Projects! Or at least my thoughts do. There is less hands in the dirt gardening filling the waking hours during this time, in the midst of planning the biggest meal of the year for the Fairegarden clan, Thanksgiving weekend. That extra time is used to peruse magazines from the United Kingdom that are chock full of photos that trigger a certain type of response in the cerebral cortex.
That response being: I can make/do that! The that being mentioned is the human-made representation of what looks to be Cattails on steroids. The first thing that drew the eye in this photo taken of the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden, Wisley, besides the flaming foliage and incredible Chinese building was the somber toned sculptures. Many, many, many and more hours have been spent studying these artistic renditions, with a magnifying glass in hand.
Funny thing, this was the teaser page in the UK version of The English Garden for the next months issue. I couldn’t wait to see more photos. But when the issue finally arrived, this photo was not among those in the spread, only a small bit of the sculptures were even shown at all. There was a tiny shot to illustrate a coupon to win an RHS gift membership worth 49 quid, showing the colorful winter twigs of various Cornus ssp. across water in the background, not of much use to someone looking to copy the Cattail technique. Oh well, we got the gist of it.
From the teaser shot one could see that the pod tops were made of woven woody material, wrapped around and around to form an elongated oval. The stem looks to be a metal rod of some sort. Doable. The leaves seemed to be a bit trickier, covered in a vine that must be wrapped around metal to hold the shape and to be bent into a natural leaf curve. That will take some more thought.
Needing something more long lasting and less time consuming to manufacture than the woven leaves, the extra roll of hardware cloth was spied in the shed. It was cut into rectangles of a good size and bent into leaf shapes with pointy ends and doubled over at the base to attach to the metal rods that also happened to be in the shed after being used as plant stakes at one time. Thick gloves were worn to protect delicate finger tissues while working with the hardware cloth, as always. Copper wire was used to hold the leaves at the proper spacing and angle on the rods.
This is not a how to post with step by step instructions, for there is still fine tuning to be done on the method, but we are working on figuring out the best way to proceed and finish. The rods were set in the ground and the leaves were spray painted with flat black because that is the only paint that was in the garage. We might try a dark brown, maybe with a more shiny fnish. Or not. Importantly, placement is crucial. It is thought that the best place for these to show up would be in a sea of green, they are hardly visible by the shed. Do you even see them in the opening photo? I thought not. When the lawn/meadow is cut down for the winter rest period, the stakes will be installed there.
After writing this draft, it was determined that right now would be a good time to cut the lawn/meadow down anyway, (it is usually done in January with the big cut of the whole garden). The nine Cattails were finished and thrust into the ground. I am satisfied with them except for the need for more painting. The metal will last indefinitely, but the grapevine will rot away when exposed over time to the elements. Perhaps these will be winter decor, to be stored safely under cover during the growing season as the bulbs pop up next spring in the lawn/meadow. Yes, that sounds like the plan. In the far away future, maybe we could make some entirely out of metal. Hmmmmm.
Feel free to give this a go yourself, if you are so inclined. I wrapped wild grape vine around balled up chickenwire, stuck that onto threaded rods and shaped hardware cloth into leaves, held by wire. All was on hand here so the project cost nothing, as it should according to the tightwad mantra that we live by. Many other vines or materials could be used just as well. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Being a student of garden make-it-yourself free art can be fun and rewarding. Remember, everyone can art.
(PS, the large grapevine ball is to be ignored. It is still a work in progress.)