Garden Designer’s Roundtable: Take The Tour

This is my first time posting as a member of the Garden Designer’s Roundtable.  Every month, a group of landscape and garden designers from all over the US and Britain post on a single, mutually agreed upon topic.  This month-a discussion of our own personal gardens.  I live in an urban neighborhood first established in the 1920’s.  My 1930 house is a curious amalgamation of both Arts and Crafts, and Mediterranean style architecture.   

There are 8 steps up from the street to the front door.  Every change in elevation in the front is marked by yew or boxwood hedges.  I like evergreens in the landscape, but I am especially fond of them in my own garden.  My landscape was designed to give me what I want most when I come home from work.  A little peace, a big dose of quiet, and not so much work.  After designing and planting all day, I want to come home and enjoy being outdoors with Buck and the corgis. 

I will confess that I have a weakness for containers-I do have quite a few.  Watering and deadheading my pots is a pleasure I look forward to at the end of the day.  The groundcover underneath these containers-herniaria.  Getting a lawn mower to this upper level would be a nuisance.  The yew topiaries have survived their third winter in these big concrete pots.  These containers look fine even in the winter-a season my zone is noted for.  Empty pots in the winter have such a forlorn look.

On either side of the house, on the house side of the tallest yew hedge, are blocks of limelight hydrangeas.  They start blooming in late July, and entertain my gardening eye until late in the fall.  As long as they get a spring pruning and some regular water, they deliver a lot more than they demand.

Inside the gate, my south side garden.  There is a place for Buck and I to sit, and grass for the corgis.  Sinking the lawn panel 8 inches, and retaining the original grade with steel provides a little visual interest to a landscape that is very plain.  The boxwood and arborvitae provide a sense of privacy and enclosure.  This space is neat and organized-unlike my desk and work life.

annual container planting

I plant this giant concrete square for the summer.  A very large pot in a small space not only organizes the space, it enables me to have a version of a garden that I am able to look after.  I want to come home to something that looks good to me, and takes just a bit of care. 

In June there are a few roses on the south side.  Carefree Beauty, Sally Holmes, and Earthsong are all strong performing low maintenance roses.  On the wall, the dwarf climber Jeannie LeJoie, and the large flowered climber Eden.  For a few weeks there is enough glory to satisfy me.  There is some Boltonia, hardy hibiscus, and white Japanese anemone for later season color.  I planted some asparagus between the roses.  This year I did not pick any.  The roses are getting large, and starting to crowd them out.

At the bottom of the rose garden steps is a fountain garden.  The pool is 26 feet long, and 9 feet wide.  The sound from the jets is lovely.  I can hear it from the deck where we have dinner outside, and all of the rooms on the back of the house.  Princeton Gold maples, yews and pachysandra are planted on the perimeter.  Around the pool-herniaria. 

annual gardens

It is 5 steps down from the fountain garden to the driveway.  My car is usually parked here.  I like driving up to the pots, and the color from the narrow strips of annuals.  The butterburrs on the left are difficult to keep under control, but I have help from a local nursery that comes for them, and pots them up for sale.  Sometimes I buy them back, if I have a good spot for them in a client’s yard.

I will be planting my pots the first week of June or so, after I have the planting for clients a little further along.  The bottleneck in the drive makes that drivecourt a little more private, and a little more inviting.

container gardening

I do have lots of pots on the deck, all of them terra cotta.  I think they look great with my house. I spend at least an hour out here every night, puttering, while Buck cooks. 

The room where I write is just inside the open door pictured above.  We have that door open all summer long.  The corgis like going in and out.  They are happy outdoors if I am inside writing-as long as that door is open.  One nice feature of city living-we never have mosquitos until after dark.   

On the north side, I have a little garden of sorts.  A few dogwoods, rhododendron and azaleas are original to the landscape.  Last year I tore out an overgrown block of ornamental grass, and planted a small perennial garden.  A much smaller version of what I had when I was in my 30’s.  It is a little wild, and not so neatly kept.  I like this change of pace from the rest of the landscape.  My garden gives me a lot of pleasure and privacy.  It has a quiet atmosphere-perfect for me.  The rest of my family likes it too.

Interested in the home gardens of the other members of the Garden Designer’s Roundtable?  Check them all out!

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA


  1. Margaret says

    Every little thing – beautiful.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Margaret, the best part about owning a piece of property that is small is the ability to think about and attend to the little things. Deborah

  2. kristina says

    your personal landscape design is beautiful – I love the layers and textures, along with your plan for all spaces. I know you don’t want to come home and be a slave to your gardens, and you have accomplished a perfect balance of detail, beauty, interest, and lushness!!! So wish you were employed in Cleveland or I lived within your ‘reach’ – I would love your ‘eye’ for creativity in my own yard! In the meantime, I spend too much time looking at and reading your blog – it’s addictive – not that I can copy it, but I love looking at the beautiful things you and Rob create.

  3. Exquisite! Thank you for sharing your photos and for walking us through your garden. Just looking at the pictures makes me feel calmer. It is serene, lush, and restrained (the latter being the downfall of many gardeners :o) Simply gorgeous!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mary, thanks for your letter. It has taken a lot of years, but it is a retreat. There are always things that don’t do well, or don’t look good, but that’s ok with me. Rob says perfect applies to moments and diamonds only-I think he is right! Deborah

  4. A wonderful collection of gardens! I always enjoy your posts including your own gardens and have looked at so many that I believe I recognized a photo of your hydrangea allee from a Things That Inspire post today. I have a couple questions about the steel edging in your south side garden if you do not mind. Did your husband fabricate the edging or is it readily available? Also, is that coreten steel? As always thank you very much for your entertaining and informative posts!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sim, he did fabricate the edging. It is 10 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick. He welds rings on the backside, so steel rebar can be pounded down to secure the edging. It is not corten steel-just cold rolled steel. The hydrangea allee on Things That Inspire today is from my garden! Thanks, Deborah

  5. Beautiful in its simplicity and very elegant (NOT plain). Your sense of scale and proportion is exquisite. LOVE!
    A wonderful introduction to the GDRT – welcome!

  6. Welcome to the Roundtable, Deborah! And what a stunning first post. Your garden is an elegant and understated delight – and most importantly looks thoroughly welcoming. Dinner on the patio with the sound of water jets in the background sounds heavenly to me. Thank you for sharing.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, thanks for writing. I would welcome you any time! I have the feeling that my home garden, which is not a show garden, would be just fine with you. That means a lot. Deborah

  7. What a lovely treat to visit your beautiful garden. So different (read: GREEN) from ours out here in California, and one that I could spend a lifetime in! Your home is equally stunning. Welcome to the Roundtable – we’re so glad to have you here with us!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Rebecca, thanks for your welcome-I really like our group. Lots to learn and absorb. So lively! Deborah

  8. Pure, simple-but-not-on-second-glance, opulent gorgeousness. Love it. And I especially love the asparagus with the roses.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Andrew, Roses and asparagus have always seemed to me to be meant for each other. Just my take on what constitutes romance. Thanks for your letter, Deborah

  9. Absolutely LOVED all that until the annuals at the end. But hey we are all different. And as for all the formal, renaissancy stuff RESPECT!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Robert, we are all different-thank heavens! I might be going very pastel and mostly green with my annual flowers this year. I like how I can have have big changes in a small space with those flowers. As for “formal and renaissancy”-sounds good to me. Thanks for taking the time to write, best, Deborah

  10. Deborah, I just love your garden home! It is everything I would want in a garden. I am a huge fan and when I win the lotto, you will be the first person I would love to collaborate with, if you would have me…Luigie

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Luigie, if you are passionate about the garden, I would have you-lotto or not. Deborah

  11. Even though you and I have a similar passion for containers, I love how wildly different our tastes are in our own personal landscapes. There are SO many days when I long for your lovely formal style in my casual NW mini-back yard. I love your lush green!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Christina, don’t think for a minute that I don’t have times when I long for that loose and insouciant look. I just would not be able to keep it up. If it wasn’t kept up, I would come home and fret! Deborah

  12. What a beautiful, clean-lined, inviting garden for relaxation you’ve created, Deborah. It has a European elegance. And I enjoyed hearing about the design decisions you made to decrease the workload of the garden and expend it where it matters most, on containers and the like. Welcome to the Roundtable!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Pam, my favorite thing in a landscape is how it changes given the weather and the light. And I like a landscape that is tended to. What I liked so much about every Roundtable essay is that you could see in the garden what the designer felt and intended. Deborah

  13. Lovely to see you with the roundtable group!

  14. Barbara Olsen says

    What a beautiful garden. Thankyou for sharing. With so many beautiful photos I felt I was almost there.

  15. I am really enjoying your blog! Love the images from your own garden. Fun to analyze each part. My husband and are also Midwest gardeners, we live in Chagrin Falls, Ohio area, 25 miles southeast of Cleveland.

    I like to post photos of our garden on my little blog during the growing months, about to do a post on what the garden looks like this morning. Hope to get to your shop one day, maybe combine it with a trip to Ann Arbor.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Cindy, it would be great to meet you. Be sure to let me know when you are coming. Thanks, Deborah

  16. Tim Martin says

    Just exquisite! I have always been impressed with the photos of your work, and your own garden is no different. It’s clear that you have great skill at interpreting the needs of the homeowner (even when that person is yourself). How nice that you’ve been able to recognize your own need for peace and quiet (and simple), and have been able to create a garden that meets those needs so beautifully. It is refreshing that each area of your garden is explained in the context of how you use the space and what it does for you emotionally.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Tim, every garden needs a voice-that one person who can drive the bus. My garden is by me and for me and mine. (I so treasure Buck for his unequivocal vote for me for president our home garden!) What I do for clients is to sit behind them, and advise. My best advice-figure out what you want from your garden, and aim, concentrate, and focus your efforts in that direction. Recognizing your own needs is not always so simple-this takes patience and self confidence. Thanks so much for your very thoughtful letter, Deborah

  17. Maybe first step or face of steps could be in darker tone colour to your roof colour, as grounding and connection. Love how you have a sense of santcuary at rear, especialy secret scpaces and raises spaces to use out of sight almost to each other, yet inviting you to come and see me, so to speak. Is the waterpond in sight from deck?

  18. erin bailey says

    Bravo! Formal and well-tended but never uptight– thanks for the free education I get from your posts.

  19. Leslie R. says

    Stunning home nestled into most lovely setting. Blooms set off like jewels amidst dominant greenery. Just beautiful. What a retreat to come home to each day.

  20. Sheetal Nayak says

    Hello Deborah, This is one of most beautiful yards I have ever seen. I have one question for you : What happens to the annuals ? Do you plant them every year ? The plants look so healthy. How were you able to grow them so fast in such a short season in the midwest ?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sheetal, I replant the annuals every year. This way the garden can have a different look, year to year. I use great soil, I buy healthy plants, and I feed them. The summer season in the mid west is the same length as all of the other seasons-3 months, give or take. How I enjoy those months! Thanks, Deborah

      • Sheetal Nayak says

        Hello Deborah : thanks for the reply. I accidentally landed on your blog and my question was not knowing that you are an expert in all things nature and gardening. Now that I am on your blog for the last hour or so, you have a fan for life. I am so impressed, I will definitely do a few of your container designs this year. Thanks so much for the detailed posts.

        • Deborah Silver says

          The first of April, it will be 4 years I have posted on my experiences in the garden. I try to post on topics that are timely-this means that in April I will start to discuss my ideas for containers for this year. Many thanks for reading!

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