Lustrous

Some weeks ago I posted some pictures of that giant full moon-under the title “Luminous”.  I am reminded of this today-our shop fountains are up and running, courtesy of one of my crews.  Water over a surface gives life to that surface such it brings to mind another lu word- luster.  The science behind this has to do with light refraction, but I am interested in something else entirely.  Water is alive; its lustrous quality has everything to do with that quality of life.  Jenny was kind enough to model this fabulous stocking cap with its monumental pompon-for this reason.  Wool is hair from a living creature.  Jenny’s hair is a living part of her-both the wool and her hair have luster-just look.  

The hair which describes these pussy willows about to bloom is lustrous.  Our sunny day today made that hair glow. The stems and bud casings (please forgive my lame botanical nomenclature here-) glow in the same way-lustrous life.  This has to be the most exciting thing about spring for anyone who loves a garden-the return of the luster.  Winter absorbs every ounce of a gardeners life and will, and gives back little.  My Estonian readers no doubt will differ with this opinion, but we do not have crystalline, and so beautifully lustrous winters as they do.  Our winter is grey and more grey.      

House paint can be ordered in no end of varying degrees of surface shine.  Matte, eggshell, semi-gloss, gloss.  When I retire, it is my plan to research and learn about how they do this.  But for now, I am focused on the coming of the spring, and what signs I see that tell me my garden is awakening. I know the sap rising in the trees brings bark back to visual life. The luster of living things is a sheen no paint can reproduce; once you’ve had an encounter with natural luster, you will be hard pressed to do without it.  

Water in a garden-I am a fan.  No matter how modest its form, water is all about life in motion.  The glaze on this terra cotta fountain jar comes to life, once the water coats its surface.  The glaze running anticipates a watery, and lustrous surface.  Given the physics of surface tension, I could hook this up in my living room-no splash.  Just a gorgeous and subtly moving surface. 

Stone is porous-life takes hold and moves in to make cities on its surface.  The stone absorbs light.  The lichens live in spite of irregular water.  Their surface is matte-absorptive of light just like the stone.  Over the course of a rainy spell, the stone and the lichens will glow. What does this mean for how you design?  Contrasting surfaces make for interest that has a long life-put those matte surfaces up close to your eye and view. Lustrous surfaces read from a long way away, and draw you out to them. 

Though paint surfaces never fool my eye, I do admire clay surfaces that have luster. In my imagination, the minerals that largely figure in that clay surface soup glaze- they melt, and vitrify, under high heat. To vitrify-this to me means heating to the point that makes for a glassy surface.  Is this why magnolia leaves always look so lustrous to me?  Those really large waxy leaves glow in the heat.     

Boxwood lives and breathes much the same for me.  Those diminuitive evergreen leaves have a lustrous surface-no matter the weather, no matter the season.  They shine, those living leaves. This rounded clay pot makes a good run at lustrous-I could see it planted in the sun or the shade, with plants equally lustrous, or those wry and dry plants that make a surprisingly big impact. This pot with a low and wide boxwood-juicy, and lustrous. By way of contrast, Rosemary and trailing strawberries would make a picture you wouldn’t tire of.

Water over a surface, water bringing the sound of life to a garden-consider it. Every gardening life is all for the better, given a little glow.  Dry and dead-every gardener out there knows what it means to loose a plant.  The surface goes dry and out.  Luster in any form attracts me-I like the living and breathing that a garden brings to my life.

Water-the juicy sound and presence of water can transform a garden.  If you have no water as of yet-consider it.  There are more ways to get luster-beyond boxwood, magnolia, rhododendron, and pepperomia. Your patch of water might light up, should you place a potted tibouchina next to it.  Oh the possibilities! -it is spring. 


For those who might have an interest in this entire lustrous and monumental hat-what she calls her Brobdingnagian hat-here it is in all its glory.  From Kokoo, on etsy.  www.etsy.com/shop/yokoo.  I believe were she not so busy designing and knitting the most fabulous and lustrous sculptures that a person might wear, she might be a gardener.  She understands everything about luster.

Inspiration From The Plants

july 29 031It is preaching to the choir to suggest that gardeners are inspired by plants-of course they are.  No one would put up with the work, the unfriendly weather, the failures that hang on forever and the joys that are fleeting, should they did not feel compelled to grow plants.  It is not preaching to the choir to suggest that some designers are not interested in plants.  You can instantly spot a project where plants are treated as an architectural side note, rather than a living thing that needs proper siting and care. The plants are the language that enables a garden to speak clearly. The plants can also be as important an inspiration for good design as any idea.       

2000-2001 398Though I favor landscapes that are structured, I love any flower that reminds me of a meadow.  Who knows why.  A meadow was never part of my experience growing up, as I have always lived in urban areas.  Perhaps a big flowering meadow is one of those gardens of my dreams. The habit of certain plants favor that meadow.  If the flowers that look like they have come straight from God’s hands – and by this I mean as simple as a species, not big and overwrought like a 5th generation hybrid dahlia-how they inspire and enchant you can gift your design. 

July15 040This first generation hybrid of Monarda fistulosa is named Claire Grace.  How appropriate.  It thrives for me in unamended soil; I do not feed, and I barely water what are now large thriving stands.  They wave in the slightest breeze.  They share this habit with my panicum virgatum-panic grass.   They both are tall and sturdy growing; I have space on my urban lot for them.  They are what I see out my kitchen window-who wants architecture glaring back at them from the kitchen window?  Wanting in the worst way to grow these plants fueled the design for this spot.
 

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Echinacea is one of those old fashioned long blooming perennials that cheerfully endured my gardening youth. Even the recent and robust hydrids still have that aura of a country meadow.  My meadow is a small space, so I need plants that grow reasonably upright without a lot of fuss.  I do not cook, but that does not mean I am not interested in the loose and lax look of an old fashioned kitchen garden.   

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Ornamental grasses -many a garden has been designed with these plants in mind.   Repeatedly planted en mass, in sweeping shapes, they are architecturally arresting. A single plant is everything one needs to know about horticultural punctuation. I once saw a planting of grasses intended by an architect dabbling in landscape design to stay within a rigidly designed grid.  Messy and confused-the result. His palette of plants-his language- not so strong.       

Oct5a 040Boltonia asteroides is a fancy name for a late blooming New England aster. Should a plant like this represent your idea of beautiful, then design in this direction.  This vigorous native plant is perfect if open, loosely defined spaces are for you.  A garden that is always robustly ahead of you-do you like this?  If you like it in small doses, is there one place you might be comfortable with this level of abandon?       

Aug 17a 003It amuses me how the “new” landscape roses so look like old roses. The name landscape roses refers of course to roses not so demanding.  This Carefree Delight rose delivers in spades for any gardener wanting the delight of profusion, without profuse care. These roses are sited in partial shade, in a windy location.  They always look happy.   

June 9 023I did a consultation last summer to clients building a new house on an old property.  This beauty bush was laden with its characteristic cascading blooms.  Formally known as Kolwitzia, I do not see it so often anymore.  It needs great space to grow, and weep.  Most pruning ruins it; take the old stems out all the way to the ground, if you must.  It is in bloom for the wink of an eye; out of bloom, beauty bush would never interest you.  But it is one of those old fashioned, easy going shrubs that makes a visual statement.     

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A successful design can be made around those plants that consistently inspire.  If there are plants that make you want to speak up, know their names, and keep them close by when it’s time to plan.

More Members Of The Group

Mocad 1 (60)seated evergreen girl with a burlap log carrier skirt and grapevine necklace

Mocad 1 (42)seventies dude with electric hair, palm hair epaulets and bell bottoms 

Mocad 1 (55)curly palm skirted girl with moss jewelry and raffia neck warmer

Mocad 1 (34)red bristling bead garland kid with palm leaf gaiters and matching full length gloves 

Mocad 1 (46)dancing girl with yellow grass Jetson style tee, knee socks and paper rose accessories

Auto Glow (3)curly red haired girl in brown velvet tunic with metallic ribbon detail 

Mocad 1 (38)
frosted grape guy with pet crows

Mocad 1 (62)
all about gold glitz girl wearing all of her gold stars   I wish all the best to all the kids.

Orange

Oct5a 027Thank heavens for red and yellow; I would not want to do without orange in my garden. This picture of an orange dahlia tells the entire story of what happens when red, in this case a very blue or carmine red, gets mixed with yellow.  Fireworks.  Daylilies are a staple source of orange in a perennial garden.  If a daylily is not yellow, there is orange lurking in the petals in one form or another. Even a drift of the subdued daylily Ruffled Apricot can warm the eye from a distance. Orange is visually effective in even the smallest doses;  is it not interesting how easy it is to spot the one lone blooming butterfly weed in the entire field?  Even those who are not big fans of orange in theory can fall for an oriental poppy that color.  Poppies look like they ought to be orange.      

DSC_0004Orange exists in a garden in other forms besides flowers. Interior arborvitae needles turn as rusty orange as this old fountain before they are shed. Iron garden ornament, and terra cotta pots are an excellent source of orange in the garden.  I have had many people tell me their favorite season in Michigan is the fall-and I hear no grumbling about all the orange. What group of plants have you ever seen planted in a terra cotta pot that looked bad as a result of that orange pot?  Orange in big brilliant doses is not for the faint of heart, but a little orange zest never hurt any garden.  

Silver 8-06 (6)The trim on my house is painted turtle green.  I suppose I chose the color as much for the name as the color.  Olive drab would have been an equally believable name; this planting of solenia orange begonias in a dusty peachy orange Italian terra cotta pot makes that olive paint color come to life.  The variegated licorice makes reference to the bluish green of the begonia foliage; the lime creeping jenny underneath keeps everything up top cooking. 

Aug 22 081I did all of my summer flowers in some combination of orange, and carmine, or red-violet.  It did scare the heck out of me once I got everything planted.  I was worried to would be more excitement than I really wanted.  No doubt these warm colors looked good with my yellow/orange stone, and the sandy yellow brick on my house-not to mention the purple/brown brick of my drive.  The one year I planted all white flowers just didn’t work.  Though Howard’s coat color is formally known as red brindle, he is a most handsome orange and white.

DSC_0029Though this Sonic orange New Guinea impatiens flower might make your eyes hurt, I find it easier to use in a garden than a blue red.  I have a client that has been planting orange and white in her garden for many years.  What many thought was eccentric fifteen years ago looked very fashionable and sophisticated this year.  Funny, that. 

2008 Birmingham Pots 8-13-08 (15)Pink and orange together is such a lively and happy combination. Both Emilio Pucci and Lily Pulitzer based  fashion empires on fearlessly friendly color combinations like this.  If I only have the chance to make one point about color, it would be this.  In isolation, a color may not appeal to you.  But the real impact of color is about color relationships.  What colors do for each other is more important than any color itself. It never hurts to take some of what colors you have when shopping for plants.  Whatever your ideas might be about color, let your eyes make the decisions.

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A little orange in the garden is a great idea.