Monday, December 31, 2012

A Hopeful New Year

The most sheltered branch of my winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) was in full bloom on Christmas Eve.
Day 253  
The Daily DuBrule

It's New Year's Eve, and I feel like I have run a marathon in the past month. As I look back on my blog, I realize I haven't written a thing since December 3rd. Yup. That's when the craziness began. Two open houses, decorating a designer house for the holidays, first ever Ladies Night, and hundreds upon hundreds of wreaths, swags, and arrangements made over the course of the past 28 days. Oh, I might also mention a staff pizza party in the wood fired oven at my fully-decked out house for 30+ people to celebrate Natureworks' first official retirement. Then we hosted 12 for Christmas Eve (I married an Italian, need I say more) and another big meal for my family of 6 on Christmas Day. Company stayed on for a while, I collapsed for one day, then onto Natureworks' cleanup day after the retail store closed which included grappling with inventory procedures with our young P.O.S. system. That was truly humbling. Yesterday, to top it off, shoveling a foot of snow that was TOO WET to go through the snow blower. All of that is a lot to handle, but as I look back now, I think I became uninspired to write about plants after the Newtown tragedy. It seemed too trivial all of the sudden. I put my nose to the grindstone and did all that I had to do. Now, I can finally sit, rest, relax, and think again. Which leads me back to this blog. 

I went out on Christmas Eve day and walked around my yard picking greens and taking photographs of all of the signs of life in the garden. I was quite astounded at what I saw. I knew December had been warm, but I really only understood just how warm when I saw plants a bit too far along for this time of year. The other thing I observed was the wide range of plants that don't go completely dormant. There was quite a bit of green out there! Enjoy these pictures, may they remind you that gardeners are, essentially, quintessential optimists. We believe in life reborn every single New Year.
I have been eying this giant rosette of biennial foxglove for a while now. It's in my courtyard. Doesn't it look like a big fuzzy star? I hope it's happy under the snow this winter. If it makes it through, it will be amazing. I also found tons of babies in another area, but they won't bloom until 2014.

My 'Crimson and Gold' quince had swollen buds in the middle of December. I picked them and brought them indoors and they bloomed on Christmas Eve. I then picked some Atlantic white cedar and branches of 'Midwinter Fire' twiggy dogwood, put it all in a ruby red vase, and plunked on my writing desk. So pretty, such an inspiration. A second branch cut on Christmas Eve day is starting to swell it's buds now. Quince lasts a LONG time in the house once it opens, many weeks. If you have quince in the yard, try it.

Since late fall my Viburnum carcephalum has been popping open a bit. If you bring a bud in the house, it will smell so sweet, especially in a small, warm room like a south facing powder room.
The buds of my 'Arnold's Promise' witch hazel are very abundant this year and I can't wait to pick branches and force them. Soon. I can smell that spicy scent now. Those are seed pods of my Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne' that snuck through the fence into the courtyard. The birds will love to munch on them this week.
How is it possible that my ruby chard, which was frozen solid in November, has sent up a new crown of fresh foliage that is so intensely red and green just in time for Christmas Eve? This would have made a good Christmas card!
I was enchanted by the stack of seeds and the pattern of the seed pods on my white Japanese iris by the water garden. I just pulled out the pump and shut the water garden down yesterday afternoon as the first snowflakes started to fall.

Fasciated pussywillows are starting to open. I cut my plants REALLY hard this spring after blooming and BOY did that make a difference. I will have a great crop of branches for the flower show in February.
I brought my night blooming Jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum) indoors for the winter and cut it back HARD as advised by Dave Pliska, my tropical plant expert. It has suffered from the transition but I just noticed all new shoots arising on Christmas Eve. I can't wait for this to bloom in the house. The fragrance is insanely intoxicating.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Circle of Green

Day 252
The Daily DuBrule

Yesterday was a stunningly beautiful day, warm, sunny, and mild, a perfect day to work outdoors. I tackled my annual wreathmaking project, twisting up a giant wreath for the front of my house. I started by taking the stepladder, my loppers, pruners, and a wheelbarrow for a tour of my yard. I harvested white pine, American holly, juniper, Norway spruce, hemlock, curly willow, and lacebark pine. This involved climbing to the top step of the ladder, extending the loppers to their longest reach, and lopping off giant branches, ducking as they fell to the ground. Because my wreath was going to be big I was going for the longer branches higher up on the trees. 

Harvest complete, I spread everything out in my courtyard around the center circle of my labyrinth. The sun was shining, the water garden was bubbling away, the birds were singing, my heart was happy. I grabbed my trusty roll of green florist wire, my 20" wreath ring (which I re-use year after year), and set to work.

After wiring big hunks of greens to the circle for one go around, I stuck long, thin branches of hemlock and three dimensional sprays of curly willow into my creation. Back around the wreath I went again, wiring this second batch of wilder stems into my wreath. Then I leaned it up against the steps of my deck and added a very strong wire hanger. I fluffed up last year's bow, tied it on, and strung tiny white lights around the wreath twice, wiring them into place. Voila. Complete. I was so excited to march this masterpiece to the front of the house, hang it up, and plug it in.
When I was done, I still had tons of greens left. I made a huge swag, complete with my peace sign. I studded three large pots. What a wonderful, peaceful, creative afternoon. My reward? Pizza and wine for dinner, out on the town with my husband, followed by chocolate covered macaroons. Sweet.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Now THAT'S a Swag!

Day 251
The Daily DuBrule

This week has been very busy in our holiday design department. I am asked to do some crazy things at this time of year but I have only myself to blame for the giant swag project that I decided to tackle for one of my clients. In the past I have simply swagged pine roping around her porch post and tied on cones, berries, and sparkling and ornaments. This year I had a creative brainstorm and set about to create a swag that turned out to be over six feet tall! 

I gathered large branches of fraser fir, douglas fir, white pine, cryptomeria, blue juniper, and upright 'Hetzii' juniper. I carefully layered the greens in a long line spanning three wooden pallets. I then set about, a spool of 22 gauge green florist wire in hand, to wire this swag together. For the better part of an hour I wove in and out of the evergreens, securing them to each other. I added a horizontal piece to go across the top of the porch. When I was done and picked it up, I couldn't believe how heavy it was!
When I got to my client's home, I climbed a very tall ladder and proceeded to secure wire to the top of the post and along the roof of the porch. My helper handed me up the swag and then climbed a second ladder and help hold up the horizontal arm while I wired it in place. When we were done, we couldn't believe our eyes. It fit perfectly and framed the doorway in a way that roping could never do. Of course, a great big bow made with three different ribbons and the addition of gold birch branches and pine cones helped to bring it to the next dimension.