Archives for April 2012

One Pair Of Hands



I have plenty of clients who like to do their own gardening-LW is one of them.  How she finds the time, I have no idea.  She is a PPWC-a professional person with a full time job who by the way has children.  I greatly admire this kind of determination to garden.  Why would a gardener who does all of her own work want a landscape plan from a designer professional?  It takes just as much resolve and money to plant a visually disappointing landscape with a poorly chosen plants as a good landscape with interesting and well chosen plants.  She wanted a plan.  My plan-a birthday gift to her from a close friend.  


do it yourself landscape installation

I cannot remember how long it has been since I did the plan, but I recently got a call-she was ready for the next step.  This small spot near her back door is just as it was when I first visited-and I did not specifically address this area in the initial plan.  We decided in just a few minutes to bring the front yard boxwood pattern through the fence panels that visually enclose her drivecourt, and return it to the wall of the house.  That her plan had called for a double row of boxwood, it was easy to see an espaliered fruit tree as the ending element of the boxwood.  The same set of perennials planted in the front yard would be planted behind the boxwood in this section.  But the big treat of the visit was to see what she had already installed from the original plan.


The original landscape featured boxwood planted on either side of the steps, and against the foundation of the porch.  The front bed seemd too shallow for the size of the staircase, and much too routine.  The Japanese maple on the left looked forlorn, and neither here nor there visually.  An old weeping cherry on the right end of the porch was in very poor health.  

I kept the boxwood-it would be a fine compliment to the architecture.  But I moved the hedge out past the bottom step of the porch-away from the foundation.  The porch has a much stronger presence now.   And I specified a double row, so the depth of the hedge would be generous.  Once these small boxwoods get to be 30″ tall, that 6′ depth will add a strong green element to the presentation of the stairs, porch, and front door.  Moving the boxwood away from the foundation meant that she could grow tall shade tolerant perennials in the space behind them.  Her landscape would not substantially alter in appearance over the winter.  The side yard would get a new fence.  I suggested adding a pair of fence panels on the left side of the house  This makes the garage less prominent, and the front view stronger.    

The right hand side of the steps featured a large bed whose main reason to be had to do with the shade under the cherry.  I suggested that the front yard landscape would benefit from a planting scheme that was consistent, all the way across the width of the property.  This would provide for an interesting transition from the front yard to the side.


Each end of the porch is visually anchored with a Venus dogwood.  The planting does look sparse, as the plants are spaced correctly-but plants grow.  It will be faster than she thinks-the growing in part.  Every year will look some better.


The grass path to the side yard gate is a transition from the front to the side and back yard.  When the boxwoods have matured, and the perennials have made big clumps, it will be a pleasant walk.  Transition spaces in gardens serve the same purpose as a foyer in a home.  The moving from from one space to the next is graceful and unhurried.

 Though the hydrangeas had not yet leafed out, it is easy to imagine that from the street the foreground view will be about the staircase, and attending hedge of limelight hydrangea.  Venus dogwood are set within this hedge too, so they repeat the dogwoods in the boxwood.  4 more Venus dogwoods frame the street view to the side garden gate-the picture of the plan makes the idea clear.  The hydrangeas will help make the midground lawn space much more private. The sidewalk and staircase will be visually enlarged with the addition of decomposed granite on each side, and the walk will be carried all the way out to the street.  She has plans to do the drivecourt garden, and the sidewalk additions this year-but would I take a look at the side yard, to look at the design in a less schematic, and more finished way?  I like her style-already, she is making plans for next season.

Tins Crates Baskets and Tubs

The little and special plants that mark spring containers-how I love them.  I love the tubs, pails, baskets and crates that make great homes for those little and special spring plants.  I did post some of these pictures on the Detroit Garden Works facebook page today, but I couldn’t resist posting them here.  These spring container plantings make me smile.  What about you?  

heuchera, angelina, and citron alyssum

spring container plantings

spring purple

a basket of pansies, phlox, and lavender violas

A round tin of spring flowers

A rustic basket featuring heuchera and citron alyssum

An oval tub of English daisies and violas

A rustic basket of violas, white alyssum, and twigs

Lavender and alyssum

An orange carex and trailing violas

Enamelled tub of spring flowers

a crate of chard and lettuce

 Citrus mix pansies and angelina

spring baskets

spring pink and yellow

A birdseye view of spring

Milo has a great view of this crate of chard and lettuce!

The Thousanth Post

Everyone who commented on the occasion of my thousanth post-I appreciate all of you.  My very sincere thanks that you read what I write.  The people who read help me to fuel up; every regular reader provides to me the energy that encourages me to write tomorrow.  It is as simple as that.  My point, perhaps not so clearly expressed, is that my writing is one part teaching, one part sharing,  one part communication-and one part hello-so nice to meet you.  It is my opinion that any writing asks for, or implies an audience.  There is a writer, and a reader.  That relationship is what makes my discussion about the garden go round.  That people read what I write is very important to me.  A treasure-truly.  Gretchen emailed me today-I was so happy to hear from her.  I did worry that her meeting me in person might have been a disappointment.  Her email tonight made me very happy.

    Hi Deborah,

I feel quite honored to be part of such a milestone and yet, I should be the one thanking you!  I’ve been thinking about what you said about it being a little unsettling that strangers know so much about you through your blog. And I’m sure it is. But from my perspective,  what you do is a generous, selfless act of sharing your knowledge and creativity so that people like me can learn and create.  And you continued that sharing by being so gracious with your time on Tuesday.   I can’t stop thinking about how magical our visit was and how thankful I am that I got the chance to meet you, Rob and your staff and experience your creativity for myself.  

So, many thanks to you, Deborah!  Gretchen   

Dear Gretchen, your email today email meant the world to me.   I am so pleased to have met you, and I plan to stay in touch.  My thousanth post meant something very special to me-thanks to you.  All my best, your gardening friend,  Deborah

Many Thanks To Gretchen

midwest gardeners

For several days I have been fretting about this blog post.  This particular blog post-my thousanth.  What would I write about?  Granted this blog is a journal of sorts, about the day to day, or what is on my mind.  Or some design issue or plant I think might be of interest.  But should the thousanth post not be special?  I had been fretting about it for going on a week, until I had an email from Gretchen. Second from the left in this picture, she wrote that she had been reading the blog for a long time, and had even gone back to read every post all the way back to the beginning in April of 2009.  I was astonished that she had read just as many posts as I had written.  She wanted to tell me that she and 3 gardening friends had decided on the basis of that reading to come and visit the shop.  They would be travelling from Winnetka, Illinois-would I be available to meet them?


Of course we would meet them.  I gave them a tour of both the front and the back of the house.  They looked over my library.  We exchanged thoughts about favorite gardening books.  Anne asked if I knew the plant the English call cowslips.  I had Rob look up hogweed-it is indeed the same plant.  How is it that a plant could have such a graceful common name in one gardening world, and such a threatening one in another?  Where gardening is concerned, there is always a lot to talk about.

This Chicago group of four entertained themselves-and all of us-for better than three hours. I am sure they went through the entire place at least three times. Sue kept reminding everyone that they had plenty of room for anything they wanted to take home with them.  There was a lot of discussion about who liked what and why.  I was interested in what everyone liked the best. 

Gretchen was especially fond of the sundials-I have the feeling she is very serious and passionate about the garden.  I told her I was having trouble picking a topic for that thousanth post.  She immediately suggested I write about their visit.  I loved the idea. I did not know why, until I had some time to think about her suggestion.  

Measuring up in writing, or second hand-a ridiculous endeavor. My most favorite actor-Donald Southerland.  He measures up, via his films.  Would I like him if I knew him personally?  Maybe, or maybe not.  But every design relationship depends on what happens, face to face.  One gardener to another.  Is it possible to forge a relationship over a pot full of baby tears?  This pot-Margery’s favorite.  Subsequent to meeting her in person, I would say yes.  

Another favorite-the salt glazed Errington Ray pots with lemon cypress, violas and white alyssum.  This Chicago gardener spoke for three of them.  I liked her choice.  All four of them put me instantly at ease.  It was as if we knew each other.  In a way, we do know each other.  Via the writing.  And now, there is the face to face.  Did I arrange that?  No.  They got in their car, and came over.  They made a big effort to get to me.  They thanked me for the big effort I have made to get to them.     

Gardeners come from lots of zones, states, countries and communities.  I have yet to meet a gardener that did not interest me.  They have stories to tell, interests.  Those relationships enrich my gardening life.  There are so many common bonds.  The plants.  The weather.  The design.  The seasons.  The dirt.


Each member of this group has a life to which I am not privy.  But we have lots in common, given that each of us gardens.  There are new relationships there-given our face to face meeting.  Now I know the names, and have seen the faces of a few of the people who read what I write.  As for the thousanth post, I realize it is not the writing that deserves any attention on the occasion of the thousanth post.  What matters the most are those gardening people who are reading.  I understood from Gretchen that no one writes without asking for a reader.  She is right-I did ask her to read.  Everyone who reads this blog inspires me to write.  Many thanks to all of you.  And special thanks to you Gretchen.  I am so very pleased to have met you.  And I am especially appreciative that you designed this post for me.