Come Early

I am well aware there have been a conspicuous absence of posts the past few days.  The week running up to our holiday open house is an intense work experience that starts early in the day, and ends late.  Not that I mind this.  The past fews days have been unseasonably warm, so we have had spectacular fog at dawn.  The umpteen numbers of glass icicles we hung in the lindens are a frost white at 5:30 am-it was worth been up this early to see them. I like a project that has a deadline.  This is in sharp contrast to that garden which is always changing, and hopefully evolving. 

Bunches and more bunches of stick stacks of various twig arrived last week. Cardinal red twig, yellow twig, and black twig dogwood in three heights comes to us from a stick farm. Copper willow, fan willow, pussy willow-the salix family and its hybrids have beautiful twigs.  I would not mind farming sticks one bit. Coppicing twigs is a very old art; twigs are judiciously harvested, leaving the plant to grow new twigs. They provide lustrous, linear and colorful interest in winter containers. 

The yellow twig is an especially striking yellow green color.  In mass, they have a graceful and rhythmic appearance that belies their strength.  They will still look great come next April, when most else is the garden is still dressed in winter drab.  We do strap our twigs to a bamboo or metal pole that is sunk deep into the container.  A stick stack out of vertical is not a good look.  
That said, these wire containers of red twig listing by design is exciting visually.  A composition fueled by confidence and deliberation means the rules do not necessarily rule.  The gardening world’s most prominent rule breaker-nature. Snow in early June, the datura in ground that survives the winter, the hen who raises an abandoned kitten-there are lots of examples.    

I am an early person by nature.  I like time, peace and quiet to get ready for the day.  I am not a day dreamer-I am a dawn dreamer.  The prospect of completely redoing the display in the shop puts me to work very early; this is no different than in the spring.  In spring I am thinking about making things grow.  This time of year is about making something of what I have.     

Fog has a way of saying hush hush.  Saturated colors are subdued.  The wet quiet is muffles sound.  The sharp edges of everything are blurred. No telling where this observation might take me once I take it inside. Creating an atmosphere in the absence of weather-difficult. Arranging an interior space-I admire people who do this well.  They take a series of objects and create an atmosphere in which everything lives well together.  A person who can generate atmosphere- no doubt you know a sun maker, a rain maker, a trouble maker.  A well designed landscape is poised to wear the weather well.   

The fog has me thinking about how to soften the sticks-with picks, and preserved and dyed eucalyptus. As much as I like the masses of one color, what would happen if I mixed the sticks?  Maybe three colors.   

This is the last early morning before our holiday open house weekend.  My list is not nearly as long as it has been, but it’s long enough to get me going first thing.     
We are almost ready.

Making Changes


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By now you should know some things about me.  Though I may be discussing a before and after landscape, an annual planting scheme or a garden renovation, what I am really talking about is change. The years change a landscape, a garden evolves, a collection of pots means an annual garden can have all the charm of a new dress with somewhere fine to go. Though the season has changed, I am still gardening.  No kidding yes, I believe what people devise to celebrate winter outdoors is gardening.  Much of my garden has gone to sleep, and needs me not to disturb it.  I have no interest in seed catalogues-yet. 

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In much the same way that I change the annuals in my pots every year, the winter season is a chance to do something different.  I like so many things, and I like even better second chances. Much in my own landscape has been in place for many years; my holiday garden is one place I can easily make changes.  This client is of like mind; she favors contemporary expressions, and she is receptive to new things.  Several years ago the red wood shaving balls and the twig squares got her attention. She has a beautiful collection of Francesca del Re Italian pots.  They are clean lined and beautifully colored.  The intensely red woodshaving balls atop those twig stands proved to be the foundation of her holiday display.  The same materials, in different configurations, a design discussion.

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Though this vintage faux bois planter is her odd element out, it takes to this contemporary holiday treatment just fine. It is such a strong piece visually, its stands alone.  I have few clients for whom I design and build terraces in the front yard.  She suggested a front entrance terrace would give space and feature her pots and garden furniture; she was right. 


Last year, we put the red under wraps.  Tall twig stick stacks in cream and green became the organizing element. The sparkling gold money plant picks made for a simple and strong foil for the nests of noble fir covering her pots.  Sinamay is a loosely woven plastic fabric shot through with metallic threads.  Absolutely weatherproof, this ribbon like material will keep its curvy shape whatever comes out of the sky. Individual sticks from a stack were placed in a decidedly sculptural way in the faux bois planter. 

DSC_0037The walk to the front door is kept company by an overscaled concrete planter of our manufacture.  The stick stack frames the house numbers on the wall.  A walk that does not immediately appear to lead anywhere needs a strong signal-come this way, please. How the weather works on these twig stacks is a hand over which I have no control. They gracefully open and bend with the weather in a way I  could not duplicate.  Two parts a client, two parts nature, and one part from me-looking good.

DSC_0047There is ample room on the terrace for this pair of Francesca squares.  Like all of the other pots, these squares are sparingly lit.  It is less than two weeks to the shortest day of our year.

DSC_0042Four Francesca flutes make for a striking holiday garden at the front door.  This Italian terra cotta is tough enough to withstand our vile winters; the ability to have terra cotta outside at this time of year is cause for celebration in and of itself.  Some contemporary expression is hard on the eyes, and lacking human softening; this can border on cold.  This is no time of year to add cold to the cold we already have.  I so like how she chose materials so soft in color, and so subtle in contrast-it was up to me to put them together in a contemporary way.  The interplay of contemporary and traditional elements is lively. 

What we have in store for this year; I’ll take pictures.

The Raindrops

Dec 1a 012I do so enjoy decorating the front of the shop for the winter. Ideas start surfacing in October, as it may take me six weeks to make up my mind.  November first I planted these six crabapples in my pots-a first step.   I took my further cue from Rob, and his client Claudia, this year.  She has been collecting prisms for years; she hangs them from the branches of her trees in the winter. Glass lightcatchers. Her idea enchanted him such that he loaded the shop with all manner of chandelier prisms, raindrops and icicles. 

Dec 1a 014I fell in love with the idea of the glass drops.  The 30 boxes of inch long glass drops I needed to dress these Coralburst crabs sold out in a matter of days.  Most holiday ornament is manufactured to order; we place most of our orders in January for the following winter season.  No one had these little glass blobs available, in spite of my idea to organize my winter pots around them.

Dec 2a 002The only drops I could find after days of searching were nine inches long.  At the moment I was willing to give up, a supplier had numbers of these very long drops in stock-I fretted for an hour about the long length; would they blow around and break?  I fretted another hour, and then ordered a case-432.   Funny how the only ornament available can sometimes turn out to be just the right thing.  We attached 410 glass drops to these six trees; it was my job to cut off the tags, and attach long wires.  Four of us spent three hours getting those raindrops up there.  

Dec 1a 017How they caught the late day light was beautiful. We did try to place them such that a big wind would result in not so many losses. Some design involves risk; who knows what nature might send my way. Should we loose some, so be it.    

Dec 2a 006At 4:30 in the afternoon, these black and blue drops have my attention. At my request, Buck fished my Mom’s tripod out.  The idea of a tripod for my camera bores me beyond all belief, but I knew I needed one now.  A  photographic record of how the available light would endow these drops would need a hand steadier than mine. 

Dec 2a 005 By 5:30 pm, my clear skies have gone blue. The drop stalks are almost invisible; the bulbs have gone a curvy black.  What I am paying so much attention to outdoors now is singular to this time of year. I would suggest that if great design is on your mind, first and foremost,tune in to what is around you, and be persistent with what you see; something will come.

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At 5:30 this morning, the shop was dark.  I came in very early; I was so excited to see the full moon, and use the tripod.   I could barely see to compose this photograph. I felt like I was talking to her- setting up, fussing and fuming. My camera was entirely still and stable on that tripod I inherited some years ago, but never until today, used.  Thanks a lot, Mom. An impossibly long exposure recorded this. My fence was thrown blue from a security light; the cream colored block building next door makes even more of that blue. The purple sky-gorgeous. Make fun of me if you will, but what I saw this morning made me sing.  Capturing the light-a garden activity I highly recommend.

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The drops are heliotrope blue and turquoise with a silver shimmer-what an outfit for these somber crabapples. Now, the tops of the pots need something-what thing?