The Dogs At Chase Tower

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My company Detroit Garden Works is in the garden ornament business.  We buy and sell ornament for the garden – new, vintage, and antique and repurposed, from sources in the US and Europe. What is a garden ornament?  Any object deliberately placed in a landscape or garden.  This definition would include pergolas, sundials, sculptures, bird feeders, benches, trellises, staddle stones, topiary forms, grapevine or stone spheres.  Fountains and water features.  Found objects, fencing, topiary plants.  Espaliered trees, arbors, and stone cisterns.  Tables and chairs.  Rain water collection barrels and boot scrapers.   Containers are garden ornament.  They may be handmade Italian terra cotta, or galvanized buckets.  They may be old apple or tulip crates.  They may be contemporary Belgian stoneware, or cast stone versions of classical garden urns.  They may be lead, or steel containers from Branch.  They may be concrete, or wood, or cast iron.

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A garden ornament may be as modest as a gazing globe on a steel stand, or as elaborate as a waterfall and pond.  No matter the subject or scale, a garden ornament makes a statement about the taste and interests of gardener in charge.  The inclination to ornament or decorate a space is natural.  People decorate their houses with objects that help to create that atmosphere which feels like home.  How a home is furnished says something about the taste, values and priorities of the person who lives there.  There may be objects treasured for their history.  One person might decorate their place with art, and that art could be sculpture, or paintings, or quilts or hand painted china.  Buck collects vintage doll heads, typewriters, scientific instruments, and accordions.  His personal spaces are just like him, as they reflect who he is, and how he sees things.

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A landscape or garden is no different.  A garden endowed with ornament says something very personal about the garden maker. An ornament can infuse a landscape with an atmosphere of history, mystery, or whimsy.  There are no end of gardens where roses are growing.  But the garden that has roses growing in profusion over a picket fence has a much different feeling than the garden that features roses trained as single ball topiaries, planted in orangerie boxes. A 19th century cast iron bench is not just a place to sit.  It is an expression of an aesthetic much different than what is created by 3 rough hewn slabs of granite assembled as a bench.

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So why this discussion of decoration?  Once the plants in the garden shed their leaves and go dormant, a landscape with no ornament can be bleak place indeed.  I am thinking about this, as we have just begun our winter and holiday decorating.  Topiary forms, arbors, and pergolas will get lights wound around them.  Doorways will be festooned with garland.  Containers will get winter coats and hats.  Wreaths will be decorated, and hung on the front door. Lights in every shape and color will be hung from the eaves, or stuffed into the pots.  A bench will get a cushion of fresh greens.  The trees will be hung with grapevine and light garlands.  A Japanese maple decorated with glass drops will glitter all winter long.  A sundial will get a wreath boa.

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As for the dogs at Chase Tower, they have a carpet of greens.  The dogs look like they have just paraded through a stand of yellow twig dogwood, their leashes trailing behind them.  They have topknots and collars that are one part holiday, and 2 parts winter.  Is this really what was in my mind when we decorated these pots?  Yes.  Decorating that tells a story will have an impact.  There is an amusing and charming story being told that will make the winter a little easier to bear.

winter-dog-detail.jpgSee what I mean?

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I do see the decorating outdoors for the holiday and winter as a form of gardening.  A trowel or garden spade is useless this time of year.  The sight of them on the shelf, dusty rather than dirty, is irritating.  On the other hand, a pair of pruners and a spool of good garden twine might be all the tools you need to decorate the garden for winter.

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Woof!

 

The Morning News At Branch

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bon-voyage.jpgbon voyage.

At A Glance: The Details

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The pictures of the details of the construction of these massive pergolas is not just for our records.  We will send a complete set of pictures to the contractor who will be charged with assembling the structures once they get to Florida.  Though I have described this Branch project yesterday with few pictures and few words, the actual length of time and the attention to detail has been serious and long.  At the risk of boring you beyond all belief, these pictures help to better tell the whole story.
welding-the-lattice.jpgwelded lattice

welding-a-panel.jpgmeasuring

assemby.jpgassembly

barn-raising.jpgraising the barn

assembly.jpgpanels in place

assembly.jpgNote the 2 by 4’s between the vertical panels.  Great care was taken to square up the four posts before the roof would be dropped on.

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Big enough to house a forklift

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finishing the roof

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steel-cradle-for-delivery.jpgOnce both pergolas were finished, cradle structures needed to be built for the roof structures.  They are too wide to lay flat.  The maximum width of a flatbed truck is 8.5 feet.  We are over the legal transport dimension limit.  Not a problem.  Terry, Michael, Sal, Dave, Enrique, Owen, Scott, Steve, Geri, Dan, Max, and Buck worked together to bring a big idea for the landscape to life.  Start to finish.  Am I happy with the result?  Truly?  Yes.

A Structure

steel-lattice.jpgEvery project, no matter whether it is big or small, begins with that first step. I had several months of communication via email from a design firm in Florida.  Could we build a pair of large scale pergolas for one of their clients?  The emails flew back and forth regarding the design and dimensions.  8 weeks ago we had a call.  The principal in this design firm would be flying up the following day to see Detroit Garden Works, and our operation at Branch.  We were happy to oblige.  Our design client was charming and discerning-that part was obvious.  As a result of that meeting, Buck had 2 very large garden structures to build.  A project of this size started with the first step.  The cut steel stacked on a pallet pictured above represents some 960 pieces of flat steel that would form the lattice pattern for both structures.

steel-pergola.jpgThe pergola roofs would be curved.  Gracefully curved. Curving substantial tubes of steel involves a process that is anything but graceful.  The proper tools and a measure of brute force more accurately characterizes the work.  Any big project that comes along asks for a person in charge who can imagine, and engineer-that would be Buck.  I sent this progress picture to our client early on.  These 8 pieces of steel would become a pair of roof structures.

steel-garden-ornament.jpgSo much engineering precedes the actual construction.  Buck figured out how to build these large garden structures such that they could be shipped.  As few pieces as possible means that the reassembly on site would be straightforward.  The frame of this short side panel is actually 3 pieces which would be unbolted for crating and shipping.

lattice-panel.jpgThe leg and beam panels were finished in a lattice pattern.  Three Branch fabricators welded the side panels lattice in tandem-from the ends to the middle.  The order of events, and the community action of an associated group of welders, is more critical than you might think.  The tremendous heat generated by welding can stymie the most careful design and planning.  Happily for this project, Buck had it all in hand.

finished-panels.jpgThe side panels for this pair of pergolas have been done for a few weeks. They are beautifully and precisely made.

pergola-roof.jpgThe construction of the roofs came last.  Those curved pieces of steel contructed weeks earlier were welded into place.

steel-garden-structure.jpgPrior to the finish of the roof, Buck put one structure together.  He needed to be sure that everything fit true, square and tight.  The orange apparatus you see on the ceiling in the picture above is a bridge crane.  The arm of the crane can move the block and tackle of the crane from one end of the studio to the other.  And up and down.  This makes it possible to handle the construction of very heavy objects.

finished-structure.jpgThe weight of this pergola?  Close to 2800 pounds.  I did take lots of pictures yesterday, as this may be my only chance to see this all put together.  I can imagine that once placed in a landscape, these structures will be stately and beautiful.  We are always appreciative when a client sends pictures of the things we make at Branch in the garden, but we don’t always get them. These will go to a private garden.

steel-pergola.jpgThe first day I walked into the building that would become the Branch Studio, I worried that I had bought place much larger than I would ever need.  Yesterday it occurred to me that the size of this building had not only inspired the imagination of our group, it enables us to take on large projects. The ability to produce work on this scale doesn’t come fast or easy. We had to grow up into it. There is an investment to be made in equipment and tools.  But more importantly, there are those talented and hard working people who are able to work together as a group towards a common end.  There’s lots of listening, and lots of teaching.

steel-roof.jpgOnce the pergola was all put together, I saw cellphones come out.  There were a lot of pictures taken.  A sense of accomplishment and pride was in the air.  As for Buck?  Once he saw what he had designed, engineered and built go together perfectly, he was one very happy man.

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The last roof was finished yesterday. Are all these guys at home relaxing? No. They are at work today for a half day, building the steel cradle/ crates that will hold the pergola roofs during transport.  The crates are necessary, as the roofs are too wide to ship flat. It won’t be long now when a 48 foot long flatbed truck will back into the studio, be loaded, and haul these structures to Florida.  Well done, Branch Studio.