Twig Time

Our leaves are finally beginning to turn color, and drop. Or drop without having turned color at all, as the case may be.  The grape leaves on the fence were beautiful this morning, with the sunlight coming through.  Once the leaves have dropped, our landscape is much about the twigs, the trunks, the branches and sticks.  This spot will soon be a plane of brown woody vines.    

These hackberry tree branches are fairly representative of what there is to see here in late fall.  This pot has lots and lots of branches in it, but the effect is delicate and subtle.  The color of these branches is what I call winter drab.   But not all branches are created equal. 

Our shipment of fresh cut twigs arrived yesterday.  These are branches of a different sort.  The stems have great color, and form.     The mainstay of our winter container plantings involve natural branches.  Lucky for us, there is a farm that grows shrubs with the specific purpose of harvesting branches.  A twig farm.  Beautiful branches are on my short list of plants I would be happy to farm.  This bale of red bud pussy willow still sports the last of its leaves.  This means we have to do a little stripping.  Who knows the mechanism, but if a branch is cut, it will take lots more time for the leaves to fall.

 I would grow all manner of Salix-most certainly.  Prairie willow.  Japanese fan willow.  Curly willow.  Flame willow. Black willow.  Pussy willow.  I love the willows.  The markedly fasciated fan willow is particularly beautiful.  I would grow a whole host of stoloniferous dogwood-there are lots of beautiful varieties. Cornus sericea Cardinal” is a particularly bright red form of the species dogwood.

Flame willow branches are a particularly beautiful and vibrant shade of orange.  The shrub likes regular moisture, and full sun; it can grow to 20′ tall.  Like most shrubby willows, their shape and leaves are not their long suit.  But the winter color of their branches is spectacular. 

Red bud pussy willow is aptly named.  Branches of this willow will frequently root if stuck in soil in the fall.  This makes these branches a great choice for a fall, winter-and an early spring container planting.  This is one of the few twigs that we purchase both in the fall, and in the spring.  

Fresh cut yellow twig dogwood provides lots of color in the late fall and winter.  The branches are amazingly easy to bend and twist into shape you choose.  The branches make great wreaths; they can easily be formed into topiary shapes.  They retain their color remarkably well, as they dry.

Cardinal red twig is much more vibrant in color than the species.  The best color on any dogwood branch is the current season’s growth.  Stems that mature take on a brown cast as they age.  This brilliant color looks great at the holidays, and throughout our long winter. 

Grapes are a woody vine with long lax branches that can be shaped over forms.  We have had on occasion grapevine wreaths, spheres, picture frames and nests-but these deer are the most elegant expression of weaving and sculpting with grapevine I have ever seen.  The forms are heavy steel, and each vine is laid in parallel to its neighbor, and then woven into the whole figure.  They look great paired with all of the twigs. The people who create these sculptures-artists, each and every one.  They weld their frames, and weave the grapevine in a very individual way.  This doe and fawn pair is distinctly the creation and look of the person who made them.  My next pair will have a different look.

The standing Buck is particularly handsome.  Each antler has a steel pin that slides into a steel cylinder embedded behind the ears.  The Buck stands almost 7 feet tall.  This is my favorite species of deer for the garden! 

I can think of lots of places for the deer.  As for the fresh cut twigs-what would you do with them?

Heart Felt

Though I have landscape projects still underway, a lot of my attention is focused on the shop.  Our yearly holiday open house is but one week away.  Why early November?  We stock materials for winter and holiday pots-that season is but one breath away.  We have clients planning parties, or having company for the holidays.  We like to say thank you to each and every person that shops the season long with us-thus our holiday open house.  We also like to give the gift of time.  Time to look over, plan, and decide.  We open up for the holidays, early.    

This year’s holiday represents shopping Rob and I did in January of 2011.  I like that timing; the season is still fresh in my mind.  In no way am I able to anticipate what anyone will like almost a year in advance, so I concentrate on what strikes me as appealing and fresh.  I was drawn to what I will call heart felt.  Homespun.  Natural materials.  Warm.  Friendly.  Woolly.  This was easy, given our relationship with Jenny.   

Jenny monitors our website. She is the point person for people from far away that wish to buy from us.  She handles sales in the store, every day, day to day.  Not incidentally, she is a graphic designer with considerable talent.  She has a big love for hats; her winter headgear is always sensational.  The felt holiday birds with their big winter hats struck a chord with us-we had to have the JennyBirds.   

Given that we see Jenny every day of the cold months in big tall hats, a committment to these felted birds was easy.The felted hand stitched birds were a starting point.  We were able to find other materials that had that homespun look. Rob has followed up with great natural materials from the fields he frequents with Larry. Sooner or later a point of view emerges. This is not to say we don’t represent other points of view-not everyone responds to that cottage look.  No matter whether the holiday decor is informal or formal, it in some way will represent a feeling from the garden.    

This felt tree skirt with overlapping flowers and button closures enchanted me.  A small company in New York hand makes these skirts.  They are as elegant as elegant can be-but still warm.  The felt is thick; the design is beautiful. 

Our felt snow people sit on a disc of wood.  I bought lots of them, in the interest of representing the idea of community.  There is an element of just plain fun here.   

Holiday picks of cotton bolls-I bought lots.  Cotton, wool, felt-these materials will compliment our natural twigs and greens. A holiday making reference to the garden-great. 

This handmade felt mushroom is very small, but very special.  Small and special-this describes my idea of the strength of my shop. Good gardeners notice the little things.  So do we.    

I was willing to commit to a few felt sheep, but Rob felt we needed a flock.  OK, we did a flock.  The big idea here-take an idea, and run as fast as you can with it.  This applies to landscapes, gardens, container plantings, garden ornament-and the holidays.  

This felt owl-handmade.  Charming.  It would make a very special ornament for a good friend.  Or a very special bow on a package.  Very special-this we like.   

These felt Santa Claus-we passed them up, last January.  In February, Rob let me know he had to have them.  OK, Rob.  I have no problem representing what he cannot bear to leave behind.  Better yet, I like to explain the process by which we interpret the holiday season.  Stop in-we are all available.  As for your holidays-what will you do?

First Frost, From Rob

Rob has several compelling reasons to be out early-Larry is one of them.  His year old standard schnauzer is turbo charged.  The look on his baby face is always some version of “what are we doing next?”  A great and beloved dog can make for a little life changing-just ask Rob.   Big open fields at dawn are as good a medicine as he can provide for all of that Larry energy.  Reason 2-any version of the out of doors intrigues him.  Right now Rob is on a mission-the fruits of the fall fields.  

Though I have planted asclepias incarnata in swampy, meadowy, and wild perennial gardens for years, but I think this frosted version finally got his undivided attention.  This milkweed welcomes wet soil; the rose pink buds open to paler rose pink flowers. 

Once established, you can count on this plant for a lifetime.  They do not need any extra water, fertilizer, or attention.  They thrive in neglected places-Rob’s favorite fields.  Our first frost brought those seed pods into sharp focus. Late fall favors the swamp milkweed. 

It is not always so easy to appreciate the form and habit of a plant during the growing season.  A garden is a sea of green in season.  Some plants go right down at the first hint of frost. Other plants persist, into our fall season.  These milkweeds are incredibly beautiful given a heavy dusting of frost. They have little in the way of visual competition right now.    

Our ground is still warm-we have not yet had any really cold temperatures to speak of.  Our 29 degree night late last week was a shocking departure.  Thus these ice crystals forming on the edges of leaves who have had no signal to begin signing off, much less drop.  These leaves were chilled-much colder than the water saturated air around them.  This look-alien. 

Frost has everything to do with the dew point.  But this photograph has everything to do with Rob’s eye.  Breathtaking, this.   

The entire field was sparkling.  The fall in our zone is that transitional season that warns that winter is on the way.  Transitions have their pleasures-this is one of them.     

That warning is likely to be beautiful.  A weedy field rivals the beauty of any cultivated garden-this is my opinion.  Not that I keep lists.  Many garden versions are beautiful.  Everything nature dishes out attracts attention.  Rob’s study of the first frost details this.  I would guess the summer reality of this patch of field is not nearly as interesting as it is right now.   

The oaks are not particularly prized for their fall color.  But on this morning, they shone-thanks to the ice spicules.   Rob’s pictures-gorgeous.

Can you believe these are oak leaves? OK  Rob, where do you go first thing in the morning?  How much hiking in is involved? 

My previously posted pictures of the first frost on the pink cabbages-I liked them.  But these pictures are game changers.  What trees, shrubs, and perennials would I choose to include in a landscape, given their beauty at the change of the seasons?  My garden is spot on in the middle of an urban neighborhood-I am thinking I need to make an effort get out more.  Oak trees-I need to go back over my ideas about them.           


Nature has a lot to say.  Every gardener should be listening-this includes me.  Rob the gardener listens to what nature has to offer better than most-this is my take.  Thanks for these photographs, Rob.  Your photographs of the first fall frost-so beautiful.

This Year’s Ghoulishness

This year’s Halloween was slow early on, but picked up speed later.  I closed the door at 8:20, with 2 of the 40 pounds of chocolate we had bought left over.  A good time was had by all, myself included.  There were lots of hellos, Happy Halloweens, and thank you’s-the kids were great.