Last But Not Least

winter-lighting.jpgWe did finish the majority of our winter and holiday work 2 days before Christmas. That meant we had a little time to lend a hand to Rob.  Like anyone in a holiday design related business, putting together a holiday home comes last. It was looking like he might run out of time. That would not do; he is someone who gives his utmost to gardening people getting ready for the holidays and winter season. My group was happy to take it on.  A multi colored light garland he had looped over the door was brought back to the shop to be attached to a grapevine garland.  Harvested and rolled grapevine is springy and airy, and holds its shape in the fiercest of winter weather. We added several more all white light garlands, and ran the entire affair up the shag bark hickory in the front yard.

winter-lighting.jpgIf you think it looks as if we ran it way up this tree, you are right. Above the second story. A huge capacity, state of the art extension ladder and four people made it happen.  One climber, 2 people at the base of the ladder, and one runner on the ground walking in circles.  The light garland does a good job keeping the house company.  There is also something about the sheer effort of it that was cheery and grand. With holiday decor, I care about the effort someone has made as much as the result.   I knew Rob would think it looked swell. It is asymmetrical, surprisingly light and airy, and unexpected-all good as far as he is concerned.

light-garlands.jpgAll the different colors, shapes, and sizes of bulbs made quite the light statement. The front of the house-glowing.

light-rings.jpgHis light rings are well known to anyone who frequents Detroit Garden Works.  We took a 3′ and a 5′ ring, and added a string of multicolored garland lights to the interior steel wall of the hoop.  This form may be very very familiar to him, but this treatment is a one of a kind.

light-rings.jpgWhat’s to like about them?  The lighted sculpture is striking.  They are simple to install. Pick a spot, push the prongs into the ground, and plug it in. We have plenty of clients who run them all winter.  Why not?  This picture was taken at 5:15 in the afternoon-which at this time of year is better described as 5:15 in the evening.

poplar-branches.jpg2 pots had the remains of a summer planting in them.  That couldn’t stand. Mixed greens and an a bunch of fresh cut poplar branches makes the pots look appropriately dressed for winter.

HW 2014Another client made a last minute decision to order up a few winter pots. Might he have a little color? A mass of yellow twig dogwood appears all the more substantial by varying the heights of the twigs. The color of the plum eucalyptus is brilliant and saturated against that yellow.

winter-container.jpgWe have had a very fortunate late fall and early winter, as in moderate temperatures, and no snow. Once the snow comes, it is difficult to work outdoors.  Even if your effort is late, it will last a winter’s worth.

And To All A Good Night

and to all a good night (11)As it was 47 degrees last night, hauling a tripod around to take pictures in the dark was a breeze. No coat, hat or gloves. The time? 7pm. I am happy to have the light.

and to all a good night (9)Buck came along. We share the garden all summer long.  We just share it in a different way now.

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DSC_7096Happy Holidays!

Winter At The Shop

DGW holiday 2014 (1)The day we finally get to doing the roof and window boxes at the shop for winter is usually the day after we get the winter and holiday work done for our clients. Though we have a few bits and pieces that need attention tomorrow, our work is finished.  The winter wrap for the shop takes a lot of planning.  There are 8 boxes on the roof that are five feet long each.On the ground floor-5 boxes.  Many years ago we added plain 2′ by 12″ board shutters, and galvanized and painted sheet metal hats-over each window.  Over the space of three warm days this past October, my crew repainted the entire building-2 coats, top to bottom. They did a great job.  The shutters got painted the same color as the walls, in the hopes that whatever would be featured in those boxes would get all of the visual attention.  The dark greenish brown is a friendly backdrop to whatever gets placed in front of it-whether that be plants or ornament.

DGW holiday 2014 (2)A good supplier called-he had purchased a big load of beautiful birch poles, ranging in size from 1″ to 4″ in diameter.  Were we interested?  The prospect of a great material becoming available sparks all kinds of ideas. Of course we were interested.  I had some time to design-there was a lot of work to be done before we would be ready to get our home done for the holidays.  Birch poles are extraordinarily beautiful, and notoriously difficult to work with.  They are big, clunky, and heavy.  They don’t give an inch.  Anything you do with them involves plenty of engineering. My favorite part of this holiday scheme-the poles arranged in a long vintage English wood trough. The overall curve has everything to do with the pattern of the stacking stacking-the poles themselves are straight as straight can be. Birch poles in containers can be overwhelming. I have seen plenty of birch poles that look like birch stumps. No grace. The challenge of the poles was going to be great fun.

DGW holiday 2014 (10)If you live in Michigan, you know about the beautiful stands of white birch in our upper peninsula.  Birch in my area of lower Michigan-really troublesome to grow. Birch borer is a deadly pest. Japanese beetles can chew every leaf off a tree in no time.  White paper birch is always a gamble in the landscape.  The Himalayan white barked birch, Betulus Jacquemontii, is equally as susceptible.  I do plant it, as the trunks are bright white an an early age.  Every planting of them comes with a maintenance plan attached.  The size and age stands of old birch in the northern parts of Michigan are testament to the power of nature.  Extremely cold winter weather kills the borers.  The trees grow to maturity. An old and mature birch tree is incredibly beautiful.

DGW holiday 2014 (12)This green and white winter scheme is punctuated by members of our grapevine deer collection. Their curving and quite sculptural forms stand in stark contrast to those implacably white and implacably straight poles.

DGW holiday 2014 (3)The shop windows got the full treatment. A pair of 6 foot long birch poles frame the shutters.  Thick fir garlands were draped over the window hats- to which we wired whitewashed snowflakes. A short, narrow, and angularly placed birch branch in the center of the garland overhead was kept company by a few snowball picks.  The boxes are stuffed to overflowing with mixed greens. Fir, incense cedar, berried juniper, white pine, shore pine, noble fir, silver fir, mountain hemlock and German boxwood all mixed together-friendly, and warm. Like a thick blanket.  The very cold is soon to come for us.  We mean to be ready.

DGW holiday 2014 (5)The Dutch wicker pots out front took to this birchy and natural look without a hitch.  Dark varnished twigs and snowball picks made a striking centerpiece.

DGW holiday 2014 (19)Winter and holiday picks have their place. The gracefully curving white washed snow ball picks are a contrast to the clipped hedges, and those poles. I would use any material available to me for a winter container arrangement-both natural and not. The idea here is to celebrate and take pleasure from a season in which the garden is dormant.  Anything goes.  Anything could be great. Anything might bring a holiday smile to your face.  I love this holiday season, and plan to celebrate the garden gone quiet in any way available to me.

DGW holiday 2014 (16)The shorter birch centerpieces were placed over a nest of C-9 white lights. We hope to evoke the memory of a fireplace ablaze on a cold winter’s night.

DGW holiday 2014 (15)The poles on the roof were all engineering and secured by the fabricating staff at Branch. It can get very windy up there, so I wanted to be sure everything was completely secure.

DGW holiday 2014 (9)A lighted window box-the C-9’s illuminate the birch stacks.  100 count strands of mini lights illuminate the greens.

DSC_7038The dark of the evergreen boughs and the white of the birch are in stark contrast to one another-too stark, in my opinion.  But we are waiting for the last element to complete our display-the snow.  Once we have snow, I think we will have our own version of a Michigan winter wonderland. This is a good thing-to be ready for the snow.

A Very Merry Celebration

WJ 2014   (7)Rob has lots of clients for who he designs and constructs holiday and winter arrangements. Most of them feature light in one form or another.  One particular client that with whom he shares a great rapport contacts him in early November every year about a holiday scheme.  They are thick as thieves for weeks, planning. Years ago she bought his first light ring, made from a vintage wheel. The result of their collaboration is always beautiful. It is a testament to what good things can come from a long standing design relationship based on respect and exchange.

WJ 2014   (11)Holiday elements that have been part of her collection for some time are remixed every year.  There are those people who like the holiday the same every year, and those who like to change it up.  Change doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning old materials for new.  It means a willingness to re imagine.  One thing the two of them share is a big love of the holiday season.  It shows in the work.  I asked her if I could post pictures of this year’s holidays-she said yes. Some are her pictures, and some are Rob’s.  Though no picture could truly do justice to the work, you’ll  get the gist of it.  WJ 2014   (9)bottom lit container

WJ 2014   (5)light rings

WJ 2014   (1)light rings after dark

WJ 2014   (13)holiday chandelier

WJ 2014   (10)12 foot red flocked Christmas tree

WJ 2014   (12)lighted red flocked wreath

WJ holiday 7another holiday tree

WJ 2014   (4)view from the rear yard terrace

WJ 2014   (3)lighted spheres

WJ 2014   (2)looking out to the lake

WJ holiday 9After dark-how striking is this?