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.


2016 Garden Cruise Today

2016 garden cruise today (11)Our 2016 Garden Cruise is today from 9-4:30.  The weather looks like it will be perfect.  Partly cloudy, and 84.  A last minute decision to take the tour is easy to arrange.  Call Detroit Garden Works at 248  335  8089.  We can take your credit card info, and email you the ticket and map.  Just like that.

2016 garden cruise today (12)This is the one day of the gardening year that I stay home.  I enjoy talking with everyone who takes our tour. Hope to see you today!

The 2016 Garden Cruise

Detroit Garden WorksFor those of you who are not aware that we sponsor a garden tour every year to benefit the programs of the Greening of Detroit-here are the details.  The Greening of Detroit is an organization that has been planting trees, teaching good environmental practices, hiring young people with poor prospects for summer jobs to water and weed, and sponsoring urban farms since 1989.They have made a mission of the health of the environment, and the health of the people who live in the city of Detroit for 25 years.

the garden cruiseFrom the Greening of Detroit website:  “Between 1950 and 1980, around 500,000 trees were lost in Detroit to Dutch elm disease, urban expansion and attrition. Troubled by this deforestation of a great city, Elizabeth Gordon Sachs devoted herself to reforesting the city. She played a key role in the 1989 founding of The Greening of Detroit. During that same time, economic constraints prohibited the city from replacing those trees. The Greening of Detroit was founded in 1989 with a single focus in mind – restore the city’s tree infrastructure.”

DSC_7282“In 2015 Detroit successfully emerged from the largest municipal bankruptcy in the United States  and swiftly began the long journey toward financial stability. This is no easy feat, but a necessary one for survival and transformation. In its heyday during the 1950s, Detroit grew to accommodate almost 2 million residents. Today we are a city of less than 700,000 residents amidst miles of vacant land. Yesterday’s industrial urban center will become tomorrow’s model of a greener, cleaner city.”

DSC_7286“Our focus at The Greening of Detroit is to enhance the quality of life for Detroiters by repurposing the land to create beautiful and productive green spaces. We involve Detroiters in the process through community engagement, education and jobs.”

DSC_7285“The trees we plant, the gardens and green spaces we create and maintain, and the workforce training programs we operate all provide economic, environmental and social benefits to the communities we serve. But most of all, we inspire visitors and residents to imagine a new paradigm for the city of Detroit.”

DSC_7292“We are committed to building stronger relationships in the communities we serve. We assist neighborhood groups in forming block clubs; visioning green strategies for vacant lots; and coordinating neighborhood clean-ups, tree plantings and community gardens. We recruit Detroit residents for job training and work in green skill jobs.”  I can attest to the fact, given my association with them over the past decade, that they have worked tirelessly for the environmental health of the city of Detroit and its residents. I greatly admire their efforts. I more admire that they have worked towards their mission for 25 years. They are a serious group. Further interested?

thegardencruise.orgDeborah Silver and Company, our landscape design/build firm, Detroit Garden Works, a retail store that specializes in containers and garden ornament of every period and aesthetic persuasion, and the Branch Studio, which fabricates heirloom quality pots, garden furniture, and garden ornament in steel steeped in the midwest tradition of fine manufacturing – all three of my companies support the mission of the Greening of Detroit. We support their mission with words, but we also host a garden tour once a year to raise money for their programs. We have raised to date 93,000.00 to date in support of their mission.

IMG_9409Though I sit on their board, I am not so happy or useful attending meetings.  In 2008, I decided to sponsor a garden tour of landscapes of my design or influence, in an effort to raise money for them. 100% of the cost of the tour tickets goes to the Greening. A tour ticket is 35.00. A tour ticket including our after tour dinner and cocktails, and live music is 50.00. We handle the cost of that afterglow dinner party on our own. It is worth the price of admission to see what summer cocktails Rob has in store for this tour, in addition to his stellar gin and tonics.

IMG_9415We send the entire proceeds of all of our ticket sales to the Greening.  Any other expenses, we handle. If you are a local gardener with a keen interest in design, and have a mind to contribute to an organization that has the best interests of an organization devoted to the greening of Detroit, come tour with us. The entire price of your ticket will go to an organization whose mission is dead to right. We sponsor an afterglow dinner and drinks at Detroit Garden Works, starting at 4pm. Our garden cruise has a website. You can read about this year’s landscapes scheduled to be on tour Sunday July 17 here:  The 2016 Garden Cruise   Any questions about the tour that the website does not answer?  Call us.   Detroit Garden Works

IMG_9226 (3)Every one of the 6 landscapes on tour is worth seeing-I can promise you this. Our light dinner and drinks, replete with live music from Tola at Detroit Garden Works, is an event all of us enjoy. To those of you who came from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, Georgia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Minnesota last year-thank you.  I hope you all will come again this year. If you have not been on our tour, consider it. The Greening of Detroit, and our companies who support their work, will thank you. We have a city we love, and a city we support. Hope to see you July 17.







Too Hot

elegant feather plantA very long run of blisteringly hot days is tough to cope with in mid June. No person or plant is ready for July weather this early. The elegant feather plant, a native of Texas, is wilting in this container. We have lots of seasonal and annual plants in small containers at Detroit Garden Works. Windy weather in the 90’s means those pots on the first bench dry out before the last bench gets watered. Rob and Amanda have been on the business end of the hoses non stop for days. When I turned 60, I told Rob I did not want to water any more. But I watered today. Patty Watkins, co-owner and waterer in chief at Bogie Lake Greenhouse, is ready to turn over her hose to her daughter Jessie. Patty is just about the kindest, most friendly, most helpful, and most even tempered person on the planet.  If you shop at Bogie Lake, you know this. But the heat in her greenhouses is taking its toll. She is really ready to drop that hose. I can’t imagine how she and Mark have been coping.

late June container garden (14)I had a landscape call this morning with a client. The three of us met at a table in the back yard at 10:30 am. The sun was scorching. It was a relief to all of us when the plan review was done. Sitting in the sun when it is 93 degrees is unpleasant to say the least. In the car on the way home, the air conditioning blasting, I was thinking about the sun. The light of the sun reaches earth via radiation. That light is translated into heat. I am hazy on the science, but I do know a shady spot out of the sun makes heat much more tolerable.

late June container garden (15)It is astonishing that the sun, some 93 million miles from earth, can send any gardener running for cover. How heat affects people is well known. Last week’s container plantings and landscape work made for a busy week. Hot weather we take precautions. We may start work early, and quit before 3pm. Or we schedule the hot spots in the morning, and the shadier work in the afternoon.

late June container garden (10) When the weather is incredibly hot, it is important to understand how that heat affects plants. Tropical and seasonal plants originate in climates known for very hot weather. My containers at home were planted only a week ago.  I know they have not rooted into the surrounding soil yet. Though tropical and seasonal plants have an incredible capacity to thrive in high heat, that capacity implies a root system that is well established. The short story?  I am watering every day.

late June container garden (16) The container in the foreground featuring zinnias, petunias and variegated licorice will be happy with a hot and dry summer, once the plants are established. Other heat loving plants include mandevillea, ageratum, trailing verbena and lantana. Lavender and rosemary, and other plants with needle like foliage are uniquely positioned to tolerate heat. Their leaves have very little surface area exposed to the desiccating effects of heat and wind. My butterburrs, on the other hand, with their giant thin leaves, will wilt at the first sign of high heat. Dahlias will react similarly. I did replant isotoma around the fountain. A tuneup to the irrigation means I will be able to give them the water they need. The Princeton Gold maples provide them with a little afternoon shade.

late June container garden (12)I planted my containers at home based on a prediction by the National Weather Service for a summer season that would be very hot and dry. And a request from Buck for “big leaves”. I have never been much of a fan of alocasias myself, the byproduct of which is that I have never grown them. It will be interesting to see how they do.  I did locate them in areas where they have bright light, and not so much sun.

late June container garden (13)This container always has lime nicotiana.  Both the attending New Guinea impatiens and begonias will be fussy in the heat. I always water rot prone plants at the soil line, and avoid getting the leaves wet. I only water when they are dry, and not when the air temperature is high. I do not give my plants a cool shower. Though I may find that a good idea on a hot day, what I like is not necessarily what my plants like. They need moisture in the soil to thrive. Moisture in the air is another word for humidity.  Humidity can foster mildew and other fungal problems.

late June container garden (5)No seasonal plant thrives in great heat more than caladiums. This dwarf pink variety with a green edge is beautiful.  The maiden hair fern you see is not a hardy variety.  It is a tropical variety which will handle our heat, given sufficient water. I do recall a summer in the 1980’s with incredibly high temperatures and little rain. A nursery we dealt with in Lake County in Ohio lost thousands of rhododendron and Japanese maples.  The soil temperature was so high that the plants perished.

late June container garden (4)I know that fuchsia thrives in cooler conditions.  I have tucked this fuchsia Ballerina standard close to the north wall, hoping that a lack of sun will keep it sufficiently cool. I have had good luck in the past growing this cultivar throughout the summer. Plants that experience higher temperatures than what they can tolerate will aestivate, or enter a mild state of dormancy as a survival mechanism.  This means they will quit flowering until the heat passes.

late June container garden (19)My  driveway garden is sunny for a number of hours, and shady for better than a number of hours. It is a good spot for New Guinea impatiens. No seasonal plant protests dry conditions more dramatically than New Guinea impatiens. They can wilt down an hour after they have gone dry, making the foliage look like braised lettuce. I try never to let them get this dry. The stress extreme stress from lack of water is so hard on plants.

late June container garden (22)The good part of the heat is that plants that have barely been in the ground a week are taking hold and beginning to grow.