Serious Moonlight

Cranbrook 2005  3 (1)
I have been a supporter of the Cranbrook Academy of Art for some years.  They produce several events a year to raise money to support their programs.  It is a unique institution among graduate art schools in the US, and a considerable asset to our community. I like being involved.  We planted the annual garden surrounding the Orpheus fountain in May, in anticipation of their event to come in July. I took my cue for design and decor from the title of the event.

Cranbrook 05  1 (23)A large tent would be a temporary home to a collection of art destined for auction that evening.   Each work was donated by a previous graduate of the academy; this part of the event generated considerable interest and participation.  Tables reserved for groups representing the major benefactors for this event were placed in the fountain garden.

Cranbrook 05  1 (22)The remnants of puddles you see on the ground in the above picture bring back memories for me; it rained fiercely the afternoon of the event. What I had thought I would have the entire day to accomplish would have to be done in less time.   The threat of bad weather makes any garden party all the more exciting to plan and produce-in this case, it was more excitement than I really wanted. 

Branch Cranbrook & Serious Moonlight CD (38)A cocktail reception would be held in a grassy area immediately adjacent to the showpiece of the Cranbrook landscape-the Triton pools.  We fashioned simple tents for the hordoerves tables from double layers of white fabric attached to bamboo poles.  Steel shoes for the poles were sunk in the ground at an outward angle, stretching the fabric tight and smooth.  Nature had another idea in store; the intense downpour changed that flat profile to a graceful swoop.  This unexpected contribution from the sky was a good one; I liked the swooping fabric against the curving path. We had painted a rambling path for guests arriving at the Lone Pine entrance to the garden to the reception area, with athletic paint. 

Cranbrook 05  1  (1)The big gesture?  I had the idea to affix paper lanterns to slender steel rods anchored with bricks which would sit on the on the pool bottom. Advance measurements of the water depth  enabled us to create the impression that the lanterns were floating on the surface of the water.  What fun it was to get in these fountains; I never expected this opportunity to come along.  A crew of four of us spent the better part of the afternoon wading in the water.

Cranbrook 7 (20)We set up hundred of lanterns of different diameters.  Each steel rod had a platform at the top holding a votive candle.  As we set the lanterns, we lit the votives rated to burn for ten hours, and hoped no more rain or wind would come our way. I was equally concerned that no water from the pools wick its way onto the paper.  I was interested in creating a little moonlight magic, not a wet paper mess.

Cranbrook 05  1 (11)It seemed the rain had cleared off, and we did finish with an hour to spare before guests were due to arrive. The reception would begin at the very far end of the pools, and guests would wind their way uphill.   

Cranbrook 05  1 (12)I was happy to have finished my part as the catering staff was setting up. I was on my way home to get dressed; I did not want to miss how all of this would look at night. 

Serious Moonlight - Jason Ruff (20)Attending an event gives you the chance to experience it as other people do.  There is plenty to be learned from this-what proves awkward, what is not visually strong enough when a space is full of people, what proves to be good that you never gave a moment’s  thought to.  Any party in a garden will surprise you.

Serious Moonlight - Jason Ruff (41)
I made it back just in time to see the garden begin to fill with people.  Little did I realize what the night would add to this party-more on that tomorrow.

Lamenting September

dsc06554The last two nights the temperatures have been in the high forties and low fifties.  Great.  I am on the deck last night- in my fleece-having a glass of wine, and contemplating the end of summer.   My plants in my pots have gone from gorgeous to grumpy. What to do? The topiary sculptures I make from natural materials in the fall and winter help me face the 6 months we have coming up in Michigan when the garden is dormant. The sculptures are set in dry florist’s foam-I use the John Henry brand.  This sculpture, made from a dyed and preserved grass, preserved reindeer moss, and paper dogwood flowers, helps me to bring the beauty of the garden indoors.

dsc06886Glass can make great containers for sculptures.  This vase by the Parisian artist Vanessa Mittrani is filled with white sand to give it weight.  I seal the sand in the vase with a giant blob of hot melt glue, and wedge the foam in the top.  Paper hydrangeas, mini-roses, and paper covered wire make for a sassy little something that reminds me of the garden. The purple paper hydrangeas bring out the purple/rust color of the wire in the glass.

dsc03690I consider paper a natural material, since it comes from trees.  This combination of paper hydrangea petals, and diminuitive paper daisies describe a classic topiary cone shape.  The flowery pompom at the top is constructed from individual dried bleached seed pods.

dsc03673Integrifolia is a plant native to Australia, and probably other places as well.  The leaves hold tight to the stems for a long time; they also take dye beautifully.  This topiary began with individual leaves glued to a spherical form in a pattern reminiscent of an artichoke.  As I worked towards the bottom, I reversed the curve on the individual leaves for more volume.  The very bottom of the sphere is stuck with short branches just a few inches in length. Preserved reeds bowing out from a twig trunck make for a stem; the base is covered in preserved green seedheads.

dsc08518Paper roses on paper covered wires are a delicate contrast to the heft of dried okra pods.

2008-lobsinger-pot-3This very large scale sculpture has twigs and short birch branches for a centerpiece; the collar was constructed of fresh southern magnolia leaves.  Magnolia dries beautifully, and lasts a long time.

dsc03678The science of preserving natural materials has become quite sophisticated.  I for one would never have a house plant.  I am happy for the season where I am not a plant caretaker.  An object like this demands nothing from me; I just look.  The reindeer moss in a color they call spring green is  my idea of  good color.

october-25-pictures-0341These steel leaves are by no means a natural material, but they describe one.  The base was buttered with ceramic tile mastic, and embedded with tiny shells.  The stainless steel wire is difficult to handle; I usually have to get help from a second pair of hands to glue it in. 

dsc03675This whimsical topairy makes use of two bird’s nests made of various natural materials, sandwiched together.  I buy these long stems covered with hundreds of chocolate seeds.  After taking the seeds from the stem, I glued the individual seeds onto this base.

dsc_0006I call this a presentation box. The box itself is a photo box meant to hold 8 x 10 photographs.  Should the box never have anything in it, it will still be fun to look at. 

My landscape superintendent gave me a book on crop circles.  I am embarassed to say I had never heard of them.  This sculpture I made was motivated by my excitement about those circles. I stuffed the pocket created by gluing two magnolia leaves together with all manner of dried snippets from the garden.  I scratched my own version of a crop circle into the magnolia leaf around a hole in the leaf.  Today I will cut some limelight hydrangeas pinking in the cool weather to dry.  Okay, its September in Michigan.

Garden Party

200720fisher2015Come August in Michigan, the garden ought to be the perfect place for a party. This garden was spectacularly ready.  The occasion of this party-a very special once in a lifetime event.  My client was determined to pull out all the stops for her husband/gardener .

200720fisher2023The maintenance of this garden is a regular thing, but everyone knew in advance we have a date to work towards.  I did the cut flowers; my client orchestrated all the rest.

200720fisher2022Every gardener knows what non-stop work a garden demands, but there are rewards from that work.  It was breathtaking that afternoon. I delivered the flowers, and while setting them in place I had a chance to take the time to look, and enjoy.  The grass cutting crew, the maintenance crew, the landscape projects started and completed over the years-the list of people involved in getting this landscape to this particular night is a long one.

200720fisher2028Add to the top of that list,  my client, and how she graciously dressed the garden for this party, and went on to entertain a number of guests.  Though this is a very formal garden to begin with, it was even more so for this event. Every corner of the garden, dressed up, and awaiting company.

200720fisher2018The roses and Oriental lilies were arranged in florist’s oasis on top of the vases, so as not to interfere with conversation at the table.  They seemed to float above the tables; it was a very romantic look.

I was pleased to see that the pots at the pool readily made the transition from their day time job to a formal evening. The furniture looked like so many tuxedos in the garden.

200720fisher2040I doubt I will ever entertain like this in my garden, but that does not mean I do not entertain.  I have more dinner guests the month of August than any other month of the year. I take a lot of pleasure in sharing my garden. Thank heavens, Buck handles the menu, and the cooking.  I do the garden.

200720fisher2037I think I am especially fond of this garden as I know how much my clients love and respect it.  They are stewards of their property, in the most serious way.  But this night was about the fun and the pleasure of having a garden; they more than deserved it.

Party Pink

sills_part_ii_45Occasionally I get garden requests that are out of the mainstream. The brother of one of my clients called and asked if I would be willing to host a birthday party for his sister at my store; so why not?  She loves her garden, and anything  flower-related, so it wasn’t hard to imagine this place dolled up and ready for party guests. Though he lives in California, he was able to plan with the local help of Fran Gross; her events are always well choreographed and beautiful.  Arranging the store for guests, and doing the flowers would be my part.  As the party was a surprise, we lined our iron gates with fabric. Douglas had told her he wanted her to look at something he was thinking of getting her for her birthday-little did she know.  She had ten seconds to process that her initials were in fact on the gates, framed in gerbera daisies, before she walked into a crowd of guests.  What fun for her-and her guests.

sills_part_ii_391We did lots of flowers-all in variations of a her favorite color-pink.  This vase placed outside the front door -a flowery ice cream cone with pink nerines, pink spray roses and a tutu of La Reve lilies. Yummy.

81Pink and gold were the colors of the day. Table cloths, and napkins,  the gold chairs and clear glass plates edged in gold set a very festive, and very feminine tone. I thought the flowers should be tall-in the airspace.  This not only makes conversation easy at the table top level, it creates interest at eye level when people walk into a room.  More than anything, a party should be designed such to put the idea of celebration in the air.

sills_part_ii_23These party favors are the work of my client. He knew his sister not only as very feminine and vibrant woman, but also as a very successful and high powered business woman.  She successfully balances being a woman, and a boss; this is not easy to do.  The flower coated hammer is his wry and supportive gesture.  The personal element celebrates the relationship of friends and family; the party is for everyone.

43The flowers set on top of twig stands are primarily every version and form of pink I could find.  But some contrasting color showcases that pink.  The brown amaranthus, yellow freesia and roses are a nod to the gold table accessories.

71The arrangements are shaped such that most of the blossoms are visible from a seated position; the oval overall shape is like a friendly umbrella over each table.

52I I think the room looks lovely.

91The flowers brought life to the room.  All it needed was company-and company she got.  What an incredibly thoughtful brother.  What fun it was to be a part of what is such a good memory for her.

62Garden spaces are at their best, filled with people.