The 2015 Holiday/Winter Preview Party

holiday open houseI have long been of the mind that the gardening season can thrive during the late fall and can not only endure, but robustly represent a gardener’s point of view throughout the winter months. The stakes are high.  The winters in my zone can be fierce. The skies are an unvarying shade of gray for months on end. We pile on the winter gear, and slog through the snow to work. Our winters are cold and dark. Winter gardening asks for a different idea, different tools, and an active imagination.  I may light a dormant shade garden with twinkle lights strewn on the ground, given that the chartreuse hostas have gone dormant.  The mixed fir evergreen garland wired up with pine cones and other natural materials that will go over my front door for the holiday season will please the gardener in me.  I most assuredly will stuff my containers with cut greens, fresh cut twigs, and anything else I might fancy, with the idea that they will recall the warmth and comfort of the garden over the winter.

holiday preview (18)Gardeners are working people.  Once the last of the spring flowering bulbs are planted, those hands are hard to keep still. I am not ready to cozy up to a stack of books. It was many years ago that Rob and I decided to make something more of the coming of the cold than resignation. We transform the shop into a destination for materials to enrich the holiday and winter season.  Most of the shopping was done this past January.  When our purchases begin to arrive in July, it is easy to spot why we liked them.  Invariably, there is a reference to nature and natural materials.

holiday preview (12)There are lots of bird ornaments. They may be feathered or felted, but no matter the material, they appeal to gardeners.

holiday preview (17)Every year we feature one sort of holiday tree or another.  This year, Rob has sourced tall and thin trees in a variety of species that share a certain look in common.  These trees have been deliberately pruned and grown to produce an old fashioned shape.  These sparse, short needled trees are grown Victorian style, meaning those big open spaces are friendly to hanging ornaments, birds on clips, and garland.

holiday preview (20)We will have plants. We have a great selection of amaryllis, available as bulbs, potted up, or growing in water in glass cylinders. There will be pots of berried wintergreen, and white variegated club moss.  And of course, some hellebores. But the majority of what we have available are garden ornaments that evoke the materials and spirit of the garden.

holiday preview (5)The grapevine deer sculptures are life size, and beautifully made. The frames are steel. The vines will last for many years, given a yearly application of sealer. These are the kind of deer one could welcome to a garden-especially a winter garden.

holiday preview (10)We will open our winter/ holiday season tonight from 5 to 9.  This party is in large part a thank you to the community of gardeners that frequent our doors. We always have new people, for whom this night is an introduction to our place. We will have something good to eat and drink, live music, and lively conversation. We invite everyone to preview our winter collection.

holiday preview (1)Dutch jingle bells in varying shades of blue and gray

holiday preview (11)reproductions of vintage holiday figures

holiday preview (2)fresh cut twigs are a winter staple for containers.  Also slated to arrive today, a truckload of cut greens from a wide range of evergreen species.

holiday preview (13)felted animal ornaments

holiday preview (4)weatherproof contemporary stars

holiday preview (8)wood deer with burlap coats

holiday preview (3)And finally, Rob’s lighting collection. We have some very exciting new options available this year. For those of you who are too far away to attend, I will post pictures of how the shop looks at night. Great lighting can transform a winter landscape.  You’ll see.


The Holiday/Winter Preview Party


Detroit Garden Works throws one evening party a year.  It is, in part, a thank you for all of the gardeners that have or have a mind to shop with us.  It is, in part, the opening night of our winter and holiday season. It is, in every regard, a party.  We serve great things to eat, and a variety of things to drink.  We have spent weeks constructing the light sculptures that Rob designs.  One of them in a pot, or hung from a tree, or sunk into the ground lights up the night that is our gardening future.  Is there more to see?  Yes.

We have spent weeks tearing apart the remains of our summer garden vignettes to make way for the winter season to come.  It could be 10 years ago that we began stocking materials for gardeners-for winter containers.  What seems so logical now is what was uncharted territory then.  We live in a gardening zone with a fourth quarter than can be really daunting.  Gray skies give way to the dark-early.  Morning skies are gray and dark-late.  The landscape goes dormant.Why not offer materials for winter container plantings?  Some garden based materials to make the winter a little easier to bear?  Materials for winter containers include fresh cut twigs and substantially hefty and lengthy greens.  Preserved natural materials and remarkably weather resistant and visually compelling picks.  Landscape lighting-how do you plan to handle the need for light in the dark season?


The big idea is that the love of the garden can be represented in a celebratory way over the winter.  The big sleep freeze that will chill every plant in my landscape into utter dormancy does not apply to me.  People do not go dormant.  I will experience everything that the winter has to offer, every day, day after day.  Though the winter is no longer than all of the other seasons, it can feel longer.  I have options about how I want to live through that time.  I can construct containers at my front and back door with cut materials from the garden.  I can light those pots in such a way that they light my way. I can festoon this and decorate that-outdoors.  It is a choice- to make the winter landscape cozy and inviting.


The shop is not quite ready for our opening tomorrow night.  It takes a lot of time and thought to create an atmosphere that engages gardeners when the garden has gone quiet.  Rob has done a perfect job of sourcing great materials and lighting, and arranging for them to be delivered in time for our opening night.  We shop together for the following holiday in January, while the season is still fresh in our minds.  Our entire company numbering 21 people have worked long and hard to make the transition from the joy that is the summer landscape, to the steadfast belief that even the winter season is worth treasuring.


Should you decide to attend our once a year night time winter season opening on Thursday night, we will park your car, provide you with something good to eat and fun to drink.  We leave the rest up to you.  How the materials we have chosen might inspire or intrigue-that’s the fun of it.  We like throwing this yearly party.  The preview party and holiday open house which runs through Sunday is a lot about giving thanks to all of the gardeners that have enabled Detroit Garden Works to stay viable for going on 18 years.  It is just as much about a community of gardening people determined to make a stand-for a beautiful winter.


I so look forward to this night every year.  We try our best to make the anticipation of winter an extraordinary experience.  Interested?  Our winter/holiday open house runs from Thursday night the 7th from 5 to whenever.  Yes, we provide valet parking for our Thursday night party.  As for the weekend, Friday through Sunday, 9 to 5 all three days, we have a coffee pot fueled by Starbucks coffee, and plenty of treats.  Our idea is to make the prospect of the winter season seem all good.

battery-operated-lights.jpgRob does plenty to make this season happen.  He sees that we have fresh cut twigs, fresh cut greens-and spectacular winter lighting.  He is the most creative person it has ever been my pleasure to know.  He is an ace in the hole-should you need help designing or constructing a winter display.

ribbon-and-twine.jpgWe do try to cover all the bases.  Winter containers.  Holiday decor.  Parties and events.  Wrapping and packaging.  Gifts for gardeners. Fresh cut twigs and greens.  Lighting.  Design.  Coaching.  Holiday decorating both inside and out.  Give us a call.


Tomorrow night, I hope to make the experience worthy of attention.  Everyone I know has a busy life.  I would not be writing this post, but for the fact that I believe a visit to our shop would be well worth your while.

holiday-tree.jpgWe view the winter and holiday season from a particular point of view.  The garden funds and fuels all of our efforts.  Every move we make is with the landscape in mind.  Winter gardening-oh yes.  The holidays?  Any cause for celebration is a cause we support.

light-rings.jpgIf you have a mind, pay us a visit.  We promise to make your winter season a season in which you can survive better.  Have the prospect of winter blues dead ahead?  You have lots of company.  You and all of your company-we hope to help make your winter a better winter.



The Week In Wreaths

Between Steve and I, two crews, and some help from Jenny, Scott, and Julie in the shop, we installed 15 projects this past week.  One crew came in Saturday, yesterday,  to do my pots at home, and start the holiday display outside the shop-where they got the energy to do this, I have but one idea.  They are consummate professionals, all of them.   Some jobs were small, and went in quickly.  Others were more complicated-holiday decor inside and out, and holiday lighting.  Steve worked on our last landscape project of the season every day but Friday-that project is not included in the 15.  Needless to say, I did very little in the way of writing, and a lot in the way of work this past week.    Any work for the holidays has to be done with dispatch-anyone who asks me to decorate for them wants to have the time to enjoy it.  Though we start our season the week before Thanksgiving, the first 10 days of December are always our busiest.  I find all the activity stressful, and exhilarating.   

I see that decorating schedule repeated in people who come to the Works to shop.  There are but a few weeks late in the year to dream it up, and get it done.   November and early December have been incredibly mild.  This meant more people took the time to decorate outdoors, and put up holiday lighting.  It means more people who have the inclination or passion to garden are staying outdoors a while longer.  In a good season, I may do 60 landscape projects, 80 annual plantings, and 40 holiday/winter projects.  This really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in a greater community the size of mine.  The shop is a way in which lots more people are exposed to ideas, materials, and encouragement.  When the weather cooperates, I see winter and holiday gardening in lots of places.  People we help in the shop go on to represent the holiday in their own special way.  The neighborhoods now are full of light, at night.  A big celebration going on outdoors-I love this. 

We have had only 2 days of temperatures below 30 this season-that is very unusual.  A holiday season when the ground goes rock hard before Thanksgiving is more ordinary, and is extra hard work.  I have watched my crews pry soil out of pots with a crow bar-it’s not work we look for.  It also discourages people from getting their materials out of the basement, attic or garage, and doing their own.  This year is shaping up to be a good one-I see good looking work every day, everywhere.  We are working-everyone is working!  Buck and I went to a party last night just 20 minutes from home.  The neighborhood was lit up, decked out, and looking very festive.  I almost ran off the road in a few places, trying to get a good look at everything.    

Once all of my work is done, Buck will drive, and I will look.  I am so interested to see how other people interpret the holidays, decorate their front porches and doors, light their yards.  What appeals to me?  People taking the time and effort to express themselves.  

I decorated 14 wreaths for the shop this year.  All of them were made from twigs left over from the 2010 holiday season.  In January, Pam and I wove all of these twigs into small wreaths; we put them into storage the first of February.  I decorated all of them with natural materials, and knitted birds in late November.  This wreath-the last of the lot, was sold to an old client as a gift for his very elderly Mom.  He explained to me in great detail why he thought this wreath would be a good gift for her. His gift to me was considerable; we had a conversation, person to person.    

I have made 39 wreaths so far this season-I have 10 more to go.  I do each and every one of them personally.  The holiday pots and installations I design and draw; my crew creates and installs them.  But the wreaths cannot be drawn.  I just do them.  There is a client, an idea or place they have in mind, a color scheme-my clues are many.  I write most of that down.  I read over the notes just before I get going.  Next up?  I get going. 

14 0f this year’s holiday wreaths are Christmas presents I send out for one client.  She has a point of view which I honor; all 14 are different.  12 wreaths were for the shop, a handmade twig wreath was the starting point for all.  Thirteen others were individually made for individual clients. Individual places. 

I have 10 more wreaths to go.  Am I complaining?  Yes-I wish I had more.    I do truly enjoy this part of the holiday season.  I plan to have all 10 done by the end of the day Tuesday.  More likely, I will be done Thursday.

I have a few wreaths I plan to make as gifts.  A friend, a sister in law, and a client whose landscape is under construction.  Last of all, a wreath for Buck and I. 

This client?  They have been great clients for many years.  Would I please funk it up a little this year? In red and green?  Am I happy to oblige?  No doubt, I am.