Archives for October 2010

At A Glance: A Last Look

Fall Plantings

My fall is in full swing; it was cold and blustery all day today.  I come to work sporting at least 3 layers.  My office door at home is open all evening so the corgis can come and go as they please-not tonight.  Too cold.  The leaves are starting to turn color in earnest; the lindens at the shop are so beautiful this time of year, dressed all in that intense citron shade of yellow.

I have written before about how limited a fall plant palette can be.  But in fact, limitations can spark some some imaginative solutions.  There are times when I have so many choices that all the time I spend so much time considering the options makes what I eventually choose looks exhausted-this would be a spring scenario.  These fall pots have the expected yellow and orange pansies, but get their volume from birch twigs and preserved eucalyptus. Not all natural materials have roots, and need water.        

Ornamental cabbage and kale, and pansies are fall staples.  But who wants to look at staples? My farmer’s market has no end of natural materials-the bittersweet and pumpkins in this window box add so much to the cabbage and pansies.  One of my most favorite fall materials-romanesco broccoli.  The lime green florets are of an astonishing configuration; the swirling leaves add a little sass to any staple fare. I have placed these broccoli heads in pots, and used then as finials on fence posts.  What is your idea?   

Broom corn is just that-a plant which when harvested can provide material for brooms.  The fresh stems at market are beautiful and colorful, and you can be assured they will last the entire fall. I am crazy for tuscan kale and ornamental cabbage, but this fountain of broom corn in the center makes the whole arrangement look like a substantial celebration of fall.  

Dusty miller is an underused plant for fall pots.  It regularly survives the winter in my zone.  The silver color is great in the fall-but should you not have access to tall plants, your pots could get a big leg up from some preserved  spiral eucalyptus. Though not one bit hardy in my zone, eucalyptus takes well to preserving, and color.  The dusty miller and pansies in these pots get a big dose of emphasis from a central mass of eucalyptus preserved and dusted with white.     

I have no objection to a fall planting that makes much of the fruits of the harvest, or other natural materials.  My fall season is short, and brusque.  This means that I do not object to materials for fall pots that do not have roots-I actually welcome the diversity they represent. The creeping jenny in these pumpkin pots had beeen there all seaason-I saved  them.  Creating a fall planting from 4 great pumpkins with outstanding stems, and loads of mini pumpkins and gourds was great fun. A container whose surface is planted flat with mixed pansies does not entertain my eye nearly as much as this does.  

Gardeners need some entertainment in the fall.  The closing of the season is not my favorite time.  I am cutting back, cleaning out, and cleaning up. Some fall containers with great color and texture can make the changing of the seasons a little less distressing. 

These antique urns flanking the front door of the shop have not one thing in them with roots. White glazed birch branches and preserved green eucalyptus are a centerpiece for a collection of green and white gourds. This “planting” celebrates the end of the season.  I hate to give air time to my disappointment that the season is changing, and moving towards winter.  I would rather do my best to create a little excitement about the moment.  

Those of you who live in temperate climates-I do not envy you.  I truly like the end of a season as much as I like the beginning.  I like being limited, and challenged. This is part of what is the great fun-should you decide to be a northern gardener.

Pastoral Landscapes

Rob’s shopping trip abroad for Detroit Garden Works is well into its second week.  He has attended some antique faires, as well as visiting dealers specializing in vintage or antique garden ornament.  His route from this country faire to that rural dealer has been dreamy to say the least.  I have gotten scads of pictures.  Many of them have a very painterly quality about them.  Boxwood Hill, with its path to the top looks like a scene from a Tolkien novel-a pastoral landscape fraught with history.  This photograph of surely trimmed boxwood, and a path up to the tree on top set in rough grass is heart stopping-can you imagine seeing this in person?     

These four terra cotta squares, made at the the Liberty Company in London at the turn of the century, look particularly beautiful displayed against the park like landscape.  These rare signed and stamped pots have a quietly classical and architectural presence that suits me just fine.  They have that chunky and solid English aura about them that rings true.  Any genuine expression I admire.      

Where Rob was when he took this photograph, I have no idea.  It looks to me like the junction of the road, and the road not taken- made famous by the poem by Robert Frost.  I will have to ask Rob which road he eventually took, as his camera recorded that moment seconds before he made his decision.  There is not a building nor a sign to be seen-striking, that.  This pair of two-tracks; each one holds promise. 

Like this antique curved iron bench or not, the combination of bench, lawn and light is beautiful.   

This country house is of a grand scale, but the attendant landscape is seems barely touched by human hands.  Field grass like this-full of all sorts of plants and infrequently cut or grazed is completely unlike what I would call lawn.   The grass adjacent to a wild garden I once had was overrun in the spring with every color of violet imagineable.  I don’t think I knew how good it was until it was gone.  A lawn overrun with violets;  what could be better? 

Many of the places that Rob shops have deconstructed landscapes such as this.  The look is lovely, natural and soft. In charming disarray, this landscape has a life of its own, with a minimum of interference from a human hand.  Though some may say this is evidence of neglect or poor housekeeping, I like how this space has been colonized. The natural landscape fringes and grows up onto the benches, gates, chairs, and ironwork-a natural, and beautiful relationship.   

This ancient limestone sculpture in a church yard cemetery is amazing.  The children seem to be praying for the immortal soul of the deceased-already firmly in the hands of an angel.  The expression on the face of the angel-no doubt he takes his job seriously.  Many lichens have grown up and over this old sculpture-not to mention the rough grass.    

A winding and narrow country lane high on a ridge provides Rob a great view of a herd of sheep, placidly grazing. This is a landscape of a time and place unbeknownst to me. There is eveything to be learned from landscapes that have evolved from agricultural, commerce, country, and community. There are no strident notes.  Nothing contrived, or trying too hard. What is hard- the work of a life. What gets done-a sign of a life well lived.     

This container may have had some hens and chicks planted in it a long time ago, but what you see here is a container planting gone wild,  and a moss lawn establishing itself-the handiwork of a hand far greater than mine. I cannot really explain why this photograph appeals so much to me, but I doubt I need to.

Our Town

If you live near me, I am sure you are familiar with the Community House.  This organization has been in existence some 90 years in the city of Birmingham.  It is a cultural center; they offer classes on a wide range of topics.  They organize trips, host weddings, serve lunch on the terrace-they are a community resource. They are very serious in their efforts to help, educate, and serve the community in which they are located.  They are eminently worth your support.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of a Community House sponsored event-the Our Town art show and sale. The event provides a forum for local artists to show and sell their work.  This year’s juried show features some 300 works, with 10,000.00 in prize money to be awarded.     

Becky Sorenson and Janet Grant asked if I would dress the outside of the house for their event-why not? This organization does a lot of good for a lot of people-I support their efforts. The primary goal of decor for an event-a plan that draws attention to and piques people’s interest. I wanted to make a visual representation of their open invitation to the community at large to participate in Our Town. 

I took 8 containers and placed them on the steps.  Janet is an old and treasured client-she likes clean and modern.  I followed her lead.  8 containers at the front door would be bound to attract attention.  The peacock kales, the acid washed topiary forms and grey planters are all of a piece.  Succinct. 

For the opening night, I did a pair of arrangements from hydrangeas and panic grass from my own yard.  The silver plate vintage trumpet shaped containers-a nod to the 25th anniversary of this event. The hydrangea and the grasses are fresh, and will dry beautifully over the course of this event.     

Jenny designed and produced the Our Town flags.  She is instrumental in the day to day at Detroit Garden Works, but she is a very talented graphic designer in her own right.  I knew her work would make our container planting the subject of visual interest. At the last minute, she laminated the flags she printed on water color paper; rain is in the forecast.  Who would not respond to a flag flying?      

The flags waving around-this I like.  The Community House provides so many diverse services to the community-I recommend that you get involved.  The Our Town Art exhibition features plenty of first rate work.  For tickets to the opening tomorrow night, call the Community House.  Should you be interested in viewing the art on exhibition-there is no charge.  I zoomed through the exhibition while I was there planting the pots-wow.  So many provocative and beautiful works.  What are you up to the next few days?  A visit to the Our Town exhibition is worth a visit.