The Grapevine Deer 2012

We have offered these life size grapeview deer sculptures at Detroit Garden Works for many years now-I never tire of them.  Unlike the deer that can devastate a bed of hostas, or chew the bark from treasured trees, these deer sculptures are beautiful in almost any landscape or garden.

On the inside, they are heavy gauge welded steel rod.  This makes them incredibly strong and sturdy.  If we place one in a landscape bed, we drive steel rebar deep into the ground next to each leg, and wire the steel frame of each foot to the rebar pins.  This keeps them in place and upright, in all kinds of weather.

In spite of the steel inside, the sculptures are very graceful, and capture the spirit of the beast.  The long legs and overscaled ears of this pair instantly identifies them as fawns.

The grazing doe has a long graceful neck and petite sized legs.  The doe, buck and fawn are life size, and can be sculpted in a standing, grazing, or lying down position.  Whether a single deer, a trio,  or a herd, they are beautiful in a garden.  Some of that beauty has to do with the material itself.

Vitis, or grape, is hardy in many places in the US.  Wild concrod grapes are common in my area.  The vines, harvested after the leaves fall, are the basis for many natural sculptural forms.  We have had grapevine cones, spheres, garlands, baskets, trellises, plant climbers, rustic fencing and wreaths.  The vines dry a beautiful cinnamon brown color, and are amazingly durable.

We recommend sealing these sculptures once a year with WaterLox, or a similar sealer.  Properly sealed, they will give many years of service in the garden.  Only one client of mine has had one long enough to send it back to be redone

But the real beauty of the sculptures is the hand of the sculptor.  A small group of perople make these deer.  Once you see enough of them, you recognize the hand.  I do not know their process, but I would guess the vines are soaked until they are pliant, and then applied and worked around the forms one strand at a time.  Once vine section is parallel to the next, and very densely woven.

I feel sure the vines are sorted and graded.  The larger vines form the body of the deer.  Much smaller vines are used to finish the legs, and fashion the feet.  The forms are sinuous and rhythmic.

I am not sure what is so compelling about them, other than to say they are a story about nature in form, material and narrative.  They are not a graphic representation-they capture a certain wild spirit that is hard to ignore.

I still remember the year of the Christmas buck.


Twig Time

Our leaves are finally beginning to turn color, and drop. Or drop without having turned color at all, as the case may be.  The grape leaves on the fence were beautiful this morning, with the sunlight coming through.  Once the leaves have dropped, our landscape is much about the twigs, the trunks, the branches and sticks.  This spot will soon be a plane of brown woody vines.    

These hackberry tree branches are fairly representative of what there is to see here in late fall.  This pot has lots and lots of branches in it, but the effect is delicate and subtle.  The color of these branches is what I call winter drab.   But not all branches are created equal. 

Our shipment of fresh cut twigs arrived yesterday.  These are branches of a different sort.  The stems have great color, and form.     The mainstay of our winter container plantings involve natural branches.  Lucky for us, there is a farm that grows shrubs with the specific purpose of harvesting branches.  A twig farm.  Beautiful branches are on my short list of plants I would be happy to farm.  This bale of red bud pussy willow still sports the last of its leaves.  This means we have to do a little stripping.  Who knows the mechanism, but if a branch is cut, it will take lots more time for the leaves to fall.

 I would grow all manner of Salix-most certainly.  Prairie willow.  Japanese fan willow.  Curly willow.  Flame willow. Black willow.  Pussy willow.  I love the willows.  The markedly fasciated fan willow is particularly beautiful.  I would grow a whole host of stoloniferous dogwood-there are lots of beautiful varieties. Cornus sericea Cardinal” is a particularly bright red form of the species dogwood.

Flame willow branches are a particularly beautiful and vibrant shade of orange.  The shrub likes regular moisture, and full sun; it can grow to 20′ tall.  Like most shrubby willows, their shape and leaves are not their long suit.  But the winter color of their branches is spectacular. 

Red bud pussy willow is aptly named.  Branches of this willow will frequently root if stuck in soil in the fall.  This makes these branches a great choice for a fall, winter-and an early spring container planting.  This is one of the few twigs that we purchase both in the fall, and in the spring.  

Fresh cut yellow twig dogwood provides lots of color in the late fall and winter.  The branches are amazingly easy to bend and twist into shape you choose.  The branches make great wreaths; they can easily be formed into topiary shapes.  They retain their color remarkably well, as they dry.

Cardinal red twig is much more vibrant in color than the species.  The best color on any dogwood branch is the current season’s growth.  Stems that mature take on a brown cast as they age.  This brilliant color looks great at the holidays, and throughout our long winter. 

Grapes are a woody vine with long lax branches that can be shaped over forms.  We have had on occasion grapevine wreaths, spheres, picture frames and nests-but these deer are the most elegant expression of weaving and sculpting with grapevine I have ever seen.  The forms are heavy steel, and each vine is laid in parallel to its neighbor, and then woven into the whole figure.  They look great paired with all of the twigs. The people who create these sculptures-artists, each and every one.  They weld their frames, and weave the grapevine in a very individual way.  This doe and fawn pair is distinctly the creation and look of the person who made them.  My next pair will have a different look.

The standing Buck is particularly handsome.  Each antler has a steel pin that slides into a steel cylinder embedded behind the ears.  The Buck stands almost 7 feet tall.  This is my favorite species of deer for the garden! 

I can think of lots of places for the deer.  As for the fresh cut twigs-what would you do with them?