On The Water Today

On the water today is a 40 foot container’s worth of goods for the garden that Rob bought in France last September. Some of what he bought is either antique or vintage. Other things are new. He buys what he treasures and can’t bring himself to leave behind. I like that about him. Our shipping agent in Paris collects what he buys wherever he shops in France. Some orders for new goods, no matter where they are sourced, are manufactured to order only. Thus he times his overseas shopping in the summer and early fall so we can take delivery prior to the spring season opening March 1. Once all of his purchases are packed and collected, arrangements are made to fill a container and send it on its way. It is incredible really, how much planning and traveling he does every year in support of amassing a beautiful and curated collection of objects.

Rob turns over all of his invoices and buy sheets to our internet sales and service manager, Heather D, once he returns to the states. Just one of her many responsibilities involves coordinating pickups, packing and shipping of goods that come to the shop from abroad and in the US. Doing business internationally is a complicated job. Rob places orders and buys overseas, but payment for goods whether old or new is arranged by wire transfer of funds to our shipping agent. Our agent pays for what Rob has purchased when they pick up. Heather takes the hand off from Rob, and coordinates the shipping as quickly and gracefully as possible. I greatly admire that she coordinates with him in such a way that our overseas buying results in moving many items from various places in a European country to our doorstep in an efficient and timely way.

The shipping from a big group of vendors/suppliers in Europe to our shop takes time. There are always problems, and negotiations. Heather handles this with aplomb. I am confident in saying that all of us representing Detroit Garden Works go to great lengths to bring beautiful garden ornament to our clients. Each person plays their part. Heather gets everything to us, best way. Rob sets the prices, and all of the sales staff pitch in to tag everything. Jenny photographs all of our new things for the Detroit Garden Works website. Dave, our business manager, handles the finances.

There are other jobs that need to be done. In preparation for our spring 2018 season opening, my entire landscape crew has been busy cleaning and repainting all of the shelving and trim with fresh color via several coats of paint. A new 8′ by 8′ skylight just inside our front door will be installed early next week. Our go to painter for difficult jobs has been engaged to repaint the ceilings in our front two showrooms-for the first time in 22 years. In preparation for his week’s long work, everything in those rooms had to be moved out, so a scaffolding on wheels can access every square inch of our 14 foot high ceilings. We are ready for him, ahead of his February 1st start date. We will be on hand to help him mask off the walls and the track lighting. As shipments and containers come in, the landscape company
will take on the unpacking  and placement of most every substantial and heavy item.

Only Heather would say that importing goods from the European continent to the US is easy. It is in fact a complicated affair, dealing with multiple vendors, import rules and regulations and shipping. She is incredibly focused and for good measure and balance, incredibly patient. She communicates via telephone and the internet in such a friendly and productive way. All of my group and all of our vendors truly appreciate her candor, good humor, and problem solving skills. She has spent a good deal of time researching and engaging companies that can deliver our goods intact, and in a timely way.

Heather also manages all of our internet inquiries, sales, and shipping arrangements for both Detroit Garden Works, and Branch  We do business nation wide, with individual clients, and design firms. She is client services oriented, and she is not afraid to take on a project that is difficult or complicated. She has made it her business to become familiar with everything we offer for sale, so she can speak knowledgeably about them, and answer questions.

Why all this talk about Heather? I regret to report that Heather D, our internet sales manager, has accepted a request from her brother to return to the family business. Even though she will be sorely missed, I wish her well. She has graciously agreed to stay long enough train a new person for her position. I am very glad that our new internet sales manager to be will have the benefit of all of the systems she has put into place the past three years.

If you or someone you know is interested in a fast paced and variable sales and client services position that evolves day to day, supported by a great and closely knit group of people with a big passion for the garden, let me know by email at dsilver@detroitgardenworks.com  I can email you the job description and responsibilities, so you can take a closer look at what would be involved. I am open to professional people from other fields, but a sense and interest in design is key.

I am looking forward to the season to come. We have three containers set to arrive in the next month. It is hard to believe that February in the garden industry could be chaotic, but in our case, it is.  We have to be ready for company March 1. The chaos is somewhat mitigated by the fun of seeing what is in all of those packages. It’s a birthday party for Detroit Garden Works.

I have had this photograph of a pair of French pots for months, but it is nothing what it will be to see them in person. I am very keen about these. A very traditional French pot shape has a decidedly contemporary look created by the glaze. Are these new or old? I have no idea, yet.

Rob is a fan of dolly tubs, and I understand why.  They are happy in a contemporary or traditional setting. The planting space is generous. They are lightweight and weatherproof.

This is a closeup of a new glaze from a French pottery. I can’t wait to see these in person too. These pots will be every bit as welcome in a variety of settings as a dolly tub, but they are heavy, and will need to come in for the winter in a northern garden. There will be someone who is not in the least bit daunted by this. For a while, I will be able to look at it, any time I choose. As for Heather, she gave a lot for the while she was with us. As much as I am reluctant to let go, there will be a new person who brings their own style and sensibility to the mix. I look forward to meeting them.





The Garden And Plant Show At Kasteel Hex

Rob is part way through his annual sojourn to Europe, shopping for the spring of 2018. He does all of the buying for Detroit Garden Works. He does an incredible job of making our shop the place for serious gardeners to shop for whatever they need, or might fall for. He procures ornament, tools, pots, sculpture and furniture-and all else that might help to define a garden. He brings Detroit Garden Works to life. His current trip includes both Belgium and France. He does have a big love for plant fairs, no matter where he is. It so happened that he was able to book a half day to see the garden and plant show at the Kasteel Hex in Belgium. It was so many years ago that Rob first shopped for garden ornament in Belgium. Over my objections, he was keen to visit the country. His most compelling argument? Belgium is close in latitude to Michigan. Garden ornament and landscape design in Belgium was bound to strike a chord in our zone. That made good sense. He has been a fan of Belgian garden and landscape design since the shop opened over 20 years ago. We have imported many things that seem fitting, appropriate and fitting in mid western gardens.

Though I have never seen a vendor at our local farmer’s market selling garlic on this scale, our scene is strikingly similar to the one pictured above.  All of the farmers at our market who take their flowers, vegetables, herbs, roses, cut flowers, and perennials to market 3 times a week interact with those people shopping much the same as I see here. There is plenty of discussion. Plenty of exchange. What happens at the market over the garden is of interest to all that participate.

My late season market features all of the vegetables that have ripened on farms in our area. These tomatoes offered for sale at Hex are much the same as what I see at my own market. It is good to see that interest in the garden alive and well in other places.

To follow are more photographs of Rob’s visit to the show. If you are in my zone, you will recognize a lot of the plants. I so enjoyed the idea that in a place so far away, people are shopping the farmer’s market in much the same way that I shop my own. Of course he would not be able to bring perennials and tomatoes home with him, but he obviously enjoyed the experience.

man contemplating the perennials for sale

dahlias for sale

lime foliaged heather

perennials laid out in blocks

A booth devoted to iris

Iris corms for sale

Heather in bloom

Booth with lots of gaura

mossed pots

A seed stand graced with a vase full of flowers

A booth featuring hens and chicks

Hens and chicks in crates


More hydrangeas!  This display is so beautiful.

Hex garden and plant show

plants and straw on a  rainy day

A rainy day at the Kasteel Hex garden market. So beautiful!

The Plant Fair














The 11th Garden Cruise Club

Our tenth garden cruise to benefit the Greening of Detroit was this past Sunday. As usual, I spent the day at home. My garden is on tour every year as I so enjoy meeting and talking to everyone who stops by. And I enjoy talking to those people who have taken our tour year after year, now a decade old. It is satisfying that people who have toured for years do not tire of visiting my garden. This year my garden had a few surprises. A new pair of arbors, a new fence, and 72 linear feet of planter boxes across the front, planted with summer blooming annuals. For someone who likes to plant containers as much as I do, that 72 feet worth of planting space is a treat. What fun it was to plant those! The weather forecast was perfect – 72 degrees and partly cloudy skies with a slight chance of a brief shower.  Hovering over the event was my decision that this would be our last tour.

Ten years ago, encouraged and sponsored by board member and noted architect Michael Willoughby, I joined the board of the Greening of Detroit. I went to one board meeting. It would be my last; I was completely out of my depth. While I was familiar with their mission, I did not understand the issues the board had before them well enough to have anything to contribute. The next day I decided that the best contribution I could make to them would be an effort to raise money on their behalf. Putting together a tour of landscapes of my design or influenced by our group, and a dinner reception, was a commitment we were ready to make. We charged more than most tours for tickets, and all of that ticket money would go to the Greening. I do truly believe in the work done by the Greening of Detroit, so I persisted. We have kept the tour going a long time.

Detroit Garden Works and Deborah Silver and Company put their weight behind this tour. The shop rearranges and cleans. Rob designs the reception party. The Detroit Garden Works staff sets up tables and chairs and the bar, spanning the entire length of our driveway. They gracefully handle request for tour tickets for weeks before, and that Sunday morning beginning at 8am. They design tours for people who only have a few hours to attend.  They put on a dinner reception with live music that is a perfect summer evening for those who have toured. Rob obligingly mixes up his latest version of the classic gin and tonic, and also mixes an array of unusual summer drinks. The line at his station is always long. Christine has long retired from the shop, but she does work the cruise. She handles the wine bar, as she has for the past 10 years.

Deborah Silver and Company weeds and rakes the shop out for company. All the gardens and pots get groomed and watered. They also lend a hand to every garden on tour the week before. We weed, haul away debris and brush, water, attend to a fountain which is not working right, or any other issue that needs to be righted in time for the cruise. They prune and fluff- so every landscape and garden looks its very best. A beautiful landscape and garden is a pleasure for those who make them, and for those who experience them. The Greening of Detroit does important work –  making and sustaining landscapes in our city, and teaching people how to make plants grow.

Tour day this year was a very emotional experience for me. My original goal in 2008 was to raise 100,000 for the Greening. We went over that mark on our 9th tour, but so many friends of ours and the Greening asked if I would do a 10th tour, I said yes. The tenth year and tour would be the last. Why our last? I had done for the Greening what I had set out to do. I did not want to overstay my welcome. All things run their course, do they not? I did not want to risk people losing enthusiasm. I was not expecting what was to come.

All day long, people attending the tour came up to me, and talked to me about how much the tour meant to them. About how much they learned from a conversation and exchange of ideas with garden owners. One person in particular articulated how she was able to take what she saw in other people’s gardens that she liked, and express them in her own garden. So many made a point to tell me they regretted that this would be the last tour. Many asked if I would consider continuing the tour. Some said it was the best tour of all, and they were sure next year’s tour would even be better.  I was not expecting such an impassioned response.

Would I consider continuing the tour?  Sunne has always thrown her entire weight behind this tour. Everyone who shops at Detroit Garden Works knows her.  She turned out to be the founder of the 11th Garden Cruise Club. She made a point of explaining that this was the last tour, and anyone who was not happy with that should let me know. I got to the tour reception about 5:15. The first person I saw was Jennifer T, who had flown in from Seattle with her daughter to take the tour. She is a long time reader and supporter of this blog. How incredible that she took the time and handled the expense to come out for our event. Though I have read and responded to many comments she has made on these pages, it was such a treat to meet her in person. How charming that her daughter was all on board to take that trip with her Mom. Though we were only face to face for two days, I will never forget her. This tour made possible a meeting with a passionate gardener halfway across the country from me. Grateful does not express how happy I was to meet her.

More than 125 people attended our reception.  Between our companies and the Greening, we sold 385 tickets.  We raised 15,650.00 for the Greening. Garden Design Magazine had some 40 new subscriptions, from which they would donate 12.00 from each to the Greening. The new President of the Greening, Lionel Bradford, attended our reception, and gave a short and heartfelt speech about his appreciation for what the tour has done for his organization. For me, a basket full of things to eat and drink-made in Detroit. Touching, this.

That moment was a moment I will not soon forget. Sunne has the idea that tour was just hitting its stride, and I was considering the possibility.

Michael on tour. For those of you too far away to have toured, to follow are more pictures of my landscape and garden from that day.

tour morning

the deck

Milo and Howard were both home for the tour this year.

pots planted for summer

a little one on tour

upper deck


planter detail

deck pots

fountain landscape


front yard


the opposite view

new planter boxes and original cast iron pots

new planter boxes in the other direction

tour landscape

Bringing the tour to an end is tougher now, considering all of what we heard that day. Yesterday I heard from Monica Tabares at the Greening that a donor who took the tour for the first time this year regretted this was our tenth and final tour. In a meeting with her, they pledged that if I would continue the tour for 5 more years, they would match the funds we raise every one of those five years. That offer gives me great pause. It could be that what we thought was the end is not quite the end yet.












Gifts For Gardeners

At this time of year I get a lot of queries from wives, husbands, associates, children and friends about what would be a great gift for the gardener in their life. I do the best I can to answer those questions. I can be good, and I can be off. Just saying that my gift guide is no better than my opinion. Like most people, I try to do a good job matching the gift to the person. So to follow is an 11th hour gardener’s gift guide, of sorts. A gift guide for those of you still stymied at the last minute by the gardener on your gift list. I want to preface my remarks with this story. Rob sent me the picture above of an antique staddle stone while he was in England this past September, shopping for the spring 2017 season at Detroit Garden Works.  The stone itself has an incredibly beautiful shape, and an equally beautiful reticulated surface. I loved the stone wall in the background, and the moss at its feet. The fallen green apples and the brown fruit leaves that litter the ground speak to the fall season in Britain. A section of an agricultural wheel in the right of the picture tells me where he was when he took the picture. He has a relationship with a dealer in Britain who farms, and collects fine objects for the garden – many of them with an agricultural history. I am keenly interested in staddle stones, as they are one of many antique or vintage ornaments for the garden that are saturated with the history of a long and strong intersection of agriculture, and the landscape. I like them. But this particular stone takes my breath and my gardening heart away. I of course expected that since Rob sent me this picture, that he had bought this stone. Not so, he tells me today. Dang.  But at least I have learned that objects for the garden redolent with history appeal to me the most.

sneeboer garden toolsThat story told, a stellar holiday gift to the gardener in your life will depend on how far you are willing to go to understand the particular nature of their love of the garden.  Some gardeners are very hands on. The grime under their nails and dirty clothes that have real dirt on them is a clue. The shop carries just about the complete line of gardening tools from the Dutch company Sneeboer. A  hand digging and weeding gardener would love one or a collection of these job specific tools. This company goes so far as to manufacture a left and a right handed trowel.

hori hori garden knifeIf your dirt gardener has no interest in a collection of tools, they might like one tool that does just about all.  Barebones has created a hori hori inspired tool that digs holes, uproots weeds, and incidentally takes the cap of a bottle of beer at the end of a long day in the garden. This tool is hefty and useful.  It can do a job it was never meant to do, and not break.

dibbers and dib dabsIf your gardener likes to grow plants from seed in an orderly way, a dibble or a dib dab is a great choice. Neat gardeners are not so ordinary, but if you have one in your household, it should be apparent. Tools get cleaned off and put away at the end of the gardening day. Dirty boots get scraped, or get left outside the back door. These beautifully made beech wood planting tools may enchant the organized and methodical gardener.

flexi-tieIf your gardener goes so far as to stake wayward perennials and shrubs, a spool of flexi-tie is a great gift.  This chocolate brown stretchy plastic tie is harmless to plants. If the plant grows, the tie stretches.  I have staked big annuals, roses, and the wayward branches of my arborvitae with this tie. Flexi-Tie is English made-we are their only US distributor.

French made black soap with olive oilIf the gardener on your list gardens barehanded, this entirely natural, vegetal, and scentless French made black soap loaded with olive oil is an end of the day treat. Combined with a nail brush, the wash up will make a clean and refreshing ending to the gardening day.

mud glovesOn the other hand, some gardeners prefer gloves. There are plenty gardening gloves out there, but Mud Gloves are inexpensive and durable.

flower press
A flower press is the perfect gift for that gardener who believes that gardening is an art that should be recorded.  It is also a great gift for a young gardener who is just becoming acquainted with the beauty of nature, or an older gardener who is not doing so much digging any more.

vintage watering cansThe container we had delivered from England just this past week features an incredible collection of vintage watering cans. Your gardener may water select plants by hand, or they may be equally happy for a beautiful watering can to ornament their garden. We have a client whose garage has shelves for his collection of vintage watering cans – no kidding.

grapevine topiary formsWe manufacture steel topiary forms in a variety of shapes.  These forms have had grapevine added to them.  If the gardener on your list admires anything formal or topiary-like in the garden, these forms could be a hit. The four prongs at the bottoms make them easy to insert in the soil, or in a container.  They would be good looking planted with a small growing vine, or not. Sunne would be able to figure out how to gift wrap these, and Rob would be able to figure out how how to get them in your vehicle. The rest is up to you.

amaryllisSome gardeners focus on the plants. Detroit Garden Works does carry seasonal plants for those gardeners for whom what is green is everything.  We have just about to bloom hellebores, frosty selaginella ferns, and amaryllis.

amaryllis vaseThe gardener who loves the green, but is not so happy handling the dirt would appreciate an amaryllis vase. An amaryllis bulb can be brought in to bloom by filling the bulb portion of the vase with water, and setting the bulb down so only the roots are in water. The high sides of the vase keep will those tall and heavy bloom stalks aloft. This vase makes keeping the garden going in the winter so simple.

hand made terra cotta vase from EnglandThe gardener who loves fresh cut flowers would appreciate this contemporary garden style vase. This hand made English terra cotta vase imprinted with a fern frond is beautiful. Think how great it would look filled with cut flowers.

holiday ornamentSome gardeners would appreciate a quirky gift far afield from the ordinary. Rob’s holiday arrangement featuring vintage bottles, an English vintage tray, and a silver wire string of lights – different. A one of a kind gift.

citrus and herbs scented candlesOther gardeners like to bring the warmth of the garden indoors.  The citrus and herbs candles would make a thoughtful and beautiful gift. The orange and basil scent is my favorite. Any one of this series of candles might make a great gift to the gardener on your list who has had to move indoors.

Garden Design MagazineStill not so sure what the gardener on your list would be so happy to receive? A gift subscription to Garden Design Magazine is perfect for all manner of gardeners. How so? They cover in great depth a wide range of topics sure to interest every gardener. There are gardens from all over the US to see and read about.They write about plants, garden makers, tools, cut flowers, garden ornament and more. This publication is more book like than most magazines-they do not accept any advertising. The articles are thoughtful, and incredibly well written, and are season specific. The photography is stellar. I am so happy to hear they have a winter issue just about to come out. Jim Peterson and his staff have recreated Garden Design Magazine such that any gardener on your gift list would be thrilled with a subscription. I am so impressed with what they have accomplished. I feel sure this would be a great gift to just about anyone with an interest in the landscape and garden, but there is no need to take my word for it. See for yourself. They have made a short video about who they are, and where they hope to take their publication: Garden Design

I am equally happy to oblige with a link to their subscription page:   a gift subscription to Garden Design Magazine

I know this is all last minute, but help at the last minute can be quality help!