At A Glance: Other Holidays













Home For The Holidays

I finished the last of this season’s landscape work, and the holiday decorating today.  This feels really good.  Tomorrow and Wednesday my crew will sort out a few minor glitches (this has mostly to do with errant timers, and a centerpiece that needs extra special reinforcement against a windy location) and put the shop yard to sleep.  All of the stone and concrete pieces outdoors will be put up on pallets.  The stone cisterns will spend the winter on pallets, upside down.  A pair of old boxwoods in terra cotta pots will come into the garage, as will the few small espaliers left over from the summer.  We still have warm weather in which to work-this has been the longest and mildest fall and early winter that I can remember. The work is winding down.


I can think about my own home for the holidays now.  The pots and lighting outside were finished a week ago.  My four iron pots out front have flame willow, fresh magnolia, and mixed greens.  The centerpieces are lit with garland lights.  These old iron pots came with the house.  Yes, they were very much a part of the decision to buy and move here.   


My crew installs fresh magnolia garland all across the entry and down the sides.  The magnolia has garland lights spiralled through it.  The two men who owned this house before me made a specialty of their holiday lighting.  There are hooks and screws placed in a very orderly fashion everywhere.  I could outline the entire house with lights, should that idea ever strike my fancy. 

This makes any holiday display easy.  For those of you who are afraid to put a brass screw in a wood front door for a wreath, I promise you will not undermine the integrity of that door, nor will you notice it the other 10 months of the year it is not in use. If you take the time to make it easy to decorate, you will decorate. 



 The architecture of my house is a hybrid betweeen Mediteranean style, and arts and crafts style.  I love every detail.  That architecture makes certain demands-from the landscape, the choice of plant material, color and mass.  I am fine with that.  Whomever designed this house, and the piazza style driveway, I respect. 


Richard’s blowmold figures would not work here.  The yellow brick and iron detail does not like white anything.   I would have a hard time making a contemporary holiday display work with a house of this age.  I have no problem with that.  I like a holiday display that is warm and traditional.  I like the smell of history better than any other smell in the world.

I have a pair of resin cherubs that I adore-Rob rolls his eyes every time I talk about them.  I have had them over the mantle, framing a mirror.  I have moved them all over the house.  I look at them all year long.  This is the first year I took them outside. 

My landscape crew and I figured out how to do the lights such that these cherubs have a hand in holding up the light garlands.  I am happy about how this looks.  It makes me happy to be coming home.

 I do much and many different things for lots of other people.  My pleasure is in creating and delivering a look that feels like home to them. What I choose for my own home I choose with the same care that I choose for others. It is important to me that my garden, my landscape, my walkways, my terrace, my hellebores, my evergreens, and my holiday decor look like home. 

Home for the holidays is a good place to be, indeed. I have a few more days to get ready.

The Hats

The last of the holiday celebration in front of the shop had to do with what Rob calls the hats over the windows.  They actually seem more like eyebrows to me.  Last year we hung burlap drapes over them.  Given our dead meadow weeds holiday theme, I thought a weedy hat might add a certain finish to the project.  They took just about forever to make.  Glueing one weed at a time takes time. After finishing the first, I spent two weeks vacillating about whether to abandon this part altogether.  It sat on a table in the back since before Thanksgiving, enduring many rainy and some snowy days.  The matted mess miraculously regained its volumetric shape, once it dried out, but really it was Jenny that persuaded me to keep going.  After they were wired onto the metal hats, I was glad I persisted.  

I added the metal rectangles and shutters to the windows many years ago.  Factory windows do not come with much in the way of architectural interest.  They warm up this old machine shop considerably.  I wired most of the dry elegant feather grass from the roof to three large bamboo poles.  I glued everything into that dried grass I could get my hands on-kitchen sink style. 

Dry anemones and hydrangeas from my yard, dry chicory, boltonia, Queen Anne’s Lace, thistle seed heads-and a whole lot more dry plant stems I cannot identify became part of these three eyebrows.  I have no idea how long all of this will last-I have never done anything like it before.  Sticks, and dry perennial plant stems-that is all there is to this.

I am happy to have something warm and reminiscent of the garden to look at, in December. 


Gorgeous Greens

So many of the materials used at the holidays are harvested from the landscape.  Not my landscape, mind you.  My evergreens grow much too slowly to be trimmed for holiday greens;  the one spruce on my property was limbed up at least 12 feet before I moved in.  But there are places where the boxwood flushes several times a season, and the magnolia grows lushly.  Thank heavens for all the fir-Noble, Frazier, Douglas, Balsam, Silver, Concolor-fir boughs are so beautiful, long lasting, and fragrant at the holidays.  And of course, the iconic boxwood. Cut magnolia-this a a subject worthy of a post soon to come.   We have true variegated English boxwood branches for the first time this season.  Would that I could grow this gorgeous evergreen in my garden!  That aside, I plan to enjoy all of the cut greens available during the holiday and winter season.

Noble fir-so aptly named.  The short needles grow densely along each branch. They shrug off the worst of the winter weather; the cut branches stay green for months.  Evergreen needles have evolved to survive long periods when the roots cannot obtain water, when the soil is frozen.  The needles have very little in the way of surface area.  This means water evaporates at a lower and slower rate than say a maple leaf.  A big surface area means rapid evaporation.  Their formal shape and gorgeous blue green color makes them a green of choice for winter arrangements.  Noble fir-the mainstay of my winter container arrangements.      

Berried juniper is not my most favorite green, but the blue berries are very persistent.  I like mixing this green with other blue hued greens.

Long needle pine-just exactly what species is this?  This is not a common name that I know.  Should you recognize this evergreen, will you write me?  The long needled pines-as in white pine, have gracefully curving stems.  This makes them great for informal arrangements.  Curvy is a good look, for the winter.

I love the texture and the fragrance of cedar.  This is an evergreen with flat needles.  Those flat needles present more surface area to all of those elements that dry out cut greens.  I use Port Orford cedar, a lax and luscious variety distantly related to my thujas, outside only.  Cedar roping and branches dry out very quickly indoors.  Even outdoors, they dry, brown out, and drop needles too soon to make them a cut green of choice.  I use cedar as an accent in my holiday decor projects.  Long lasting gets lots of votes.  That aside,  I like any seasonalexpression.  Cut cedar for that one moment brings the holidays to mind. Cedar branches-so fragrant, and so fleeting.

Douglas fir is perhaps the least showy of all of the specialty holiday greens, but its longevity is legendary.  I have been known to cut up Douglas fir Christmas trees after Christmas for winter pots.  Douglas fir will stay green well into April.  I am impressed by this. 

Boxwood is an evergreen so close to my heart-I like them wild, I love them trimmed.  Broad leaved evergreens are a great foil to the needled evergreens.  This is the perfect cut material for clipped topiaries, and formal wreaths.  Any arrangement of needled evergreen boughs gets a visual boost from any boxwood companionship.  I like the reference in my holiday decor to the boxwood in my garden.

Princess pine-I have never planted one.  I do not know the species.  But these branches look great in winter containers and garlands.  The long needles are presented in short tufts.  Where would this work for you?

German boxwood is a very big leaved boxwood.  The very large leaved branches are striking in winter or holiday arrangements. 

Oregonia is a name of choice in the florist trade for boxwood-but this boxwood is much more subtle, and smaller leaved than our English variegated boxwood.  I will not debate the differences.  I can only say that there are so many choices in cut greens for the holidays. 

Every bale of greens that came in this week -beautiful.  Those fresh materials-they smell great.  I hold them in my hands, and imagine.   They keep me going.  They keep me going strong.