the branch studio fountain 2016Every winter, the Branch Studio fabricates a new fountain or two. Some years that fountain is classical in form. Classical garden fountain style interpreted in steel interests me, and our clients. Our fountains come ready to fill, plug in, and turn on. There is something about water in the garden that enchants, so I like to make it easy as possible to have. Some years our winter fabricated fountain is contemporary. We have in the past fabricated an elliptical and rectangular steel fountain with a congested steel rod surface. The rectangular fountain has over a mile of steel rods welded to its exterior, and weighs close to 4000 pounds. Have you seen it?  The elliptical fountain has been placed in a private garden. In the interest of fabricating a one of a kind fountain, our newest contemporary fountain is a shape we have never done before.
The Branch Studio fountain 2016 (3)This winter, our contemporary fountain from Branch is spherical, and features our signature stick like and prickly surface. A pair of steel hemispheres, 64 inches in diameter,  got welded together. We sliced the top third off that welded hollow sphere.  The remaining 2/3rds of a sphere became the armature for this fountain. Owen and Riley, with followup from Sal, spent a good bit of the winter welding sticks of all different sizes to the surface. Our group of companies, Deborah Silver and Company, who designs and installs landscapes, Detroit Garden Works, who retails just about everything beautiful and useful for a garden and landscape, and The Branch Studio, who fabricates whatever garden ornament a gardener or landscape designer might dream up for a project –  hope to help every gardener and landscape designer get where they want to be with their landscape. But in the dead of the winter, we just express ourselves, and keep our fingers crossed there will be a client who hears what we have to say.

The Branch Studio fountain 2016 (1)Branch created this fountain for the garden strictly on speculation. Why would I speculate?  All of the Branch fabricators, and the studio head, Buck, are very creative people. They need a project once in a while that allows them to stretch their wings, and fabricate something new. This is a breath of fresh air for our group. It creates excitement in the studio. And is is good for a client seeking a very unusual and one of a kind ornament for the garden.

The Branch Studio fountain 2016 (2)The Branch group handled the fabrication of this fountain like they were born to make it. Once the stick making had covered the surface, a decision was made to leave the 6″ wide return plain. The contrast of one complex surface to the other plain one is striking and pleasing. The fountain jet will be fabricated next. The jet pipe will mimic the spherical shape and construction of the fountain. Water from the jet pipe splashing over a rod steel covered sphere will be quite musical.  The sound of a fountain is a considerable part of its attraction.

20160419_124028 (2)Clients considering the purchase of Branch containers are concerned about the longevity, and the durability of their resistance to rust, and rightfully so. Everything we manufacture is meticulously hand fabricated with heavy gauge hot rolled steel, with a lifetime of service in mind. The cost of them reflects this. What we do to prevent rust is considerable. All of our containers, fountains, and garden ornament are sent out for galvanizing after it is fabricated. Our galvanizing company has a zinc tank  6 feet wide, 8 feet deep, and forty feet long. This shape has everything to do with the fact that most steel that comes here for galvanizing are steel beams using in the construction of building, bridges, and so on. The plant manager was dubious the day we arrived with our first load of garden containers. 13 years later they know we are as serious about rust prevention as we are about beauty. We pay for galvanizing by the pound.  Our scale at Branch only weighs objects up to 2000 pounds.  This fountain went over the 2000 pound mark.  We won’t know what it weighs until after the galvanizing is complete. The fountain is lifted with a bridge crane via steel straps in preparation for the dip.

20160419_124120This tank holds 824,000 pounds of molten zinc, heated to about 900 degrees. The galvanization process completely immerses the raw steel object in molten zinc, very slowly.  The shock of the heat to the steel is considerable.  Steel which is not thick enough can be damaged by the plating process. The molten zinc coats every surface with a skin of zinc. How much of a skin?  This fountain will weigh 20% more once it is galvanized. This means that a 3000 pound object will emerge with 500 pounds of zinc coating its surface.The fountain was lowered into the tank ever so slowly.

20160419_124757 The shop foreman made a trip up to Branch to inspect what we had a mind to galvanize, before we took the fountain to them. An object of this size and complexity is a once a year project for us. There are logistical issues that need to be addressed in advance. There was plenty of discussion about what it would take to get the fountain to sink slowly and evenly. An object that floats on top of the molten zinc is a problem object. Our big spherical fountain had lots of holes drilled in it, which will be repaired with galvanized steel discs once the galvanizing process is complete. Our garden boxes have loose galvanized plate steel bottoms which are added after the boxes are galvanized. A box with no bottom sinks in the zinc bath.

20160419_124729The fountain took as long to emerge as it did to descend.

20160419_124500A molten zinc tank always has floating hardened zinc and impurities floating on the surface.  Prior to and during the galvanizing of this fountain, the surface of the molten zinc got raked, so those impurities would not be deposited on the surface. Occasionally a glob of something will stick to an object.  If it is chipped off, or ground down too hard, the integrity of the galvanizing might be breached.

20160419_124541If a galvanized object from us develops a small rust spot, it will do so within 2 weeks of being outdoors. That spot can be repaired with cold galvanizing compound. A breach in the galvanizing is a rare occurrence.

20160419_124549The moment any steel object emerges from a zinc bath sports a shiny as silver color. Once that object comes in contact with the air, that shiny surface begins to oxidize, and will become that dull gray color one usually associates with galvanized metal.

20160419_124649The process by which Branch fabricates, finishes, and sells their garden pots, fountains, pergolas and ornament is all about beautiful design and fabrication, and a thoughtful and serious finish that is unlikely to need any maintenance. My thanks to the plant manager for taking these pictures for me.

spherical Branch fountain (2)Back at Branch, the fountain is awaiting our final signature finish, which will give the steel that blue gray patina which is reminiscent of lead. Heather, who handles all of the Branch Studio inquiries, came with me for a look see today.

spherical Branch fountain (1)I am sure this fountain will be up and running soon.


  1. Gorgeous, looks like a giant sea urchin!

  2. Wow, it reminds me of a nest….just stunning! I wonder where I can use it in a design! We are receiving another cistern fountain here on Friday…I am so excited!

  3. Jan Meissner says

    How much is it? I can dream.

  4. Absolutely spectacular and more than a little fascinating.

  5. Jean Guest says

    WOW!!! This fountain is just awesome. Well done Branch.

  6. Unbelievable the “under the hood” info you share. Thanks so much!


  7. Pat Webster says

    This is a real work of art. I wish I had a place for it in my garden. I wonder if I can make a place….

  8. Just gorgeous!! Would be fantastic in a classical courtyard or a very formal garden a la a Chihuly installation. I always love that type of “high contrast”.

  9. I doubt that there is any other blog on Earth that provides those of us passionate about gardening a more thorough and fascinating look into the topics you so graciously deliver to us. For that, I am most grateful, Deborah. You are such a bright light……

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Suzy, thank you so much for your letter. I do try to provide information and detail in my posts. I like writing them. And I greatly like hearing back from gardeners like you. all the best, Deborah

  10. That is truly spectacular and even more impressive when you get a look into how it’s made.. bravo!

  11. Michelle Becker says

    Beautiful, very beautiful. Well done.

  12. Jenny Anderson says

    speechless…This is amazing!

  13. Jeannine Eitel says

    Astonishing! You always amaze me!

  14. susan m wilson says

    This is OUTSTANDING. I love it.

  15. Jo Ann Marsh says

    What a gargantuan process! A project for Ironman himself! Well done.

  16. James Golden says


  17. Thanks so much for this post- so informative about the galvanizing process…the process photos are great. The fountain is beautiful!

  18. debra phillips says

    an audible sigh left my chest, in awe, in lust, in sheer amazement. kudos to buck and staff for an artwork for generations to enjoy. i can only imagine, no i cannot imagine, the creativity that went into this design.
    the lucky new owner!
    thank you for sharing the further on process, i had no idea……fascinating!

  19. Lisa at Greenbow says

    Fascinating. I enjoyed your documentation of this process. What a gorgeous work of art you have here now. Someone will be proud to have such a work in their garden.

  20. Jan Kirsh says

    Beautiful piece of work!

  21. Lynn Krugman says


  22. Never realized how much attention to detail is involved. Will you show it in its full fountain glory?

  23. Sheila Schultz says

    A truly spectacular piece, made even more special after hearing the details of how it was created. What a gift it must be for your workers to be respected for their thoughts and creativity. Lucky all of you!

  24. Wow!! All I can say is…..WOW! I’m speechless!

  25. Most of the credit for this piece goes to Deborah for saying ‘ya’ know? let’s do this’. The balance of the credit goes to my fabricators who pulled the trigger on the welding torches. When and where they needed to. As for my part? I simply watched with a satisfaction that can only be satisfied with trust. A trust that is born of how many times my studio has risen to the occasion before, and subsequently delivered. They no longer need me to look over their shoulders. My whole group delivers – love this. This fountain is a product of the lot of us. We all work hard to make what Branch has to offer look good and of great quality. All of us at the Branch Studio thinks this fountain looks stellar. Can you hear us clapping?

  26. Sharon Kauerz says

    Overused, I know…BUT, amazing! Thanks for sharing the artistry and process to achieve it.

  27. Jennifer Taylor says

    Its a show stopper! Everyone at Branch deserves to be very very proud of this new fountain, and everything you create. WOW!

  28. Audrey Mitchell says

    I hope you post a follow up and show us all how it looks and sounds when running!

  29. I’ve been thinking about this piece since you posted it a couple weeks ago and had to write to tell you how much I enjoyed this post, and how much I look forward to reading your blog. I really appreciate the amount of great info that you present, without pretension. Your blog hits me at my sweet spot between gardening and sculpture, between plant geeking and design.

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