Archives for December 2009


Dec 18c 043Were I to ask you which of three wallpaper patterns appealed to you the most, or which person you have most patterned your life after, you would have no problem understanding and answering the questions. A  written definition of pattern is not this easy.  A paisley is a shape that is readily recognizable; a series of paisley shapes, that repeat in a certain order, that the eye can recognize, forms a pattern. My steel grate plant table tops, dusted with snow, bring the pattern of the extruded metal into focus. 

Dec 18c 047Many patterns exist in nature; early winter may be the best time to study them. The oval shaped dried flower heads of these hydrangeas make a visual pattern that repeats. They remind me of the old boxwoods at Dunbarton oaks that are pruned to resemble clouds. Cloud pruning is a gardening term gardeners recognize; the particular shaping and direction taken by an individual gardener makes a pattern.   A distinctive pattern.   

DSC_0029Milo has a ball decorated with raised dots in an all over pattern.  An all over pattern reads the same regularly, no matter what direction your view should take.  There is no left or right, no up or down. The pattern of this light snow is very subtle; every diaphanous flake randomly covers the gravel in the drive. Nonetheless, the individual flakes make a pattern-a pattern I did not really pay attention to, until I saw the imprint of the ball dots-so regular and clear.  The relationship of what came from the sky, with the pattern evidenced by that manufactured ball of his-on my mind today. 

snow patterns

Individual lengths of grapevine make random patterns. Woven into a wreath shape, the circular pattern comes to the visual fore. It is on my mind today that natural random patterns in the landscape are subtle, graceful, rhythmic-you understand-natural. There is reward to taking the time to see nature’s patterns.  How people pattern things is more hands on- orderly, more clear, sometimes too self conscious.  Which is more beautiful-the grapevine run wild on my fence, or this gorgeous wreath?  The answer has everything to do with a point of view, and nothing to do with the truth.  What moves you?

Dec 22aa 009This wreath is comprised of small flower shapes constructed from wood shavings, twig stubs, and dried bay leaves.  The pattern, to my eye, is all about the circle, repeating.  A wreath is an ornament; the arrangement of organized shapes makes for a pattern.  When I see pattern, I am at my most focused.

iron grate

The regular repetition of a shape makes a pattern that pleases my eye.  This gridded metal table has a cleanly contemporary pattern. Horizontal and vertical lines meeting make for stable shapes, and strikingly clean patterns. A classic X pattern trellis is a much more traditional look.  Certain patterns have much history attached to them.  Creating pattern that throws off history, definition, and any resulting cursory nod from an audience-designers of gardens, landscapes, fabrics, music, interiors, buildings, cars, ornament-anyone who designs spends time here.

dgw _0043Early winter is the perfect time to think about pattern.  The snow, the cold, and the low light, the absence of  leaves and flowers that blur the patterns, presents me with a landscape graphically black and white. Now is the best time to see patterns.  RobB  just forwarded me a post from A Way to Garden ( doodle by Andre.  His idea-to send a card to his garden.  Thank you for all you have done for me, beloved garden.  That post, and his card has been on my mind all day.  My garden gives me so much; this quiet time gives me plenty of time to think about this.  Though some years ago I was certain my gardening ended with the first killing frost-now I know different.  These first early snows come with lively lessons, debate, original source material; I know to pay attention.  Who knew there was so much to see, and think about in late December?  I am looking, and listening. December-I welcome it.  No kidding.

A Recurring Theme

Dec 21 029Rob does a lot of the holiday display work in the shop.  It may take me a while to figure it out, but usually there is some recurring theme  in his work that finally surfaces.  In addition to his light garlands, this year of his was all about the trees.  Trunks, branches, and stems got taken apart, and put back together in some beautiful way.  This spot in the shop is home to its third tree of his making.  This collection of bare box elder branches was assembled as a multistemmed holiday tree-this one simply decorated in beaded snowflakes and glass birds.  The others, hung with glass icicles, have new homes for the holidays.

Dec 18d 008The idea of a holiday tree small enough for a sideboard or table is an appealing one.  This “pear tree” is decorated with glass pear ornaments and icicles; the partridge is sitting in her brown glittered nest.  This holiday tree is a one of a kind expression with a big visual impact.

Dec 21 022This glass vase he filled with the skeletal remnants of weeds from the field next door.  The blown seed pots of asclepias tuberosa, or butterfly weed, softens the look of the sticks. A very subtle and unexpected addition? A few platinum glitter picks make what at first glance seems ordinary, sparkle softly.

Dec 21 027These very sparkly trees take up next to no room on a mantle or buffet.  This Pucci-inspired version of a tree-great fun. The glittered seed pod trees have the same effect-very festive.

Dec 21 020Coulter pine cones are the largest cones on the planet.  They are little wood trees, in and of themselves. A very large Coulter cone which stands up on end, perfectly balanced, makes small but stunning holiday tree. 

Dec 21 030Rob frequently displays holiday ornament in tree branches. Many years ago I decorated a small deciduous tree from my property for the holidays.  This does have an understated and spare look reminiscent of the feather trees so popular at the turn of the century. These ornaments from bark strips look right at home here.  

Dec 21 034This vase with a tree comprised of a few pine boughs and field weeds gets some punch from a feathered cardinal ornament. It says holiday with the fewest words possible. 

Dec 21 045
Other arrangements of his are not so spare, but they all feature his particular point of view.  Happy holidays from Rob.

Who Am I??

aloe grassy lassieLast week there was some discussion of a plant pictured in my post on gifts for gardeners. What is it? Though the flowers bear a strong resemblance to kniphofia, this plant is an aloe. 

Dec 18d 001Grassie Lassie has long thin stiff leaves, barbed all along their edges. I water them once in only a great while. They started blooming a month ago. Peach and yellow bells on long brownish stems-good looking.  Steve thinks it is a Proven Winners selection-maybe so.  I just know I like it. 

Dec 18d 003
Flowers in the winter-what a treat.

Sunday Opinion: Oxygen

I  go to work really early; I like uninterrupted time to wake up, have coffee, plan the day, and play ball with the dogs. I often use this time to write-especially the Sunday opinion essay.  Of late I have been taking photographs with the tripod-in the dark.  I am curious what I cannot see, that the unblinking eye of the camera will catch. This routinely unscheduled time alone is my oxygen; I need to breath it in, to live. Later Steve will be in; we will sort out the day.  Later yet, I will need to pull materials, sketch plans, talk on the phone, handle the unexpected. My rush hour starts around 7:30. Some days it persists longer than you would think.  I would bet most other people’s days are just about like mine-but for the oxygen.  What any given person needs to breathe in such that their blood circulates briskly-individual.

I have written and written again about how the gardening season goes on for me, long after the killing frost turns the landscape quiet.  How much of this is either self defense, or just talk-probably more than I think.  I do so miss the plants and the dirt. I miss cruising the garden, eating outdoors; I miss all of it, and I will go on missing it another three months anyway.  Yesterday morning I woke up needing a little of that kind of oxygen.  I waited around impatiently for the clock to read 8:45; I was walking in the door of Bordine’s Nursery at 9:05.  The quality of the oxygen is what hits you first.  The air is enriched with water, and smells like life. This sort of oxygen I need to live.  Even though they are at the end of their holiday season, there was plenty of living going on.

Dec 21 009

Having been a gardener a long time, I know what a well-grown plant looks like.  Every place I looked, gorgeous plants grown by Rick Brinks. The greenhouse was filled with all manner of plants in warm colors; the chartreuse benching made all the color look even better.  I found myself not one, but two flatbed shopping carts-and shop I did. The red and white pointsettias were luscious. As were the cyclamen.  I like the mini-cyclamens better than the standard size.  They seem more like a garden plant, than a hothouse version of a plant.  Both will bloom a long time over the winter. The leaves are as beautiful as the flowers-although flowers were really what I needed yesterday.  I bought amaryllis bulbs to pot up.  These papery brown bulbs are programmed to speedily launch their stout stalks topped with three or four giant flowers practically while you watch.  I found some tropical ferns and yellow variegated dracaenas-their shades of green were a sight for my sore eyes. 

Dec 21 011

Last night I was potting plants on the kitchen counter.  Buck was standing right next to me, armed with the roaring hose of the shop vac. The dirt crumbs and wet blobs and other detritus didn’t stand a chance.  I was in my own kitchen, watching a live time episode of  “Cooking with Miss Dirtiness”.  It was pretty funny.  Yesterday-all I did all day was breathe.