2018 Garden Cruise Tomorrow

I have seen every landscape and garden that will be on our tour tomorrow which benefits the Greening of Detroit. They are all very different, and all very strong. To follow are 19 good reasons why the this 11th Garden Cruise is worth taking.  The 20th, and most important reason, is that all of the proceeds from the tickets sold are turned over as a donation to The Greening of Detroit.  We strongly support the work they do in our city. We still have tickets available; call 248  335  8089.   Rob opens Detroit Garden Works at 8am tomorrow, for anyone who wants to decide in the morning they would like to tour.

I will be home in my own garden all day tomorrow-please stop by and say hello.

The 2018 Garden Cruise

When one of my dearest friends told me that he did not know we would be sponsoring an 11th garden cruise this year, I took that as a sign that I needed to step up and spread the word that we are indeed sponsoring a cruise this year. I did feel last July that having met my goal of raising over 100,000.00 for the Greening of Detroit, it was time to gracefully bow out. I was surprised by the numbers of people who expressed regret that the tour would not go on. Many people told me that day that they really enjoyed the tour, and would I reconsider?  The Greening of Detroit was not so happy about it either. One of their donors, the Erb Foundation, subsequently offered to match every dollar we raise selling tickets up to 10,000.00, for both 2018 and 2019. A treasured landscape client who owns a manufacturing company known as Argent Tape and Label offered to sponsor our tour dinner and drink reception. Our heartfelt thanks to the both of them. I thought about putting on an 11th tour over the winter, and finally decided to go ahead. I was able to line up some great looking landscapes and gardens which will be available for you to see this coming Sunday, July 15, from 9-4:30.

7 gardens will be available to cruise. This is our first year, including the Greening of Detroit’s Lafayette Greens. This garden, designed by noted landscape architect Ken Weikal, and underwritten by Compuware, grows countless hundreds of pounds of fresh produce and flowers-all of which are donated to local food banks, church pantries, and volunteers. Though the garden is open for visitors every day of the week, we feel a trip there would help every tour person to understand something about the Greening of Detroit, and what they do for our city.

Four of the 6 other gardens are of my design and installation. The fifth landscape was designed by me and installed over a period of time by my clients. The 6th garden is a an extraordinary collection of known and rare plants, beautifully arranged, from a pair of gardeners who regular shop at Detroit Garden Works. This is a very strong tour. No two properties are remotely alike. But every garden reflects a passion for nature, and a love of the landscape.
Should you decide to take the tour, I promise you will be engaged and intrigued. Pictured above, a writers cottage of my client’s own invention, nestled in the landscape I designed for them. If the idea of a writer’s cottage in a landscape intrigues you, I invite you to come and see the rest of their lovely property.

I always put my own garden on tour. The fact that I work to get it ready for visitors helps other gardeners decide to go ahead with putting their gardens on tour.  My pots are always different, and I do make changes on occasion, so most people seem to enjoy coming back for another look. That said, this year’s tour is remarkable for its diversity. People look for very different things from their landscape. Some cultivate a wide variety of plants for the sheer love of plants of all kinds. Others have cultivated a landscape that is friendly to outdoor use and enjoyment, from places to sit, to a terrace that can accommodate friends and family for dinner. My landscape is fairly mature. So my enjoyment has much to do with planting out my pots.

This serene and beautifully maintained property will take a while to tour, but it will be obvious that the gardener in charge has a big love for the natural world.

A small city garden has a client equally passionate about the landscape.

The descriptions of the gardens on tour this year can be found at the tour website.   wwwthegardencruise.org

I am also so pleased that our tour reception will be catered by Toni Sova, who owns and operates a catering company called Nostimo Kitchen.  Her food is terrific.  Check her out for yourself:  http://www.nostimokitchen.com/    And we will have equally terrific live music as usual by Tola Lewis.     http://www.tolalewis.com/    If you have never attended our after cruise reception before, I can highly recommend it. The food, drink and company is exceptional. And the 15.00 it cost over the price of a ticket also goes to the Greening of Detroit.  This year’s reception is underwritten by  Argent Tape and Label, a woman owned business.  https://argent-label.com/  

I sincerely hope that if you are able to attend, you will.  The Greening of Detroit plants trees, sponsors urban gardens, and teaches respect and stewardship of our environment. This is a cause I support, as I know it has benefited our city. What the landscapes and gardens on tour have to offer is icing on the cake.  To purchase tickets – 35.00 per person for the tour, and 50.00 per person for the tour and reception – call Detroit Garden Works at  248  335  8057. As an added incentive, Rob will open the shop at 8am on Sunday the 15th, should you decide to make a day of it that morning. It is the one gardening day of the year I am home all day-I love seeing my garden full of other gardeners.

Bold Or Bashful?

Designing great container plantings asks for thoughtful decisions about lots of visual issues. A container is a landscape in miniature. Every design issue that manages to get addressed in such a confined space means that container will satisfy the viewer on multiple levels. Superb container plantings are layered, organized, and deliberate. I greatly admire container plantings that are visually interesting, whether they be formally or informally imagined.  I especially like the organization phase. How do I plant for my clients? I like to know to location of the pots, the size and style of the pots, the architecture of the house, the sun and shade exposure, and the style of planting that most closely represents the point of view of the client. But truth be told, I ask about color first. Color is an incredibly important design element, if for no other reason that everyone reacts individually and strongly to color. The pale yellow and vaguely violet upright verbena named “Limonella” pictured above has a subtle coloration that I find fascinating. My grower, on the other hand, could not decide if it was good or blah. Consequently he only grew a few flats.

There are plenty of seasonal plants that have equally reserved coloration.  This bench is home to showy oregano, silver dichondra, variegated licorice and euphorbia “Diamond Frost”. Though they all have subtly different textures, shapes, and habits of growth, the color is uniformly subdued. The color green reads as a neutral color in the landscape for obvious reasons. A pot of white geraniums surrounded by a frothy mix of the aforementioned plants would be quietly satisfying in coloration. The contrast between the unflappable form of the geraniums and the airy and flowing form of the supporting cast provides visual interest on a different level. The fact that each of these plants requires similar light and water means there will be opportunity for each individual plant to thrive.

Some seasonal plants are bashful in coloration for other reasons. The Cathedral series of annual salvias are avilable in a range of colors, from white, pale blue, lavender and dark purple.  What makes their effect in a container reserved is the fact that they will always sport more foliage than flowers. The individual florets are small. Breeders have worked hard to create a flowering salvia with more visual punch, but I find the quieter bloom habit charming. Scaevola, commonly known as fan flower, features diminuitive lowers all along fleshy green trailing stems.  It provides as much volume as color to a container arrangement.

Yellow and pale lilac petunias are subdued in color, and similar in value – meaning the colors do not contrast much. Mixing them with the Limonella trailing verbena is an idea I would like to try. Adding vanilla marigolds to the mix would introduce a like color element with a contrasting height.

These yellow with a blue eye streptocarpus would be a great fit with the yellow and pale lilac petunias, but the science would be all wrong.  This plant requires a fairly shady location to prosper. It is always good to keep in mind that good horticulture comes before any other design element.

Some tropical plants are anything but bashful.  Persian Shield is a plant prized for the brilliant red violet color of its foliage. I have never seen it bloom. That color is the most vibrant given a partial shade location. It may fade in full sun. Red violet is a shade of purple that leans to the red side. Some call this color magenta, or carmine. As I favor harmony in color, and contrast achieved by light and dark, I would plant lilac and or red New Guinea impatiens with it. The red geraniums in the background of this picture accentuates the red highlights in these purple leaves.

Persian Queen geraniums pack a powerful punch of color.  The intense hot pink flowers sit on top of intensely lime green foliage. If bold color is to your liking, this plant delivers the goods. You can calm the color with dark purple petunias, heliotrope, or the softer colored lime licorice – or add flames to the fire with red annual phlox or red seed geraniums. This plant is great for pots that are viewed from afar. There would be no problem spotting even a small container of these in the landscape.  The dahlias are the show stopper darlings of the container world.  The colors are intense and jewel like.  The sheer size of the flowers is as powerful as the color. Given lots of sun, regular moisture and food, they will bloom profusely. The best flowering actually comes near the end of the season.  They are beautiful in September and October.

There are plenty of plants for partially shaded locations that have strong color.  Begonias are hard to beat. A mix of all the colors available is as effective as a mass of all one color.  The less well known lime selaginella, or club moss, can effectively lighten up the shadiest spot. With a regular source of moisture, it will cascade over the edge of a pot.

But if you love all and every color equally, and are pleased by representing as many of them as you can in a container, you are not alone.  There is something so lavish and exuberant about a mass of mixed color plants. Nature’s colors all go together. If mixed colors are pleasing, then the next most important design element is the overall shape. Plants that grown tall and linear can be balanced by plants that grow low and wide. Airy growing plants can be countered by plants with a prominent structure. All of the contrasting shapes, tectures and colors of green will certainly knit the arrangement together.

See what I mean?

 

The Big House

A Michigan spring is a big fluid situation. We have cold days and cold nights. We have hot days and freezing nights. Every day is a new weather drama, with a new cast of characters. We have a glass roof over one room inside Detroit Garden Works. Once we start buying in seasonal and tropical plants, it feels like a little house. During those cold spells, we jam no end of cold intolerant plants under that glass roof, to keep them happy. For years we have moved seasonal plants in and out of our garage, given the night time temperature forecast. That in and out is a a huge chore. So late last winter we made arrangements to purchase a big house for our plants.  A 60′ long by 30′ wide gothic styled house that would put all of our seasonal plants under cover. The house got delivered on a flatbed truck.  Seeing the boxes and pieces on the ground made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. This is a greenhouse?

Of course I asked Buck to take the lead. He was reluctant to take on the big house, but he did. The worst part of getting it aloft was the fact that we could not dig into the ground to set the posts. I suspect this part of our property was formerly a road bed. It was full of asphalt, big rocks, and giant pieces of concrete. It took a week, 4 people, and a jackhammer to dig all of the holes for the posts. The landscape crew took on that thankless job, day after day. The Branch crew saw to setting every post in concrete in a perfectly vertical position. This may sound easy, but it is not. I have never seen so many levels and so many measuring tapes in one place in my life.

Once the posts were set, we were ready to set the ribs aloft. We had willow branches in the way that had to be cut, and a lots of work to be done in the airspace. The willow that had to be pruned back provided material for a tool the Branch fabricators needed. I will say this tool took my breath away. I like simple solutions.


One person on the ground held the rib in the proper position with the willow tool, so the person on the ladder could bolt the support bars in place. The greenhouse came with directions that were very unclear. Given that this was Branch’s first greenhouse, they proceeded cautiously. But once the ribs were set, the structure was rock solid.

I had no idea how a 2000 square foot piece of 6 mil plastic would go over the house, and be secured, but it turned out to be fairly simple.  We had to wait for a windless day, with no rain. Apparently wet plastic is very difficult to slide over the ribs.  After laying out the plastic next to the house, ropes were secured to the edge of the plastic with the help of small rocks. Rocks? The plastic was bunched up over a rock, much like the paper wrapper over a tootsie roll pop, and then secured with rope. Of course it is done this way. The plastic would slip through a loop of rope, no matter how tight it was tied. The rock secured the plastic to the rope. This is how greenhouse people do it. Ingenious.
Each rope was thrown over the top of the house, and handed off to a person on the other side.

8 rope pullers and two wrinkle reliever people made quick work of getting this giant piece of plastic over the top. The plastic keeps heat in the house, and wind, rain, hail and other weather events off the plants.

Once the plastic was in place, it was secured on both sides in a channel with a locking cap that runs the entire length of the house. This was a very cold day. Instantly it seemed warmer inside the house than out. Seasonal plants hail from tropical climates.  They dislike cold temperatures, and cold soil even more. In mid May, the best place for annual plants is under cover.  Planted out in our cold soil too soon, they sit there. Inside, they grow.

The short ends of the house are rigid polycarbonate panels. We will install the polycarbonate sliding doors later.  Right now, the house is open to promote good air circulation, and to permit carts to come and go.

The final layer over top of the house is a shade cloth. It blocks 40 percent of the sun coming through the plastic.  This will keep the house much cooler when the weather gets hot.  This means less stress to the plants that are in small pots. And a more comfortable place for people to look at plants. The long sides have separate plastic panels that roll up, so when its warm, some of the heat is able to escape.

We are by no means a business specializing in seasonal plants. Nor are we a nursery specializing in trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers for the landscape. We specialize in pots, tools, ornament, sculptures, fountains, furniture and interesting objects for gardens.  Rob sees to making the Works a place friendly and engaging to those people who garden. And those people for whom the beauty of a garden is a way of life. Those objects around which a garden or landscape can be organized is just a part of the equation. Of course we treasure the plants, especially plants that can be grown in containers.

 

It seems fitting and reasonable to have a plant house. What I had not planned on was how much I would enjoy it. Thank you Branch for putting up a big house.