friends and family
friends and family
My contribution to the Thanksgiving dinner is next to nothing; I set the table, keep everyone’s glass full, and try to stay out of the way. Cooking this dinner is an intense business. We did a joint dinner with friends; Fred delivered a fresh 25 pound turkey, which he had brined and air cooled for the previous 24 hours, for Buck to cook. I can’t tell you one thing regarding this process, except to say that dealing with twenty five pounds of turkey involved a lot of heavy lifting.
In my business, there are machines that are engineered to do the heavy lifting. Though my crew can handle a lot, there are those projects which could not be done efficiently without the help of machines. Two landscape projects of considerable scope and size need finishing before we loose our working weather. The first phase of this project-the installation of a new driveway. The original drive, set much too low, flooded with every rain. The drivecourt was set some six inches above grade; water draining off the drivecourt was finding its way to the basement of the house.
Given that a new driveway was a necessity, I suggested an alternate location that would provide a great view of the lake and property, and gracefully deposit guests at the front door. A large tree in very poor condition would come down. As the driveway would come through this area with eight inches of road gravel and decomposed granite, an oversized stump grinder was used to remove the top 14 inches of stump. There is no digging out the stump of a tree this size; nature intended that the forty feet above ground would have a solid foundation. This large four wheeled machine is designed to power a giant blade, that sweeps back and forth over the stump, chewing up and spewing out the bits.
The original drivecourt, partly hand made brick pavers from the early twentieth century, and asphalt, needed complete removal, so as to lower the grade around the house. This excavator makes two days work of this big job. A front end loader collected the intact bricks, so they could be stacked on pallets for use in the new drive, and later dumped the asphalt into a truck for removal from the property. Was I fascinated by steamshovels as a child-absolutely.
At some point concrete was added to the existing drive. As the house is a long distance from the street, any guest parking had to be provided for on the property. As a driveway is not something one takes out on a whim, and redoes, if there is a need for more parking, the add on was just that-an add on. This machine cuts concrete; as the blade turns, a spray of water keeps the blade from overheating. I understand little about how machines work, but how this works made a monumental job possible.
In conjunction with a new driveway, an asphalt go-cart track. I will admit, this is my first. I had my clients drive the proposed drive and cart path many times. Once any driving surface is done, its not easy to make changes. Over a period of four days, we tuned up the final design. This machine, rolling back and forth over the freshly laid asphalt, is solely intended to compact the oily mixture into a tough and durable surface. You can tell from all the steam we are in a race aginst the cold weather. Asphalt plants typically close the end of October; our late fall weather has been unseasonably warm.
The particulate asphalt is hot, and set with this machine. I have no idea what drove the design, but it enables the two operators to lay out a layer of asphalt in the desired width, at a consistent thickness. Bush Brothers Asphalt is just that-five brothers who quote, install and finish driveways, parking lots, roads-and in this case, a driving course.
Buck builds things from steel; much of what he builds is impossibly unwieldy and heavy. He has another pair of hands that enables him to position and move material, how, where and when he needs it. A bridge crane, affixed to an overhead track, can pick up 5 tons worth of any material he needs moved at a time. A control gauge at the floor level enables him to move materials up and down-and finally out. His eyes are always on the object he is moving, not on those buttons. An object of great size and weight he moves with great attention and respect. Machine operators are as much a marvel as the machines themselves.
It would have taken an army to move this steel sculpture from the shop onto this trailer-another machine that enables us to move big things big distances. I have utmost respect for those people who identify what work needs doing, and design and build the machines which accomplish that. I greatly appreciate that these people- the designers, the manufacturers who make machines, and the operators who drive them, make it possible for me to work.
We spent over a week tearing apart a thirty year old landscape for this client. They had decided that though their kids were grown and gone, they would stay, and renovate both the inside and out of their family home. They had not ever spent much time outdoors; a very small back yard with no privacy from neighboring terrraces and play structures kept them indoors. New screening, and an enlarged gravel addition to their terrace opened the door to a new living space for them. The finishing touch-a collection of Italian style, English made concrete planters.
Their children are all coming home for Thanksgiving; they asked if I could dress the pots in their winter coats in time. They are very excited at the prospect of their kids seeing how their home has been transformed in the past 3 months, and the landscape is part of that. Four of the five pots on the rear terrace would be planted for winter. As they have little in the way of outdoor lighting in the back, we installed lights in every pot. The electrician just installed outdoor plugs for them yesterday, in time for the holiday gathering.
We stuffed this long and large rectangular planter with a mix of boxwood and incense cedar. I like mixed greens in large planters for greater interest. The fan willow centerpiece is backed up with yellow twig dogwood; the pairing makes each individuall element look better.
Straight flame willow, and red curly willow have a very similar color, but a very different texture. These orangy brown twigs stand out against the bigger landscape gone grey. The blue of the noble fir contrasts strongly with those flames sticks; the planting looks warm and robust. The leaves of Magnolia Grandiflora have a beautful felted brown obverse; the shiny green leaves change up the texture.
Preserved and dyed eucalyptus provdes a leafy texture much like the magnolia. The chocolate brown color is surprisingly lightfast outdoors. The container looks dreesed for the weather; the colors perfect for the Thanksgiving holiday will go on looking good as winter settles in.
The pots are positioned to provide good views of the outdoors from the inside. I will move pots from a summer location to a winter one, if need be. I spend a lot more time looking at my garden in the winter from indoors; I am outdoors as much as possible in the summer. These pots can help alleviate that cooped up feeling invariably creeps up on any northern gardener.
After the rear terrace pots were installed, they called-could I please do three more. Though they plan to replace these front door pots in the spring, they are not the center of attention here. Red bud pussy willow and dark purple eucalyptus make a formal and quietly beautiful statement at the door. My landscape crews construct and install all of this work; they do such a beautiful job. Clients who have winter pots done for the first time are surprised at what a difference they make. I hear about how nice it feels to have something beautiful to look at outdoors at this time.
The side door has the same pot as the front, but a different treatment. As variety is a very precious commodity this time of year, I avoid repeating the same materials everywhere. These snow branches are all plastic; they look just as good up close, as they do in this picture. I try to include a third, mid-level element in all the winter pots; just sticks and greens is a little too spare for my taste.
This is my idea of warm holiday wishes from the garden.
Deborah Silver is a landscape and garden designer whose firm, Deborah Silver and Co Inc, opened its doors in 1986. She opened Detroit Garden Works, a retail store devoted to fine and unusual garden ornament and specialty plants, in 1996. In 2004, she opened the Branch studio, a subsidiary of the landscape company which designs and manufactures garden ornament in a variety of media. Though her formal education is in English literature and biology, she worked as a fine artist in watercolor and pastel from 1972-1983. A job in a nursery, to help support herself as an artist in the early 80′s evolved into a career in landscape and garden design. Her landscape design and installation projects combine a thorough knowledge of horticulture with an artist’s eye for design. Her three companies provide a wide range of products and services to the serious gardener. She has been writing this journal style blog since April of 2009.