Stick Week


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.

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.

Come Early

I am well aware there have been a conspicuous absence of posts the past few days.  The week running up to our holiday open house is an intense work experience that starts early in the day, and ends late.  Not that I mind this.  The past fews days have been unseasonably warm, so we have had spectacular fog at dawn.  The umpteen numbers of glass icicles we hung in the lindens are a frost white at 5:30 am-it was worth been up this early to see them. I like a project that has a deadline.  This is in sharp contrast to that garden which is always changing, and hopefully evolving. 

Bunches and more bunches of stick stacks of various twig arrived last week. Cardinal red twig, yellow twig, and black twig dogwood in three heights comes to us from a stick farm. Copper willow, fan willow, pussy willow-the salix family and its hybrids have beautiful twigs.  I would not mind farming sticks one bit. Coppicing twigs is a very old art; twigs are judiciously harvested, leaving the plant to grow new twigs. They provide lustrous, linear and colorful interest in winter containers. 

The yellow twig is an especially striking yellow green color.  In mass, they have a graceful and rhythmic appearance that belies their strength.  They will still look great come next April, when most else is the garden is still dressed in winter drab.  We do strap our twigs to a bamboo or metal pole that is sunk deep into the container.  A stick stack out of vertical is not a good look.  
That said, these wire containers of red twig listing by design is exciting visually.  A composition fueled by confidence and deliberation means the rules do not necessarily rule.  The gardening world’s most prominent rule breaker-nature. Snow in early June, the datura in ground that survives the winter, the hen who raises an abandoned kitten-there are lots of examples.    

I am an early person by nature.  I like time, peace and quiet to get ready for the day.  I am not a day dreamer-I am a dawn dreamer.  The prospect of completely redoing the display in the shop puts me to work very early; this is no different than in the spring.  In spring I am thinking about making things grow.  This time of year is about making something of what I have.     

Fog has a way of saying hush hush.  Saturated colors are subdued.  The wet quiet is muffles sound.  The sharp edges of everything are blurred. No telling where this observation might take me once I take it inside. Creating an atmosphere in the absence of weather-difficult. Arranging an interior space-I admire people who do this well.  They take a series of objects and create an atmosphere in which everything lives well together.  A person who can generate atmosphere- no doubt you know a sun maker, a rain maker, a trouble maker.  A well designed landscape is poised to wear the weather well.   

The fog has me thinking about how to soften the sticks-with picks, and preserved and dyed eucalyptus. As much as I like the masses of one color, what would happen if I mixed the sticks?  Maybe three colors.   

This is the last early morning before our holiday open house weekend.  My list is not nearly as long as it has been, but it’s long enough to get me going first thing.     
We are almost ready.

Home For Thanksgiving

Aug 12 036We 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.

Nov 22 093Their 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. 

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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. 

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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.

Nov 22 099Preserved 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. 

Nov 22 108The 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.    

Nov 22 090After 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.

Nov 22 086The 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.   

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This is my idea of warm holiday wishes from the garden.