garden in August (1) By the time August comes around, I am ready to take a vacation from the work of my garden, and just enjoy it. In May I might renovate a spot that has gotten a little tired or overgrown. I added a new strip of pachysandra this year in the fountain garden. The yews have grown a lot, and the grass is not happy in their shade. For better or for worse, I make decisions about what to plant in my pots, and get them planted.  In June, the problems generated by the previous winter become obvious.  Replacements go in the ground. 4 all but dead rhododendrons get removed. In the case of my rose garden which finally completely succumbed to the insult of two bitterly cold winters, I decided to do nothing. We not only need a new roof this fall, we need a place to shovel off the old roof.

garden in August (2)
When the weather finally warms up in July, I might start watering here and there. I do not run my sprinkler system on a regular program.  I water what I think needs to be watered.  I only rarely run all of the zones at once. Once the water goes on, broken heads, or a need for a change in coverage become obvious. Sprinkler repairs-July work.The seasonal pots begin to settle in, and put down roots.

garden in August (6)Once August comes, I want to take the time to enjoy the garden.  The watering and maintenance of the pots is not a chore.  I enjoy that.  It is a perfect way to wind down from the day. I water. I tinker with this or that leaf that needs to be removed. The maintenance of the pots is about falling in to the pleasure of a garden. I sweep up all of the maple helicopters.  I make the effort to appreciate what is there, and not worry about what should be there.  Fall is a much better time to make changes in a landscape. Mid seventies during the day, and upper fifties at night is not the norm for Michigan in August.  Why not enjoy that? A temperate August in Michigan is a gift that should be treasured. Buck and I visit each garden every day after work. The corgis come along. This August is temperate.  We are eating outdoors every night.  No matter the menu, there is always Michigan grown corn and tomatoes.

garden in August (3)Even the simplest spots that are completely familiar look good to me. Most of the plants have been there a long time, and seem happy.  Those that aren’t will be dealt with some other time.  Right now is for what is good about it. I feel like I am on vacation when I am home, and that seems like a good thing.

garden in August (4)So why is my August garden vacation on my mind?  I met with a client late last week who just days ago moved into a new house.  The house she left was a beautiful turn of the century home on a big piece of property.  She had invested an incredible amount of time in the landscape and gardens. The decision to move was a family decision.  Decisions like this are made by people all the time, including those people who have a passion for, and work the garden. Most people have important obligations and commitments, and that includes gardening people.

garden in August (5)She has only been in her new house for a few days. The property is astonishingly large. There are some old trees, and lawn as far as the eye can see. The house is almost completely obscured by overgrown shrubs. A typical suburban foundation planting had been left to its own devices. In one spot was the largest and tallest stand of Canada thistle I have ever seen. The house had not been occupied for quite some time, and that landscape had been neglected.      garden in August (12)She did tell me quite a bit about the garden she had just left. How she had planted all of the landscape and gardens herself, and how she managed to maintain it, in addition to having a job and family to look after. That discussion was about more than her loss.  It was about helping me to understand what had been important to her. I did not ask her what trees, shrubs and perennials she liked.  I did not ask her about color or style.  I wanted to know why she called me.

DSC_2446She answered without hesitating.  She told me she was a gardener, and not a designer.  What she was looking for from me was a plan.  An outline of how to go about creating a landscape and garden that would make her new house feel like a home. A way of making sense of 2.5 acres of wide open space. She knows as well as I do how much time and effort that will take. She already has a plan to remove all of the overgrown foundation plantings this fall.  Her August will be very different than mine.

garden in August (13)That said, I could sense her resolve. I could tell that she has the energy to take on a project of this size, and see it through. She is a gardener, after all. With some time and thought, I think I can provide her with a place to dig in. She is counting on me for that, and I plan to give it to her.

DSC_2431Her situation is not unknown to me. When I was her age, I had a new house and property.  For years I did nothing to it.  I was too busy getting Detroit Garden Works off the ground, and tending to my landscape practice. But there came a time when I wanted to make time for it.  That was all it took.  If this client wants to make time for it on day two of her possession of the new house, you can rest assured she is serious. She will make something beautiful and interesting of her property.

garden in August (8)
When I got home later that day, I was glad I had persisted over a period of years making a landscape and garden.  It was, and is, worth it. On top of this, a new client whose love of the garden is a call I will do my best to answer.

garden in August (14)On my deck today, many shades of green. On my mind, an avid gardener with a new house lacking a landscape.

garden in August (9)
Tonight, I have little in the way of obligations. On a Sunday in August, I do my best to enjoy the fruits of all of my work. The deck pots look good to me.

DSC_2410boxes on the north side

DSC_2413bird’s nest ferns

garden in August (15)a  big spike, growing.

DSC_2200the side garden

garden in August (11)hydrangeas coming into bloom

garden in August (16)lantana on standard

garden in August (18)This is the August news from #35.


  1. Jeannine Eitel says

    I am feeling the same way now that it is August. To enjoy the fruits of our labour. It is so beautiful first thing in the morning and as the sun starts to set in the evening. The light on the gardens is beautiful at these times. I very much enjoy reading your wise perspective on things and looking at the pictures of your beautiful gardens and planters. I swoon over your sculptural urns! They are stunning. I always look forward to your posts. Thank you!

  2. I so enjoy your blog! Love your ideas and pictures and I look forward to it each week! Thank you. Your new client is lucky to have you design her new garden! Peace be with you.

  3. Fran Armstrong says

    I love everything I saw in this post. This by far is my very favorite blog I receive. I read it several times over & wish Deborah’s companies were in Denver.

    • Fran, I’m in Denver too! Deborah’s posts fill me with longing for hydrangeas and midwest greenery. I’m attempting to get as close as I can in my Wash Park yard, but at times it feels like an uphill battle.

  4. Hi! Ms. Silver,
    Thank you for sharing your passion and creative gardening. I find your blog inspiring.
    Love it In the dirt

  5. Yvonne King says

    Deborah, I’ve long admired your work. I noticed in these pictures that you have a wooden deck, probably cedar. We also have a free-form deck made of 2″ cedar random width planks. It is now about 25 years old, and we’ve replaced about 1/2 of it because of rotting. How is the best way to maintain it (no power washing)? I like the aged look but dislike having to replace rotten areas (full of holes and chewed areas). It also get very rough to the touch. Any advice?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Yvonne, my deck is very old pressure treated lumber. I was in place when I bought the house over 20 years ago, and is still solid as a rock. You shopuld get a consult from someone near you, who can look at it in person. I do nothing to maintain my deck-except wash it off. best, Deborah

  6. I am reading you from Northern California. There’s very little about your garden I can replicate:). However, your work is so wonderful, I am always trying to learn and take away what I can. This time I am thinking about your patio pots and plantings, and how I can carefully add more to my outdoor living space, without making it feel too civilized or too cluttered. Thank you.

    BTW, August is the exhausted garden time for us. Our plants just wait for rain, as do we.

  7. debra phillips says

    oh how i enjoy the ingenuity and complexity of your containers; their combinations and placements. on your deck is a heather topiary with a small spiky plant underneath. what is that deborah?
    noticed your attention to detail in one of your rectangular container at the base of your stairs, the lone conifer replicates the upright of the staircase while the low (?) creeper does not impede on the stair detail….brilliant! we are fortunate to have you
    thank you for sharing

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Deborah, the myrtle topiary is under planted with a pepperomia called, appropriately, Happy Bean. all the best, Deborah

  8. Jean Guest says

    So exciting to be able to plan a new garden for an enthusiastic gardener. Together you will produce something fantastic I am sure. Keep us posted on progress.

  9. Thanks so much for the reminder to just cool and enjoy!

  10. Absolutely inspiring. Happened upon your blog while searching for information on nicotiana, my favorite plant. So glad I did!!

  11. Deborah, today’s read hit so many different things that also crossed my mind. August…enjoy the fruits of the labor. I am trying to be a gardener…and realize I am not much of a designer.
    My “park” is looking pretty nice to me these days as your garden is looking to you and to us with your beautiful photos you share. Thanks for the Sunday post for August!

  12. You are so inspiring! I love potted lavender with succulents.

  13. Stunning photographs — every single one!
    Your plantings are so artful and charming. They inspire a huge response in me that says — restorative, calm and wanting to replicate that sense of place in my own garden as we move out of the heat into cooler weather in a few months.
    You are so generous to share your ideas.
    Thanks, Deborah.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Terry, the sharing of ideas, the sharing of troubles, the sharing of triumphs-this is what makes a person a person. To be a person is to share. This is my opinion. You have shared what you think about my posts for many years. How I appreciate that. Thank you. all the best to you, Deborah

  14. Dear Deborah,
    I’ve been reading your blog for the past few months and your posts are practical, enlightening, and often philosophical. You are gifted in many ways!! I forwarded your blog to my sister-in-law, an avid gardener in Pittsburgh, and just told my husband if we are in the Detroit area we are going to Branch! Truly, thank you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge….
    Madeline from northwest PA

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Madeline, My posts are all about my daily life as a landscape designer. But they are also about the broader issues facing anyone who gardens. I would share whatever I know works for me. I can only speak for myself. Take from that what you will. thanks, Deborah

  15. I absolutely love to read/brouse your gardens. It’s relaxing to take a spin thru all your creations. I have just started to dabble planting in pots. Question, do you throw out all the plants after the frost or do you try to save them over the winter? I have many pots and it gets expensive to replace each year.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lisa, some things in my pots I save. The spikes, and the topiaries. Other plants cannot be wintered over. Yes, gardening is very expensive. all the best, Deborah

  16. What a great post. Reading from Massachusetts. This is our first year in a new house and we just added a 2nd baby to the family. Getting out into the yard after a crazy work day is what saves my sanity.

  17. Ruth Wolery says

    Thank you for the photos. They are a real pleasure looking at the luscious pots and greens together. I keep telling my friends to go on your e-mails they are gardeners and designers in flower shows and their landscapes.

  18. I came upon your blog while searching for an “estate sized urn. ” After reading just one previous blog post I decided to subscribe. I plan to go back and read more from the archives. I love the style of urn and pedestal with the spiky plant shown in this post. I’m looking for the same or similar urn in black or dark grey.

  19. Wendy Nalezny says

    I am so happy I found your blog. Michigan weather sounds similar to Minnesota’s so a lot of what you say resonates with me. You mentioned that you overwinter spikes. How do you do that? I didn’t know that could be done. Thanks for sharing everything!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Wendy, we have a room at Detroit Garden Works that has a glass roof. Even though we only keep that room about 45 degrees in the winter, that is warm enough for a spike. best, Deborah

  20. I only recently stumbled across your site, and just love it! I wonder if you would share what the spongy looking foundation plant is in the square lead planters? You have a real gift for combining unusual specimens in an artistic way.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Laura, that is a steel pot from Branch. It has a lemon cypress, which is under planted with scotch moss- sagina subulata. best, Deborah

  21. Deborah,
    I love this post and all the lovely pictures of your garden. I even got a little teary, it is so beautiful. Thank you for posting this and reminding me to enjoy my little piece of garden/nature, too.
    With gratitude,

  22. Great selection of pictures as usually;
    I love your selection of terracotta planter and compositions on your deck

  23. I love seeing the evolution of your back garden fountain over the years. Your cherubs are a lovely addition.

  24. Deborah, what are the little spiky plants around the rim of the round pot? In the photo above the comment about “many shades of green”? Your yard looks beautiful.

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