Monday, February 26, 2018

The Garden In Winter.....

Stems and Pods.....

Some of you, Dear Readers, Might recall that when I was on the mend from my broken arm last Summer, I made a few stems of Vinca for the eventual Garden of The Folly. I will try not to bore you by saying that I had partly assembled a few more stems of the vinca, and they sat cluttering my work area all Fall and much of this Winter. But when I moved The Folly recently to it's new being worked on location, the unpainted stems were still floating from pile to pile until I decided last week (during my vacation clean-up and re-organization) that the time had come to paint them and glue them together! You can see them above with the first bunch.... I have a long way to go before I have enough vinca plants for the entire garden! And while I have been working on the Spiral stairs and the shelves for Hardwick Hall, (see last week's post) I have been staring at The Folly gardens which are now positioned right at my elbow. And during all those moments of waiting for glue to dry, I have been continuing to plan The Folly Gardens. I know it must seem to some of you that they are the slowest landscaping project ever, but I have been wrestling with a particular feature of the garden (aside from the incomplete Tree House Tree) and that is the Lilac bush which I want to have on one side of the porch in front of the kitchen window. (And some of you might recall I had started the blossoms for the bush at least two years ago....!) My problem was not knowing how to make the stems for the Lilac bush... because I wanted this bush to be huge and old and have gnarly twisted stems. This might not matter too much if the bush was going to be covered in leaves.... which it will, for summertime... but I must remind you, I am sure, that I plan to make this garden seasonally changeable! What? I hear you ask... seasonal gardens for a Dollhouse? Well, you might have noticed that over the years I have occasionally had snow falling on The Folly, and certainly have shown it at Halloween without snow, and in the Summer there will be flowers.... so I have been reluctant to choose only one Season for this garden! And I am quite proud of my changeable garden "pods" I constructed for this very purpose when I built all those brick paths a few years ago!

Where you see the pile of "bricks" in the above picture
 is where the Lilac bush will stand... 
and if you look closely you will see
 a fine line in the "ground" under those bricks.....

Here you can see it closer.....

With the pile of bricks moved....

The section of Garden lifts out.... carefully cut to be removable!

And I made patterns all those months and years ago, 
so I could duplicate the garden shape well enough....

To make replaceable exchangeable garden "pods"..... 
each with a different Season of plants!
And the Vinca which is a hardy evergreen ground cover 
will disguise the remaining sections of the gardens
 that don't change with the seasons!
(The nail inserted in the pink foam is so the pods
 can be easily lifted in and out while
 the gardens are being constructed)
And all those"bricks" in that pile are for making an edging
 to the pods to disguise the seam which would be visible otherwise.

Finally I glued them in place!

On both sides of the porch!
(That blob of pink foam is standing in for
 a possible boulder.... design in progress...!)

And I finally made all the "duplicate pods"...

and carefully labeled them with the season they will "grow"....
And decided for sure that the right side garden
 will not have any bushes like the lilac on the left side garden!
Which needs to have Four identical "bushes" built.... !
Yikes! What was I thinking?
The bricks were made from terra-cotta colored sculpey....
but needed to be painted a color closer to the dark red of the other bricks.....

You can see they also edge the lower section of the garden....
which will have vinca as its primary cover....

With my few small samples standing in 
for the eventual ground cover they will be.

And the little bird bath too....
and there will be plenty of moss... 
and the bricks still need to be "dirtied up" a bit more!
But all of this is just a prelude, Dear Readers,
 to the building of the Lilac bushes!
Because, while shopping at Michaels on my vacation,
 I came across some wonderful paper covered florist wire
 that answered all my lilac stem needs perfectly!

Because I wanted my lilac bushes to resemble
 these old shrubs at the place where I work.... 
although these were badly damaged by an ice storm last year....

Here you can see a closer view of the gnarled old stems I am trying to recreate....
they have a beautiful twisting texture to the bark.... can you see it there?

Well, Dear Readers, I started trying to see
 how well the paper covered wires would work
 if I glued smaller wires to them for the smaller branches.....

I am relying heavily on "the glue trick" here.....
using the bulk of the dried glue to form part of the
 "shape" of the branch where it connects to the stem, 
as well as the glue simply attaching the pieces. 

And especially where the smaller wires 
need to attach at the top of the thicker stem....
Eventually they will all need to be painted to unify the color too.

And once the stems are "planted" in the "pod"......
it gets harder to work on them... 
but I have to be careful to make the two...
 three.... um four versions all the same!

And this is before we get to the stems that are really gnarly...!

But we have to test them for fit in the garden....
mindful of the roof eaves on the porch which overhang half the "pod"!
It is really a tiny space for such a bush.... 
but I want that overgrown ancient feel...

There will be many more stems... 
and the smaller branchings still have not been added to any of them!

But it is the gnarly old ones that really add the character....
and have to be "planted" right away
 in order to get the angle and position correct.....

and then have to be "duplicated".......

Which is not as easy as it sounds!
While the glue is drying the "pods" need to be on their side....
 somehow supporting the joined wires while they dry....

Here is the second "pod".... 
not all these stems are attached yet...
I am still working on the shape for them.... 
and have not started adding the smaller branches... 
which probably should be done before
 all the stems are attached to the "pods".

Here's the "duplicate pod" next to the initial "pod".....
And I have barely begun three and four....
because I ran out of that wonderful paper covered wire
 and must go back for more!
But I am determined, Dear Readers,
to make all the bushes for all the Seasons....
No matter how long it takes.... 
Because I want to be able to show you
 The Folly Garden in Winter
 as well as Spring and Summer...
Because whether or not there is snow on the ground,
 the Winter Garden is all about those gorgeous old Stems!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Thank you Claude! There was something wrong with the posting of this comment so I am trying to fix it! Thank you for commenting!

  2. Hello Betsy,
    This is just wonderful. I LOVE the idea of removable pods...GENIUS! It really brings a miniature project to life. The bushes are coming along great! What a wonderful way to make the branches. I cannot wait to see thee different finished pods. The front yard is already beautiful with the brickwork you made and the different garden elevations...but the changing pods just brings it over the top.
    Big hug

    1. Hi Giac! It will be a huge amount of work to make all four bushes... it may take me a while! LOL! But I am never happy with just one season to play in my Mini worlds.... so I am determined! Maybe lilacs will bloom here in May??? Thank you so much for your comments!

  3. Wow! That's a really great idea. Ambitious but awesome. I can't wait to see more.

    I grew up with lilac bushes around our house, my home town was big on lilacs, so I'm always excited to see someone make them in miniature.

    1. Hi Sheila! I think of Lilacs as one of the "iconic" plants of our climate zone..... they are so long lived and so hardy and so beautiful when in bloom! I hope I can do justice to this idea.... it may take a while! LOL! I started making the blossoms for the lilacs a couple of years ago... (yikes!) and have some ideas to improve on them more... you can find them in my side bar look-up under Lilac blossoms! :)

  4. I Adore mini gardens Betsy but trust you to make one that is both COMPLEX and a Seasonal DELIGHT! The brickwork will show off your plants so well and the removable pods are a GREAT idea!!!
    From working in my own garden I can say that it is in a constant state of flux, with pruning shrubs and/or plants reseeding themselves in the most unlikely places, so I wouldn't worry too much about getting your lilacs to look Exactly the same shape, height and size for each season, as they never are.
    I love your idea of the evergreen periwinkle in the various beds! I used to have a garden full of it planted under a grouping of red rhodos and it it's lovely when in bloom!
    I'll be watching you mini garden grow with envy Betsy, whilst wishing I was able to get out and do some Real Life playing in the dirt too! ♥ :D

    1. Hi Elizabeth! I know exactly what you mean by the Garden always being in a state of flux... I experience that as well... sometimes to my Dismay! LOL! It has been a challenge to figure out how to have my garden and change it too.... in mini-land! But I think the vinca is going to make it all work... I love that unassuming plant! It is so reliable and green all year even under all the snow! I can "poke" stems of other plants into it ... daffodils for example... without having to alter the vinca! It is the big ones like the Lilac that have caused all the trouble! LOL! But I have to have my lilac... so onward with the adventure! :)

  5. What a fantastic idea and a true stroke of engineering genius! I am excited to see how the lilacs come out, gnarly stems and flowers!
    The brick paths are little charmers and make me want to spend time wandering through the gardens. A lovely little structure that makes me want to see MORE!

    1. Hi Jodi! (I am so slow....!) This garden has been under construction for ... um... five years already! It started with me getting distracted with building the "Tree House" which sits on the other end of this Garden and has the 1:48 scale house inside it... still not completed! Two years ago I started making all the brick paths and the Glass house... still not finished! But we are inching closer! LOL! I worked on the "Tree House" for about a year and a half... I am going to get back to it soon too! So don't go away! LOL! I get distracted.... usually when I am not sure how to do something... like the Lilac stems...! But now I'm making progress again! If you want to explore the "Tree House" it is in my side bar.... you'll need to allow a 'little' time... LOL!

  6. Hi Betsy, Brilliant idea, you will have a lot of flower making in your future! I look forward to watching the change of seasons in your garden.
    Have fun. Janine

    1. Hi Janine! I plan to have the Garden a bit old and "over-grown".... so most of the making is in the Lilacs.... at least as far as I now plan! Things might change when I get to that part! LOL! I do hope you will visit when the Lilacs are Finally "in bloom"! :)

  7. Wow, Betsy, what a brilliant idea, I absolutely love it! This is an genius plan for your garden in miniature, but it will also take you a lot of time and you need patience, but whenever you'll succeed, it will be gorgeous, I'm sure of ;).
    The brick paths are wonderful, great idea to make them a bit more used/old.
    Warm hugs, Ilona
    PS Yesterday morning I don't know what happened on your blog: I was visiting and couldn't leave you a comment, how come...? There was no pop up window for leaving you a comment. Before me Claude could do, hmmmmm, strange, isn't it? Anyway, now everything worked :)!

    1. Hi Ilona! Yes, I will need a lot of patience to make this Garden the way I imagine it... but I had to give it a try! LOL!
      As for the comment problem... something went wrong with the first comment and I had to delete it... then things went back to normal, thankfully! :)

  8. Hi, Betsy - I think your idea of a seasonal garden is simply ingenious! (As is your engineering of the removable pods!) The lilac bushes are coming along so well; I love that ancient twisted look. The Vinca plants really emphasize the beauty of all that brickwork. This is such an admirable project, and I'm excited to see more.

    1. Hi Marjorie! I am excited to be finally making some progress on this part of the Garden.... it has been "under way" for several years now! LOL! The vinca is a wonderfully versatile plant... in RL and in mini! It is going to set the tone for this garden... I just have to get busy making them! Lol! (Along with the lilac blossoms!) :)

  9. I have enjoyed your post a lot! Following your mental process is amusing!! Lol, I can relate so much. Your idea of a seasonal garden is brilliant and I admire your commitment to it. I would probably talk myself out of it by following some intricate logic just to keep me away from so much work. Good for you!! So far is looking great and btw, that brick work is amazing!

    1. Hi Alexandra! I had to laugh about your "intricate logic"! I tend to use it the other way around and argue myself into complicated projects like this one! LOL! We will see how long it takes me to get it done... I am determined to make a start... because then I will not quit as easily! LOL! Thank you for your comments! :)

  10. I'm not the only one who's late, I see.
    Such patience you have! I've remarked on this before. Your lilac bushes-to-be remind me of the huge ancient lilac which grew by the barn at Pleasant Hill Farm. It was almost as tall as the old barn. And yes, you certainly need several seasons!

    1. Hi Mom! Late is always better than never! Yes, it is going to be that kind of ancient plant! Which is why I needed the stems to be right... and must have several seasons!!! :)

  11. An original idea! Your mini garden will be wonderful in spring.

    1. Thank you Fabiola! I hope it will look the way I imagine it could....! It will take some time! :)

  12. This is sooooo you... only you can come up with a seasonal project like this but not only with the idea but also with a vision and clear how-to-achieve-it-plan right from the beginning. I've said before when you first revealed your plans that I knew well why only the building of Strawberry Cottage is able to change into Christmas Cottage while the garden takes off for a winter vacation. I'm in awe with this project (okay, I always am because I like all your projects, but this is extraordinary even for you) because you're thinking of everything. Making changeable units, covers for the gaps and four identical trees - bravo! And not to forget - it's always fascinating to admire your stunning brickwork!


  13. Hi Birgit! You know this is only happening because I can't decide to glue stuff down "permanently"! LOL!!! The Seasons will change... the Rats will play in the snow... The witches will come for the magical fountain...... there are too many parts that keep happening in my stories... so I will need to have the landscape be "flexible"! *Sigh* Why do I make it so hard for myself....? Well, maybe not hard but challenging and complicated and eventually sooooo magical!!! That's why! :):)