Opening Day

detroit Garden WorksIt was the middle of January that we began repairing and repainting Detroit Garden Works. It was a long process which got finished just two weeks ago. The building dates back to 1940, so with age comes some maintenance. We had issues with the roof, and some deteriorated sections of our concrete block wall that needed repair. We repainted the entire shop, one room at a time. This meant that every room had to be cleared, the loose paint scraped, and the new paint applied-all by hand. The walls are now a warm white, and the trim is a pale blue gray that reminds me of galvanized metal. This day, Owen and LaBelle were rehanging the strings of lights attached to the steel beam that holds the glass roof aloft in our greenhouse. Those pale gray roof rafters look so good against the sky.

February 28, 2016 045Many weeks later, the room is filled with racks full of Danish designed terra cotta pots manufactured in Italy that Rob ordered last fall. Buck’s group from Branch came to reinforce a pair of large vintage wood shelving units that Rob bought in Atlanta, so they could handle the weight of over 500 of these great looking pots. Once the pots were in place, Owen and LaBelle hung a collection of Plant Belles topiary forms from the roof rafters. We began repopulating the shop for spring.

ready for spring (17)Looking through these vintage wirework cloches, you can see that our greenhouse space is filling up. The empty tables will see service in just a few weeks. The weekend of March 20th is our annual hellebore festival. This greenhouse will be filled will hellebores, topiaries, and other spring plants in just a few weeks. What any gardener wants to see the most as winter comes to a close is plants, and lots of them. We agree.

opening day (7)We potted up lots of heirloom daffodils this past fall. Detroit Garden Works will be celebrating their 20th year in business the end of March. We have the idea that this space will be beautiful, filled with daffodils blooming for our 20th. We just brought all of the pots and baskets out of our unheated garage for a warm up to 50 degrees.

opening day (11)Our 20th year in business is a big occasion for all of us. First and foremost it speaks to Rob’s collections that have kept every shop season for 20 years fresh and captivating. His talent and passion for the garden is truly extraordinary. Every object that has a home in our 10,000 square feet of space, both on the ground, in the air, and on the walls was an ornament or tool for the garden chosen by him.

opening day (10)The shop has an incredible collection of ornament for the garden. Pots we have. Antique, vintage, modern, contemporary-the range is wide. Rob favors the handmade, the unusual, and most of all, beautiful pots.  Homes for plants as in baskets, urns, vases and buckets – made of terra cotta, galvanized metal, wood, stone – even paper. What we have available is much wider in range and depth than this list.

opening day (8)Our tool room features an extensive collection of handmade Dutch tools.  They are beautifully made, and sharp as blazes.  Rob’s choice of handmade corn brooms and whisks with cherry wood handles are handsome indeed.

opening day (9)Sunne and I displayed a lot of our new Dutch hand tools in glass cubes. Why so?  These tools are very sharp. They will make quick work of any small digging project. We thought to make the view of every tool easy. The glass will inspire caution to anyone who wants to pick one up and look it over.

opening day (17)This past fall, Detroit Garden Works had a group of Italian made washable paper bags in stock. I thought to load up the bags with daffodils and miniature bulbs. The zip lock bags made a perfect liner for the paper jardinieres. Though it was convenient that the bulbs did not need any water over the course of the winter, I was worried that plastic would keep the soil too wet. Not so. The roots look healthy, and I see no signs of rot.

opening day (6)Once they had been moved into greenhouse, we cut down the top of the plastic so it was no longer visible. It only took 2 days exposure to natural light for the leaves to green up.

opening day (19)The room with the painted floor is just about ready for company. The most dramatic feature of the space is how Rob did the lighting.  He took every light down, and redid them in such a way that features that floor, the collection of Italian terracotta that just arrived, and of course the galvanized buckets and baskets that are his idea of a gardening staple.

opening day (4)The Italian pots are all simple in shape, and have no decoration but for a rolled rim at the top. They would look as beautiful in contemporary gardens as they would in traditional ones. I have so many requests from readers far away to post pictures of the inside of the shop, so what is to follow should give you a good idea of the big picture.

opening day (2)the daisy lawn room

opening day (5)from back to front

opening day (3)in the window

opening day (1)vintage steel desk and wall hung cubby

opening day (18)looking towards the front door

opening day (16)from south to north

opening day (15)Belgian bowl pots

opening day (12) pair of fire escape wall wall mounted plant stands

opening day (13)This was always our darkest space. The new paint, and the white French glazed terracotta has made the room so much more inviting.  Inviting-that’s what we want to be, this opening day.



  1. michaele anderson says

    Thoroughly delightful…all the little touches tickle my senses. I tend to be a meanderer whether it’s touring a garden or visiting a shop such as yours. Your set up is very conducive to enjoying the experience.

  2. Looks Fantastic! What a gorgeous shop! Please, can we open up a branch near me called Providence Garden Works?!?!?! Love your blog and your work! I must come visit!.
    Are you available for speaking engagements? Thank you and Happy Spring!!!

  3. Joyce B in Atlanta says

    Wish I could be there! Great displays and lighting. Love the paper bags – one of my favorite vessels for growing things like Rosemary, which needs little water here. I buy bird seed in 50lb. bags that are a plasticized paper (look just like woven paper). They do well for several seasons in a relatively protected spot. Good luck on opening day! In your area of the world, I’m sure people are chomping at the bit to see some greenery and something blooming. Looks like you’ll have plenty!!

  4. Oh be still my heart. Your clean neat space is outrageous! Best of luck with your opening. Are those the type of Italian terracotta pots that can be left outdoors during winter say in zone 6?

  5. Love the behind the scenes look at your shop! Thanks for letting us in on the inner workings!

  6. Jennifer says

    I relished every minute of the tour inside your shop! Thank you for this post & sharing it on a windy, rainy New England day….thinking Spring

  7. Dear Deborah,

    Thank you to you and Rob and all your workers who created this gardeners’ wonderland. With winter juxtaposing itself out the windows; it is a reminder we need that spring will indeed arrive.


  8. Jody McGowan says

    Lovely and definitely welcoming. You, Rob and your talented team deserve a round of applause! It is fantastic to see a shop with so many unique treasures. A lot of hard work went on behind the scenes to make the space beautiful and functional. Hope to see you in the shop soon!

  9. Jean Guest says

    Your ‘flawn’ (flowered lawn) brings this space alive. Your shop looks inviting as always – even without all the wonderful plants and blooms that will soon fill the shelves.

  10. OMG, Deborah – you are going to be investigated by the FCC – this is Gardener Porn…
    These photos are SO appealing, the store looks SO amazing – I would cross the country to visit your shop, and I consider myself so fortunate to have you right here in my own backyard. And the blog is a treasure…

  11. debra phillips says

    congratulations on your 20th season, for assembling a stellar team, with talent and inspiration galore
    cheers to all of you!

  12. This looks wonderful. I guess I have to make another road trip and see for myself.

  13. Beautiful shop! Wish I could be there for opening day!

  14. Julia Hofley says

    A beautiful transformation into spring season! Chockfull of new goodies from here and there~ Cannot wait for Helleborus Festivalis…one of the BEST events of the season and one not to miss!

  15. S.c. Bouchard says

    Love the new display! Everything is so well placed. Lots of beautiful products artistically placed. The field of daisies is beyond words. Thank you for being so generous with the time you take to share photos, ideas and techniques. You are a true inspiration. Looking forward to visiting the shop again and know I will be awed once again.


  16. Looks beautiful, as always

  17. Whoa!! All I can say is – FABULOUS!!

    I hope to get in to see your museum quality tools and great-looking washable (really???) paper bags, along with everything else, tomorrow or Friday. Overwhelming and so much beauty!
    Happy spring to all at DGW.

  18. Cathy Peterson says

    The shop looks great. . . wish I lived closer! I have a question about the hand shovels. The one on the left has a notch in it. . .what is that for?

  19. Your shop looks amazing! I would like one of this , and yes, that, and, oh my, this also, until my van groans under the weight of such garden delights. Thank you for the tour. I so wish I lived closer! By the way, I ordered my subscription of Garden Design via a link in a recent post. It arrived a few days ago and did not disappoint….absolutely beautiful. Thanks for the heads up. I hope you enjoy your best year of business yet.

  20. I concur with Laura. Please consider an East Coast Garden Works!!
    Either Providence as she suggested, or Boston. : ) : ) : )

  21. Absolutely gorgeous presentation! Particularly like the ‘flawn’ (flowered lawn painting) on the floor!

  22. Ahhhhh! Deborah, thank you for the care you took to put those of us far away “in the picture.”

  23. Deborah,
    Your ability to interpret and convey what you see and feel is superb! Your observational skills add so much to your writing. You should be a novelist! (Botanical whodunits, perhaps?)
    Of course you know that containers are where my real passion lies, so I look forward to your spring- and summer-container blog posts.
    I, too, just received my first issue of Garden Design. The photography is amazing, and the handwritten welcome card from Dayna was classy and appreciated!

  24. Oh Deborah! So much eye candy for us to drool over. You and Rob are wonderful designers, and work so well together. I would love to be there on opening day, but this post will stay with me all spring! I love the bags of Daffs! So creative. Thanks for this special peek into your life of getting ready for your company’s 20th year. Incredible. Maybe I need a road trip!

  25. The shop looks amazing!!! Can’t wait to go shopping. Love the new floor

  26. Thanks for your thoughtfulness in letting those of us far away see this year’s evolution of the shop. I adore the new floor, even more delightful than the previous one, and appreciate being able to see all the tools, pots, and other lovely garden accoutrements in place in the shop.
    Have a wonderful opening to this year’s season.

  27. Deborah, your shop is just magical! If you get a minute, will you share with us the names of the heirloom daffodils that you potted up?

  28. I’m dying to know what your customers think of your new floor!

Leave a Comment