Archives for November 2010

Staying Late

My come early- stay late routine came to a close beautifully.  The shop garden needed some dressing up for our evening event; we wanted the outside to say welcome, and encourage a festive mood for anyone walking to the door.  

Out at the street, an old iron cistern is stuffed with poplar branches, and finished with a groundcover of various sizes of white lights. Holiday light strings in groundcover, or in containers is an easy, portable and inexpensive way to light your winter landscape. This pot-our greeting. 

A pair of cast stone pots atop the gate piers feature steel spheres wrapped in a single ring of pearl lights.  Poplar branches were sunk in the soil, through the openings in the sphere.  The Saturn pots, as I call them, take the every day in ground landscape lighting at the base of the piers skyward.  

Wrapping the lights on the form can be accomplished quickly; we use the smallest zip tie available. This makes the removal of the lights much faster, when you need the sphere to support a vine, or provide a sculptural element in a container. The light ring reads clearly from below.

Lining the driveway with tables dressed in white linens in mid November has the element of surprise going for it.  This very traditonal symbol of a party to come gets a big boost from being placed outdoors.

Candlelight endows any event or gathering with a little romance.  However many candles you set out, a few more would probably be good.  Votive candles are much like the mini light strings-readily available and inexpensive, they can ornament a party indoors or out like nothing else. 

Straight sided votive holders are just as inexpensive, and reuseable-our trick is to put a teaspoon of water into each glass before we light the candles.  This makes popping the used candles out for cleaning easy.  Adding the votives to larger glass containers, pitchers and vases greatly magnifies the light; we did a collection of glass on each table.

The candlelight did much to illuminate the glass icicles in the lindens.  A few white laser cut plastic lanterns with a votive inside contrast with the icicles.  The walk to the door was warmly and invitingly lit.

A pair of garlic shaped steel tuteurs covered in pearl garland are illuminated courtesy of a light sphere at the bottom.  The surface of the pot is mulched in white recycled and tumbled bottle glass. Very dressy. It was a good day to stay late.

Detroit Garden Works

The opening of the Detroit Garden Works holiday open house weekend was last night; much to my surprise, we were ready around 3pm Thursday.  Help from two landscape crews made a huge difference over the past two weeks.  Many able hands make moving a mountain with a spoon easier-yes.   Rob had spent no small amount of time adjusting and readjusting the lighting.  He lit his birch diorama dramatically; the creeping fig on the wall was cast into so many green/black shadows.  The snowballs and snowflakes looked like they were floating. 

You may wonder how someone who knows the spelling, pronunciation, and culture of ampleopsis brevipedunculata could turn around and be so enamoured of the holidays.  An explanation is to follow.  The creation of a landscape, and the creation of a landscape designed for a holiday moment- not so different in intent.  just execution.   My greenhouse roof permits the sun to shine inside 12 months of the year.  Our one evening event of the year comes as the dark time approaches.  Rob set votive candles on the rafters; the greenhouse sky was twinkling.  He thought to attend to this detail.   This starlight was my favorite part of the opening of our holiday weekend.  

I have always had a big love for the holidays.  The idea of neighborhoods, good friends and family- cozying up and celebrating- appeals to me.  Of course, setting the scene is what I most enjoy, as it is what I am able to contribute.  Buck would despair at the thought of my cooking a holiday dinner-but I can generate a little ambiance, and set a mean table.  How my garden, how my life gets dressed for the holidays and delivers-I am on that.  Buck leaves the atmosphere to me.

The shop is comprised of four distinctly different spaces, and one small interior room.  Each space has its own big idea.  The devil is in the transitions.  I am always looking at how a guest will navigate turning a corner, or moving from one space to another.  I approach this in the shop in exactly the same way as I do designing landscapes, and hope this approach works gracefully.  Every corner-softened, simply stated.  

My guests- many of them come;  they to the last seem to enjoy their experience.  I took these pictures just after the last of my guests left.  As much as I try to photograph everything I mean to write about, I like to put the camera away given the moment- in favor of the experience of an event.  No picture I could take of the opening night of our holiday weekend would accurately capture that.  That moment is about in person. 

Should you run that country that is your garden like I do, you know every plant.  Every thriving colony-every disappointment.  You know the definition of gaposis. You clearly understand what needs attention next season.  You work the dirt room with great passion.  Your gloves are stiff with dirt, your boots need replacing; your tulips were mowed down by the deer.  No matter how dull and splintered your tools, and how poor the delphiums were,  you have hope.  The holidays-so much about hope.

Your company does not see your troubles and shortfalls.  They see your singularity of purpose.  They see your energy, your delight, your effort- the imagination, the drama, the humor. They reward the result of your efforts with their hand placed squarely in the middle of your back.  They encourage me.     

I am so lucky.  I have a lot of hands.  Every shred of angst that chases me- I can say with confidence that I have great people who do much to chase away my late fall blues. As much as I hope and depend that my good clients will dispell my worry, they do better.  They show up and do one better.  They support my shop.  They make it possible for me to keep going, keep growing.  Detroit Garden Works provides community to this designer. Our holiday weekend starts tomorrow- I so hope to see you.       

Late last night, I was happy and satisfied with what I saw.  Let me know what you think.

Come Early

I am well aware there have been a conspicuous absence of posts the past few days.  The week running up to our holiday open house is an intense work experience that starts early in the day, and ends late.  Not that I mind this.  The past fews days have been unseasonably warm, so we have had spectacular fog at dawn.  The umpteen numbers of glass icicles we hung in the lindens are a frost white at 5:30 am-it was worth been up this early to see them. I like a project that has a deadline.  This is in sharp contrast to that garden which is always changing, and hopefully evolving. 

Bunches and more bunches of stick stacks of various twig arrived last week. Cardinal red twig, yellow twig, and black twig dogwood in three heights comes to us from a stick farm. Copper willow, fan willow, pussy willow-the salix family and its hybrids have beautiful twigs.  I would not mind farming sticks one bit. Coppicing twigs is a very old art; twigs are judiciously harvested, leaving the plant to grow new twigs. They provide lustrous, linear and colorful interest in winter containers. 

The yellow twig is an especially striking yellow green color.  In mass, they have a graceful and rhythmic appearance that belies their strength.  They will still look great come next April, when most else is the garden is still dressed in winter drab.  We do strap our twigs to a bamboo or metal pole that is sunk deep into the container.  A stick stack out of vertical is not a good look.  
That said, these wire containers of red twig listing by design is exciting visually.  A composition fueled by confidence and deliberation means the rules do not necessarily rule.  The gardening world’s most prominent rule breaker-nature. Snow in early June, the datura in ground that survives the winter, the hen who raises an abandoned kitten-there are lots of examples.    

I am an early person by nature.  I like time, peace and quiet to get ready for the day.  I am not a day dreamer-I am a dawn dreamer.  The prospect of completely redoing the display in the shop puts me to work very early; this is no different than in the spring.  In spring I am thinking about making things grow.  This time of year is about making something of what I have.     

Fog has a way of saying hush hush.  Saturated colors are subdued.  The wet quiet is muffles sound.  The sharp edges of everything are blurred. No telling where this observation might take me once I take it inside. Creating an atmosphere in the absence of weather-difficult. Arranging an interior space-I admire people who do this well.  They take a series of objects and create an atmosphere in which everything lives well together.  A person who can generate atmosphere- no doubt you know a sun maker, a rain maker, a trouble maker.  A well designed landscape is poised to wear the weather well.   

The fog has me thinking about how to soften the sticks-with picks, and preserved and dyed eucalyptus. As much as I like the masses of one color, what would happen if I mixed the sticks?  Maybe three colors.   

This is the last early morning before our holiday open house weekend.  My list is not nearly as long as it has been, but it’s long enough to get me going first thing.     
We are almost ready.

Miss Sparkle


All spring and summer long, Buck will refer to me as Miss Dirtiness. He will suggest with alacrity that I just might want to leave my work clothes in the laundry room before coming up stairs. Would I like to wash my hands before dinner?  If I threw radish seeds in the back of my Suburban-you get the idea. I don’t mind dirt much.  It has been a source of great pleasure-growing things.  It allows me to make a living. I do not believe I have ever become ill from the dirt I have no doubt ingested over the years.  This week my crumbs are of a distinctly sparkly material.  Oh, the glamour of glitter.  High chroma silver is the most sparkly glitter of all; it reflects 98% of all the light that touches its surface.   

Winter light and bright can come from materials that reflect the available light.  These glass and metal snowflakes are indeed sparkly.  A mirror hung in a garden can be surprisingly and unexpectedly effective.  It can create the illusion of greater space, or reflect light in a dark corner.  A tree in the yard that has shed its leaves can be dressed up considerably for the winter with some similarly reflective ornament.         

I like my winter pots at home to have a holiday element.  Glitter picks reflect sunlight when I am so fortunate to have it.  At night, the landscape and holiday lighting are are the more festive with some extra sparkle.  Decorating the shop for the holidays is a bland phrase that doesn’t convey the fact that all of these glittery objects are at one time or another in my hand.  This means I have glitter in my hair, under my fingernails, and in my socks-for weeks. 

I am by no means the only fan of sparkle.  Martha is posed in front of a pink/gold/purple and silver glittering wreath- wearing a silver sequinned jacket on the cover of her holiday issue. Lots of really dressy winter outfits come encrusted with sparkle.  If I did ever decide to wear makeup, I might go for a little dusting of glittered powder in the winter.    

Pine cones are just one of natures most beautiful objects. Sparkly pine cones are good fun. A sparkling garland can pick up and magnify whatever light you can muster on a Christmas tree, winter container, or in my case, dress up my jeans and fleece.  All this glitter talk may seem a little incongruous coming from this dirt girl.  I look at it this way: Sunlight sparkling on the water of my fountain pool surface-one of the best parts of the summer season at home.  With the pool drained, I need to get my dose of sparkle from other sources.    

The papery seed heads of the money plant are beautiful-but I would never plant it in a garden unless I wanted to look at it everywhere.  The same goes for thistles.  I like them much better in this form.  This company makes shiny money plant stems in a variety of metallic colors.  These are easy to spot from a long ways away, and I can store them for next year’s holiday. 

This silver filigree wreath is studded with natural cloves; the combination of materials and surfaces is beautiful.  The art of making holiday topiary and wreaths with silver wire and cloves is an old German art.  A company in New York still makes them, by hand. I know which box holds these topiaries long before I open it; the smell of the cloves had permeated the box.  The fragrance of cloves is to the holiday season what lavender is to the summer season. The silver wire sparkles.  

These vintage glass ornaments have that softer sheen that comes with age.  One of the best parts of the holiday-the tree that comes inside, and gets decorated. The combination of natural evergreen and some holiday sparkle-a tradition growing up that I still practice.   

Paper leaves encrusted with sparkly bits-I am thinking about them for my winter garden.  They help me to be far less grumpy about the winter on the way.