So What Do You Do With A Pumpkin?

pumpkins at Detroit Garden WorksRob has made 3 epic pumpkin and gourd buying trips in the past 3 weeks. Epic, as in 8 hour trips to pumpkin hybridizers within 80 miles or so in every direction of our shop. Epic, as in the relationships he has cultivated with growers who specialize in these fall fruits. I am sure the gross vehicle weight of the Sprinter loaded with pumpkins and gourds is equally epic. His vetting of pumpkins and gourds one could describe as rigorous. The pumpkins have to stand up on their own. They have to have long and beautifully shaped stems fresh from the picking. Many of those long stems are integral to the pumpkin body. They have great shapes. Unusual surfaces. Incredible color. Who knew there were  black or pale yellow or blue pumpkins? Considerable is the education I have had about pumpkins and gourds in recent years. They have colorful and descriptive names. Long Island Cheese. Knucklehead. Porcelain Doll. Many of them have already gone to gardening homes. Many more will snapped up this week, in advance of Halloween and in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

pumpkins at Detroit Garden WorksA  gardening customer came in today, her husband in tow. She and Sunne launched into a discussion about something or another. Her husband found a place to sit on a bench outdoors. Milo and I joined him.  Only moments later he asked me, so what do you do with these pumpkins? Hilarious, this. I burst out laughing. Indeed, what does one do with a pumpkin? To follow are my answers. As for the above picture, I would contrast a green and a white pumpkin, and shower them with green eucalyptus and some yellow fall leaves conveniently shed by a nearby linden tree.

Detroit Garden Works stand up for fall

Detroit Garden Works fill a wood box

Detroit Garden Worksmake a scene

Detroit Garden Worksplant a vintage bushel basket with a single grand white pumpkin, and face it down with white ornamental cabbage.

Detroit Garden Workshang it up

Detroit Garden Worksincorporate them into a fall container.

Detroit Garden Works go for the green

Detroit Garden Workscelebrate the season

Detroit Garden Workspile them up

fall-window-boxadd them to a fall themed window box

Detroit Garden Worksset the table

Detroit Garden WorksLine them out

Detroit Garden Worksfill the air space

Detroit Garden Worksspread them out

pumpkins-and-gourds-2013-38select a favorite

Detroit Garden Worksstack them up

Detroit Garden Worksbrighten up a dark spot

Halloween pumpkincarve them, of course

Detroit Garden Worksarrange them by color and texture

Detroit Garden Workscrate them

fall container arrangementgo for gourds

Detroit Garden Worksplump up a bench

Detroit Garden Workssort by size and color

Detroit Garden Worksload up a cart

Detroit Garden Worksset them on their sides

fall container with pumpkinsmake a statement

Detroit Garden Worksdress up an urn

Detroit Garden Workswarm up a porch

Detroit Garden WorksDoes this help?














A Fall Container Planting

fall container planting 2015 (1)Our fall container plantings are underway. It is not always easy to convince a client that planting for fall is a good idea.  In Michigan, there is this psychological perception that the spring and the fall are short seasons, and the summer and winter are long.  It may feel that way, but all of the seasons are roughly equal in length.  My pots at home have been great, but just today I am seeing signs of decline.  The plectranthus is not liking the cold nights.  The elegant feather grass is just about in full fall color. Planting pots for fall is not just about replacing summer material that is no longer looking its best.  It is more about embracing and enjoying the season at hand.

fall container planting 2015 (3)One of my favorite materials for fall is broom corn. This tall grain features thick sturdy stalks, and seed heads in various shades of fall.  Zip tied around a bamboo stake, the broom corn provides a striking vertical element in a pot, and will last late into the fall.  Should you use it in your fall pots, be prepared for for the birds.  They love the seeds.  I can hardly fault them. And I enjoy all of that activity.   The wiry stems under all of those seeds have been made into brooms for hundreds of years.  As much as I like my brooms, I better value how broom corn can endow a fall container.

planting a fall potChrysanthemums elicit strong opinions from every gardener.  Were I thinking of planting a chrysanthemum in my garden for a yearly October display, I would plant “Sheffield Pink”.  I have a next door neighbor with trees under planted with this mum-they have made an impressive show every year of the 20 years I have lived in my neighborhood.  I don’t see that they get any special care or extra water. They shrug off the cold and light frosts.  But for fall containers, I can be swayed by a big mum ball.

fall container planting 2015 (4)I wait to buy them. A chrysanthemum blooming in late August or September will not last through the fall season.  When both the day and the night temperatures get down to 50 or lower, A chrysanthemum in bud will have some longevity. As much as I love ornamental cabbages and kales, there are those who love that color that comes from flowers.

fall container planting 2015 (5)Cut bittersweet is available at this time of year.  The color is striking. The stems are naturally curving.  Their vining shapes can loosen up the most formal and static fall planting. We buy cut stems from a grower that are loaded with seeds.  As much as I know that bittersweet is invasive, I have yet to see a garden infiltrated by bittersweet from branches I have put in pots. When the fall container season is over, we are careful to dispose of the stems-we never compost them.

fall container planting 2015 (7)The bunches we buy are fairly short, and loaded with seeds. We may cut them down to individual stems, so we can place them all over in a pot.  Though our broom corn centerpieces are zip tied in several places, we add a special zip tie-just for the bittersweet.  The fall season can be rainy and blustery.  Solid construction means your fall pots will look as good at the end as they do at the beginning.

fall container planting 2015 (6)The bittersweet zip tie is loosely set at the beginning, so all of the stems going all around the centerpiece fit inside. We always have 4 hands on deck for this-sometimes 6. The desired result?  A beautiful bouquet, speaking to fall. The long stalks of the broom corn help us to get a proper and proportional height to that centerpiece.  Another element will be needed to cover those sticks, and the zip ties.

fall container planting 2015 (2)Detroit Garden Works always stocks bushel baskets full of preserved and dyed eucalyptus. We must stock better than 20 colors.  Eucalyptus has the uncanny ability to absorb preservative and color. These stems are light fast, and the color does not run. The big leaves are a great texture, and the variety of color means there will be something to appeal to almost everyone.

fall container planting 2015 (10)
We attach a partial bunch of eucalyptus to a bamboo stake, so we can place it wherever an arrangement needs it. Rob and I placed an enormous order this past January.  There are few materials for fall and winter pots that are as versatile, durable and satisfying as this.  It is a natural material that fits right into a fall container.

planting a fall pot
The real story here is that the natural materials part of a fall container plays a critical roll in its visual success.  Cool weather means plants do not grow fast. Many of the cold tolerant plants are small in stature.  Not everyone loves cabbage and kale-which has a great scale for containers.  If you buy plants for fall containers, buy big ones.  Pack them in. There won’t be much in the way of growing. And last of all, consider cut natural materials.

fall container planting 2015 (9)I left my crew at this point.  Not that I even needed to be there.  They have been doing fall pots for me for many years.  And they have a gift for placement and arrangement. This pot was not done, but I could see where it was headed.  Headed straight away into fall.


Recent Work


fall-container-planting.jpgFall is an incredibly beautiful season in Michigan. The sun low in the sky, and the morning fog makes every color intensely saturated.  The leaves changing electrifies a fall palette of color in the landscape in a way that no flower could hope to achieve. The sugar maples are brilliantly fiery; the hydrangeas are a muted shade of brown and pink.   No season celebrates color like the fall. We are in the early stages of that transition from summer to fall.  This is a season that I follow closely, as I do not wish to miss one moment of it. The materials available for fall are spectacular in color.  The ornamental cabbages and kales intensify in color as the temperature drops. The pumpkins and gourds are impossible to resist. Everything about them speaks to the harvest, and to fall color.

coral-bells.jpgThese pots are planted all around at the bottom with heuchera.  I am not so much a fan of dark leaved coral bells in the summer garden.  They are shockingly gloomy to me in the heat of August.   In the fall, they shine in containers. These dark colors are so beautiful on a rainy fall day. I see many more growers offering large heuchera plants for sale in the fall.  There are so many foliage plants with great color available.  No doubt I associate and welcome certain colors with certain seasons.  This is a luxury enjoyed by a gardener in a four season zone.

DSC_5372The window boxes in the front of the shop are showing signs of fall color.  I so appreciate those years when the fall comes slowly, and the killing frost is late.  The brown potato vine and the coleus are singed with cold.  The color in these boxes is changing with the season.  It is easy to replace certain very cold susceptible elements in a summer container with more cold tolerant plants.  But letting the fall season work its magic on a a summer planting can be quite beautiful.

week of Sept 29 (7)
These urns sitting at the front door empty would be just lovely.  But planted for fall, they have a warm and welcoming appeal .  week of Sept 29 (14)Red Bor kale is one of the most versatile of all fall container plants.  They are tall enough to make a vertical statement.  The crinkled dark purple leaves darken more as the temperatures get cooler. They are less rigid in shape than the other cabbages and kales, making it easy to fill in the gaps between the other plants.

DSC_5408Not every fall arrangement needs to be standard issue orange and yellow.  There is an astonishing number of white and green pumpkins and gourds to be had.  Every grower has something a little different.  Every fall I see gourd shapes and color combinations I have not seen before.  An arrangement of pumpkins and gourds in a window box is as lovely a celebration of the fall as a boxful of foliage and flowers.

DSC_5364pots at the shop

JR fall 2014  5fall pots with dry hydrangeas

White kale and dry banana stems


fall container with broom corn, plum eucalyptus, orange floral picks, red bor kale and red chidori kale.

JR fall 2014red cabbage, cirrus dusty miller, gray eucalyptus and white banana stems

Red bor kale, pink cabbage and succulents

coleus-in-the-fall.jpgHow I am enjoying this beautiful moment.

Fall Fete And Fandango


Every year we place pots outside the Community House in Birmingham in celebration of their Our Town Art Show and Sale.  This event is not only an art show, it is a fundraiser.  The money they raise goes to support any and all of their community outreach programs.  We are not only happy to lend a hand, we enjoy it.  I like to create an atmosphere of celebration with these, and all of our fall container plantings.  Fall is a fete and fandango in Michigan that features incredible weather and great color.


These flower arrangements in pie pumpkins went to decorate the tables at Roast downtown.  The event- the fall Gala for the Greening of Detroit.  Their gala celebrates the people and events that have contributed to the success of their programs.  The fall gardening season is a celebration of the harvest, a final fiery display of color that precedes the first hard frost, and a time to plant for the future.  We are doing lots of fall planting in the landscape.  Soon it will be time to plant bulbs for spring.

pumpkins and gourds 2013 (39)We have finished all of our fall container plantings for this year, save one project coming up next week.  To follow is a sampling of the work.

pumpkins and gourds 2013 (49)bucket of swiss chard

pink-chrysanthemum.jpgpink mini-mum ball with rose pink pansy mix

pumpkins and gourds 2013 (15)rosemary, alyssum, and green gourds

Oct 3d 2013

fall container

October container 7

red bor kale and bittersweet

the-pink-door.jpgthe pink door

Oct 9 2013 (29)Rob’s grow sphere with a gourd and pansies

October container 2fall container arrangement

potted-pumpkin.jpgpotted pumpkin

Oct 3i 2013

broom corn, eucalyptus, cabbage and kale

Oct 4cfall window box

fall-pot.jpgpurple chrysanthemum

urn-full-of-gourds.jpggrapevine and gourds

Oct 3a 2013

ruffly red cabbage

Oct 3f 2013

green millet

Oct 3 2013 (1)dyed yellow twigs

DSC_4704pumpkin pot

Oct 3b 2013lavender, green, and white

fall-planters.jpgfall containers

black kale

black eucalyptus

black twigsblack twigs