White Christmas

  Ten years ago the stars aligned such that I was alone for Christmas.  My only family, a brother and sister-in-law, had plans to go to the Caribbean for Christmas.  I could hardly blame them-they live in Colorado.  JoJo and BabyHead, my cats, both lived at the shop; we decided to spend the day together.  Miraculously, it snowed more than 6 inches Christmas Eve.  The outside of the shop was incredibly beautiful early that morning.  We three had some Christmas breakfast treats, after which I carefully assessed what I wanted to photograph before I spoiled any of that snow with my footprints.  Needless to say, neither cat had any interest in accompaning me.  After lunch, the day was bright and overcast.  I took another round of pictures. It was a fine Christmas day-utterly quiet, and beautiful.  Snow is unlikely for this Christmas.  Temps in the 40’s, and rain is not exactly conducive to a white Christmas, but we did provide some winter white for a few of our clients that cannot do without it. The white faux berries and eucalyptus in this window box is the closest we could get to winter white, barring some help from the weather.

Whitewashed eucalyptus is that pale blue color that reminds me of snow.  The birch twigs have been sprayed with a metallic platinum paint.  By winter’s end, they will be a pale grey.  The colors are soft, but wintry.  I would imagine this pot will look all the better with some fresh snow.  While white in the garden is a standout, winter white usually covers every surface.

This box is flanked by hydrangeas, the winter remains of which are the tawny flower heads. Consequently, lots of greens and lights went into the box. The branches in this box are faux stems; their bright white color reads very well in front of the dark window glass. 

I made this pair of wreaths for a client who specifically asked for a green and white holiday scheme.  Any combination of colors can look great for the holidays.  Orange, yellow and red fruit in a wreath looks perfectly holiday-like.  Red and green can be tricky, as it is the traditional combination of choice.  However, dark red and chartreuse is a festive and fresh take on a usual scheme.  The chartreuse here-dyed and preserved reindeer moss bits.  Some opaque white glass ornaments, a flocked faux pick, and a pair of faux snowballs is a strong contrast to the magnolia.

These faux white branches are encircled with a number of sparkly white faux picks.  White on nearly white, in several layers, makes a stronger statement  from a distance.  Next week I will try to photograph everything we have done this season at night.  I am sure the sparkle on these picks will glow after dark.   

These pots have centerpieces that are a mix of white birch and platinum branches.  The magnolia garlands over the carriage lights have some of the same twigs, some faux berries, and some glass ornaments.  The materials are mostly natural, and accented with white. 

When the snow finally appears, these pots will celebrate the season in a muted way. 

A pair of grey knitted birds have a grey and white perch on the wreath.

These stout white birch branches extend up into a skylight that runs between the porch roof, and the front door. This spot will never see snow, as the covered porch is probably 18 feet deep.  This does mean that the cut boxwood that is stuffed into these pots will stay green a very long time.  The winter sun can be hard on cut greens.  

This mix of white birch branches and white manzanita branches makes a strongly wintry statement above the ground plane. 

 This client is not so fond of cut evergreens, but she does like the whitewashed eucalyptus.  Natural curly willow encircles the bleached sticks, and softens the lookof those stiff sticks considerably. 

The white and pale blue is especially effective with the stained cedar shake siding.

 There are great wintry white plants available.  This variegated clubmoss-selaginella krausianna variegatus-is great in shady pots over the summer.  It is especially obliging as an interior plant with some diffuse light.

How I envied my Texas friend RK for the pots of cyclamen on his front steps!  But they adapt well to my house over the holidays.  They will bloom a long time over the winter, if they are happy. 

My favorite white of this season-a pot of Helleborus Niger. I did buy some, and will try to keep them going until spring.  What a bonus that the flowers fade to green. Some years a white Christmas just takes a little ingenuity.

More Winter White

The architecture of this house is such that guests pull up to and walk past the garage on their way to the front door. I suspect this is a uniquely American phenomena-somewhat arising from our our long stand love affair with the automobile. An architect friend from New York waxed eloquent on the subject one night-but he does not own a car, nor does he drive long distances to work and the grocery like metro Detroiters.  But this architect had the foresight and wit to design a bank of windows in the garage wall.  What is a garage wall visually reads as the home.  I placed a large Francesca del Re terra cotta pot at the corner, to further distract the eye from the garage doors around the corner.  This pot and these window boxes provide a lot of  visual welcome both summer and winter.  The front door is a considerable distance past the window boxes to the right; they make the walk much more interesting.

Last year I sunk the complete skeletal wood of a Lollipop crabapple into this Francsca pot.  That crabapple had a six foot diameter head-and was heavy.  Buck made a steel shoe I could sink into the pot; that shoe keeps this crabapple wood aloft and vertical.  That natural topiary form went back into this year’s winter pot. Dressed in glass drops and lights, it whisks any inclination to focus on the garage doors away.  The clear drops reflect the predominate color of the Michigan winter season-white gone blue grey.

Fresh cut eucalyptus which is dried, preserved, and whitewashed takes on the color of whatever weather rules the day.   On a grey winter day, it read blue-white.  On a sunny day, it reads green, thinly washed with white.  The large leaves make a big statement from a distance.  That blue-white color gets reinforcement from the blue green of the noble fir-and from the greyed down orange of the brick. The relationship of this soft orange to the whitewashed eucalyptus?  There is enough murmuring going on to create a hubbub.  The white bricks-a little punctuation aided and abetted by the snow.  I really like how this looks.

The centerpieces have elements that cannot be seen from afar-they are too subtle.  I do not mind this. I like a ways away look that is surprisingly different than the up close look.  I like everything about this.  The blue green noble fir dusted in snow.  The frosted euc. The wispy centerpieces you need to get much closer to.  The reflections of the landscape, blued by the winter,  in the glass. The windows dressed in their cooly taupe paint-I like everything that is going on here.

OK, we are up close now.  Tall faux frosted branches are kept company by honesty picks, fluttering all around.   Honesty, a common name for money plant, is not a plant you would want to put in your garden, unless you had miles and acres for it to run.  But clear faux honesty provides sparkle to these winter containers without introducing any color. They reflect the color of the moment.

The Francesca pots flanking the front door get the same treatment. Repeating an idea gives that idea weight and substance. What do I love the best about these winter pots?  They may have little to no color but for the light of the day.  But they have sufficient mass.

The winter is not my favorite season.  It is hard for me to give up the garden. For this reason, I ask a lot from the winter garden.  Enchant me as best you can, please.

This pot shines, in spite of the hand an early winter has dealt.  I may tell you I am a designer, but in fact, I am a poker player.  Some hands win, hands down.  Some hands dead last in a field of 15.  The nature factor-this keeps me coming back for more.

Winter white-it is beautiful, is it not?