Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wisteria Basket

“She is a wild, tangled forest with temples and treasures concealed within.” ― John Mark Green

We have lived in our house fourteen years and the entire back yard has always been covered in all sorts of vines.  We were told the previous owners liked vines and purposely planted many varieties.  I was excited when we bought the house because I owned a book called, From Vines to Vessels by Beryl Omega Lumpkin, and I always fancied that one day I would make a basket from our vines. 

But after fourteen years of ignoring the farthest reaches of the back yard it had become quite a jungle.  And one vine, in particular, had not only flourished but had grown on top of the neighbor's roof!  This vine was wisteria and was quite an impressive being.  Where the original vine had been planted the base was as thick as my thigh and I liked to refer to her as "la madre."  I imagined the wisteria to be the goddess that had overtaken the back yard, creating dark places in her silent path .  She had formed ropes that literally covered everything and with every passing year her thick tendrils reached further and further into the entire yard.  I had the sense that if left unchecked she would slowly take over not only the yard, but the house and then some!  Below you can see a picture I took of it in the spring.  You can see her battle scars where someone had tried to take her out years before.

“Aphrodite just kept smiling. Because she was just doing what a goddess does-the same way that a tornado rips houses apart or a fire burns down a forest.” —L.J. Smith, Spellbinder  

Having ignored this situation for so long I was in need of some help which, by a twist of fate, magically appeared about a month ago.  We were getting an estimate from a painter and his assistant seemed very interested in the yard.  I gave him a tour and my heart skipped a beat when I showed him the "jungle" that was the far reaches of the yard and his comment was, "I clear." 

He has now spent three long days clearing the "jungle" and has made impressive headway.  One morning I walked out to the sound of an electric saw and there were piles and piles of long ropes of wisteria.  Part of me felt excited to have my yard back, but the other part felt sad to see the end of such a great being.  Normally it is my job to put the piles of yard waste into the truck to haul away, but that morning I spent hours making wisteria wreaths.  I felt the best way to honor "la madre" was to make use of every last bit of her beautiful body.

After making all those wreaths I needed a place to put them so I actually cleaned out the shed to make space for them (so many spiders!!!).  But yesterday I started to worry that if those wreaths were out of sight they would be out of mind...and who knows how long it would be before I returned to them.  Plus, the vine is best woven when it is fresh.  So this morning I decided to seize the day and finally make that basket.  Here is how I did it.

1. Make wreath.

2. Cut and insert ribs.

3. Secure ribs by weaving thinner wisteria over and under.

4. Secure other side of ribs.

5. Alternate weaving one side then the other.

6. Complete basket when space is filled
(you may have to double back before reaching the rim as it might get too tight).

7. Find a pot to fit the basket...

or line basket with coco-liner.

8. Fill with dirt.

9. Tie rope around edges and plant a pothos (or your favorite plant).

10. Hang basket!

One thing I like about weaving with wisteria is that you can be assured your basket will not be perfect.  Usually the basket is wonky and misshapen in some way.  Sometimes the vine splits into three thinner vines, has a nasty bump or rootlets sticking out of it...but in the end these imperfections are what truly give it character. 

Weaving with natural vines is a lesson in both perseverance and rolling with what life gives you.  The vine might break at the most inopportune time just as you were rounding the rim and you either have to cut it farther back or start a new piece.  And sometimes the weave gets messed up...but you just make the best of it and keep on going. 

The vines will also teach you about strength.  If you use a piece that is too thick and strong you won't be able to make tight turns and no amount of forcing will work.  In that case, the vine wins and you must start a thinner piece.  At other times you have to use all of your strength to force the vine through a small hole.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  Either way you find your boundaries and the limits of the vine.  It is a beautiful give and take.

Ironically, the day my dream of making a basket finally came true is the same day my yard is now devoid of vines. I have quite a few wisteria wreaths stored now in the shed but I am now lacking the fresh vines that are best for weaving. But I am not overly worried.  Although my magical gardener friend dutifully dug every vine he could find in the yard and "la madre" is now cut in half, I have a suspicion that behind that fence lies a treasure trove of fresh vine.

"It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but retire a little from sight and afterwards return again."Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Succulent Basket

Last week was my friend Margot's birthday and I decided to make her a succulent basket.  I know succulents are all the rage right now but I have always loved them.  As a child my mom would take us to Knollwood Garden Center and let us each choose a tiny cactus.  I LOVED that! 

I never went for the spiky, spindly kind but was instead drawn to the plump, soft variety.  So when I went shopping for plants to put into this arrangement I was super excited to find these...especially the "red-fingers" below.  Their shape makes me want to reach out and give them a squeeze!

I am not 100% sure where this vintage wire basket came from but it has been sitting in my basement for years.  My next door neighbor had a fire a few years ago and we stored some of his belongings at our house.  I am suspicious that it originated from him (thank you John!). And when I needed something to prop the basket on I remembered that somewhere in my basement was a dragon plant stand.  I ran downstairs and was rather proud of myself for finding it in the depths of my gardening shelves.  When I put the two together I nearly squealed with delight.  

I thought I was done taking pictures but after I watered the planter I noticed the water looked like jewels and, of course, spent another half an hour photographing the water droplets.  Succulents are beauties in so many different ways.

The photo above was taken on my side porch on some limestone slabs.  I used to keep planters in this spot and through the years they created a circular patina that I love.  It reminds me of a spinning galaxy.

Making this planter for Margot made me happy on many levels.  First, just going to the plant store to buy succulents makes me happy.  Second, I love when I finally enact an idea I have had for years.  This basket cried out to have succulents sticking out the sides of it!  And finally, it makes me happy to celebrate the birthday of a friend who I think is an incredible person and I am truly blessed to know.  Happy Birthday Margot!

“A friend is someone with whom you dare to be yourself.”
― Frank Crane