The Garden In December

December-garden.jpgEvery gardener’s circumstances are different, but our December is notable for the coming of the cold.  No matter what year it is, my plan for the holiday and winter garden at the shop has to include an element that is warm.  The lighting is warm.  Sparkly or reflective materials can be warm.  The sentiment of the season can be warm.  Rob says the shop garden this year is cozy.  As in yard after yard of thick fir garland.  Concolor fir, noble, silver, Douglas, balsam-fir is a very sturdy and long lasting green outdoors.  The garland was loosely wrapped with grapevine garland.  The contrast of the bare vines and the lush garland   The window boxes have fir blankets.  The windows have fir hats.  It was 14 degrees this morning when I took this picture, but the garden looks warm.

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The window boxes are stuffed with mixed greens.  As the mixed greens are long and lax, we do a few rows of noble fir at the bottom of the greens to support the entire arrangement. Noble fir is very stiff and strong.  Winter weather can be fierce.  Snow, wind, ice and various mayhem from the sky can take a toll on a container garden one would want to last until March.  Making an arrangement sturdy and strong is more than half of the work of it.

warm-winter.jpgThe centerpieces are composed of red bud pussy willow, ochre eucalyptus, a few springs of metallic gold eucalyptus, and a ruff of gold sinamay. For good measure, a dollop of sugar pine cones completes the look.  Given that the building is large, and the garden is mostly viewed from the street, or from a car, the materials are over scaled. A smaller pine cone would not have much impact given the scale of the building.

holiday-container-arrangement.jpgOver the summer, these Belgian blue stone plinths supported Italian terra cotta pots with boxwood spheres.  Winter arrangements in my zone ask for pots that are frost proof. Though boxwood is generally hardy in pots, I would be uneasy about an extended period of low temperatures.  We have had an uncharacteristically cold late fall-12 degrees overnight is much more like late January than early December.  This garden would have a very bleak look, but for its winter dress.

holiday-container.jpgWinter gardens are for viewing from a distance.  It is unlikely anyone will be lingering here for long.  Big, warm, and simple gestures go a long way towards banishing the winter blues.  A design which gives the illusion of warmth is appreciated when the weather is so dreary.  Decorating the garden has its benefits.  It feels good to have something to do that at least approximates gardening. And it is nice to have something good to look at while the garden is dormant.  This garden is just about ready for the snow.

warm-winter-decor.jpgThe fir hats over the windows are composed of garlands that are attached to bamboo poles.  Garden has a natural tendency to fall, swoop and swag.  If you want a straight and orderly appearance, a bamboo pole will keep all of the clippings in line.  The poles are then wired to the pediment.  I like this construction technique for mantels too.

wrapped-tree-trunks.jpgMy favorite part of this winter garden are the garlands and grapevines on the tree trunks.  Deciduous trees have a very spare and sculptural look during the winter.  These over sized scarves that puddle on the ground make the trees look protected and warm.

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgThere are those places yet to finish.  These urns need something.  The pots need some lighting.  A favorite part of this winter project is the ability to work on it as time and inspiration permits.  Last January I had the basic idea for the garden.  I ordered boxes of grapevine garland, for the building, and the trees, and for Rob’s steel hanging spheres.  Taking the time to let a garden space speak back is my idea of luxury, and part of the great pleasure of the doing.  I may still be tinkering with this 2 weeks from now.  There’s no rush.  Winter will be with us for a long time.

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Warm and cozy sounds good.

The Details: A Story Board

glass-drops.jpgPart 3 of my tutorial about the construction of  winter containers has to do with bringing the special details to life.  Evergreens stuck into a foam form the base of the winter container.  A structure upon which to build.  A centerpiece, no matter whether it is tied up tight and of a piece, or stuck individually, provides an element upon which to focus.  Up next-the details.

evergreens-destined-for-a-winter-pot.jpgA blank canvas can be lush in and of itself, but it asks for those details that make for an individual design.  The third element of any winter pot-those thoughtfully constructed and expressed finishing details.  Pistou is a vegetable soup of French origin, , made with vegetables, various beans, and small macaroni.  This is an overview- their are many individual recipes.  Upon serving, the soup is topped with a large dollop of basil pesto which is showered with grated parmesan cheese.  The addition of the pesto and its parmesan  is an individually imagined finish.  Pistou has no end of recipes, should you look it up on line.  Individual chefs individually imagine and cook the soup, and finish it to their taste.  The finish of your winter containers should reflect your own particular point of view.

light-rings.jpgA winter container has several elements, each of which are interpreted by the gardener in charge.  The finish is about the fine tuning.  The little bits that take construction to another level.  Those little bits can be imagined, and sorted out in the shelter provided by the garage.  These winter pots included light rings on stands of Rob’s invention, stout cut twigs, garland lights, big C-9 light strands, and glass drops.

lighted-topiary-form.jpgSummer topiary forms which provides a climbing venue for mandevillea vines in the summer are strung with garland light vines for the winter.

holiday-garland.jpgA thick evergreen garland is wrapped with grapevine.  Loose and loopy.  The materials are as subtle as they are simple.

winter-container.jpgThis container features one of Rob’s light rings constructed on a stand.  The branches we cut from a tree at our Branch property.  The glass drops will pick up the light from a string of 50 clear C-9 lights.  Part of the story board of these winter container involve light.  No, you cannot see the wires or the bulbs.  The big idea detailed on this story board-the twigs, the glass, and the light.  A story board is a group of images representing an idea.  Any creative expression should tell a story-from start to finish.

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winter garland

winter-container-arrangement.jpgThe story?  Welcome to winter.

 

Seeing The Light

Lighting the landscape is not my forte.  Everyone does a better job of it than I.  Fortunately for me, the light lingers in the summer.  All it takes for Buck to abandon the yard is the warning buzz from one mosquito-he is through with the garden once it gets dark.  When I am working the landscape season, I am up between 4:30 and 5 am.  This means I am often in bed by dark.  Landscape lighting is not a big priority for me. I am happy with the daily dose of natural light, the sun and shade created by plants.  I do have landscape lighting on the driveway-this for safety and security.  Landscape light subtly washes the front of the house.  I like how it looks when I drive by on my way to work before dawn.  But the winter landscape asks for more light.   If it isn’t dark out, it is dark grey out.         

 Though I go out every night after work with the dogs, I am not out there long.  Given how mild our winter has been, I am out with them longer than usual-but a half hour at most.  By that time, it is dark, or well on its way to being dark. The evergreens in my garden would be beautiful from inside, if lit for the winter season.  I do have 2 containers on the drive ablaze with light.  Rob fixes them for me in December-I keep those pots lit until well into March.  They are beautifully cheery.  I have a cut Christmas tree strung with enough gold and white lights to softly illuminate the entire side garden-I run those lights all winter too.   

The process of cleaning and painting the walls of several rooms in the shop has put lighting on my mind again. Landscape spaces are notable for lots of reasons, just one of which is their lack of a ceiling, or roof.  Natural light falls illuminates every landscape space-unless one chooses to plant a tree, or build a pavilion, pergola, poolhouse or other cover.  These rooms in the shop have little in the way of natural light.  The shop ceilings range from 12 to 18 feet tall- this part helps to make a description of how an object might look in a large outdoor space.    Rob cannot, and does not try to light the space as if the sun were shining.  He lights objects.  I am seeing that a lighted object in a dark room pops; every detail reads clearly and dramatically.   

Good landscape lighting can features a specimen tree, or illuminate a walk. One of the great pleasures of a shaded spot is that clearing with its pool of light on the ground.  An object or painting that is spot lighted garners attention.  A dimly lit corner is cozy. Oblique lighting casts long shadows in an interior space.  Whether indoors or out, the mix of dark and light is visually exciting.        

I know that skillful lighting can so enhance the experience of a landscape.  But the experience of these dark interior spaces has unexpectedly provoked a lot more thought about light as a design element.  Were you to ask me what is of utmost importance to me at the shop, I would of course say an experience of great service rendered in a personal and knowledgeable way comes first.  We meet people,  learn their names, we take and file pictures, we remember the kids, the events, and the gardens that go with those names.  A passion for gardening always comes with a name and an individual set of circumstances.  The vetting, purchase, and availability of beautiful objects would be second-whether that object is a fine antique or a fine looking fiber pot matters not.  Great design is great design.  Providing a beautiful and thought provoking experience-this would be next.    

The shop does have some natural light, via our greenhouse roof, and a small skylight.  How we arrange and display things in the shop revolves around creating relationships between shapes, sizes, styles, textures, and color.  That arrangement is not finished until it is lighted.        

I am experiencing my own shop in a different way right now, given some choices about paint.  None of the spaces pictured are finished.  They have some major elements set, and await the arrival of our purchases for spring.  Once the room is arranged, Rob will light them.  We will be another month, getting there.  But in the meantime, I am looking at my own dimly lit winter garden as an opportunity to experiment with creating a better winter landscape experience.    

A little less gloom, and a little more glow sounds good.