The last two nights the temperatures have been in the high forties and low fifties. Great. I am on the deck last night- in my fleece-having a glass of wine, and contemplating the end of summer. My plants in my pots have gone from gorgeous to grumpy. What to do? The topiary sculptures I make from natural materials in the fall and winter help me face the 6 months we have coming up in Michigan when the garden is dormant. The sculptures are set in dry florist’s foam-I use the John Henry brand. This sculpture, made from a dyed and preserved grass, preserved reindeer moss, and paper dogwood flowers, helps me to bring the beauty of the garden indoors.
Glass can make great containers for sculptures. This vase by the Parisian artist Vanessa Mittrani is filled with white sand to give it weight. I seal the sand in the vase with a giant blob of hot melt glue, and wedge the foam in the top. Paper hydrangeas, mini-roses, and paper covered wire make for a sassy little something that reminds me of the garden. The purple paper hydrangeas bring out the purple/rust color of the wire in the glass.
I consider paper a natural material, since it comes from trees. This combination of paper hydrangea petals, and diminuitive paper daisies describe a classic topiary cone shape. The flowery pompom at the top is constructed from individual dried bleached seed pods.
Integrifolia is a plant native to Australia, and probably other places as well. The leaves hold tight to the stems for a long time; they also take dye beautifully. This topiary began with individual leaves glued to a spherical form in a pattern reminiscent of an artichoke. As I worked towards the bottom, I reversed the curve on the individual leaves for more volume. The very bottom of the sphere is stuck with short branches just a few inches in length. Preserved reeds bowing out from a twig trunck make for a stem; the base is covered in preserved green seedheads.
Paper roses on paper covered wires are a delicate contrast to the heft of dried okra pods.
This very large scale sculpture has twigs and short birch branches for a centerpiece; the collar was constructed of fresh southern magnolia leaves. Magnolia dries beautifully, and lasts a long time.
The science of preserving natural materials has become quite sophisticated. I for one would never have a house plant. I am happy for the season where I am not a plant caretaker. An object like this demands nothing from me; I just look. The reindeer moss in a color they call spring green is my idea of good color.
These steel leaves are by no means a natural material, but they describe one. The base was buttered with ceramic tile mastic, and embedded with tiny shells. The stainless steel wire is difficult to handle; I usually have to get help from a second pair of hands to glue it in.
This whimsical topairy makes use of two bird’s nests made of various natural materials, sandwiched together. I buy these long stems covered with hundreds of chocolate seeds. After taking the seeds from the stem, I glued the individual seeds onto this base.
I call this a presentation box. The box itself is a photo box meant to hold 8 x 10 photographs. Should the box never have anything in it, it will still be fun to look at.
My landscape superintendent gave me a book on crop circles. I am embarassed to say I had never heard of them. This sculpture I made was motivated by my excitement about those circles. I stuffed the pocket created by gluing two magnolia leaves together with all manner of dried snippets from the garden. I scratched my own version of a crop circle into the magnolia leaf around a hole in the leaf. Today I will cut some limelight hydrangeas pinking in the cool weather to dry. Okay, its September in Michigan.