Archives for December 2012

At A Glance: Christmas Eve


The Holiday Inside

Rob’s branch trees have intrigued me for a number of years-I had to have one this year.  These branches came from some remote location where he walks Larry.  It was more than a few trips dragging these a quarter mile out of the woods.  That alone would be enough to make them precious, but the color and surface is really beautiful.  Old wood, as they say.  And certainly perfect for my sole Christmas tree ornaments-3 platinum colored plastic bead garlands.  I love the shapes they make when they are draped. 

Rob was also taken by battery operated LED lights and sticks this year.  He bought them by the caseload.  Very small LED lights on fine silver colored wire of differing lengths-what was not to like?  By the time I got interested in them, we were sold out.  But Restoration Hardware had bought them in by the boxcar load.  The picture on their website of birch branches wound round with these lights was all I needed to see. 

In more skilled hands, every tiny dot of light would look like it was floating.  Not that I didn’t try.  But these lights need much different handling than the traditional lights with their garland like cords.  I think with enough practice, I could delicately place the wire so every light would seem to float.

I also loved how RH paired these delicate lights with heavy vintage style glass ornaments.  Rob was a little taken aback that I would buy Christmas ornaments from another shop, but by the time I was ready to decorate a tree, Christmas was just a few days away.  I rarely carry ornaments that weigh this much in the shop.  They are too heavy for evergreen branches-a douglas fir with weighted branches is not such a swell look.  The primary drawback of most artificial trees is that they are so solid in outline that most of the ornaments lean on, rather than hang.   

Steve took multiple branches, and stuffed them into a terra cotta pot to create a tree like form.  The wood branches interlocked, making for a very strong structure.  The weight of the glass ornaments did not bother these branches a bit.  As each branch is mostly vertical, some ornaments I had to hang from very long wires.  I wanted the glass to appear to float too.

Buck watched with some interest as I layered ornament over ornament on the mantel.  The first groupings of glass had 3 or more ornaments, loosly wired together.  These were the ballast ornaments.  The smaller ornaments I piled on until I thought there was enough.  Next year I may ask for a mantel sized tray with short sides-just so I can pile things up with abandon. 

Another pile of glass is keeping Mary Hode’s stoneware cats amused.  The smoke and crackled glass looks great with my reticulated quartz spheres.

While I was getting the living room decorated, Buck was wrapping packages.  His boxes are impeccably covered with holiday paper.  Every seam meets perfectly.  He is incredibly consistent with this.  I am happy to botch the process, as long as that happens on the bottom.  My love is for what goes over the top of the paper.

All of his presents are wrapped differently, many of them with the bits and pieces from a junk drawer, a tool box, or the workroom shelf.  There’s this one, wrapped in a piece of black poster paper old enough to have faded to gray.


And there’s this one.

And there’s this one-with that same vintage poster paper. 

 I am ready, inside and out.  I only have to make sure that all of the lights are off at the shop, and that MCat isn’t stuck in the garage.  In a few minutes I will load up the corgis, Buck’s boxes, and the wreath for the front door.  We will meet at 6 for cocktails, and celebrate our Christmas.  I am ready, with 2 hours and 8 minutes to spare. 

Wishing you a very bright and sparkly holiday.

The Holiday At Home

I am so close to being home for the holidays.  The whirlwind of winter and holiday containers, holiday and winter lighting, the  the late landscape installations, and cut flowers for parties came to a close yesterday afternoon.  How I like the energy and enthusiasm that describes busy-this year was exceptionally so.  The change of the seasons is a natural event to be treasured, but I am ready to be home for the holidays.  

Angie and I did make a garland for my house.  Thick with multiple species of fir, pine cones, and magnolia branches-it was heavy, long, and lush.  We added large sugar cones, grapevine balls and magnolia stems.  The entire horizontal portion of the garland is zip tied to a 12′ bamboo pole.  This detail is essential, should you want your garland straight.  The grapevine garland over all adds volume and dimension. Steve and my crew made fairly quick work of putting it up. (How is it that they make everything seem easy?) This loosely constructed natural garland-my most favorite ever.  It compliments the vintage architecture of my 1930’s home.

My winter pots are simple.  Tree of heaven stalks-5 in each pot, surrounding a spotlight.  I like seeing the evidence of the fire within.  The mixed fir greens are loaded with chartreuse mini lights.  Thank you so much English Gardens, for offering lights in chartreuse green.  Outside all-my newly installed landscape lighting.  The stole of dry flower heads from my own limelights impart a warm look.

Though Southern magnolia is not native to my zone, the glossy leaves and felted obverse is striking in the winter, no matter how you use them.  A few twigs and some cut boxwood to fill give the pots some heft against the brick.  That warm and congested look will look great, given the addition of a little snow.

For a while I thought I might skip the holiday decorating at home altogether, but this helped revive my interest. 

 Off the deck, a rectangular Hudson box from Branch is stuffed with big stick stems wound round with grapevine, pearl lights, and chartreuse mini lights.  Not only does this winter pot delight me, it lights the stairs that go down to the garden.  Who goes into the garden at night?  That would be me, with the Corgis in tow, at 6pm for an evening tour.  I appreciate a lighted path, as it is dark so early now. 

I sold the pair of tapered Hudson pots that I had planted for fall early in the holiday season, thinking Buck would be able to make me a new pair in time for the holidays.  He has been at least as busy as I, filling special orders for fountains and boxes.  This winter arrangement is bright enough to see from the driveway.  I like getting a welcome home the m,inute I arrive. 

The lighting in front is the best it has ever been.  Of course a slow exposure makes it seem much brighter than it looks in person, but too bright might be a virtue this time of year.  I no longer worry about guests tripping up or down the steps-the walk is well lit. 

I did put holiday lights up over the garland to match the lights in the pots-just for atmosphere.  Chances are very good I will leave them on until after Valentine’s Day.  Why not?

I was ready for the first snow.  As for the inside-better than half way home.

The Garden Designers Roundtable: Cheap And Chic

I am sure I have read countless articles entitled “Cheap and Chic”-as if cheap and chic were truly a believable or desirable place to be.  I favor cheap if it doesn’t look and act cheap-no further explanation is necessary here.  A vast planting of hellebores looks fancy, whether it came from seed, or from giant one gallon pots. As for chic-not the focus of any gardener.  Those magazine pages picturing gardeners is spotless clothes and shoes are about something other than gardening.  Great design has nothing to do with cost.  It is the doing that costs.  An extensive landscape project with mature plant material installed all at once-expect to spend lots.  Make it a life’s work-expect to spend lots of your time, effort and energy.  The urn pictured above with bamboo stakes glued around a circular form-cheap and chic.  Meaning properly proportioned. Scaled correctly for the space.  A garden urn and pedestal indoors?  Filled with what looks like 200 varnished natural bamboo stakes?  Satisfyingly stylish, with a dash of the unexpected.  A fireplace full of candles collected over time?  Collections beautifully or unusually displayed make a strong visual impression.  The fireplace strung with a pair of mirror garlands-chic in the fashion sense of the word.  The metal angel hair  draped over the fountain looks sumptuous as it is too far away for close inspection.  Up close, you would know it was cheap.          

Available everywhere, even in your own drawer or shed, are objects whose shape is as interesting as their use. Vintage augurs rusty from disuse are available for a song.  Strung with lights, and hung from a tree branch-amazingly dressy.   

One of the holiday season’s most recognizable decorations-giant rayon weatherproof bows.  The ribbon has one finished faux felt side.  The backside is most definitely the back side.  They are usually made by a bow making machine that keeps the finished side out, and the back side hidden from view.  The bright red version is common on wreaths, garlands, and car bumpers and lampposts this time of year.  The wine red version-I thought it had possibilities.     

The cloud of red curly willow in the pots in the front of the shop is remarkable given the natural shape and contours of the branches.  The cinnamon orange color-rich and vibrant as only natural color can be.  Yes, the sticks are cheap.  They are especially cheap if you grow your own.  Grow your own, create your own, repurpose and reimagine what you already own-what you spend in doing such is the most satisfying way to spend.

The wine red rayon bows take on an entirely different feeling paired with the willow.  This color takes on a jewel like look, in relationship to the color of the willow.  A 5.00 machine made cheap bow transformed a winter look into a very dressy holiday look.   

Dark and intense color is rich looking, no matter the material you use to achieve it.  I am not a bow maker, but who needs to know that?  I sure can glue loops onto a cardboard backing.  And I can glue loops big enough to disguise the emergency light installed dead center to the front door.    

Simple is always cheap.  The time you spend second guessing an idea, or revising, or agonizing over what to do can be an expensive outlay of time.  Trusting your first instinct about what to do-much cheaper.  An idea simply expressed is cheaper-less costs less.  A simple idea repeated until is makes a strong visual impact-chic.  My clients who envision 100 boxwoods in pots for their landscape-not cheap, but how chic!   

For gardeners in my zone, a little lighting outdoors can be stunning.  The snowy weather comes free of charge.   

How do other members of our Garden Designer’s Roundtable see cheap and chic?  You are free to read.  Sharing is chic.

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Rochelle Greayer : Studio ‘g’ : Boston, MA