Archives for December 2009

At A Glance: Early Light

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Almost Ready

Dec 16c 005I was finally ready this morning to install holiday decor for a client both inside and out; the wreath for the front door was the last thing to be loaded in the trucks. My clients have spent years restoring a beautiful late nineteenth century house; they moved in just weeks ago.  Though the landscape renovation just got underway before we ran out of good weather, we managed to get the granite driveway installed. The new front portico and brick walks are still under construction. But being in the late stages of a construction project does not mean they have to forego the holidays. 

Dec 16c 023A formal tree in the foyer is decorated all in red. Glass ball ornaments in clusters and berry picks suffuse the interior of the tree with a red glow.  Sparkly red ornaments of all shapes and sizes hang from the tips of the branches.

Dec 16c 020The space at the bottom of the stairs is a small one. Some of the lower branches of the tree spill into the stairwell going downstairs. A cloud of red sinamay shot through with metallic red threads finishes the tree at the floor.  The garland on the stair railings is plain-but for bouquets of berry picks, ornaments and satin ribbons on the newel posts. 

Dec 16c 028My client requested that the ceiling of her dining room be dripping with holiday.  I am sure she did not think I would take her request literally-but it seemed just the thing to do.  The glass drops pick up the light from the windows, and the chandelier; the whole room sparkles.  I can imagine it will look beautiful with candlelight. 

Dec 16c 033We pinned copper and pewter colored oak leaf garland at the top of each beam.  Coppery brown manzanita branches were zip tied together in a configuration that would allow for hanging the drops at different levels, and in different planes.  Natural reindeer moss is glued over the zip ties.  The contrast of the old and somber hand hewn beams with the delicate glass drops-lovely.  

Dec 16c 025The old fashioned cooking fireplace is draped in magnolia garlands which are fastenened at the corners with pewter colored leaf and pod picks.  Small custers of brown berries add a subtle shine to the garland.  I always hang magnolia garland with the leaf tips up.  As the leaves dry, they open, and fan out, giving the garland greater volume.  Garland hung with the leaf tips down will dry down, and be smooth and uniform in width. This is gravity at work.

Dec 16c 040The new portico outdoors still lacks lighting and finishing, but Christmas is next week.  The steel topiary towers were custom made for these large pots; they are wound with brown corded lights.  As the bed of greens is so massive, we did a mix for textural interest.  Large branches of magnolia grandiflora were zip tied together to make a shrubby form akin to the steel topiary form. 

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These three English made concrete planters are stuffed with mixed greens; their centerpieces are cardinal red twig, red glitter branches and red glitter leaf picks.  They make a big splash.  The planters are positioned to screen the side door from immediate view, and direct visual attention to the front door. 

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In the spring, the antique brick walkway porch, and new landscape will dress this area up considerably.  But for now, being ready for the holidays is a gesture in a good direction.

Great Gifts For Gardeners

 I have the pleasure of meeting a lot of people in my store in December who are not gardeners.  They are grandchildren, wives, husbands, children, friends, sometimes business associates of gardening people.  They have all the right instincts.  There is a person in their life whom they love and admire, who gardens.  They have a mind to speak to that love with a gift. I am asked, what do you recommend?  These topiary tree ornaments- a traditional landscape form transformed into a tree ornament-I do love these.

Baileys, a well known English purveyor of anything fabulous and vintage, home and garden is a supplier to us; we carried their orange scented candles for the better part of ten years. The jar assembly makes it easy to put a lid on, when the candle is not in use. That delicious orange scent lasts and lasts.  Though they quit making these candles a few years ago, they have recently resumed production-I am sure Rob had a big hand in this.   Irresistibly citrusy-doesn’t this sound good?  

These hobnail glass pitchers are pure Americana. Filled with iced tea, summer flowers, drying fall grasses-versatile. Equally at home on the dining room table or the picnic bench, they would make much of a few stems of flowers from the garden. 

I am not much for gloves, but gardening people swear by these Pallinas made in Red Wing, Minnesota.  These soft goatskin gloves have sturdy boarhide gauntlets in two lengths, making them perfect for working with roses.  They fit well and look good. When I have to wear gloves, these are what I want.  

Pinus coulteri is a long needled pine native to the coastal mountains of southern California.  This tree produces the largest pine cones in the world.  They can weigh in excess of five pounds each; the locals call the “widowmakers”.  A grove of coulter pines is most definitely a hard hat zone. They are harvested for sale for the beautiful object that they are. 

Gardeners are steady consumers of soap.  Why not a soap whose fragrance instantly brings the garden to mind?  Though we carry Nesti Dante from Italy in pumpkin, tomato, lettuce, fig, cucumber and artichoke, the shop favorite is Cupresso.  The cool woodsy scent of the Italian cypress makes washing your dirty hands an event.

Another great smelling holiday gift comes from an old family business in the Bronx.  Individual cloves are wreathed in silver filigree wire, and attached one by one to any number of classic garden topiary forms. This traditional holiday hand craft has its origin in the garden.  

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These plant climbers, designed and manufactured by us, make a great perch for these holiday bird ornaments. They would also make a great gift for a gardener who likes growing climbing plants.  Galvanized and acid washed for a maintenance free, lead look finish, these climbers come in all shapes and sizes. 

Last but not least, our collection of garden glassware with its bee medallion is a favorite for outdoor entertaining.  The glass is thick, heavy and serviceable in a garden setting. Most gardeners, me included, like to pick their own tools, books,  soil,plants and pots.  But there are plenty of great gifts available that reference the garden in a way that is sure to be appreciated by the gardener on your list.

Time To Trim

2008 DGW HOLIDAY INVENTORY 12-29-08 (129)

Once the garland is on the mantle, the wreath is up, and the tree is in its stand, it’s time to trim.  Though some say there is no art involved in trimming a tree or garland, there are a few things I think make for a more beautiful result.  There are no end of choices for trimming.  Some people like natural materials or ornament made from natural materials.  Some like a little gleam, glitter and glitz. My personal preference-the ability to change things from year to year. But no matter in what manner I might be trimming, I have a method.

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I have clients with what I call family history trees. At the very least the ornaments have been collected over a period of years, and represent the history of the family holidays.  Some ornament is handmade by children, family members, or friends. A friend has a tree decorated entirely with birds and beasts of every description and in varying materials.  The inspiration for this tree?  An ornament of an animal that he gave his Mom as a small child he found wrapped in tissue in her jewelry box after he lost her. His tree is about his memories of her, and their relationship. The ornaments for trees like this tend to be all different materials, and all different colors-how can the trimming be done in a cohesive way? 

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Woody has amassed a collection of spheres of all types and sizes that he adds to the members of his ark. The round shape is repeated all over the tree, giving the tree an overall pattern the eye can make sense of.  I should add that he arranges the animals, birds and insects differently every year.  One year he organizes by breed, another year he may organize by color.   The family tree pictured above is pulled together visually by means of a bell garland that winds its way from top to bottom.  The bell garland signals immediately that this is a family tree, designed to delight the children in the household.

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Garlands are not only beautiful in their own right, they help stitch a visual project together. Once I have put the individual ornaments on a tree, I will add the garland.  I can follow the pattern of the lights, spiral down the tree, or make horizontal or vertical stripes.  Good garland is wired everywhere-so individual branchlets can be fluffed out, and stand proud of the silhouette of the tree.  If I am installing garland outdoors, I soak a section in water for a while to be sure it can hold up to wet weather.

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Ribbon makes a great garland. I like a substantial wiring in both edges of the ribbon, so it will pouf out and stay where I want it.  I am one of those ribbon-challenged individuals.  I glue my bows together, as the ones I make with my own hands are  pretty sorry looking. I’ve been known to shorten pants and upholster chairs with my gluegun too.  But wired ribbon makes me look good, as it is easy to arrange.  After all, trimming the Christmas tree is supposed to be fun, not frustrating.

2007 Perenic, Lynn 11-29-07 (10)Lynn’s very unusual and striking Christmas tree is a foam form covered in preserved chartreuse leaves.  This form is the most important visual element; there are only a few ornaments.  The “garland” is actually aluminum wire that floats around the tree like the rings around Saturn.  Only every so often is the wire is secured to the tree.  The column vase with a ball top-a purchase at Smith and Hawkins many years ago.  I filled the bottom of the vase with white sand-this provides a secure base for the tree.  Red tinsel garland, and red and green bead garland fill the ball portion of the vase. 

Dec 16 001This mantle is dressed in a beautifully made artificial pine garland.  Finished in Jeffrey pine cones, it has great textural interest. Now what?

Dec 16 005It’s the small bits that bring it to life. Small plain glass balls-shiny and matte-add depth, interest, and density to any trimming project. Clusters of tiny red ornaments look like berries on a tree.  Clusters of larger red ornaments hung on the interior of a tree get the tree full of color, just as it is full of light; one’s prized ornaments can be front and center on the tips of the tree branches. 

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This is a landscape of a different sort, but a landscape, nonetheless.