My spring gardening season starts the same day every year. The shop closes except by chance or appointment January 15 of every year. The by chance or appointment part is code for “we do not keep the heat or lights on much, and we are in the inventory, repainting, cleaning and unpacking things for spring”. In other words, we are not looking our best. Most of us are here for those 6 weeks. That’s how long it takes to take everything apart, clean, repaint, and reinvent the store for the spring to come. We have gotten 2 containers in from Europe. A third should be on the water next week. But we formally reopen every March 1-ready or not. The gates are open. The hellebores are here. And a good portion of what we will have to offer for spring is here.
A third container is still in Paris-stalled-awaiting a delivery from a Dutch manufacturer. This happens. Though Rob’s trip to Europe was months ago, some things he orders must be made. Most of the companies are small. This means but a few people hand produce all of the work. Sometimes we have to wait. Their concern is to produce a great product, not worry about the date we have decided on in advance for the beginning of spring.
The work of redoing 10,000 square feet of space is just that- work. My landscape crews do all of the painting, and the heavy moving. The Detroit Garden Works regular staff does the cleaning, the inventory, and the checking in of new shipments. This time of year, something new arrives every day from US suppliers. Rob and I have to figure out what goes where-with the big responsibility to Rob. He is the only person who knows exactly what is coming.
Monica manages the entire big fluid situation. She has an uncanny ability to make sure that the day to day stays current and on track. She also has no problem showing up in the garage to unpack when necessary-just like the rest of us. I have no idea how other companies switch over from one season to the next-overnight. We take everything down to the bare walls, and start over.
Dreaming up what will go where, and with what-that is somewhat about skill. But it has its roots in the process of making a creative gesture. An overall look that flows. Does this color look good with that one? What flavors mix happily? Where shall the tools go? What color are we thinking this room needs to be painted? Have we displayed this piece such that people understand why we chose it?
Is there a mix of textures, mass, color and shape that is appealing, and lively? Or somber and serious? Or sassy. Did we overthink this? Did we not consider that? How we group things in the shop is a visual discussion about the presentation of how we view good design. An interest in really good design hovers over everything we do. There are moments when my landscape crew makes a suggestion about a certain arrangement. Happy to hear it-as if they take the trouble to speak up, I know they have thought it through. If a vignette gets changed around a number of times, they are entirely good natured about it.
A sincere interest in anything means that somewhere, there is a fire burning. Sometimes the flames extinguish, and their is only the glow of an idea. Sometimes there are lots of flames, and things move quickly. I really enjoy this time of year, as we have set aside the time to let our ideas about the new season cook.
A lot of hands are involved. It takes Rob one entire long evening to redo all of the lighting. The high ceilings are great for giving a sense of the sky, rather than an interior ceiling. Judging the size of an object intended to go outdoors can be difficult in an indoor space. Steve takes charge of arranging and hanging everything that must be hung on a wall. He knows how to do the math, and he has a good landscape architect’s sense of design. His graduate degree in landscape architecure is from North Carolina State University-enough said.
As usual, there is a wide range of styles, periods and materials. But every year we try to do a thorough job of representing a certain point of view. Rob’s mix is interesting this year. His idea of contemporary garden ornament includes galvanized metal pieces from the farm that have very strong and simple shapes. Terra cotta shapes whose origin is rooted in agriculture. His idea of contemporary also means utilitarian.
Some contemporary garden ornament is cold. I am not crazy about objects that come with a built in echo. I like things that fit in, and take on the feeling of their surroundings.
This 1920’s American glazed pickle crock is just as home in this setting, as it is in the pantry.
Howard has been as tireless as the rest of us, going over every inch of the place numerous times a day. But we have made a lot of progress.
We like to have everything as ready as possible on the inside, before the weather warms enough to permit plants. For gardeners who just cannot wait one more minute, snip off the top, water, and set in a sunny window sill.
I know this is a lot of pictures to slog through, but those of you who do not live close enough to visit might want a look at what we have going on.
The Belgian stoneware pots are the feature of our spring collection. Six of them are already gone-to 3 very different gardens.
Though I will be glad for the day when we can prop the doors open, there is a sense of spring in the air here.