At A Glance: December 16, 7am

Steve and I both get here before daylight, so we can talk about the work for the day. This morning was no exception. That red coat of his looked great.  I was out photographing our holiday decor, now that everything is finished.  Rob is a little tired of me telling him how much I am enjoying this, but you may not be able to drop by before 7am, or after 6pm.   These pictures provide a taste of how it looks.  

The lights at night provide wholly different visual experience than the daytime view.  It will be a good while before I tire of coming to work to this.







Howard and Milo are barely visible in the doorway-I feel quite sure they like this time of year too.


The Hats

The last of the holiday celebration in front of the shop had to do with what Rob calls the hats over the windows.  They actually seem more like eyebrows to me.  Last year we hung burlap drapes over them.  Given our dead meadow weeds holiday theme, I thought a weedy hat might add a certain finish to the project.  They took just about forever to make.  Glueing one weed at a time takes time. After finishing the first, I spent two weeks vacillating about whether to abandon this part altogether.  It sat on a table in the back since before Thanksgiving, enduring many rainy and some snowy days.  The matted mess miraculously regained its volumetric shape, once it dried out, but really it was Jenny that persuaded me to keep going.  After they were wired onto the metal hats, I was glad I persisted.  

I added the metal rectangles and shutters to the windows many years ago.  Factory windows do not come with much in the way of architectural interest.  They warm up this old machine shop considerably.  I wired most of the dry elegant feather grass from the roof to three large bamboo poles.  I glued everything into that dried grass I could get my hands on-kitchen sink style. 

Dry anemones and hydrangeas from my yard, dry chicory, boltonia, Queen Anne’s Lace, thistle seed heads-and a whole lot more dry plant stems I cannot identify became part of these three eyebrows.  I have no idea how long all of this will last-I have never done anything like it before.  Sticks, and dry perennial plant stems-that is all there is to this.

I am happy to have something warm and reminiscent of the garden to look at, in December. 


Shop Light, Shop Bright

Today was one of my most favorite days of the gardening year.  I never know what day that will be-that is part of the excitement of the event.  What event?  My crews get most of the last of the landscaping work, and the winter and holiday pots finished.  One moment later, they swarm the shop, intent on getting our holiday and winter display out front up and running.  The 6 pots in front of the shop have had their centerpieces of pussy willow since before Thanksgiving.  I have had lots of time to think over a plan for the holidays.  Time has not particularly helped me this year-Icould not figure out what I wanted to do.   But I knew I needed lights-and lots of them. So why not just get started with that?

The winter is a tough season for any northern born and passionate gardener.  How I might survive the months of the grey freeze is of great interest to me.  I would much rather create a hospitable place where I can live, than wring my hands, and spread discontent. Each of my 6 pots got their own nest of lights.  We twist and zip tie 4 or 5 strands of lights of different sizes, and colors.  White, red and lime is this year’s scheme.  This is not an entirely simple thing-we plan the spacing so each 45 foot garland has lights equally dispersed along its length. 

This giant wreath based on many stems of huck-I have owned it at least 8 years.  Dusty,wobbly and in need of some some restoration work,  I got it out of storage a few weeks ago; it would be perfect for this year’s field and weed holiday theme.   I added many more twigs;  I reglued every stem all around.  Most of what existed from some 8 years ago was sound.  The staying power of weeds is well known to every gardener.  Rob  is, and has been the driving force behind this year’s holiday.  His trips into the fields to collect dead branches and weeds have made for a season with focus, purpose, and structure.  This weedy wreath would be perfect.        

A big part of the window box display in front of the shop-the dried remains of asparagus.  The cultivation of asparagus-I have read lots about this.  But only from Rob have I learned about the dry stems of asparagus-how their wiry skeletal branches might play a part in the winter season. The dead stems are amazingly persistent.

Once I get my act together on a plan, my crews make quick work of it.  The window boxes got green, and had a bed of c-9 and c-7 lights installed in the center.  Lucio was in charge of sticking the asparagus branches between the light string wires. 

Bamboo stakes at the corners of the pots form an armature around which to wind the lights. 

This gold and green sinamay does several things.  It provides a soft transition between the geometrically placed willow stems, and the hard structure that is the light nest.  The shimmery polyester threads will amplify the light coming from the garlands.   

Multiple pots with lots of lights draws a lot of power; the shop has 2 20 amp circuits specifically installed for holiday lighting. 

We have enough lights in the pots to create a daytime glow.  Michigan is well known for its cloudy winter days-this day is no exception.

Dusk arrives 4:30 in the afternoon this time of year; we have an answer to that. 

If you have not put lights outside for the holiday and winter yet, one light garland draped in the branches of the tree will do you, and your neighbors, a world of good.

Some holiday lighting asks for a well placed spotlight.  Lots of lights can throw unlighted decor deep into shadow.  Our wreath would not be visible at night, save for a pair of spotlights. 

The window boxes now provide warm companionship to Rob’s pot o fire at the end of the driveway.  Only one more detail remains to be done-can you spot what or where it will be it is?    

Do try this at home.  It will warm you up.

Happy Holidays From Richard K

Five Golden Rings


Richard K has been reading Dirt Simple for some time now;  I know this, as I hear from him from time to time.  A committed gardener and reader from Cypress, Texas.  This past summer I got the chance to meet him in person-he was in the Detroit area on business.  What a treat it was to meet him face to face!  I heard from him Monday after posting pictures of the front of the shop just before dawn.  He left a comment saying that he had taken Rob’s idea for holiday light rings, and run with it.  He strung his hoops with gold lights-5 golden rings!  How perfect for the holidays.  I asked him to send pictures-which he did.  To follow are his pictures, and his comments about his holiday decorating-I am sure you will enjoy this as much as I did.  


My Five Golden Rings glow beautifully hanging from the trees.  They are captivating.  Simple, yet striking.  Next to gardening, Christmas is my next favorite hobby.  I love everything about it, especially Christmas trees and of course, the lights.


Here is another section of my yard which showcases my “Who-ville Pine” and my glowing orbs.  Since we do not have pyramidal conifers in my part of Texas, I had to make my own!  The glowing orbs continue to fascinate my family as well as our visitors!


 A full on view of the house.  Very traditional.  Wreaths in the windows, garlands on the balcony.  I don’t put lights on the house because it is a bit tall.  The glowing orbs out on the lawn are simple, yet striking.




 The driveway gate has a four foot wreath adorned with old fashioned blowmolds.  I really can’t stand these figures set out in the yard, but yet I find them charming when they decorate a wreath!  Ping-pong balls cover the bulbs of some unfortunately colored LED lights and soften the light to a warm glow.  I like to say that this is for our kids, but this bit of kitsch is a favorite of mine!


 The front porch is a bit more formal with white cyclamen and columnar junipers adorned with snowball, pearl and twinkle lights.  A Moravian star illuminates the boxwood wreath and boxwood garland.  Giant jingle bells adorn the wreath.

A black iron urn is ready for the holidays.


Our favorite garlands.  We made these years ago from spruce cones and crystals.  These are draped in every front window downstairs.


  And finally, our mantle.  Silver and white … one of my wife’s favorite color schemes.  Another favorite of ours is mercury glass … one can never have enough.  Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Richard K, your house and home dressed for the holidays is really beautiful. You have collections of various things-spruce cone garlands, mercury glass, blowmolds, and lighted orbs.  How you display your collections is interesting, and engaging.   As for your gold rings-this new collection looks  gorgeous hanging from your trees.  5 gold rings-very well done indeed.  Thank you so much for sending me these pictures, and agreeing to let me share them.  Happy holidays to you, too.