Shedding Light On The Situation

Kiriluk Christmas 2006 (1)This sassy arrangement of winter pots reminds me much of the client to whom they belong.  She has an eye all her own, and doesn’t mind using it; this makes it easy to design for her. Tall thin woven planters make a forest of the porch.  The distinct curving silhouette of the fantail willow makes a saucy statement up top in the large willow baskets.  Four smaller roughly woven grapevine planters get a topping of twigs, chubby grapevine wreaths and chartreuse netting.  Smashing.  

Kiriluk Christmas 2006 (4)Lighting the twig baskets themselves is unexpected and very effective. Multiple strings of mini lights with brown cords make it clear even during the daytime,  that strong seasonal lighting can create a special look all its own.  This big dose of lighting fun can’t help but make one feel better.   

Hudas (36)The summer plantings in these boxes, and pots are a welcome contrast to the stark and edited landscape. This picture makes me sigh just looking at it-this garden moment is a memory now. 

2007 Hudas HOLIDAY 12-13-07 (4)The winter demands a whole new set of materials. The effect is more formal, and more subtle.  The landscape still looks finished, even though the garden has gone down.  Having the energy to pursue a project at its end with the same energy evident that I had at the start has much to do with the success of a design. 

Hudas christmas 2006 (2)The lighting adds a dimension that responds to the fact of our quiet and dim winter season. Is there a need to give in-not so much. 

Baumgartner1 (15)The quiet and graceful arrangements in these containers rely on an interplay of color and texture.  The subtle reverie of pale blue eucalyptus and yellow twig dogwood contrast with the highly textured white pine.  The dusting of snow is so beautiful. Weather plays just as important a role here as it does in the greater landscape. 

Baumgartner1 (4)The lit topiary sculptures make another statement all together.  Dressed for an evening out, these topiaries have the added bonus of bathing the entire porch area in a warm winter glow.

chicago05 in store (6)The transition from fall to winter can be a bleak one. This old finial looks chilly, now that the leaves have dropped from the lindens.   

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Fortunately nature has a way of providing her own special brand of winter light.  The white snow catches and reflects all the available light however litlle there might be-even at night.  Though I have been known to complain about the 6 months I have to spend gardening alternatively, in truth I would not give this season up.  The snow cloche-lovely.

Night Light

2008 store front 1-3-09 (3)The Michigan skies go dark during our winter months.  We have few sunny days; the winter solstice date, this year December 21st,  is the shortest day of the entire year. The dark comes at 4pm, and is still around at 7am.  The cold and the snow don’t bother me nearly as much as those gloomy skies. Should you not light your landscape, their will be precious little to see. Formally lighting the landscape is a topic all its own. I am interested today in how people garden with light.  These scotch pine on standard in Belgian oak barrels outside my office window-a strong defense against the dark.      

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 Those clear white lights available everywhere seem to ask for some dressing up; the big bulbs are a refreshing change.  The mix of big and little bulb strands, attached to each other with little snippets of yellow raffia, engage my attention like a good tune. These light garlands gracefully swagged through the branches of my big lindens are a cheery contrast to the winter blues.     

dgw 12-27-08 008My native winter landscape is notable for its cold, its interminable length, and its relentless snow. The light garland over my door is a combination of white, amber, and yellow lights; the centerpieces in the pots wound round with gold frosted lights. The pots are stuffed with giant nests of raw hemp fiber.  The effect is warm and cozy.  I am all for turning the lights on.

DSC05988Light strings need not be confined to rooflines and Christmas trees. Urethane topiary forms densely wound with light strings cast their warm light in every direction.  The biggest requirement for this project-the patience to wind and pin the wires with fern pins.  A landscape focal point comes to life in a very different way, thus lighted.   

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 These wood boxes have what we call light bars as centerpieces.  Galvanized pipe from the hardware store is wound with lights; the bottom foot of the bare pipe is sunk into the soil. The curly willow branches add a natural element that looks good during the day.  The light bars help keep the willow visible during the extended dark hours. Large bulb chartreuse light strings were part of the Martha Stewart holiday lighting collection for KMart some years ago; how I like the big soft glow they add to the greens and snow.   I have no idea to quit gardening when the ground freezes-I just garden in a different way. 

Copy of dgw _0078Rob invented these light bars. Wrapped closely around a galvanized pipe, and installed in the ground over steel rebar sunk in the ground, they shed light in every direction.  They are beautifully sculptural in a contemporary setting.    Taubman3 (3)Many many light strings were needed to describe the shape of this old oak in lights.  The structure of this tree is never more apparent than it is this time of year.  

I photographed the front of the shop this year at dawn’s light.  The snow and the ice greatly magnify the twinkle of the twinkle lights on these skyrocket junipers.  A wire tree basket serves as a form creating the overall shape of this fantail willow and dogwood.  The white pine at the base droops gracefully in the opposite direction.  I like having something in the winter landscape that gives me as much pleasure as my summer garden.   

The big idea here has everything to do with personal and individual expression.  The materials are readily available, the risk of doing too much is slight. The effect is immediate and gratifying.  Whether you run your seasonal lighting only through the end of the year, or on into March, lighting the winter garden like this is temporary-no big long term committment required. I know I am not the only person who drives the neighborhoods during the winter holiday to see what others have done to light the night; this might be the best part of December in Michigan.

Night Life

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It never ceases to amaze me, how a space can be so transformed by light.  Sun and shade are critical elements of successful gardening; they are equally important elements of good design.  Rob did such a beautiful job lighting the greenhouse fernery for last night’s soiree.  There is a time during the fall when the workroom is all but impassable.  He makes garlands of lights-mixing colors, bulb size, shape and color. His most recent interest is in pairing Led lights with incandescent ones.  The floor space is covered with parallel strands of lights stretched out straight.  He then realigns all the wires to eliminate any light gaps, and cinches the entire assembly together every foot or so with zip ties.  These 45 foot long ropes of white and chartreuse lights  not only highlight the formally trimmed shape of the creeping fig growing on the walls but they evenly bathed the entire greenhouse roof structure in a warm soft glow.      

Nov 13 030He spot lit certain elements in the room- the refreshment tables in the middle of the space for the sake of utility, and ornament on the walls, for drama.  What he lights is balanced by what he keeps dim. He strongly lit the auricula theatres on the wall, so his forest stick and light orb sculptures would not throw them into harsh shadow.

Nov 13 009Simple votive candles can put light right where you need it.  In this case, lighting the garden at the floor plane also lit the underside of our old French fountain planted with ferns.  Natural candle light instantly romances anything it touches. 

Nov 13 066Some of Rob’s light garlands get another decorative element.  Light cords are are an incredibly unnatural shade of green; I cannot understand why an olive/brown color is not an option.  We do buy lights with brown cords for wrapping sticks or tree trunks. This garland has a weatherproof ball garland that gives the light a  diaphanous quality.  This is my idea of good garden jewelry. 

Nov 13 051Large light fixtures on the wall of the shop subtly light the Boston ivy vines on the opposing wall; the intense light in the pots, and on the tuteurs bring the ornament into focus. 

Nov 13 059The chartruese lights repeat the color of the moss, and add dimension to the light. The light emphasizes the sparkle and sass of the holiday elements.

Nov 13 056This is Rob’s winter berried vine light garland.  The olive plastic holiday balls wired on every so often add texture and color that looks great even during the day.

Nov 13 061The linden is draped in his light rendition of spanish moss.  The unseasonably warm weather we have had for the past few weeks has been favorable for outdoor installations.  In years when the really cold weather comes early, this kind of work can be daunting. With the temperature at 57 today, it is a perfect day to dress a garden in light.

Nov 13 070These commercial grade light strings have frosted bulbs; they produce a very soft light that is easy on the eye.  

Nov 13 064Though the ball garland in this strand is silver, the color of the terra cotta pot in which they are installed makes a richly colored night presentation vastly different than the day look. 

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White Leds look like ice on fire-very chilly. These powerful lights readily read from great distances; they are clearly much more about drama than romance.  Though my patience for shopping the lighting showrooms with Rob is limited, I love the results. My favorite commercially produced garland lights have all the bulbs very close together; I like less cord, and more light. 

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These warm amber and yellow lights veiled in a metallic mesh are all about mystery.  Though I firmly believe good design is in no small part about editing, I relax that rule this time of year.  There is no such thing as too much of this kind of night life.