At A Glance: More Normal














Rob On The Road

I have no complaints about the weather here.  The temperatures are steady right around 32 degrees.  Today we have had light wet snow, party sunny skies, heavier snow and firece winds, and sun-depending on when you are looking out the window.  But I am a little envious of the picture Rob took outside a flower shop in Amsterdam.   He is back on the road again-this time on his way to Italy. 

Spring flowers-how great they look. 

 Waxflower stems come from a shrub indigeneous to Australia.  15 euros a bunch-ouch.

A basket of hyacinths mulched with florist’s moss-very good looking.

These yellow tulips still have their bulbs attached.  Were these mine, I would most certainly wash all of the soil off of the bulbs, and put them in a vase of water, as is.

a 25 count bunch of roses.

This flower shop is in Bologna. 

So is this market.  So far, so beautiful.

Seeing The Light

Lighting the landscape is not my forte.  Everyone does a better job of it than I.  Fortunately for me, the light lingers in the summer.  All it takes for Buck to abandon the yard is the warning buzz from one mosquito-he is through with the garden once it gets dark.  When I am working the landscape season, I am up between 4:30 and 5 am.  This means I am often in bed by dark.  Landscape lighting is not a big priority for me. I am happy with the daily dose of natural light, the sun and shade created by plants.  I do have landscape lighting on the driveway-this for safety and security.  Landscape light subtly washes the front of the house.  I like how it looks when I drive by on my way to work before dawn.  But the winter landscape asks for more light.   If it isn’t dark out, it is dark grey out.         

 Though I go out every night after work with the dogs, I am not out there long.  Given how mild our winter has been, I am out with them longer than usual-but a half hour at most.  By that time, it is dark, or well on its way to being dark. The evergreens in my garden would be beautiful from inside, if lit for the winter season.  I do have 2 containers on the drive ablaze with light.  Rob fixes them for me in December-I keep those pots lit until well into March.  They are beautifully cheery.  I have a cut Christmas tree strung with enough gold and white lights to softly illuminate the entire side garden-I run those lights all winter too.   

The process of cleaning and painting the walls of several rooms in the shop has put lighting on my mind again. Landscape spaces are notable for lots of reasons, just one of which is their lack of a ceiling, or roof.  Natural light falls illuminates every landscape space-unless one chooses to plant a tree, or build a pavilion, pergola, poolhouse or other cover.  These rooms in the shop have little in the way of natural light.  The shop ceilings range from 12 to 18 feet tall- this part helps to make a description of how an object might look in a large outdoor space.    Rob cannot, and does not try to light the space as if the sun were shining.  He lights objects.  I am seeing that a lighted object in a dark room pops; every detail reads clearly and dramatically.   

Good landscape lighting can features a specimen tree, or illuminate a walk. One of the great pleasures of a shaded spot is that clearing with its pool of light on the ground.  An object or painting that is spot lighted garners attention.  A dimly lit corner is cozy. Oblique lighting casts long shadows in an interior space.  Whether indoors or out, the mix of dark and light is visually exciting.        

I know that skillful lighting can so enhance the experience of a landscape.  But the experience of these dark interior spaces has unexpectedly provoked a lot more thought about light as a design element.  Were you to ask me what is of utmost importance to me at the shop, I would of course say an experience of great service rendered in a personal and knowledgeable way comes first.  We meet people,  learn their names, we take and file pictures, we remember the kids, the events, and the gardens that go with those names.  A passion for gardening always comes with a name and an individual set of circumstances.  The vetting, purchase, and availability of beautiful objects would be second-whether that object is a fine antique or a fine looking fiber pot matters not.  Great design is great design.  Providing a beautiful and thought provoking experience-this would be next.    

The shop does have some natural light, via our greenhouse roof, and a small skylight.  How we arrange and display things in the shop revolves around creating relationships between shapes, sizes, styles, textures, and color.  That arrangement is not finished until it is lighted.        

I am experiencing my own shop in a different way right now, given some choices about paint.  None of the spaces pictured are finished.  They have some major elements set, and await the arrival of our purchases for spring.  Once the room is arranged, Rob will light them.  We will be another month, getting there.  But in the meantime, I am looking at my own dimly lit winter garden as an opportunity to experiment with creating a better winter landscape experience.    

A little less gloom, and a little more glow sounds good.

New Dirt

It is a much easier job to keep Milo clean than the shop.  Once he dries, the dirt falls off.  Once a month, he gets the works from Lexi from the Aussie Pet Mobile.   The shop, however, is 10,000 square feet that is likely to get very dirty-daunting, this.  My work life grew out of a love for dirt. The soil that comprises the earth beneath my feet-life giving.  The dirt that goes into any container sustains all manner of visual dialogue.  Who was it that said dirt is soil in the wrong place?  Though we spend lots of time sweeping, vacuuming and dusting, the end of a season means some part of a season’s worth of dirt has accumulated. 

We close (but are open every day by chance or appointment) from January 15 until March 1st.  We move every object we own out of the way, in order to thoroughly clean the shop.  Once we have vacuumed and dusted and wiped every surface clean, we repaint.  Though we are about to enter our 16th year in business, there is nothing about Detroit Garden Works 2012 season opening that will prove dusty or thoughtless.  Just like every other new season, we will be ready and fresh.  My shop spring cleaning takes from mid-January until mid-February. In the same spirit as we imagine, acquire and assemble a new collection, we sweep out all of the dirt.  The fresh paint is a given.  How we choose to redecorate the six rooms of display space has everything to do with the spring collection on the way.  

That chocolate color that reminds me of the darkest and richest compost-it was on my mind.  These bracket fungus engage my interest in beautifully natural textures, and my enchantment with that color I call dirt. That dark dirt color seems just right.    

I will admit I own a fleet of ladders.  They enable me to clean and redo, to look at what I have done before from a different perspective.  I have been up and down the ladders for a week now.  I will admit committing to the intensity and saturation of this deep chocolate worried me some. But I am more than pleased with how it is shaping up.   

We have no end of antiques and great vintage ornament.  Great contemporary ornament.  We manufacture our own garden ornament, and represent many other fine makers.  I so enjoy this yearly ritual by which we integrate our existing garden ornament with all that comes new.  Each season has its own distinctive flavor and emphasis.   

I do have pictures of most everything on the way, whether it is coming from France, Belgium or Biloxi.  But photographs are a representation, not the real thing.  Everything that Rob has ordered will need an introduction to the shop.  Taking the time to completely redo every space is a considerable and satisfying undertaking.  Rob has spent over 2 of the past 16 years travelling and buying objects for gardens.  The presentation of that work of his takes time.  

We have a pair of containers from France due in a few days.  How long they will take to clear customs is anyone’s guess.  But that process will buy us a little more time to get ready.   

I should have named him Hoover, considering all the dirt he manages to pick up.  Hopefully we’ll make quick work of the shop dirt, and move on to making the shop an experience we’ve not yet had.      

The shop front spring will not look like it did here in 2010. Something new and fresh will be coming from that dirt.