Recent Work

We have but a few fall container projects yet to plant. It takes about 6 weeks to do them all. We have landscape projects that are on going, but planting up containers is a part of our service that we take seriously. The conversation generated with clients over containers is an important one. If I have been involved in providing a garden or landscape project, there is that moment when that project ceases to be mine, and they take ownership. I prepare clients for ownership as best I can. I specify plants that are proper for the conditions in which they are planted. I provide the terrace they requested with the shade of a tree, a pergola, or an umbrella. A discreet spot for the trash cans and bikes will earn a thank you. An irrigation system can make the maintenance of a planting easier. How new plants get watered is a critical requirement for new landscapes, so I spend more than the requisite amount of time to address that. Correcting drainage problems directly influences the longevity of all of the plants-both big and small. We install drainage, and we take great pains to address why it is such an important part of plant health. There are clients for whom I plant large gardens. I know that they know what will be required of them to maintain them. Other clients are relieved when I suggest that a well structured landscape of trees and shrubs will be enough. I do not have enough time left in my life to pass on my knowledge and experience with plants, but I certainly can pass along what I know about the specific plants I have planted.

Inspiring confidence in a client is one way of speaking to ownership. But I am not particularly a fan of pep talks. They are exhausting to give, and can be too much information all at once to absorb. It can be unsatisfying for all parties. Providing for success is a long term effort that goes beyond a design that is good and solid. Clients know the work we have done comes with a responsibility on their part. But there is another step beyond offering the counsel and information they need to nurture a landscape. Beyond ownership is a state of engagement with the natural world.

Very few of my projects do not specify and include containers. I have a reason for that. They are a bridge over which a client and I can meet, and forge a relationship over the beauty of plants. Containers stuffed with robustly flowering summer annuals, tropical plants, green plants of interesting shape and texture or favorite perennials at the front door or on a rear terrace stand out in the landscape. Container plantings are personal, in that they express the taste in color and style of the owner. They make a statement about what constitutes beauty. A beautifully planned and executed container is easy to fall for. A client who is able to be successful growing plants in containers becomes engaged in the process of making something grow.

A discussion of the value of the landscape and garden is, at the end of the day, a discussion. Anyone who comes to take that that value to heart over the process of making something grow in a contained area is more likely to evolve from an interested observer to a committed participant. I have seen this happen over and over again. In the course of planting containers on the roof deck of a local restaurant, I was approached about selecting and planting containers by an owner of a similar business nearby. Though it took some time to persuade them that the investment would be a good one, they took the plunge. Many years later, we are still planting their containers at their business. Their customers are vocal in their interest and appreciation. The care they take with the outside speaks to what one can expect to find on the inside. Later we went on to supply and plant containers at their home for every season.The landscapes in both places have evolved and grown. All of the plantings are beautifully maintained, as they have gone beyond ownership to stewardship. A primarily green landscape in October pictured above just a welcome dose of fall color and cold tolerant seasonal plants. This client called and talked about the beauty of her pots and annual plantings over the summer, and how much pleasure she got from them. They grew prolifically. Her friends and family talked about them all season long. We planted plants we felt would succeed, and provided her the bright color she likes. They were designed and planted specifically for her. Our conversation about summer containers was the prelude to a discussion of planting for fall. This client had a sincere interest in the landscape from the start, but the conversation has changed. The pots and the landscape have value.

This client has one pot on her front porch. It plays an integral part in the appearance of her home from the street. Though the landscape is slowing down and will eventually go dormant, this pot planted for fall and later for winter is an expression of the garden year that will persist. Her interest in the planting of that pot is a symbol of an interest in the greater landscape.

A lush fall planting is a way to celebrate the harvest that comes at the end of the season. It anticipates all of the fall color soon to come from the trees, shrubs and perennials in the ground. Those who design and garden for themselves always seem to have some pots under cultivation. I like the fact that I can look at the container work of others, as I am able to get a glimpse of how they see the natural world. I am embarrassed to say I almost never plant pots for fall. That is 100% due to the fact that my crews rarely have time to plant them for me, given the work on deck to bring the landscape season to a close, and the winter and holiday season just a few weeks away. It is one thing to choose material, and design. It is quite another to make that happen.   To follow are more pictures of our recent work.

Welcome to our fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 Hands

A designer emailed me around 11 one morning last week to ask if we could select 10 large pots, fill them for fall, and deliver them downtown the following morning. Of course it would involve making some changes to the plans we had for the day – that was the easy part. What would be tough is the fact that he is based out of state, and would be boarding a plane to Detroit in just a few hours. A computer is indeed a sophisticated communication device, but this would need to be handled via the picture taking feature on a phone.  First things being first, Rob and I tried to select a number of different styles of pots. Pictures of them were sent by text. And then pictures of plants and other fall materials. The first pictures got some commentary, and then nothing. We knew our client was in the air.

Around 2pm I considered an alternate plan for my crew for the rest of the day, but shortly thereafter we got the go ahead. One crew was charged with bringing the soil and bark from our landscape building, and the other filled pots with what materials were available at the shop. That gave David and Natasha enough time to construct the first few centerpieces. Once they were done, they could be set in the pots, and firmly secured with short steel rebar and concrete wire. Pots going to a commercial location need to be jostle resistant. Happily these hand made Italian terra cotta pots are very heavy, as the clay is so thick. They are fairly tall, but have a big footprint.

Charged with planting them as I saw fit was a big plus. There would not be time to make suggestions and wait for a reply. Nor would there be time for me to mull it over. Having to produce a lot of work in a short amount of time means making decisions so the work can proceed. My part in the project was small.  I decided to make three pairs of matching centerpieces, but all 6 pots would be planted differently.

You can tell when a crew has been working together successfully. Once the scope of the work is defined, everyone settles in to their part in making the project go efficiently. These pictures don’t reveal how the conversation moves from the work at hand to good natured banter, and back to the work again. David usually builds centerpieces alone, but this time Natasha was right there handing him materials when he needed them.

Karen took time out from planting to attach the concrete wire to the rebar, as she was in the right spot at the right time to do it. All of them participate in everything, even though their strengths may be different. My landscape crew plants lots of woody plant material, but they can plant ornamental cabbage just as well. Good planting practices are the same, no matter what is going in to the ground. Just like a tree or a shrub, a cabbage has a face. Taking the time to figure that out and plant accordingly is what makes a newly planted pot beautiful from the beginning.

The kale and cabbage will continue to grow, as long as they have sufficient water and feed. A cabbage whose lower leaves are turning yellow and dropping is a cabbage in need of some food. Even though it is mid October, we put osmocote in the pots. Like many downtown areas, ours will stay warm very late in to the fall from all the latent heat in the buildings, walkways and roads. It is entirely concievable that the pots will look good well in to December.

It is rare that we deliver pots already planted. Pots full of soil and plants are quite heavy, and awkward to move. It is much easier to bring the materials, and plant on site. In this case it would be loads easier to just deliver the finished pots and set them in place. Some commercial venues are not conducive to construction, and it can be difficult to clean up. We made sure all of the plants were thoroughly soaked before we planted. We would wait until the pots were placed to water in the entire pot. This made it a little easier to move the pots onto the truck.

The last 4 pots were low cast stone bowls. No centerpieces were called for. These stone salad bowls full of greens would be a good compliment to the tall terra cotta pots with their tall centerpieces. Though you see soil and debris on the ground, great care was taken to keep any soil away from the surface of the pot.

just about finished

As fast as they were planted, they were loaded on the truck. Each pot was packed in its own nest of bagged soil.

We were packed up and ready to go by 5:30 pm. The delivery the next morning was thankfully uneventful. I will be keen to see the entire display once it is done.

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.

aa

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.