Happy Holidays From Richard K

Five Golden Rings


Richard K has been reading Dirt Simple for some time now;  I know this, as I hear from him from time to time.  A committed gardener and reader from Cypress, Texas.  This past summer I got the chance to meet him in person-he was in the Detroit area on business.  What a treat it was to meet him face to face!  I heard from him Monday after posting pictures of the front of the shop just before dawn.  He left a comment saying that he had taken Rob’s idea for holiday light rings, and run with it.  He strung his hoops with gold lights-5 golden rings!  How perfect for the holidays.  I asked him to send pictures-which he did.  To follow are his pictures, and his comments about his holiday decorating-I am sure you will enjoy this as much as I did.  


My Five Golden Rings glow beautifully hanging from the trees.  They are captivating.  Simple, yet striking.  Next to gardening, Christmas is my next favorite hobby.  I love everything about it, especially Christmas trees and of course, the lights.


Here is another section of my yard which showcases my “Who-ville Pine” and my glowing orbs.  Since we do not have pyramidal conifers in my part of Texas, I had to make my own!  The glowing orbs continue to fascinate my family as well as our visitors!


 A full on view of the house.  Very traditional.  Wreaths in the windows, garlands on the balcony.  I don’t put lights on the house because it is a bit tall.  The glowing orbs out on the lawn are simple, yet striking.




 The driveway gate has a four foot wreath adorned with old fashioned blowmolds.  I really can’t stand these figures set out in the yard, but yet I find them charming when they decorate a wreath!  Ping-pong balls cover the bulbs of some unfortunately colored LED lights and soften the light to a warm glow.  I like to say that this is for our kids, but this bit of kitsch is a favorite of mine!


 The front porch is a bit more formal with white cyclamen and columnar junipers adorned with snowball, pearl and twinkle lights.  A Moravian star illuminates the boxwood wreath and boxwood garland.  Giant jingle bells adorn the wreath.

A black iron urn is ready for the holidays.


Our favorite garlands.  We made these years ago from spruce cones and crystals.  These are draped in every front window downstairs.


  And finally, our mantle.  Silver and white … one of my wife’s favorite color schemes.  Another favorite of ours is mercury glass … one can never have enough.  Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Richard K, your house and home dressed for the holidays is really beautiful. You have collections of various things-spruce cone garlands, mercury glass, blowmolds, and lighted orbs.  How you display your collections is interesting, and engaging.   As for your gold rings-this new collection looks  gorgeous hanging from your trees.  5 gold rings-very well done indeed.  Thank you so much for sending me these pictures, and agreeing to let me share them.  Happy holidays to you, too.

At A Glance: Monday Morning, 7 AM








The Week In Wreaths

Between Steve and I, two crews, and some help from Jenny, Scott, and Julie in the shop, we installed 15 projects this past week.  One crew came in Saturday, yesterday,  to do my pots at home, and start the holiday display outside the shop-where they got the energy to do this, I have but one idea.  They are consummate professionals, all of them.   Some jobs were small, and went in quickly.  Others were more complicated-holiday decor inside and out, and holiday lighting.  Steve worked on our last landscape project of the season every day but Friday-that project is not included in the 15.  Needless to say, I did very little in the way of writing, and a lot in the way of work this past week.    Any work for the holidays has to be done with dispatch-anyone who asks me to decorate for them wants to have the time to enjoy it.  Though we start our season the week before Thanksgiving, the first 10 days of December are always our busiest.  I find all the activity stressful, and exhilarating.   

I see that decorating schedule repeated in people who come to the Works to shop.  There are but a few weeks late in the year to dream it up, and get it done.   November and early December have been incredibly mild.  This meant more people took the time to decorate outdoors, and put up holiday lighting.  It means more people who have the inclination or passion to garden are staying outdoors a while longer.  In a good season, I may do 60 landscape projects, 80 annual plantings, and 40 holiday/winter projects.  This really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in a greater community the size of mine.  The shop is a way in which lots more people are exposed to ideas, materials, and encouragement.  When the weather cooperates, I see winter and holiday gardening in lots of places.  People we help in the shop go on to represent the holiday in their own special way.  The neighborhoods now are full of light, at night.  A big celebration going on outdoors-I love this. 

We have had only 2 days of temperatures below 30 this season-that is very unusual.  A holiday season when the ground goes rock hard before Thanksgiving is more ordinary, and is extra hard work.  I have watched my crews pry soil out of pots with a crow bar-it’s not work we look for.  It also discourages people from getting their materials out of the basement, attic or garage, and doing their own.  This year is shaping up to be a good one-I see good looking work every day, everywhere.  We are working-everyone is working!  Buck and I went to a party last night just 20 minutes from home.  The neighborhood was lit up, decked out, and looking very festive.  I almost ran off the road in a few places, trying to get a good look at everything.    

Once all of my work is done, Buck will drive, and I will look.  I am so interested to see how other people interpret the holidays, decorate their front porches and doors, light their yards.  What appeals to me?  People taking the time and effort to express themselves.  

I decorated 14 wreaths for the shop this year.  All of them were made from twigs left over from the 2010 holiday season.  In January, Pam and I wove all of these twigs into small wreaths; we put them into storage the first of February.  I decorated all of them with natural materials, and knitted birds in late November.  This wreath-the last of the lot, was sold to an old client as a gift for his very elderly Mom.  He explained to me in great detail why he thought this wreath would be a good gift for her. His gift to me was considerable; we had a conversation, person to person.    

I have made 39 wreaths so far this season-I have 10 more to go.  I do each and every one of them personally.  The holiday pots and installations I design and draw; my crew creates and installs them.  But the wreaths cannot be drawn.  I just do them.  There is a client, an idea or place they have in mind, a color scheme-my clues are many.  I write most of that down.  I read over the notes just before I get going.  Next up?  I get going. 

14 0f this year’s holiday wreaths are Christmas presents I send out for one client.  She has a point of view which I honor; all 14 are different.  12 wreaths were for the shop, a handmade twig wreath was the starting point for all.  Thirteen others were individually made for individual clients. Individual places. 

I have 10 more wreaths to go.  Am I complaining?  Yes-I wish I had more.    I do truly enjoy this part of the holiday season.  I plan to have all 10 done by the end of the day Tuesday.  More likely, I will be done Thursday.

I have a few wreaths I plan to make as gifts.  A friend, a sister in law, and a client whose landscape is under construction.  Last of all, a wreath for Buck and I. 

This client?  They have been great clients for many years.  Would I please funk it up a little this year? In red and green?  Am I happy to oblige?  No doubt, I am.

The Fireplace Mantel

Have you ever?  This fireplace, with its painted surround and mantel is like nothing I have ever seen before.  The wood panel on top of the mantel, with its elaborately detailed carved vignette soars better than 14 feet above the mantel.  I would guess the entire fireplace tops out at more than 20 feet.  A new client wanted this mantel decorated for the holidays.  What direction would I take?  The room’s furnishings and rugs are in dark and rich tones-rust, red, and brown.  The Christmas tree was densely trimmed in copper, gold, and green ornaments-and lots of  very wide brocade ribbon.  This made for a good start.      

The client, charming and friendly-quite unlike this very imposing architectural feature.  She said she was sure she would like what I did.  I made sure to take note of what she liked.  People generally surround themselves at home with things they like-things that make them feel comfortable.  I knew the only holiday decoration which would harmonize comfortably with this fireplace would need to be very large, and tall.  A pair of cast iron urns would provide the weight I needed for a tall element.  The copper curly willow branches, bahia seed pods, and copper glass ornaments made for trees of a holiday sort, that would sit on the mantel.    

Felt furniture dots underneath the urns insured there would be no scratches to the wood.  The garland for the mantel would be anchored to these very heavy topiary trees.  Attaching a garland to a mantel is always a challenge, if there is no option to sink screws into a wall, or brads into the wood.  Any opportunity for a vertical decorative element with enough weight to hold the horizontal element in place is welcome.   

A 6 foot long garland of faux white pine was p[laced behind each of the urns, and wired together in the center of the mantel.  Fresh magnolia braches were added to that garland.  It did not seem to me that the garland needed much else, besides some very wide ribbon. 

Working with ribbon can be a challenge; wired ribbon is so much easier to work with.  I get the ribbon on, check the lengths, move it this way, and that, before I worry about the finished appearance. Once I have an idea of the shape and directions of the curves, I can fine tune.  This ribbon is copper sequins in the center, and woven gold on the border-sumptuous.    

It took another 40 minutes after this picture was taken to get the ribbon out of its awkward krinkly phase, and just right.  Flowing and graceful takes a little time to achieve.  

 I like decorating the mantel for the holidays. I like even better that every mantel is different, and that every client is different.  What characterizes all of them is an interest in making sure to represent the holiday.  This client just moved into a new house 4 days ago.  This massive fireplace that is open to two rooms has a very simple and shallow mantle.  We dressed it simply in silver fir lashed to a length of bamboo pole, fresh pomegranates, artichokes, oranges, and a few white coconuts. As her furniture has not yet arrived, and boxes are everywhere, she was thrilled to see this sign of normal holiday home life.    

This granite fireplace surround has no mantel.   It is the only solid surface in a wall of glass. A mixed garland of Douglas Fir and white pine is draped over the very top, and trails almost to the ground.  This is a very modern version of first fireplace pictured.  It has the same imposing scale and presence.  A very large mixed green wreath is of a scale proper to that massive granite surface. The tweo fireplaces could not be more different in appearance, but they are much alike in spirit.     

This client’s mantel is constructed from purple anodized wire, glittered netting, chartreuse reindeer moss, and three dimensional gold fabric stars.  Though the wood mantel is very traditional. the holiday materials are anything but.  A wired artificial garland provides a base to which all the other elements are attached.  Lead sinkers or pot feet, can provide additional ballast, should you need some. 

The garland on this mantel is low, so as not to obscure the print over the fireplace.  The elves at each end-yes, this is a family with kids. 



Several years ago, all my mantel got for Christmas were three pots of pink cyclamen.  Who knows what this year’s decoration will be. This much I know-it will be different.