41 Pots

We have a few clients with large numbers of containers to plant. We were scheduled to switch over the summer season to the fall for one of those clients. We removed all of the summer plantings, potted up the topiary plants that would be stored until next season, and replanted for fall.  41 pots and boxes. The entire day prior David and I collaborated on fall centerpieces for this client. I design, and he constructs them in such a way that makes his arrangements better than the sum total of the materials. Hew goes way beyond the materials, in his own way. This is a way of saying that he is gifted.  We talk it over in a language I suspect few could understand. Our fall centerpieces have a loosely intended overall shape that he puts together one bunch, and one layer at a time. I decide what plants go with those centerpieces, to a point. A drawing on paper is a vastly different scenario than the on site reality.   David decided to add the variegated carex you see in the boxes above. That gesture introduced a graceful and less formal element to the mix of mums and cabbage. The texture of the small grass is a striking contrast to the large broad leaves of the cabbage. That grass now plays a major role in the composition.

I encourage my crew to participate in the design process. If and when they do, they take ownership of the project. And that is what makes a project good. I make a concerted effort to teach them as much as I can about planting and arranging. Every one of them to the last has been listening.  At the end of the prep day, they all loaded plants and soil. They had all that they needed from me. The installation was their day. This morning, in the heat of the final load up, I told Karen: “You got this. Send me pictures at the end of the day.” To follow are those pictures.  I could not be more pleased about the work they did.

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A collection of pots makes it possible to develop an idea in a more complete way. This planting makes much of texture and mass. All the color is measured. There are rare days when I wish I had one pot to plant and tend instead of 38, but when I see them all grown in, the ongoing pleasure of it all is significant. I am certain everyone who participated in this project was swept up in and enjoyed the process of bringing it to life. How so? They told me so.

At A Glance: A Collection of Fall Pots

To follow is an embarrassing number of pictures of fall pots from previous seasons. For those of you who have seen some of these before, I hope seeing them a second time is warranted.  I actually like to look at all the fall container pictures as I am about to start the current crop of pots. It is much easier to spot what could be done better in a photograph, than looking at it in person. I cannot really explain why that is. Maybe putting a camera between me and the work enables me to step back. I hope you enjoy them.

We started the plantings in earnest today. Looking forward to the season.

Decoration

What is decoration? The dictionary says it is something that is added to something else to make it more attractive. As awkward as this might sound, I think this sums it up rather well. It is indeed a certain special and personal something added to an ordinary something. Others say it is the act of adorning, embellishing or honoring. A one word description of decoration might be ornamentation. All manner of living creatures decorate their home, nest or self with the idea of attracting a potential mate. From the most simple to the most sophisticated level, people decorate. Many decorate their homes for specific holidays. Bakers decorate cakes based on an expression for special occasion. Some people hang bunting in celebration of the 4th of July. Some fashion houses embroider over a selected fabric, for beauty’s sake. Those of us who wear glasses welcome the opportunity to wear a beautiful pair of glasses. Everyone decorates the place where they live to make is more personal and pleasing. That decoration may take the form of paint, furniture, flooring, art, hardware, rugs-the list of decorative elements from which to choose is long. Anyone who wishes to decorate has not only hundreds of years of precedence, but also an astonishing range of choices.

Where am I going with this? Gardeners plant trees, shrubs and perennials. They dig beds, and plant. We all plant for different reasons.  Some need a place to sit in the shade. Others like to grow vegetables. Some plant in a way friendly to their kids, or their age. Others favor a landscape that is friendly to company. But no doubt a good bit of planting that gardeners do has to do with an expression of beauty. Decorating a container with plants is a satisfying way to celebrate the season.

The meaning of beauty is far too wide a topic for me to address. I find it tough to write about what constitutes beauty, as everyone’s opinion is different. Maybe the best part of beauty is the process by which people create it.  Most gardeners have an idea of what constitutes beauty in the garden, and they plant towards that. Gardens of great age are gardens that have evolved, as nothing in a garden ever stands still.  Any planting needs to be appropriate to the location and the existing conditions. That is a given. But what lies beyond the given?

A beautiful celebration of the fall season is enchanting. Anyone who chooses to plant their containers for fall have months of beauty ahead of them. The opportunity for creating beauty exists in all of our gardening seasons. Planting containers for fall comes just in time to let go of the waning summer plants.

I am a big fan of the ornamental cabbage and kale for fall containers. They tolerate the late summer and early fall heat, and they endure the coming of the cold. Cool weather initiates a brilliant coloration in the leaves. The kale pictured above will eventually sport leaves of turquoise, purple and cerise pink.  I have had ornamental cabbage and kale looking great in to January. Our crop this year is exceptional.

Container plantings are quite unlike garden and landscape installations. They express the beauty of the moment.

cabbage “Rosebud”

cabbage, kale and broomcorn

Redbor kale

welcome to fall.

Flowers For A Wedding

When I was young, I did a fair number of weddings. The cut flower part, that is. It is a job for a young person. It is a do it right and do it now  situation.  Bridal floral work come in all sizes and shapes, but all of it comes with a substantial dose of angst and anxiety. There is a deadline. Despite the best care, cut flowers can wilt and go down at the most inopportune moment. Every florist has opened a box of roses of a color other than what they ordered. Floral work is not especially conducive to learning on the job. It is physically demanding work. Moving and carrying buckets and vases full of water and cut flowers takes strength. Arranging flowers has its creative and romantic aspect, but there is a lot of just plain hard work. That backache has to be from standing and holding flowers aloft for hours at a time. Most of that work has to be done last minute. This is all by way of saying I am reluctant to take on a wedding now. But this was a client I have known for years. She lost her beloved to a lengthy, terrible, and cruel illness. Many years later and just a few months ago, she came in to say she had met someone she planned to marry, and would I do the flowers? I met with her at the venue of both the wedding and reception, and tried to dissuade her. I made several suggestions about where she might find a good florist. She wasn’t having that. She wanted me to do the flowers, would I?  Her only request was for hydrangeas. And that she would leave the rest of it up to me. How could I not say yes?

I ordered in a selection of flowers that I thought would be beautiful weeks ahead of time. I wanted to show her my selections, and I wanted to make a test run.  Hydrangeas are notorious for wilting soon after they are cut. I ordered the hydrangea “Florists White”. This cultivar is grown for the cut flower trade, as it holds better than most in a vase. 100 stems of white hydrangeas does not seem like that many, but each one had a water bag on the stem and an acetate hat that needed removal. Each stem got a fresh cut, and an immediate immersion in a bucket of clean lukewarm water. The flowers and leaves were sprayed with AquaFinish Clear – which hydrates and seals moisture in to both flowers and foliage. One of the miracle products of modern floristry. I could have skipped that step, but I would have needed to order more flowers. The flowers then have to sit, untouched, until they dry. Only then can they be placed in a floral cooler. This prep work is known as conditioning. I like to condition them overnight before I arrange them.  Lots of work is required to get cut flowers ready to arrange. Amni majus “Green Mist” was a wild card, but the airy texture of the leaves and flowers would be a great addition to the flower selections. As much as I love the reference to the late summer garden, it was a worry if they would hold. So I ordered extra bunches. The mini calla lilies would provide great curves and mass, and were a favorite of my client.

Of course I ordered in white lisianthus. This long stemmed multiflowered cut stem is the best antidote to wedding florist worry that I know of. The large flowers stay fresh for days. They are happy out of water for better than the duration of a wedding. The petals survive anxious handling. The buds are a gorgeous greenish color. They are a beautiful foil for the open flowers. The long stems make them suitably versatile for both tall and compact arrangements.

My client thought a wedding bouquet for her was not necessary. I thought differently. Once she told me her dress was olive green, I ordered in a clutch of green and white slipper orchids. I would capture these 25 stems with some olive green silk ribbon. As delicate as they are, they all held up perfectly in water. The bouquet would be kept in water until the last second. She had but to pat the stems dry, and go. I hoped that when it came time, this simple arrangement would appeal to her enough to carry them. At least she would have the option.

Weddings ask for flower arrangements here and there, but garlands can do a great job of knitting all of the individual pieces together. There were a number of places the garland would look great. Though baby’s breath is a traditional flower, en mass it can have a fresh and contemporary look. I bought in 4 kinds of baby’s breath garland, and tested their width, density and holding power. I ordered in the best quality of these garlands, and kept my fingers crossed. They arrived 2 days before the wedding, at Sunne’s insistence. If FedEx failed to show on Thursday, a Friday delivery would be in time for the Saturday wedding. We opened the plastic, and let the garlands air out. A local florist agreed to let me park these garlands in their cooler until I needed them on Saturday.

On Friday I did all of the 14 arrangements save two. As much as I like everything done before an installation, it would be so much easier to arrange the hydrangeas on site, and put them in place.

The packing up, transport, and installation is the second part of the job.  They boxed all of the arrangements, with an eye to protecting all of the petals. They laid the baby’s breath garlands flat on the truck shelves, as they had been stored rolled up. This is a very low tech delivery system perfect for a once in a great while florist. Three of my staff did the packing, driving, placing, tying, fluffing and cleanup. Most of my work had been done the previous two days.

Three tables got moved outdoors at the last minute. Cut flowers arranged in water can handle this sunny exterior location.  I like to arrange flowers in water as much as possible.

The garland needed a good shaking, and a little fluffing, once it was in place. The lisianthus on the mantle were kept in water until it was time for them to be added to the garland.

This was a small wedding – a perfect size for having the time to attend to all the details.

The wedding took place outdoors, between this pair of pillars.


The pillars needed to look dressed up from both sides.

a simple arrangement for the dessert table

I did hear from my client about the flowers this morning. She thanked me for all, and for insisting she have a bouquet. She thought it was beautiful and it was perfect with her dress. Happiest of all about this.