.  As I worked towards the bottom, I reversed the curve on the individual leaves for more volume.  The very bottom of the sphere is stuck with short branches just a few inches in length. Preserved reeds bowing out from a twig trunck make for a stem; the base is covered in preserved green seedheads.

dsc08518Paper roses on paper covered wires are a delicate contrast to the heft of dried okra pods.

2008-lobsinger-pot-3This very large scale sculpture has twigs and short birch branches for a centerpiece; the collar was constructed of fresh southern magnolia leaves.  Magnolia dries beautifully, and lasts a long time.

dsc03678The science of preserving natural materials has become quite sophisticated.  I for one would never have a house plant.  I am happy for the season where I am not a plant caretaker.  An object like this demands nothing from me; I just look.  The reindeer moss in a color they call spring green is  my idea of  good color.

october-25-pictures-0341These steel leaves are by no means a natural material, but they describe one.  The base was buttered with ceramic tile mastic, and embedded with tiny shells.  The stainless steel wire is difficult to handle; I usually have to get help from a second pair of hands to glue it in. 

dsc03675This whimsical topairy makes use of two bird’s nests made of various natural materials, sandwiched together.  I buy these long stems covered with hundreds of chocolate seeds.  After taking the seeds from the stem, I glued the individual seeds onto this base.

dsc_0006I call this a presentation box. The box itself is a photo box meant to hold 8 x 10 photographs.  Should the box never have anything in it, it will still be fun to look at. 

My landscape superintendent gave me a book on crop circles.  I am embarassed to say I had never heard of them.  This sculpture I made was motivated by my excitement about those circles. I stuffed the pocket created by gluing two magnolia leaves together with all manner of dried snippets from the garden.  I scratched my own version of a crop circle into the magnolia leaf around a hole in the leaf.  Today I will cut some limelight hydrangeas pinking in the cool weather to dry.  Okay, its September in Michigan.

The Landscape To Go With


aug-28a-033Yesterday I discussed all the grading and stonework that was necessary for this project; what a relief it was to finally be putting plants in the ground!  The neighborhood association belatedly decided this wall needed to be screened by plants. They apparently did not permit walls in front yards. So I planted a slew of Annabelle hydrangeas; my clients have a great view of the wall in the winter.

aug-28a-032The upper level we did screen from the street.  Houses that sit high afford little in the way of privacy. I interspersed five little leaf lindens in a hedgerow of techny arborvitae.  The techny’s are dense, and slow growing.  They also tolerate some shade, although the plan was to keep the lindens pruned.

aug-28a-029Lindens belong to that group of trees that do not mind shaping.  I have seen old ones not much taller than 15 feet, with densely foliated heads. My lindens at my store are boxed; they have been pruned into rectangular shapes. They are a hedge high above ground.  They greatly soften the appearance of the building-originally a machine shop built in the 1940’s.  These lindens I wanted to keep in scale with the house.

aug-28d-725The house seems to sit lower than it once did.  Though the front door of the house is off center, the landscape balances the space.  The granite walled portion of the facade reads as a centerpiece, of which the front door is a part.  The landscape making much of the bluestone staircase centers the view.

aug-28d-720There were two issues driving the design of the upper level.  How could the sidewalk gracefully turn towards the front door?  The walk from the street now empties into a large rectangle of gravel; its color and size makes it read as the dominant element. The taxus viridis, naturally a very columnar yew, is planted in rows perpendicular to the house.  This distracts the eye from the fact that the property in the background is dropping downhill. The techny arborvitae at the end are actually much taller than the yews-but everything reads  about the same height.  In time, the yews could be topped level with the horizon, thus minimizing the slope down to the west.

aug-7-10-am-064Eight years later, the landscape has begun to grow in. This front courtyard is private, and simple. 

One large concrete pot is planted for all four seasons of the year; it is the one landscape element that has a presence in both the upper and the lower garden.aug-7-10-am-065
The contrast between the pruned elements, and the billowy hydrangeas makes the street view a good one.

Given enough time, the taxus viridis will completely frame the trunks of the lindens.  It is so good to have something in a garden to look forward to.