Archives for June 2012

Rebecca Salomen Witt

Rebecca is the commander in chief of the Greening of Detroit.   Should you be unfamiliar with this organization, they sponsor some 1500 urban farms in the city of Detroit.  In the past 21 years, they have planted 70,000 trees-every year, year after year.  They teach a variety of classes from growing herbs for tea-  to how to grow great tomatoes.  Each summer they hire 200 young Detroiters whose other prospects for a job are slim-to haul water one bucket load at a time to newly planted trees.  To weed-to work.  They teach people how to garden. They teach these kids what it means to have a job-to be on time, and do good work.  They teach them how to open a bank account, and manage their money.  They teach them to smile, and say hello to the residents in the community where they are working.  They teach good works, and then importance of community.  This program aims at teaching young Detroiters how to grow a life.

The tab for these 200 summer jobs is one million dollars.  Wages, truck payments, gas-it adds up quick.  Every year the Greening has to raise this money-no grant covers this.  I am astonished at Rebecca’s unwavering determination that Detroit be a better, and greener place.  They tackle the overwhelming job of teaching the children in an industrial city about the importance of the environment.  The importance of good food.  The importance of community.  We hope to help with that one million dollar bill.

This is my fifth year, sponsoring a tour of landscapes and gardens of my design to benefit their educational programs.  A tour ticket is 35.00-a tour and reception ticket-50.00.  I donate the staffing of the shop, the dinner reception, the garden cruise website hosting, the tee shirts, and the advertising of the tour, so 100% of every ticket purchase goes directly to the programs for which they need funding.

OK, I am a member of the board, a commissioner, of the Greening of Detroit.  But I am not so great with meetings. My contribution?  I sponsor this tour to raise money for them.   Should you buy a ticket, you get a lot more than a garden and landscape tour for your money.  You get the satisfaction of knowing that your money is going to support the programs of an organization whose aim is to remake Detroit.  One neighborhood, one urban garden, one young person at a time. Rebecca is awesome.  Her devotion and energy to a very tough cause is astonishing.  She has a vision of the future. A vision for the future of our city.

Interested?  the tour website: Not available to take the garden tour?  The Greening of Detroit has memberships available for 25.00.  Do your gardening soul some good.  Sign up.  Go here:  You will not be sorry.  Rebecca and her staff deserve my support.  I am asking for your support.

Redbecca is a pioneer.  She is a spokesperson.  She has energy that puts me to shame.  Whenever I talk to her, I want to help.   Should you live in the greater Detroit area, sign up for our tour.  The gardens on tour this year are beautiful.  Your contribution to this big cause-absolutely necessary, in my opinion, to the survival and health of our city.  I would invite you to get involved.  Being involved feels good-you’ll see.

The 62nd Birthday

pruning boxwood

Pruning.  As in Mindy, who owns M and M Flowers with her sister Melissa, sent her crew to prune the boxwood and Techny arborvitae at the shop, on June 15,  my birthday.  If you pruned your boxwood in early April, ahead of that string of killing frost nights in late April, I can only say that better things come to those who wait. Next year, wait until the spring growth on your boxwood fully flushes out-this means the first week of June-and then prune. We only do this once a year; it is a day worth waiting for.  Not so much frost damage is visible now.

Poem. As in a gift from Jenny.  Jenny handles all of our internet inquiries, sales, and shipping.  She keeps the website updated via her photographs, and writing.  She wrote this poem as a gift to me for my birthday.  If you read the poem, you will see clearly that she sees me.  She is good at that with many people-not just me.  I can only say it feels good to be seen.  I could never pay her for what she is worth-that part of her is a gift to me. She has an astonishingly inventive artisanal publishing company which produces great work for clients, in her off time.  I wish you could hold the paper in your hand, and study the type.     

Portrait. A graphite portrait of the Corgis.   Pete and Tine are the sum total of my blood family-they live far away.  They commissioned Sheona Hamilton Grant, a Belgian artist who specializes in equestrian and canine portraits, to draw my beloved Corgis.  Apparently Rob provided photographs.  The drawing captures their spirit, and my love for them.  I was so shocked and so delighted-having unpacked the crate. They are the best blood family any girl could hope for, and Sheona is a very talented artist.     


Providence.  As in the protective nature of Of God, or of nature, as a spiritual power-this from Wikipedia.   17 years ago, Rob hauled a concrete statue of the Madonna up to the north side of my house-he placed it under a rough roof supported by pipes.  I was certain that structure was a shrine to the Madonna.  She would look out and after me, and my garden.  But a few years later, my Madonna was stolen.  She has been gone for 9 years, this year.  For my birthday, Buck replaced that statue.  Why at 62 does this mean so much?   I am a Catholic of the sort that believes in the miracle that is nature.  As for God-oh yes, I am a believer.  I so believe the stories of all of the saints, but I especially treasure any sculptural expression of the Madonna.  My life and garden is once again under her protection now, thanks to Buck.             

Playing it forward.   20 years ago Rob came to work for me.  16 years ago I bought a building, and made plans to open a shop devoted to all great things for the garden. Rob was there every step of the way.  Cheering the both of us on.  Shopping overseas.  Giving his all.  Those early Detroit Garden Works years were tough.  We worked day and night.  He loaned everything he had to this project.  His eye, his talent, his energy and his heart.  Back then, there were no shops devoted to fine ornament for the garden.  We were foolhardy, and patient.         

Detroit Garden Works is quite a place.  Have you been there?  If you go, you will see Rob’s influence everywhere.  You will not get better help with a project or an issue in a garden anywhere better than his help-of this I am convinced.  On the afternoon of my birthday on Friday, I went to my attorney and put the shop in trust for Rob.  It will go to him.  Saturday night Buck cooked up a birthday dinner for all of the Detroit Garden Works staff.  I had a special tee shirt made for everyone to commemorate the event.  Everyone at work was in on the plan-Rob had no clue what was coming.  Needless to say it was a very emotional and happy occasion.  Becoming 62 meant to me it was time for him to know the shop would eventually be his, when I am  still around to help.  With him more involved the the DGW business, I might have more time to spend on writing and taking photographs-and myy first love-the landscape.  I am happy and to say I have I have made a change that makes turning 62 worth it.  The best part-I paid it forward to a person with whom I have had an important relationship for 20 years.  I cannot tell you how good this felt.

Party-as in a true cause for celebration.  The Detroit Garden Works staff is very fond of Rob-this was a move they approved.  One birthday present from Rob-glow sticks.  We all wore them.  Buck cooked brats, and made potato salad. 

Present.  As in we were all present, and Rob had another present that so tells the story of what a remarkable human being he is.  Wish lanterns-have you ever heard of them?  I had not.  He regularly advises me about things I have never heard of-this is just one of the thousand reasons that I treaure him.  They look like a small paper version of a hot air balloon.  You light the base on fire, wait for the warm air to fill the paper balloon, and gently send them skyward.  Make a wish.   Go for broke.  Launch something.       


I sent no wish aloft for Rob.  He doesn’t need any wishes-He is chock full of talent.  My wish was entirely for my own 62nd year-hopefully full of surprises, challenges, and meaningful work.  This was my happiest birthday ever-no kidding.  



Closer To The Finish

If you read this blog regularly, you may recall we started building a vegetable garden for a client about 6 weeks ago.  A lot has gone into that project, but finally the physical structure was at a stage where we could plant. 

The first to be planted was a collection of 5 espalier fruit trees.  A pair of double candelabra apple trees trained in the shape of an arch were planted on either side of the gate.  Centered on each side of the fence, a pair of quadruple cordon pear trees. 

 fenced vegetable garden

The idea is to allow the horizontal arms of the pears to grow the entire width of the fence.  Though this heavy wire mesh and cedar fence is handsome, I can imagine the entire front face of this garden covered in leaves-and hopefully, pears.  

wire fencing

Though the Gala apple arches had been trained in this arch shape for years, we built a simple steel rebar arbor onto which each branch could be tied.  Once the major branches put on sufficient caliper, this arch will no longer be necessary-nor will it be visible.  The trees had been trained to form an arch that was 4 feet wide.  I wanted the entrance to the garden at least as wide as the double gates.  The bald spot at the top of the arbor will be covered in just a few years.  The walkway into the garden, and all of the garden floor is compacted decomposed granite.

pear espaliers

Though the pear espaliers have 4 distinctively horizontal arms, the secondary branches could easily be allowed to grow out,  making a solid green wall.  The espaliers we buy are grown in giant containers, with the trunk at the back.  This makes it easy to plant the espalier close to the fence.    

tiered plant stand

This vegetable garden table was inspired by English auricula theatres.  Tiered stands that permit the staging of potted specialty plants, as in auricula primroses were very popular in England in the 19th century.  This steel three-tiered plant stand will be covered in clay pots, planted with herbs and small growing flowers.  The copper pipe through the center of the table is for irrigation.  At the east end of the garden, a spigot was installed for handwatering.  Though each box has drip irrigation, there is no substitute for the sure hand and good judgment of a gardener. 

raised beds for vegetables

Steve built a bamboo teepee for pole beans.  The beans are planted only on the north side of the box, so the orange bell peppers planted underneath will still have good light.  Some of the vegetables have been growing in containers in a greenhouse, waiting for the garden to be ready to plant.  Each group of plants is clearly marked as to variety on large wood markers.

By no means do I mean to imply I am a vegetable gardener.  I am a serviceable gardener.  My clients have to take ownership now, and grow with this garden.   This first year will provide an opportunity for them to decide what they really wish to grow.  Everyone’s taste in food is so individual.  This first planting has a little bit of a lot going on for them to try. 

There are leeks, onions, and salad onions.  A fresh crop of lettuces.  Bell peppers, pole and bush beans, and 4 types of tomatoes.  Eggplant, patty pan squash,  and four varieties of cucumbers.  There are loads of herbs-rosemary, Greek oregano, flat leaf parsley, three types of basil, and thyme.  Three types of mint, and lots of cilantro.  Steve laid this garden out from the plants and seeds that I bought, as he has lots of experience with this sort of thing.  The yellow marigolds-just for fun.  Early next week, we will plant the clay pots, plant perennials and roses outside of the garden, reconfigure the edge of the driveway, and plant some grass.

The Last Day Of My 61st

By coincidence, Melissa from M and M Flowers came to do her yearly pruning on the boxwood on the last day of my 61st year.  As this is just about my favorite day of the gardening year, I felt my previous year was coming to a close in a way that made me very happy indeed. 

topiary yews


pruning boxwood




green velvet boxwood





isotoma fluvialitis

My garden is a place very near and dear to me-it looked beautiful last night.  Spotless.  As is her usual way, the boxwood is beautifully pruned.  Her crew did not finish until almost 7 pm. All my thanks, Melissa and group.