Cruise Day

I was ready for cruise company by 8 am yesterday. My table centerpiece, a nod to my orange and carmine summer. I thought my red onions, cherries, and orange dahlias from the Pontiac farmer’s market looked plenty sassy.
22I never really worried about the weather; gardening people usually like weather. And I plain have faith that when I need to be in the garden, I will be able to.  But this morning promised perfect weather, and delivered partly sunny; the 74 degrees in the afternoon-perfect for touring. 

32All day long there was a steady stream of keenly interested and thoughtful people.  I so enjoyed being there, hearing what people had to say about my place, and the other 7 gardens on tour.  So many questions; what plant is this?  How do you do this? What is your idea here?  It is such a good way to figure out if your design ideas are being translated into the garden you intend.  Listen to what people say; are you being clear?

44I heard not one cross or disparaging word.  All I heard was energetic appreciation-for the gardens and the people behind those gardens.

53My neighbors, Fred and Jean, brought their Oscar and Beckett for the day they spent as docents; they were right at home.  My corgis would have been low little and long wrecks over all the people; I left them at the store.

64The overcast day made all my color look  intense and rich-just as I intended.  I like this color so much I am already fretting over what I will do next year. 

72Adding people to the garden is always the best part. People we had-over 300.  This hefty increase over last year was unexpected-and so welcome.  We had a party going on.

82Landscape clients, customers of the store, new people, old friends-a great mix made the reception afterwards so much fun.  So much talk about gardens-I could not have had a better time.

92Gardening is bloody blasted hard and frustrating work, but this tour made it all seem so worth it.  My favorite comment came from a woman whom I did not know.  “You don’t use unusual or rare plants particularly-its how you use them, the numbers you use, and the shapes you make that is so interesting”-this was music to my ears. 

101A close second, this woman here from Cleveland for the tour.  She was determined she was taking a variegated Moses in the Cradle she saw in my yard home with her.  “Will you please get me one of those plants before you have a cocktail?”-too funny.  We got her the plant.

111Diana and I both dearly love the Baumgartners.  They have sold their house and garden, and are moving out east to be near their kids. We will so miss them.  I was so glad they put their garden on tour; I have worked for them for almost 25 years. From the looks of this picture,, they enjoyed it every bit as much as I did. 

Rob’s gin and vodka tonics were as big a hit this year as last. He was not the least bit perturbed that we ran out of everything-invoices, change, napkins, glasses, food and wine.  This was just what we hoped for.




From all of us, to all of you who supported the Greening of Detroit Garden Cruise, many, many thanks.  And best regards to you, Michael Willoughby, for giving to me a perfect moment.

An Embarrassment of Riches


I spent the morning cruising all my gardens that are slated for the garden cruise this coming Sunday, to benefit the Greening of Detroit. As I have posted before, the noted architect Michael Willoughby somehow managed to get my attention about supporting the Greening; so I am now on board, and working hard to raise some money from them.  Detroit needs this group more than ever now.  Asking good clients to put their gardens on tour I could do.  But today could best be described as an embarrassment of riches-for me.  Every garden is beautiful, and so lovingly tended.  My clients are genuinely excited to have gardener/visitors. I am having the above pictured exuberant Susie to dinner this Friday night; she wants to be in her garden all day to talk to guests, but she insisted she needed to see my garden.  So fine-lets have dinner.   We have a relationship that is a good and valuable one to me.  Her place is immaculate.  Every pot is representing; its obvious she takes great care of them.  The windows will be washed everywhere tomorrow.  She has gone the distance and then some, as I asked her to. I saw this everywhere on her property today. She called the DNR to clean up the algae in the giant  pond that borders her property;  ” my garden is on tour, and I want this pond presentable for company-when do you think you might come before July 19?”  I am so lucky to have her as a client.


I have posted again and again about the importance of caring for a landscape.  But every garden I visited today was about the reality of that committment.  What needed trimming got trimmed.  What needed weeding got weeded. What was a big deal to get done, got done. Of course there is a chorus of voices about those things that are behind this year.  None of us will have Limelight hydrangeas in bloom-they are two weeks behind at least.  Everyone’s roses are completely out of bloom, and the roses are struggling with black spot, and every other ill those queens of the garden contract. My matched pots are mismatched.  Damn.  Every single gardener on this tour is agonizing over what is not just right. I could not thank them all enough for the effort they have put to this event.   The good part?  Every single true gardener who attends this tour will know in a heartbeat the extent of the effort that has been put to making each and every garden engaging, thought provoking, visually striking-all in all, just plain good.   


One of my oldest clients whom I love dearly has sold their house; they are moving near their adult children, as they are in their eighties.  Ed and Mary both told me today there garden has never been as beautiful as it is right now; the three of us cried buckets.   No one I have ever known my entire career could make begonias grow more beautifully than Ed. This is the last of their stewardship-don’t miss it.  Their garden has gorgeous and beautiful age. Their landscape is quiet, but powerfully compelling.  Our relationship over the landscape I so treasure. I am glad they agreed to be on tour this year, as they will be gone the end of August to a new life. 


This garden I landscaped some 9 years ago, and was not back until a month ago.  I was knocked out by how they took that landscape in hand, looked after it, and moved beyond what I did.  My day today was such a good day.  This insouciant pot of my clients own design and hand is so beautiful.  The overall shape, the textures, the green thing going on-I could not do better.  The embarrassment of riches I felt today is all about doing work for interested clients, who take up on their own when I am done, and make magic.


I hope everyone who tours these gardens, realizes the  great views.  I am so interested in places to be, in a landscape, and places to view.  Revisiting landscapes I did years ago today, I have new views, new impressions-I so have my clients to thank for this.


Should you be so lucky as to live in my area, I would suggest that this garden tour would do your gardening heart and soul good.  I feel confident saying this, as my tour today made eminently clear that I have not just had clients.  I have people with whom relationships have been forged, over a big love for the garden.  No doubt, I am the luckiest girl on the planet.  Thank you, Janet, Arnold, Susie, Kate and Rob, Rob Y, Mary and Ed, Steve and Karen, Michael and Beth ; the weather promises to be good-go on tour if you can, to benefit the Greening of Detroit.  Please come-the weather promises to be fine.  Every dollar of your ticket goes to benefit the programs of the Greening of Detroit.  More information on the tour can be had at  Many thanks, Deborah

We are looking for you too! 


Tour Preview

tour3Every gardener on this year’s tour is passionate about their landscape.  How they choose to express it is individual-nothing surprising there.  My lot and one half garden is multi-levels, much to the delight of my corgis.  I have carved openings in the boxwood for them, and installed  bark racetracks; the garden is friendly to them.  My landscape is orderly; my pots are anything but-this is how I like it. So serene, with my favorite plants-and some unexpected surprises and punctuation marks.  The day of the tour, Fred and Jean are my docents.  English born and bred, educated in England in horticulture despite the second World War, they guide guests with their Shitz Tzu’s  Oscar and Beckett in tow-just meeting the two of them is a treat. I plan this year to open my shell grotto/reliquary enclosed porch by popular demand-.

Another garden of size is organized around some large sculptural elements carved into the earth. one comtemplative space features old evergreens, beautifully pruned. A wild flower slope, a rose garden-there is so much to see.



One small urban garden reveals a modernist taste and crisp green and white plant palette. Their old tudor home takes to this surprisingly well.  Every inch is thoughtfully tended to.  A driveway lined with tomatoes and herbs is a happy surprise.  This small property is jam packed with good moves.  tour1
Another garden is as colorful and engaging as its owner in the private spaces, and coolly formal in its public spaces. This gardener tells me she likes to feel like she’s on vacation when walks in her rear yard-you will see why. I have every reason to stay home now-she tells me.


tour14Every garden has water in one form or another-fountains, a pool; two properties are on lakes.  Water-what a great thing in a garden..
One garden on the tour I have a special relationship with.  These two committed gardeners  design and plant on their own. My involvement in their garden has to do with pots, and sculpture, and miscellaneous advice-but the two of them have put it all together in their own very distinctive and lively way. It will enchant you.  tour10
Their taste is eclectic, atypical-but it all works, with its own language and style. Their gestures are big and warm.  I so admire their confidence and their range.  They make it easy to understand the process of taking your voice in hand, and making something of it that is beautiful.  tour12
Each gardener’s  love for the garden and all that represents,   extends to a respect for the work of the Greening of Detroit, and my request that they put their garden on tour.  They are all busy planning for company July 19.  I am amazed, and so pleased how seriously they all take the prospect of like minded visitors.  By Wednesday next, our web site,, should have the descriptions of all the gardens posted for those of you would might want to check out a more thorough description of those gardens on this year’s tour.  We all hope you can make it.

Garden Tour

The noted and very fine  architect Michael Willoughby has long been a member of the board of the Greening of Detroit.  Who knew this group has been planting trees, sponsoring urban education and farms, in Detroit since 1989-this year is their twentieth anniversary.  Michael has been asking me to join this group for a long time-I finally told him,  in exasperation, that I had no patience for groups or committees-but I would do what I could do. So I went to their website. WOW. These people have done a lot for our city, and they keep on doing it, in the most serious way.  I understand their sentiments exactly.  Plant trees in big cities, in as big a numbers as you can manage. Teach people to grow plants, grow plants that are food. Rehabilitate urban spaces.  Clean up and plant.  Foliate as best you can.  Soften urban spaces with plants; teach people about the planet Earth.  They have been at the issue of greening for a very long time; they did not get to this concept via popular culture, fashion or trend. They have been at it in a big and quiet way for twenty years.  They impress me-their administrators, their board, their teachers, their volunteers.  I taught a class for them downtown on growing vegetables in containers.  The group was lively, smart, and willing.  I had the best time.

So last July, trying to get Michael Willoughby off my plate,  I sponsored a tour of 7 gardens of my design, to raise money for this group. Our top end ticket included a little something to eat, and a little something to drink.  I have to tell you,  the 10,000.00 we raised for them from the sale of those tickets was a very important accomplishment in my life.  The Greening of Detroit planted a tree in Detroit in my name, as a thank you. I can’t explain how this made me feel,  except to say these people made me feel that my efforts made a huge  difference.  They won me over.

So now I am a commissioner for the Greening of Detroit, and we are planning our second garden tour July 19.  I promise you will see beautiful gardens,  and what you spend for your ticket will go directly to a group intensely committed to the ecological well-being of our city.  If you live within a stone’s throw of Detroit,  I would invite you to participate.  If you live far away from me, I would urge you to support your local green group.  Green groups, world wide-I like the idea of this.

Tomorrow’s post-pictures of this year’s gardens.   Again,  Look at them. Help them, if you can.  Spread the word, if that is what you do best.  Meet up with all of the rest of us-July 19, 2009.