18 Years


18 years ago, on March 29, Rob and I were hosting a party to celebrate the opening of Detroit Garden Works.  My landscape design and installation firm was the ripe old age of 10.  I had always had a dream of a place where clients could find beautiful and intriguing objects to ornament their garden.  No such place existed in my area.  So Rob and I decided to create one.  Crucial to the mix – my accountant.  He also represented a gentleman with a machine shop for sale.  Jeff was able to persuade his client to sell the property and building to me on a land contract.  This proved to be crucial to the mix.  Had I gone to a bank asking for a commercial mortgage to open a retail garden ornament business in an area zoned for light manufacturing, I would have been politely swept out the door.  A shop retailing garden ornament?  What exactly is garden ornament?


A garden group came to the shop Saturday for a talk on garden ornament. I pointed out that garden ornament – as in furniture, tables and chairs, benches and other seating- provides a place for a person to be in a garden.  It is one thing to observe or review a garden, but garden ornament can provide a place to spend time in that garden.  After work.  Before work.  To watch the birds.  To entertain friends. To relax.  To think things over.  To rest.

antique-iron-trough.jpgA garden ornament can provide a focal point for a garden.  An old galvanized washtub overstuffed stuffed with lavender or rosemary can be the star attraction of an herb garden.  A sculpture in the landscape can organize a garden, endow it with atmosphere, and make an invitation to interact.  Pots positioned on either side of a front door say welcome to my house.  And welcome to my idea of making you feel welcome.  Gardeners place birdbaths in their gardens for obvious reasons.  Gardeners also have very different views about what constitutes a beautiful birdbath.  Finding a garden ornament that suits your garden in particular is what gives that garden a personal and individual feeling.


A structure in a garden, as in a pergola, can enclose a space, and give it a sense of intimacy.  A fountain brings the sound and sparkle of water to the garden.  An arbor or trellis provides a home for climbing plants. A vintage bootscraper, rain barrel or garden umbrella is utilitarian.  I could say that any non-living element in a garden would qualify as a garden ornament, but that is not exactly true.  Some objects trigger a memory of an experience, a special occasion, or a person. Those memories are very real.  Some vintage or antique garden ornament come with a feeling of history or culture attached to them.  Some ornament is whimsical.  Some is repurposed from old farm implements and tools. But no matter the origin, I am still interested, 18 years later, in how garden ornament can endow a garden with a little magic.


Interested in more on that moment which was so magical to me 18 years ago?  Here you go.


  1. Marguerite Neuhaus says

    A lucky 18….. Chai, to Life , Life in the Garden!

  2. One of my favorite quotes lately is “Don’t judge your beginning by my middle”. Any dream begins with the first step. You took the first step and now you have the privilege and honor to look back over all those years (and blood, sweat and tears) and know that you have made a difference. In so many ways. Congratulations to you, Rob, your crew and all who believed in you. They were right!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Maggie, we are still here, and we still have plans and ideas. A garden will do that for you. Best, Deborah

  3. I adored reading the more detailed account of your very first grand opening. It warmed my heart to know that you already had and still have such devoted clients who believed in your vision and very much appreciated your talents. Wishing you continued success in a profession that demands hard work and thrives on a sincere passion for each project.

  4. Warmest congratulations, and a toast to the next 18 years!

  5. Lynn Fiorentino says

    How inspiring! I love your story and thanks for sharing it. I only wish I had started my business in my 20’s or 30’s! Not my 50’s!!! Lynn

  6. Cara Kazanowski says

    Congratulations to you, Rob & your entire team! Detroit Garden Works is one of the gems of the entire Detroit metropolitan area. I feel lucky that DGW is only minutes from my home!

  7. debra phillips @ 5th and state says

    and look at where you both are now, congratulations deborah! hard work, dedication and passion, reward

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Debra, where we are now is back at the beginning-spring. We can’t wait. Thanks, Deborah

  8. I can think of few endeavors which I love more than what you two have created….thanks for all your hard work and what you bring to the region. It inspires us all. xxoo m.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Michael, the pleasure has been all ours. We have met so many great people, yourself included. We’ll be getting outside any minute now-I can’t wait. Deborah

  9. Silvia weber says

    Dear Deborah, we can’t think of any endeavor which we love more than your magical Detroit Garden Works. Thanks for sharing the journey~ loved this too. Here’s to a living legend who hasn’t stopped believing.
    XOX “Cleveland”

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Silvia, can’t wait to see you and Gerry again, and see what is doing in your garden. Such great friends and family you Cleveland people are! XOX Deborah

  10. Congratulations!You had a vision and a DREAM!Wish I lived closer……I would be popping in frequently!

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