Monday, January 1, 2018

Climbing, Creeping, Clinging Things

December was a busy month, but I did get all the work done that I'd planned to do on Villa del Vigneto. (I hadn't planned to do much!) When I started work on the villa two years ago, part of my vision was to have a grape arbor covering the loggia. That was one of the things that I did get done in December, and I felt as though I had reached a major milestone! I also adopted three cats and a dog to live in the villa, and I had fun giving them all names. (To Robert's embarrassment.) Robert, although very supportive of my miniature work, doesn't immerse himself in that world to the same extent that I do. He is not quite comfortable, for instance, if I begin to rattle off the names, occupations, and  family history of the various occupants of my miniature houses whenever anyone expresses the least bit of interest. He definitely prefers a subtle generic reference - "cat" or "dog" - to my choices of names for Luca, Tosca, Rosabella, and Momi. I've promised Robert a glass of wine beneath the grape arbor if he'll learn the names of the villa's animal residents and address them accordingly.


These construction components don't look like much, but then it doesn't take much to build a very old and rustic framework for grape vines to climb.

I wanted the arbor located just outside the kitchen door and above the loggia. The basic framework has been glued together, then wired for extra support.

The arbor framework shown from the southeast corner.

I added supports across the top of the framework as well.
(If you look closely, you can see Momi, the resident mouser, just inside the kitchen door. He is very protective of the villa and allows no trespassing by pesky mice.)


I found these twisted grape-vine looking pieces in my stash; I think I used the same thing for the wisteria vine that's growing at the French Farmhouse. I wove them among the supports that run across the top of the arbor frame.

Now all I need are some leaves growing on the vines. A few months ago, I summoned all my courage and bought a kit to make some grape leaves. (I've never made plants from a kit, but I persuaded myself to try it once, just to see what would happen.) The kit had been packed away for a long time, and when I brought it out as I started work on the arbor, I was hit forcefully by a true fact: the kit would make fewer than one hundred grape leaves! Judging from the size of the arbor, I was going to need about a million more.
So I searched Hobby Lobby's fake plant section and found a stem of an unknown leaf that sort of resembles a grape leaf. But - there were hundreds and hundreds of leaves on the stem.

I separated the main stem of leaves into small sections and started painting. The paint provided a better color, but mostly it helped cover the shiny green plastic look of the leaves.

I painted and painted and painted and painted. I painted both sides of every leaf, using a dark green paint for the base coat. Obviously, spray paint would have been ideal - except that it was 18 degrees outside, and I had no place to use spray paint inside. 

 I randomly highlighted the leaves with various lighter paint colors. (Yes, I am a very patient and persevering person!)

This is the finished pile of painted "grape" leaves, ready to be glued onto the vines.

Using both Tacky Glue and hot glue, I secured all the leaves to the vines.


Back to Hobby Lobby to buy grapes. Everything that I found was either too large or too tiny for a realistic grape; I finally decided that this was my best option, even though they're a little large. No, I did not try to make my own grapes. I needed about a million of those, too.

I chose some likely clusters of berries from the branch...

...and sorted those into miniature clusters, ready to paint.

These are a few of the painted grape clusters, although some of them look a bit like blackberries!
When I expressed concern about the size of the grapes, my granddaughter suggested that they could be globe grapes. That sounded like a good idea, until I researched globe grapes and found that they were developed in a California breeding program in the late 1950s. My current villa setting is probably very early twentieth century, about fifty years too early for realistic globe grapes. But we're all going to pretend that we don't know that, aren't we? One of my favorite new quotations says that "a little artistic freedom to get the right effect is not a bad thing." Thank you, Giac. Globe grapes they are!

Above are some views of the completed grape arbor. I needed to relax after all that work, so I brought out some furnishings for the loggia and opened a bottle of wine. ("From the vine comes the grape, from the grape comes the wine.") I found two glasses in the kitchen cupboard and poured the wine, just in case a friend happens to come along to join me. Friends are always welcome here!


Perhaps you remember my dilemma last month when I accidentally planted moss on the villa's low front wall, forgetting that moss wouldn't grow in such a dry, sunny spot. You can see the mossy wall in some of the above photos. Some friends from blogland, who know much more about gardening than I, came to my rescue and suggested that the sunny wall would be an ideal place for creeping thyme, which will thrive in just such an environment. So I had to do a bit of restructuring on the moss. I started at Hobby Lobby. (Why yes, Hobby Lobby IS my home away from home! Why do you ask?)

I found purple flowers that could be separated into tiny segments for the flowers on the creeping thyme. And they needed no painting!

The flowers are ready to transform moss into creeping thyme.

Although I forgot to take a photo, I increased the thickness and height of the moss by adding bits of Light Green Coarse Foliage, a miniature landscaping material, to all the clusters of moss on the wall. After adding a bright green paint to the foliage, I glued on the tiny purple flowers - and now thyme is creeping all over the wall - the mossy transformation was a success!

Tosca may prefer catmint, but she hasn't complained about the creeping thyme. A sunny wall is a sunny wall to a sun-loving cat!

More creeping thyme all along the wall. You may notice that I've filled a copper grape pot with  grapes from the vines. The pot hangs on a hook by its leather strap.

This is a view of the loggia and grape arbor from the east end of the wall.

And here is Villa del Vigneto in its present entirety.


When I put the false back wall onto the villa to hide all the electrical wires, I had to design it so that it would pull away from the original structure easily. My design works well, but there are some gaps in the back corners of the villa walls, because the walls are rough and not quite plumb. I decided that the easiest way to remedy that was to grow vines up the end walls to cover the gaps. I needed a lot of vines - millions of vines - so I made another trip to YOU KNOW WHERE and found some viny-looking plastic plants that had leaves of pretty much the right size.

History repeats. I separated, sorted, and painted, painted, painted.

The vines are ready to glue onto the walls. I used Tacky Glue for longevity and hot glue along with it for instant hold.

I randomly glued on some thin trunks for the vines; they can just be glimpsed here and there through the vine cover. You can see the gap in the corner wall that I'm trying to hide with the vines. The first branches of vines have been glued on.

The vines are growing and reaching around to the back of the villa.

A view of the west end of the villa with vines.

Another view from the southwest corner.

I've completed gluing more vines on the east end of the villa; these also reach around to the back wall. 

Here is a longer view of the east end of the villa, showing all the climbing, creeping, and clinging things that I've created for Villa del Vigneto.

That brings to a close the work that I completed in December. The Old Year has also come to a close, ringing itself out in Nebraska with high style and low temperatures. Next up, to celebrate the top of a new year, I'll finally begin work on the top of the villa - laying all those hundreds (millions?) of clay roof tiles!

I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year.

2018 - WELCOME!