That Plastic Grass Sculpture

What lies behind ball number 3?  I could write a novella about this client, but here is the short version.  She has kept me on the edge of my design seat for better than 10 years.  By this I mean she encourages me to be the best I can be.  Her point of view takes unique and original to an entirely different level.   She collects contemporary art, and has a fierce love for great architecture of any description.  Her landscape is unlike any other that I know of, and is mostly of her own doing.        

8 years ago I made this plastic grass sculpture for her.  To be installed in this very fine and rare example of 19th century French iron cutwork urn lined in tin.  She bought the urn from the shop-her ideas about how to plant it startled me.  Would it have been my idea to plant this urn with spheres of plastic grass-no.  I followed suit-this is mostly what I do with her.  Had I ever made anything like this before-assuredly not.  Did I like it-yes.  Even on a gloomy day in January, there is a garden party going on.  I am skipping over a lot of discussion between the two of us, but in the end, I believed these grass planets hovering did her particular style of justice to the urn, and the space.       

 Many years this sculpture endured the sun-I had a call from her a month ago asking that I redo it.  The fire had gone out of those spheres.  I find even the most UV light resistant material will eventually show signs of fading.  The materials available now are somewhat different than what I had to work with 8 years ago, but the interior structure and urethane spheres were intact.  These spheres bob all around on a windy day; I was pleased to see that the only part of the sculpture that needed attention were the grass mats.  

Once the urn and sculpture were delivered to my shop, we removed all of the faded grass mats and assessed what materials we would need to recover and redo those 7 urethane spheres.     

The grass mats are comprised of a plastic grid; each intersection of that grid has a tuft of grass.  Given that the lime green plastic grass had the best resistance to fading, I decided to do more spheres in that color, with a variety of textures.  The mats come 12 inches square, so fitting them to the curved surfaces takes a little ingenuity, and a lot of time.        

We removed the grass tufts, and fitted the grids in much the same pattern as the original.  Even on the largest sphere, no 12″ by 12″ grid would lay flat.  We had to cut the grids just small enough to enable a smooth surface.  Once the grid pieces had their tufts reattached, we filled in any areas that seemed thin with grid pieces 12″ long, and one tuft wide. Each piece of grid is secured to the surface of the sphere with greening pins.  A lot of this work had to be done on a ladder; the overall height of the piece is about 7 feet. 

This chartreuse plastic grass has vibrant color, and great texture. Neither the urethane balls nor the grass mats absorb water.  Both rain and snow keep it clean.    

 A new life for this sculpture-we finished it today.  I like a working life that has lots of variety, and in this case, a little off beat.  Does it bother me-the plastic part?  Not at all.  No matter the material, the sculpture is the result of the work of a group of real people.   

We loaded up the sculpture this morning.  A large diameter steel ring fastened to the interior of the urn keeps the sculpture upright.  This was an important part of the construction, as the finished piece is extremely heavy.  This also meant we were able to move the entire piece with relative ease.      

The sculpture is back in place, doing its provocative best to tell another kind of story.

Sunday Opinion: The Horseradish Plant

Years ago Buck made a tentative inquiry about whether there might be room in the garden for a horseradish plant. Just the thought of it made me shudder.  This weedy, fast growing, wildly spreading nigh on to invasive plant’s main claim to fame is its fiery tasting, stinking roots.  I know, this sentence needs editing, but I just need to make it clear that the last thing in the world I want for my garden is horseradish.  Fresh horseradish is hot as hell, and is well known for its ability to burn the inside of one’s nose-this part I can live with.  But a plant that is not dug every year for a harvest of roots, and a replanting of a piece will annex every yard of ground within its reach.  Every day it goes unchecked is a day it becomes more impossibly entrenched.  Once you have horseradish, you will forever have horseradish. Plastic tubs and concrete bunkers-I have seen horseradish break out of them with every bit the vigor of bamboo.  Like I said, I shuddered, but I gave Buck no outward hint of my distaste for the idea.  I just changed the subject.  Once he had brought it up for the 10th time, I felt guilty.  What was the the matter with me, denying him his horseradish?  On other occasions he had asked for tomato plants-I said no.  My property is small; I was selfishly unwilling to give up any plant or lawn space for tomatoes. I gave in.

I bought him a one gallon pot of horseradish for Father’s Day.  The only way I could stomach the purchase was to make it a gift from  Howard and Milo.  He was predictably delighted.  The pot sat on the driveway for a month-where would I put it?  I only watered it when it seemed on the brink of certain death.  I probably could have left it on the drive for several years without any ill effect-but the time did come when I planted my new perennial garden.  I picked a spot for the horseradish, out of view from the kitchen window, and have not looked at it since.  I am quite certain Buck has not gone out to look at it either.  Did I encase it in plastic or steel?  No.  After the first frost, my plan is to stand over Buck while he digs it up, shaves down the roots,  and replants a snippet.  This part he does not know about yet-no sense getting him all riled up way in advance of the event.  While he is doing his maiden horseradish dig, I will be giving him tips and pointers about how to handle the yearly culling of the roots.  Owning a horseradish has a good deal of responsibility that comes with that ownership.  I know he is thinking of his previous home.  He had evergreens, grass, and a horseradish- on his 3 acres.  I cannot imagine how much land that plant has overtaken in the last 8 years.

We haven’t spoken again about the horseradish until last night.  He began the conversation with a synopsis of a chapter of a favorite book he is rereading-Bird By Bird, written by Anne Lamott.  Buck writes short stories now and then; Anne Lamott is a writer who also teaches writing.  She has this idea that every person comes with an emotional acre all their own, standard issue.  Every person has the right to do with their emotional acre what they please. They can plant it, or not.  It can look like a garage sale, or a junk yard, or a stretch of unblemished beach.  If people come through the gate of your emotional acre, and do harm, or try to make changes to it, you have the right to ask them to leave.  As a writer, it is important to know what the interior life of a character looks like in order to write convincingly about them.  I don’t know when it dawned on me that he were not talking about writing short stories.  He was talking about the horseradish plant.  He finally told me that he knew that my garden was not just a garden.  It is my emotional acre.  That I did not need to explain or defend that.  It came with me, standard issue.  He appreciated how I had planted something just for him on my acre.  And how much that meant to him.  It does not seem now like there will be any need to dig the horseradish this fall-or ever, really.  Let it go for broke.  When it gets out of hand, as it most surely will,  I’ll be thinking about what is important in life, not a horseradish plant.

At A Glance: Rosemary

A Good Grass Day


Not every day do I need to look at a drift of hellebores blooming, or a yellow magnolia in  its glory. I don’t always require a succession of perennials, blooming.  Some days are just much simpler than that.  My grass gets cut on Fridays.  Some Fridays I barely notice. Some weeks the weather has been wet, and the cut is ragged and too long.  Some weeks there is no rain, and the grass looks flat out parched rather than mowed.

I do not entertain that much.  In early summer, almost never; I am too tired after working all day.  July of this year was so brutally hot, I was only outside long enough to soak my pots.  Our very hot weather has moved on to some other part of the world; we have had regular rain.  We have begun having friends to dinner in the garden again. 

On those nights, I am glad for the delphiniums, the roses and asparagus representing, the lush stands of ferns, the fountain jets making their music, the boxwood trimmed just so, the balmy temperatures- This is any gardener’s idea of  first class entertainment.  I like my garden to entertain my company; that they have a good time gives me pleasure.  All of the visual punch I can muster makes a garden a visual getaway for dinner guests. 

But there are those nights when I come home with a less vigorous agenda in mind, and perhaps more in need of nothing more demanding than that closely and simply cropped plane of green grass.  Not every day calls for a party with some plant or another popping or holding forth.

My grass is one of my favorite perennials.  By no means do I have acres of it-a few small green grass sheets is more like it.  It endures the corgis, the drought, the heat and the cold with aplomb.  As for care, I water when it needs it; it gets cut once a week.  You can tell from this picture that we have had rain.  There is no substitute for water from the sky.     

As for my experience of the garden, a lush lawn still perfumy from the mowing is a  pleasure of a quiet sort.  When the grass is green good, and neatly cut, everything else in the garden looks better.  The grass is the lowest, and quietest place in my garden.   It is a shock and sound absorber. Properly watered grass gives underfoot. 

Lowering the lawn plane 8 inches, and retaining the soil with steel edging was my way of making that grass plane an important visual element of the landscape.  This grass is not what was left over after the landscape beds were made-it is a feature.  Any plant or element in a garden gets visual importance from how it is handled.  Long ago when I had acres, I featured the grass plane by how and where I mowed.   

My grass is not what I would call lawn.  It has weeds, bald spots, piddle burn, corgi claw marks-all the usual scars.  This does not bother me in the least.  Neatly cut and green is all I need. 

The corgis have an especially good view of the grass; their legs are barely 8 inches long.  My lower level garden permits a corgi-eye view of the lawn plane of the upper level.  This is just one of the reasons how a change of level in a garden can delight the eye.     

 Some days the simple garden pleasures are enough.