I was in the garden early this morning. Early enough that the dew still covered every surface. The agreement to be on a garden tour is just the beginning. Of course you want every moment in the garden to mean something, and make a good case for that meaning. The planning starts months ahead, long about when you see what did not survive the winter, and later, when you go to plant the pots.
That comittment to put your garden out there is one part bravado, one part luck, one part a benevolent mother nature, and 100 parts work. I try to mitigate those circumstances with my clients as much as I can for the Greening tour. Monica Tabares from the Greening staffs every garden with two people. Detroit Garden Works springs for tee shirts for all of them, including the shop staff, so every tour person remembers that this event is all about the work that the Greening does. This year means 28 people – the morning and the afternoon shifts – will be staffing the 7 gardens on tour. Monica has told me in years past that the tour docents are volunteers from the Wayne State dental school. I never asked about how that came to be, but I appreciate all of those students who take time on a Sunday to help make the experience a good one for all.
Both crews from Deborah Silver and Co pitch in. We handle this and that. We are available to replace plants that have gone down from whitefly, or add new grass in spots that need it. And we send tickets to the tour and reception for every client who agrees to put their garden on tour. Some enjoy the day at homer meeting fellow gardeners. Others leave the garden in the capable hands of the Greening people, and go on tour themselves. Others yet are willing, but able to keep a comittment in another place that day.
Every landscape that is on our tour belongs to people for whom the garden is a way of life. Every tree, shrub, perennial and seasonal plant gets in the ground is a result of the belief that stewardship of the environment is a pleasure, a joy, and a responsibility. The Greening has been all about that belief, since 1989. They have planted in excess of 90,000 trees in the city of the Detroit since their inception. They sponsor urban farms. They teach people how to care for trees, and grow food.
They are a self sufficient non profit organization. Meaning they have staff who apply for grants, and raise money. I sit on their board, but after my first board meeting I knew that I would never catch up to their history and long range plans enough to be of any use to them. So 8 years ago Rob and I decided to put on this tour, all of the proceeds of which would go to the Greening.
The money we have raised usually goes to those programs that cannot be funded by grants – programs that rely on donations. One of those programs involves hiring young people with not so much opportunity to obtain a job. The Greening pays them to water newly planted trees, and tend vegetable patches. I have had occasion to hear about what an impact this experience has had on young people who were so fortunate to participate in this program. Of course I like the idea that young people become exposed to the work, and the satisfaction that gardening provides.
I can barely remember my life before I grew plants, and gardened. I would want to do what I could to pass that along to others. Especially young people. My generation will need young people to grow peonies, and heirloom tomatoes, and as many trees as they can mange. Suffice it to say that this is a cause near and dear to my heart.
Monica W, the manager of Detroit Garden Works, Deborah Silver and Co, and the Branch Studio, organizes the reception we hold after the tour at the store. She furthermore organizes all of the ticket sales, so soon after the tour we have a check available to the Greening. It is an amazing amount of work on her part to make it all seem effortless. Though she is very much behind the scenes, she is the unusual combination of the work of an engineer, and the work of a compassionate and caring person.
As for me, my garden will be on tour for the 8th time tomorrow. I am happy with most everything I see. The delphiniums that bloomed their hearts out in early June are suffering from a fungus brought on by the cold and rainy early summer. I have no plans to replace this plant, or disguise it. I am a gardener, and I have plenty of trouble in my garden. It comes with the territory.
I have talked with every client who has a garden on tour tomorrow. To the last they are concerned about this bad spot, or that plant that is not performing, or some boxwood still showing signs of damage from last winter. My job near the time of the tour is to suggest that no garden on this tour is a show garden. They are gardens that belong to real people. People with kids, jobs, and lots of other responsibilities. Our tour is a chance for people who garden to see what other people who garden do. This tour is about exchange. My garden is for all to see what it is – tomorrow.
Though some parts of my perennial patch are not so swell, other places look fine to my eye. I have no doubt that every person who visits my garden tomorrow will remember the good things. None of them will hold my failures against me. Why would they?
After years of trying to get herniaria to take hold in this garden in the front of my house, I grassed over it. The grass looks great, and is easy to keep. I am happy to come home, and not have to weed the herniaria.
If you are able to come on our tour tomorrow, I would encourage you to do so. We have 7 really beautiful landscapes and gardens for you to see. If you are too far away to be here – I will post pictures of all of the gardens next week. So looking forward to the tour tomorrow-this is my news.