Holiday Decorating

 Yesterday was my first indoor holiday installation.  A client with an event coming up the first week of December wanted the bones of her holiday decor in place before Thanksgiving. This pair of topiaries began with moss mat glued over foam cones.  The spiral garlands of reindeer moss, accompanied by a delicate silver wire garland took some time and patience to glue up, but the result is festive and elegant.  The formal dining room sideboard fresh decor can be added just before the event.  Fresh materials at the holiday look and smell great, but I like adding them at the last minute.  Holiday ornament like this-tall, thin, and taking up little space-can be used in lots of different places.  Perhaps next year’s decor will call for them on a mantel.         

The breakfast room has an entirely different feeling than the formal dining room.  A garland studded with faux fruit is draped over the Welsh cupboard.    We filled her wood trough with lots of the same fruit.   This room is ready for the last minute addition of fresh greens, and candles. 

This pair of mossed cubes were topped with coulter pine cones, and variegated English boxwood.  Pinus coulteri is native to southern California and northern Mexico.  It produces the largest cones of any pine.  They can grow to a length of 16 inches, and weigh 10 pounds a piece.  I thought this pair of sculptures would look appropriate in the library.

The moss mat was applied over dry floral foam, making it easy to glue the heavy cones in an upright position, and insert the springs of boxwood.  They have a comfortably masculine look that is appropriate for the room.   

We paid lots of  holiday oriented attention to the foyer.  The moment a guest arrives, what they see first creates a lasting impression.  This is why I devote so much attention to the landscape of the driveway. The end of my drive is the foyer of my garden.  I come home every day, and I want what I see first when I get there to be beautiful and inviting. Decorating the foyer mirror and sconces means there is plenty of room on the table for family pictures, a holiday hostess gift, or a tray of champagne.  The oval magnolia wreath we made by gluing individual leaves over a foam form; the size and shape is friendly to the mirror.  A small suction cup provides a hook; the wreath weighs very little.  The sconces have glass ornament, silvery picks, silver fabric leaves, and magnolia wired to them.       

We dressed the staircase in a long needled faux pine garland.  We added glass holiday ornaments, glittered wire flower ornaments, and silvery pine picks for a soft and dressy look.  The result is beautiful and elegant.  The garland is affixed to the outside of the railing with black zip ties-this is friendly to the wood finish on the railing.  In between each length of garland-a pine pick of the same style.  This helps make a graceful transition from one garland swag to the next.  Most faux garlands are 6 feet long-which may or may not work with the length of your staircase.  The added picks helps to make the garland fit the space.

The living room fireplace mantel is short, with little depth. We attached overlapping bunches of preserved and whitewashed eucalyptus to a bamboo pole, cut to a length just shy of the width of this mantle.  We dressed that eucalyptus with silver fir greens, sparkly picks, and just a pair of bleached cones. Those cones address in a subtle way the color of the brass fireplace fender.  

The result is mindful of the elaborate carving on the mantel, and formal presentation of the fireplace.  Not every mantel asks for holiday garland that goes to the floor.  We will add a fresh and decorated wreath to the space above the fireplace, just before the event.  That wreath will be concolor and noble fir; both of these greens keep indoors over the course of the holiday. 

The fresh fir garland over the front door will stay fresh, given that the air temperature is cold.  The glass ornaments have had their caps glued on, to keep moisture out.  Not seen in this picture, a massive second story overhang supported by columns that will protect the glass from too much exposure to the weather.  The pots at the front door-this we will do next week.  This holiday project is well underway.

In The Mood For Moss

One wall of my shop is completely covered in moss.  Dried and preserved moss, that is. Mood moss is sold by the case; the rounded clumps come with a wiry and fibrous backing which are the individual stems and roots.  I cut the brown backs flat, and fit and hot melt glue the pieces on sheets of foamcore board. I leave a two inch border unmossed all around the 4 edges of the board.  After I stapled all of the sheets to the wall, I covered the seams with solid pieces of moss that cover where one board meets another.  This makes the moss field look continuous.  This moss makes for a highly textural surface.  When the color of the moss fades, as it always does with exposure to light, I spray it with moss dye, which is most likely a glorified food coloring.Mossing a container involves a wholly different process. Moss can be used to line a wire container, as its fibrous stems and roots are densely interwoven.  It permitts the passage of water while it contains soil.  It is a very attractive material-what gardener does not have a soft spot for moss?  I once caught Buck in the nick of time, just as he was set to broom all the moss off of a low retaining wall in the drive.  It did take a little time to explain the beauty of this plant, but now he treasures our living colonies of moss as much as I do.  Florist’s moss comes in flat sheets-or hides” as Rob calls them.  They lay obligingly flat against the surface being lined.  These moss baskets show nothing of the wire liner; this particular moss is fitted tightly to the outside surface of the basket, rather than the inside surface.  More on that later.   

Mossing a very large object, such as this wirework pedestal, involves a filler material.  To stuff this entire volume with moss would involve many many cases at great expense.  Instead, we turn the pedestal up side down, and place a sturdy plastic trash bag filed with bark that fills the center of the space.  The florist’s moss is soaked until is is pliable and can be easily shaped.  It is then stuffed into a small space between the bag of bark, and the outside wire shell.  The moss is pushed down, and into that wire.  This insures that when the pedestal is turned right side up, gravity will cause the moss to fall back onto each individual wire, securing it in place.  Gravity plays a big part in any sucessful mossing project. 

Once the thick outside layer of moss is wedged into place by the bagged bark, and gravity, the bag is sealed with duct tape.  Wood 1 by 2 inch lumber is wedged under the angle iron comprising the bottom of the pedestal.  This is an anti-gravity measure.  Ideally, all of the airspace inside is either moss or bark.  Gravity will act on any open pockets, producing that dreaded condition known as “topiary erosion”.  This is why I rarely use moss in a horizontal spot in a container.  The weight of wet soil, and the action of gravity will tend to perforate the moss-it is only a short time thereafter when the soil breaks through.     

The process of mossing an urn or container is a two step process.  4 or 5 inches of densely packed and overlapping pieces of moss are pressed into the wall of the container.  Then the drainage material, and 4 inches of soil are added-this keeps the moss in place.  We work our way to the top of the urn-some moss, and then some soil to hold it in place.  There is little pressure on the moss in the sides of a container, as the weight of the soil and the action of gravity is always in the vertical dimension.

The bottoms of these urns are packed solid with moss, as the space is too small to handle both soil and moss.  The bagged bark in the pedestal helps make the pedestal heavy.  A large wire pedestal and urn has to be sited in a place where winds are less likely to blow them over.

Always, there is new technology.  One of my favorite new products-rolls of florist’s moss with a plastic netted backing.  I suspect the moss is ground up, mixed with a binder, and sprayed onto the netting.  This is a very civilized and easy to handle mossing material.  I moss baskets and containers in much the same way as I might wallpaper a wall.  There is very little waste.  The netting makes the moss very strong, and unlikely to rupture.  Smooth and symmentrical containers can be mossed in minutes with this material. 

There is no need to fit, soak, or overlap this material, nor do you need to build up each layer a few inches at a time.  It molds easily to the surface you are mossing.  It can be cut, and the corners easily folded inward.  We cut the strips for this plant stand a few inches long, so the top edge could be rolled, and form fitted to the rolled edge at the top of each tier.

Small, geometrically shaped galvanized wire containers can be mossed and planted very quickly.  The smaller the container, the more difficult it is to handle and fit natural sheet moss.  I find this netted composite moss retains its mossy color really well.

The bottom of this container has a layer of natural coir, cut to snuggly the fit the bottom. The coir is very dense and strong, and will keep the soil where it belongs.  

This pair of mossed galvanized buckets look very handsome-even before they have plants.  The structure of the wire is cleanly and clearly visible.

This moss cow was a birthday gift from Rob a number of years ago.   This spring, I took it apart, and re-mossed some sections, and repaired others.  It is the only sculpture in my garden.  Lady Miss Bunny-is she not beautiful?