Who Am I??

aloe grassy lassieLast week there was some discussion of a plant pictured in my post on gifts for gardeners. What is it? Though the flowers bear a strong resemblance to kniphofia, this plant is an aloe. 

Dec 18d 001Grassie Lassie has long thin stiff leaves, barbed all along their edges. I water them once in only a great while. They started blooming a month ago. Peach and yellow bells on long brownish stems-good looking.  Steve thinks it is a Proven Winners selection-maybe so.  I just know I like it. 

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Flowers in the winter-what a treat.

Sunday Opinion: Oxygen

I  go to work really early; I like uninterrupted time to wake up, have coffee, plan the day, and play ball with the dogs. I often use this time to write-especially the Sunday opinion essay.  Of late I have been taking photographs with the tripod-in the dark.  I am curious what I cannot see, that the unblinking eye of the camera will catch. This routinely unscheduled time alone is my oxygen; I need to breath it in, to live. Later Steve will be in; we will sort out the day.  Later yet, I will need to pull materials, sketch plans, talk on the phone, handle the unexpected. My rush hour starts around 7:30. Some days it persists longer than you would think.  I would bet most other people’s days are just about like mine-but for the oxygen.  What any given person needs to breathe in such that their blood circulates briskly-individual.

I have written and written again about how the gardening season goes on for me, long after the killing frost turns the landscape quiet.  How much of this is either self defense, or just talk-probably more than I think.  I do so miss the plants and the dirt. I miss cruising the garden, eating outdoors; I miss all of it, and I will go on missing it another three months anyway.  Yesterday morning I woke up needing a little of that kind of oxygen.  I waited around impatiently for the clock to read 8:45; I was walking in the door of Bordine’s Nursery at 9:05.  The quality of the oxygen is what hits you first.  The air is enriched with water, and smells like life. This sort of oxygen I need to live.  Even though they are at the end of their holiday season, there was plenty of living going on.

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Having been a gardener a long time, I know what a well-grown plant looks like.  Every place I looked, gorgeous plants grown by Rick Brinks. The greenhouse was filled with all manner of plants in warm colors; the chartreuse benching made all the color look even better.  I found myself not one, but two flatbed shopping carts-and shop I did. The red and white pointsettias were luscious. As were the cyclamen.  I like the mini-cyclamens better than the standard size.  They seem more like a garden plant, than a hothouse version of a plant.  Both will bloom a long time over the winter. The leaves are as beautiful as the flowers-although flowers were really what I needed yesterday.  I bought amaryllis bulbs to pot up.  These papery brown bulbs are programmed to speedily launch their stout stalks topped with three or four giant flowers practically while you watch.  I found some tropical ferns and yellow variegated dracaenas-their shades of green were a sight for my sore eyes. 

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Last night I was potting plants on the kitchen counter.  Buck was standing right next to me, armed with the roaring hose of the shop vac. The dirt crumbs and wet blobs and other detritus didn’t stand a chance.  I was in my own kitchen, watching a live time episode of  ”Cooking with Miss Dirtiness”.  It was pretty funny.  Yesterday-all I did all day was breathe.

At A Glance: Early Light

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Almost Ready

Dec 16c 005I was finally ready this morning to install holiday decor for a client both inside and out; the wreath for the front door was the last thing to be loaded in the trucks. My clients have spent years restoring a beautiful late nineteenth century house; they moved in just weeks ago.  Though the landscape renovation just got underway before we ran out of good weather, we managed to get the granite driveway installed. The new front portico and brick walks are still under construction. But being in the late stages of a construction project does not mean they have to forego the holidays. 

Dec 16c 023A formal tree in the foyer is decorated all in red. Glass ball ornaments in clusters and berry picks suffuse the interior of the tree with a red glow.  Sparkly red ornaments of all shapes and sizes hang from the tips of the branches.

Dec 16c 020The space at the bottom of the stairs is a small one. Some of the lower branches of the tree spill into the stairwell going downstairs. A cloud of red sinamay shot through with metallic red threads finishes the tree at the floor.  The garland on the stair railings is plain-but for bouquets of berry picks, ornaments and satin ribbons on the newel posts. 

Dec 16c 028My client requested that the ceiling of her dining room be dripping with holiday.  I am sure she did not think I would take her request literally-but it seemed just the thing to do.  The glass drops pick up the light from the windows, and the chandelier; the whole room sparkles.  I can imagine it will look beautiful with candlelight. 

Dec 16c 033We pinned copper and pewter colored oak leaf garland at the top of each beam.  Coppery brown manzanita branches were zip tied together in a configuration that would allow for hanging the drops at different levels, and in different planes.  Natural reindeer moss is glued over the zip ties.  The contrast of the old and somber hand hewn beams with the delicate glass drops-lovely.  

Dec 16c 025The old fashioned cooking fireplace is draped in magnolia garlands which are fastenened at the corners with pewter colored leaf and pod picks.  Small custers of brown berries add a subtle shine to the garland.  I always hang magnolia garland with the leaf tips up.  As the leaves dry, they open, and fan out, giving the garland greater volume.  Garland hung with the leaf tips down will dry down, and be smooth and uniform in width. This is gravity at work.

Dec 16c 040The new portico outdoors still lacks lighting and finishing, but Christmas is next week.  The steel topiary towers were custom made for these large pots; they are wound with brown corded lights.  As the bed of greens is so massive, we did a mix for textural interest.  Large branches of magnolia grandiflora were zip tied together to make a shrubby form akin to the steel topiary form. 

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These three English made concrete planters are stuffed with mixed greens; their centerpieces are cardinal red twig, red glitter branches and red glitter leaf picks.  They make a big splash.  The planters are positioned to screen the side door from immediate view, and direct visual attention to the front door. 

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In the spring, the antique brick walkway porch, and new landscape will dress this area up considerably.  But for now, being ready for the holidays is a gesture in a good direction.