Recent Work

We have but a few fall container projects yet to plant. It takes about 6 weeks to do them all. We have landscape projects that are on going, but planting up containers is a part of our service that we take seriously. The conversation generated with clients over containers is an important one. If I have been involved in providing a garden or landscape project, there is that moment when that project ceases to be mine, and they take ownership. I prepare clients for ownership as best I can. I specify plants that are proper for the conditions in which they are planted. I provide the terrace they requested with the shade of a tree, a pergola, or an umbrella. A discreet spot for the trash cans and bikes will earn a thank you. An irrigation system can make the maintenance of a planting easier. How new plants get watered is a critical requirement for new landscapes, so I spend more than the requisite amount of time to address that. Correcting drainage problems directly influences the longevity of all of the plants-both big and small. We install drainage, and we take great pains to address why it is such an important part of plant health. There are clients for whom I plant large gardens. I know that they know what will be required of them to maintain them. Other clients are relieved when I suggest that a well structured landscape of trees and shrubs will be enough. I do not have enough time left in my life to pass on my knowledge and experience with plants, but I certainly can pass along what I know about the specific plants I have planted.

Inspiring confidence in a client is one way of speaking to ownership. But I am not particularly a fan of pep talks. They are exhausting to give, and can be too much information all at once to absorb. It can be unsatisfying for all parties. Providing for success is a long term effort that goes beyond a design that is good and solid. Clients know the work we have done comes with a responsibility on their part. But there is another step beyond offering the counsel and information they need to nurture a landscape. Beyond ownership is a state of engagement with the natural world.

Very few of my projects do not specify and include containers. I have a reason for that. They are a bridge over which a client and I can meet, and forge a relationship over the beauty of plants. Containers stuffed with robustly flowering summer annuals, tropical plants, green plants of interesting shape and texture or favorite perennials at the front door or on a rear terrace stand out in the landscape. Container plantings are personal, in that they express the taste in color and style of the owner. They make a statement about what constitutes beauty. A beautifully planned and executed container is easy to fall for. A client who is able to be successful growing plants in containers becomes engaged in the process of making something grow.

A discussion of the value of the landscape and garden is, at the end of the day, a discussion. Anyone who comes to take that that value to heart over the process of making something grow in a contained area is more likely to evolve from an interested observer to a committed participant. I have seen this happen over and over again. In the course of planting containers on the roof deck of a local restaurant, I was approached about selecting and planting containers by an owner of a similar business nearby. Though it took some time to persuade them that the investment would be a good one, they took the plunge. Many years later, we are still planting their containers at their business. Their customers are vocal in their interest and appreciation. The care they take with the outside speaks to what one can expect to find on the inside. Later we went on to supply and plant containers at their home for every season.The landscapes in both places have evolved and grown. All of the plantings are beautifully maintained, as they have gone beyond ownership to stewardship. A primarily green landscape in October pictured above just a welcome dose of fall color and cold tolerant seasonal plants. This client called and talked about the beauty of her pots and annual plantings over the summer, and how much pleasure she got from them. They grew prolifically. Her friends and family talked about them all season long. We planted plants we felt would succeed, and provided her the bright color she likes. They were designed and planted specifically for her. Our conversation about summer containers was the prelude to a discussion of planting for fall. This client had a sincere interest in the landscape from the start, but the conversation has changed. The pots and the landscape have value.

This client has one pot on her front porch. It plays an integral part in the appearance of her home from the street. Though the landscape is slowing down and will eventually go dormant, this pot planted for fall and later for winter is an expression of the garden year that will persist. Her interest in the planting of that pot is a symbol of an interest in the greater landscape.

A lush fall planting is a way to celebrate the harvest that comes at the end of the season. It anticipates all of the fall color soon to come from the trees, shrubs and perennials in the ground. Those who design and garden for themselves always seem to have some pots under cultivation. I like the fact that I can look at the container work of others, as I am able to get a glimpse of how they see the natural world. I am embarrassed to say I almost never plant pots for fall. That is 100% due to the fact that my crews rarely have time to plant them for me, given the work on deck to bring the landscape season to a close, and the winter and holiday season just a few weeks away. It is one thing to choose material, and design. It is quite another to make that happen.   To follow are more pictures of our recent work.

Welcome to our fall.








  1. Dianne McKinnon says

    Oh how I miss the fall landscape in MI. Just retired to Florida and trying to learn the new seasons and foliage.

  2. The foliage of the kale is so huge, it is hard to believe! How long will they last in Michigan’ winter?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Judy, I doubt they would survive a Michigan winter, as their roots are above ground. But they will look good very late into the year. best, Deborah


    I swear your kale are on steroids! They are so uniquely sculptural and their colors amazingly gorgeous! Have never seen any like them in New England, perhaps I should grow my own next year. Thank you for your inspirational work always!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Elvera, we are very fortunate to have a contract grower whose ornamental cabbage and kale are astonishingly beautiful. By contract I mean that we order plants from him considerably in advance. The near 3000 plants we ordered from him last June he delivered over the course of 5 weeks in late September and October. His plant material makes whatever I do look good. Great containers look great from the beginning if the plants are robust. Should you decide to grow your own, feed them routinely. best regards, Deborah

  4. Michaele Anderson says

    Your photos always inspire sighs of admiration and appreciation for the high level of artistry you and your staff achieve with all the projects that you share. Frankly, the other thing that photos like today’s drive home is that the Detroit area has many beautiful homes…lots of wonderful variety in the architecture whether the houses give off a new or an old and stately vibe.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michaele, the plantings need to fit the client, first and foremost. And when they go on to compliment the architecture, I sleep easy. all the best, Deborah

  5. Christina Salwitz says

    Gorgeous as usual! We’re just beginning fall planting here and my entire back yard is cabbage/kale storage Mecca right now!
    2 Questions for you:
    1) Of the containers that are fully under cover or partially under, who waters them? I have been offering a watering service to those customers as the systems are required to be off now, so they are willing to pay. But it’s getting to be a bit much unless I pay my assistant or rely on the clients which a gamble at best.
    2) I know in my damp climate the “fragrance” of rotting cabbage/kale, even just the normal lower aging leaves can be overwhelming. Who does the maintenance to keep them all clean until they’re done?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Christina, we soak every planting we do, four or five times. This helps, as our weather is cooling off rapidly. That initial watering will last a week or better. Time enough for a client to get on board. I take great pains to explain that the hose needs to be put to the soil. Watering over the leaves only results in run off. Some clients water their own. For those with auto irrigation watering, I delay the shut down as long as possible.
      I find that the aging of lower leaves is a result of a lack of feed, and not necessarily a normal aging. Cabbage and kale only smell when it is too warm. I suspect that my zone is a good deal colder than yours. We are having daytime temperatures of 60, but the nights are down into the high 30’s and low forties. Ornamental cabbage and kale thrive and perform in chilly weather.

  6. Beautiful as always. What variety is the open purple cabbage?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Greg, It is either Ruby Queen, or Rosebud. Neither of these cabbages head up. The center of a Rosebud cabbage looks just like a rosebud. Ruby Queen has an iridescent turquoise leaf-it is unmistakable. best regards, Deborah

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work. As someone who lives in a modest home and does all her own garden design and implementation, I am encouraged from your work to try to do new things but on a scale that I can manage according to my space and personal strength. My latest change is to move away from clay pots (althought they are beautiful, I’m getting worn out cleaning and putting them away for winter), and now moving to stationary grand containers that don’t have to be moved about -now I can just plant them seasonly and enjoy the beauty. I’m excited for what’s to come.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Pam, good design applies to prjects big and small. And also to quick projects and lengthy ones. I think you will really enjoy having larger containers to plant. all the best, Deborah

  8. Dear Deborah,

    so kale is no longer just forage for Scottish cattle; instead, kale is now part of the secret sauce for your fall containers. Sumptuous understatement indeed.

    And yes I have learned from your blog again. I used birch branches from my backyard, two varieties of green kale, and I kept the grey licorice plants from the summer. In fact, your lava stone troughs look as good as I can make them. And I have you and your shop to thank for that.

    Even the cedar chips have replaced the plastic packing pebbles as drainage material. For years I chased around broken pebbles. Every time I changed the soil in my collection of containers, the wind always managed to breeze up at exactly at the moment an errant pebble decided to make a run for it.

    And I absolutely agree that container gardening can be a bridge to becoming a more intuitive gardener on a larger scale. To me, it is like learning to sail in a dinghy; the lessons are all there and the mistakes are much less expensive.

    I wanted to come see your collection of boutique pumpkins this year but time did not allow. Still, I was at the Sawyer Garden Center over the weekend and people were swarming to make fall vignettes and I had to chuckle that the only choice in pumpkins was “reg – u – lar.”

    I should have said look up “Dirt Simple,” Deborah Silver’s Gardening Blog. It is as if you had a friend in the gardening business and she is sharing her trade secrets and how she solves the problem in very elegant fashion.

    It isn’t dirt simple, but you knew that already!


    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mark, you are something else. You said it all, better than I did. thanks for this letter, best, Deborah

  9. Frieda Hickman says

    How about writing a book with your experience and knowledge on landscapes and containers with what it takes to take care of them etc. like you do in this blog. I would buy one and I understand that the upkeep would be somewhat different due to weather, zones etc. Your work is beautiful.

  10. Mary K Miles says

    AWESOME! Every photo, every planter!

  11. Heather Blackmore says

    I’m always challenged by smaller containers. How do you determine exactly how much to add to a container?

  12. Jennifer Taylor says

    Absolutely stunning work, in every way. So fun to see. Thank you again for sharing Deborah! Happy Fall!

  13. Sigh! Your containers leave me feeling so inadequate when I look at my own. Each of your containers is a work of art! Thank you for sharing your process. I’m already thinking about my winter containers and remembered you used floral foam sheets of some sort. Is this something you sell or can you advise where to obtain it? Thanks so much! –Margaret

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Margaret, I have had the opportunity to do a lot of containers. So my work has evolved. Yours will too. We do sell the foam sheets. Call the shop for further information: 248 335 8089. Or email all the best, Deborah

Leave a Comment