A Very Merry Celebration

WJ 2014   (7)Rob has lots of clients for who he designs and constructs holiday and winter arrangements. Most of them feature light in one form or another.  One particular client that with whom he shares a great rapport contacts him in early November every year about a holiday scheme.  They are thick as thieves for weeks, planning. Years ago she bought his first light ring, made from a vintage wheel. The result of their collaboration is always beautiful. It is a testament to what good things can come from a long standing design relationship based on respect and exchange.

WJ 2014   (11)Holiday elements that have been part of her collection for some time are remixed every year.  There are those people who like the holiday the same every year, and those who like to change it up.  Change doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning old materials for new.  It means a willingness to re imagine.  One thing the two of them share is a big love of the holiday season.  It shows in the work.  I asked her if I could post pictures of this year’s holidays-she said yes. Some are her pictures, and some are Rob’s.  Though no picture could truly do justice to the work, you’ll  get the gist of it.  WJ 2014   (9)bottom lit container

WJ 2014   (5)light rings

WJ 2014   (1)light rings after dark

WJ 2014   (13)holiday chandelier

WJ 2014   (10)12 foot red flocked Christmas tree

WJ 2014   (12)lighted red flocked wreath

WJ holiday 7another holiday tree

WJ 2014   (4)view from the rear yard terrace

WJ 2014   (3)lighted spheres

WJ 2014   (2)looking out to the lake

WJ holiday 9After dark-how striking is this?

At A Glance: Recent Winter Containers

SC winter 2014  2A lot of work has been done this past week.  Seeing this group of pictures, I am pleased that each one has a presence all its own. In showing the draft of this post to Rob, he asked me to click on the first picture, which opens that picture in a larger format, with the added option of viewing the pictures as a slide show. I had no idea-did you?

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Michigan Holly

ilex-verticillata-berries.jpgIlex verticillata is a deciduous holly that goes by many common names.  We call it Michigan holly, or winter berry. They say it is fairly easy to grow, but my my experience was not that successful.  It is easy to spot when Michigan holly is thriving.  The branches are loaded with dense clusters of bright red berries that are visible from a long ways away.  They ask for a soil that is fairly moisture retentive, even swampy. There are newish cultivars that have especially bright red berries. Winter Red is a recommended cultivar for our zone.  It is a strong growing mult stemmed shrub that matures to 8 or 9 feet tall.

Michigan-holly.jpgThe berries make it worth growing.  But if you do not have space for such a large shrub, growers harvest and sell bunches of the berried branches in late fall.  They are beautiful in fresh holiday arrangements that only need last for a week or two.  Indoors, the berries will eventually rot and drop from house heat.  Outdoors, they are longer lasting. Up until a few years ago, I almost always opted for faux berries in winter pots.  Though the color of a berry pick cannot begin to approximate the color of the real thing, they could be counted on to last the whole winter.  Once we started spraying our winter berry with Vapor Gard, our success improved dramatically.  The berries stayed put, and stayed plump well into February. Vapor Gard is a professional grade anti desiccant which is only available in a gallon concentrate. Premixed wilt pruf in a spray bottle will help too.  Be sure to soak the berries when there is no threat of rain, and let them dry.

Michigan holly (2)A client for whom the holiday isn’t right without winter berry branches reports that in mid to late January, the birds discover the berries.  One by one, they begin to disappear. The birds raiding the berries is a treasured part of his holiday experience.

Michigan holly (3)berried holiday containers

Michigan holly (4)winter berry

Michigan holly (6)This container has 6 bunches of Michigan holly in it.  Bunches available at our farmer’s market come bunched together with a rubber band.  We do not take the bunches apart- this disturbs too many berries.  A bamboo stick inserted into the bottom of the bunch is what goes in the foam in the container. Michigan holly is beautiful, but it needs to be handled with care.

Michigan holly (7)Red berries in a lighted container will look like fire when the daylight wanes.

fierySee what I mean?

 

Sunday Opinion: Good Hands

hanging-a-garland.jpgWatching this garland go up yesterday, it occurred to me that the real story of our holiday landscaping is about the people who make it all happen.  Rob, Sunne, Monica, Christine, Shannon, Scott and Margarita make sure that Detroit Garden Works is stocked with every material we might need. From fresh cut great quality greens,branches and cones, picks in every conceivable color and style, lighting both stock and custom made, to zip ties and bamboo poles in bulk, this wide range of materials makes it possible to put a look together.  If you shop at Detroit Garden Works, you probably have put the names with the faces, as they do such a great job of interacting with people.

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The people who work for the landscape design and installation division, Deborah Silver and Co, work behind the scenes. They do all the fabrication, and installation of our projects.  It may be startling that a group of people who know how to lay out a landscape, plant, and finish an installation know how to construct and install winter and holiday containers and garlands, but they do.  Each one of the eight of them has their particular strengths. To their great credit, they all know how to work well with one another to bring a project to life. They certainly deserve the lion’s share of the credit for everything we do.

holiday-garland.jpgThe columns are quite beautiful.  They did not need anything in the way of decoration. My preference was that the garland would seem to drop at the outside edge of the porch roof. The fascia would need enough screws and concrete wire to hold the heavy garland.  Owen and David, who usually take the lead in an installation, added a pair of vinyl covered steel poles at either end. This would provide an armature that would take the garland wide of the columns.

holiday-garlands.jpgFour people and 4 pairs of hands made the business of getting the garland aloft a graceful and fairly quick affair.  All of the design and fabrication issues had been dealt with in the garage. All of the installation issues were reviewed and planned on the ground. It was easy to locate the center of the porch roof.  The dentil molding on the underside of the overhand was symmetrical.  This garland would be hung in the center first, and then progressively, out to each edge.

holiday-garlands.jpgEveryone involved with hanging the garland could rely on the integrity of the fabrication. The top, bottom and front face of the garland was clearly marked.  The plug for the lights was on the left side, as the only exterior electrical outlet was on that side. Every element, even those we attach on long wires to permit rearranging, were securely attached.

holiday-garland.jpgIt was a pleasure to watch the four of them work. While we 5 were on this installation, 3 people were in the garage, working on our next project.

holiday-pots.jpgWe did put lighted winter containers on the porch, on either side of the door.  The porch roof makes this a dark spot, in spite of a ceiling fixture. A pair of wire baskets were lined with moss sheeting, and filled with mulch and soil.  The centerpieces were comprised of several bunches of cut pussy willow. Fresh cut magnolia and gold poly mesh  added another layer of interest.  AG does most of our exterior lighting and hookups.  A strand of lights tucked behind the magnolia would light the pussy willow at night.  A strand of garland lights would illuminate the mixed noble and silver fir. An extension cord was place right next to the step up into the house, and covered with a door mat, for safety’s sake.

garland-detail.jpgThe garland detail

holiday-decorating.jpgA pair of pots with boxwood had been on the top tier of the stair pillars.  We moved them down one level, so all four pots would be visible from the street.

holiday-garden.jpgThe crew that made and installed this garland is a highly skilled crew indeed. They have expanded their skills in ways of which I am very proud. We have worked together a long time, and it shows.

night-light.jpgMy clients sent me this picture last night. They are pleased, and so are we.