Archives for January 2011

Eva Gordon

I am just back from a week’s buying trip for the shop and the landscape company that took me to Georgia and Tennessee.  I shop in Atlanta first and foremost for holiday 2011.  What better time?  The holiday and winter work is fresh in my mind.  My holiday season goes way well into January-I am not complaining.  I rather like it.  Whatever work I do usually has a sidecar attached.  What could be different?  What could be better?  Where do we go now?   Shopping the Atlanta Mart for holiday is not for the faint of heart.  Three buildings in the heart of downtown Atlanta, each in excess of 20 stories, is home to manufacturers of every description.  Holiday.  Gift.  Garden.  Museum.  Children.  This list is long.  Atlanta hosts business owners from all over the country; this is the Mart’s main event of the year.  The showrooms are packed.  It takes every bit of 5 days to see everything, put an idea for a collection together, and place orders.  This usually means 5 days that start at 8am and are still going on at 8pm.  Some showrooms are permanent, but open only on specific days or specific shows.  Some showrooms are temporary; Eva Gordon shows on the temp floors.     

Eva is a Canadian ceramicist; I would guess she is in her mid seventies now.  She comes to Atlanta every January.  Though her work is well known, she comes to Atlanta herself.  She wants to talk to people like me, who own shops, about her work.   I greatly admire her work-I admire her more for this.  The Atlanta Mart is a forum, a place to show, for no end of talented people who have the idea to convince people like me that their work deserves attention. The Mart is much about people meeting over beautiful work.      

This is a shopping trip of a different sort.  It could not be more different than my Monday afternoon Christmas trip to a store in town to browse and buy a gift for a friend, or for Tine.  This is a working shopping trip.   The Atlanta show-any hundreds of showrooms, each and every one stuffed with objects that I may or may not have a love for-this is work to focus, and really see what is there. The work is to make a plan, sort out what you like, and buy. What am I thinking will drive the 2011 holiday season, and what else is out there that will make my idea clear?  I may visit the better part of the showrooms we like spread out over 60 floors 2 or 3 times.  I walk until I cannot take one more step.  Part of the fun of this shopping trip-I am not alone.  Atlanta is alive with shop owners from all over the country- much like me.  I meet some of them at Eva Gordon’s booth.  All of us like her work.   

Atlanta in January is my idea of a working vacation in a warm climate-but for this year.  They were slammed with 7 inches of unexpected snow, and incredibly low temperatures just before I got on the road.  Ice, and more ice.  This city has no store of salt for bad weather, nor do they have a plan for bad weather.  No plows.  I delayed my trip there for two days, hoping  they would sort it all out.  The downtown area looked a little like the beach-tons of sand had been spread over the ice.  The Atlanta police direct traffic at the intersection of the 3 buildings all day and every day- so everyone can cross safely.       

The winter beach streets amused me-I am from a northern climate that handles wintry weather routinely. Meaning, we melt the snow.  As there is no postponing the show, Atlanta did what they could to welcome their guests.  It is a lively, energetic and friendly city.  Who knows how Eva Gordon got here, but I am happy she did.        

Any fruit or vegetable, any garden idea, any holiday reference to the garden-no matter the medium-I am in Atlanta searching.  I searched for the better part of 5 days.  Did I mention that Eva Gordon’s plates make my heart pound?  My pictures are from a wall in my kitchen; I think they look great.

On The Road

This week I am traveling-shopping for Detroit Garden Works for 2011. First up, the holiday season.  Who knows what I was thinking.  Accessing my blog from the road has proved to be beyond my grasp.  I have not fallen off the planet, just the techno planet.  Perhaps some help will come within the next few days, but should it not, I promise to be back to writing regularly within the week.   I am in Atlanta at this moment-dealing with the last of their spectacularly rare snow and ice storm.  All of the streets are so coated with sand, I feel like I am at the beach.  It was 50 degrees today-balmy, compared to Michigan.  The shopping-a busman’s holiday.  All the news, coming soon.

Unexpected Company

Some winter weather-not so much worth talking about.  Michigan can be grey and unchanged, day after day, week after week.  This winter we are seeing plenty of activity.  Not the snow sort that has the east coast barely operating in first gear, or the unexpected snow, ice and cold that has the south in its grip-but active winter weather nonetheless.  I have lost count how many snow storms we have had, but yesterday’s was significant.  Significantly beautiful.  Driving by the front walk last night, I could see the prints from an unexpected visitor.  

I could see those prints, as I have lights in the landscape.  Path lights are a must; there are stairs to climb to my front door.  An older friend fell into the boxwood a few years ago, taking her husband with her.  Though I was horrified, they laid over the boxwood, laughing.  Needless to say, I saw to getting that walkway lit.  Tonight,here are big spaces between these two tiny snowprints-who came calling?

My holiday lighting-I can not bear to turn it off. By the time I get home now, it is dark.  I like seeing the lights on inside, and the lights on outside.  The night lighted is a comfort to me.  This snowfall was particularly beautiful; I came up the back stairs with the idea to take some pictures.  I persuaded Buck to haul my tripod to the car, and drive me around the block to the front door.  It took a little time to explain that I did not want to ruin my snow with my bootprints, and fix him a vodka on the rocks. He agreed to go along. This is my idea of a night out, camera and tripod in tow, I photographed the footprints of my unexpected company. 

Once I was done outside, Buck obligingly drove me home. Around the corner to the driveway, that is.  You would think I had documented an event of great importance. He rolled his eyes.  Apparently the garden has lots of visitors; only in the winter are there prints.  Buck tells me the yard is a way station for all sorts of creatures.  One neighborhood cat traverses the top of our fence almost every day. I ventured out the front door,careful to keep the legs of the tripod out of view.  Unmistakeable, signs of a visitor meandering up the walk.    

I was easily able to track the prints in the snow, courtesy of the landscape lighting. Make no mistake, my outdoor lighting would win no awards.  I know not so much about it, and the catalogues of fixtures exhaust me.  I refer my clients to a lighting designer and contractor whose work I like. Kevin came and lit my front walk, and my driveway at my request. On my mind last night was an idea to get much more involved in lighting-especially for winter.   My path lights need something in the way of a riser; the boxwood have grown.  Nonetheless, the now too short fixture made for a pool of bright light that dramatically changed the night view of my garden in winter.

The path lights in the background of this picture illuminate the first flight of steps up to my front door with an intense and focused light. The city street light illuminates the dark softly; this light is high off the ground.  My four footed visitor had little problem coming up the stairs. This picture has me thinking about how complicated a lighting scheme can be-in the absence of the sun.

The lighting in this container has never looked better than it did last night.  This snowfall-incredibly beautiful.  The snow collecting on the hydrangeas and boxwood-I would have never seen this, but for the lights in the landscape. 

I do not so much love the winter.  But there are those times that what I see makes me grateful I have it.  I have a little yard in a city.  No views to an ocean.  No mountains. No property to speak of. But last night, courtesy of the light, it was truly enchanting.

Favorite Greens

Though I posted last week at some length about my favorite greens, I was in fact telling a tale.  If I had to choose between lima beans and farfugium, I would gladly do without the lima beans. The vast majority of a garden is green-this makes picking favorites difficult.  But farfugium crispata has an especially gorgeous green leaf; large, undulating, and in this case, heavily ruffled. The trailing vinca maculatum has a thick glossy leaf, with both forest green and lime markings-but it is the habit of the plant that gets my attention.  This plant will send out runners all season long, and trail two stories, given the chance.  During the fall cleanups, I potted up every plant I had planted in containers in May.  They were still growing vigorously, the beginning of November. I am interested to see what they might go on to become next season. This green plant has it all over the traditional vinca vine one sees in container plantings. They would make a swell start for a hanging garden.     

Selaginella, or club moss, is a spreading green plant with tiny scale-like leaves.  They like moist shade, and will spread indefinitely if they are happy.  They make great container plants, in combination with upright growing plants that will not shade them out completely.  They are great in combination with begonias and tropical ferns.  This lime green version is especially handsome with a big leaved pepperomia.  The pepperomias-I cannot believe I left them off this list.  I like them all; the more the better.

Green and gold plectranthus is a vigorous and lax growing green planted, sporting large felted leaves.  They are related to coleus.  The plant can be pruned into shapes if pinched regularly-just like a coleus.  They grow large, so they need big company.  This zebra grass rises above the fray, as my friend Denise would say.   

Angelina is a succulent which is hardy for me. I have had it winter over in pots; I have had it stay green, wintering over in pots.  It trails just enough to make it good in any size pot. Any scrap of a piece that falls on the ground roots.  Willing, this plant. 

There are plenty of greens represented here-the panic grass is my urban version of a meadow.  The baltic ivy was here when I moved here, and it still going strong 15 years later.  I planted a few planted of lysimachia nummularia aurea-the lime version of creeping jenny, on the edge of this path.  2 years later it is holding its own with the ivy.  The combination of the two groundcovers is interesting.  Creeping jenny trails long in pots and window boxes.  It is equally at home in boggy locations, or at the water’s edge.  It will burn in full sun unless it has constant moisture.  The best lime color requires a part sun-part shade location. 

Polka dot plant, or hypoestes, has similar requirements. Popular as house plants, new cultivars such as pink splash, do well in containers in partially shaded locations. They can be made to grow in full sun locations, but you need be very mindful of the water. They make a great supporting cast plant for shade loving tropicals or caladiums.  As you can see, they mix well with lime licorice too. The white spots help lighten up a really shady location.     

Most places in my yard are green.  This large pot has a little white from a mandevillea and some petunias, but the lime nicotiana alata and gren and white plectranthus keeps the green dominant.  In a mostly green garden, the visual focus shifts to texture, shape, surface, volume and mass-all things that interest me.     

I do not miss seeing the concrete block wall that is completely obscured by this boston ivy.  600 square feet of concrete in the vertical plane-not so pretty.  This green plant securely attached itself to it, and grew without any attention from me. When it sheds its leaves, I can see that 15 years of attachment to this wall has not damaged it in the least bit.  I am sure I could write about good greens every week for years, and not get to the end of them.  This green part of gardening is great fun.