At A Glance: And To All A Good Night

new-years-night.jpgNew Years evening, January 1, 2014.















Merry Christmas, Luca Della Robbia style

delle-robbia-wreath.jpgAn Italian sculptor named Luca Della Robbia produced many charming works in glazed terra cotta from 1400-1475.  Many of his plaques featured frames depicting fruits and vegetables.  This style of decoration still persists centuries later, in a style of Christmas decorating known in this country as the Williamsburg style.  Someday I would like to go there at the holidays, and see all of the wreaths and architectural elements decorated with the fruits of the harvest and holiday season.  Though the Willamsburg decor is traditionally done with real fruits and vegetables, my interpretation of the style makes use of faux fruit.  The fruit in the above wreath is produced from a weighted core, and a rubbery, almost waxy outer layer.  The color and texture is incredibly realistic.  This magnolia della robbia wreath, with proper care thast protects the dry magnolia leaves, will last many years.

holiday lighting.jpgWhy am I thinking about the della robbia style?  Rob made me 2 sets of Christmas lights-one for my tree and one for my mantel.  The red, yellow and green lights have a remarkably jewel like glow.  They so remind me of the Christmas trees I remember from my childhood.  Those big glowing lights on on our Christmas tree were enchanting.  Seeing anything through a child’s eyes is a way of seeing like no other.  How would I decorate my tree to make the most of these extraordinary lights?  It seemed a natural choice to pair this color and texture with a mantel and tree decorated with ornament of a similar feeling.

holiday-lighting.jpgMy holiday tree does not have ornament with an intrinsic history.  No objects which provoke memories, in and of themselves.    I actually like it that way.  I like having the option to decide on a scheme or a theme that is quite different than the previous year. The challenge of creating a display that reflects the immediate sentiments, importance, and aura of the season is an activity I enjoy.  When the seasonal work for clients comes to a close, it is time to go home, and create a little holiday spirit of my own.

trimming-the-tree.jpgThe della robbia tree had a modest beginning.  A Christmas tree, an evergreen garland, plastic ornament balls in lime green, and lots of faux fruit.  Having been laid low by the worst cold in a decade, Steve saw to getting the tree and mantel garland up, and the ornaments on the tree.  Angie stuck the large fruits with floral picks; it is vastly easier to secure a stick than a heavy round slippery fruit. The rest would be up to me.  For the better part of a day, I worried I might not have the strength to decorate our tree.  Funny how once a project captures your interest, troubles fall away.   Early on it became apparent that the big fruits could not go on the tree.  They were much too heavy.  The big fruits would have to go on the mantel.

Christmas-tree.jpgThe mantel garland was secured around a thick bamboo pole, and secured to the weighty metal mantel lights with zip ties.  I managed to find spots in the evergreen garland that would grip the picks.  As for the tree, I had to change gears. A trip to English Gardens yielded 10 boxes of dark red glass ornament balls.  Miniature limes and green apples could easily be fastened to the tree-after Buck wired bag after bag of them for me.  40 red berry picks, when taken apart, yielded 480 individual berries.  Other bits included 6 boxes of shiny lime green mini berry clusters.

Christmas-tree.jpgI like a Christmas tree that still looks like a tree, even after it is decorated.  This involved wiring on many small bits.  Big bits can engulf a Christmas tree.  I favor lots and lots of just a few types of little things.

decorated-tree.jpgI attached the red berry balls to the tips of as many branches as I could.  At the time of this writing, I still have about fifty to go.

holiday-mantel.jpgThe tree and mantel only have 30 lights, but the bulbs are big, and make an impression.  How this feels to me is nostalgic and warm-just how I like to celebrate the season.

holioday-tree.jpgI owe the look to the inspiration provided by Rob’s lights.  May your holiday be just as warm and bright as mine has turned out to be.


sinamay.jpgIt doesn’t take much to add a little holiday shimmer to a winter container arrangement. Anything that sparkles is very festive.  Sinamay is polyester fabric that can be found shot through with metallic threads.  It holds its naturally curvy shape no mater the weather.  Not great with swags and bows?  This material does the work for you.  I fold it over, and run a wire through the bottom near the crease edge.  Once I pull the wire as tight as it will go around the centerpiece, I get plenty of curls and curves.  That shimmer is great during the day, and especially effective at night in pots that have lighting.  A little glitz and glam has its time and place.  It takes but a second to remove it after New Years.  Should you decide to leave it on all winter, the metallic threads will dull down after exposure to winter weather.

silver-eucalyptus.jpgNew for me this year is eucalyptus with a metallic finish.  The centerpiece in this pot is 2 parts whitewash, and 1 part silver metallic. This is just enough shimmer to brighten the daytime look.  I am sure the look is quite sparkly at night, given the lights in the topiary form.

The arrangements have a subtle glow, given the late day sun, and read well from a distance. The pots are placed at the end of a driveway, where they frame the natural landscape behind.

winter-container.jpgThe side door pot has the same combination, with the addition of some white flocked picks.  The dry natural stems have just a hint of silver flake on them.  The overal effect-shimmery.

winter-pots.jpgThese pots have plum eucalyptus mixed with copper.  The effect is subtle enough that I wouldn’t be afraid to leave them in the arrangement all winter.  Michigan winters are particularly dreary.  Anything that reflects what little light we have is a visual treat.  The snow and the cold are ok, but the gloom is just about intolerable.

copper-eucalyptus.jpgRed bud pussy willow has a naturally copper cast.  The copper metallic leaves by themselves are a little overwhelming, but in a mix, they shine

pair-of-holiday-pots.jpgThese winter pots have pale green glittery picks in between the pussy willow and the white berry picks.  They are the perfect note for a holiday party.

sparkle-picks.jpgThat glittery layer speaks to the holidays coming up.  Once the holidays pass, those picks can be removed.  The more somber winter arrangement will look great through March.  Spraying wiltpruf on fresh cut greens does improve their longevity.  Wiltpruf is a water and was emulsion which slows the rate of evaporation from the needles.  Cut evergreens that dry out look bad.  The most effective professional grade antidessicant is called VaporGard.  Growers at my local market spray their ornamental cabbages and kales with it after transplanting them out of the field.  It does indeed prevent wilting.

holiday-decorating.jpgThese light strings on metal poles Rob calls lightsicles.  Certain of the mini lights have plastic light covers over them in a random pattern.  They look great hung from the eaves of a house, or from a tree.  For the holidays, we loosely wrapped a sinamay ribbon around the poles, and pushed the glass lights through the mesh.  The ribbon reflects natural light in a very subtle way.  Light strings are very hard to use in a design, as the daytime look is so much about the wires.  Using lights with brown cords, or garland lights that have the bulbs placed close together can help.

lighted-bars-and-sinamay-ribbon.jpgThis little bit of sinamay ribbon allows the light to shine through at night, and covers the steel pole and wires during the day. The chartreuse ornaments are plastic-a perfect material for outdoors.

lighted-bars.jpgIt’s time for the sparkles.


The Holiday/Winter Preview Party


Detroit Garden Works throws one evening party a year.  It is, in part, a thank you for all of the gardeners that have or have a mind to shop with us.  It is, in part, the opening night of our winter and holiday season. It is, in every regard, a party.  We serve great things to eat, and a variety of things to drink.  We have spent weeks constructing the light sculptures that Rob designs.  One of them in a pot, or hung from a tree, or sunk into the ground lights up the night that is our gardening future.  Is there more to see?  Yes.

We have spent weeks tearing apart the remains of our summer garden vignettes to make way for the winter season to come.  It could be 10 years ago that we began stocking materials for gardeners-for winter containers.  What seems so logical now is what was uncharted territory then.  We live in a gardening zone with a fourth quarter than can be really daunting.  Gray skies give way to the dark-early.  Morning skies are gray and dark-late.  The landscape goes dormant.Why not offer materials for winter container plantings?  Some garden based materials to make the winter a little easier to bear?  Materials for winter containers include fresh cut twigs and substantially hefty and lengthy greens.  Preserved natural materials and remarkably weather resistant and visually compelling picks.  Landscape lighting-how do you plan to handle the need for light in the dark season?


The big idea is that the love of the garden can be represented in a celebratory way over the winter.  The big sleep freeze that will chill every plant in my landscape into utter dormancy does not apply to me.  People do not go dormant.  I will experience everything that the winter has to offer, every day, day after day.  Though the winter is no longer than all of the other seasons, it can feel longer.  I have options about how I want to live through that time.  I can construct containers at my front and back door with cut materials from the garden.  I can light those pots in such a way that they light my way. I can festoon this and decorate that-outdoors.  It is a choice- to make the winter landscape cozy and inviting.


The shop is not quite ready for our opening tomorrow night.  It takes a lot of time and thought to create an atmosphere that engages gardeners when the garden has gone quiet.  Rob has done a perfect job of sourcing great materials and lighting, and arranging for them to be delivered in time for our opening night.  We shop together for the following holiday in January, while the season is still fresh in our minds.  Our entire company numbering 21 people have worked long and hard to make the transition from the joy that is the summer landscape, to the steadfast belief that even the winter season is worth treasuring.


Should you decide to attend our once a year night time winter season opening on Thursday night, we will park your car, provide you with something good to eat and fun to drink.  We leave the rest up to you.  How the materials we have chosen might inspire or intrigue-that’s the fun of it.  We like throwing this yearly party.  The preview party and holiday open house which runs through Sunday is a lot about giving thanks to all of the gardeners that have enabled Detroit Garden Works to stay viable for going on 18 years.  It is just as much about a community of gardening people determined to make a stand-for a beautiful winter.


I so look forward to this night every year.  We try our best to make the anticipation of winter an extraordinary experience.  Interested?  Our winter/holiday open house runs from Thursday night the 7th from 5 to whenever.  Yes, we provide valet parking for our Thursday night party.  As for the weekend, Friday through Sunday, 9 to 5 all three days, we have a coffee pot fueled by Starbucks coffee, and plenty of treats.  Our idea is to make the prospect of the winter season seem all good.

battery-operated-lights.jpgRob does plenty to make this season happen.  He sees that we have fresh cut twigs, fresh cut greens-and spectacular winter lighting.  He is the most creative person it has ever been my pleasure to know.  He is an ace in the hole-should you need help designing or constructing a winter display.

ribbon-and-twine.jpgWe do try to cover all the bases.  Winter containers.  Holiday decor.  Parties and events.  Wrapping and packaging.  Gifts for gardeners. Fresh cut twigs and greens.  Lighting.  Design.  Coaching.  Holiday decorating both inside and out.  Give us a call.


Tomorrow night, I hope to make the experience worthy of attention.  Everyone I know has a busy life.  I would not be writing this post, but for the fact that I believe a visit to our shop would be well worth your while.

holiday-tree.jpgWe view the winter and holiday season from a particular point of view.  The garden funds and fuels all of our efforts.  Every move we make is with the landscape in mind.  Winter gardening-oh yes.  The holidays?  Any cause for celebration is a cause we support.

light-rings.jpgIf you have a mind, pay us a visit.  We promise to make your winter season a season in which you can survive better.  Have the prospect of winter blues dead ahead?  You have lots of company.  You and all of your company-we hope to help make your winter a better winter.