My garden is poised to take a three month sabbatical – Bon Voyage, dear garden. This state of affairs is sad enough, but there is more. Michigan has the dubious distinction of being one of the cloudiest, greyest, gloomiest and darkest states in the union. We rank right up there on that list of most consecutive sunless days. A sunny day in my winter is cause for celebration, but I had better be quick about enjoying it. Daylight gets off to a slow start, and gives up early. At 4pm, it will be dark. It will still be dark at 7am. I have no plans to live on that schedule. I do have plans to light up that night. This garden bench in the shop greenhouse looks cheery and inviting draped with a light garland. Light garland? Multiple strings of holiday lights in various sizes and colors twisted and zip tied together makes for a brilliantly lit garland that can be swagged in a favorite tree, or over a door or arbor.
For whatever reason, I love a flocked tree. Years ago, there was a place down river from me that would flock any tree in any color, for 35.00. Apparently they still offer this service-you need to get a quote. Courtesy of our client and friend Brandon, the Harry Pinter Greenhouse at 6830 Rawsonville Road in Belleville still offers this service, on real or artificial trees. 1-734-482-2776. A client who was expecting a baby girl December 23 one got a pink flocked tree, loaded with pink glass ornament from us. It was loads of fun-truly. I like how the holiday season has the potential to value expression over good taste and design. I think thats’s fine. There are beautifully constructed artificial trees that come loaded with the flock. At night, the tree lights play off of and compound those white branches beautifully. This tree is decorated in small chickadee shaped birds with sparkling white feathers, white moire glass and clear glass ornaments. In the daytime, a flock of long sleek partridges in their typical black, brown and grey feathers take a bigger visual role.
By this time, I am sure it is clear that I enjoy the holiday season. Why wouldn’t I? It is a great antidote for that big dark. The greenhouse at night, lit with holiday lighting, is a completely different visual experience than the daytime look. No other season, indoors or out, looks quite like this.
Candlelight is always a romantic and warm accompaniement to an event. Candles, that civilized version of burning logs in a galvanized bucket, can create a friendly and congenial atmosphere. It is amazing how a collection of votive candles can banish the dark. Be generous with the numbers-everyone will appreciate that.
We have little artificial lighting in the greenhouse, as most of the year we get light at no charge from the sky. The sun is no longer directly overhead, so that space can be surprisingly dark on a cloudy day. In the evening, it can be difficult to navigate. For an evening event, we are lavish with the light. Votive candles deliver a lot of light; their small space makes it easy to mass them, or tuck them in smaller spaces. Candle light makes everyone look good-that is a happy byproduct of this kindly light.
The landscape gets the same attention to lighting as the indoors, only on a bigger scale. Every year Rob creates lighting for the winter landscape that is simple to install, and dramatic in its impact. I for one will not be climbing in my trees, to string holiday lights on the branches. I value something that is simple to install, and beautiful to look at. This year, per Rob’s design, we fabricated channeled steel rings in three sizes, and filled the channels with brown corded holiday lights. Hung in a tree or window, from a pergola or arbor, these rings of light are beautiful. The largest of the rings makes a very dramatic statement.
He took that circle of light idea, and took it a step further for the pots on the shop pillars. Simple rod steel spheres were wound in the round with a combination of garland lights, ands pearl lights. Garland lights have bulbs spaced very close together-the effect is more light, with less wire. Pearl lights are just how they sound-these small spheres look just like pearls.
The tour de force of his winter lighting creations has to be this arrangement in an antique cast iron trough we have situated at the entrance to the shop. Rob covered the soil surface with translucent C-9 and C-7 white light strings. He then set a few stems of cut “tree of heaven” branches, and filled in between the wires with the dry remains of some unknown dried weed from a neighboring field.
For all the world, Rob’s pot looks like it is on fire. The most modest of materials are dressed to the nines for the winter season.
The 6 pots out front-they have a beginning. Single sterms of red bud pussy willow have been zip-tied tightly, and all around a plant climber that holds up my asparagus in the summer. A single globe of light sits at ground level inside. The globe by the way, is a lightbulb frequently used in bathroom light fixtures-of course Rob dreamed up this part. That globe of light illuminates those branches.
What will I do now? I am not sure. I have the finishing on the pots, the windowboxes, the windows, and the front door to consider. It is good to have a holiday/winter project underway.