At A Glance: The Last Of October

Oct 25 013                                                 Tilia Cordata

Oct 30a 007                         Acer Platanoides “Princeton Gold”

Oct 26 005                                            seeds Cornus Kousa

 Oct 30a 009                                               Parrotia Persica

Oct 27a 011                                                            Vitis

 Oct 27 022                                     Betula Utilis var. Jacquemontii

Oct 26 022                                   Acer Platanoides “Princeton Gold”

Oct 26 007                                            Acer Platanoides

Oct 30a 004                                               Acer Platanoides

Oct 26 016                                         Magnolia x “Yellow Butterflies”

Halloween Eve

Oct 7a 005Outfitting an antique iron urn with a life size Halloween sculpture of the wicked witch of the west was my client’s idea. I think she is as wild about Halloween as her kids; she has a whimsically good spirit about her.  So why not?  Lauren, who is young enough to be able to locate and shop on line with lightening speed, found me a a posable standing aluminum mannekin covered in foam, with a polyester stretch knit covering.  This figure was just waiting for an identity.  The adjustable aluminum pole enabled us to set the height of the sculpture properly in the urn.  The base plate went into the urn, and was stablilized with granite setts piled over top of it.

Oct 9 008Her vehicle was fashioned from a sharpened hickory fence pole, to which we attached black plastic grass; voila, a a suitably creepy broomstick.  The gearshift knob is a stick ball, which I loaded with threads of industrial strength hot melt glue.  For all the world it looks like she just flew through an industrial strength spider web. Or perhaps she has pet spiders that like go everywhere with her.

Oct 7a 014Apparently you can buy Halloween costumes in adult sizes. The outfit came complete with a suitably pointy hat with a tulle band, and the most fabulous pair of  witchy shoes with flared heels and buckles.  The striped socks and  dirty chartreuse garden gloves came from Lauren.  This girl is dressed to kill.  

Oct 9 010Her face is ghoulishly green perfection.  We mechanically fastened the mask to the head of the mannequin; any part of the sculpture going askew as a result of our unpredictable October weather would not be good.   One ping pong ball split in two is the basis for the eyes.  They bulge out of the vinyl eye sockets in a terrifying way; Lauren painted on the chartreuse eyeballs, and exploded capillaries. Warty pumpkins and gourds cover the base plate.  The decapitated fabric dolls-some with mini-pumpkin heads, are an especially gruesome touch.

Oct 9 012A few finishing touches to the surrounding landscape, and our witch was ready for Halloween.  This yard is decked out in spectacular anticipation of Halloween night.  The whole process of the installation stopped traffic; lots of people like the fun that is Halloween. Oct 7a 017Her hemp fiber hairdo befits her; hemp stuffed into her hat makes the most of that pointed shape. Though I have not devoted too much time here to the construction, I chose all of the materials to start with the idea that rain and wind would not disturb them. Of course we had both the day after the installation.  That polyester outfit shed the water, the tulle hat band held with water droplets to good effect.  She has been flying across the yard for the better part of three weeks-looking good.  

Oct 30 117The night sky changes the appearance of everything. As is evident in the above picture taken last night, there will be a prominent moon tomorrow; I am always appreciative whenever nature cooperates.

Oct 28 007The night light makes her appear all the more scary and threatening.  Uplighting is the most garish and unattractive light possible in a landscape; this is working to great advantage here. 

Oct 28 006
Scardy cats, beware!

A More Friendly Halloween

2008 Vlasic, Paul HALLOWEEN 10-31-08 (2)

These massive stone columns have another life this week; these ghosts have the look of a pair of running backs from the NFL.  The kids did not pick up on this-any big expression is a good expression.  Painting pumpkins is a good way to extend your holiday season; carved pumpkins deteriorate fast. A simple rendering of a face is a strong one; these ghouls look plain scared by the spiders drawing near.  The kids got this part, loud and clear.   

Prowse #2 (6)
One client whose landscape was designed by me features a center planting area perfect for seasonal vignettes.  The walkway enclosing it on all four sides makes for theatre in the round.  The granite wall-Rob and I built this ourselves, many years ago, one heavy stone at a time.  I remember this experience as if it were yesterday.  I am pleased it still looks great some fifteen years later.  

Prowse #2 (7)
Given that the space is large, I needed lots of elements, set at different heights. The textured pots you see here are liners for wire tree forms.  These liners are made from recycled asphalt and cardboard, ground up and poured into molds made in the 1940’s.  They make great rustic and inexpensive containers for special events.

Prowse #2 (3)
I have never forgotten the young person working for one of my clients in Indianapolis who thought “Hardy Mums” was a person running for office.  He saw the signs everywhere, and connected his own personal set of dots.  Every time I see a sign for hardy mums from the road, I laugh all over again.   Given that this scene was a big one, I bought the biggest hardy mums I could find in tight bud, and planted them in fiber pots.  Hardy Mums for President-what do you think?

Prowse (3) The centerpiece of my vignette-a straw scarecrow.  He is not very scary-the crows are perched all over him. The clothes and boots were contributed from the lot of us; the face got painted on a pillowcase.  His hat-some left over erosion mat from a hydroseeding job on a slope. He is one hundred percent straw stuffed-as he should be.  The corn shocks add height, and set our fall figure down-he looks pleased to be settled in where he is.  A hedge of gazanias knits everything together.

Prowse #2 (2)

This vignette is all about the growing and farming, the land, the harvest, and the garden, in a very gentle way.  Not every Halloween needs to be about terror.  Very young children can be easily frightened-I try not to get ahead of them.  There is plenty of time time for them to grow up into a love for skeletons dripping fake blood and severed plastic fingers littering the ground.
Prowse (2)
I have a soft spot for this blue-eyed scarecrow and his crow friends.  Perched on an embarassment of riches in straw and pumpkins, he is the centerpiece of this sunny fall display.  Happy Halloween.

October Light

Oct 25 012The fall is the perfect time to talk about light as an element of design in the landscape. How, when and where the sun shines, dramatically influences the visual impact of any landscape or garden.  October light in Michigan is cold and low in the sky. Uneven or carved surfaces are cast in sharp relief. Any shadows cast will be dramatically elongated.  A client choosing a smooth surfaced ornament for their garden should be happy for a subtle light rendering; if not, choosing ornament with some more graphic surface variation might be in order.

Oct 25 029I could write on into the next decade about how light is the engine that gets  any outdoor space moving.  One of my favorite parts of my Michigan gardening life is how the light can make the appearance of everything change, from hour to hour, and day to day, and season to season. The contrast of light and dark in a garden is its heartbeat.  In October, the trees coloring up are all the more dramatic for  the ignition supplied by that intensely pale light.  Its worth thinking about the degree of shade a tree or shrub will cast in a landscape.  A densely shady area is all the more dramatic with a pocket pool of light behind it. Plan for dark spaces close to your view, with light spaces in the distance.   

Oct 26 010The spring leaves emerging on my Princeton gold maples cannot hold a candle to their yellow fall fire. I am a photographer whose lack of  understanding about the mechanics of photography is considerable.  So I watch the light.  When it suffuses every element in a garden such that the color in my pictures, or the feeling of my pictures,  will be saturated-that is the time I photograph. I record; I do not have the skills to generate. It is hard to believe this collection of  these maple yellow leaves produces such dense shade underneath; the grey cedar fence appears black by way of contrast, and almost disappears.

Oct 25 025Our thin rod steel spheres permit the view of your choice through to the landscape. How they interact with a garden is the best part about them.  Imagine this view in the winter, the early spring, the early summer, the high summer, the fall; you get the idea. Add light to the mix, and your possible visual combinations increase considerably.  Garden ornament interests me greatly, given how it offers me a sense of solidity, and steadfast longevity, against the ever changing landscape. 

Oct 25 037The bright flat October sun sets all it touches on fire.  The greens are all that much more electrically green; the reds glow red. If you are looking to see the rhythm established by the masses of light and dark in your landscape, look quick now before the leaves fall. There is instruction coming from the natural world every day, should you care to tune in.

Oct 25 043The color of these pansies speaks softly in the spring.  The fall light intensifies and electrifies the appearance of their color.   On my best days, I think about how the light will fall on a landscape in every season, as this should  influence how I place every plant or object.

 Oct 27a 006

No annual or perennial in my garden has color quite like this.  It interests me that at the moment the color of the leaves of this Boston ivy flares brightly, the leaves are also beginning to decompose.  Life and death inextricably intertwined. Though my idea of hell places me in a history of philosophy classroom, I have no problem walking outside, and observing what is going on. Oct 27a 004

Those brightly cold moments in October forecast the dormant season on the way. The light is bluish; it throws everything silhouetted against it black. The soft grey of the bark of my lindens reads flat black in the fall.  It’s the quality of the light transforming a landscape you thought you knew,  into something you have not seen before.

Oct 25 046
This cabbage leaf shed from its plant is plastered on the concrete in a fall rain.  The cool light records the dropping of the leaves; it takes you and I to wake up and see it.  The smooth green stem gone a grief stricken  pale grey reads graphically against the wet dark pavement.  This is a different version of October light.

Oct 26 017
This last stage of the flowers of my hydrangeas, bathed in October light-so beautiful. Maybe more beautiful than the height of their bloom.  They look so dignified, as they gracefully dry, quietly accepting the closing of the season. The October light makes an operatic production of this process, does it not? I would encourage you-see the light.