The 11th Garden Cruise Club

Our tenth garden cruise to benefit the Greening of Detroit was this past Sunday. As usual, I spent the day at home. My garden is on tour every year as I so enjoy meeting and talking to everyone who stops by. And I enjoy talking to those people who have taken our tour year after year, now a decade old. It is satisfying that people who have toured for years do not tire of visiting my garden. This year my garden had a few surprises. A new pair of arbors, a new fence, and 72 linear feet of planter boxes across the front, planted with summer blooming annuals. For someone who likes to plant containers as much as I do, that 72 feet worth of planting space is a treat. What fun it was to plant those! The weather forecast was perfect – 72 degrees and partly cloudy skies with a slight chance of a brief shower.  Hovering over the event was my decision that this would be our last tour.

Ten years ago, encouraged and sponsored by board member and noted architect Michael Willoughby, I joined the board of the Greening of Detroit. I went to one board meeting. It would be my last; I was completely out of my depth. While I was familiar with their mission, I did not understand the issues the board had before them well enough to have anything to contribute. The next day I decided that the best contribution I could make to them would be an effort to raise money on their behalf. Putting together a tour of landscapes of my design or influenced by our group, and a dinner reception, was a commitment we were ready to make. We charged more than most tours for tickets, and all of that ticket money would go to the Greening. I do truly believe in the work done by the Greening of Detroit, so I persisted. We have kept the tour going a long time.

Detroit Garden Works and Deborah Silver and Company put their weight behind this tour. The shop rearranges and cleans. Rob designs the reception party. The Detroit Garden Works staff sets up tables and chairs and the bar, spanning the entire length of our driveway. They gracefully handle request for tour tickets for weeks before, and that Sunday morning beginning at 8am. They design tours for people who only have a few hours to attend.  They put on a dinner reception with live music that is a perfect summer evening for those who have toured. Rob obligingly mixes up his latest version of the classic gin and tonic, and also mixes an array of unusual summer drinks. The line at his station is always long. Christine has long retired from the shop, but she does work the cruise. She handles the wine bar, as she has for the past 10 years.

Deborah Silver and Company weeds and rakes the shop out for company. All the gardens and pots get groomed and watered. They also lend a hand to every garden on tour the week before. We weed, haul away debris and brush, water, attend to a fountain which is not working right, or any other issue that needs to be righted in time for the cruise. They prune and fluff- so every landscape and garden looks its very best. A beautiful landscape and garden is a pleasure for those who make them, and for those who experience them. The Greening of Detroit does important work –  making and sustaining landscapes in our city, and teaching people how to make plants grow.

Tour day this year was a very emotional experience for me. My original goal in 2008 was to raise 100,000 for the Greening. We went over that mark on our 9th tour, but so many friends of ours and the Greening asked if I would do a 10th tour, I said yes. The tenth year and tour would be the last. Why our last? I had done for the Greening what I had set out to do. I did not want to overstay my welcome. All things run their course, do they not? I did not want to risk people losing enthusiasm. I was not expecting what was to come.

All day long, people attending the tour came up to me, and talked to me about how much the tour meant to them. About how much they learned from a conversation and exchange of ideas with garden owners. One person in particular articulated how she was able to take what she saw in other people’s gardens that she liked, and express them in her own garden. So many made a point to tell me they regretted that this would be the last tour. Many asked if I would consider continuing the tour. Some said it was the best tour of all, and they were sure next year’s tour would even be better.  I was not expecting such an impassioned response.

Would I consider continuing the tour?  Sunne has always thrown her entire weight behind this tour. Everyone who shops at Detroit Garden Works knows her.  She turned out to be the founder of the 11th Garden Cruise Club. She made a point of explaining that this was the last tour, and anyone who was not happy with that should let me know. I got to the tour reception about 5:15. The first person I saw was Jennifer T, who had flown in from Seattle with her daughter to take the tour. She is a long time reader and supporter of this blog. How incredible that she took the time and handled the expense to come out for our event. Though I have read and responded to many comments she has made on these pages, it was such a treat to meet her in person. How charming that her daughter was all on board to take that trip with her Mom. Though we were only face to face for two days, I will never forget her. This tour made possible a meeting with a passionate gardener halfway across the country from me. Grateful does not express how happy I was to meet her.

More than 125 people attended our reception.  Between our companies and the Greening, we sold 385 tickets.  We raised 15,650.00 for the Greening. Garden Design Magazine had some 40 new subscriptions, from which they would donate 12.00 from each to the Greening. The new President of the Greening, Lionel Bradford, attended our reception, and gave a short and heartfelt speech about his appreciation for what the tour has done for his organization. For me, a basket full of things to eat and drink-made in Detroit. Touching, this.

That moment was a moment I will not soon forget. Sunne has the idea that tour was just hitting its stride, and I was considering the possibility.

Michael on tour. For those of you too far away to have toured, to follow are more pictures of my landscape and garden from that day.

tour morning

the deck

Milo and Howard were both home for the tour this year.

pots planted for summer

a little one on tour

upper deck


planter detail

deck pots

fountain landscape


front yard


the opposite view

new planter boxes and original cast iron pots

new planter boxes in the other direction

tour landscape

Bringing the tour to an end is tougher now, considering all of what we heard that day. Yesterday I heard from Monica Tabares at the Greening that a donor who took the tour for the first time this year regretted this was our tenth and final tour. In a meeting with her, they pledged that if I would continue the tour for 5 more years, they would match the funds we raise every one of those five years. That offer gives me great pause. It could be that what we thought was the end is not quite the end yet.













  1. great post!!

    • Jane Cruickshank says

      The best post and may the Cruise continue for at least 5 more years. You do great work Deborah Silver.

  2. Greg Nelso says

    Dear Deborah, how marvelous…everything. But mostly that you will consider another few years of Garden Cruise. I say that because I was planning on coming back next year! Whatever you choose to do, I am glad I was able to see The Garden Cruise last year…and secretly hope you will consider continuing your marvelous efforts. All the best, -g

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Greg,I am considering it-for sure. Stay tuned. I would be delighted if you came again.It is a very long trip for you, and it means a lot that you would make the effort a second time. all the best, Deborah

  3. Oh I do hope you will consider continuing the tour.
    Love the faux couch boxwood hedges- really lovely added dimension.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Diana, that boxwood has been in for so long it has taken on a life of its own. I do like it! all the best, Deborah

  4. Mary Lee Fergin says

    I have seen many an angel displayed in our det. area gardens, but you are the best and brightest!
    The fact you may continue another five years makes my day!
    Thank you for the passion you bring to our gardens!

    Mary Lee and Alan Fergin

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mary Lee, we have known one another for a good many years, and praise like this from you is high praise indeed. thank you, Deborah

  5. Nancy Szelag says

    So sorry to have missed this fabulous event. It’s the highlight of the summer. The Ohio Short Course/Cultivate 17 in Columbus – the big show of what’s new for 2018 got the nod this year. Please, please, please reconsider.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Nancy, I wondered why I did not see you! But I heard Cultivate 17 was good-one of my staff went to it. OK, I am reconsidering. best, Deborah

  6. Alicia Whitaker says

    I think that you are telling us that you’re not done! That matching gift is very compelling. Kudos to you and your team for doing this so well! Brava Deborah!!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Alicia, that matching gift is indeed compelling. thank you for writing-and reading. best, Deborah

  7. I feel so relieved you are continuing your efforts with the Greening for at least 5 more years, even though I live too far away to attend. The photos — like your blog — are so beautiful and inspiring and hopeful. And my little garden is so much the better for your endless ideas for planting schemes.

    A painter (don’t know her name) once said that, ‘ make a piece of art is to take a piece of evil out of the world.’ If ever this world needed to create a little more art, the time is now.
    And I can only imagine how much garden art you have inspired in Detroit — and around the country — through the tours. Imaginative, creative designs never overstay their welcome.
    Thanks for all you do, Deborah, and your generosity in sharing your ideas.

    • Faye Moyer says

      Thank you so much for your VERY inspiring blog & I’m happy to hear the tour might continue for a few more years – if I’m lucky, I might get to travel there & see it myself! And, a big thank you to commenter “Terry” who included that great quote from an unknown painter in her remarks – I’ve been grappling lately with some issues concerning my gardening and art & that quote just clicked everything into place for me.

      • Deborah Silver says

        Dear Faye, Writing this blog has been good for me in more ways than you can imagine, and a lot of that has to do with things people say here.all the best, Deborah

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Terry, I haven’t agreed yet-but I am certainly leaning towards it. Your description of the importance of art is very apropos. Anyone who gardens is a positive force in the world. all the best, Deborah

  8. Michaele Anderson says

    I hope you don’t have any sort of goal to meet with your blog that will result it in ending any time soon (meaning the next 10 0r 20 years). Your garden looked fabulous for the event, as, I’m sure, all the others did also. Sounds like the generous offer to match the raised funds might be too good to turn down…although all recognize it takes a huge effort on the part of you and your colleagues to make the tour as special as it is.

  9. This made me tear up! Congratulations on such a wonderful achievement! I do hope you continue. I live in NYC, but hope to one day fly to Detroit and take the Garden Tour!

  10. Sunne Terry says

    Yay for the 11th!!

  11. You beautiful and oh so wonderful lady ! I’m literally laughing out loud with a glimmer of happy tears in my eyes.
    Your generous heart is never going to let you refuse an offer like that !!!❤️

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Julie, it is going to be really hard to say no now-you have that right! all the best, Deborah

  12. Dear Deborah,

    I was not able to join the tour this year and was sorry to hear that it had run its course. The news that you are considering soldiering on is welcome. The matching contributions are noteworthy; however, not nearly as noteworthy as ten years of Garden Cruise at this level. Anyone that joins your tour has to see that all of this is a labor of love.

    And since the Greening Board has upped the ante, I think you should return serve and ask whether the Greening Board is ready to commit to a five or ten year project in a park, avenue or space in Detroit. They could document their progress, inevitable setbacks, and continued commitment with the idea that the space will be a stop on the Garden Cruise in five or ten years time. Just a thought.

    Best Regards

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mark, the Greening has actually offered to put some of their vegetable growing projects on the tour. Maybe in the future? all the best, Deborah

  13. Marguerite says

    The beauty of the images speaks for themselves,not only in terms of what you create in the world but most importantly who you are. You use your Superpower “for good” , like the true SuperArtist/Heroine that you are. (If you had a cape and tights of course they would be green!) You not only embraced this important cause with your own blood, sweat, tears and business resources…. you gave it your formidable VISION. That is rare. Not many people have vision in the first place. But you shared yours as a gift. Your vision provided not only funds, but created awareness that attracted vital new supporters to the cause. As if that were not enough, by creating the Cruise for people to experience, you have touched each participant in a very personal way, providing them insights to apply to their own patches of green and bringing them to the realization that Detroit is ALSO their own patch of green. Each person leaves the Cruise with renewed commitment to advocate for our natural world. One day I hope to travel the many miles to see all that you create. In the meantime, a sincere Thank You. (and, a scratch behind the ears to the Corgi Undergardeners.)

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Marguerite, I hardly know what to say to your letter except thank you very much. Our first tour took place in the throes of a very difficult economic downturn for my area. I am glad I persisted with this. The undergardeners send their kind regards! all the best, Deborah

  14. Jane Cruickshank says

    I should have included Buck’s work. You are a magical team.

  15. Lisa at Greenbow says

    What success! I vote you carry on…

  16. THANKYOU for all you do and for posting all the pics. Please, please continue the Cruise so I can come next year!

  17. My first Detroit Garden Cruise – it was a wonderful experience. Regarding going forward another five years, I can only imagine the amount of work that is required. Everyone would love to see it continue, but would also understand if you decided not to. It would be an end to one thing, but I’m sure a new door would open. Love your store. Love your blog. Love your creativity!

  18. Silvia Weber says

    “Anyone who gardens is a positive force in the world”. So true! We have traveled from Cleveland ( no longer a big deal with the Seattle team in tow) for all ten Garden Cruises. And plan to travel for the next five – a summer tradition for us! Thank you Deborah – you are an inspiration! And Sunne, too!
    XOXOXOXOXOX! Gerry and Silvia

  19. Dan McAskin says

    Deborah, this is great news.
    I for one will join the “11th Garden Cruise Fan Club”, Wrigley will be spearheading the “12th thru 15th Cruise Fan Club” chapters!
    Best- Dan

  20. Mardi Letson says

    Loved these photos of your garden. Sounds like you may need to continue the tour…. my vote : “”yes!” I would love to come one year!

  21. It’s just so spectacular. I wish it were a nationwide event, with 5 gardens in every city that participated, all on the same day. Which wouldn’t really work, of course, given the different blooming seasons, but I wish that everyone could pay homage to plants, all at once.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Lisa, I like local garden events. They are particular to a zone, time and place-which makes them relevant. If any gardener is interested in visiting gardens nationwide, varying dates makes that a possibility. People already celebrate garden design and plants every day, all over our country, don’t they? Love your exuberance! all the best, Deborah

  22. Even though I could not be there to tour, I am so happy to make my contribution via my subscription to Garden Design magazine-fabulous reading!

    • Deborah Silver says

      The magazine is terrific-isn’t it? Thanks for everything you contribute here. best, Deborah

  23. Nancy O. says

    Don’t remember how or when I happened upon Dirt Simple, but have been eager to find every new blog entry in my inbox. In past years I’d note your garden cruise, promising that the next year I had to drive from my PA home to Detroit. Then I saw that this year would be your last tour.
    Had a chance to meet Rob and some of your wonderful staff and appreciated their recommendations for places to see on my first visit. Missed meeting Milo and Howard, but heard a welcoming bark when I arrived at your house. Thank you, Deborah, your staff, volunteers, and clients for sharing so much talent, beauty, and inspiration.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Nancy, all of us were pleased and touched that you made that trip. It sounds like it was a good trip for you – which makes us all the more pleased. thank you so much for your interest and support. best regards, Deborah

  24. What an incredible community you have created, Deborah. You are the rare person who, with your knowledge and inspiration, moves others toward good in the most positive of ways. I have known many gardeners in my life and you are certainly at the pinnacle, both in your genius and in your modesty. I never, ever read your blog without feeling refreshed and renewed, and, oh so proud to be digging in the dirt.

  25. Jennifer Taylor says

    Dear Deborah,
    I put off opening this email/post until just now. It is difficult to explain why, but it has to do with my strong, heartfelt emotions about you, your talent, hospitality, warmth and kindness to me and my daughter, and the joy I experienced visiting Detroit Garden Works, taking the fabulous tour and visiting your home and garden. It was a weekend we will never forget.
    Your post brings tears to my eyes. I will see you again, perhaps for another garden cruise!
    Many many thanks, Jennifer

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jennifer, I was distressed when you did not comment right away on this post. I was afraid that the visit did not live up to your effort to get here. But I do perfectly understand now. It was an important event for the both of us. We have made friends, haven’t we? What a pleasure to meet and spend time with both you and your daughter. many many thanks to you. Deborah

  26. Daniel Clarkson says

    I appreciate the ending of this post–you’ll follow your heart, Deborah…and all will be well.

  27. Marie Tulin says

    I don’t remember how I came across your blog and website, but I’ve copied Christmas planters, lists of narcissis, made note of your spring to summer containers, coveted the $300 dollar platters and reallllly want the lighted hoops.
    I know there are at least a few of us on Gardenweb New England Forum who read you regularly. If there’s an 11th tour I’ll do my best to get myself out of Lexington MA and my friend out of her rural house in Canterbury NH and fly to Detroit to join the crowd. Let’s just say you, the shop and the tour on a “Gardener’s Bucket List.”

    Warmly, Marie Tulin

  28. barbara broerman says

    Hi Deborah
    I hope it will continue. We are gardeners from Canada who spend new years in Änn Arbor and visit the shop at that time. This year I wanted to do the garden tour but was scheduled for spinal fusion surgery four days later and was therefore unable to make the trip. I am glad it was a tearing success and hope to see you next year.

    Barbara from Guelph

  29. Jacob Turner says

    I have been in the landscaping and hardscaping industry for 25 years. This blog is the best I have seen yet. I love the photos of the jobs in progress! Keep up the good work!

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