Independence Day

July 4 2016 004The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I like the story of how America came to be independent. I like anyone who has a mind to think and act independently. I like even more that I live in a culture that places a premium on freedom. That freedom came and continues to come with a very big price. I so respect any person who contributes to what it takes to let freedom ring. Today I am thinking about those people who valued independence and freedom above all. The 4th of July is a holiday that celebrates the best of what Americans can be. There is always a lot of impassioned discussion about what constitutes the best we can be. I like any idea delivered with passion and conviction. Bring it on-I am listening.  What did I do over the celebration of this 4th? I spent a lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to live in America. I went to the shop at 7am to feed the dogs, and check on MCat. Once Rob arrived to water the plants at the shop, I knew I could go home with no worries. I came home. Buck and I had lunch on the deck at noon.. Home with family is good.

July 4 2016 001I weeded, dead headed, watered, and greatly enjoyed being outdoors at home. I took pictures.  I rarely have a chance to be home during the day-I so enjoyed this. The corgis despise the booms from fireworks.  I have one hand on them, and the rest of me thinking about how great it is to be home, and to be free.

July 4 2016 025To follow are pictures of my garden from today. I hope you are enjoying your fourth as much as I am enjoying mine.

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FullSizeRender (9)I have a little fireworks of the gardening sort going on today.

Making An Entrance

the front porch (5)There have been times when I was concerned about making an entrance. The opening party for Detroit Garden Works in March of 1996 – I fretted for weeks about my outfit and shoes. Would my choices be good enough for that entry? Momentary or event driven entrances are just that-momentary. I am sure the only person who remembers what I wore to that event is me. Shortly thereafter, Rob and I sped downtown after work to make the opening curtain of La Boheme. I had 40 minutes to trade my jeans and dirty boots for a silk top, skirt, and high heels. Rob drove his heart out-we were downtown in 22 minutes. He made his entrance in his own inimitable style. We fit in with all the other opera goers in floor length gowns and tuxedos. We were just as fine with young people dressed in their innovative and alternative versions of making an entrance. A regular client did not recognize me; I had to introduce my dressed up self. That was great fun-a theater full of people making an entrance.

Creating a proper entrance to a home is both an architectural and landscape event.  This gorgeous Georgian colonial house that belonged to a client of mine has the most amazing brick entrance. All of that generously styled brick work, on multiple levels, makes for a grand entrance. It is a walkway, a set of steps, lighting, and a retaining wall –  all rolled into one. Is this the entrance of everyone’s dreams? No. This entrance is appropriate to the architecture, period, and scale of this particular house, and the representation of the taste of a particular person. What works for your house will be particular to you.

the front porch (3) No matter the architecture, an entrance that celebrates a front door should be wide and generous. Some of the reasons why are utilitarian.  No guest or UPS delivery person should have to guess the location of the front door. A front walk and porch should be able to accommodate two people approaching, side by side. Single file implies the need to be be in line. No guest should ever have to get in line to get to your front door. A porch and walk should be scaled to embrace a front door with room to spare. Other issues are aesthetic.  An ample walkway and wide porch visually celebrates an entrance. A well done entrance feels gracious and welcoming.

the front porch (8)This gorgeous home built in the 1920’s has a beautiful front door, and limestone surround.  The landing repeats the shape of the door, laid down on the ground. The size of the landing helps to make a front door placed in a corner feel more spacious. A pair of cap yews-one planted in the gravel drive court, and the other in a shrub border, frame the view to the door.

the front porch (2)This client has a brick porch too narrow for the entrance.  If you look closely, you can see that we added brick wings on either side.  Those wings are now home to a pair of generously sized pots that celebrate this entrance.

the front porch (12)This entrance was properly wide of the front door, but left a pair of awkward alcoves on either side. The porch and step railings further isolated those alcoves from the presentation of the door.  I specified very tall Belgian wood planter boxes in an effort to make those alcoves feel more a part of the entrance. The boxes filled those awkward spaces with something substantive. The boxes were always difficult to plant, as the only way to get to the back of the box was to jump over the railing.    the front porch (9)When the driveway needed replacing, I advised my clients to extend the porch and steps to the full width available. And I also suggested that they make the steps deeper, which would make it easier to navigate the steps without a railing. They did as I suggested. This new entrance is less complicated and more spacious. Their Halloween party for their young daughter and her classmates was a big hit. We had lots of space at the entrance to express the season.

the front porchAnother client had an entrance with a porch of proper dimension, but the landscape obstructed the view.

the front porch (6)We moved all of the tall shrubs away from the porch. This made it possible to see the pots, and the plinths they sit on, from a distance.

the front porch (7)This porch is perfectly wide of this front door. The large rocks were moved to either side. It took a change in the landscape to make the entrance more appealing.

the front porch (11)This client has steps up, and a porch that is very narrow. Imagine a porch that goes wide of the pediment and pillars.  The pots planted with boxwood would be effective placed to the outside of the pillars, and in front of the large area of white siding. Adding a third element to the pairs of windows on either side of the door would draw more visual attention to the entrance. A larger porch and steps would permit the second set of pots to be offset from the boxwood pots, so all 4 pots could be viewed separately. I did discuss this with the client some years ago. Redoing a porch and steps is a major undertaking, and we had just finished a sizeable landscape project for her.  The time was not right. A simpler alternative would be to place the boxwood boxes off the porch, on a pair of pedestals the same height as the boxwood.

the front porch (10)The clients who own this home have completely redone the landscape. Lacking the architectural interest of a porch and steps, the plan included a very large entrance landing.  The size of it permitted the placement of 4 Branch Jackie boxes with red mandevilleas to the outside of the door and light fixtures. Lovely, this.









At A Glance: A Gorgeous Entrance

making an entranceMy clients in Ann Arbor have an entrance to their front door that stops me in my tracks. Per my request, they sent pictures.

making an entranceThe proportion and scale is unusual and striking.

making an entranceThere is plenty of room for Banjo on the generously scaled steps.

making an entranceBanjo helping to make an entrance

making an entranceThis entrance is all of their own making. It is incredibly beautiful, is it not?








The 2016 Garden Cruise

Detroit Garden WorksFor those of you who are not aware that we sponsor a garden tour every year to benefit the programs of the Greening of Detroit-here are the details.  The Greening of Detroit is an organization that has been planting trees, teaching good environmental practices, hiring young people with poor prospects for summer jobs to water and weed, and sponsoring urban farms since 1989.They have made a mission of the health of the environment, and the health of the people who live in the city of Detroit for 25 years.

the garden cruiseFrom the Greening of Detroit website:  “Between 1950 and 1980, around 500,000 trees were lost in Detroit to Dutch elm disease, urban expansion and attrition. Troubled by this deforestation of a great city, Elizabeth Gordon Sachs devoted herself to reforesting the city. She played a key role in the 1989 founding of The Greening of Detroit. During that same time, economic constraints prohibited the city from replacing those trees. The Greening of Detroit was founded in 1989 with a single focus in mind – restore the city’s tree infrastructure.”

DSC_7282“In 2015 Detroit successfully emerged from the largest municipal bankruptcy in the United States  and swiftly began the long journey toward financial stability. This is no easy feat, but a necessary one for survival and transformation. In its heyday during the 1950s, Detroit grew to accommodate almost 2 million residents. Today we are a city of less than 700,000 residents amidst miles of vacant land. Yesterday’s industrial urban center will become tomorrow’s model of a greener, cleaner city.”

DSC_7286“Our focus at The Greening of Detroit is to enhance the quality of life for Detroiters by repurposing the land to create beautiful and productive green spaces. We involve Detroiters in the process through community engagement, education and jobs.”

DSC_7285“The trees we plant, the gardens and green spaces we create and maintain, and the workforce training programs we operate all provide economic, environmental and social benefits to the communities we serve. But most of all, we inspire visitors and residents to imagine a new paradigm for the city of Detroit.”

DSC_7292“We are committed to building stronger relationships in the communities we serve. We assist neighborhood groups in forming block clubs; visioning green strategies for vacant lots; and coordinating neighborhood clean-ups, tree plantings and community gardens. We recruit Detroit residents for job training and work in green skill jobs.”  I can attest to the fact, given my association with them over the past decade, that they have worked tirelessly for the environmental health of the city of Detroit and its residents. I greatly admire their efforts. I more admire that they have worked towards their mission for 25 years. They are a serious group. Further interested?

thegardencruise.orgDeborah Silver and Company, our landscape design/build firm, Detroit Garden Works, a retail store that specializes in containers and garden ornament of every period and aesthetic persuasion, and the Branch Studio, which fabricates heirloom quality pots, garden furniture, and garden ornament in steel steeped in the midwest tradition of fine manufacturing – all three of my companies support the mission of the Greening of Detroit. We support their mission with words, but we also host a garden tour once a year to raise money for their programs. We have raised to date 93,000.00 to date in support of their mission.

IMG_9409Though I sit on their board, I am not so happy or useful attending meetings.  In 2008, I decided to sponsor a garden tour of landscapes of my design or influence, in an effort to raise money for them. 100% of the cost of the tour tickets goes to the Greening. A tour ticket is 35.00. A tour ticket including our after tour dinner and cocktails, and live music is 50.00. We handle the cost of that afterglow dinner party on our own. It is worth the price of admission to see what summer cocktails Rob has in store for this tour, in addition to his stellar gin and tonics.

IMG_9415We send the entire proceeds of all of our ticket sales to the Greening.  Any other expenses, we handle. If you are a local gardener with a keen interest in design, and have a mind to contribute to an organization that has the best interests of an organization devoted to the greening of Detroit, come tour with us. The entire price of your ticket will go to an organization whose mission is dead to right. We sponsor an afterglow dinner and drinks at Detroit Garden Works, starting at 4pm. Our garden cruise has a website. You can read about this year’s landscapes scheduled to be on tour Sunday July 17 here:  The 2016 Garden Cruise   Any questions about the tour that the website does not answer?  Call us.   Detroit Garden Works

IMG_9226 (3)Every one of the 6 landscapes on tour is worth seeing-I can promise you this. Our light dinner and drinks, replete with live music from Tola at Detroit Garden Works, is an event all of us enjoy. To those of you who came from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, Georgia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Minnesota last year-thank you.  I hope you all will come again this year. If you have not been on our tour, consider it. The Greening of Detroit, and our companies who support their work, will thank you. We have a city we love, and a city we support. Hope to see you July 17.