Thursday, September 27, 2012

You are invited....

You are invited to come to my website and continue to follow the fun!

Today's post is called Off the Wall -do you know what this is?  Come and find out!  Cheers!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A tisket, a tasket, a chicken wire basket....

A country wedding, a farmer’s market theme, held on a beautiful farm – what fun to put flowers and vegetables together.  In what??? That’s the question.  Round tables of ten, many round tables of ten…and a obdurate caterer who wanted everything on the table from the get go – bread service, cups, saucers, Sweet-n-Lo, cream, resulting in a terse “your centerpiece shouldn’t be more than 12” wide!

How about chicken wire – very farm, yes? – baskets and various combinations of vegetables and flowers.  Above are three:  Left: eggplant/tomato/long green peppers/rex begonia leaves/purple scabiosa; Middle: radicchio/purple onions/ pink potatoes/ celadon cabbage/feverfew/ purple verbena; Right: savoy cabbage/ purple kale/ribbon grass/zinnias/brussel sprouts. 

Trouble is you have to make the basket.  After some false starts, I made a plan. It was time consuming, but easy.  This was before Google. Taking a look now, there are various tutorials for complicated basket making and many suppliers of baskets ranging from $8 to $75+.  Nothing like this “one-piece-wonder-for-pennies“…..

First the chix wire.  Obviously the chickens have felt persecuted as it now is called poultry netting! It comes in rolls in various widths – 24” to 48”.  Using a 24”  roll, cut the width in half, lengthwise.  There is a handy wire down the center - cut along it.  This basket (roughly 13” D by 23” H handle) requires a 5-6’ length x 12” wide.    

It is really a fold, crimp, bend and then fold over the handle and attach.  We are going for insouciance here rather than perfection!  The wire is very forgiving and the little ends – though ouch! – bend around and hold the whole thing.  I wanted all the handles to be slightly twisted and bent differently, so they are squashed and manipulated.   Easier to actually do than to explain or draw.

Best is, you can see right through it.  However, that very quality makes it hard to see in a photograph. 

After the wedding, the baskets came back to me and they have been used often in many colors, up and down the East Coast.  At a Rare Plant Auction donor luncheon at Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware, the theme encompassed the spring flowers that were blooming outside in the gardens and woodland.  The staff brought us armloads of them to make the centerpieces.

A rehearsal dinner with a Spanish theme used black baskets with bright carnations and black fans.

The copper color is my favorite finish.  Design Master makes the best spray paint for this kind of project.  This basket holds the fruits of this season – ornamental gourds – plus some flowers from another design.  They are tucked into a glass spice jar filled with water and nestled between the gourds.  Curving bear grass echoes the shape of the basket.


PS.  This is the last post on blogger - please visit me on my website:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shop Seven...

In the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, Route Seven is the bucolic north south route, winding through rural communities and the ‘bright lights, big city’ of Pittsfield.  From Sheffield at the southern border with CT to Williamstown at the northern border with VT, Route Seven is known as the antique corridor. 

Gardening is almost as popular with many fine shops, nurseries and local growers who put out a summer table with an honesty box in their front yard.  The best of the home/garden/gift stores is Campo de Fiori.  They operate a huge wholesale business, supplying stores across the country.   Their only retail store is on route 7 in Sheffield.

Open every day but Christmas and New Year’s, this beautiful store beguiles with gifts and products for all the senses.

From spring to autumn, the gardens surrounding the store brim with ideas and fascinating plant combinations along with one-of-a-kind objects that delight and surprise.

Mexico is the main source of much of what they design and sell, with various clay pots of all shapes and sizes being a specialty. 

The huge building is overflowing with plants real and faux, garden tools, candles and soaps, planters and vases, pillows and lovely jewelry.

Upstairs, furniture - tables & chairs - framed prints, accessories and more temptations all attractively presented, waiting to be taken home.

You’ll find it hard to leave empty-handed.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Solder On...

Structures were the theme of flowerflinging Camp here at my studio in the Berkshires in August. 

One structure that I wanted to create got lost in the merriment and the more fascinating ideas.  Above is the forlorn project in the garage.  I have to confess I have an inordinate fear of soldering. Copper tubing is a wonderful, shapeable material and it comes in coils of various diameter.  The larger the diameter the stronger the tubing.   

Last year at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the MOG and I combined it with various orchids swooping in and out of glass containers with great results – we won our class and Best of the Day.  True confession: we found a handyman to do the soldering.

The first time I worked with copper piping was on a long-ago entry at Philadelphia.  The Pinkster and I were in a class called “Un Gran Gourmet”.  We made a giant whisk-looking structure which, as you see, was not without bumpy imperfections. The whole design was close to six feet tall. After the installation, a fellow exhibitor told us about plumber’s tube bending spring set which keeps the copper tubing smooth and kink free.  Just slide it on and then slowly work the curves of the copper.

Here are the tools of the trade. Clockwise from top left, the tube bending spring set (what a mouthful); JB Kwik Weld - acts like solder (Mr. GCA kindly sent this over for me to try); an example of two pieces of tubing ‘glued’ with JB Kwik Weld; a piece of copper tubing with a spring set slipped on it.  In the center is the gismo that cuts the tubing.

Here’s the gismo in action!  It goes round and round til it cuts through.  With the narrowest tubing for refrigerator ice makers, you can simply cut the end with wire cutters but you are left with a crimped end. 

Using the two glue tubes mixed together, spread the glue at the places (noted with blue tape) where the copper pieces meet.  It is important to use enough of the black goopy glue and have enough surface where they meet up.     

Back to my project! My goal is a spaghetti-like structure to which flowers or other plant material might be wired. I worked the copper shape to fit in a tray pan (14” square,   These gladioli are attached to the tubing in more than one place so they stay put. The thin copper wire is supposed to be decorative.  Not sure I worked the fine wire attractively, though.

Water fills the tray so that a half inch of the stems are submerged.  For this group of montbretia  (Crocosmia aurea) stems, the tray is also filled with crushed shells (Michael’s Crafts).  These are so pretty and they echo the warm tones of the flowers and the copper while providing another texture.

My nemisis……fear of soldering.  I’ll take the twelve step program and try to conquer it, but just not now……


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The World in a Jar...

In August the effervescent Tovah Martin came to the Sharon Audubon Center to share her enthusiasm about the little worlds she creates and celebrates in her book “The New Terrarium”, published by Timber Press. 

By recruiting an army of terrarium converts, one in each office cubicle, Tovah believes the stress of work would be greatly reduced and we would all be happier. 

She compared the terrariums of the 1960’s which were like science experiments to those of today which are works of art – miniature worlds of calm.  As you see all sorts of containers work for her, many of which she finds in thrift shops for pennies.

When Bride and Groom came for Labor Day weekend, we hiked the Appalachian Trail and made terrariums.  They are fun and simple to make.  Above are our containers and Tovah’s book.  It is best to work with a container you can put your hand in easily – we aren’t building  ships in a bottle!

The ‘ingredients’ are not hard to find: stones, horticultural charcoal, organic potting soil, plus plants.

Given the small diameter of our containers, we used mostly plants from 2” pots.  Terrain in Westport CT features terrarium containers and plants as well as Tovah’s book.  You don’t need specialist plants, however, it is very easy to split a larger plant into two or three.  The supermarket often has small plants.

Let’s start with the layers. First the stones – a layer of 3/8” stones will allow best the circulation of water.  Add a small handful of horticultural charcoal and mix it in. This will keep the water sweet.  We mixed this separately and then put a one inch layer in the container.

Two inches of organic potting soil goes on top of the stones and is leveled and lightly tamped down.  

The planting is just like planting outside.  Make a sufficient hole, plant and firm up.  Do the ‘tug test’ to make sure it won’t pop out.

Our plants were well watered before planting.  Simply add water and a little misting.  Once the lid goes on the container, you are setting up a little biosphere.

On the Appalachian Trail we collected (shhh!) some pretty stones, cones and pieces of bark.  These we added to the terrarium for contrast. What a souvenir of the day!  There is no end to the kinds of little objects you might want to include.

You may soon become an addict, finding all sorts of containers and plants to use.  Best to buy Tovah’s book and really learn how to do it – a great project for school kids or a garden club workshop…. and be sure to have fun!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

What Floats your Boat?

Boat shaped containers are not easily found but worth seeking out.  They are versatile for many styles of design.  Their curves make them less weighty than their rectangular counterpoints. Subscribers know that my tables are long and narrow so I am always in search of ways to march the designs down the tables.

Here’s the boat, with a piece of Oasis inside.  Below I have chosen one variegated ti leaf (aspidistra), could be any lovely leaf or leaves that fit inside the shape or not.  

The pearl headed pins just hold the leaf in place (, Michael’s).  It will last a long time this way even though the stem is removed!

With a shear or knife cut a slit in the leaf where you want your flower stem to go in.  I am using very short stems of lilies here.  These buds will open, though not too quickly.

To connect these designs I added painted black curly willow sticks.  These are from, but Michael’s, Pier One or other stores often have them.  Or you can paint fresh curly willow, but those sticks are more irregular, which could make them more interesting but harder to work with.

The willow stems rest between the flowers on the container and link up the arrangements. Do put the vases in place on the table before you place the willow.  These were from a lunch for the ff campers, using white lilies.

At a dinner, using pink lilies - good thing it was on the porch as the lily fragrance was almost over-powering. 

This version with sunflowers were originally placed on red and white check tablecloths at tables in a tent for a very country luncheon!  Here they have come back to my table, none the worse for wear!