Archives for November 2014

The Holiday Outdoors

holiday (1)As much as I like representing the holiday season in the garden, I like getting ready for it in the garage. Our garage space is large; we can set up a pop up fabrication shop that even Buck would like.  The approach to the work comes first. It is key to doing a job efficiently, and successfully.  We had a garland to make for a holiday installation.  Dan Prielipp from Prielipp Greenhouses, a long time supplier at the Oakland County Farmer’s market, custom makes our mixed fir garland. We find that concolor, noble and douglas fir holds up the best and the longest of all the possible garland greens.  We stretch out the garland on a series of cardboard boxes we save especially for this purpose.  This brings the garland up to a height that is comfortable to work on.  We split the garland in half, and reattach the pieces such that the vertical parts of the garland both left and right side have branches that face up. Branches up one side, and down the other offends my sense of symmetry.  Upfacing branches will eventually respond to gravity, and open up. Open branches are more volumetric.  Branches hung down will close as they loose their moisture.

holiday (2)We add noble fir where we think the garland needs more presence-these new boughs are attached with zip ties.  We loosely wire and attach groups of pine cones to the garland.  This is not a job to do on a ladder.  All we will do on the ladder is wire the finished garland in place.  Working on a flat surface helps to establish the front face of the garland. Once the groups of cones are attached, we wrap the garland with grapevine.  Rob makes sure we have loads of these 35 foot long rolls in stock for the winter season.  The grapevine was cut and rolled when fresh.  When dry, these branches are wiry, and keep their circular shape no matter the weather.

holiday (3)The grapevine, rolled generously over the surface of the garland, is beautiful in its own right.  But it also provides an armature upon which lots of other elements of the garland can be attached. I like garland that has is airy, and has a sculptural shape.  The faux berries and glass ornaments of this garland were attached to nthe grapevine, not the garland.  More importantly, we attached brown corded 100 count light strands to the grapevine.  This placement will illuminate the garland at night.  Lights wound around the greens are too close to assembly to properly illuminate it.  I like to get the lights out there, over and above the garland.

holiday (4)Any materials that go outdoors have to be prepared to deal with freeze, and thaw.  Every glass ornament we attached to the greens in the containers needed to be sealed with glue.  Any water that would get inside and freeze would wreak havoc.  The big idea here?  Any element going in the garden for the holidays needs to be water tight, and securely attached.  Take the time.  The time it takes me to stake up a flopping Annabelle hydrangea or delphinium in bloom is 7 times the time it takes to put the plant supports in early on.  Why this concern about the time it takes?  Every gardener needs some free time to enjoy the results of the work they have done.   holiday (5)

The garland got wired up in no time.  For those of you who are afraid to put a screw into an exterior wall, I would suggest that the potential damage to the integrity of the wall from such a slight act is minimal.  Hanging screws make hanging a garland simple.  The peace of mind knowing that garland will stay put is well worth those little holes.  My advice?  Don’t fret over some holes in the wall 1/8 inch in diameter. Give your attention to the bigger picture.

holiday (7)A holiday expression in the garden takes some effort.  Minimize the effort with a construction plan.  Good planning can make the effort well worth the reward.  This weekend promises milder temperatures. Get out there.  Your family, friends, and community will appreciate it. Driving home tonight, I see so many houses in my neighborhood with holiday lighting ablaze. Love that.  The installation of this project took only 2 hours.  The centerpieces and greens were arranged ahead.  The garland was road ready on delivery. There is no need to stand outside in cold weather longer than necessary.

holiday (8)This client likes red at the holidays.  Integrifolia dyed red is perfect for her pots.  The red glass dots enliven the greens.  The garland lights will make the container glow, after hours.  Red in December shines.

DSC_6742My crew spent a lot of time getting this project ready for installation. It was better than a day’s work.  There was a lot of talk between them about the look of the finish.  This I like. They review everything we do, and talk to me about it.  The review from my crew-I treasure that moment. Work is one thing, but reflection and appreciation is better.  Make, furiously. Reflect.  Remake, or stand pat.  Wade into the process.  Enjoy every step of the way. Do more than you thought to do.  Be generous. This is how I would describe garden making.

holiday (9)Brown corded lights attached to grapevine

holiday (6)red integrifolia centerpieces

holiday (10)A holiday landscape is a landscape for a moment.  The winter celebration-delightful.

 

Sparkle, Anyone?

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My first introduction to sparkle may have been a dress my Mom wore to a New Year’s Eve party at the Whitney in the 50’s. The fabric was woven from metallic thread in white gray and black.  The dress was shimmery.  At some point I would have seen a sequined ball gown, or black patent leather shoes.  Sparkly fabrics and materials were reserved for formal evening events, when the daylight had vanished, and the party lights were dialed down low.  Sparkly materials pick up and reflect whatever light there is available. Sparkling materials seem to glow or shine from within.  In any event, all things sparkly, metallic, shimmery and glittery suggest celebration.  Sparkle at this time of year is a pleasure to the eye.

winter sparkle (8)The transition from the fall to the winter season is marked the coming of the cold, and the dark.  If I drive home from work at 5:30, it is dark.  If I drive in to work at 7am, it is dark.  November and December cold is bearable. But the dark can be daunting.  Winter container arrangements and outdoor holiday decor that incorporates a little sparkle will read better in low light. This is a holiday season, meaning there is cause to celebrate.  The copper curly willow, magnolia and boxwood in this arrangement have a glossy surface that reflects the light.  The poly mesh fabric is shot through with a gold thread every so often.  Arranging it in multiple curves and layers present lots of metallic surface area to the available light.

winter sparkle (12)Most of the green in my garden is long gone, but for the evergreens.  Needled evergreens present as little in the way of surface area to winter sun and winds-this helps them to conserve whatever moisture they have stored to survive the winter. I don’t expect or get sparkle from evergreen boughs, unless I have sprayed them with wilt pruf or vaporgard.  These waxy antidessicants will impart some shine to your cut evergreens. Burt there are other ways to introduce a little sparkle.  If you use artificial holiday picks in your outdoor containers, test them first.  A dunk in a glass of water will tell you just about instantly whether the material is suitable for outdoor use.

holiday-sparkle.jpgPoly mesh is not a natural material.  It is just what the name says it is.  It will have the same springy shape in March that it has now. Plenty of companies make plastic ornaments for outdoor use at the holidays, but glass ornaments are fine. We all have windshields, don’t we?  If I use glass ornaments outdoors, I glue on and seal the caps.  As long as you can keep water outside of the ornament, you should be fine.  Natural Michigan holly is notorious for dropping its berries fairly quickly.  A thorough soaking with vapor gard will add lots of gloss to that gorgeous red, and help prevent berry drop.

holiday sparkleSparkle comes in an incredible variety of textures.  Glittered picks reflect lots of light.  Plastic sprayed with a metallic coating glows.  Ornaments coated in glass or plastic beads refract an incredible amount of light.  Anodized aluminum wire comes in a wide variety of colors. Some paper wrapped metallic picks will survive the winter outdoors-as long as there is no rain.  Only snow. Snow resistant is much different than water resistant.  Should you have lots of rain in November and December, an acrylic sealer might help you out.

winter sparkle (17)We did this pair of Branch tapers for holiday and winter today. The topiary forms were wound with lights after I took this picture.  The big leaves of preserved silver eucalyptus reflect a lot of light. Lots of black picks with rhinestone dots will reflect the natural and artificial light.  Lots of the frasier fir boughs have small shiny gray ornaments wired to the tips.

DSC_6670There are lots of opportunities for sparkle here.  Located at the end of the driveway, these will transform and reflect the available winter light many times over.

winter sparkle (16)This third pot is located under the under hang, and will never get much in the way of light.  The silver glittered sticks in the center will make the most of whatever light is available.  I have clients for whom natural materials are the materials of choice.  Others like a little sparkle.  The best part of decorating the garden is that so many materials are available, anyone can assemble a group of materials that perfectly expresses their own individual idea of the holiday.

winter sparkle (6)The pale gold metallic picks in several heights, the cream and gold sinamay, and the pale gold pine cones in this pot are rather subdued in this pot during the day.  Come dark, the garland lights on the topiary form will create a whole lot of sparkle.

winter sparkle (14)Glass is a highly reflective material. There are enough shapes, sizes, and colors of glass ornaments to inform countless different holiday designs outdoors.

holiday sparkle.jpgIn a dark interior room, glass ornaments will gently shimmer.  The plastic bead garlands pictured here come in a 30 foot length for 6.00. They can create a lot of holiday cheer, for not so much of an investment.

holiday-containers.jpgI have yet to see a landscape visually harmed by a little sparkle at the holidays.  This is the time of year when a little celebration seems just right.

magnolia-wreath.jpgMy favorite part of this magnolia holiday wreath?  The pale chocolate string ribbon-shimmering.

 

At A Glance: One Stem At A Time

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All of these winter containers came to be, one stem at a time. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoy the process.

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one at a time (2)one glass drop at a time.

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DSC_6573Lots of the pots pictured above were done by Rob. I learned from him how to slow down, and work one stem at a time.  He is confident enough to let a design evolve.  Nothing hurries him.  My advice?  Don’t hurry.  Take one step at a time.  Have fun.  Be challenged. Go ahead. Our 2014 winter and holiday container construction is underway-I hope yours is too.

One Stem At A Time

LH winter 2014 (1)Some winter containers ask for a centerpiece. Small containers may not have room for lots of materials in them, stuck one stem at a time. A centerpiece only occupies a few inches of space in a container – the bamboo pole and all that is attached to it, driven down into the soil, provides all of the structural support.  Some containers ask for height in the center.  A structured centerpiece is a more formal arrangement, as it is visually stable and symmetrical. The centerpieces pictured above were set in a pair of antique French champagne grape crates for safe keeping only, once they were finished. The pots they were destined for are square, and formal.  The placement on a front porch asks for enough height to be seen from the drive.  As for these rectangular crates, they ask for an entirely different construction approach. More on the crates later next week. I like to call this alternative construction the Rob technique.  Every winter and holiday container that he does for a client is deconstructed.  His design evolves, one stem at a time.

LH winter 2014 (2)My client with the formal square pots also has a pair of rectangular pots.  All four are Jackie boxes, made at our company Branch.  A centerpiece in a long box can look awkward and lonely. This client had a particular requirement for white, and light in the containers. We did the greens on the edges of the foam forms, loosely.  All of the other materials would have to be inserted into the foam, one stem at a time.  If a container arrangement asks for a one at a time treatment, the foam in the center may be three pieces thick.  Creativity – we prize that individual expression.  But the most creative work on the planet comes to no good if it goes over.  As Buck would say, the approach to the work is important.

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The center section of this rectangular form was dressed with a strand of garland lights.  Garland lights are spaced very close together on the wire.  One string has 300 lights.  The lights are pinned into place with fern pins.  A large rectangular planter asks for light which is dispersed all along its length, and strong enough to light from below all of the materials that come next. Back and forth-the light string gets set.  The tallest of the stems are stuck deep enough into the foam layers to be stable, and in a roughly formal pattern.

LH winter 2014 (6)Once the lights are pinned to the foam, we turn them on for the entire duration of the construction.  It is important to see how all of the other materials will relate to that light.  For these containers, I stuck white eucalyptus and white leptospermum at different heights.  One stem at a time.  Any project that happens one gesture at a time takes the time it takes to think every gesture through.  No matter how busy we are, Rob takes the time a project needs to be beautiful.  He is an inspiration to me.     LH winter 2014 (8)Constructing a winter container in the privacy of our garage means we can rfethink, fuss, adjust, and rearrange to our heart’s content, before we go live.

LH winter 2014 (15)Once we get to the installation phase, we are done with the creative decisions.  We just mean to install with many months of faithful service in mind.  This arrangement is secured into the soil with pairs of long steel rebar, set at an angle.  The rebar functions as roots. These natural materials are cut. We need to provide for the rooting a live plant will do naturally.

LH winter 2014 (12)The finished container is stuffed with materials that will see the winter through.  Each stem, stuck one at a time.  These clients have an extraordinary appreciation and interest in the landscape.  How I appreciate that they called on me.

LH winter 2014 (13)The smaller square boxes represent strongly – the centrally constructed centerpieces stand behind that formal statement.  Good design takes so many factors into account. Successful design requires the meeting of so many minds.  The client, first and foremost.  The architecture. The space.  The light.

LH winter 2014 (23)I encourage all of my clients to identify materials that appeal to them.  I can plan around an idea.  If you are your own client, take the time to ask the big questions before you set to the task. What do you like?  What you like will greatly inform how you represent the winter season.  There is no need to quit the garden, given the first really hard frost. There is only a need to switch gears a bit.  Michigan has 6 months of winter-we are just beginning to express our rebuttal.

LH winter 2014 (24)These boxes are dressed for the winter. Just how I envisioned them.  I have heard that my client likes them.  I am sure the light in the boxes at night will welcome friends and family.  Whatever manner you choose to envision and decorate your winter landscape-please persist. Great joy accompanies great ideas.

 

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