Archives for May 2009

Garden Tour

The noted and very fine  architect Michael Willoughby has long been a member of the board of the Greening of Detroit.  Who knew this group has been planting trees, sponsoring urban education and farms, in Detroit since 1989-this year is their twentieth anniversary.  Michael has been asking me to join this group for a long time-I finally told him,  in exasperation, that I had no patience for groups or committees-but I would do what I could do. So I went to their website. WOW. These people have done a lot for our city, and they keep on doing it, in the most serious way.  I understand their sentiments exactly.  Plant trees in big cities, in as big a numbers as you can manage. Teach people to grow plants, grow plants that are food. Rehabilitate urban spaces.  Clean up and plant.  Foliate as best you can.  Soften urban spaces with plants; teach people about the planet Earth.  They have been at the issue of greening for a very long time; they did not get to this concept via popular culture, fashion or trend. They have been at it in a big and quiet way for twenty years.  They impress me-their administrators, their board, their teachers, their volunteers.  I taught a class for them downtown on growing vegetables in containers.  The group was lively, smart, and willing.  I had the best time.

So last July, trying to get Michael Willoughby off my plate,  I sponsored a tour of 7 gardens of my design, to raise money for this group. Our top end ticket included a little something to eat, and a little something to drink.  I have to tell you,  the 10,000.00 we raised for them from the sale of those tickets was a very important accomplishment in my life.  The Greening of Detroit planted a tree in Detroit in my name, as a thank you. I can’t explain how this made me feel,  except to say these people made me feel that my efforts made a huge  difference.  They won me over.

So now I am a commissioner for the Greening of Detroit, and we are planning our second garden tour July 19.  I promise you will see beautiful gardens,  and what you spend for your ticket will go directly to a group intensely committed to the ecological well-being of our city.  If you live within a stone’s throw of Detroit,  I would invite you to participate.  If you live far away from me, I would urge you to support your local green group.  Green groups, world wide-I like the idea of this.

Tomorrow’s post-pictures of this year’s gardens.   Again,  Look at them. Help them, if you can.  Spread the word, if that is what you do best.  Meet up with all of the rest of us-July 19, 2009.

Cool and Collected Contemporary


I have officially been inducted into hell week of 2009; I have multiple crews working out, with plans, drawings and instructions required in advance. I rely so much on my digital pictures from the previous year, my digital images of spaces soon to have landscapes.  But mostly everything falls to me.  My judgment.  In plain speak, frantic.  I have piles of paper with drawings, diagrams, and plant lists. My desk is littered 6 layers deep with what I need to handle today. My inbox gets 60 emails a day.  Buck just asked me-how many more minutes do you need before we can have dinner-35, I tell him. This puts dinner at 8:20-lights out at 10, as I need to be up at 5am. Rigorous, yes. This time of year, I have plant dreams-hilarious.  This is the time during my year I so much appreciate those cooly contemporary landscapes; I have made lots of them.  contemp2

There is no sign of distress here.   OK, plenty of angst, but there is no squirming, or doubt in evidence.  Cool white walls.  Columnar trees that have it all together.  Black/green  and white, and any variation on white  is the scheme.  A scheme with no gray.  These columnar beech, in the ground some 8 years, are so quietly beautiful.  Their age is apparent.   They have had expert and thoughful care.  They lower my heart rate, instantly.  Grass, gravel, beech, stone-add one simple and contemporary pot-this  composition pleases my client.  contemp3
She is a very private person at home-having a very public life.  I understand what she was after from her landscape.  I designed this for her.  I take great pleasure in how this reflects her point of view.  Sometimes I visit this, when I know I need to restore some balance.  The point of this post; all of us exchange stories about who we are.  This exchange creates electricity in a way Thomas Edison never envisioned.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day-it was busy, breezy, warm-great.

  In the back of my mind is how it came to be that I am free .  Free to garden, free to pursue my interests. Free to consider doing things differently. Free to speak my mind.  Free to travel,  free to think,  free-as nature intended.  Free to plant, reconsider, reorganize.  Free, to change my mind.

Freedom does not come without a price.  On my mind today are all the people who protect my freedom. I do not know their names.  I do not know their stories.  I do not need any information beyond this,  really. I live in a country that values freedom above all else.  I am so lucky to live here; I am so lucky to have them. Not knowing the names of the people who protect my freedom, I honor them; all of them.

  Think of it-we are the only nation on earth that values, and protects  freedom, and  the sanctity of individual expression.  If  you should be an organic farmer, or an orchardist with a passion for delicious fruit, or a restaurant serving fresh and delicious food, or a gardener scooping up what the world has to deliver to better your garden,  or a simple  citizen  planning for your child’s graduation -hear this.  Honor those who protect you.

There is a big  group of people, nameless, who’s stories I  don’t know, who make many things possible for me, and you.  We are the only nation on  earth that values freedom to the extent that you and I enjoy.  Are we not so lucky?

Those troops who protect our country, and our way of life-treasure them.  I am thinking about them today, Memorial Day.

Dreamboat Dogwood


Five years ago I planted a Cornus Kousa “Venus” for a client.  I was not familiar with the variety, but even as a small tree, it flowered with enormous cream-white flowers. I planted it on a lark, the flowers were so compelling.   I saw that tree last spring for the first time since I had planted it;   in only 4 years time, the tree had grown considerably larger, and was completely covered with hundreds of enormous white blooms. It has to be the most beautiful dogwood I have ever seen.  This spring I found 41 of them in 25 gallon pots.  I wanted to be able to have small trees that people could plant themselves; this dogwood is making it really easy for people to take a tree home.
Bred by Dr. Elwin Orton Jr. of Rutgers University,  it is an interspecific hybrid of Cornus Kousa, and Cornus Kousa x Nuttalli.  It matures at 20 feet tall, and 20-30 feet wide.  Resistant to anthracnose, and other illnesses that can plague dogwoods, it is also quite hardy.  All this aside, it is a striking small flowering tree in bloom, and in leaf. I would plant it with a fair amount of sun.  I think this tree belongs in that select group of garden plants that are gorgeous all around.
My gorgeous group includes hydrangea “limelight”, the Griffith Bucks rose, “Carefree Beauty”,  the lactiflora peony “Mrs. FDR”,  the maple “Princeton Gold”, the boxwood “Green Velvet”; I should stop here, as my gorgeous list is probably more than you ever wanted to hear about.  Every gardener I know has their own gorgeous list. You might consider adding this dogwood to your list,  should you have room for one more stunningly beautiful plant.