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.

Home At Midday

I had occasion to be home during the day today for the first time in weeks. This time of year, I usually leave for work in the dark, and come home in the dark.  My work for the season is finished. This means I have some time I can call my own.  While Steve was finishing up the very last of the landscape work, I went home to try to figure out what I would do for a Christmas tree.  Buck and I celebrate Christmas Eve, so I need to make a move fairly soon.  I was pleased to see my garden was holding its own, and hosting a little holiday display.   I am so happy for my evergreens in the winter. They mean I still have a garden, in late December.   

My home was built 81 years ago.  Vintage, it is.  I like a traditional holiday display that compliments the architecture-this I talked about yesterday.  Southern magnolia does a great job representing that feeling. I hang the garlands, leaf points up; magnolia curls as it dries.  These garlands will bulk up, the more they dry. The color and volume suits this old house. 


I do very little in the way of entertaining.  It is hard enough to find friends that understand and are willing to work around my work schedule.   My good friends come to the back door, or come through the garden gate at the back.  Those friendships are serious enough to welcome them to the back of the house.  But I still want my front door to look dressed properly for company. 

A magnolia wreath is a joy to decorate.  My wreath is decorated with bits and pieces left over from other projects, a stem of curly flame willow, some brown dyed bracket fungus, some pine cones, and a string bow in chocolate. Not so fancy, my materials list.       

My resin cherubs are not such a fancy material, but their shape and expression recalls lots of classical garden ornament I have seen over the years.  The detail and color is amazingly convincing.  Not everyone is a fan of the putti, the cherubs, and the angels, but I fell hard for this pair. 

My winter pots have lights-this is their holiday moment. I will run those lights much longer than I really should, and enjoy every minute of it.  I am just glad to see that the arrangement looks good at midday. 

Rob fixes a pair of pots for me in his own inimitable style that sit on the wall at the end of the driveway.  They are the first thing I see, when I pull into the drive during the winter.  These cream beaded picks are ablaze with light at night, thanks to a few strings of C-7 lights placed underneath them.  During the day, they still look great.  Bleached willow sticks, a few sprigs of flame curly willow, the cream picks and a ruffly skirt of magnolia-this looks as good at midday as it does when I come home after work.  I cannot really explain this, but these Galway stoneware pots beautifully dressed for winter mean all the world to me.  What fun to see them at noon time.

Still Raining

Dec 3 012The raindrop pots got their topdressing yesterday.  I decided a mix of noble fir and fresh silver dollar eucalyptus would be just the thing to set off all that glass.  The eucalyptus wavers in the slightest breeze-just like that glass.  The color is bright-not a bad choice for weather which is predominately overcast.  A little morning rain gave everything a fresh look.

Dec 2b 008Eucalyptus stems are wiry, but slight.  Sandwiching them between the stiff layers of the fir gives them some much needed support. Up close, the red stems repeat the red/brown crabapple trunks-this a visual bonus. The network of stems need to resist the weight of the snow that is sure to come. Much like arranging a vase of flowers, we cross stems over one another.  Under the green, a woody nest.

Dec 3 003Pam made quick work of this phase; the fact that she is a great gardener endows her work with a natural and graceful feeling. The greens were stuffed slightly wider that the dripline established by the glass.  The dry foam form into which all of these greens are stuffed are bricks that have been glued together, and wired with concrete wire.  We have only to come by some sunlight to get some sparkle going on.   

Dec 3a 005Rob decided to light the pots with strings of clear c-9 bulbs. We set them well into the foliage;  the green cords are not a good look. This warm light is in contrast to all the attendant blue, makes much of the warm brown of the trunks, and the olive orange winter color of the boxwood.  

Dec 3a 007Late in the day, the drops start picking up light from the bottom.  The eucalyptus discs repeat the round shapes of the drops.

Dec 4 005
By 6pm, the party is just getting started. 

Dec 4a 002

At 7am this morning, I see our full moon has a little company on the ground.  Clear skies are forecast for today-I can’t wait.

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.

Dec 2 022

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.

Dec 2 023

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?