Behind The Scenes

The work involved in transforming Detroit Garden Works for the holidays and winter began last January.  A week long intensive shopping trip was followed up with short side trips and lengthy decision making about what to order-this went on all spring long.  We shop ahead, so we have what we want when the season turns.  Our holiday revolves around a gardening point of view.  Of course we have amaryllis.  New this year are the vases made especially for growing amaryllis, and the glossy chartreuse hat boxes frosted in faux white amaryllis-a beautiful package for that gift of life inside-a single large aromatic bulb, brimming with the promise of holiday flowers.     

No amount of advance planning prepares you for a client that needs a vastly overgown hedge of burning bush removed.  I could not bear to throw all those mature branches away.  Rob set a good many of them in this Belgian oak box, and trimmed the resulting tree for the holidays with ornaments and garland.  This boxed tree occupies what I would guess is 144 square feet-the shop is almost 10,000 square feet. Ten times this space needs attention.   

It takes several days to decorate my small house for the holidays-10,000 square feet needing display is a daunting task.  Some people fuss about holiday decor in early November, but it takes many hands and many weeks behind the scenes to get everything ready.  No matter what I buy for this holidays, I have an idea in mind-that idea asks for some detail.  Display work is much about arranging any given object in such a way that what you loved about it so much to begin with is clearly expressed.  These simple red-beaded wire trees-how airy, festive, and delicate.  Displayed in tandem with a solidly cast and detailed sculpture from Garden Traditions-a good mix. Discovering what works well together is the fun of it.  Unpacking and placing what seems like many thousands of small objects is the work of it.

What possessed me to buy four stained glass windows from a garden antiques dealer?  The leaf shapes, the textured glass, the color-irresistable. I went on to do some considerable conservation on them-these windows are extraordinary, and were worth the expense.  Someone will fall for them.  In the meantime, a curtain of platinum garlands are weighted at their ends with glass icicles, and displayed in front of these windows.  Indoors or out, glass drops, icicles and prisms can endow your winter with a lot of sparkle.  

I have not one problem in the world with faux grass picks, or faux seed and berry stems.  Should you ask, my idea of real is every gardener’s committment to their gardening life.  Any gardener who collects and constructs a winter arrangement from both real and faux materials-that gesture is real.  That creativity is real.  The love of the garden is as real as real gets with me.  I am all about horticulture, science, good gardening practices-and so on.  But I want a winter holiday with a little theatre.  These picks can help out with that.   

I have to admit I value anything which reflects light in the winter season.  Michigan goes grey early, and persists with that grey a long time.  Lighting is a critically important factor in holiday display-as you can count on gloomy skies.  This glittery-I am all for it.  Chocolate and platinum-these two colors are great together.  I could use this garland inside and out-I like that possibility.  Though we have great ornaments for holiday trees, we do try to equally focus on materials that can be used outdoors.    

Howard accompanies me, and stays close wherever I am working in the shop.  He seems to know when I will be in a spot briefly, or for a long time. He is watching my face here-he knows I am trying to organize the opening gestures in this space.  He has a shop dog’s incredible patience for the process.   

My clients respond to any representation of a bird in the shop.  Everyone who gardens respects and delights in the birds. From the geese to the hawks to the hummingbirds, the robins and the gold finches- and on to the cedar waxwings in transit-no small part of my feeling of success with my garden has to do with my bird population.  I firmly intend that my landscape be a haven for any bird passing by.  A glass or wood bird hung in my window reminds me of this. Birds at the holiday-essential.  

Our outdoor display is changing over as well.  Our stick stacks have arrived.  Copper curly willow, yellow twig dogwood, black willow-these vibrantly colored natural stems add much to a winter container.   This fiery red twig dogwood reminds me; to everything, there is a season.


  1. Love seeing your prep for the holiday season! Our family is living in Brazil for three years so we are preparing for our first ‘summer’ Christmas. I love your posts Deborah, they keep me connected to the seasons.

  2. Love the concept of holiday decoration as theatre! As usual, Deborah, your work is visual poetry.

  3. Looks like a busy workshop! I can’t wait to visit the store again in December when I’m in Detroit for the holidays. Pam tells me that there’s still lots of decorating to be done, but it’s amazing already. Beautiful!

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