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.

 

Some Details On The Floor

outfitting the roomThe first order of business is to thank each and every one of you who took the time to write a comment on my post about the finish of the floor. It was an extravaganza of a day for me! I had no idea so many of  your comments were forthcoming, but how I loved them. All that good will was rocket fuel for my day. Again, thank you. All of your energy and enthusiasm was the talk of my entire staff.  I did want to address some of the questions posed in some of the comments.

furnishing the room (6)As for the possibility of painting this rug on canvas – I would not have considered that. This space may not look very big, but it is. I am guessing at least 25 by 40 feet.  No canvas comes this size; it would have to be pieced, and sewn together. This room is the Detroit Garden Works railway station. It is our most highly trafficked space. People bring wet plants and bags of soil with holes in the bags to the counter. Carts get wheeled through here. Sometimes we need a pallet jack in this room.  Kids drop the remains of their ice cream cones on the floor. The dogs drag in everything from outside. On a rainy day, everyone coming in has a mix of mud and gravel on the bottoms of their shoes.  A canvas rug in a retail setting is a trip worry, if the edges do not lay perfectly flat. This is not a good place for a floor canvas. This floor painting is firmly glued down, and can be washed.

furnishing the room (5)All of the daisies have a yellow center.  I think our track lighting washed out the yellow in my pictures. I did paint the rug with semi gloss finish, as it is so durable. We do have a glare coming off the floor both from those lights, and the paint. The yellow reads loud and clear, if you are in the room. The yellow was an essential element.  Bellis have yellow centers.

furnishing the room (9)It is a pleasure that this painted rug will get a lot of use. I like things for the garden that go on to last long enough to look worn. If this painting wears to the point of no return, it just means I will have a chance to paint a floor another time.  This is the 3rd painting in 20 years.  I wonder how I might repaint this floor when I am 72. Maybe when I am 70, I will simply be ready for a change. I was in a commercial building last week whose lobby was filled with potted poinsettias. Though they had had perfect care, and looked wonderful, their time had passed. I will not put a sealer coat over the painting. It will just have to endure, as best it can. Should it ever need replacing, I will paint again. I am not thinking of the future now. What is there now is enough.

furnishing the room (7) What Rob has placed on the painted floor tells me he likes it. No big things sit flat on the floor, obscuring the paint. Everything sitting on the floor in this room has legs.

furnishing the room (8)Painting this floor was 9 days well spent. February is a bleak month in Michigan.  I scarcely thought about the cold and gray.

Detroit Garden Works 2016This room is starting to come together.  MCat, that dark blob in the back center of this picture, has walked across this floor as many times as all the rest of us have the past few days. It will be great fun next week to have people come in and see it in person.

Detroit Garden Works 2016Again, my thanks to all of you for taking the time to write. And I promise, no more posts about this floor.

Early Fall

saturated (6)The beginning of the fall season is a beginning to treasure.  All of the hard work growing from the spring through the summer of  comes to fruition. Literally. The tomatoes ripen. The farmers market is bursting with racks of brussel sprouts, giant rosettes of cabbage, and fresh and fragrant onions. Home vegetable gardens yields such that there is plenty for  neighbors and friends. The spring planted perennials have put on a lot of weight. The trees planted in the spring seem to have weathered the transplant shock, and look happier – more settled and comfortable. The memory of insults dealt to the landscape and garden from the hard winter past fade. No need now to remember them.   The beginning of fall can be the last chapter of a very good short story, or the last quarter mile of a long and exhausting run. Or both. There is a good amount of time before the fall sinks and sets in, to enjoy the fruits.

saturated (11)Fall is a favorite season for Rob.  He endures the heat of the summer.  Every plant gets watered as it should.  He good naturedly tolerates the glare.  Once the season begins to shift to fall, he is energized.  He is back and forth across every square inch of the shop, making changes appropriate to the season. Materials he has ordered for the fall season at the shop months ago arrive every day. Much to my delight, he tracks back and forth across a 100 mile radius from the shop, selecting pumpkins and gourds for his fall collection.

saturated (8)There are those gardeners who collect day lilies, or hostas.  Or perhaps they focus on wild flowers, or native plants.  Some love all manner of hardy ornamental grasses.  Some nurture their collection of African violets, or Japanese maples.  There are the rosarians, who keep the interest in great garden roses alive. When I had five acres of land, I lined out peonies in rows, like crops. The alpine plants, the lilies, the dahlias-every plant has a coterie of aficionados. The fans of gourds and the pumpkins are many. Illinois is the nation’s largest producer of pumpkins-over 12,000 acres of crop land are devoted to growing them. Though dwarfed by the Illinois production, Michigan is still the second largest producer of pumpkins and gourds. Though many carve the traditional orange pumpkin for Halloween, or use the pulp for pies, there are those who appreciate the sculptural shapes and colors.

saturated (12)About that color. My favorite part of the fall is how the low light saturates the color of everything it touches.  In summer, the sun high in the sky interrogates everything it touches. Sunny summer days are bright, and shadowless. The slanted and softer fall light brings saturated color back into the landscape. I suspect that Rob’s enchantment with the pumpkins and gourds is as much about color as the forms, textures and shapes. Fall color is term every gardener is familiar with. The leaves turning means a landscape ablaze in yellow, orange, red and purple.  An overcast summer day in a garden means any color will more intense. Never is any color in the garden more intensely representing than in the fall. The light from the sun highlights every plant from the side.  The fall garden appears as though it were on fire.

saturated (14)Every pumpkin or gourd that Rob chooses for his collection at the store has a story about color, texture, and shape behind it.  He will not buy any fall fruit that cannot stand up on its own.  He treasures the stem every bit as much as the fruit. He is as great with subtle fall color as he is with those those colors that blaze away. He probably has other criteria I am not aware of. Rob curates his collection. Every pumpkin and gourd could stand alone, and look great.  A grouping is a pleasure to be enjoyed throughout the fall.

saturated (19)The low fall light reveals texture in a spectacular way. This week was my first look at peanut pumpkins.

saturated (13)Equally astonishing is Rob’s collection of long stemmed pumpkins. He knows a grower who has been hybridizing pumpkins for 55 years. A long stem was a trait he sought. This was a friendship that has taken years to establish. Rob will visit him multiple times in late September.

saturated (22) I am so enjoying this warm late September sun.

aaaat the shop

pastel pumpkinspastel pumpkins

aaacorange

saturated (10)red, white, and wood

saturated (18)a saturated experience of orange

saturated (16)contrast

saturated (2)so orange, and so green.

saturated (3)red and white

pumpkins and gourdspumpkins and gourds

saturated (15)fall light

saturated (7)Last, but certainly not least, those big stems that come with pumpkins attached.