Archives for February 2012

Christmas In February


At the end of the first week of January, I reluctantly took the Christmas light garlands draped around these pots down, and put them in storage.  After all, the holidays were over.  This year I was especially reluctant for the holiday season to end-we had had no snow.  Though the temperature was chilly, we were denied that one ingredient that in my mind makes for Christmas-the snow.   

This photograph with all of the lights blazing taken just before Christmas does seem to lack that special seasonal element-does it not?  I felt we were so ready for the snow-that snow that never came. 

Winters in Michigan are notable for their grey skies, and their abundance of snow.  For whatever reason, our clouds were dry as dust.  It looked for all the world like we had the heat up much too high-and unnecessarily.  We designed a winter display based on the norm for our winters.  The norm went into hiding. 

The collection and placement of these dried stalks of asparagus-Rob had an idea to fragment and diffuse an intense source of C-9 light with those stalks.  This is his version of snow or ice defining every branch distinctly-only that distinction was drawn with light.  Snow on the evergreen boughs in this window box would have added a whole other dimension to this arrangement.  Nature was not interested in cooperating.

I took photographs anyway.  But I so would have loved seeing the front of the shop buried in snow, with the lights running.  Who knows what that might have looked like. 

I took the lights down January 7.  But if you happened to drive by the shop in the past few days, you would have seen those lights going back on the containers.  Lest you think I have gone way over the deep end, Better Homes and Gardens has a photographer arriving Saturday to photograph some of my holiday and winter pots.  The lights had to go back on the pots, as they want to photograph them.   They were insistent that they wanted snow on all of the containers they wanted to photograph.  So the holiday lighting came out of storage. 

 Needless to say, we have been talking about this photo shoot for several months.  This snow squall in late January, just about our only snow this winter, lasted for all of about 3 hours.   2 weeks ago,  it looked like we might have snow showers tomorrow and Saturday.  The Chicago based photographer made some plans to travel-we were at a do or don’t moment.  They have 8 winter pots they want photographed.  Saturday. Who knew the weather would deliver in spades.  

This morning I read that our area has 5 to 8 inches coming tonight.  1 to 3 inches on Friday.  Snow squalls and cloudy skies on Saturday.  Mother nature suddenly has a mind to cooperate mind to cooperate in a big way.  8 inches, no kidding?  We loaded a truck today with props for the shoot, branches, snow shovels and brooms.  We loaded up a blower too.  If every pot is buried, we need to do a little uncovering.  I have already told everyone who works at the shop-do not walk across the lawn and come to the front door-take the side entrance.  The photographer has already asked for fresh snow, and not snow with boot prints.

A photograph of a garden in its finest moment bears no remote resemblance to a real garden.  But a beautiful garden photographed at its finest moment might encourage someone who has never gardened to give gardening a try. This is important to me.  Anyone who paints, photographs, gardens, writes, manages,  composes, sculpts, makes movies, or designs-  they all share this in common. That which gets created implies an audience.  There is a story over which a relationship can be forged.  I am so very pleased that we are about to get snow.  That snow means I will be in touch.

Tuesday Opinion: Computer Trouble

Late last week it was my unfortunate experience to have my email account hacked.  My shock and displeasure with the situation mattered not one bit.  That everyone whose email address was stored in my contacts was contacted with an annoyingly irritating email asking for help was embarassing in the extreme.  That all of my email contacts, and all of my email folders dating back close to ten years were wiped out-shocking. 

 Of course this had to happen on a Friday.  Events take time to unfold.  By the time that I knew I needed help, the weekend was looming.  I had the weekend with no available help to feel resentful and worried.  I really dislike anything that makes me feel like this.  I have a passion for making things grow.  I have a big love for living things-this means people, plants, animals, lichens-I am not so fond of slime molds, but I respect that they live. I have no patience for worrying trouble like a tongue on a sore tooth.  I like to wade right in, and put things to right.   But there was nothing I could do until my IT person returned from his vacation.  A computer, and all that goes with it- that machine comprised of characters, numbers and marks on a page that somehow get translated by a person into a photograph, a story, a video, or a letter can enable all kinds of things I would never have thought possible.  Please keep in mind that I was anxious the entire 2 hours it took to install my first fax machine.  I am a little more savvy now. It is one of the most amazing tools I have ever had at my disposal.  People 1/3 my age expect everything that comes from their computer-I am still simply amazed by it. A computer can be the next best thing to a trip to the Chelsea Garden Show.  Want to see pictures, or videos?  There are more to choose from than I could ever look at. I see things, I learn, I communicate after a fashion.  A computer is much like a third hand.

There are those things not to like.  If you have tried to solve a problem with your phone via the account you set up at the My Verizon website, be prepared to dig in and stay put.  Service websites may list 1000 possible issues you want to discuss, but are any of them your issue?  They don’t seem to be mine.  Have you ever hung up, not knowing what option to choose?  Me too!  It can take 20 minutes to find a phone number, and even longer to actually get to talk to a person.  I am amazed that a tech support person from Verizon was on the line with me for over 1/2 hour, until everything got sorted out.  Gracious and patient, she was. A person to talk to-the best.  At my shop I am adamant about this one thing.  Answer the phone.  Just answer.   

It took my IT person almost 7 hours to sort out, solve, and return my computer to a working state.  He had little interest in discussing why someone would hack my email.  I understand-after all, what would be the point of that exercise?  The idea is to get going again.  When something dies in my garden, there is the frustration, and inevitably the idea to understand what happened.  It is not always possible to know what happened.  Plants thrive, and they die.  Don’t mourn too long.  Mourn properly, and then stop crying in public.  Cry in private for as long as you want.  Getting going again after something fails is an awkward way of expressing the idea of experience.  I can wring my hands over what didn’t work, or I can plant again.  It is my choice to keep on gardening.  No one, and nothing can keep me from it-no one but me, that is.  

Loosing all of those files took my breath away.  5 days later, that loss seems like an opportunity to start fresh.  I didn’t loose one thing that enables me to live.  I lost 10 years of computer recorded history. But I didn’t loose any memories, or experience.  I have been thinking a lot about this.  Being older, I am not so crazy about change, or unexpected developments.  But unexpected developments can clear musty air.  Get the old blood moving.  From this day forward-doesn’t this sound good?       


At A Glance: Shipping The Eagles

If you read this blog regularly, you may remember that I wrote a month ago or so about the sale of a pair of 18th century cast iron armatures which at one time were part of a pair of hand wrought and cast iron fully feathered eagles.  I was told they graced the roof of the Palais Royale in the 18th century-who knows if this provenance is truth or fiction.  In truth, I did not care about the provenance.  Though great age had reduced those birds to their bare bones, no garden sculpture known to me has ever made such a powerful and personal visual statement.  Though I can see right through them, they have incredible presence.  They speak much to life, age, aura, memories, gardens- and dissolution.  They are history represented in a way I cannot really explain.  I could have lived with them all my life.  But once I decided to buy and sell garden ornament, I knew there would be times it would be hard to let go.  In this instance, it knocked the wind out of me.   

We finally had a call to ship.  Buck would crate them for what was the last leg of their long trip from Europe.  From Paris, to Brussels, to Paris, to New England, to me.  I only had them for a time-they moved on just a short time ago. I know the person who bought them, loves them.  That is enough.  They had travel ahead of them.  We wanted to be sure they would be absolutely safe and secure for that trip.

It took Buck an entire day to build the pallets and crates, and load them up for shipping.






The designer was kind enough to email me that they made the trip without a hitch, and were unloaded without incident.  I did respond with a request to see them installed in the garden.  This went unanswered-which I understand.  Neither he nor his client has any obligation to me.   I had them for what seemed like a brief moment. This someone new and unknown to me will steward them with the same care as I did-of this I am sure.  No one would buy these, unless they were sure they could not live without them.

Finished Fountain

The welding studio has been busy the last 3 weeks.  Buck had a special order for a fountain, and a matching urn for a client in California, and a destination in Fort Worth Texas.  The sheer size of the fountain meant the base and scuppers needed to be very strong, and the steel thick and heavy.

The project under construction has a landscape architect on retainer.  He designed both pieces, and we fabricated from his designs.  The drawing from the LA needed to be drawn in CAD-this is short for computer assisted design.  It is an enormous skill in and of itself to master the CAD program.  Buck is an expert, given his 30 year experience as an architect specializing in technical design. That CAD drawing enables him to fabricate an object true to every dimension specified in the design.  

The hemispherical fountain bowl is 60 inches in diameter. Creating this shape from a solid piece of steel involves a lot of technology, a surprising amount of finesse, and loads of skill.  This bowl is not perfectly hemsipherical, but it is extremely close.  Close enough to convince the eye. 

Once the bowl had a 2 inch thick lip of steel, interrupted by 4 evenly spaced scuppers, it was ready to be welded to the base.  Scuppers? The steel lip keeps the water inside the bowl.  The scupper is that place where the steel dam had been breached, allowing water to flow and fall over the edge. Once the steel is galvanized, Buck applies our finish.  He finished the inside of the bowl, and the base first.  Then the entire fountain, with the aid of a bridge crane, would be flipped up side down for the finishing of the bowl. 

The fountain design is very simple, but massive.  The finished piece weighs close to 1/2 a ton.  It will be placed in a large pool-I am not sure of any of the installation details.  It will take some skill to size the pump properly, so the water sheets over the side without runing back under the scupper, and down the side of the bowl.  Fountain design, fabrication and installation takes a lot of skill. 

The urn, on the forklift in the foreground, is much smaller than the fountain, and will be placed in some other location on the project.  This piece will be planted.  Both pieces were shipped up side down, for obvious reasons.  All of the weight of the steel is at the top.

The fountain does not have a jet.  The pump will push water hard enough to keep the water flowing fast over the 4 scuppers and into the pool.  The contractor for the project wanted this copper pipe and stop valve installed just as you see here.  

Buck did not crate this piece-what crate would be stronger than this steel?  Circular shapes are very stable and incredibly strong-even more so when they are made of steel.  I have heard I will get pictures of the installation once it is finished and running.  I have my fingers crossed about that. Buck tells me the level of the base and the level of the top of the fountain is within a 1/16 of an inch of being dead on.  Dead on and level is very important where water is concerned.  In a perfect world, water will fall over all 4 sides equally.  In an imperfect world, within  1/16 of an inch of perfect will work. Buck and his crew make lots of things that are a part of something bigger.  If no pictures are forthcoming, I have some help.  Buck has family in Fort Worth.  What fun, that they will get to see something he made, available for the looking,  just across town.