Red And Green

holiday container centerpieceThe combination of red and green at the holidays is bound to elicit some yawns or boos from those who would suggest there are more innovative and creative color combinations a gardener might pursue. I find fault with this idea. Color combinations in and of themselves do not suggest traditional or contemporary. Color is a design element that takes its emotional cue from the organizing efforts of a designing eye. Red and green might typically be very traditional colors at the holiday season, but they can be used in a way that is anything but traditional. These clients favor a decidedly contemporary and color rich holiday expression. Red and green – this is what they like.  Their steel topiary form from is stuffed full of cardinal red twigs, or whips, that have very little in the way of side branching. This choice of material accents the strong vertical element established by the form. The form itself is lighted with LED lights from Lumineo. The spare vertical element represented by the lighted form and the red twig branches is countered by a group of lax red berry picks.  The sculptural effect is anything but traditional. Holiday red in this instance is quite contemporary in feeling.

red and green Christmas treeWe also set up and dress their Christmas tree. The tree is decorated with red and lime green ball ornaments, both matte and shiny, stuck with paper wrapped wire stems.  The ornaments are not hung from the tree branches in the traditional way. They are laid into and onto the tree as if they were a pick. The balls are next to weightless, so the stiff stems of the tree hold them up. My crew was certain we would not be able to put all 280 ball picks into this tree, but once they got they got the hang of laying them in, the tree easily handled them all.

holiday treeThis method allowed us to place ornament very close to the trunk of tree, as well as on the tips.  The long wire acts as ballast, and helps to balance them on the tree. The ornaments nearest to front edge appear to be floating. Once the ball ornaments were placed, we added a single white LED light garland. I would say this representation of holiday red and green is layered, crisp, clean, and sculptural. This traditional holiday element, the Christmas tree, has a more contemporary look.

red and green holiday arrangementThe deck off the kitchen has one pot for the winter. Imagine this winter view from the kitchen without that container. A foreground element in a landscape is an important one, as is possible to focus on every detail. What is happening at a distance is visually hazy at best, but it is what I would call a traditional suburban landscape. The contrast between the pot and the landscape is considerable. The design upshot of of the relationship between the foreground and the background elements is the creation of a sense of depth. Interesting spatial relationships make a composition lively. Why would I think the red and the green elements in this container are non traditional? The green portion of the arrangement is the smallest element in size and supports a red top which is over scaled and dominant in feeling. A more traditional arrangement would be more conventionally balanced, with lots of greens at the bottom, and a smaller and less prominent mid section.

holiday containerThe juxtaposition of the brilliant red of the berry picks, and the merlot red of the eucalyptus is a little jarring and standoffish, rather than pretty.

holiday container centerpieceThe pale limey green of the poly mesh is not what I would call traditional holiday green.

holiday containerThe red berry picks were installed at different heights. The effect is deliberately asymmetrical.

holiday containerYou may or may not be convinced by anything I have had to say about these pots, but that was not my intent. I had an interest in explaining the design process for this project.  It is a challenge to warmly represent red and green at the holidays in a non traditional way.  In a bigger sense, is even more of a design challenge to avoid visual stereotypes. I planted my first and one and only dwarf Japanese maple for a client this past spring – in a container. As beautiful as they can be I have yet to figure out how to place one in the landscape that does not look routine.

holiday potsNo matter whether you source materials from from your garden, the farmer’s market, or a roadside field, getting them to look like what you imagined calls for some design.



















  1. I love your blog and your designs. They are amazing and inspiring.
    I recently visited China where there were a number of gardens that featured Japanese maples. I was inspired to buy and plant some in my garden in groups of two or three and place some metal sculptures in the foreground. It makes for good summer visual interest but they are not very interesting in the winter. Pretty much the metal sculpture is all that you can see as the maple branches are quite thin. Also, they have been wrapped with the plastic trunk protection against damage by the rabbits. It would be nice if the plastic came in a colour that matched the trunk rather that the stark white.

  2. Cathy Peterson says

    WOW. . .that about sums it up! : )

  3. William Jury says

    Brilliant – absolutely brilliant! I found myself looking over the shots a second and third time, each time appreciating something new…the colors, the structure, the texture, etc. And I love the lime green! Thank you for sharing.

  4. “Deliberately asymmetrical” is good, and not as easy to execute as would be a regular placement of standing soldiers in ranks and rows. Well done! I like it!

  5. I love your ideas and designs which have given me inspiration to forms and functions of the plants we have in the south. I am curious about the artificial Christmas tree shown above. Do you know what kind it is and sell this or know where to get one like it? It looks so real from the photos. I have had to switch to an artificial tree because several times I have had bugs in my real tree due to our warm weather.

  6. Deborah Silver says

    Dear Jill, we did get this tree for this client. I will get some information about it, and email you. best, Deborah

  7. Duane, Trustee says

    Stunning, simply stunning. Every one of your posts is thoroughly enjoyable and your work is always beautiful. I genuinely appreciate your generosity in showing us non-designers the details of your work and how these gorgeous arrangements are put together.

  8. Suzanne Albinson says

    Are these artificial red berries? I find the birds and squirrels eat all the real berries in my winter arrangements and even try to eat the fake ones.

  9. Deborah Silver says

    Dear Suzanne, these are artificial. Wow, you have some very determined squirrels! best, Deborah

  10. Diane Ciardello says

    As always, I look forward to reading your posts to see your ideas and photos, I absolutely love the layering in all of these pots! The lime green is beautiful. Thanks again!

  11. Jill Banfield says

    Stunning Deborah! Absolutely stunning. I love them all!

  12. mollie duvall says

    Brilliant! I love your Christmas posts most of all.

    Deborah, it was such a treat and an honor to meet you at DGW last week. The store is so magical this time of year. You (and your shop) continue to be an inspiration.

    Best to you in the New Year.

    Mollie from Rochester Hills

  13. Gerald Robert Smith says

    We enjoy your displays for the seasons up here in north Zone 4 and were wondering if you build displays with urns and inserts that are traditional for other faiths during these Holidays.

    Your blog is the bomb!!

  14. Deborah Silver says

    Dear Gerald, we build winter arrangements for a wide range of people. They set the color and style. We try to interpet their taste and interest, whatever form that might take. all the best, Deborah

  15. Blakely Szosz says

    You’ve been an inspiration to me for years and this holiday season is no exception. Truly food for the soul.

  16. Deborah Silver says

    Dear Blakely, thank you for your letter. It made me feel good! all the best, Deborah

  17. John Chapman says

    Red and Green, never to be seen. Apart from at Christmas, and at Christmas, Red and Green are seen and they look amazing.

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