Archives for June 2013

True Romance

carefree-beauty-rose.jpgMy landscape and garden occupies a lot and a half in a very urban setting.  Pontiac, Michigan, to be exact.  I do not have a villa in the south of France, or in Italy.  I do not live in California, or England.  I am the head gardener for a small property in the upper midwest.  I live in a city.  I can hear the motorcycles and the ambulances-and the music from the party next door.  I am not complaining.  I like where I live.  I love my house.  I treasure my garden.  But that moment in early June when my modest patch of roses begin to bloom is a moment that I truly treasure.  The roses coming into bloom is all about the romance of the garden.

June-blooming-roses.jpgMost of my landscape is primarily confined to five plants.  Yews. boxwoods, arborvitae, magnolias-and lawn.  This is a landscape that that I am able to properly keep up.  This is a landscape that is friendly to my dogs.  It is a landscape about order and structure. My wild cards are few-by this I mean, manageable. I cannot come home to chaos.  I need healthy, first and foremost.  I need tended, secondarily. Thirdly, I need beauty.  My work life is such that I want peace, quiet, and delight when I go home.  But I have a few places for perennials.  Perennials-loads of work.  I have one small patch over which I am willing to fret weekly.  But then, there are the roses.

June-blooming-roses.jpgNo other plant speaks to the romance of the garden in the way  that roses do.  The blooms are beautiful, and fragrant.  When they are happy, they bloom profusely.  So many florists get instructions to send roses to a loved one for a birthday, for Mother’s Day, for Valentine’s day- and for good reason.  The rose speaks to romance.   My corgis know what it means when I say-let’s go see the roses. They race around to the rose garden.  When Buck brings home roses for me, I am a very happy girlfriend.  Even Buck is enjoying the the June garden moment that celebrates the roses.  The climbing roses-the miniature Jeannie LeJoie and the climber Eden.  The shrub roses-Carefree Beauty, and Sally Holmes.

roses.jpgThis small rose garden has a lot to say right now.  I feel no need to expound on which roses are good, and which roses are bad.  There are lots and lots of roses to choose from.  The David Austin shrub roses.  The knockout roses.  The species roses.  The tea roses.  The grandifloras.  The tree roses.  Blanc Double de Coubert-the fragrance is astonishing.    Try some.  Try any of them that appeal to you.  If they fail, figure out why.  No garden should be without a patch of roses.  No plant endows a garden with more romance than a rose.


Why is the romance so important?  Romance has everything to do with what it means to be a person.  Relationships make the world go round- this includes garden relationships.  Any expression of love is an expression well worth making.   Anyone who gardens expends a lot of thought, time and money to making a natural environment that is beautiful.  Tell me if you think there is anything more romantically beautiful than a rose in bloom.  My advice?  Plant a few roses.

roses.jpgMy work life right now is busy-as in urgent.  Every day, all day long, I am working.  But every day I go home, and Buck and I eventually meet in the rose garden.  It is a fitting end to the day.  The view of the roses in bloom-beautiful.

climbing-rose-Jeannie LeJoie.jpgAs much as I design with structure in mind, I value those plants that tease, breathe, and enchant.  Roses are the Sarah Bernhardt’s of the garden.  Demanding? oh yes.  Were I to fall in line behind the demands of any plant, roses would rank high on my list.    Rob and Meg came for dinner night before last.  They went round to see the roses. Rob is right.  No plant speaks to romance better than a rose.

June.jpgMy working life is not perfectly organized.  The cold and rainy April, and the late frosts have put me way behind.  I have lots of annual plantings ahead of me-10 days worth-at least.  Every season is what it is.  Last night I went to bed at 7:30, and slept until 6:30 am.    Coming home to the roses representing-delightful.

Carefree-Beauty.jpgCarefree Beauty-this is a shrub rose that was hybridized by Griffith Buck.  I love the big blowsy pink blooms.  I like its hardiness.  Its disease resistance.  I especially appreciate that fresh scent I know as June roses in bloom.

the-garden.jpgThe corgis may not be tall enough to really have a good view of the roses.  But they understand about moments.  Every night, they get to that rose garden ahead of Buck and I.

roses.jpgTwo dogs and two people-we end the day in the company of the roses.  My very small rose garden figures in a very big way in my life.  I don’t mind the effort it takes to cultivate roses.  In my opinion, a garden needs to evoke romance.

At A Glance: Two Clematis









More Planting

the-play-house.jpgYes, we are in our second week of planting containers and annuals for summer.  Lucky for me that lots of containers to be planted is my idea of a very good time.  The fact that this client prefers a primarily green planting means there is opportunity to explore the more subtle design elements such as texture and mass and shape.  The playhouse planting is a fair distance from the main terrace.  The large white leaves of the June Bride caladiums reads well from a distance, by virtue of both the leaf size and color.  White New Guinea impatiens and lime nicotiana provides those caladiums with some flowering company. The curving bed line is a handsome contrast to the boxy geometry of the playhouse.

continer palntings.jpgThe main terrace is large.  There are a number of containers here, in close proximity to each other.  Most of the plantings on this container feature green plants, but there is a little punctuation provided by mass of white petunias,  and cathedral blue salvia.  New this year, a variegated boxwood sphere planted all around with maidenhair fern.

lavender-and-white.jpgA pair of stone wing walls terminate in a pair of large planters.  This year, cathedral blue salvia and euphorbia diamond frost hold the middle slot.  Hypnotica white dahlias and variegated licorice on both sides add visual weight and volume.  Airy growing plants look all the more delicate, paired with solid and compact plants.

annual-planting-schemes.jpgI don’t usually post pictures of container plantings when I first plant.  It is just about impossible to see what a few months of growth will add.  A small bay tree on standard will have that gawky trunk obscured by the apple mint planted on either side of it.  The idea here?  Plan for the eventual size, not the planting size.  Annuals in 4″ pots tend to be fairly uniform in size when they are ready to plant.  But the natural habit of growth and size will eventually prevail.  It is so important to imagine the overall shape that will be created by a group of plants once they grow in.  Miniature plants are great for small pots.  Big growing plants need to room to grow up and out.

annual-container-plantings.jpgThe triple ball eugenia is one of a pair of topiary plants we have over wintered in a greenhouse for a number of years.  At the base, we planted 4″ Madame Queen begonias.  I like the notion of using a plant that is usually the center of attention as a groundcover.  The Madame Queen is aptly named.  It will not suffer any amount of overwatering.  It requires expert and thoughtful care.  In August, they will wreath this pot with a crown of big ruffled leaves and angular white flower spikes.  The dignified eugenia will have ruffles.

summer-planting.jpgThis spot on the terrace belongs to a collection of English antiques.  A double sided bench with wrought iron deer legs is flanked by a pair of early 20th century faux bois pots on pedestals, and a pair of stone pots with lion feet.  A simple planting does the best justice to this collection.  The boxwood topiaries are underplanted with scotch moss.  The faux bois urns are planted with dwarf white caladiums.

agapanthus.jpgFour painted Belgian boxes have agapanthus planted in the center.  I am not worried that they will go out of bloom in another few weeks.  The strappy low foliage will be attractive all summer long.  The blue veined mini white petunias look a little bedraggled after we soaked the planted box.  We water a new planting until we are blue in the face.  This helps to settle the soil around the plants.  Even and ample moisture is critical for establishing the transplants.

white-mandevillea.jpgThe white mandevillea got stakes late in the day.  Providing a physical support for a vine means that vine will have a shape when it grows out.  A mandevillea grown with no structure makes its own interesting and wild statement.  Choose your look.

container-plantings.jpgThis old topiary Pandorea is coming out of storage at a perfect time-it is beginning to bloom.  The pot on the right-a Chicago fig encircled with dwarf King Tut. The contrast of the big fig leaves with the spidery Tut makes for an interesting visual conversation.  On the left  an elegant feather grass will have a tutu of scaevola and company.  Lots of height will contrast with lots of width.

This pair of white variegated dianella were overwintered as well, and are under planted with white polka dot plant.  The square stone trays have a centerpiece of helicrysum Icicles, and a border of hens and chicks and thyme.  This spot does not get sun all day long, but the plants chosen are tolerant of less than perfect conditions.

shade-annual-planting.jpgThe lead pots on the from porch are planted with Kimberly ferns.  The edge of the pot is planted all around with white polka dot plants.  That green and white will give the container a very finished look.

Venus-dogwoods67 containers, and three in ground plantings makes for an entire day’s work for 10 people.  One of my favorite parts is planting cirrus dusty miller around a circle of boxwood 35 feet in diameter. Several years ago we planted 8 Venus dogwoods inside that circle.  It is a treat to be there at just the right time, to see them blooming.


At A Glance: Blooming


Detroit Garden Works is ablaze with blooming plants-mostly of the annual and tropical variety. We do offer specimen boxwoods, dwarf apple trees, fig trees, blueberries, and espaliers.  But the blooming plants get a lot of attention.  Blooming lantana and abutilon standards.  Great ferns.  Bay laurel standards.   We had lots of gardeners shopping for plants.  The weather seems to have warmed up, and the danger of a killing frost seems behind us.  Good gardeners are planning and shopping.  Though the daytime temperature was a brisk 68 degrees, there was something in the air.  Sturdy and healthy plants coming in to bloom made the shop come to life. Our life revolves around the plants.

canna-yellow-punch.jpgYellow Punch canna has the most delightfully clear yellow blooms atop a large growing plant.  Said plant is handsomely endowed with large dark green leaves. Yellow Punch canna is aptly named.  They look great with the King Tut papyrus set in close proximity.  Most certainly, we arrange our plants with good design in mind.

dwarf-fuchsia.jpgMiniature fuchsia flowers are dainty and complex.  This pink bicolor version is sweet.  Paired with pale pink nicotiana – very sweet. The newer varieties of fuchsia tolerate hot weather.  Look to them to brighten a shady spot.

Venus-dogwood.jpgThese blooms of from a Venus dogwood I have at home.  The flowers are every bit of 7 inches across.  They are just coming in to full bloom.  A cross between the pacific coast dogwood, cornus nuttallii,  and cornus kousa, this tree blooms it heart out. It is hardier than either of its parents, and grows lustily in full sun.  I plant them every chance I get.

planted-clay-pots.jpgWe plant lots of annual pots at the shop.  As soon as we have a group available, they are gone.  The early summer blooming is irresistible.  The dirt under my nails and on my hands will survive for another 5 weeks.  How great is this?

oregano-Kent-Beauty.jpgThe ornamental oregano Kent Beauty  is tough to grow, early on.  Professional growers shy away from it.  It looks lame in a 4″ pot.  Once it is planted, it thrives.  The foliage and flowers never fail to attract attention.  Have a planting planned for sun and dryer conditions?  This oregano is a beauty.

sky-blue-cathedral-salvia.jpgThe Cathedral salvias have my attention this spring.  They have substantial flower heads in a variety of enchanting colors. Having never been a fan of victoria blue salvia, I am giving this plant a second look.

cleome-spirit.jpgIt is not the best move, buying annual plants in bloom.  Flowering annuals in flats will take to transplanting reluctantly.  If I plant flats, I plant green only.  This is why I carry few flats of flowers.  The soil mass of a 4 inch pot buys a little time.  Time for you to organize your planting scheme.  Time for the grower to realize their investment.  The late spring season is really short.  The time and expense getting ready for a spring season-enormous.  The health and vigor of the annual flowers, at the mercy of the weather.  Of this, I am sure.  If you grow for a living, you have a very hard and demanding job.  If you garden, you have a lot of work on your hands.  The spirit dwarf cleomes have all the blooming beauty of the species, less the size.  Look this cleome over.  The blooms are so beautiful.

bok-choy-blooming.jpgThis planting with bok choy is about to go down.  The pansies are unhappy about the heat.  Alyssum is a supporting cast plant that will at best need to be cut back after a flush of bloom.  At worst, alyssum will rot and die out  with too much rain.  But the main issue here is a vegetable bolting.  Cool weather vegetables will go to seed, once the weather gets really warm.  Should you grow vegetables to eat, the vegetable flowers are not of much interest. The food value aside, this blooming container is really beautiful right now.

orange-begonias.jpgThe begonias love the hot weather.  They also love a prudent and reserved waterer.  Their blooms are breathtaking.  They are so worth learning how to grow.  We have them in our greenhouse still.  They do not love so much the transition from spring into summer.  They are summer born and bred.  Once we have really warm weather, try them.

agapanthus.jpgAgapanthus is not native to our zone.  But we sell them, anyways.  The form, that blue, so enchanting.  They are not so hard to winter over, in a garage.  Jut about every blooming is a garden is ephemeral. The annual plants-they soldier on.  I love them for this.

cathedral-salvia.jpgSo many things are blooming now.  The alliums.  The early clematis.  The scilla hispanica.  The bearded iris and the poppies.  The azaleas and rhododendrons.  The horseradish.  The early annual plants. The nepeta.  It’s an early summer bloom fest.  My delphiniums and roses are budding.  Are you not in gardener’s heaven?  I am.