Packing It All In

 My shop is stuffed to the rafters with all manner of ornament that I hope will enchant some gardener, given that they have already enchanted me. This seems to be working-we are busy.  Packed into this picture, a vintage handmade Italian pot, a French oval wine cask, and a mossed golden retriever.  Not that I would put these three even remotely near one another in a garden. I try to appeal to gardeners of all kinds.  No two gardeners look at anything the same; this is part of what interests me about gardening so much.  I try to represent lots of points of view. The plants-they apply equally to everyone.  

The ornament aside, the shop has some very new additions.  The glass roof room has become a temporary home for those plants that have no defense against weather turning for the worse-like these giant leaved farfugium.  Given that the overnight temperature tonight is forecast at 34 degrees, I cannot think of a better time to discuss the proper planting out of tender, marginal, or tropical plants.  “A primer on proper timing for planting out” could be the title of a discussion that could just as easily be described as “How to know when you are suffering from early planting derangement anxiety, and possible treatments”.  Should you think a lecture is looming, you are right.       

I am interested in each and every plant that it my good fortune to meet.  Cold tolerance has nothing to do with my interest.  Bring on the streptocarpus, the great looking pepperomias, the lotuses, the bananas, the Australian tree ferns, the Solenia begonias and the coleus standards.  But discretion is the better part of valor where bringing on is concerned.  

Michigan is famous for its late frosts; any Michigan gardener can recall snow on Mother’s Day-not to mention Memorial Day. Our balmy spring dating back to late March has the power to make all of us act stupid now.  Not that we needed any encouragement; I am so ready-aren’t you?  I have cleaned too early, smashed emerging shoots, disturbed what was not really awake, been so far ahead I was actually behind-I am a person who is eminently capable of bad moves, who happens to have a passion for gardening. 

I bought flats of short dahlias a few days ago-I could not resist. No doubt they are 3 weeks from a safe planting date.  So I have them stashed in a warm place. They are a new hybrid with better rebloom. Who could resist their cheer?  My longing to plant them out-roll your eyes, as you should.  From May 5 to May 15, I use the no word more often than any other time of the year.   

All of those plants that need weather protection clog my shop right now.  No matter how excited I am to get them integrated into the garden, nature rules the day. People walk through the front door of the shop in shorts and flip flops all the time when it is but 37 degrees. Fine for those people; they have legs to get them someplace warm.  The plants-they depnd on you.   The plants depend on your accurate timing and placement.  Should you think that the weather applies only to your neighbors, or some other community, or not to you at all-be prepared to be disappointed.  

My friends in the garden center industry can document sales of vegetable plants-twice a season.  What they sell too early, they sell again.  Though I am not shy with the no word, I am an advisor, not a parent. Should you need to have a spring garden, engineer one.  Plenty of plants tolerate mid April to late May conditions. Spring flowering bulbs-make friends.  You gain nothing from a too early planting-you may in fact be set back in such a way that ends up discouraging you.  I am very committed to every person who walks through my door being encouraged to try, grow-and be successful.    

Cold sensitive plants are all about soil temperature, not air temperature.  Should the dirt be freezing to your fingers, back off.  Ignore the air temperature; it takes time to warm the soil. At what date is the soil temperature 50 degrees-much later than you think.  Ignore the daytime temps-watch the nights.  Below 50 degrees-stressful to annuals and tropicals. My belief-any cold sensitive plant planted into too cold soil too early, languishes, and never really recovers. Annual plants planted too early burn out early.  Wait a May week in spite of your readiness to leap out of the box; reap your gardening pleasure way long into the fall.  Patience early will reward you in the stretch.      

The sun in the the glass roof room late this afternoon-beautiful. Indoors, there was no hint of the high winds, and the cold.  Just the rays.  I do not plant my pots until the second week of June every year.  The two weeks I wait makes me months ahead. My advice-wait until the rays warm your soil.  Wait for the rays.


  1. I think you have one of the best jobs there is. Places like these make me happy.
    I’ve done a few posts on garden shops that I like, and if yours was closer, I would surely have included yours. I love your shop.
    Love the green covered wall with the rusty gate leaning up against it.
    And I really enjoy shops that have just a few of each kind. I don’t care for the feeling of mass produced.

  2. Diana Noone says

    Deborah, what is the name of the plant in the second image? (the leaf looks like a giant violet…) Thanks!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Diana, it is a Farfugium-a not so hardy relative of ligularia (I may be making this part up-but Farfugium it is) My most favorite is farfugium cristata-beautiful. Deborah

  3. Maria DeNardo says

    Here I am in NY and it has been beautiful………….so naturally I planted container plants for a number of clients in time for Mother’s Day. Tonight we are expecting temps in the mid to high 30’s I am not happy, do you suppose I should go wrap them in blankets. Signed Anxious……

    • Deborah Silver says

      Maria, If you are planting flowers that have been recently hardened off at the greenhouse, you’re fine-as in petunias, million bells, alyssum, salvia and so forth. Impatiens, begonias, New Guineas, coleus, heliotrope, angelonia, lantana-they will not like the mid 30’s. I hope your plantings do ok. Deborah

  4. Good advice on waiting… I will TRY to follow it… though I am sorely tempted. I stuck my thermometer in the ground yesterday and it read 60 degrees! Already! I know we could still get frost, but with the soil that warm I’ll probably start planting up in sheltered areas near the house.

  5. May I ask…what is the plant in the third picture from top in the lower right hand corner with cream colored spike like things emerging? Also, the name of the plant in the 8th picture, again in the lower right corner, the one with the delicate green little leaves? So pretty.

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