Christmas In February


At the end of the first week of January, I reluctantly took the Christmas light garlands draped around these pots down, and put them in storage.  After all, the holidays were over.  This year I was especially reluctant for the holiday season to end-we had had no snow.  Though the temperature was chilly, we were denied that one ingredient that in my mind makes for Christmas-the snow.   

This photograph with all of the lights blazing taken just before Christmas does seem to lack that special seasonal element-does it not?  I felt we were so ready for the snow-that snow that never came. 

Winters in Michigan are notable for their grey skies, and their abundance of snow.  For whatever reason, our clouds were dry as dust.  It looked for all the world like we had the heat up much too high-and unnecessarily.  We designed a winter display based on the norm for our winters.  The norm went into hiding. 

The collection and placement of these dried stalks of asparagus-Rob had an idea to fragment and diffuse an intense source of C-9 light with those stalks.  This is his version of snow or ice defining every branch distinctly-only that distinction was drawn with light.  Snow on the evergreen boughs in this window box would have added a whole other dimension to this arrangement.  Nature was not interested in cooperating.

I took photographs anyway.  But I so would have loved seeing the front of the shop buried in snow, with the lights running.  Who knows what that might have looked like. 

I took the lights down January 7.  But if you happened to drive by the shop in the past few days, you would have seen those lights going back on the containers.  Lest you think I have gone way over the deep end, Better Homes and Gardens has a photographer arriving Saturday to photograph some of my holiday and winter pots.  The lights had to go back on the pots, as they want to photograph them.   They were insistent that they wanted snow on all of the containers they wanted to photograph.  So the holiday lighting came out of storage. 

 Needless to say, we have been talking about this photo shoot for several months.  This snow squall in late January, just about our only snow this winter, lasted for all of about 3 hours.   2 weeks ago,  it looked like we might have snow showers tomorrow and Saturday.  The Chicago based photographer made some plans to travel-we were at a do or don’t moment.  They have 8 winter pots they want photographed.  Saturday. Who knew the weather would deliver in spades.  

This morning I read that our area has 5 to 8 inches coming tonight.  1 to 3 inches on Friday.  Snow squalls and cloudy skies on Saturday.  Mother nature suddenly has a mind to cooperate mind to cooperate in a big way.  8 inches, no kidding?  We loaded a truck today with props for the shoot, branches, snow shovels and brooms.  We loaded up a blower too.  If every pot is buried, we need to do a little uncovering.  I have already told everyone who works at the shop-do not walk across the lawn and come to the front door-take the side entrance.  The photographer has already asked for fresh snow, and not snow with boot prints.

A photograph of a garden in its finest moment bears no remote resemblance to a real garden.  But a beautiful garden photographed at its finest moment might encourage someone who has never gardened to give gardening a try. This is important to me.  Anyone who paints, photographs, gardens, writes, manages,  composes, sculpts, makes movies, or designs-  they all share this in common. That which gets created implies an audience.  There is a story over which a relationship can be forged.  I am so very pleased that we are about to get snow.  That snow means I will be in touch.

Winter Pots

Our winter greens finally arrived yesterday-today we began “planting” winter pots.  I have clients that cannot bear to have their pots sit empty over the winter-I do not blame them.  In some ways, a winter pot is more difficult to design and plant than a summer one.  Of course the materials are more limited, but the toughest part is determining a proper scale and proportion.  The winter pots do not grow; they cannot be trimmed or groomed into a finished shape.  The shape and scale they have the day they go in will be the shape and scale they have throughout the season. I need to hold that thought from start to finish.    

Most of the construction of what goes in my client’s pots goes on in the garage at the shop.  A warm space makes the construction go faster.  It is tough to clean up and hose down on site now.  In Michigan, the water gets turned off to the outside spigots in anticipation of freezing weather.  I like to leave the mess at home.  I know the diameter of the pots I need to fill-I make a decision about the scale from my notes, photographs, measurements, and memory of the containers, and the space.  This gets me close.    

Proportions that are generous, and of proper scale are pleasing to the eye.  Odd this-I almost never see anything outside that is overscaled to the point of asking for a redo.  I routinely see landscape gestures that are too small.  Plantings that are too small for the containers, pots too small for for the front porch, a single hydrangea when 5 are called for, 1 tree trying to hold down a space meant for a grove.  The proper scale for a winter display-not so easy.    

The construction of winter pots involves several issues.  Design-this comes first. Color, texture, materials, scale-this comes second.  The actual construction is all about a natural look that is invisibly sturdy enough to withstand a Michigan winter-start to finish.  All of the elements of a winter pot designed and constructed in the studio go on to the installation phase on site.  Tall heavy twigs need thorough anchoring. Though you cannot see it, the centerpiece in this pot has bamboo, steel and concrete wire-we like a stand up straight construction that endures.  Every evergreen stem is sharpened at the base-a tight fit means a persistently long lasting fit. We have four to six winter months ahead.  What I do today needs to last.

I really want to talk about the color and the texture here, but the real news-a scale assessment.  Invariably I have to go back, and adjust; almost always, I have a need to add.  The process is simple.  Plan, aim and construct as best you can. Then step back, and look.  I would advise that you look a second time.  Then step back and see. Fill in. The gaps, the underscaled elements-it is all there for the seeing.  The fill in stage-necessary. 

This giant pot needs 2 more bunches of yellow twig dogwood, and two more bunches of preserved eucalyptus-to get the proportions right. I wish I could get everything perfect the first go around, but frankly-I rarely deserve the spot on award.  I usually need to go back.  The big idea here?  Any project worth doing deserves an energy at the end equal to the energy at the start.  Start strong-finish stronger.

The summer pots dressed in their winter outfits-they look good.  Every one of these pots have lights.  For the dark hours.  We hook up, we bury the extension cords-day and night-we have plans.   

I am enchanted by the blue berries of the cut juniper against the brown eucalyptus in this pot.  I so like the effort of a mix of greens.  Douglas fir branches-graceful.  Everything seems to be working here-the basket weave pot, the draping greens way wide-this winter pot has everything going for it.  

The long rectangle in view from the kitchen-the mixed greens include incense cedar, German boxwood, and southern boxwood.  The effect is soft and swooping. drapy. The garland lights buried in these evergreens will make for some night life. The winter approaching-we are in the process of getting ready.