14 Hands

A designer emailed me around 11 one morning last week to ask if we could select 10 large pots, fill them for fall, and deliver them downtown the following morning. Of course it would involve making some changes to the plans we had for the day – that was the easy part. What would be tough is the fact that he is based out of state, and would be boarding a plane to Detroit in just a few hours. A computer is indeed a sophisticated communication device, but this would need to be handled via the picture taking feature on a phone.  First things being first, Rob and I tried to select a number of different styles of pots. Pictures of them were sent by text. And then pictures of plants and other fall materials. The first pictures got some commentary, and then nothing. We knew our client was in the air.

Around 2pm I considered an alternate plan for my crew for the rest of the day, but shortly thereafter we got the go ahead. One crew was charged with bringing the soil and bark from our landscape building, and the other filled pots with what materials were available at the shop. That gave David and Natasha enough time to construct the first few centerpieces. Once they were done, they could be set in the pots, and firmly secured with short steel rebar and concrete wire. Pots going to a commercial location need to be jostle resistant. Happily these hand made Italian terra cotta pots are very heavy, as the clay is so thick. They are fairly tall, but have a big footprint.

Charged with planting them as I saw fit was a big plus. There would not be time to make suggestions and wait for a reply. Nor would there be time for me to mull it over. Having to produce a lot of work in a short amount of time means making decisions so the work can proceed. My part in the project was small.  I decided to make three pairs of matching centerpieces, but all 6 pots would be planted differently.

You can tell when a crew has been working together successfully. Once the scope of the work is defined, everyone settles in to their part in making the project go efficiently. These pictures don’t reveal how the conversation moves from the work at hand to good natured banter, and back to the work again. David usually builds centerpieces alone, but this time Natasha was right there handing him materials when he needed them.

Karen took time out from planting to attach the concrete wire to the rebar, as she was in the right spot at the right time to do it. All of them participate in everything, even though their strengths may be different. My landscape crew plants lots of woody plant material, but they can plant ornamental cabbage just as well. Good planting practices are the same, no matter what is going in to the ground. Just like a tree or a shrub, a cabbage has a face. Taking the time to figure that out and plant accordingly is what makes a newly planted pot beautiful from the beginning.

The kale and cabbage will continue to grow, as long as they have sufficient water and feed. A cabbage whose lower leaves are turning yellow and dropping is a cabbage in need of some food. Even though it is mid October, we put osmocote in the pots. Like many downtown areas, ours will stay warm very late in to the fall from all the latent heat in the buildings, walkways and roads. It is entirely concievable that the pots will look good well in to December.

It is rare that we deliver pots already planted. Pots full of soil and plants are quite heavy, and awkward to move. It is much easier to bring the materials, and plant on site. In this case it would be loads easier to just deliver the finished pots and set them in place. Some commercial venues are not conducive to construction, and it can be difficult to clean up. We made sure all of the plants were thoroughly soaked before we planted. We would wait until the pots were placed to water in the entire pot. This made it a little easier to move the pots onto the truck.

The last 4 pots were low cast stone bowls. No centerpieces were called for. These stone salad bowls full of greens would be a good compliment to the tall terra cotta pots with their tall centerpieces. Though you see soil and debris on the ground, great care was taken to keep any soil away from the surface of the pot.

just about finished

As fast as they were planted, they were loaded on the truck. Each pot was packed in its own nest of bagged soil.

We were packed up and ready to go by 5:30 pm. The delivery the next morning was thankfully uneventful. I will be keen to see the entire display once it is done.


  1. Sunday Ormesher says

    Very impressive!!!! a lot of work I see! would like to see them all in place.

  2. Joyce Baker says

    How beautiful the planted pots are! Thank you again for taking the time to share this project with us. Imagination can give us an idea of the display. Imagination can also give an idea of the reaction of the designer’s reaction upon seeing the finished pots. 🙂

  3. Eileen Ripp-Emerson says

    “great care was taken to keep soil away from pot” does that mean on the outside of pot? I like to plant my large pots with inserts so that just the inserts can be pulled/moved when i want to change seasons.
    I absolutely, love these designs!

  4. Omg! They are magnificent! What a team!! Incredible talent!

  5. Kathleen Gibson says

    You are so lucky to have such a dedicated, hard-working and TALENTED crew! Everything that comes out of your workshop looks gorgeous! I just hope you haven’t spoiled this client to expect such a fast turn around in response to a last minute request next time around.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Kathleen,We don’t mind his timing, as his projects are always so interesting. We were a part of a larger project he was doing for his client. best regards, Deborah

  6. I hope the customer will send you pictures, that you can share, of the pots in their new home. Beautiful!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lynn, the pots went to a business downtown in Detroit.I do hope to get some pictures! best, Deborah

  7. Can the terra cotta Pots be left out for the winter?
    Do you sell them?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Christa, Detroit Garden Works sells lots of handmade Italian terra cotta. You can see them on the website in containers – terra cotta. We are now sold out of this shape and size. best, Deborah

  8. Joanne Nelson says

    Your work is wonderful! Could you tell me where I can buy the very large low wide white bowl shaped planters?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Joanne, This client bought all that we had. But we will have them again. They are on the Detroit Garden Works website in containers – cast stone. best, Deborah

  9. Jane Baldwin says

    Deborah, I hope you will be able to show us the final plantings and placements. Thanks much.

  10. They look wonderful. Congrats to you and your team…..the suspense is getting to me….please show photos of them in place. I am sure your client will appreciate your hard work.

  11. Deborah, the pots are beautiful. Those cabbages look scrumptious; no pun; my one cabbage got munched on by a woodchuck. He was standing up at the pot having his snack & it was quite funny. Thanks again, you are fearless!

  12. That was very generous of you to take on this project at the last minute! Beautiful! Your client must be so appreciative.

  13. Lisa Chiappinelli Sutherland says

    Absolutely stunning! That you can pull these together on such short notice and they are beautiful speaks to your expertise! Love love your work, talented group, such an inspiration!

  14. Lisa at Greenbow says

    That was certainly a tall order. Well done team. Amazing work turned out beautifully.

  15. I am in awe!! What a project – can’t wait to see the installation pics.

  16. Wow! Stunning as usual. Where do you get all the supplies for the centerpieces?

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