April 2, 2019

What was noteworthy about this past Tuesday, the second of April? We planted containers and flower beds at 5095 for spring, 3 weeks earlier than last year. Our first spring planting. The morning was decidedly chilly, but the afternoon was sunny and warm. I could not have been more pleased or content to be outside planting. It was great. Nor could I have been more happy that we could be outside working the beginning of April. Northern zone gardeners are stuck inside longing for another time and place- for the duration of the winter. By the end of March, I am impatient for the winter season to turn to spring. And grumpy every day that it doesn’t.

The beginning of April is not always the beginning of our spring. Last year’s April was wintry in every regard. Mountains of snow deposited over the winter had no impetus to melt. The daytime temperatures were barely above freezing. The nights were plenty cold. The weather was conducive only to ice making. Giant piles of snow transformed by freeze and thaw into ice were everywhere. We planted this project April 22 last year. Embarrassingly late, that.

That I was outdoors on a sunny day with no more than a spring jacket to keep me warm was a good day indeed. I have more to be thankful for than this. My supplier of twigs sent an outstanding collection of fresh cut branches to us. That he farms willow and pussy willow provides great scale to my spring containers. Our pansies are fall sown, and over wintered in unheated greenhouses, so they are good to go outside the moment I take delivery. A whole collection of visually persuasive faux grasses-I thank Rob for them. They provide an intermediary layer between what is tall and what is short. These pots would be rather awkward without them.

A sunny warm April day, some spring centerpieces of note, and a raft of thriving pansies is enough for this early spring day. I went home both happy and satisfied. Nothing in my garden has made itself known.  Later spring will be a symphony. At home, and on the job. So many voices – so much to see. Spring in full blast is hard to keep track of. But this earliest moment, out planting, was the gift of the early season.

This bed full of a pansy mix will sparkle all season.  Lavender shades, Delta Premium violet and white, and pansy beaconsfield mixed will shimmer. If you plan to mix varieties, 3 types provide a more even mix than 2.

This bed of pansies will thrive well into June, should my client decide to delay her summer planting. She might be tempted this year to let this spring planting mature. I for one would be much happier planting her containers for summer in June. Both the soil and the air will have warmed up by then – just what seasonal tropical plants want.

Cool Wave Berries N Cream is a spreading/trailing pansy.  It is perfect for those container plantings that ask for flowers spilling over the edge. This pansy is reputed to survive our winters with aplomb, should you decide to plant it in the ground. This urn was planted with hanging baskets of this pansy. The more mature size of the plants in the basket provide height and volume right from the start.

There are few signs of the perennial garden in this area. These spring pots provide some visual interest, in the meantime. Containers in every season can be a bridge from one garden moment to another, a landscape or garden idea tested in miniature, a laboratory for testing new plants – I do value what containers can bring to the garden.

boxes planted for spring

This long trough is my favorite of the group. The columnar lemon cypress will go on to ornament both the summer and fall planting here. Pots of Persian limes between the cypress will do the same. Yellow and violet pansies compliment the spring green. The summer green will be just as luscious.

Four large planters in the back yard are routinely planted with multi-trunked Himalayan white barked birch. We take them out of the pots in the fall, and winter them inside our landscape building. Very few woody plants are hardy over the winter in pots. With their roots above ground, they struggle to handle the extreme cold of our winters, and unexpected freeze and thaw cycles. Even though our building is unheated, it provides protection from winter wind and sun. As all of the leaves drop in the fall, they have no need for light in the winter months. The birch provide much needed scale to a rear terrace that is large, and a pair of doors from the inside that are very tall.

This is the first year I have under planted the birch for spring. On the terrace-flats of pansies and violas. The mix is lively, as I hoped it would be. Anyone who plants containers brings an idea about shape, mass, texture and color to their plantings. In this early spring container planting, color is a key element.

Mixing plants implies a brew. I like this. Who knows what nature is brewing up next, but for now this spring brew tastes great.

It was a good day.


  1. Leonard Tymoszek says

    Beautifully planted with attention to color & scale

  2. Bill Bird says

    Where can I find the faux grasses you use in your containers. Do you sell them at the store? Your work continues to inspire me. Bill B, Holland MI

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Bill, we do carry them at the store-but I would call for availability. Thanks for your letter, Deborah

  3. Now I know what to do with the tall pussy willow branches sold at the market; I shall get a bunch & stick them in a pot with pansies. Thanks, Deborah!

  4. Kitty Gibson says

    Deborah – Your enthusiasm is contagious! I share your love of nature and plants and know how important they are to our souls. You express you creativity beautifully with everything you do for your clients.

  5. Thank you for the breath of spring!

  6. Kevin Gilley says

    I think your work is absolutely spectacular. I love your creativity and that of your team. I live in Texas and your work makes me pine to live back in Michigan but then I read your blog and am reminded of the bitter cold weather and that reminds me of why I left oh so long ago:-)

  7. Sally Chandler says

    Wonderful arrangements as always. But don’t the pansies need to be dead-headed to keep them going for long? Or can they manage to keep blooming without that step?

  8. Sharon Sullivan says

    Everything is lovely Deborah. Pansies are my most favorite flower, but I’ve never heard of Cool Wave Berries N Cream Pansies. Are they new this year? Do you sell them in your store? Trailing pansies for container pots is a dream come true!

  9. Always a treat to see your post in my inbox! Beautiful!

  10. Deborah,
    Your pictures and writing are such a treat for my eyes! Once again, thank you for sharing!

  11. Fran Baker says

    Love all your arrangements! I’m curious about the potted tree…how is it overwintered…inside or out? And what kind of trees are good for that? We live in Denver area.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Fran, we put the trees inside our landscape building. But they could be planted in the ground, and mulched for the winter just as easily. best, Deborah

  12. Mary Kaye Bailey says

    Deborah, you mention some of the foundation plants, columnar lemon cypress for instance, as continuing structure in future seasonal plantings. Would you please consider an article, or more, with photographs on the same pot as it changes seasonally with some of the initial base plants? Much thanks in advance for that consideration.

  13. Lovely containers. Cold weather and flowers make me cringe, yet the pansy makes me smile. Bless the pansy and its’ ability to withstand cold so well. The perfect cold weather, Spring flower. I’m loving the height you add to each container.

  14. Ahhh, pansies, thanks for the post Deborah……especially the perspective. We all tend to mire-down in the details of today and fail to see it is better than it could be. This year’s break in the weather is earlier than last year….who knew!)

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