At A Glance: Rob’s Pots

To follow is a very lengthy collection of photographs of Rob’s container plantings, but I think the numbers are justified, considering how beautiful the work is. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

French fountain planted with fernsgold sage, gold marjoram, and a glass float

lavender and violas; lettuceWasabi coleus, pinched into a broadly oval shape, and myrtle topiary

bird’s nest fern, lobelia, and creeping jenny in one of his grow spheres.

rosemary, pink marguerites and cream alyssum

herbs with a tilted Russian sage

This galvanized pan with rosemary and herbs got wheeled in and out of the garage on a cart until it was safe to leave the basil outdoors.

tree fern with streptocarpella

coir lined wood crates with verbena bonariensis,  dahlias, marguerites, cream zinnias, angelonia and sweet william

collection of lemon cypress pots and herb pots

eugenia topiaries with yellow petunias

Who knew lettuce could look this good?

pennisetum, yellow celosia and yellow petunias

variegated lavender, marguerites and alyssum

tomatoes and herbs in twig boxesrosemary topiary, lavender and lobelia

coral bells and streptocarpus

containers designed and planted by Rob

ferns and streptocarpus

bok choy, marguerites, osteospermum and cream alyssum

bird’s nest fern, lime selaginella, hosta Sum and Substance, green selaginella

succulents and herbs

tomatoes and weeping rosemary

shade planting at the shop

lettuce, parsley, and violas

rosemary and alyssum

meadow flowers in a wood trough

Strawberries in a moss lined galvanized wire box, looking good.

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March 1

Detroit Garden Works retreats into a semi-closed state from January 15 until the first of March.  During that time we do repairs, repaint, clean, and rearrange. An over simplified outtake on of law of nature we call entropy posits that everything tends to fall apart. Anyone who has ever had a garden, a washing machine or a favorite pair of boots understands how true this is. So every winter we take on a building maintenance project of one sort or another. 10,000 square feet and everything we have in it is a lot to keep clean and in working order. Once that is done, we rearrange every room to include all of the new things for spring that have been coming in since last September. That is an incredibly labor intensive and time consuming job, but by March 1, the shop will have that spring fresh look to it. I know we are just about ready for opening day when Rob is out photographing.

The landscape crews forego the lion’s share of  their winter off to participate in re-imagining the shop for the coming season.  This involves lots of patience moving fragile items, lots of sheer manpower for those incredibly heavy and awkward things, and plenty of attention to detail.  I will confess to asking to move some things around multiple times until I feel the design of it reads right to me. In better than 20 years, I have yet to hear a complaint. At that moment when I am too worried that a direction I have chosen will not work out, Marzela has been known to tell me that that we have it all in hand.

Detroit Garden WorksIt is hard to describe the process by which we turn over a past season to a new one. It is a big fluid situation. Every year, I am surprised by how a small group of people manage to transform the atmosphere of a big space from what was past to the present. The entire process from the patching and painting to the finish runs between 3 and 4 weeks. My job as a designer has a yearly winter project that goes on in my own house.

Detroit Garden Works has been in business going on 21 years. We are in the midsection of the country, 30 miles north of Detroit. That geography may define what plants we are able to grow, but it by no means defines or confines our vision of the garden to the midwest. This means that a gardener who plants herbs in a vintage wood crate is just as likely to find something for their garden as the person who values the clean lines of a contemporary  garden pot. Gardeners are a very diverse lot, and what Rob buys for the shop reflects that.

This group of stone troughs, sinks, and staddle stones that Rob purchased in England this past September are all better than 100 years old, and are covered in lichen colonies that speak to their great age. The large stones with iron rings in the center are cheese stones, that were used to squeeze excess water out of the cheese by virtue of their sheer weight. Though their history is agricultural, their effect in a garden is sculptural.

A collection of English made wood birdhouses in a traditional style are as whimsical as they are utilitarian.

A collection of baskets, chimney stones, wood grape crates, galvanized buckets and steel bird and dog cutout sculptures complete one part of the 2017 collection.

Another room is full of classical antique and vintage urns, benches, tables, sundials, and sculpture.  Any of these garden ornaments would compliment a traditional garden.  It is just as likely that any one of them could organize or define the mood of a garden.

Objects for the garden can set a tone, create a mood, or organize a space. It only takes a gardener who is interested to take their garden to that level. A garden ornament may be dear, or not.  What gives it an aura is the selection and placement of a gardener who who has something else to express about a garden that means much to them.

pussy willow

Of course, our shop would be incomplete without plants.  At this very early stage of thje season, we do have fresh cut pussy willow twigs, both straight and branches.  And a collection of fan willow. The stars of our March season are the hellebores.  By far and away, they are the mainstay of the early spring perennial garden. Our collection this year numbers close to 1500 plants, in various sizes.  We carry named varieties, and a large collection of the justly well known Pine Knot Farms hellebore strains.  How pleased we are to be able to offer these hellebores for the first time.

For those of you too far away to see our collection in person, we can take pictures, and we do ship. And by all means enjoy the following pictures that Rob has taken of individual plants. It is just about impossible for me to pick a favorite. That could account for the fact that I have lots of them in my garden. A hellebore purchased now will be perfectly happy in a light and cool spot until it can be planted outdoors the beginning of April.  This early dose of spring is so welcome. It could be that the best part of the winter landscape is the beginning of the end of winter.

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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?

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.