Archives for November 2012

The Grapevine Deer 2012

We have offered these life size grapeview deer sculptures at Detroit Garden Works for many years now-I never tire of them.  Unlike the deer that can devastate a bed of hostas, or chew the bark from treasured trees, these deer sculptures are beautiful in almost any landscape or garden.

On the inside, they are heavy gauge welded steel rod.  This makes them incredibly strong and sturdy.  If we place one in a landscape bed, we drive steel rebar deep into the ground next to each leg, and wire the steel frame of each foot to the rebar pins.  This keeps them in place and upright, in all kinds of weather.

In spite of the steel inside, the sculptures are very graceful, and capture the spirit of the beast.  The long legs and overscaled ears of this pair instantly identifies them as fawns.

The grazing doe has a long graceful neck and petite sized legs.  The doe, buck and fawn are life size, and can be sculpted in a standing, grazing, or lying down position.  Whether a single deer, a trio,  or a herd, they are beautiful in a garden.  Some of that beauty has to do with the material itself.

Vitis, or grape, is hardy in many places in the US.  Wild concrod grapes are common in my area.  The vines, harvested after the leaves fall, are the basis for many natural sculptural forms.  We have had grapevine cones, spheres, garlands, baskets, trellises, plant climbers, rustic fencing and wreaths.  The vines dry a beautiful cinnamon brown color, and are amazingly durable.

We recommend sealing these sculptures once a year with WaterLox, or a similar sealer.  Properly sealed, they will give many years of service in the garden.  Only one client of mine has had one long enough to send it back to be redone

But the real beauty of the sculptures is the hand of the sculptor.  A small group of perople make these deer.  Once you see enough of them, you recognize the hand.  I do not know their process, but I would guess the vines are soaked until they are pliant, and then applied and worked around the forms one strand at a time.  Once vine section is parallel to the next, and very densely woven.

I feel sure the vines are sorted and graded.  The larger vines form the body of the deer.  Much smaller vines are used to finish the legs, and fashion the feet.  The forms are sinuous and rhythmic.

I am not sure what is so compelling about them, other than to say they are a story about nature in form, material and narrative.  They are not a graphic representation-they capture a certain wild spirit that is hard to ignore.

I still remember the year of the Christmas buck.


At A Glance 2: The Inside

Ou holiday/winter open house started this past Thursday evening, and is just about to close today. To the many people who came both to visit and shop, many thanks.  For those of you too far away to visit, I hope these pictures give you some idea of how the place looks.  

old willow stump and brown flocked tree

the forest floor

white painted cone topiary trees

hatted birds

felt snow people

ornamented poplar branches

the shop at the holidays

rustic painted steel snow man

flocked tree with birds

the green house space

Howard in the shop





At A Glance: The Outside

outside the shop in November

fall pots and twig pumpkins

rustic painted deer

fall branches and winter greens

light rings with raffia light covers

table with a concrete squashed sphere base and cottonwood slice top

rustic painted steel Nativity

branches and greens

How different the shop looks, now that we are heading towards winter.




Concrete is a material one sees everywhere in the landscape.  Ubiquitous, this workhorse of a material.  Driveways, parking lots, commercial buildings, house foundations, bridges, walkways, wall foundations, -the list of landscape features that rely on concrete for strength and durability is long-as it should be.  Reinforced concrete is incredibly strong, and durable.  Concrete as a finished material can be quite beautiful.  Polished concrete floors, countertops, and buildings can be extraordinarily beautiful and serviceable. 

Concrete is an amalgamation of aggregate, or bits of stone, Portland cement, and water.   This mix of these three materials produces a material strong enough to withstand fiercely hostile weather-great heat, great cold-and the upheaval in the spring that is known as the frost coming out of the ground.  Concrete bridges handle no end of weighty car traffic-every day of the year, year round, and year after year.  Properly reinforced concrete buildings withstand earthquakes.  A simple and level concrete walkway provides a sure path from here to there.  Concrete is providing a sturdy and reliable framework for the construction of a pool and spa-we have such a project going on this fall. 

Cement is a binder.  It glues all of the aggregate elements of concrete together into an extraordinarily strong and enduring building material.  Cement, aggregate and water make for concrete.  The composition and strength of concrete destined for public venues is subject to extensive review and exacting standards.  Roads, bridges, and buildings made from concrete are built to last.  This pool, poolhouse, and landscape project began with the pouring of concrete.  The concrete is the foundation upon which a good deal of the project will be built.  In this picture, a concrete wall overlooks a pool and spa.  The pool coping-natural Indiana limestone, with a machined bullnose on the poolside edge.  Anyone sliding into the pool will slip easily over that pool side curve. 

As the natural grade of the property sloped towards the house, a retaining wall was necessary to provide a flat plane of ground for the pool and pool house.  Of paramount importance-a drainage plan which would keep freezing water away fom the face of that wall.  The retaining wall will be finished in stone, but the first step was to provide a concrete foundation to which the face stone could be attached.  A wall which retains soil is subject to intense pressure-from the soil it is holding back, and from the ravages of water.  This retaining wall has a concrete foundation which goes 42″ below grade.  42 inches?  The ground in Michigan can penetrate the soil to the tune of 42 inches deep.  The function of a concrete foundation this deep is to keep the wall from cracking, no matter how severe the winter. A concrete foundation set 42 inches deep insures a landscape feature that endures.  

Some essential elements of solid landscape construction implies those concrete foundations that will never be seen.  Chunks of flat rock faced stone cannot provide structure to a wall.  This stone is being mortared to a concrete face that extends almost 4 feet below ground.  A wall whose foundation is below the frost line will not crack, bow, or disintegrate. The beautiful part of the wall-the finished face of stone – will resist the distructive effect of the weather.  It is solidly attached to a foundation of concrete that is designed and constructed to withstand the weather.  

A beautiful stone retaining wall is a work of art.  Each stone mason has their signature touch.  This particular mason-his walls are as enduring as they are beautiful.  He has a signature that I greatly respect.  The concrete onto which this stone is mortared-the foundation onto which every other element in this landscape will be built. 

I am not a concrete expert.  Like everyone else, my knowledge has its limits.  But I am thinking today that this ordinary and generally homely material that I call concrete is capable of enabling much in the landscape.  In a finished and polished state, it has endowed many a modern building or bridge with considerable beauty.  In its raw and powerful state, it makes many landscape gestures possible.   

This project, at this moment, is all about the concrete.  Raw, rough,  and chilly.  But what will be built upon this foundation of Portland cement, aggregate, steel reinforcement and water be anything but raw and chilly, once we are finished. 

This is a landscape under construction.