Monday Opinion: When I’m 64

When I am 64-that would be yesterday.  How is being 64 going so far?  Sunday had to be one of the most beautiful June days in recent memory. 78 degrees, and breezy.  Delightful.  I put my feet up, whenever I could.  No worries-I took the time to enjoy the day.  I have sketchy plans for the work this week-sketchy is good enough.  What was I studying on, having turned 64?   Orange geraniums, and roses.

Many years ago a client in the fashion industry was miffed that I planted orange geraniums in her pots.  She thought they were too pedestrian.  I have been planting container gardens since 1987.  I have seen a lot of plants come and go.  I have passed on a lot of plants that couldn’t stick out a summer season in a container, start to finish.  Ordinary plants are ordinary for very good reasons.  They deliver. The dandelions bloom and prosper, no matter every effort that is made to eradicate them.  Queen Anne’s Lace prospers and blooms in every field, and every crack in the highway.  Pachysandra is a green mulch that covers the ground in almost every condition.  As for orange geraniums, I love their color and robust habit.  They bloom profusely. My client who felt she was getting pedestrian  was mistaken. I appreciate any plant that is willing.  They are a sensational shade of orange.  Orange flowers and ordinary plants did not interest me much, 30 years ago.  What did interest me was too embarassing to to repeat.  I was a young person, endowed with all those ideas that reeked of  babyhood.  As for that planting of orange geraniums for my client- I switched her plants out, and took the orange geraniums home.

I was thinking yesterday  that my fascination for orange geraniums might be a function of my age.  I worry about that. Too much history can smell musty.  I have been at planting containers a very long time. I  like to think that every year my choices get better, my eye gets sharper.  In an orderly scheme of things, my ability to compose gets better at the same rate that my knowledge of horticulture gets better.  But maybe my love of orange geraniums, picotee petunias, yellow variegated foliage and purple sweat shirts may be a sign of my age.  I have a memory of my Mom in her sixties-how old fashioned she was!  It could be I am following in her footsteps. What would a young client think about picotee petunias?  They might be appalled. At 64, I am thinking much about how I can continue to be relevant to my clients.That said, I think it is important at any age to put aside fashion, and think independently.  Plants go in and out of fashion.  Fashion is a concept that applies only given permission. An old windbreaker from the seventies may suit you just fine.  My Chevy suburban with 110,000 miles-I am still quite happy with it.    So even if a love of orange geraniums is a function of my 64th year, I will go ahead and plant them.

As for the roses, on the occasion of my 64th birthday, I have this to say.  I was sure that every one of my 26 roses were dead this spring.  I have not touched them for two months, as I have not had time to touch them. Given my neglect,  25 of my roses have come back strong from the root.  I was not in any way patient about the trouble they suffered from our winter.  I have ignored them, as I had to.  I have been so busy, working.  They had time to do what they would do, without interference from me.  The spring is a very busy time for me.  A late spring is all about work day and night.  I was not expecting them to burst forth and grow from underground.  The day I saw new growth from the bottom shocked me.  I was so sure they were dead.  Not so.  Many of them are going on 5 feet tall now.  Five feet of growth in 6 weeks?  Astonishing.  I have not taken any of the dead climbing rose canes off the wall.  Those dead canes still have dead leaves attached to them.  The few canes that are blooming are surrounded by dead rose leaves from last fall.

I have never seen anything like this, even though I am 64.  I thought about cutting all of the dead canes of the wall, but I decided not to interfere.  This decision was pure instinct.  I will just tie the new canes to the old.  This seems fitting.

I have just about driven Buck crazy, wanting to go see the dead roses every night after work.  He is such a good sport about touring the garden, every day.  But even he has gotten caught up in the rose drama.  The roses are roaring back.  I am thinking I might need to hard prune my shrub roses every 2 or 3 years.  To force basil growth.  Truth be told, my roses were rangy and overgrown. I did not prune them back hard.  Maybe I was too old to be tough on them.   Our past winter was decisive. Nature may have done for my roses what I needed to do, and didn’t.

A the dawn of the age of 64, I am learning so much I never knew about nature, roses, and the color orange.


  1. Happy Birthday Deborah

  2. Silvia and Gerry says

    Dear Deborah,

    Wishing you a belated Happy Birthday and Many Happy (Rosie) Returns of the Day!!
    Orange geraniums – beautiful! Veryhappy to learn the Roses live on!

    Love, Gerry and Silvia

  3. to our beloved container artiste, happy birthday!

  4. Belated birthday wishes Deborah, hope your day was wonderful! Love your posts!!

  5. Happy 64!! I am 2 months behind you..Love your insights on all topics. Here’s to many more…Cheers!!

  6. Linda Hagler says

    So glad you had a wonderful day. Many many more Happy Days!!!

  7. Many Happy Wishes to YOU Deborah! I’m thrilled you share this with all of us on your blog. Have a great ‘B’ day! 🙂

  8. Jennifer says

    I love reading about your garden and shop. Please share a photo of your invigorated roses! I’m sure everyone would enjoy the renewal that this spring has brought to your garden after your harshest of winters! Thanks again for your garden insight.

  9. Julie Kloeckner says

    Happy Birthday ! Twenty years ago I hoped I looked as great as Cher when I reached her age, today I realized I never looked as good as her back then, why would I now.
    Yesterday I hoped I was half as knowledgeable about dirt and plants as you are when I’m sixty four, today Im going to admit its never going to happen. You are an amazing visionary. You have a special gift that you unselfishly share with all of us.

  10. A belated Happy Birthday as well!!
    This conversation (I prefer it to blog) gives me so much inspiration. Thank you!
    Yes, history does get musty…it lies in wait to be retold. reinvented. rediscovered.
    I worked at a wonderful nursery in Provincetown MA in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. We referred to certain plants as grandma plants (our Grandmothers grew them, an example, Daphne ) at the time a tough sell. The owner, of course, knew the value of these plants and always kept them on hand even though they usually required being overwintered Today, the nursery I work at in NJ, can’t keep them in stock…and at a premium price.
    History at work.

  11. happy birthday, deborah!
    wishing you health and happiness.
    thank you for sharing your thoughts–you have taught me so much!

  12. I love the way you write, you bring me to tears, make me laugh, energize my creative approach to gardening and otherwise just bring a smile to me when your blog arrives in my inbox. Thanks for being so genuine, creative and sharing. Happy birthday!

  13. How wonderful to realize that I am not alone in my constantly changing life!! We learn a great deal of patience. We always have our reliable friends, corydalis lutea ,sambor geranium and sweet woodruff….I treasure them always.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Diane, things do change, but I am happy to still have my roses. Looking better than ever-I can hardly believe it. best, Deborah

  14. What a great post! I also worry that my tastes are becoming hopelessly out of style. Recently I bought a floral bedspread that had caught my eye and it was only later I realized it would have been right at home on my grandmother’s bed. Oh well.

    Amazing that your roses have come back thriving. I remember your heartbroken post a few weeks ago where you feared they had all died. I only just turned 43 but could use a rejuvenating hard prune myself. Ha ha.

    Happy birthday Deborah.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Mary, your wit is as sharp as ever! My roses coming back how they have-a brand new experience for a person who has been gardening going on 40 years. I like that. I know that floral bedspread thing all too well! Good to hear from you Deborah

    Sounds like your plants LOVE YOU!They just keep on plugging along no matter what the temps dropped too!

  16. “Will you still need me,(always look forward to your updates) will you still feed me (let her eat cake… Happy Birthday) when I’m sixty-four!!!” I think Ringo was on to something!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Carol, I have been singing that song for a week! Thanks Deborah

    • Recently turned 64!! I loaded Ringo’s song on my phone and played it almost every day for a long time. I even played it at the annual family picnic and the whole extended family started singing and dancing along with the song!! Magical, just like being 64 and reading your blog Deborah!!!

      • Deborah Silver says

        Dear Martha, my 64th was attended by a tune-just like yours. Every age is magical. I have enjoyed them all. Best, Deborah

  17. Hi Deborah,
    Glad to hear your roses weren’t dead after all.
    Like you, I’m probably guilty of under-pruning most years — at least with some of my plants. My ‘dead’ Knock Out roses, Wine & Roses weigela, and Sunburst St. John’s Wort have all roared back to life after my severe pruning on them a few weeks ago. They’re fuller and thicker than ever — albeit behind where they would normally be this time of year!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Alan, I do have one that is dead. But that is nothing to cry over. Good to hear from you, Deborah

  18. Happy Birthday! One of these days I am making the drive to Detroit to visit the Garden Works

  19. My aunt, an artist, was quite adamant that being prone to “pink” was a sure sign of senility, not orange. So may you have many more years before the “pink” sets in!

    I love your blog, even from South Carolina.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, I love pink too. I will be posting on my pots at home pretty soon-I just planted them. Pink and orange! Thanks, Deborah

  20. I can’t imagine your ideas not seeming fresh and exciting to a youngish client. You have such an impressive combination of creativity and knowledge…your work is ageless.

  21. Sally Robertson says

    I LOVE orange geraniums — have planted them for the last several years. (with some Dusty Miller or bacopa for accent and dark blue lobelia.

  22. Happy Birthday Deborah.
    And thank you for the years of inspiration, beautiful photographs, and inspiring prose.

    • Deborah Silver says

      It has been years, hasn’t it. The writing and the pictures are an important part of my life now-never would have thought I would be doing this blog 10 years ago. I do enjoy it. Thanks, Deborah

  23. Christina says

    Belated birthday wishes. What better present than your beloved roses, back with a vengeance! The same scenario here in New Jersey with hydrangeas – as if winter did its own ‘renewal pruning.’ I remember your earlier photographs of your (apparently) dead roses. Please would you post an image of your multi-generational roses one day?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Christina, I will do a post on the roses-soon. Renewal pruning-what a great way to put it. Thanks, Deborah

  24. Happy Birthday Deborah! I love your blog. I’ve been reading it for a couple of years now. You’ve inspired me to start gardening. Thanks for sharing so much of your knowledge!

  25. Found your blog just a few weeks ago and have really been enjoying it. 1950 was a good year. I am just a few months behind you (November). And I also love orange geraniums. But I have to admit curiosity about what interested you 30 years ago. 😀

    • Deborah Silver says

      Kay, believe me, what interested me the most 30 years ago was myself. What a terrible bore I must have been to my Mom then!! Thanks, Deborah

  26. Randi Lynn says

    Very Happy Belated Birthday!!

  27. Susan Hauser says

    Deborah, wishing you the happiest of birthdays, and the best of years so far. What an inspiring post! Cheers.

  28. A young working mom with working husband, who is also mayor of their town…..told me she didn’t like ‘xyz’ plant. I told her it would work for her, thrive, green, lush with zero effort, all year, every decade of her life. Make the need for mulch go to zero, never need irrigation after the 1st year, no matter the weather. She said, “I love it”.

    Fashion? Chanel is derivative yet fresh in the right hands….. Have you seen some of the Annie Leibovitz books? Totally derivative of herself, yawn. Julia Child with a chicken, oven, salt, pepper. You want her cooking it or me?

    Picasso invented collage. Looks easy, yet remains garbage glued to a page if I try my best.

    Your fashion industry client didn’t understand you too are an artist and to be trusted, just as they are. Your pot-eye is so top of any form I put you on pinterest boards for clients.

    Did a garden room last night and named it the ‘pot overdose’, the client owns an antique business and has loads of good pots….

    Happy 64!

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

  29. Happy Birthday Deborah! Sixty-four seems off to a good start! I love your stories. I have red geraniums in pots on my front steps…they are bold and faithful! I think a mix of traditional and new is satisfying. Sorry your client didn’t see it that way. Exciting news about your roses….how wonderful!

  30. Yes, happy birthday. Because of your blog I ripped out the winter kill yews and am redesigning. Thanks for inspiration and instruction.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Suzanne, trust your instincts, and your eye. I would bet you know what needs to be done. Dead yews are dead yews. What happens next is all about you. Your garden is all about you, and not so much about me. If I have any hand in helping you sort out the issues-I like this. But truth be told, I would guess that you have a plan in mind. All the best to you, Deborah

  31. Best Wishes for a marvelous year of doing what works. Pedestrian and common are spectacular in the right hands.

    I looked at a fashionable woman with dainty pink acrylic nails and perfect hairdo on Sunday and hid my grubby paws behind me, hoping my silver bun didn’t fall down before noon. She can’t play the piano and she can’t grow new plants from bits and pieces, I consoled myself.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dean Jean, my silver bun is always falling down. The idea of my bun, and yours, makes me laugh. Everyone has something they do well. Comparing one person to another-why would anyone do his? Every person/gardener has their own signature. It doesn’t take so much to respect every other voice. That girl with the pink nails and the perfect hairdo-she is a person-I would give her the benefit of the doubt. As for the fact that you can play the piano, and grow plants from bits and pieces-bravo! Best, Deborah

  32. Happy Birthday! I was laughing as I was reading this morning only because the pots I have on my porch – big red geraniums and a huge hanging basket of purple petunias. I must be so pedestrian too. 🙂

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Kara, good gardening is one thing. Fashionable gardening is another thing entirely. I like those ordinary plants-they are in the gardening scheme of things for the long haul. Best, Deborah

  33. Heather Burkhardt says

    Happy Birthday. So glad to hear about your roses.

  34. Laura Gardiner says

    Happy Birthday Deborah!
    I am happy to hear that your roses survived. Winter was hard here in S. Ontario on the roses as well. Love reading your posts and seeing your great photos.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your life with us all!


  35. Happy Birthday, Deborah. Glad to hear that your roses are alive after all. Its so hard to be patient (from another Gemini!)

  36. A few yrs ago I was doing several planters for a new client. I got the call a little late in the planting season so choices were becoming limited. Two large urns “had to have Anna Belle hydrangeas”. So I decided to do white, chartreuse and gray. Suggesting white impatiens as one of the fillers, I was given a haughty look and told that they were far too common and unacceptable. I put them in anyway and the whole thing looked fabulous and just got better as the summer progressed. Three cheers for the pedestrian and the common.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear JD, I agree. Under the right circumstances, the most pedestrian can be the most beautiful. Deborah

  37. Love your blog and your work. Have been following you for about 8 months now. You amaze me with what you do with flowers and landscaping. Would you consider doing a post on lights in the garden at night?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sharon, If you type landscape lighting into the blog search line, you may find a post or two that I have already done on landscape lighting. Thanks, Deborah

  38. Hi Deborah, Happy Birthday to you. Be vigilant with the roses to make sure the new growth is coming from above the graft, otherwise, the new flowers may be blooms from the rootstock.

  39. happy, happy birthday, deborah!

    most of the greatest artists, designers, architects, brilliant minds, etc. did not come into their own until their later years. your designs constantly delight, surprise & inspire yet seem attainable. i am always in amazement at how you are able to dream up new and brilliant garden ideas year after year, yet still use/appreciate/reinterprete the good,old work garden work horses.

    you & your mind for design will never go out of style.

  40. Happy Birthday! I hope your year is happy and healthy! I’m so grateful for who you are and what you do.

  41. Mike Haynes says

    Honestly…… Where does the time go Deborah? Reading this most recent post reminded me of something you taught me many Birthdays ago back during those early years, late 80’s or early 90’s. The subject was about plant choices and Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain. You told me it’s better to have a Simple Dandelion growing healthy in the right spot than an Exotic Tropical trying to grow in the wrong one. I know in it’s simplicity it sounds like planting 101, but to a newly budding Gardener, that comment has stuck with me to this day. Thank You! And enjoy your Birthday week!!

  42. Happy Birthday Deborah,

    I find that what one person sees as pedestrian, another considers a classic! I agree, it is all about the how you look at it!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sheila, you have summed the discussion up beautifully-better than I could. Good to hear from you. Thanks, Deborah

  43. Speaking of orange geraniums = orange petunia Good & Plenty!

  44. Deborah, I’m 35, and your gardens take my breath away!

    They are classic in the same way that a REALLY well-chosen little black dress is, and your container plantings are the perfect accessory–and they BOTH make even the most ordinary houses look stunning. 🙂

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