Tuesday Opinion: Computer Trouble

Late last week it was my unfortunate experience to have my email account hacked.  My shock and displeasure with the situation mattered not one bit.  That everyone whose email address was stored in my contacts was contacted with an annoyingly irritating email asking for help was embarassing in the extreme.  That all of my email contacts, and all of my email folders dating back close to ten years were wiped out-shocking. 

 Of course this had to happen on a Friday.  Events take time to unfold.  By the time that I knew I needed help, the weekend was looming.  I had the weekend with no available help to feel resentful and worried.  I really dislike anything that makes me feel like this.  I have a passion for making things grow.  I have a big love for living things-this means people, plants, animals, lichens-I am not so fond of slime molds, but I respect that they live. I have no patience for worrying trouble like a tongue on a sore tooth.  I like to wade right in, and put things to right.   But there was nothing I could do until my IT person returned from his vacation.  A computer, and all that goes with it- that machine comprised of characters, numbers and marks on a page that somehow get translated by a person into a photograph, a story, a video, or a letter can enable all kinds of things I would never have thought possible.  Please keep in mind that I was anxious the entire 2 hours it took to install my first fax machine.  I am a little more savvy now. It is one of the most amazing tools I have ever had at my disposal.  People 1/3 my age expect everything that comes from their computer-I am still simply amazed by it. A computer can be the next best thing to a trip to the Chelsea Garden Show.  Want to see pictures, or videos?  There are more to choose from than I could ever look at. I see things, I learn, I communicate after a fashion.  A computer is much like a third hand.

There are those things not to like.  If you have tried to solve a problem with your phone via the account you set up at the My Verizon website, be prepared to dig in and stay put.  Service websites may list 1000 possible issues you want to discuss, but are any of them your issue?  They don’t seem to be mine.  Have you ever hung up, not knowing what option to choose?  Me too!  It can take 20 minutes to find a phone number, and even longer to actually get to talk to a person.  I am amazed that a tech support person from Verizon was on the line with me for over 1/2 hour, until everything got sorted out.  Gracious and patient, she was. A person to talk to-the best.  At my shop I am adamant about this one thing.  Answer the phone.  Just answer.   

It took my IT person almost 7 hours to sort out, solve, and return my computer to a working state.  He had little interest in discussing why someone would hack my email.  I understand-after all, what would be the point of that exercise?  The idea is to get going again.  When something dies in my garden, there is the frustration, and inevitably the idea to understand what happened.  It is not always possible to know what happened.  Plants thrive, and they die.  Don’t mourn too long.  Mourn properly, and then stop crying in public.  Cry in private for as long as you want.  Getting going again after something fails is an awkward way of expressing the idea of experience.  I can wring my hands over what didn’t work, or I can plant again.  It is my choice to keep on gardening.  No one, and nothing can keep me from it-no one but me, that is.  

Loosing all of those files took my breath away.  5 days later, that loss seems like an opportunity to start fresh.  I didn’t loose one thing that enables me to live.  I lost 10 years of computer recorded history. But I didn’t loose any memories, or experience.  I have been thinking a lot about this.  Being older, I am not so crazy about change, or unexpected developments.  But unexpected developments can clear musty air.  Get the old blood moving.  From this day forward-doesn’t this sound good?       


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.