At A Glance: Shipping The Eagles

If you read this blog regularly, you may remember that I wrote a month ago or so about the sale of a pair of 18th century cast iron armatures which at one time were part of a pair of hand wrought and cast iron fully feathered eagles.  I was told they graced the roof of the Palais Royale in the 18th century-who knows if this provenance is truth or fiction.  In truth, I did not care about the provenance.  Though great age had reduced those birds to their bare bones, no garden sculpture known to me has ever made such a powerful and personal visual statement.  Though I can see right through them, they have incredible presence.  They speak much to life, age, aura, memories, gardens- and dissolution.  They are history represented in a way I cannot really explain.  I could have lived with them all my life.  But once I decided to buy and sell garden ornament, I knew there would be times it would be hard to let go.  In this instance, it knocked the wind out of me.   

We finally had a call to ship.  Buck would crate them for what was the last leg of their long trip from Europe.  From Paris, to Brussels, to Paris, to New England, to me.  I only had them for a time-they moved on just a short time ago. I know the person who bought them, loves them.  That is enough.  They had travel ahead of them.  We wanted to be sure they would be absolutely safe and secure for that trip.

It took Buck an entire day to build the pallets and crates, and load them up for shipping.

 

 

 

 

 

The designer was kind enough to email me that they made the trip without a hitch, and were unloaded without incident.  I did respond with a request to see them installed in the garden.  This went unanswered-which I understand.  Neither he nor his client has any obligation to me.   I had them for what seemed like a brief moment. This someone new and unknown to me will steward them with the same care as I did-of this I am sure.  No one would buy these, unless they were sure they could not live without them.

Finished Fountain

The welding studio has been busy the last 3 weeks.  Buck had a special order for a fountain, and a matching urn for a client in California, and a destination in Fort Worth Texas.  The sheer size of the fountain meant the base and scuppers needed to be very strong, and the steel thick and heavy.

The project under construction has a landscape architect on retainer.  He designed both pieces, and we fabricated from his designs.  The drawing from the LA needed to be drawn in CAD-this is short for computer assisted design.  It is an enormous skill in and of itself to master the CAD program.  Buck is an expert, given his 30 year experience as an architect specializing in technical design. That CAD drawing enables him to fabricate an object true to every dimension specified in the design.  

The hemispherical fountain bowl is 60 inches in diameter. Creating this shape from a solid piece of steel involves a lot of technology, a surprising amount of finesse, and loads of skill.  This bowl is not perfectly hemsipherical, but it is extremely close.  Close enough to convince the eye. 

Once the bowl had a 2 inch thick lip of steel, interrupted by 4 evenly spaced scuppers, it was ready to be welded to the base.  Scuppers? The steel lip keeps the water inside the bowl.  The scupper is that place where the steel dam had been breached, allowing water to flow and fall over the edge. Once the steel is galvanized, Buck applies our finish.  He finished the inside of the bowl, and the base first.  Then the entire fountain, with the aid of a bridge crane, would be flipped up side down for the finishing of the bowl. 

The fountain design is very simple, but massive.  The finished piece weighs close to 1/2 a ton.  It will be placed in a large pool-I am not sure of any of the installation details.  It will take some skill to size the pump properly, so the water sheets over the side without runing back under the scupper, and down the side of the bowl.  Fountain design, fabrication and installation takes a lot of skill. 

The urn, on the forklift in the foreground, is much smaller than the fountain, and will be placed in some other location on the project.  This piece will be planted.  Both pieces were shipped up side down, for obvious reasons.  All of the weight of the steel is at the top.

The fountain does not have a jet.  The pump will push water hard enough to keep the water flowing fast over the 4 scuppers and into the pool.  The contractor for the project wanted this copper pipe and stop valve installed just as you see here.  

Buck did not crate this piece-what crate would be stronger than this steel?  Circular shapes are very stable and incredibly strong-even more so when they are made of steel.  I have heard I will get pictures of the installation once it is finished and running.  I have my fingers crossed about that. Buck tells me the level of the base and the level of the top of the fountain is within a 1/16 of an inch of being dead on.  Dead on and level is very important where water is concerned.  In a perfect world, water will fall over all 4 sides equally.  In an imperfect world, within  1/16 of an inch of perfect will work. Buck and his crew make lots of things that are a part of something bigger.  If no pictures are forthcoming, I have some help.  Buck has family in Fort Worth.  What fun, that they will get to see something he made, available for the looking,  just across town.

Up and Down

 

 

The installation of a landscape for a new house is a lengthy process, as it needs to be.  Though some disciplines cross over, there will be the excavators, the rough carpenters, the plumbers, the inspectors, the finish carpenters, the gutter people and the air conditioning techs, the kitchen designer, the pool and spa people, the painters, the stone masons-the list is long.  Coordinating a project of this size is a challenge.  There are bound to be things that don’t happen on time, or things that happen out of order.  The landscape is last of the outdoor work.  I have been on this project since last August, with a long hiatus born of relentless rain from mid-September through October.  Delays are the order of the day on a large project.

 

 But in December, after the walls and planter box were built, the stone installed on the front porch, the outside of the house finished, we were able to install the crushed granite drivecourt.  At least the front of the house would be somewhat presentable for the winter. Everone involved did a great job-it just took more time, more space, and was more messy than anyone anticipated.  

 The stone on the lower portion of the walls of the house were inspiration for the wing walls on either side of the drive, and a stone planter box on the lot line.  On the ground level, the drivecourt is surrounded by stone.  A drivecourt was necessity; no parking is permitted in the cul de sac, and the street parking is chopped up by a substantial number of driveways.  The idea was to make this utilitarian space as visually pleasing as possible.

 

A large stone planter box is home to 5 katsuras, which will be underplanted with boxwood in the spring.  This will provide evergreen screening on the ground plane from the downstairs windows of the neighboring house.  Some Himalayan white-barked birch will be planted in the spring to the left of the stone box.  A short hedge of arborvitae will be planted on the lot line to the right of the box.

The view from upstairs is equally as important.  The living areas upstairs will be as private as that narrow space between the lot line, and the corner of the garage allows.  As the espaliers grow, they will create a green wall that takes up relatively little width. This is an old neighborhood, where the homes are quite close together.  Addressing visual issues downstairs and upstairs is important. 

We were there on Friday, trying out some pots and furniture for the garden.  A pair of these concrete boxes with diamond panels and iron rings will flank the front step.  A small vintage English teak bench looks great on the porch.  Settling these details before early spring gives me hope we will finish the project well before the onset of summer.

We had installed the iron fencing and gates, and the pergolas a few weeks ago.  The winter weather has been so mild, we were unexpectedly able to get this part of the project finished. The property perimeter fencing was chosen especially for the privacy it provides.  The iron fence running from the property line to the house will insure good views into this part of the garden, and provide a safe outdoor space for a beloved dog. 

Upstairs, the second floor balcony terraces are done.  I can see that the  12  6″ caliper columnar red maples planted last September will provide great screening  from the house next door during the summer, at a time when privacy matters most. Evergreens provide great screening on the ground level.  They tend to be too narrow at the top to screen an upstairs view.  If they are large enough to screen a view 20 feet off the ground, the width of those trees on the ground floor is considerable.  Lacking the luxury of ground level space, these columnar trees will do a great job where they need to.  The Belgian wattle fencing will handle the job on the ground floor.  

The lakeside was a muddy mess for a long time, but we were finally able to get in there and grade, and set the major lawn panel and its crushed granite frame.  A pair of steel pergolas almost 40 feet long each were slated to be installed off each end of the house, and frame the lawn panel on the ground floor. 

 This picture was also taken in early December.  The major grading, the majority of the evergreen planting, and this lawn panel got done-I was pleased to have this much finished.  But this lakeside rear yard is still quite exposed to the neighboring homes on the cul de sac side.  The screening issues were complicated by the fact that nothing over 4′ tall could be planted in the space between the cul de sac curb and the house.  This restriction would enable everyone who lives on the street to still have a view of the lake.

Restrictions are an invitation for good solutions.  The pergola, outside the setback line, is 10 feet tall, and will never be any taller than 10 feet.  This means no view of the lake will ever be obstructed.  Both of the pergolas have a great look from upstairs.  Who wouldn’t  like to wake up to this view?   Once it is planted with climbing roses and clematis, there will be that much more to see from here, and some shade to sit in downstairs.

The pergola on the opposite side will be planted in a like matter.  Venus dogwoods will be plated to the outside of each of the pergola, in an effort to screen both neighboring houses from view.  

The views from the third floor cupola clearly reveal a foreground space dominated by the pergolas, the midground gardens yet to come, and the far view which is the lake. A widow’s walk, or deck enclosed with railings on the roof, is an Italianate architectural feature popular in American houses built near the sea in the 19th century.  This widow’s walk is a completely enclosed all weather room.

 The room is ringed with windows to take advantage of all of the views.  The opportunity for a bird’s eye view of the landscape and the lake in every sort of weather, and all of the seasons-very special indeed.

Both the house and the gardens show a lot of progress. It won’t be long now, to the finish.

The Little Things

The more time I have to spend with these new French glazed pots, the better I like them. These were made at one of the few potteries in Anduze still hand throwing, or rope throwing, their pots.  These pots rank among the best quality available in handcrafted French pots.  Originally produced to provide homes for citrus trees, these pots have been in production for centuries.  The custom glaze created for us is more olive than blue green, and less shiny than the traditonal French glazed pots.  This particular design by renowned French potter Jean Gautier in the late 18th century features the faces of cherubs, garlands, and fleur de lis-a stylized depiction of a lily so strongly symbolic of all things French. The double roll of clay just beneath the garland is a detail from the original that takes much time and skill to model.   

This ornate French cast iron pot and its base, hand hewn from a solid block of stone, dates back to the 19th century.  It is an antique ornament that exudes French garden history.  Colonies of lichens have made homes here.  I am sure once they are exposed again to rain, they will regain their volume and color. If you like classical garden ornament, this is a breathtakingly beautiful and one of a kind example.   

This coupe, or cup shaped, planter is my favorite of the glazed group.  The bacchus medallion and garlands are modelled in sharp relief; the shape is exquisite. The glaze sunk into the deeply incised cuts, and appears almost black.  This pot, I would have.  There are a lot of new things here, given a pair of containers from France, each object in each one chosen to give pause.  There are lots of stories, and history that comes with them.  But that is no means all there is to see.  Rob has a particular gift for the little things.  He does not overlook those small things that satisfy.  What constitutes a small thing that satisfies?  An old trowel that is a favorite trowel.  Warm winter boots that have spent the previous night warming up on the radiator.  A zinnia poking its head through the soil just days after sowing the seed.  Cruising the garden after work.  A favorite perennial freshly in bloom.

We will have a house full of fabulous for the spring-new, vintage and antique.  One of a kind and handmade.  Ornament, sculpture, tools, structures-and of course, the pots.  Great French platters for the summer dinner table.  But we do none of this at the expense of the little things.

In 1668, a law was passed in France stipulating that only olive oil based soaps made in strict accordance with ancient methods could be labelled “Savon de Marseilles”.  Olive oil, alkaline ash from sea plants, and salty water from the Mediterranean are heated in cauldrons for ten days, after which they are poured into open pits to harden.  This Savon de Marseilles happened to be poured around a series of stout branches.  Soap on a stick.  A little thing this-but what gardener would not be pleased to see it, and use it, over and over again?  Company coming?  Soap on a stick in the powder room-friendly.  Engaging.

This chicken wire cloche has a wood top, and a stout rope attached.  The intent here is to keep the rabbits away from your spring lettuce.  Its a small thing, keeping the rabbits from getting to your lettuce first, but an important thing.  A very simple structure made from the most ordinary of materials that works-excellent.

A ball of twine is a little thing that gives great pleasure.  The balls are wound in a beautiful way.  This is French linen twine.  The texture, color and scent is irresistable.  It might be used to tie up a plant to a stake, or wrap a package for a good friend having a birthday.  On the right,  a hank of raw flax fibers-the material from whence linen is made.  The fibers have been carded into parallel strands known as roving.  Lustrous and beautiful, this.  What would I do with it?  All the possibilities for this are part of what I would call a gardener’s simple pleasure.

These white French glazed terra cotta pots and lanterns are striking.  The simple and unpretentious woven baskets on the left will hold flowering bulbs, annuals and early spring vegetables, come spring.  A little basket of spring for my front porch-a small and simple pleasure.

This small candle comes with a chalkboard stick inset in the wax,  and its own piece of chalk. What could be written on that stick?  You decide.  

Rob found this collection of miniature pots at a flea market.  They are maybe 2 inches across.  Who made these, and why?  I spent time looking and thinking about them-many more than 2 inches of my time.    

These little concrete sculptures frogs have a great surface.  They would occupy next to no space.  The place a gardener reserves for the little things is an important place.  Packets of seeds rubber banded together.  A great dibble.  A thermometer.  A hard cultivator, or a decent pair of muck boots.  A favorite pair of gloves.  The little things can be about those very personal things.

If you wonder what these are, I did too.  This is a French terra cotta watering bell-for seedlings. The bottom of this bell is terra cotta, perforated with lots of holes.  You immerse the entire bell jar in water-there is an unseen hole in the top.  Once the jar is full of water, you put your thumb over the hole in the top.  When you move your thumb off the hole in the top, a gentle shower of water exits the bottom. Watering a seedling tray with this-a little pleasure.  

These small vintage French terra cotta pots came with rusty wire handles embedded in the clay.  Rob bought substantial spherical candles with long wicks that fit perfectly into these little pots. A few hung in a tree near the terrace and lighted-a little thing attending a quiet dinner in the garden. It is not a simple thing to remember the little things that give gardeners great pleasure, with great style.  I greatly admire Rob for how and that he does this.