A Day In The Life

This day was a something of a blur.  A new house needed sod.  A pair of annual plantings in a far away location needed to get finished today, as tomorrow is a set date for another planting.  Three major plantings in one day-we worked it out.  Steve’s landscape crew filled my pots, and planted the old topiaries this morning-he was on his way to sod a a new house landscape we have been working on since last fall.  Scott and Shannon delivered the planted to our job 2 in the morning.  Angie, Owen and Lucio knocked out this big planting by 2pm.  At 2:30, we were a block over, planting 13 pots.  Everything got done, in spite of the rain.

May 31 2013 (3)
I have been landscaping, and planting pots for this client for better than 20 years.  She has extraordinarily good taste, and is willing to change things up at a moment’s notice.  Every spring, I look to her for a color scheme.  This year-red, purple and lime.  I was happy to oblige.  This is a big job.  130 40 pound bags of soil-for starters.  We have been wintering a number of topiary plants for her better than 10 years.  They weigh a lot.  Those over wintered plants constitute an entire truckload.  She is 45 minutes away from me-so we have travel to consider.  The terrain-a lot of up and down. This summer planting takes 11 people 7 hours to plant.
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I print out pictures from last year’s planting, with notes about what I want to see happen this year.  Those notes are broad.  Once the broad strokes as established, I personally place every plant.  There is no substitute for being there in person.  A client, an environment, several truckloads of plants-something inspired needs to happen.  I worry like crazy the entire time it takes me to drive there.  What if nothing seems like it is working?
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Once I am there, the worry falls away.  I have work to do-there is no time to worry.  I cannot really describe what happens next.  It is a mix of my relationship with a client, the horticulture, and plants at hand.  As this is client is far away, I pack two trucks full of plants.  I want every plant that works available to me.  Planting on location means I need more than what I need-at hand.  What happens next is one part science, one part relationship, mone part inspiration, and one part experience growing plants.

May 31 2013 (13)
This pot has a hyacinth bean vine in the center.  The look of this pot will be much different, come August.  But today I value the bones of that look-purple, lime, with a dash of red.  There are upright elements, and horizontal elements.  At the very last, before the sweep-up, all the topiary frames get straightened.
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The deck off the master bedroom-an expression of the color scheme-with the odd pot out.   To the far left in this picture, an old peach flowered abutilon.  That one element that doesn’t fit in will work just fine here.  Annual plantings that match too perfectly- to my mind, too cold.  I like any expression in the garden which is personal.  Really personal-all the better.
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We had winds and heavy rains half way through this planting.  The red leaved red flowering leaved canna Australia-who knew my client would like this?  We surrounded it with red dahlias and red leaved alternanthera.  The verdict on this planting-due in late August.
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There are red purples, and blue purples.  I opted for a mix, with some deep red Caliente geraniums.  Hypnotica lavender dahlia is a great plant-it performs.  The mini blue veined petunias-a great performer.  Lilac wave petunias-a favorite of mine.  I like this mix, with a smattering of creeping jenny and lime licorice.  I feel fairly confident that these deck boxes will only get better over the course of the summer.
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Our box truck-just about empty.
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These old wax leaf privets have a new home this year.  Last fall I told me client that she needed bigger pots, or we would have to abandon these privets on standard.  She was not willing to let them go-I do not blame her.  They are beautiful.  She bought new pots.  These 30″ tall by 30″ diameter pots handle these topiaries with ease.  We under planted them with scaevola, variegated licorice, and mini blue veined petunias.  Today, this planting is all about green, texture, form and mass.  In August,  there will be a another story about color.
May 31 2013 (26)
The torrential rainstorms that have been passing through for the last few days means that all of us are wet.  Really wet.  My shoes and socks have been soaked for 3 days.  The late spring weather has not been easy to deal with.  The last time that the spring weather was easy to deal with-years ago.   This is a way of saying that no late spring planting season is easy.  The transition from one season to the next is always about turmoil.  Michigan weather can and does turn on a dime.We have done a number of annual container plantings in the past 3 days.  Thankfully those plantings look a lot more put together than what is left on this truck.  Not that I am complaining-this is work I truly love to do.


  1. Beautiful

  2. Caroline Derby says

    I ADORE your website!!!

  3. Enjoyed reading.

  4. Jan Haynes says

    Loved reading about all of the plantings & so glad you give the names of everything.
    Absolutely gorgeous!

  5. I can so relate. We’re all planting so late, but unless thunder’s ringing in my ears, and lighting’s striking down – I push on. Thank God for understanding clients, ( most anyway)!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Susie, My clients have been great. Would that I could get to everyone in a week. But in the bigger scheme of things, no client will be planted more than 5 days later than last year. And I have no worries about the watering-everything we have planted is soaking wet. Deborah

  6. Love to read and look at what you are doing. Are the pots all winter hardy or do you store for the client? They look like a Domani selection with zinc and atelier. Just beautiful cannot wait to see them in August

  7. Deborah, I just discovered your blog and am enjoying it immensely. As a fellow landscape designer, I can relate to your trials and tribulations—planting in rain because you HAVE to finish the job that day, for example. As a former book editor, I notice you use a lot of dashes—and to good effect. But it bugs me that you use hyphens instead of a real dash. I use Alt-0151 to get the dashes shown in this comment. Just sayin’.

  8. Love tho post — the rainy photo, the whole process of planting and color selection, the anticipation of how the selected palette of color, texture, etc will work together.
    Great writing!

  9. Madeline Foster says

    What a wonderful green setting. All your work is looking beautiful. After seeing this – Will be rethinking my color scheme & layouts AGAIN. At least the wet, late season has given us time for that.

    • Deborah Silver says

      I am still thinking about what to do at home..I don’t like to plant early. It is not that warm today-better that those annuals I want are still in a greenhouse! Thanks, Madeline. Deborah

  10. I have had to plant later than usual this spring due to our cool weather this spring. We had snow on May 3rd for the first time in our recorded history! We are in zone 6. I have just discovered your blog and love it. You have given me many ideas. We have had so much rain every single week. Thank you.

  11. Our Spring (Madison, WI) has been as wet as last year was dry. But at least no torrential rains so far! Lush is the word, though soon it may be soggy unless we get some more warm sunny days. But after last year’s drought I am not really complaining. And I’m thanking my stars that I can work in the cool wet weather when I want, with no deadlines but my own. Tough having to get it done no matter what.

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