Snow Load

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 Fierce, even deadly winter weather both here and abroad has been the garden news this week.  I feel terrible for everyone whose efforts to travel at the holiday have landed them indefinitely in an airport lobby or train terminal.  We have only a light dusting of snow now, although the temperature at 6am today was 14 degrees. Very cold.  New Years day, 2008, was a different story.      

2008 store front 1-1-08 (21)I go to work on the holidays too, as MCat lives at the store. I need to make sure he is ok; he gets pets, and holiday treats-daily attention.  I have a greenhouse roof, modine heaters, and plants; any of the above could fail on any day-including a holiday.  I only live 1.5 miles from work-this makes a quick trip easy.  I figure I can handle any weather for that distance.  But for a storm some ten years ago which had me holed up at the shop for 2 days, I am free, and lucky to be able to get to work, and just appreciate my snow.

2008 store front 1-1-08 (3)Though I am a person delighted by color, in the past few years I have become interested in Belgian design. Rob has persistently bought Belgian garden ornament; the Belgian landscape reminds him of Michigan.  Long before Cote de Texas featured Belgian design (www.cotedetexas/belgian design) and Restoration Hardware got the notion to organize an entire collection with a Belgian flavor, he was out there, shopping in a country much like our midwest. Those interiors built around natural materials-the  raw wood floors, linen drapes, the whitewashed antiques-the unexpected crystal chandelier-I love this understated look. This particular New Years Day looked like a Belgian day to me. The white, chocolate, taupe and cream-  fresh, and not over wrought.  Just how Rob would have it.

2008 store front 1-1-08 (6)This heavy snow wiped out all the extraneous details.  This copper pergola only suggested that aged copper color. Brown,white, and taupe-a limited color palette. There is such great beauty from just a few quiet details. 

2008 store front 1-1-08 (4)The snow added volume to what was already massive, and form to what had only been slightly suggested.  The snow caught on the wall-an entire but silent discussion about surface. The irregular surface of the wall-I had never really seen this before.  The snow detailed this for me.

2008 store front 1-1-08 (5)The Belgian hazelwood fence panels-if you thought you could live without them, you might reconsider. Do they not look beautiful outlined in snow? The squared boxwood planted in natural concrete pots, the black iron benches, the trunks of the willows outlined in snow, the cream metal doors on the building beyond and next door-I am thinking this looks great.

2008 store front 1-1-08 (1)My old Scotch pines on standard, planted in these incredibly beautiful Belgian oak barrels, withstood the storm with equanimity.  The white, the chocolate, and the bright light-what a gorgeous view I had out my office window. The old fashioned clear white c9 lights in the window box-my garden’s chandelier.

2008 store front 1-1-08 (10)In truth, I could spend one year planning a single project-and it could never keep up with what nature whips up overnight.  My 2008 New Years day-extraordinary.  

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The lighting in these trees is anything but restrained.  But whether it be 5am, or 5pm, I can still see the garden.

Pattern

Dec 18c 043Were I to ask you which of three wallpaper patterns appealed to you the most, or which person you have most patterned your life after, you would have no problem understanding and answering the questions. A  written definition of pattern is not this easy.  A paisley is a shape that is readily recognizable; a series of paisley shapes, that repeat in a certain order, that the eye can recognize, forms a pattern. My steel grate plant table tops, dusted with snow, bring the pattern of the extruded metal into focus. 

Dec 18c 047Many patterns exist in nature; early winter may be the best time to study them. The oval shaped dried flower heads of these hydrangeas make a visual pattern that repeats. They remind me of the old boxwoods at Dunbarton oaks that are pruned to resemble clouds. Cloud pruning is a gardening term gardeners recognize; the particular shaping and direction taken by an individual gardener makes a pattern.   A distinctive pattern.   

DSC_0029Milo has a ball decorated with raised dots in an all over pattern.  An all over pattern reads the same regularly, no matter what direction your view should take.  There is no left or right, no up or down. The pattern of this light snow is very subtle; every diaphanous flake randomly covers the gravel in the drive. Nonetheless, the individual flakes make a pattern-a pattern I did not really pay attention to, until I saw the imprint of the ball dots-so regular and clear.  The relationship of what came from the sky, with the pattern evidenced by that manufactured ball of his-on my mind today. 

snow patterns

Individual lengths of grapevine make random patterns. Woven into a wreath shape, the circular pattern comes to the visual fore. It is on my mind today that natural random patterns in the landscape are subtle, graceful, rhythmic-you understand-natural. There is reward to taking the time to see nature’s patterns.  How people pattern things is more hands on- orderly, more clear, sometimes too self conscious.  Which is more beautiful-the grapevine run wild on my fence, or this gorgeous wreath?  The answer has everything to do with a point of view, and nothing to do with the truth.  What moves you?

Dec 22aa 009This wreath is comprised of small flower shapes constructed from wood shavings, twig stubs, and dried bay leaves.  The pattern, to my eye, is all about the circle, repeating.  A wreath is an ornament; the arrangement of organized shapes makes for a pattern.  When I see pattern, I am at my most focused.

iron grate

The regular repetition of a shape makes a pattern that pleases my eye.  This gridded metal table has a cleanly contemporary pattern. Horizontal and vertical lines meeting make for stable shapes, and strikingly clean patterns. A classic X pattern trellis is a much more traditional look.  Certain patterns have much history attached to them.  Creating pattern that throws off history, definition, and any resulting cursory nod from an audience-designers of gardens, landscapes, fabrics, music, interiors, buildings, cars, ornament-anyone who designs spends time here.

dgw _0043Early winter is the perfect time to think about pattern.  The snow, the cold, and the low light, the absence of  leaves and flowers that blur the patterns, presents me with a landscape graphically black and white. Now is the best time to see patterns.  RobB  just forwarded me a post from A Way to Garden (awaytogarden.com)-a doodle by Andre.  His idea-to send a card to his garden.  Thank you for all you have done for me, beloved garden.  That post, and his card has been on my mind all day.  My garden gives me so much; this quiet time gives me plenty of time to think about this.  Though some years ago I was certain my gardening ended with the first killing frost-now I know different.  These first early snows come with lively lessons, debate, original source material; I know to pay attention.  Who knew there was so much to see, and think about in late December?  I am looking, and listening. December-I welcome it.  No kidding.

A Recurring Theme

Dec 21 029Rob does a lot of the holiday display work in the shop.  It may take me a while to figure it out, but usually there is some recurring theme  in his work that finally surfaces.  In addition to his light garlands, this year of his was all about the trees.  Trunks, branches, and stems got taken apart, and put back together in some beautiful way.  This spot in the shop is home to its third tree of his making.  This collection of bare box elder branches was assembled as a multistemmed holiday tree-this one simply decorated in beaded snowflakes and glass birds.  The others, hung with glass icicles, have new homes for the holidays.

Dec 18d 008The idea of a holiday tree small enough for a sideboard or table is an appealing one.  This “pear tree” is decorated with glass pear ornaments and icicles; the partridge is sitting in her brown glittered nest.  This holiday tree is a one of a kind expression with a big visual impact.

Dec 21 022This glass vase he filled with the skeletal remnants of weeds from the field next door.  The blown seed pots of asclepias tuberosa, or butterfly weed, softens the look of the sticks. A very subtle and unexpected addition? A few platinum glitter picks make what at first glance seems ordinary, sparkle softly.

Dec 21 027These very sparkly trees take up next to no room on a mantle or buffet.  This Pucci-inspired version of a tree-great fun. The glittered seed pod trees have the same effect-very festive.

Dec 21 020Coulter pine cones are the largest cones on the planet.  They are little wood trees, in and of themselves. A very large Coulter cone which stands up on end, perfectly balanced, makes small but stunning holiday tree. 

Dec 21 030Rob frequently displays holiday ornament in tree branches. Many years ago I decorated a small deciduous tree from my property for the holidays.  This does have an understated and spare look reminiscent of the feather trees so popular at the turn of the century. These ornaments from bark strips look right at home here.  

Dec 21 034This vase with a tree comprised of a few pine boughs and field weeds gets some punch from a feathered cardinal ornament. It says holiday with the fewest words possible. 

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Other arrangements of his are not so spare, but they all feature his particular point of view.  Happy holidays from Rob.

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.