Archives for February 2011

The New Kid

If you follow this blog, you know the Corgi boys- Howard and Milo.  And MCat, a feral kitten who grew up under a stack of Italian terra cotta pots, and now lives the good cat life in my office and the shop.  Rob lost the last of his mini-schnauzer pair a few years ago; he has made noises on and off for some time now about another dog.  He so missed having a dog.  This past fall, I could tell a puppy was in the works.  One day, an 8 week old standard schnauzer named Larry showed up at the door.  That cute as a button and unsure of himself 8 week old phase lasted about 2 days. We all were in the throes of the puppyhood life and times. Rob-he was happy.    

I had my worries about the corgis.  They are both 5 years old now; they have their routine, and they rule the roost.  Unless MCat decides to take them them on.  Their puppy encounter years ago with Rob’s mini-schnauzers was a trial by fire.  Those aging schnauzers were mean and snarly on day 1; their irritation, disdain and displeasure persisted well beyond day 1005.  In all fairness, they were well up in years- the new Corgi puppies were a colossal pain.  I worried-would my corgis be jerk 1 and 2 to the new kid?  Day 1 through 5 went fine-I could see they were thinking the new kid was an abberation.  We were babysitting, or helping someone through a transition, or providing a home for a stray while we searched for a new home.  The end of week 1, they knew the world had changed.  By the end of week 2, Milo broke the ice.  He threw his weight around with impunity.  Baby Larry was enchanted.      

He did have that irrestible puppy look-good thing.  We were all scooping him up for regular trips outdoors while Rob was busy.  Outside of his propensity to piddle every 10 minutes, all went swimmingly. Once Milo was over the shock, he got right into the puppy routine.  When he had the time energy and inclination, he played hard.  When he was tired, he endured.    

Howard worried me more.  Surprisingly, he took a very benign position.  Larry moved right into the dog quarters under my desk-not much of a peep out of Howard.  When he thought that Milo was playing too rough, he intervened.  Puppies always go too far, don’t they?  Should Howard be pressed beyond reason to reveal all of his teeth, Larry moves his antics a few feet off shore.  Howard likes the baby-who could have predicted that?    

Milo has done the lion’s share of saying hello and welcome.  Should Larry want to interact, he is game.  I breathed a big sigh of relief.  Milo accepted him.  This is not to say he does not drive Milo wild-but there is a good relationship growing there. 

Good thing, for those early relationships.  Larry has grown by leaps and bounds-he towers over the Corgis, even though he is only a baby.  He is teething-there is not one thing he will not chew.  He is a big puppy now-this means lots of energy.  The fallout from him chewing plans, drapes and rugs-we have to make time to teach.  All of us are on Larry watch.   

I am so pleased for Rob.  A dog is a friend like no other.  This one is an adolescent handful-just yesterday he jumped into the lap of a client who came for a consult-and stayed.  The client-not one bit perturbed.  He will eventually learn some manners, she told me.  Gardening people value their contact with nature.  To the last, they like dogs.  The new kid today?  A standard schnauzer baby cyclone.      

It is hard to stay mad at him for long.  He has lots of energy-most of which he puts to demanding some sort of social interaction.  He knows how to bark; there is no ignoring him.  He wants to be a voting member of the group.  OK, he is a voting member of the group.  

This new staff member is in training.  Come spring, ask for Larry.

Pop-Up Structures


A pergola is a big heavy structural object-not a good candidate for moving around the yard on a whim.  But tuteurs, vine supports, vine towers, and plant climbers can pop up in a garden wherever and whenever you have a mind to use them.  My big complaint with plant climbers-they are invariably too short for the plants I’d like to grow on them.  My climbers have always been homemade-from bamboo.  I can make them as tall as I want. I had a mind some years ago to move on from this.  The size of commercially manufactured tuteurs are dictated by UPS regulation.  They will not ship an object over a certain size.  Motor freighting a plant climber-not one bit cost effective. I hate paying more for shipping than what the object of my affection costs to buy.  Everyone thinks twice before motor freighting.  So I removed the ship issue from my design.  I designed a whole series of plant climbers aimed at my local market.  Should you have access to a pick-up, or are fine with strapping the hatch down on your car, we have big and tall plant climbers.  This particular steel climber-available in regular and giant size.       

The four ribs of this giant size tuteur leaves lots of space in the middle for  display.  At the holidays, these towers get strung with lights, and outline a topiary of magnolia branches.  Pop-up plant climbers are just as useful in the winter, as they are in the summer.  Simple plant climbers pop up easily, regularly. 

This steel garlic form, finished in our virtually rust free finish, has a graceful shape that holds its own visually-climbing plants or no.  We make them in 3 sizes.  Gardeners pop them into their containers; I like giving them a choice about the size.   

This giant garlic planter never did have a vine planted beneath it.  A yellow dahlia occupies the interior space with a raft of annual phlox. Trailing-lobelia and black Moses in the Cradle.  This spring planting carried on throught the season.  The garlic tuteur is a sculptural element-always in view.  It organizes the plant airspace in a beautiful way.  Imagine this container planting without the tuteur.  Robust yes.  But not nearly as striking as this.   

This form was designed by Rob-loosely based on an elongated flower bud. The first year we produced this form, I was too chicken to make the 9′ version.  What was my problem? 

Once a giant form gets outside, and has the sky backing it up, giant seems merely just right. This 9 foot form is larger than its galvanized container-but it works.  Growing grapes in pots?  Were someone to ask me to describe Rob, I would say he lives to grow grapes.  Grapes on pergolas.  Grapes in pots and containers.  This container, designed and planted by him, says it all.  The overscaled bud tuteur makes his idea of a gorgeous container planting a gorgeous reality.

I designed this plant climber wholly based on Rob’s bamboo climbers from the early days.  He would sink 4 very tall bamboo stakes into a container at an outward angle.  He would then wrap galvanized wires in circular little, big, and giant swoops around the bamboo.  Small at the bottom-big at the top.  Most plant climbers I see pay no mind to the habit of a climbing or indeterminate plants.  Plants grow out, up, and out.  This form pays some mind to that.   The top of the plant, spilling over-as in a bower-a plant climber that scoops that up plenty of shoots-well designed.  Plant stakes-they could poke your eye out if you aren’t watching.  None of our climbers have sharp edges.  Every vertical stopper is either curled over ostrich fern style,  or capped in a mini-sphere. 

This steel version of Rob’s classic climber-not visible in late summer.  It is the structure making this container planting suitable for company.  The long flower stalks of the nicotiana alata lime are tied up to it.  The vining mandevillea has otherwise engulfed it.  Not all structure needs to be seen.  But all structures need to be strong, and scaled to handle the job. 

Plant stakes-what is so incredibly unnatural about them?  I understand why gardeners use stout twigs and branches to support their plants.  A natural branch is slight at the bottom, and fans out at the top.  This natural support is great for peonies, and delphiniums.  My 12 peony stems coming out of the ground may be 10 inches in diameter. That same peony plant may be 4′ across at the top.  No straight stake does not do them justice.  My steel stakes come straight out of the ground, and then curve out.  The double prongs at the bottom keep them from moving off course.  

The individual stakes in these containers are much loved by the mandevillea vines climbing them.  The overall shape of these containers- natural and pretty.  The stakes-they might be used with the asparagus next year, or grouped, unplanted, in a perennial bed next year.  Who knows where they might pop up next. 

So many years I staked every climber with bamboo.  These 12′ stakes with their twig ball finials have been in use since 2005.  As much as bamboo stakes are part of my gardening vocabulary, I am pleased to have turned that page. 

Some of our steel tuteurs-they top off a planting in a structural and sculptural way.  Not in a help out a plant climber way. Portable structures can pop up in lots of ways, in lots of gardens.      

This tuteur was Buck’s biggest-fully 14 feet tall.  Small squares and loops at the bottom-giant squares and even bigger loops at the top.  Barbara A bought this pop-up plant tuteur.  What she did with it-I hope someday I will hear.


In lieu of writing, I spent the weekend going through my work stuff.  Desk stuff, drawing studio stuff, catalogue stuff.  Letter stuff, note stuff, picture stuff, closet stuff, blueprint stuff. My drafting studio was a wreck.  The table itself-piled so high with stuff that MCat had moved in, and was using it as a penthouse floor catbed.  I am one of those people who require a clean space in order to work.  Visual anarchy makes it next to impossible for me to concentrate.  All I can think about is where does this belong, or what could I do with that.  Mounds of stuff, and not a flat space anywhere to draw, paint, construct, dream or doodle.  I needed a shovel and a soil sifter, and plenty of garbage bags.  There are those times that I go too far, pitching this or that.  A phone number I need the second I have thrown it away.  One time I found my checkbook in the trash.  After I had turned the rest of my space up side down in search, I casually looked in the trash. 


A collection of stuff is made up of lots of individual things.  Some things make my world go round.  My keys, my computer, my books, my Suburban, my socks and shoes. Dog treats, my coffee pot, tools, paper, books-these things I could not do without. Other things litter the landscape.  An out of date driver’s license, a pile of change, Milo’s puppy collar, a dead pen, a left over piece of water color paper, a few granite bricks, magazines from 2008.  Broken things-I have an impressive collection.  My entire office had evolved into the equivalent of my kitchen junk drawer.  Rather than dump the lot, all the stuff needed going through.  Some stuff matters. 

I have a file folder for every year dating back to 1998.  They are home to letters from friends and clients.  Articles.  Photographs.  Stuff that means something to me. I am more careful about the stuff I collect now than I was 20 years ago.  In any given year, that file has no more than 30 entries.  I edit-as best I can.  It ought to be 10 entries or less every year, but I am an American.  We have a big country, with lots of open spaces.  This means I collect, dissect, am pathetically sentimental, go on and hold on too long. 

    Looking for a rocking discussion of what constitutes stuff?  Fire up your computer, and go to UTube; bleep up George Carlin stuff.  You’ll find it.  The first time I saw his comedy routine about how we organize our lives around our stuff, and how our stuff gets spread out wherever we go- I could not stop laughing, nor could I stop thinking. A house provides refuge, but it also is a giant box that holds all our stuff.  What about all of my stuff?  My costume for a party in 1994-is it time to let that go?  Last winter was completely absorbed with the process and rehabilitation from a knee replacement.  That titanium thing organized my entire winter.  The stuff enabling me to walk-a prosthesis, a pain pump, a walker, a cane, a portable exercise bikea good stuff.  The usual winter cull of the fluff stuff  never happened. No old plans got filed.  Nothing found its way to the trash.

January of 2011; my 2010 work got done.  I went shopping for 2011.  I am home, and taking a second breath-that second breath involves a bad cold that seems to be hanging on.  February 1, 2011-I am looking at the stuff that has accumulated since January of  2009.  Several years worth of stuff. My stuff is not the sort of thing that anyone would want.  It’s just litter, clutter, Roly poly bugs long since deceased.  It took every bit of two days, and I kicked up a lot of dust.  But today I am ready for something new.  Where are you, Something New?

I am ready to make your acquaintance.