Great plants look good dead

That title is a quote from my greatest inspiration, Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. I was reminded of that yesterday when I took advantage of the near-60 F temps and put together a couple of dried arrangements for the house. I had no shortage of material to choose from, both cultivated and wild.

In his books (Designing with Plants, written with Noel Kingsbury), Oudolf stresses mixing up the different forms of flowers when designing plantings — spikes and spires, buttons and globes, screens and curtains, plumes, umbells, etc.

Combining good plants with a mix of these forms makes a good garden in season. Combining great plants that hold these forms into winter extend the season of interest in the garden — and provide great material for arrangements.

My favorites this year include the 4-foot-long spikes of Digitalis ferruginea, the Seuss-esque stacked globes of Phlomis tuberosa, and the curly, hand-like spires of Veronicastrum virginicum. Throw in some curly willow, the rampant teasel, various plumes and spikes of ornamental grasses, sedum umbells, some motherwort, hazel catkins, Verbena hastata and Verbena bonariensis seedheads, and goldenrod stems comoplete with galls and you’ve got and arrangement without half trying. I’ll add a picture next time I have the camera home.

Kingsbury has a new book out Seedheads in the Garden. I’ve only had a chance to skim the pictures, and was amazed how my tastes had already gravitated toward the species he includes.

I’m sure I’ll post more about Oudolf when I get a chance. A similar style has arisen Germany. (See The New German Style.) This winter I also hope to finally get around to reading Hansen and Stahl’s Perennials and their garden habitats, translated from German in 1990, putting the ecological foundation under this aesthetic.

Update: Lousy pix of the arrangements.
\'dried arrangements

‘Google bombing’ the elections

Update: Not sure if the google bomb helped all that much. Maybe it was switching to this blue tsunami as my desktop image a month before the elections:


Larger image suitable for desktop wallpaper.

Just doing my cyberpart for the cause. More about that here at DKos

In a nutshell, the links below help drive up objective analysis of Republican candidates in searches. So those people looking for last-minute info on these candidates will find those articles that will hopefully turn them Democratic.

Don’t forget to vote.

–AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
–AZ-01: Rick Renzi
–AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
–CA-04: John Doolittle
–CA-11: Richard Pombo
–CA-50: Brian Bilbray
–CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
–CO-05: Doug Lamborn
–CO-07: Rick O’Donnell
–CT-04: Christopher Shays
–FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
–FL-16: Joe Negron
–FL-22: Clay Shaw
–ID-01: Bill Sali
–IL-06: Peter Roskam
–IL-10: Mark Kirk
–IL-14: Dennis Hastert
–IN-02: Chris Chocola
–IN-08: John Hostettler
–IA-01: Mike Whalen
–KS-02: Jim Ryun
–KY-03: Anne Northup
–KY-04: Geoff Davis
–MD-Sen: Michael Steele
–MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
–MN-06: Michele Bachmann
–MO-Sen: Jim Talent
–MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
–NV-03: Jon Porter
–NH-02: Charlie Bass
–NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
–NM-01: Heather Wilson
–NY-03: Peter King
–NY-20: John Sweeney
–NY-26: Tom Reynolds
–NY-29: Randy Kuhl
–NC-08: Robin Hayes
–NC-11: Charles Taylor
–OH-01: Steve Chabot
–OH-02: Jean Schmidt
–OH-15: Deborah Pryce
–OH-18: Joy Padgett
–PA-04: Melissa Hart
–PA-07: Curt Weldon
–PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
–PA-10: Don Sherwood
–RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
–TN-Sen: Bob Corker
–VA-Sen: George Allen
–VA-10: Frank Wolf
–WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
–WA-08: Dave Reichert

Patrick Dougherty Sculpture Installation

It’s only been a little over a year. Guess it’s time to start blogging again.

Patrick, me and Natalie at work.

This month, I took off a week’s worth of half-days to assist on a sculpture installation by Patrick Daugherty in Ithaca, across the street from Collegetown Bagels. About two-thirds of my volunteer work was material prep and moving scaffolding (where my height was a real asset), but about a third of the time I got to work directly with Patrick tying the structural elements together or weaving fill into the pieces. This picture (above, by Rebecca Thomas) ran on the front page of the Cornell Daily Sun during the installation.

Long view of finished installation.
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I guess the title for the work that Patrick finally settled on was Half Dozen of the Other. It consists of six somewhat deformed towers that weave in and out around the locust trees on the small plaza in front of Sheldon Court, adjacent to a very high traffic area linking Collegetown to campus.

Close up of tower.
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The sculptures are made mostly from maple and dogwood. For each one, Patrick stuck four or five long maple poles in half a dozen holes drilled in the sidewalk. He bent the poles around each other and the trees and tied some to scaffolding to form the basic structure. Then he (and a crew of volunteers) wove material ranging from pole-size to fine branches into the structure. Sounds easy. But that description sure doesn’t do it justice. It took a couple of weeks to complete, even with the volunteer help and a couple of kids from a local landscaping firm who spent most of their time harvesting and trucking plant material to the site.

View from terrace.
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One of my favorite views of the sculpture is from a terrace behind the site that provides a higher-angle view. The work screams out for exploration and interaction. I especially like to watch little kids (and adults) wander into the sculptures through the doorways and peek out the windows. It’s an ephemeral work, scheduled for demolition in a year. So plan to explore it soon.

Natalie, me, Patrick.
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When I first volunteered, I wasn’t sure how much time I would spend helping. But Patrick was such a gracious host and made everyone feel welcome. I”m not sure if I was more in awe of his artistic abilities or his skills in managing volunteers. It was great to get to know Patrick, Natalie, Amaechi and the other volunteers. Can’t wait until my willows are ready to harvest for a similar project at home.

There’s a great photo essay documenting the whole process at the Cornell Council for the Arts website. Unfortunately, it’s a flash site so I can’t link directly to it. Once the flash launches, click on menu > NOW > installations.

Update: Photo essay in the Sept. 28 Cornell Chronicle. I’m in there if you look closely.

Update: (3/13/2007) 4-minute video about the installation.

Water garden installed

One of my big projects this summer was building a water garden. It’s about 10 feet by 6 feet and 3 feet deep with a ledge for pots of emergent plants around the edges.

Water Garden, Aug. 2005

I chose a spot where I suspected there might have been an old spring house. The digging went quickly. I never found the spring house but I did find water about 2.5 feet down and a drain line leading to the south. I capped the line and lined the excavation with 6-mm clear plastic. I have a standard pond liner still in the box. I just couldn’t bear to use it and cut a hole in it for the spring water to run in and for the drain line to run out. Maybe next year I’ll decide I need it.

I lined the edges of the ‘pond’ with stone, built a small patio for a bench, and also lined much of the bottom and ledges with more stone. Friday, I move the pots of equisetum and corkscrew rush to the ledges, and drew down the water in the half whiskey barrel tub I had them in. Then I lugged the plastic barrel liner over and sunk it into the deep end along with the water lillies and shebunkin. They all seem happier in the larger pool now, joining the minnows that were already there from hauling water up from the stream when I originally filled the pond.

It’s amazing how cool the water is from the trickle that comes in from the spring. (I’ve already soaked in it a couple times after some hot chores.) It’s been very dry this summer, but the ground is sogging around the outlet and is screaming out for some bog plantings — eupatorium, thalictrum, ligularias and the like.

It still has a rough feel to it. But the final stamp of approval came today when I discovered two large frog have taken up residence, hiding in the outlet, behind the rock edgings, or in the lily tub.

Frog on corkscrew rush

I tend not to sit much in the garden. But this spot has already enticed me to pause more than any other.

Update 8/13/2005

I think the frogs really like the water garden. I’ve seen as many as four sitting on the edge of the pond and there are now frog eggs all over the place.