December 17, 2013

Snow Play

I should be Christmas shopping
I should be writing Christmas cards
I should decorate my own home
I should begin to plan for Friday nights company party
Thus far..........I have not begun any of the above! Being in retail does that......

 When I awoke this morning, it was snowing, jumbo flakes and the sky was shadowy and dark, YES, a delightful diversion! This winter girl grabbed her garb, iPhone, and dog. "Let's go outside and play!" was met with a cheerful grin and a spirited tail wag.
 I like to study the shadows, lines, and the winter interest in my landscape. What needs my attention, what requires changing, etc. Take my hand, let's explore together
 The European Beech (Fagus) has particular beauty in winter. It's leaves do not drop until late March/early April as the new leaves are beginning to push forward. The coppery toned foliage is a bounty of winter interest and a brilliant hiding spot for songbirds.
 My husband's dismay expands when another bench is brought home. "Why on earth do you need a new bench when you never sit in those you have???"
"Easy, I like to look at them"
In winter their lines are beautifully enhanced with a mantle of snow
 But to me, all is enhanced with a dusting of snow
 An abandoned birds nest takes on the appearance of a giant snow cone
 When surrounded by flowers and vines, my gate post chickens are barely noticeable.
 This time of year they are center stage. These are actually wind mill weights turned gate post accruements.
 Silent and strong. Come summer the barn plays host to Amy Howard painting classes
 From all indications, we have had 10" thus far
 My massive boxwood chicken is so endowed with snow, she is barely recognizable.
 Always keeping my spent Hydrangea blooms intact for just this reason. Should you do the same, cut to the ground the end of March (in zone 5 that is)
 My old hitching post horse head is a bit player in the growing season, now he too shines.
 It is indeed sad to me how many gardens will be devoid of their ornamental grasses in the winter, when they can add visual interest and the hushed tones of rustling foliage. Do not cut down until early spring, or if safe, take a match to them. They go up and flame out in a second or two and this process mimic's natures prairie. Burnings adding nutrients to the plant and soil.

 Try heading out with a camera it will force you to stop and focus on the smallest of nuances, details that might not otherwise catch your attention.
 It is a great time to reexamine your gardens bones. The landscape should be appealing 12 months of year.
 Take some shots as normal, and then duplicate in black and white. With the latter, the lines of your landscape and it's bones take on stronger identities. Are your black and white photo's weak in details, shadows and texture? Take note and make changes come spring.

 Here are some remains of a favorite, Carrion Berry vine. In season, these berry globes are a true navy blue!
 Finials wearing fuzzy caps.......

I told you he was cheerful!!
 Wishing you Joy and a cheerful conclusion to your Christmas preparations!

December 12, 2013

Winter Containers 2013 Part 2

I think, we are finished, decorating urns for our clients that is. Feet up, fireplace roaring, wine at my is good!
Let's take a look at some of the most recent designs
One of my favorite landscapes of ours. Instead of the foundation hugging, straight across shrubbery, we created this design at the two front picture windows flanking the front door. These grand urns are the seasonal focal point. I personally love the contrast with the tightly shorn boxwoods and a loose and exhuberant composition. Here is prior to adding the requested ornaments. 
Two looks, this one with the unbreakable ornaments and faux berries. I like both!
All the berries we use are a hard plastic. Averaging $8.00 per stem, they are a bargain compared to live winterberry or holly that blackens and drops quickly or the coated styrofoam berries that explode. The hard plastic will last for three seasons or more.
A hayrack on a barn
The rack is lined in burlap, filled with soil and TONS of greens, sticks, cones and berries. I recommend adding twice as much materials as you think you will need. After being exposed to the elements, the conifers diminish in size.
These pots are MASSIVE, see how high it comes compared to the fence height? The scale is proper when dressing a large home and expansive property.
A Boxwood 'Green mountain' is the permanent resident. Seasonally the perimeter is adorned with loosely flowing elements and colors.
Upright tree toppers for height and vertically installed birch poles
Have any window boxes? Dress them for winter! Here is a collection of faux fruit and berries for a Williamsburg effect.

German boxwood stems were installed vertically in the back of the window box, appearing to be a permenant installation. Personally I love the German boxwood, larger leaf and very long stems. 
A nearby container echoing the faux fruits
An abundance of faux berries and red sticks. This home is in darker color ways and requires a lot of "pop" to see from the road.

Look around, what else can you decorate? Pots....check.  Window boxes.....check.   Hanging and wall baskets....check.  
Making do........
When a client purchases a lone garland from Frontgate and has double doors......punt!
I am thrilled that I have a brilliant, young assistant, Agnes, who has been training alongside me this season, to great effect. These urns were her first on her own, with little advice from me. She did GOOD!
hmmmmm, this looks like a splendid Christmas cocktail...........


December 1, 2013

Winter Containers 2013

 As I write this on December 1st, with a slight panic in my heart, I am thinking of what yet needs to be accomplished. Furiously we are creating outdoor containers for our clients as the season descends.
 As a landscape designer, the gardens' interest needs to be equally lovely, in a different way, during the winter season. One element we can add for instant winter gratification, is by adorning our outdoor containers; urns, window boxes and hanging baskets are all candidates.
We offer a massive variety of boughs, sticks, berries and faux. If this is a new venture for you, or if you could use inspiration, let's look at some of the containers completed for our clients up to now

* choose a variety of greens with varying textures and shapes

* choose elements that blend with the colors of your home
From the bottom up;
silver fir, silver dollar eucalyptus, silver glittered vine balls, spruce, variegated oregano, skimmia, glittered birch stems
All coordinates with the homes color ways
Blue coned cedar, white tipped extra large pine cones, tallow berries, oregano, blue coned cedar, repeated
The tallow berries up close. These are faux, a hard plastic that will last year after year. Real tallow berries are on short rigid stems that is difficult to work with, the faux have longer, pliable stems.....LOVE these!
Against a white house, I recommend dark, rich colors. The addition of the white painted birch sticks ties everything together

Take a look at the magnolia leaf, it adds textural contrast. A thought for you is this, "a large leafed specimen lends order". In these containers or in the ground, a large leaf eliminates a messy appearance with too many small leaves. This is a faux magnolia! The real ones fade and curl up quickly when exposed to cold. These remain "fresh" and pliable. Choose a good quality, variety with the brown reverse leaf
A dark corner is embellished with white painted birch sticks
To fill in the gap from the containers edge we have laid two boxwood wreaths
One large, topped by a smaller size. Wreaths are a good choice for these type of containers;
* low
* the container has beautiful rim detailing that you do not want to conceal with draping boughs
* classic and long lasting
We use double wreaths in varying sizes is to add girth
Such a classic urn and plinth can accommodate dramatic flourishes. Here we added a mixed evergreen garland that undulates, drapes around the container and tumbles down. I envisioned the side protruding garland to replicate urn handles. The garland is wired to the tower of red twig dogwood
The choice here was to keep the wire obelisks, that supports Mandevilla in the summer, in place with a mixed garland wending around the obelisk. The towering height and massiveness of this home calls for a large arrangement to balance the scale.

Anytime you spy red berries in any of our compositions, they are faux. The ever popular winterberry is expensive and turns black with the onset of cold. All of mine are again, hard plastic for multiple years 
At the top of the obelisk I made a small swag for the peak; long needle pine, german boxwood (longer stems), silver dollar eucalyptus and pheasant feathers
Wouldn't this be a lovely composition for the back of dining chairs, tied with a satin ribbon?
Every day we have been outdoors has been bitter cold and sunny, the latter makes for poor photographs.....sorry for that!
Wilt-Stop or Wilt-Pruf are 'anti-dessicants', that is, they aid in retaining moisture for evergreens in the ground or for cut boughs. Our final step is a good drenching.........I highly recommend this step for prolonged beauty.
Incense cedar (yellow seeds at it's ends), juniper, long needled pine, silver bell eucalyptus and red huck which is similar to boxwood but has red stems with red/caramel/green leaves.
The silver belled eucalyptus add an interesting texture, lovely drape and a blue/white coloration. May I recommend these remain outdoors? Once indoors and once the drying process begins, a pungent scent of cat urine takes hold......a horrible surprise if entertaining! 
Another beautiful rimmed container that should be seen, necessitates this up facing design
Spruce, inserted upwards facing, Oregano and faux Berries
Taking a cue from the home's elements we chose red twig dogwood; see the outdoor pillow on the porch chaise? Gold outdoor ornaments; a color in the pillow, and brown outdoor ornaments to blend with the dark brown exposed timbers

Next week, a colonial Williamsburg design with an abundance of faux fruit, rustic charm for an extensive farm setting............

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