Still Raining

Dec 3 012The raindrop pots got their topdressing yesterday.  I decided a mix of noble fir and fresh silver dollar eucalyptus would be just the thing to set off all that glass.  The eucalyptus wavers in the slightest breeze-just like that glass.  The color is bright-not a bad choice for weather which is predominately overcast.  A little morning rain gave everything a fresh look.

Dec 2b 008Eucalyptus stems are wiry, but slight.  Sandwiching them between the stiff layers of the fir gives them some much needed support. Up close, the red stems repeat the red/brown crabapple trunks-this a visual bonus. The network of stems need to resist the weight of the snow that is sure to come. Much like arranging a vase of flowers, we cross stems over one another.  Under the green, a woody nest.

Dec 3 003Pam made quick work of this phase; the fact that she is a great gardener endows her work with a natural and graceful feeling. The greens were stuffed slightly wider that the dripline established by the glass.  The dry foam form into which all of these greens are stuffed are bricks that have been glued together, and wired with concrete wire.  We have only to come by some sunlight to get some sparkle going on.   

Dec 3a 005Rob decided to light the pots with strings of clear c-9 bulbs. We set them well into the foliage;  the green cords are not a good look. This warm light is in contrast to all the attendant blue, makes much of the warm brown of the trunks, and the olive orange winter color of the boxwood.  

Dec 3a 007Late in the day, the drops start picking up light from the bottom.  The eucalyptus discs repeat the round shapes of the drops.

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By 6pm, the party is just getting started. 

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At 7am this morning, I see our full moon has a little company on the ground.  Clear skies are forecast for today-I can’t wait.

The Raindrops

Dec 1a 012I do so enjoy decorating the front of the shop for the winter. Ideas start surfacing in October, as it may take me six weeks to make up my mind.  November first I planted these six crabapples in my pots-a first step.   I took my further cue from Rob, and his client Claudia, this year.  She has been collecting prisms for years; she hangs them from the branches of her trees in the winter. Glass lightcatchers. Her idea enchanted him such that he loaded the shop with all manner of chandelier prisms, raindrops and icicles. 

Dec 1a 014I fell in love with the idea of the glass drops.  The 30 boxes of inch long glass drops I needed to dress these Coralburst crabs sold out in a matter of days.  Most holiday ornament is manufactured to order; we place most of our orders in January for the following winter season.  No one had these little glass blobs available, in spite of my idea to organize my winter pots around them.

Dec 2a 002The only drops I could find after days of searching were nine inches long.  At the moment I was willing to give up, a supplier had numbers of these very long drops in stock-I fretted for an hour about the long length; would they blow around and break?  I fretted another hour, and then ordered a case-432.   Funny how the only ornament available can sometimes turn out to be just the right thing.  We attached 410 glass drops to these six trees; it was my job to cut off the tags, and attach long wires.  Four of us spent three hours getting those raindrops up there.  

Dec 1a 017How they caught the late day light was beautiful. We did try to place them such that a big wind would result in not so many losses. Some design involves risk; who knows what nature might send my way. Should we loose some, so be it.    

Dec 2a 006At 4:30 in the afternoon, these black and blue drops have my attention. At my request, Buck fished my Mom’s tripod out.  The idea of a tripod for my camera bores me beyond all belief, but I knew I needed one now.  A  photographic record of how the available light would endow these drops would need a hand steadier than mine. 

Dec 2a 005 By 5:30 pm, my clear skies have gone blue. The drop stalks are almost invisible; the bulbs have gone a curvy black.  What I am paying so much attention to outdoors now is singular to this time of year. I would suggest that if great design is on your mind, first and foremost,tune in to what is around you, and be persistent with what you see; something will come.

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At 5:30 this morning, the shop was dark.  I came in very early; I was so excited to see the full moon, and use the tripod.   I could barely see to compose this photograph. I felt like I was talking to her- setting up, fussing and fuming. My camera was entirely still and stable on that tripod I inherited some years ago, but never until today, used.  Thanks a lot, Mom. An impossibly long exposure recorded this. My fence was thrown blue from a security light; the cream colored block building next door makes even more of that blue. The purple sky-gorgeous. Make fun of me if you will, but what I saw this morning made me sing.  Capturing the light-a garden activity I highly recommend.

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The drops are heliotrope blue and turquoise with a silver shimmer-what an outfit for these somber crabapples. Now, the tops of the pots need something-what thing?

Shedding Light On The Situation

Kiriluk Christmas 2006 (1)This sassy arrangement of winter pots reminds me much of the client to whom they belong.  She has an eye all her own, and doesn’t mind using it; this makes it easy to design for her. Tall thin woven planters make a forest of the porch.  The distinct curving silhouette of the fantail willow makes a saucy statement up top in the large willow baskets.  Four smaller roughly woven grapevine planters get a topping of twigs, chubby grapevine wreaths and chartreuse netting.  Smashing.  

Kiriluk Christmas 2006 (4)Lighting the twig baskets themselves is unexpected and very effective. Multiple strings of mini lights with brown cords make it clear even during the daytime,  that strong seasonal lighting can create a special look all its own.  This big dose of lighting fun can’t help but make one feel better.   

Hudas (36)The summer plantings in these boxes, and pots are a welcome contrast to the stark and edited landscape. This picture makes me sigh just looking at it-this garden moment is a memory now. 

2007 Hudas HOLIDAY 12-13-07 (4)The winter demands a whole new set of materials. The effect is more formal, and more subtle.  The landscape still looks finished, even though the garden has gone down.  Having the energy to pursue a project at its end with the same energy evident that I had at the start has much to do with the success of a design. 

Hudas christmas 2006 (2)The lighting adds a dimension that responds to the fact of our quiet and dim winter season. Is there a need to give in-not so much. 

Baumgartner1 (15)The quiet and graceful arrangements in these containers rely on an interplay of color and texture.  The subtle reverie of pale blue eucalyptus and yellow twig dogwood contrast with the highly textured white pine.  The dusting of snow is so beautiful. Weather plays just as important a role here as it does in the greater landscape. 

Baumgartner1 (4)The lit topiary sculptures make another statement all together.  Dressed for an evening out, these topiaries have the added bonus of bathing the entire porch area in a warm winter glow.

chicago05 in store (6)The transition from fall to winter can be a bleak one. This old finial looks chilly, now that the leaves have dropped from the lindens.   

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Fortunately nature has a way of providing her own special brand of winter light.  The white snow catches and reflects all the available light however litlle there might be-even at night.  Though I have been known to complain about the 6 months I have to spend gardening alternatively, in truth I would not give this season up.  The snow cloche-lovely.

Night Light

2008 store front 1-3-09 (3)The Michigan skies go dark during our winter months.  We have few sunny days; the winter solstice date, this year December 21st,  is the shortest day of the entire year. The dark comes at 4pm, and is still around at 7am.  The cold and the snow don’t bother me nearly as much as those gloomy skies. Should you not light your landscape, their will be precious little to see. Formally lighting the landscape is a topic all its own. I am interested today in how people garden with light.  These scotch pine on standard in Belgian oak barrels outside my office window-a strong defense against the dark.      

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 Those clear white lights available everywhere seem to ask for some dressing up; the big bulbs are a refreshing change.  The mix of big and little bulb strands, attached to each other with little snippets of yellow raffia, engage my attention like a good tune. These light garlands gracefully swagged through the branches of my big lindens are a cheery contrast to the winter blues.     

dgw 12-27-08 008My native winter landscape is notable for its cold, its interminable length, and its relentless snow. The light garland over my door is a combination of white, amber, and yellow lights; the centerpieces in the pots wound round with gold frosted lights. The pots are stuffed with giant nests of raw hemp fiber.  The effect is warm and cozy.  I am all for turning the lights on.

DSC05988Light strings need not be confined to rooflines and Christmas trees. Urethane topiary forms densely wound with light strings cast their warm light in every direction.  The biggest requirement for this project-the patience to wind and pin the wires with fern pins.  A landscape focal point comes to life in a very different way, thus lighted.   

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 These wood boxes have what we call light bars as centerpieces.  Galvanized pipe from the hardware store is wound with lights; the bottom foot of the bare pipe is sunk into the soil. The curly willow branches add a natural element that looks good during the day.  The light bars help keep the willow visible during the extended dark hours. Large bulb chartreuse light strings were part of the Martha Stewart holiday lighting collection for KMart some years ago; how I like the big soft glow they add to the greens and snow.   I have no idea to quit gardening when the ground freezes-I just garden in a different way. 

Copy of dgw _0078Rob invented these light bars. Wrapped closely around a galvanized pipe, and installed in the ground over steel rebar sunk in the ground, they shed light in every direction.  They are beautifully sculptural in a contemporary setting.    Taubman3 (3)Many many light strings were needed to describe the shape of this old oak in lights.  The structure of this tree is never more apparent than it is this time of year.  

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I photographed the front of the shop this year at dawn’s light.  The snow and the ice greatly magnify the twinkle of the twinkle lights on these skyrocket junipers.  A wire tree basket serves as a form creating the overall shape of this fantail willow and dogwood.  The white pine at the base droops gracefully in the opposite direction.  I like having something in the winter landscape that gives me as much pleasure as my summer garden.   

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The big idea here has everything to do with personal and individual expression.  The materials are readily available, the risk of doing too much is slight. The effect is immediate and gratifying.  Whether you run your seasonal lighting only through the end of the year, or on into March, lighting the winter garden like this is temporary-no big long term committment required. I know I am not the only person who drives the neighborhoods during the winter holiday to see what others have done to light the night; this might be the best part of December in Michigan.