The Grapevine Deer

deer 2014 (2)It is a yearly thing at Detroit Garden Works – the arrival of the grapevine deer.  In celebration, we outfitted a window box with all the fruits of the harvest. Cabbage, romanesco broccoli, lime green cauliflower, white onions, pumpkins and gourds. Tieing all of the individual elements together – one roll of grapevine-a material so versatile and appropriate for display in a garden. The window box turned out to be a perfect spot to place a grapevine sculpture of a doe. The two elements compliment one another, and speak to the time of the harvest.  The rolls of grapevine that we stock year round look great in, under or around containers.  They soften and highlight any fall planting. A deft hand can make the wiry dried vines drape gracefully. A tree trunk gift wrapped in  grapevine for the winter is a lovely wrap indeed.  They can provide a support for a more lax growing vine, such as clematis.  The grapevines that hang over our fence are lush in the summer, and so sculptural in the winter.

grapevine deer (1)These grapevine deer are the most beautiful use of grapevine I know. They rank high on my list of beautiful garden sculptures.  This natural material and the natural form it represents fits into the garden effortlessly. Sections of the sinewy vine are woven over welded steel forms.  They are a powerfully sculptural interpretation of the beauty of nature.  Who makes them?  A group of people who most of the year tend a vineyard full of wine grapes. In the fall, when the vineyard work is done, they collect the prunings from the vines, and sculpt.

grapevine deer (3)
The vines of the grapes are quite stiff, and unyielding. Working with them to create a shape is sure to produce blisters-I have first hand experience. It could be that these vines are soaked and softened before they are fitted over the steel form. I do not know their method of construction, but I do know they are beautiful.  I marvel at these gracefully curving forms.  I further admire the perfectly parallel placement of the vines over the form. These vines woven over a form is a study in strength and endurance.  Just like a garden.

grapevine deer (8)It is striking that such a stiff material could be made to convey  such soft and natural natural emotion as a doe tending her fawn. Though  I have plenty of clients whose gardens are under siege from deer, it is hard not to appreciate this pair. These sculptures are not about the trouble that deer in the garden present.  They are about the the presence and beauty of nature.

grapevine-deer.jpgThe standing buck sculpture is tall. The antlers are woven around square pipe that insets into a larger pipe hidden below the surface.  I could see it placed in a field of hellebores, or in a grove of trees.

Dec 23 2010 047One year I took a buck home, and used it in lieu of a Christmas tree. It spent the rest of the winter outdoors in the garden. With a yearly rubdown of a penetrating oil sealer, they last for years outdoors. If you have ever tried to compost grapevine, you know how long it persists, even in contact with the soil. Should the vines ever need replacing, the forms can be sent back for fresh vines.

grapevine deer (5)The sculptures are remarkably stable.  If they do blow over, they are easy to right.  For a completely sturdy installation, it is easy to hook a heavy gauge steel hairpin through the steel loop at the foot.  All of the sculptures are life size.  The standing buck is about 5.5 feet tall, excluding the antlers.

grapevine deer (6)A family

grapevine deer (5)Garden sculpture, properly placed, is all about adding another layer to the experience. Looking for a garden sculpture that will look like it has always been there?  Consider the grapevine deer.  Interested further?  http://www.detroitgardenworks.com/garden-store/statuary/grapevine-deer-2/

Stick Week

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The lion’s share of what we offer gardeners for winter and holiday pots and decor are fresh cut natural materials.  The fall harvest includes any natural material which is a celebration of the garden, and a feast for admiring eyes.  Just today we took delivery of this load of fresh cut birch poles in three sizes.  A tree farmer far north of us waded into thigh high water to cut these birch poles for us-they have had a lot of rain this season. I greatly appreciate his effort. How thrilled I am with this picture.  Big numbers of hefty birch branches are stable and striking, represented in four hefty steel boxes from our company Branch.  This is a picture which tells our tale.  Want to be comfortable with nature?  Be exposed, learn-and understand.  Looking for beauty that goes beyond any human construct-study nature.

cut-branches.jpgThe arrival of the fresh cut twigs is a sure sign of the winter season.  We deal with a number of twig farmers.  There are those who grow oranges, tomatoes and avocados, but we do business with farmers that grow twigs.  The art of growing twiggy shrubs with the idea of harvesting the current year’s growth at the end of the season is a practice known as coppicing.  Coppice wood has a long and varied history, in both gardening and agriculture.  Twiggy and woody stems have been harvested for fencing for livestock and vegetable gardens.  Branched twigs provided the first plant stakes for lax growing perennials.  Woven twigs make great vine supports.

fresh-cut-branches.jpgThe nursery industry world wide is responsible for the breeding of shrub cultivars whose twigs have great and enduring color.  Spring Meadow Nursery, in our country, is both proactive and successful in breeding shrubs of note in stem, leaf, and flower.   In the late fall, I am happy to be able to offer fresh cut twigs that are enchanting in color and form.  Stick week-a favorite week of my gardening year.

curly-copper-willow.jpgCurly copper willow might be my personal favorite.  The glossy stems are cinnamon brown.  Just a bunch or two can endow a winter display with a volume, texture, and motion that delights the eye.  The striking color will persist in completely exposed locations throughout the toughest winter.

grapevine-deer.jpgLet’s talk about grapes.  A few vines some 15 years old cover the steel pergola at the shop.  The sinewy vines have been trained to wind round the poles of that pergola.  Grapes need a very strong structure on which to grow.  The leaves cover the pergola roof during the heat of the summer.  The clusters of grapes-beautiful in the early fall.  Those vines, once harvested, are the basis for these deer sculptures.  Our supplier owns a vineyard.  She makes sculptures from the trimmings of the grape vines by forming them over handmade steel armatures.

grapevine.jpgThe cuttings of the vines can provide a material focal point for a winter gesture.  Detroit Garden Works is stocking for this winter season rolls of muscadine grape vine-twigs in the round. These long rolls of twigs in a curled form is the focus of this year’s winter decor.  We interfere with the natural curves of these rolled vines as little as possible.  They have a life all their own, which we mean to feature.  The most beautiful celebrations of the winter season are about letting the natural materials shine.

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When we dressed our linden trees with the grape vines, we following the vine lead.  Once the vines were round the linden tree trunks, we added rusted steel lead garlands.  This look to me is a good partnership.

red-bud-pussy-willow.jpgThe red bud pussy willow in the fall is strikingly beautiful.  I use it over and over again in winter and holiday containers.  More often than not, these cut twigs survive the winter, bloom, and leaf out.  Miraculous, this level of giving.

fresh-cut-twigs.jpgIt is stick week.  What sticks and twigs do you have in your garden that might provide a foundation for your winter garden expression? Looking to winter, those woody plants which have grown and matured might enlighten your winter garden.

The Grapevine Deer 2012

We have offered these life size grapeview deer sculptures at Detroit Garden Works for many years now-I never tire of them.  Unlike the deer that can devastate a bed of hostas, or chew the bark from treasured trees, these deer sculptures are beautiful in almost any landscape or garden.

On the inside, they are heavy gauge welded steel rod.  This makes them incredibly strong and sturdy.  If we place one in a landscape bed, we drive steel rebar deep into the ground next to each leg, and wire the steel frame of each foot to the rebar pins.  This keeps them in place and upright, in all kinds of weather.

In spite of the steel inside, the sculptures are very graceful, and capture the spirit of the beast.  The long legs and overscaled ears of this pair instantly identifies them as fawns.

The grazing doe has a long graceful neck and petite sized legs.  The doe, buck and fawn are life size, and can be sculpted in a standing, grazing, or lying down position.  Whether a single deer, a trio,  or a herd, they are beautiful in a garden.  Some of that beauty has to do with the material itself.

Vitis, or grape, is hardy in many places in the US.  Wild concrod grapes are common in my area.  The vines, harvested after the leaves fall, are the basis for many natural sculptural forms.  We have had grapevine cones, spheres, garlands, baskets, trellises, plant climbers, rustic fencing and wreaths.  The vines dry a beautiful cinnamon brown color, and are amazingly durable.

We recommend sealing these sculptures once a year with WaterLox, or a similar sealer.  Properly sealed, they will give many years of service in the garden.  Only one client of mine has had one long enough to send it back to be redone

But the real beauty of the sculptures is the hand of the sculptor.  A small group of perople make these deer.  Once you see enough of them, you recognize the hand.  I do not know their process, but I would guess the vines are soaked until they are pliant, and then applied and worked around the forms one strand at a time.  Once vine section is parallel to the next, and very densely woven.

I feel sure the vines are sorted and graded.  The larger vines form the body of the deer.  Much smaller vines are used to finish the legs, and fashion the feet.  The forms are sinuous and rhythmic.

I am not sure what is so compelling about them, other than to say they are a story about nature in form, material and narrative.  They are not a graphic representation-they capture a certain wild spirit that is hard to ignore.

I still remember the year of the Christmas buck.

 

Twig Time

Our leaves are finally beginning to turn color, and drop. Or drop without having turned color at all, as the case may be.  The grape leaves on the fence were beautiful this morning, with the sunlight coming through.  Once the leaves have dropped, our landscape is much about the twigs, the trunks, the branches and sticks.  This spot will soon be a plane of brown woody vines.    

These hackberry tree branches are fairly representative of what there is to see here in late fall.  This pot has lots and lots of branches in it, but the effect is delicate and subtle.  The color of these branches is what I call winter drab.   But not all branches are created equal. 

Our shipment of fresh cut twigs arrived yesterday.  These are branches of a different sort.  The stems have great color, and form.     The mainstay of our winter container plantings involve natural branches.  Lucky for us, there is a farm that grows shrubs with the specific purpose of harvesting branches.  A twig farm.  Beautiful branches are on my short list of plants I would be happy to farm.  This bale of red bud pussy willow still sports the last of its leaves.  This means we have to do a little stripping.  Who knows the mechanism, but if a branch is cut, it will take lots more time for the leaves to fall.

 I would grow all manner of Salix-most certainly.  Prairie willow.  Japanese fan willow.  Curly willow.  Flame willow. Black willow.  Pussy willow.  I love the willows.  The markedly fasciated fan willow is particularly beautiful.  I would grow a whole host of stoloniferous dogwood-there are lots of beautiful varieties. Cornus sericea Cardinal” is a particularly bright red form of the species dogwood.

Flame willow branches are a particularly beautiful and vibrant shade of orange.  The shrub likes regular moisture, and full sun; it can grow to 20′ tall.  Like most shrubby willows, their shape and leaves are not their long suit.  But the winter color of their branches is spectacular. 

Red bud pussy willow is aptly named.  Branches of this willow will frequently root if stuck in soil in the fall.  This makes these branches a great choice for a fall, winter-and an early spring container planting.  This is one of the few twigs that we purchase both in the fall, and in the spring.  

Fresh cut yellow twig dogwood provides lots of color in the late fall and winter.  The branches are amazingly easy to bend and twist into shape you choose.  The branches make great wreaths; they can easily be formed into topiary shapes.  They retain their color remarkably well, as they dry.

Cardinal red twig is much more vibrant in color than the species.  The best color on any dogwood branch is the current season’s growth.  Stems that mature take on a brown cast as they age.  This brilliant color looks great at the holidays, and throughout our long winter. 

Grapes are a woody vine with long lax branches that can be shaped over forms.  We have had on occasion grapevine wreaths, spheres, picture frames and nests-but these deer are the most elegant expression of weaving and sculpting with grapevine I have ever seen.  The forms are heavy steel, and each vine is laid in parallel to its neighbor, and then woven into the whole figure.  They look great paired with all of the twigs. The people who create these sculptures-artists, each and every one.  They weld their frames, and weave the grapevine in a very individual way.  This doe and fawn pair is distinctly the creation and look of the person who made them.  My next pair will have a different look.

The standing Buck is particularly handsome.  Each antler has a steel pin that slides into a steel cylinder embedded behind the ears.  The Buck stands almost 7 feet tall.  This is my favorite species of deer for the garden! 

I can think of lots of places for the deer.  As for the fresh cut twigs-what would you do with them?