The Materials


Let’s suppose you have a great collection of materials.  A truckload of one gallon pots of wildflowers.  50 perennials of 5 kinds in the trunk.  2 flats of groundcover.  10 flowering stems from the garden asking for a vase. A palette loaded with brick.  5 yards of compost. A box of tulip bulbs.  A small tree in the markdown lot at a local nursery. The remains of the branches from a dead tree. A truck load of fallen leaves. A cutting from a rose. A pack or a pound of seed.  The trimmings from a boxwood or yew hedge.  The log rounds from an old tree that had to come down. A collection of galvanized buckets. The cuttings from a rosemary plant. All of those materials may be asking for something to be made for the garden.

cedar-cone-and-grapevine.jpgGreat materials fuel any great garden project.

hardy-hibiscus-stems.jpgAn armload of stalky cuttings from  perennial garden in the process of being cut back for the winter might have a place in a winter display.  Coming up upon the winter season, what can be harvested from the landscape may make the long winter easier to bear. Great materials are also readily available from your local farmer’s market.  Our market features birch poles, red twig dogwood branches, dyed integrifolia, and pine cones. The natural materials available come the end of the gardening season will be the mainstay of my winter containers.


The  genius of natural materials can drive great design, and great work.   Any natural or living material that happens to come into my arms is a call to make something of it..  Making something  of a collection of plants, a pile of dirt, or a group of materials, is one way to describe a gardener.  The byproduct of making a garden is an opportunity to repurpose materials that can carry on and delight into the next season.   In the late fall, gardener make plans to endure the long winter.  Making something beautiful of the garden harvest will make the winter easier to bear.

okra-pods.jpgThe gorgeous cut stems from the dogwood and willow, the garden and the forest floor or the field next door-what will you do with them?  These materials are asking for an expression from you. To follow-a few ideas. My ideas-take from them what you will.  Go on to take those materials, and interpret them how you will. To follow, some stick works that might inspire you to create something all your own.

grapevine-wreath.jpggrapevine wreath

DSC06434stick stacksDec 17 2010 069yellow twig dogwood


Michigan holly

winter-container-arrangements.jpgwinter container arrangements

red-twig-dogwood.jpgred twig dogwood and Michigan holly

bleached-twigs.jpgpainted sticks

copper-curly-willow.jpgcurly copper willow

yellow-twig-dogwood.jpgyellow twig

December 17 2012 019grapevine

mixed-twigs.jpgmixed sticks

native-red-twig-dogwood.jpgnatural red twig

Nov 28 2012 084farm grown red twig

winter-container-arrangements.jpgthe sticks-what will you do with them?


  1. Lisa - Ontario says

    Thank goodness I did my urns Wednesday night by headlight. It is snowing here today, not a little bit either, there is accumulation. I did cut my curly willow, and Japanese fantail willow by headlight as well, and stripped the leaves off to use. My urns are not nearly as nice as yours, but I am glad that they are done since I am living in a winter wonderland at the moment.

    Now what to do with the lily bulbs that didn’t get planted?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lisa, your soil may be crusty, but it can’t be frozen through and through. Get those lily bulbs underground! If you can’t bear to dig the dirt now, pots of soil will do. Nurseries pot up lily bulbs all the time. best, Deborah

  2. JoyceB in Atlanta says

    Such inspiration! Love the loose wreath effect on the pots framing the stems. I may have to resort to spray paint to get pretty branches since I live nowhere near you. I actually did that once, spraying stems a dark orange-y red and then barely touching each stem with gold for a ‘peeling’ effect. Love this post! Simplicity and Creativity = FABULOUS!!!

  3. Paul Michaud says

    Deborah, what fir do you use in your planters I love the way it layers!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Paul, the secret to the layered look is not the fir-it is the use of floral foam that sits up at least 4″ above the rim of the container. This enables you to layer the greens. Frazier fir is horizontal in a bulky way. It layers up quickly. Silver, balsam, and douglas fir are flat, and not so wiry-these branches need support. We sometimes do a bottom layer of Frazier fir, to support the top layers of silver fir. Hope this helps, best, Deborah

  4. John Mazzone in Boston says

    When you use floral foam to layer the greens, I trust that you soak it first?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear John, we use dry floral foam. Sometimes we spray them after arranging them with Vapor gard. best, Deborah

  5. Deborah –
    You are such an inspiration! I have been trying to start a backyard nursery for about 3 years now, but have commitments (elderly parents). Just wanted you to know, that I am changing the direction I am going to take my nursery, and become a “twig farm” with a twist!
    All the best to you during the holidays and beyond. Take care.

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