Detroit Garden Works

The opening of the Detroit Garden Works holiday open house weekend was last night; much to my surprise, we were ready around 3pm Thursday.  Help from two landscape crews made a huge difference over the past two weeks.  Many able hands make moving a mountain with a spoon easier-yes.   Rob had spent no small amount of time adjusting and readjusting the lighting.  He lit his birch diorama dramatically; the creeping fig on the wall was cast into so many green/black shadows.  The snowballs and snowflakes looked like they were floating. 

You may wonder how someone who knows the spelling, pronunciation, and culture of ampleopsis brevipedunculata could turn around and be so enamoured of the holidays.  An explanation is to follow.  The creation of a landscape, and the creation of a landscape designed for a holiday moment- not so different in intent.  just execution.   My greenhouse roof permits the sun to shine inside 12 months of the year.  Our one evening event of the year comes as the dark time approaches.  Rob set votive candles on the rafters; the greenhouse sky was twinkling.  He thought to attend to this detail.   This starlight was my favorite part of the opening of our holiday weekend.  

I have always had a big love for the holidays.  The idea of neighborhoods, good friends and family- cozying up and celebrating- appeals to me.  Of course, setting the scene is what I most enjoy, as it is what I am able to contribute.  Buck would despair at the thought of my cooking a holiday dinner-but I can generate a little ambiance, and set a mean table.  How my garden, how my life gets dressed for the holidays and delivers-I am on that.  Buck leaves the atmosphere to me.

The shop is comprised of four distinctly different spaces, and one small interior room.  Each space has its own big idea.  The devil is in the transitions.  I am always looking at how a guest will navigate turning a corner, or moving from one space to another.  I approach this in the shop in exactly the same way as I do designing landscapes, and hope this approach works gracefully.  Every corner-softened, simply stated.  

My guests- many of them come;  they to the last seem to enjoy their experience.  I took these pictures just after the last of my guests left.  As much as I try to photograph everything I mean to write about, I like to put the camera away given the moment- in favor of the experience of an event.  No picture I could take of the opening night of our holiday weekend would accurately capture that.  That moment is about in person. 

Should you run that country that is your garden like I do, you know every plant.  Every thriving colony-every disappointment.  You know the definition of gaposis. You clearly understand what needs attention next season.  You work the dirt room with great passion.  Your gloves are stiff with dirt, your boots need replacing; your tulips were mowed down by the deer.  No matter how dull and splintered your tools, and how poor the delphiums were,  you have hope.  The holidays-so much about hope.

Your company does not see your troubles and shortfalls.  They see your singularity of purpose.  They see your energy, your delight, your effort- the imagination, the drama, the humor. They reward the result of your efforts with their hand placed squarely in the middle of your back.  They encourage me.     

I am so lucky.  I have a lot of hands.  Every shred of angst that chases me- I can say with confidence that I have great people who do much to chase away my late fall blues. As much as I hope and depend that my good clients will dispell my worry, they do better.  They show up and do one better.  They support my shop.  They make it possible for me to keep going, keep growing.  Detroit Garden Works provides community to this designer. Our holiday weekend starts tomorrow- I so hope to see you.       

Late last night, I was happy and satisfied with what I saw.  Let me know what you think.


  1. The evening was magic and your attention to detail was inspiring. It was truly a fairyland from the time you entered the “pedestrian only” gateway, past the candle filled tables and through the double doors to a glowing Detroit Garden Works. It was breathtaking….all surfaces. I can’t thank you, Rob and the rest of the crew enough for a perfect evening. You never cease to amaze. Now I am ready to take on the holidays with energy and enthusiasm and hopefully a little productivity.

  2. Nancy LaMotte says


  3. Lauren Hanson says

    Oh Deborah, the store looks absolutely stunning!! I’ve been anxiously waiting for the holiday pictures to be posted so I could see what magic you have created this year. How I wish I could have joined in at the party this year!!! I’ll be home for Christmas and I can’t wait to see you and see what great things I’ve been missing out on!

  4. That’s inspiring me for a different take on the holidays!
    (I truly love/understand the cobbler’s kid”s confession of garden at home. a case of “I gave at the office)

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