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.










Some Like It Hot And Dry


Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 6.11.57 PM_zpsv6bhufehChoosing plants for summer containers can be complicated, especially if you are as serious about them as I am. I have to be serious, as I plant them professionally for a wide range of clients. But lacking any clients, I would still be serious about them.  They are seasonal expressions of the landscape confined by a finite world known as a container. The idea of this enchants me. A great container planting is a condensed expression of color, mass, line, texture, mass, shape and mood. Like the best chocolate mousse you ever ate. The thoughtful landscape and garden builds and endures and reinvents itself from year to year. Like a great stew. Seasonal containers provide an opportunity to express an idea or point of view that needs no more commitment than one season. If this year’s annual containers do not satisfy, the next summer season is not so far away. Landscape design and installation can be a lengthy affair.  The road to maturity is long, and not always easy.  The death of a tree is momentous; a petunia lost is no cause for alarm.  That container plantings last for one season is such a blessing. As much as I embrace the tough and long road designing and implementing a landscape, I value those gestures that are quick and true. I design containers by instinct. Every season, a plant that interests me, or a group of plants that seem like they will create a neighborhood gets my attention.  But long before I shop, I scout the long range weather forecast for my zone.

Floret FarmsA forecast for much above average temperatures, and dry conditions means I started paying special attention to those seasonal plants that will thrive in those conditions months ago. I have always been a fan of those old fashioned cutting flowers-the zinnias.  If we have a rainy or very humid summer, they are a magnet for mildew and all manner of fungal disease. Reading the forecast in March, I started researching zinnias. A dry hot summer would be the perfect moment to plant lots of them in front of the shop. I was especially interested in unusual forms, vigor, resistance to disease, and and that old fashioned charm they are known for. In reading about zinnias, I came across a blog post from Floret Farms.  They grow armload after armload of the most beautiful cut flowers I have ever seen-just like the cut zinnias you see in their picture above.  I did take some of their recommendations to heart. Interested in the article?


DSC_6426Zinnia Queen red lime has very unusual and muted coloration-unlike many of the varieties that feature intense color.

DSC_6433It’s sister cultivar, Queen Lime, is a much improved version of the old lime green zinnia “Envy”.

Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime' (2013)Benary Lime tends towards the greener side of lime. From the Johnny’s Selected seeds website:  A classic and superior strain of zinnia originating from a historic German seed company, the Benary’s Giant Series features large, double blossoms of approximately 4–5″ in diameter, in multiple magnificent colors. Recommended by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers for their vigor, uniformity, productivity, and carefree cultivation across a range of growing zones and conditions.  From Swallowtail Garden Seeds: The 3-4 inch, double chartreuse flowers are superb for cutting, blend with almost any color. Outstanding massed in the landscape; the flowers are jaw-dropping in mixed bouquets. Plants are rain, heat, and mildew resistant. Somewhat shorter than others in this series, growing 24-26 inches tall.

DSC_6423I first read about this zinnia at Floret Farms.  Uproar Rose is a hot pink zinnia that is reputed to produce flower heads at 5″-6″ across all summer.  It makes an excellent cut flower, and is resistant to fungal diseases. Floret favors this zinnia, as it has lots of side branching – meaning it will bear lots of flowers.  I added this zinnia to my collection.

DSC_6435The Zinderella series, in both peach and lilac represent a very unusual anemone type form. I see not every flower on the stalk is quite as double as the ones in my pictures, but that is not enough to discourage me from growing them. They grow about 24 inches tall.  I mixed all of the sizes and colors of zinnias for a loose look, and I have twice as many lime zinnias as all of the other colors. That lime will make it so much easier to appreciate the color and shape of the other varieties.

DSC_6434Zinderella Lilac

zinnia Polar BearA little splash of white is the perfect accent for a garden with lots of bright color. This is the tallest of my zinnias, topping out at 40″. Polar Bear white is an appropriate name.  It cools off the collection.

Canary Bird Zinnia Zinnia Canary Bird rounded out the tall zinnia group.

51985-pk-p1I did not want to neglect the shorter and more compact zinnias.  I did opt to grow the Zahara series.  From Park Seed:  The Zahara series introduced in 2009 immediately became famous for its resistance to mildew and leaf spot, its nonstop blooms, and its larger flower size.These blooms are fully 2½ inches wide. Renowned for its ability to withstand heat, humidity, drought, and just about anything else, Zahara is the first bedding Zinnia that can truly claim to be disease-resistant. Mildew is a traditional enemy of the Zinnia, but Zahara’s got it licked!

F_Zinnia_ZaharaStarlightRose Zahara Starlight White is especially beautiful.

DSC_6431The wicker pots out front are planted with elegant feather, tall yellow marigolds, marguerite daisies, pink petunias and lime licorice.  We dug around the stone plinth, and planted Zahara zinnias.

zinnias at the shop (1) a fist full of zinnias

zinnias at the shop (2)Yes, I planted them on the roof too.  We’ll see how we do with them.



The New Berger Picard In The Neighborhood

Bergere Picard namedGary (4)Last November Rob drove to Roanoke Virginia to meet and pick up his intended-an 8 week old Berger Picard puppy.  Berger Picard? Berger means shepherd in French; Picard refers to the Picardy region in France. One of the oldest of all the French herding dogs, the Berger Picard was almost driven to extinction by the devastation of two world wars. The Picardy region in France was especially hard hit.

Bergere Picard namedGary (10)Devoted breeders, and the shepherds that needed their herding skills to tend their flocks kept the breed alive. They were virtually unknown in the United States until 2005. The film “Because of Winn Dixie” introduced this rare, rough and ready breed to Americans.  From the Berger Picard Club of America, ” The 2005 release of the movie Because of Winn Dixie introduced America to the Picardy Shepherd. The movie producers wanted a dog that looked like a mixed breed, but needed several that looked alike so that production could continue smoothly, thus they decided on this rare purebred dog. It is this breed’s rustic tousled appearance that has fooled many people into thinking “Winn-Dixie” is just a mutt.” Just a week after his arrival, Milo was invading his crate space, and Gary was at home enough to scold him about it.

November 20 2015 060The Berger Picard is still a very rare breed.  There are reputed to be no more than 3500 of them, world wide. So how did Rob become acquainted?  In July of 2015, the breed was admitted to the AKC. A regional dog show in our area featured a specialty meeting of a Berger Picard club that was graced by 14 of these dogs – all together, in one place. He was smitten.  Some months later, the President of the Berger Picard Club of America had pups on the way; Rob spoke for one of them.  Gary had not so much to do or say for his first few days, except to stick close to Rob.  By day three, he was starting to feel at home.

Bergere Picard namedGary (15)The breed is known for its giant ears, big feet, and energetic personality. They are herders, so they need regular exercise. But Gray would need to develop some people skills, as he would be coming to work every day. In his favor is an innate sense of humor. Not all dogs make good retail store dogs. My corgi Milo is an exception. He is too little and low to the ground to be a threat to anyone, and he is eminently sociable. He doesn’t jump on anyone. He has Welsh style manners, except for his enthusiastic barking when he is playing ball. We have people come to the shop all the time-just to check in on Milo. I like that.

Bergere Picard namedGary (8)Gary grew by leaps and bounds over the winter. The corgis were outraged by the Berger Picard puppy invasion, but eventually they all made friends. That is a tribute to his easy going nature, as the corgis are 11 now, and have their routines. Rob’s efforts to expose him to other people and dogs meant regular trips to the dog park, puppy obedience school, and introductions to people who come to the shop.

Bergere Picard namedGary (3)By late winter, you could watch him putting on weight and stature. It seemed like he went from 14 pounds to 50 overnight.  That shaggy coat that is typical of the Bergers was beginning to come in – face first. He is intensely attached to Rob, and he has taken many of his behavioral cues from Rob, which is a good thing.

February 27 2016 003The day he met MCat, I made an effort to stay out of the mix. There was no need to interfere with their introduction. There was a lengthy stare down. Then, a truce. If you have never seen MCat, you are not alone. He spends the middle of his day snoozing in the pot of his choice. Early and late, he is an active member of the group.

Bergere Picard namedGary (6)It has been fun watching these two fall for each other.

April 7 2016 031Both Corgis have been energized by the addition of a third dog.  They do not seem to be in the least bit intimidated by his size. His good and graceful with my 11 year olds. In the morning before the shop opens, they all play ball-even Howard.

April 12, 2016 123So why am I talking about Gary? He is a new member of our group. Gardeners coming in now after the winter hiatus want to meet him, and have questions about the breed. Should you come by, we will be happy to introduce you.

DSC_4528 Despite being only 7 months old, he has his quiet moments. This is a good thing. The 3 large orange caution cones positioned at our entrance right now is part of his training to never breach those open gates, and leave the yard. He seems to be catching on to that idea fast.

Bergere Picard namedGary (7) He has a warm and affectionate personality that matches his size.

April 12, 2016 058I don’t know how much longer Rob will be able to pick him up like this – ha. It is impossible to tell which one of them likes this relationship better.

Berger-PicardThey make very handsome grown-ups, don’t they?

Detroit Garden Works 2016 Spring Fair

DSC_4539Detroit Garden Works will be hosting its annual spring fair tomorrow and Sunday. We are particularly fond of that time when winter is just about over, and a new gardening season is about to begin.  Spring is the puppy season of the garden.  Once the landscape and garden plants break dormancy, everything grows grows so fast  is difficult to keep up with it all. The trees and shrubs are leafing out, the spring flowering bulbs leap out of the ground, the hellebores come in to their own-and there are weeds everywhere. The garden wakes up one moment, and is in high gear the next. One barely knows what to look at first. Some spring moments are as brief as they are beautiful, and gardeners do not want to miss any of it. In anticipation of the spring garden on the way, we invite a diverse group of people who make a career of some aspect of gardening to bring their plants and wares to our fair. The idea is to put a group of green industry people in the same place as lots of interested gardeners, offer a little something to eat and drink, and let the fun begin.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (2)Our building is just about 10,000 square feet, and it is chock full of new pots, tools, garden ornaments, and best of all, the first of many interesting specialty plants we carry throughout the garden season. April weather can be very uncooperative. We’ve had quite a run of cold days and very cold nights recently. There is snow on the ground this morning, for pete’s sake. We plan to launch the spring 2016 season in spite of it. We have 10,000 square feet of warm space. Our fair space in the warehouse in the back of our building has lots of new lighting, and a new all glass garage door. If you have a mind to come, we will valet park your car at no charge, and load your purchases for you. You will be shoulder to shoulder with other passionate gardeners who are keen for perennials, cut flowers and bulbs that show themselves early in the spring.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (3)Our bunches of fresh cut pussy willow are the best I have ever seen. I wonder if the mild winter had something to do with this. Though our fall grown and cold wintered pansies are shrugging off the inclement weather, every one is covered with frost cloth for the night. Our hellebores are big and well grown plants. Our topiary plants can be enjoyed indoors until the night temperatures are warmer, and then moved outdoors for the summer.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (4)The shop is especially beautiful this spring. This is our 20th year in business, and the pride we feel in that is evident.  You’ll see. But for all of you who are too far away to visit this weekend, to follow is a collection of pictures that will help give you a sense of what we look like right now.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (5)It has taken quite a few months to get to this moment. The shop walls got repainted. We have a fresh floor painting. We have new lighting. Every room is clean-sparkly.  Every day we have something new coming in. In the distance, you can see how much light we have in the back now, courtesy of our glass overhead door.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (7)We have big and little ideas, and appropriate the materials to go with, for gardeners of every persuasion. This sentence is pretty short.  Our effort to help gardeners of every persuasion is long lived, and serious. That aside,  what we have in store for the weekend is all about the pleasure that a garden can provide.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (9) I promise there is enchantment in the air.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (10)Even Howard has come out from under my desk to take part in what is going on.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (11)In anticipation of our spring fair, we had two truck loads of  topiary plants delivered. Our greenhouse space is packed with plants. This is my favorite part-the plants.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (13)Green

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (21)Lemon cypress, myrtle, boxwood honeysuckle and rosemary topiaries.  Under the bench- hardy Chicago figs.

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (1)Myrtle topiaries

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (6)The view in to the greenhouse

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (14)plants for spring

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (15)spring under glass

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (16)

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (20)

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (19)

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (18)

Detroit Garden Works spring fair 2016 (17)If you are ready, we are ready too.