The Garden Tour

IMG_0820Our garden tour to benefit the Greening of Detroit was a successful event.  We sold 278 tickets, for both the tour, and the tour and reception. We raised close to 13,000.00 for the Greening.  This may not seem like so much, but over the past 8 years, this amounts to 97,000.00. We have been persistent in our support of them, as well we should.  For those of you that are too far away to attend our cruise, there are pictures to follow.  That said, I am so pleased that we had gardeners from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and Washington DC attend our tour.  I could not be more pleased about the attendance, the tour-and the fabulous afterglow Rob and his group put on after the tour.  To follow are pictures from our tour day.

IMG_0818These clients have shopped at Detroit Garden Works since the first day we went into business 19 years ago.  Their landscape is all their own.  Their love of color is extraordinary. They have children, to whom they have dedicated a child friendly garden.  I so admire their landscape and garden, as they have expressed themselves with great confidence and care. They have a point of view, and they are unabashed about expressing it. Their garden was the subject of much talk-as it should be.





DSC_1996This property belongs to a new client.  We rearranged just about every plant they had. We added lots more. Just this spring. We arranged to have a long wall built in the mid ground of the back yard. My crew did an incredible job, making lots of changes.  I so treasure these clients.  Thy were ready for a change. They studied our ideas, and signed up. A change we did-in short order. The new landscape has great bones.  They will decide where they want to go next.



the landscape in July (14)

July 5 2015 (11)

the landscape in July (6)

July 5 2015 (38)

DSC_1990The relationship with this client dates back 20 years. The landscape features many specimen trees that have grown to great size. Like all of the other gardens on the cruise, the landscape is a mix of formal and informal, and beautifully maintained. Though we have redone a few places recently, it is clear that an older landscape, properly planted, ages well.





DSC_1964This landscape of our design took two seasons to install. Our client is an avid gardener. Her love of the garden drove the design. This landscape featured unusual trees, shrubs, and espaliers. Every square foot of this property is devoted to the plants.  I was interested that all the plants be part of a beautiful design.







DSC_1906This landscape belongs to clients who have shopped Detroit Garden Works for the last 20 years. The landscape is all of their design.  They have the most beautiful collection of fine garden urns we know of in one place-all of which came from our shop. We have consulted on the landscape on occasion. But what you see here is by and large of their own invention.  How they invent is extraordinary.  We are so pleased to be associated with them.






DSC_1898Our garden cruise this year was all I could ask from a garden tour. A diverse group of gardeners who have a passion for the landscape.  Every garden was strikingly different.  But every garden spoke to a love for the landscape.  Oh yes, they did.

Sunday Opinion: Sowing the Seed

The dense fog this morning has me thinking. To my mind, what characterizes gardeners first and foremost is not that they garden, but how they keep on gardening. Fog, storms, wind, poor soil, drought, floods, bugs, disease, failure-no matter; they keep on gardening.  I am thinking about this, as I live in a community, like most other communities in this country, under economic siege.  The heavy wet white fog I drove through at 6 am this morning is as good a description as any of what I see and live with right now; eyes wide open, I couldn’t see a thing.    Without much exception, the people I come in contact with are afraid, or uneasy- unsure about how to navigate.  A fogged-in atmosphere like this touches everything, and everyone. 

I have lived in the greater Detroit area my whole life.  I grew up thinking the most fabulous sculpture imaginable was a well designed automobile. That idea is alive and well; more thousands of people than ever attended the yearly Dream Cruise down Woodward Avenue in August.  A festival honoring the beauty and diversity of the automobile was an idea that took root, and grew.  The serious economic and environmental problems currently affecting Detroit defy description, much less solutions.  I so strongly support the Greening of Detroit, as it seems to me it will take people who have that tenacity that describes gardeners to make Detroit thrive again-even if that involves reinventing its landscape. There needs to be some seeds sown that root, and take hold.

I am in the thick of two substantial projects right now.  One is ready to begin construction;  the other is is midway through the design phase.  Both projects involve interesting and committed clients.  Multiple design issues making lots of noise; this is my idea of a good time.  Designing makes me wake up and see; I cannot decribe that process any better than this. Once I am in the “wake up and see” mode, I see everything differently.  How a vignette could be arranged in a more striking way.  How I might use a material creatively. This is about the imagination, in gear. My imagination in gear over these projects that energize me made me step back and see what it is to be fogged in and not know it.

Some weeks ago I had a front door, and a rear door replaced at the store.  I ordered a door with a window for the front, and a solid door for the back.  When my contractor arrived to install the doors, we explained that the salesperson had ordered both doors with windows, by mistake.  Though the door with a window costs more, he would charge me the same as for the door with no window.  It crossed my mind that for security reasons, a rear door with a window into the garage not visible from the street might not be a good idea.  However, as the door that no longer closed properly was a bigger security issue; I said ok.  At 6:10 this morning I went into the garage-a space some 4000 square feet with no windows.  I am accustomed to going everywhere in the store without turning on the lights; I know the space well enough to confidently navigate in the dark.  Though the light switch next to the back door is a long way from the entrance to the garage, I always got there.  The one exception-a low, heavy and close to immoveable  black iron planter inadvertently got left in the path to the light switch.  I was in a heap on that concrete floor before my brain got the message. I have been very cautious, and tentative ever since, negotiating my way to the light. I remembered this today, seeing the light from the window at the far end of the room.  From the inside, that window provided security to me. Providing security from the inside suddenly seemed like a very important seed that deserved to be planted in, and kept watered.  There’s a chance that something might grow. There’s nothing that breaks up a white fog better than some sunshine.

This all may seem painfully obvious, and hardly worth mentioning.  But routinely I have to tell clients who want their new landscapes to look old and established  that the time this takes cannot be circumvented.   I tell them the crummy spring weather applies equally to everyone-one’s love and devotion to gardening doesn’t get you a pass on the frost sure to come. How fiercely you want cosmos in that dark corner of your garden does not make your chances of success better.  Likewise, the fog of tough times falls on me too-not just other people. 

The clients and projects that engage me help to burn off the fog.  Those relationships are like seeds.  Not every seed germinates, but enough do to keep things going and growing.  Another favorite thing about gardeners is their hope.  The winter will end, the weather will warm, and the garden will grow again.  If it grows slowly or poorly, they tend it with special care until the weather gets better.  Should that special care not help, they do differently, or even start over.  They stake up the delphiniums that have gone over, and they replant when things die.  This seems like a good way to live, does it not?

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.

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.