Mind Your Manners, Please

thekatiepippel.wordpress.com

thekatiepippel.wordpress.com

Some plants make me want to grab them by the scruff of their unruly stems, and lecture them about the importance of good manners. Why is that? I have been gardening long enough to be sensitive to plants whose habits in the garden are unsociable.. Making a garden grow is work. How satisfying it is to see what was in a gardener’s mind’s eye come to life. Not that I need to be in charge. Nature bats last, as they say. Disappointments are one thing, but some plants are brats, and I dislike them interfering with the pleasure I take in my garden. There are those plants that flop over at the slightest insult from wind or rain -as in  these peonies. Some flop open from the center out- -as in every cat mint I have ever grown. I have seen plenty of bearded iris bloom stalks go out of vertical, or flop face down in the dirt.

Asters_uncut_LGThere is an entire industry revolving around the sale of anti flop props for plants. Cages, stakes, wire and what have you. I am a fan of those plants that can handle gravity. I avert my eyes from a garden plant that is slouching, or lying on the ground.

mac cleaya cordata hdpiya.comOther plants that do grow to great heights in defiance of gravity, may rudely annex the land belonging to every neighboring plant, and smother them, like this impressive stand of macleaya cordata.  Then later in the summer, the lower leaves will yellow and drop and by late summer, the entire plant is unsightly. Surely, some giant stalks will eventually come crashing to the ground.  Any other plant you might place in front to cover those legs will eventually be engulfed in more plume poppies.

neil diamond hybrid tea roseHybrid tea roses have blooms that are visually seductive, flashy, even astonishing – but the performance of the plant 52 weeks of the year will make your eyes roll back in your gardening head. They attract bugs, fungus and disease from miles around. Not to mention that these grafted beauties regularly fail over my winters.  There are other ill mannered prima donna plants demanding this and that, and more of everything else you have. Some of these ill mannered plants threaten to die, and do, should they not get looked after just so. Others just look bad no matter what you do for them – how rude. The astonishing end of their bad manners-plant societies are formed in their name by gardeners who are bound and determined to have them – no matter what that entails. Astonishing, how rational and dirt digging gardeners agree to be bossed around by ill mannered plants.

Rogers Gardens dayliliesDaylily flowers come in an astonishing array of colors and shapes these days.  These cultivars with brilliant color, heavy substance and frilly edges from Roger’s Gardens Daylilies are something else. Wow. Gardeners who do not like the strong color and form such as these may choose cultivars with bloom colors and forms that are a little more subdued. This choice is a matter of taste. The only daylily I have ever planted for clients is Goldner’s Bouquet, bred years ago by Al Goldner.  I will plant it, as the bud counts on a mature plant can easy surpass 300, and they do well without much irrigation. Such is their breeding. But all I can really think about when I think daylilies is about the dead and decomposing flower heads that need to be snipped off, every day of the bloom season.  Not to mention that once a clump is done blooming, the current year’s foliage immediately starts yellowing and dying back. How boorish is this behavior?  If you don’t feel like standing out in the garden regularly on a hot August day, pulling dead stalks and individual yellowing or crispy brown leaves from the plants, you have a mess on your hands that can only be helped by cutting back all of the old foliage, and letting the new foliage come on.

russian sage from knecht nurseryThere are some perennial plants that are so unruly you would swear they were weeds. Every year a hybridizer introduces a “smaller growing version” that would permit a gardener with a small garden to have something else besides one Russian sage. Russian sage is a big bully of a perennial whose manners are of the most rudimentary kind. They have an equally uncouth habit in my zone of dying out on one side over the winter. That dead side is invariably facing the kitchen window.

Japanese knotweedSome vulgar plants spread and infect a garden like the cold virus. Japanese knotweed is not ill mannered, it is nasty.

garlic mustardI have been living long enough to spot people who don’t mind their manners.  Everyone has had that skunky smell of bad manners close enough to them to wrinkle their nose, and back away. A discussion of unmannerly people is not a topic I want to pursue, besides saying it is easy to spot them. Would that they could spot themselves! This field of garlic mustard looks rather nice in this photograph-but is is ready and willing to go anywhere and everywhere. Garlic mustard is a plant without any manners whatsoever. Beware.

signaturegardensblogspotcom_phixr-e1405535177987Unmannerly plants have a hand that they have been dealt. They are who they are. It is very hard to separate phlox and monarda from a discussion of mildew. A double peony originally bred for the cut flower trade does not a garden peony make. My advice?  Grow everything you can. Decide which of those plants with less than stellar manners you are willing to make room for. No plant is perfect, although hellebores come close. Pushy plants-beware planting them unless you have a serious containment plan. Invasive plants-avoid them. The spectrum of plants good to grow is big and wide. Grow lots of them, so you can figure out which ruffians you are personally willing to raise.

The Collection

the collection (14)I will admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed constructing this collection of winter wreaths. That they will be boxed and packed away until next fall does not bother me in the least bit. There will be a season for them-to come.  Making them for a time yet to come has made me think about how gardeners invest their energy in a landscape or garden that will bear results some time in the future. Digging in tulip bulbs in unpleasantly cold conditions in late fall for the pleasure that is their blooming months later is a case in point.  It takes time for a seed to germinate, and grow on. Hellebore seeds germinate readily, and unless you are a passionate hybridizer, you can let nature take its course.  But that sprout is many years from its first flower.  And many more years from a handsome mature clump. Most things imagined, worked for, and accomplished in the garden involves time.

the collection (12)No matter what you put to a landscape, you will do the time. There is no getting around this.  I might plant a 10″ caliper beech, but I know it will be 10 years before that beech recovers from the shock of the transplanting process, and starts to grow.  If I plant a 1″ caliper beech, it could be many more than 10 years for that tree to grow to a substantial size. There is no getting around an engagement with the future. The investment in the future of a garden takes planning, lots of grime, and patience. In my own garden, I delight in the things I have done by instinct. I love the texture and smell of dirt. I have patience for nothing, but for my garden. That’s me. Not everyone has an interest in dividends which pay an unspecified rate at some vague date many miles down the road. But by and large, I find gardeners are willing to invest themselves in a process of growing on that may take many seasons to bear fruit. I see evidence of this all the time. I think this willingness to bet on the future of a landscape is a characteristic I really admire.

the collection (15)Those gardeners who think through a landscape design, and sign up for installing that dreamboat of a garden one shovel full at a time – bravo. I know plenty of gardeners who have moved mountains with a spoon. The garden they hope will be is all about the promise of the future. No wonder spring is that season that delights every gardener. The work of the previous year is one year older.  All of us who garden have a common bond. We dig as though we only have 10 minutes to live.  And then we wait.

the collection (16)The waiting can be next to impossible to endure. There are those who keep on gardening, as if possessed, even when the day is done, and the sky is dark. There are those who plant a whip of a tree, and watch it, as if they could not bear to change the channel.  I do not know any gardener who is happy about waiting.  But wait, they do.

the collection (17)This wreath, which took an inordinate amount of time to design, and an endless amount of time to make, might be my favorite of this January series. I love seeing the grapevine structure, upon which all else is built.  The bleached acorn tops and the preserved baby’s breath  are just about the same color. The acorn tops are some lighter than the gyp. I cannot really explain how this arrangement of color and textures speaks to me-but there is no need. It is all there, to be seen. Look quick, as Sunne is ready to box this up, and put it in storage.

the winter wreaths (6)After taking this outside to photograph it, I hung it back up on a wreath hanging suction cup affixed to the glass of my office door. At the end of the day, I came back to my office.  The suction cup had given way, and this wreath was face down on the floor. There is damage that will take a lot of time to repair. This is no different than all of the disappointments that dog gardeners routinely. Any investment can sour. Will I repair this wreath due to debut next fall-oh yes I will.

the collection (6)I have so enjoyed having my hands on a group of natural materials, and arranging them as I see fit. The making is all about the pleasure of this moment.  As a gardener, the moment I put my shovel to the ground is as sweet as it gets. I am happy to report that I am in that winter sweet space, having a great time.

the collection (7)wreath detail

the collection (10)wreath with dried limes

the collection (11)wreath detail

the winter wreaths (11)winter wreath

the wreaths (16)split pine cone wreath detail

the collection 24the beginning of the series

grapevine wreathI have one grapevine wreath left to go.  You can see the bare bones. I have hopes it will be the best of this series.

 

 

Making It Personal

custom (1) This January, I am spending some time making wreaths. I did not have the time for it in November or December, but late is better than next year. I enjoy all manner of making, whether it be a garden, a garland, a flower arrangement, a container planting,  a drawing of a landscape design, or the building a moss topiary sculpture. There is a lot of personal satisfaction in what I can make with my hands. Two hands driven by what I call reverie are hands at work-this I like.  A call for all hands on deck is routine for me, in the spring, summer, fall, and early winter. During the gardening season I need help. Hands on can be an adjective, but for me it is a way of professional life. Making wreaths in January does not involve gear, dirt, shovels, weather or others. I can be on my own. I can make them wearing my slippers. I can walk away when I want, and resume when I feel like it. I asked Sunne when the shop was due to close January 9 if she would please leave all of the grapevine, magnolia, and honeysuckle wreath forms, and all of our natural materials on the ground floor. All of what we had left from the fall and winter season is packed away on the tool room roof, but I have 25 square feet of materials not far from my layout table. I am delighted with this arrangement.

custom (2)A wreath requires an armature.  I do not make these grapevine wreaths, I buy them.  Though they are handmade, they are remarkably similar, one wreath to the next. There are those places where this plain hand made grapevine wreath would be perfectly stunning. But they could be just as beautiful as the beginning of something else.  Tinkering involves a span of time, and a pair of hands in concert with a point of view.

custom (3)Why be personal? I doubt I truly need to address this in any detail. Any personal expression is genuine. Any genuine expression is to be at least respected, if not admired.

DSC_3871I have always strongly subscribed to the notion that one can find interesting and noteworthy examples of personal expression anywhere and everywhere. But that aside, the best part of making something is the making.  It is absorbing and satisfying. That someone else might like or appreciate it is not the cake part of this. That would be the icing part. Cake with no icing tastes just as good as cake with icing.

DSC_3869
January is the perfect time to make something that takes a long time to fuss over. As a gardener, it always seems like the winter stretches out in front of with, with no end in sight.  It’s good to have a project that benefits from having a lot of time for the making.
wreath making (2)A landscape design that looks rushed on paper will look even more rushed once it is implemented. A request for design during the garden season doesn’t always come with the luxury of a lot of time. A shorter amount of time means a need for a greater amount amount of focus and discipline. January offers the opportunity to be less focused on the end result, and more focused on the pleasure of the process. I welcome the reverie time.

wreath making (3)whitewashed acorn caps

wreatha layer of preserved gypsophila

wreath making (5)I am not sure if either of these are finished, as I don’t have to be sure. I have them hanging where I can continue to look at them. Maybe something else will occur to me.

wreath making (1)This is the wreath I am working on now. A few days ago, I removed the pair of split pinecones in the top center.  That took a fair amount of time, and they were both wired and glued in. But I had the time. It occurred to me that the cut surface of the pine cones would be more interesting than the intact surface. So I took that time.

wreath making (6)putting up the split sides

wreath making (7)My winter holiday comes after the holiday.

 

At A Glance: The Holiday At Home

holiday lighting (2)My holiday at home came very late in December. I do not even think of decking out my own home for winter until all of my work is done. That only seems fair. Buck and I are both used to the last minute nature of our holiday. This December 23rd, I was so glad to see my crew driving up and unloading what would hold down my landscape for the winter. Fortunately, the weather was so mild that the installation went fast. They were working. I was breathing a big sigh of relief.

holiday lighting (3)The Branch Studio people made short work of constructing and hanging the garland. As I like the garland hung straight across the top, we attach that section to a bamboo pole. The pole gets attached to the wall via screws that are set in the mortar, and concrete wire looped around the pole.

holiday lighting (4)the finish at the front door

December 23, 2015 004one of the four cast iron pots original to the house that are visible from the street.

holiday lighting (5)I have a very formal landscape. The tenor of the seasonal display is in sharp contrast to that sober and spare landscape. The contrast here is in form. The pots and garland are loosely made, and not all that formal. Contrast is a very important element in design. Too much of the same can be monotonous at best, or overwhelming at worst. Contrast makes each element look better. There is a lot of green here, but the textures vary.

holiday lighting (6)The grapevine garland is wound with lights. This will help to keep my porch well lit over the winter months.

holiday lighting (7)at dusk

holiday lighting (10)night light

holiday lighting (9)My front porch is lighted as best I can. If I have company coming,I want the way to the front door to be brightly lit. If I have a winter ahead of me, I want some entertainment and pleasure from the dormant landscape.

holiday lighting (8)Pots that are full up for the winter, and warmly lit make the quiet and dark a little easier to bear.