At A Glance: Recent Winter Containers

SC winter 2014  2A lot of work has been done this past week.  Seeing this group of pictures, I am pleased that each one has a presence all its own. In showing the draft of this post to Rob, he asked me to click on the first picture, which opens that picture in a larger format, with the added option of viewing the pictures as a slide show. I had no idea-did you?

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ML winter 2014  9

PO winter 2014  4

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JB winter 2014  9

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ML 2014 winter 2

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Michigan Holly

ilex-verticillata-berries.jpgIlex verticillata is a deciduous holly that goes by many common names.  We call it Michigan holly, or winter berry. They say it is fairly easy to grow, but my my experience was not that successful.  It is easy to spot when Michigan holly is thriving.  The branches are loaded with dense clusters of bright red berries that are visible from a long ways away.  They ask for a soil that is fairly moisture retentive, even swampy. There are newish cultivars that have especially bright red berries. Winter Red is a recommended cultivar for our zone.  It is a strong growing mult stemmed shrub that matures to 8 or 9 feet tall.

Michigan-holly.jpgThe berries make it worth growing.  But if you do not have space for such a large shrub, growers harvest and sell bunches of the berried branches in late fall.  They are beautiful in fresh holiday arrangements that only need last for a week or two.  Indoors, the berries will eventually rot and drop from house heat.  Outdoors, they are longer lasting. Up until a few years ago, I almost always opted for faux berries in winter pots.  Though the color of a berry pick cannot begin to approximate the color of the real thing, they could be counted on to last the whole winter.  Once we started spraying our winter berry with Vapor Gard, our success improved dramatically.  The berries stayed put, and stayed plump well into February. Vapor Gard is a professional grade anti desiccant which is only available in a gallon concentrate. Premixed wilt pruf in a spray bottle will help too.  Be sure to soak the berries when there is no threat of rain, and let them dry.

Michigan holly (2)A client for whom the holiday isn’t right without winter berry branches reports that in mid to late January, the birds discover the berries.  One by one, they begin to disappear. The birds raiding the berries is a treasured part of his holiday experience.

Michigan holly (3)berried holiday containers

Michigan holly (4)winter berry

Michigan holly (6)This container has 6 bunches of Michigan holly in it.  Bunches available at our farmer’s market come bunched together with a rubber band.  We do not take the bunches apart- this disturbs too many berries.  A bamboo stick inserted into the bottom of the bunch is what goes in the foam in the container. Michigan holly is beautiful, but it needs to be handled with care.

Michigan holly (7)Red berries in a lighted container will look like fire when the daylight wanes.

fierySee what I mean?

 

Sunday Opinion: Good Hands

hanging-a-garland.jpgWatching this garland go up yesterday, it occurred to me that the real story of our holiday landscaping is about the people who make it all happen.  Rob, Sunne, Monica, Christine, Shannon, Scott and Margarita make sure that Detroit Garden Works is stocked with every material we might need. From fresh cut great quality greens,branches and cones, picks in every conceivable color and style, lighting both stock and custom made, to zip ties and bamboo poles in bulk, this wide range of materials makes it possible to put a look together.  If you shop at Detroit Garden Works, you probably have put the names with the faces, as they do such a great job of interacting with people.

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The people who work for the landscape design and installation division, Deborah Silver and Co, work behind the scenes. They do all the fabrication, and installation of our projects.  It may be startling that a group of people who know how to lay out a landscape, plant, and finish an installation know how to construct and install winter and holiday containers and garlands, but they do.  Each one of the eight of them has their particular strengths. To their great credit, they all know how to work well with one another to bring a project to life. They certainly deserve the lion’s share of the credit for everything we do.

holiday-garland.jpgThe columns are quite beautiful.  They did not need anything in the way of decoration. My preference was that the garland would seem to drop at the outside edge of the porch roof. The fascia would need enough screws and concrete wire to hold the heavy garland.  Owen and David, who usually take the lead in an installation, added a pair of vinyl covered steel poles at either end. This would provide an armature that would take the garland wide of the columns.

holiday-garlands.jpgFour people and 4 pairs of hands made the business of getting the garland aloft a graceful and fairly quick affair.  All of the design and fabrication issues had been dealt with in the garage. All of the installation issues were reviewed and planned on the ground. It was easy to locate the center of the porch roof.  The dentil molding on the underside of the overhand was symmetrical.  This garland would be hung in the center first, and then progressively, out to each edge.

holiday-garlands.jpgEveryone involved with hanging the garland could rely on the integrity of the fabrication. The top, bottom and front face of the garland was clearly marked.  The plug for the lights was on the left side, as the only exterior electrical outlet was on that side. Every element, even those we attach on long wires to permit rearranging, were securely attached.

holiday-garland.jpgIt was a pleasure to watch the four of them work. While we 5 were on this installation, 3 people were in the garage, working on our next project.

holiday-pots.jpgWe did put lighted winter containers on the porch, on either side of the door.  The porch roof makes this a dark spot, in spite of a ceiling fixture. A pair of wire baskets were lined with moss sheeting, and filled with mulch and soil.  The centerpieces were comprised of several bunches of cut pussy willow. Fresh cut magnolia and gold poly mesh  added another layer of interest.  AG does most of our exterior lighting and hookups.  A strand of lights tucked behind the magnolia would light the pussy willow at night.  A strand of garland lights would illuminate the mixed noble and silver fir. An extension cord was place right next to the step up into the house, and covered with a door mat, for safety’s sake.

garland-detail.jpgThe garland detail

holiday-decorating.jpgA pair of pots with boxwood had been on the top tier of the stair pillars.  We moved them down one level, so all four pots would be visible from the street.

holiday-garden.jpgThe crew that made and installed this garland is a highly skilled crew indeed. They have expanded their skills in ways of which I am very proud. We have worked together a long time, and it shows.

night-light.jpgMy clients sent me this picture last night. They are pleased, and so are we.

 

All Natural

holiday installation (2)A client whose exuberant husband was campaigning for more in the way of holiday decorations outdoors had only one request.  All natural materials, please.  Garlands comprised of fresh fir, grapevine, tallow berries, pine cones and magnolia are as natural as could be, and fit right into an existing landscape. All of the materials came originally from the landscape.  The textures, colors and forms are easy on the eye, meaning is just about impossible to over do a natural look.  I was not worried that my client would feel overwhelmed.  I was sure it would just feel warm.

holiday installation (3)Properly judging the volume and scale needed can make a world of difference in the result.  For an entrance garland, big sugar cones have much more impact from the ground than white pine cones.  Magnolia leaves read well from a distance, as they are large. White tallow berries stand out, as everything white in the garden does. Rolls of grapevine come spring loaded with volume.  What might look over scaled on the ground will look just right, hung high on the wall of a building. To be sure we would have enough volume, we had 2 25 foot lengths ready to hang.

holiday installation 9The first garland was attached from the right top corner of the front porch.  The first 11 feet would be attached at frequent intervals across the width of the existing fascia board, to the left. The last 14 feet would drape down the left side of the porch.

holiday installation (4)Making sure a garland is firmly attached is a must.  I have no idea how much this garland weighs, but the last thing you want is garland sagging in the wind and snow.

holiday installation (5)Having multiple points to attach the garland means you have the ability to place it exactly as you wish.  For this porch, hanging the garland straight across and parallel to the ground would leave the view of the stone arch on the wall intact. Multiple points of attachment means the weight is spread out. Outwitting gravity just takes a little more time and care. It is easier to swag a big garland. The weight and gravity will see that your loops look graceful.  But some architecture calls for a clean and simple look.  A swag here would run counter to the lines established by the architecture.

holiday installation (6)Garland 2 was attached at the top left corner, and hung from the left all the way to the right side.  This means there is a double thickness of garland above the door, and a single thickness down each side.  A porch of this size calls for a substantial garland, hung outside the coach lights. The garland is a frame for the porch, and will not interfere with any coming and going.

holiday installation (8)We did run brown corded lights all along the grapevine.  This will help to illuminate it at night.  All you can see of the lighting in this picture are the light bulbs.  The brown cords up high blend invisibly into the grapevine. The overall look of the garland is appropriate to the size of the porch, and looks very warm and inviting to my eye.  The containers are simple. A roughly spherical shape of boxwood in the center is surrounded by silver fir.  The topiary forms are strung with lights that describes their shape.  There are garland lights tucked into the greens.

holiday installation (7)A pair of large windows in the front are faced down with steel boxes from Branch.  The boxes were made wider than the window, and have a subtle bow front.  The centerpiece from the fall planting was augmented with 2 additional pieces of the same material.  These were added to the left and the right of the original centerpiece.  The front 2/3rds box is stuffed with a mix of silver fir and boxwood.  The rear 1/3rd is all boxwood.  The boxes have lights near the centerpiece assembly, and in the greens.

holiday installation (1)Every year we hang one of Rob’s light rings in the window, with a plain magnolia wreath in the center.  We wire the wreath to the ring in four places, so it stays put even on windy days. This year we added a garland over the top. A single garland is centered over the window, and hung high enough so the stone arch is still visible.  The garland stops 16″ above the box, so as not to interfere with the shape established in the container. This is a warm winter look, with a splash of holiday.