Beautiful Materials

beautiful-fall-materials-3A project in the garden asks for a lot of everything from a gardener. An interesting concept, and a design that clearly communicates that concept comes first. Anyone who has grappled with a design project knows how much work goes on behind the scenes. An idea about how to accomplish that design – an approach to the work – takes that much more time and thought. An installation may take two days, two weeks or two years. But any landscape project surely asks for beautiful materials. Beautiful plants are healthy plants. Doing a proper job of siting a tree, and digging a proper hole for that plant takes time.  It only makes sense to be sure the plant that is going in that hole is worthy of all the work it took to plant it. The cabbage pictured above is not only a healthy well grown plant, it is extraordinarily beautiful to look at.  The color is complex, and borders on iridescent. To my eye, the shape, texture, mass and color, is riveting. Beautiful plants are incredibly exciting, and make gardening such a pleasure.

fresh-cut-broom-cornBeautiful fall materials for containers are not only a pleasure to work with, they can inspire, inform, and direct the work. A landscape plan for a client may indicate a certain species of tree, but the final decision always rests with finding that specific tree that not only fulfills the design intent, but is beautiful.  There is no hard and fast standard about what constitutes beautiful. Everyone has their own idea. My projects are a a dialogue between a committed client, and my commitment to a great outcome for them. Sometimes the road is bumpy, but we get there.  I like it when clients fall for what I install for them. When I plant fall containers, I am very much focused on the beauty of the materials I have available to me. Broom corn is a staple in my fall pots. The stems droop gracefully, they are so loaded with ripe seeds. The corn-like leaves twist as they dry, and add another textural element to an arrangement.

unusual pumpkins A beautiful collection of materials from which to choose is an easy idea to grasp, but what it takes Detroit Garden Works to get to that collection is a process that is a full time job for my partner, Rob.  He travels all over this country, and in Europe, as he has for the past 20 years, to collect beautiful materials of all kinds. He shops locally, meaning he may travel in excess of two hours to a particular hybridizer’s pumpkin field.  I can count on his determination to put together a collection that inspires my work, and the work of our clients. We have had calls for weeks about the arrival of his pumpkin collection.  The fall container arrangements and plantings we install are all about the beauty of his choices of materials. He is the source for great materials for me.

beautiful-fall-materials-4He spent quite some time developing a relationship with a small company that produces dyed and preserved eucalyptus.  We carry their entire range of colors. This is a relationship going back 15 years. Preserved eucalyptus is a natural material that can sustain a container planting throughout the fall and the winter. The variety of colors available provides another element to any fall arrangement.

containers for fallThese centerpieces for a pair of fall pots involve a combination of gorgeous materials of all kinds, and my design for this particular client.  I owe a lot to those growers who made this possible. And of course to Rob, whose collection of materials make an expression like this possible.

container materials for fallPlanting pots for fall takes some of the sting out of the gardening season coming to a close.

fall pot by Deborah Silver This finished fall container warms up the architecture. It is a personal expression that documents an interest in nature. It will be a pleasure to look at throughout the fall. The next pair of fall containers we plant will look entirely different. That is the beauty of a collection of seasonal plants and materials that is wide and deep. There is no need for any pots to sit empty and silent at the close of the gardening year. Every gardener can shop their own garden as well for dried materials, branches and seed pods.

dsc_9454A little late day muted light adds yet another element to the mix.

cabbage at the side doorInto every gardener’s container life, a little fall is a good thing.



  1. I love the idea of the bamboo pole with the eucalyptus on other elements attached for height and interest, will give it a try! Thanks Deborah for the inspiration.

  2. I love your use of cabbages in containers. Such inspiration! I am off to buy some cabbages for my containers. Thank you for sharing your design and inspiration – Susan

  3. Grace | eTilth says:

    Lovely post; I was just about to ask you about your eucalyptus when I read your last post! We have the Seattle Wholesale Growers’ Market where I can source interesting woody plants for the winter, but we don’t see much of the eucalyptus. Thanks for sharing!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Grace, the sourcing of beautiful material is a full time job for Rob, in addition to his full time job buying for the shop. He goes to trade shows all over the US, and in Europe. He takes the time to contact individual artists who do not necessarily have a big internet presence. He calls on artisans he is interested in, and visits them personally. He has forged relationships with antique dealers in many countries and states. In August, on a trip to England, he arranged for a show at Detroit Garden Works scheduled to open in September of 2017. Our relationship with our supplier of eucalyptus dates back 15 years. All of this represents a substantial investment on our part. But it is important to us to offer the best we can to serious gardeners. Rob’s materials are beautiful-we ship all over the US and Canada. all the best, Deborah

      • Grace | eTilth says:

        Truly amazing effort! I’m just starting out, so am sourcing locally and experimenting with what works in the PNW. I’m looking forward to using some things that don’t ship well. but have interesting textures; I can always harvest bamboo from my mom’s inadvertent forest. Meanwhile, I’m eyeball deep in a patio installation so I can’t do my containers until that is done! But it’s going to look fab; at least it does in my mind’s eye.

  4. michaele anderson says:

    One of the many things I so admire and appreciate about your blog posts is how attentive you are to giving credit to Rob and your great staff for the wonderful contributions they make in bringing your beautiful designs to fruition for clients. Your fall and winter containers are always esp. inspiring and make me want to put at least a little effort into my own.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Michaele, my staff produces beautiful work, and a lot of it.They are incredibly skilled professional people who give the work their all. I try to never take that for granted. I have ideas, but they make it happen. Rob is in a class all his own. I greatly admire his eye, and what he does. He respects what I do. We have been partners for 24 years. That says it all. thanks for writing. all the best, Deborah

  5. Sareena Jerath says:

    Beautifullly written and so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your passion and talents.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Sareena, it is easy to exercise a passion when beautiful materials are available. Thanks for your letter! best, Deborah

  6. That iridescent cabbage is spectacular. Can you tell me it’s name?
    Thank you!

  7. Love it
    Two thumbs up for Rob!

  8. Perfect.

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Laurie, I was so thrilled about these fall pots turned out. A perfect experience for me. all the best, Deborah

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