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.

The Hellebore Festival

helleborus MerlinHellebores are the mainstay of the early spring garden in my zone. The plants themselves feature leathery foliage that may persist throughout a mild winter.  The flowers come first, on leafless stalks that emerge from the ground in late March and early April.  Once the flowers have matured, the new leaves sprout.  They range in height from 15″ to 20″, and appreciate a semi shady location in humus rich and friable soil.

helleborus corsicus IcebreakerI grow one group of hellebores in full sun, but I make sure they have sufficient water. Some clumps are going on 15 years old, and show no signs of any loss of vigor. The summer foliage is lush and glossy.  Deer don’t touch them. What appears to be the petals are actually modified leaves.  The small tubular lime green structures surrounding the center in the above picture are the actual flowers.  Those modified leaves will persist on the plant long into the summer.  This give the impression of a very long bloom time.

hellebore festivalMost hellebores are very willing to set seed. I see many seedlings surrounding my large plants this spring.  Given 3 or 4 years, they will grow on to blooming size. Some of the newer varieties of hellebores feature up or side facing flowers.  Older cultivars of helleborus orientalis feature nodding flowers.  Planting them at the top of a slope or wall will provide a better look at the flowers.  If you choose to cut them, do sear the bottom of the stem in boiling water before you condition them. They will last an amazingly long time floating in a bowl of water.

helleborus lividus Pink MarbleNew to us this year is helleborus lividus “Pink Marble”. The hellebore is shorter and more compact than most.  It grows about a foot tall, and 18″ wide.  The leaves have delicate white veins.  As this hellebore is a little more tender than most, I would plant it with some protection from winds.  A layer of leaves after the ground freezes will help protect it.

helleborus Frilly KittyFrilly Kitty features pink fully double flowers. Hellebore breeding has produced flowers in an astonishing range of colors and shapes.  It remains to be seem which will survive the test of time. Hellebores grown from seed will all be different. A hellebore selected for its flower color or vigor will be reproduced via tissue culture, which insures that all of the characteristics of the parent is repeated in the progeny.

helleborus ConnieHelleborus Spring Promise “Conny” is a white flowered hellebore with maroon spots.  The flowers are stunning.  I am sure this accounts for the fact that we are already sold out of this cultivar. It seems to be a fairly strong grower in my garden.  One clump that is year years old has a number of blooms this year.

helleborus SallySally is another member of the Spring Promise series. Spring Promise is a helleborus orientalis type, and bloom from late February into April.  They come in a wide range of forms and colors.  Sally has lovely greenish yellow flowers atop a very strong growing plant.

Helleborus IcebreakerHelleborus Icebreaker is a personal favorite.  The white flowers mature to a most beautiful shade of green.  Interested further in the green flowered types?  I wrote about them here:  green flowered hellebores  If you are not able to get by the shop today, don’t worry.  We have a great supply of many different cultivars. The best part of this year’s festival?  Mild March weather is making it possible to plant them in the ground  straight away.

 

Opening Day

detroit Garden WorksIt was the middle of January that we began repairing and repainting Detroit Garden Works. It was a long process which got finished just two weeks ago. The building dates back to 1940, so with age comes some maintenance. We had issues with the roof, and some deteriorated sections of our concrete block wall that needed repair. We repainted the entire shop, one room at a time. This meant that every room had to be cleared, the loose paint scraped, and the new paint applied-all by hand. The walls are now a warm white, and the trim is a pale blue gray that reminds me of galvanized metal. This day, Owen and LaBelle were rehanging the strings of lights attached to the steel beam that holds the glass roof aloft in our greenhouse. Those pale gray roof rafters look so good against the sky.

February 28, 2016 045Many weeks later, the room is filled with racks full of Danish designed terra cotta pots manufactured in Italy that Rob ordered last fall. Buck’s group from Branch came to reinforce a pair of large vintage wood shelving units that Rob bought in Atlanta, so they could handle the weight of over 500 of these great looking pots. Once the pots were in place, Owen and LaBelle hung a collection of Plant Belles topiary forms from the roof rafters. We began repopulating the shop for spring.

ready for spring (17)Looking through these vintage wirework cloches, you can see that our greenhouse space is filling up. The empty tables will see service in just a few weeks. The weekend of March 20th is our annual hellebore festival. This greenhouse will be filled will hellebores, topiaries, and other spring plants in just a few weeks. What any gardener wants to see the most as winter comes to a close is plants, and lots of them. We agree.

opening day (7)We potted up lots of heirloom daffodils this past fall. Detroit Garden Works will be celebrating their 20th year in business the end of March. We have the idea that this space will be beautiful, filled with daffodils blooming for our 20th. We just brought all of the pots and baskets out of our unheated garage for a warm up to 50 degrees.

opening day (11)Our 20th year in business is a big occasion for all of us. First and foremost it speaks to Rob’s collections that have kept every shop season for 20 years fresh and captivating. His talent and passion for the garden is truly extraordinary. Every object that has a home in our 10,000 square feet of space, both on the ground, in the air, and on the walls was an ornament or tool for the garden chosen by him.

opening day (10)The shop has an incredible collection of ornament for the garden. Pots we have. Antique, vintage, modern, contemporary-the range is wide. Rob favors the handmade, the unusual, and most of all, beautiful pots.  Homes for plants as in baskets, urns, vases and buckets – made of terra cotta, galvanized metal, wood, stone – even paper. What we have available is much wider in range and depth than this list.

opening day (8)Our tool room features an extensive collection of handmade Dutch tools.  They are beautifully made, and sharp as blazes.  Rob’s choice of handmade corn brooms and whisks with cherry wood handles are handsome indeed.

opening day (9)Sunne and I displayed a lot of our new Dutch hand tools in glass cubes. Why so?  These tools are very sharp. They will make quick work of any small digging project. We thought to make the view of every tool easy. The glass will inspire caution to anyone who wants to pick one up and look it over.

opening day (17)This past fall, Detroit Garden Works had a group of Italian made washable paper bags in stock. I thought to load up the bags with daffodils and miniature bulbs. The zip lock bags made a perfect liner for the paper jardinieres. Though it was convenient that the bulbs did not need any water over the course of the winter, I was worried that plastic would keep the soil too wet. Not so. The roots look healthy, and I see no signs of rot.

opening day (6)Once they had been moved into greenhouse, we cut down the top of the plastic so it was no longer visible. It only took 2 days exposure to natural light for the leaves to green up.

opening day (19)The room with the painted floor is just about ready for company. The most dramatic feature of the space is how Rob did the lighting.  He took every light down, and redid them in such a way that features that floor, the collection of Italian terracotta that just arrived, and of course the galvanized buckets and baskets that are his idea of a gardening staple.

opening day (4)The Italian pots are all simple in shape, and have no decoration but for a rolled rim at the top. They would look as beautiful in contemporary gardens as they would in traditional ones. I have so many requests from readers far away to post pictures of the inside of the shop, so what is to follow should give you a good idea of the big picture.

opening day (2)the daisy lawn room

opening day (5)from back to front

opening day (3)in the window

opening day (1)vintage steel desk and wall hung cubby

opening day (18)looking towards the front door

opening day (16)from south to north

opening day (15)Belgian bowl pots

opening day (12) pair of fire escape wall wall mounted plant stands

opening day (13)This was always our darkest space. The new paint, and the white French glazed terracotta has made the room so much more inviting.  Inviting-that’s what we want to be, this opening day.