The 2013 Garden

January-garden.jpgIt doesn’t seem possible that almost 365 days have gone by since I took this picture in January of 2012.  I recollect that we had almost nothing in the way of snow cover last winter; this modest January snow was a welcome relief from the winter grays.  But what interested me most was how the snow illustrated the pruning practices of this particular gardener.  This privet hedge has been sheared flat, and just above the previous year’s growth, for at least the past 3 years.  It is a paradox, or at the least ironic, that pruning  a branch results in a proliferation of growth via multiple shoots at the site of the cut. Eventually this yearly shearing will result in a mass of shoots on top so dense that light and air cannot penetrate to the interior.  A hedge deprived of light and air to the interior will decline.  I try to prune my deciduous hedges to look like a slice of swiss cheese.  In and out, low and high-plenty of places for light to penetrate.  Although I shouldn’t presume a gardener is in charge here, even the most experienced gardener makes pruning cuts that they wish they hadn’t.  A slight snow in January will tell all.

February-garden.jpgFebruary is typically a very snowy month in my zone. That snow cover is insulation against temperature extremes that can heave plants out of the ground .  A February with no snow is a worry.  Plants go dormant for the winter, in order to avoid injury. A cover of snow keeps my plants snugly dormant.  No unwanted mid winter wake up.  Given how brutal our winters can be, I favor plants that are tolerant of a wide range of winter conditions.  I save my lust for plants not hardy in my zone for my containers-so much less heartbreak.

March-garden.jpgThis March I did some major pruning.  Jack from Guardian Tree in Ann Arbor headed back my out of control Princeton Gold maples. He topped my arborvitae at 14 feet.  And he removed an old maple in serious decline from girdling roots. Years ago I planted parrotias and magnolias around this maple, knowing the day would come when it would no longer be viable.  I was glad not to have to watch large portions of the the tree fail to leaf out.  The understory trees will thrive, given more light, and better access to water and nutrients.

April-garden.jpgApril is all about the spring light. Not so warm, this light, but there is the promise of the gardening season to come. The maples leafed out with abandon. Jack had cut the maples back so hard I was worried it would be years before they looked good.  My worries were unfounded.  He will be back this coming March.  The maintenance of a hedge of trees requires a regular commitment.  In April I was glad I had gone ahead and had the trees pruned.

early-May-garden.jpgLate April belongs to the magnolias.  The bark, the sculptural habit, and large glossy leaves would be enough to include them in any small garden, but the flowers are swoon worthy.  This April day, the green maple flowers and magnolia petals peppered the driveway.  I parked in the street. This was a perfect early spring moment.

late-May.jpgIn May, the garden sings.  Every plant is covered with fresh new growth.  The grass is green beyond green.  A pair of old Palabin lilacs on standard flower as if they were young bucks. The gorgeous shades of green is the story of the May garden.  There is no garden marvel quite like the spring.  All of that will to grow that results in so much fresh growth is energizing.  Spring is the best tonic any gardener could hope for.  Late May-the peony buds swell and open-operatic.

mid-June-garden.jpgJune is the time that the roses hold forth.  I would not do without them, no matter how small my garden.  Some years are better than others, but they always enchant me.  The color and the perfume-heavenly. My roses have grown in this spot for 15 years or better.  The most I do is to prune in April, and July, and I dead head until mid-August.  I do not mind the fussing.  They reward me many times over.  My little urban garden-infused with romance in mid June.

In July, the roses are still representing.  The big pot has been planted, and the boxwood has been pruned.  Every day the four of us go to the rose garden.  The corgis know exactly what I mean when I say “Let’s go see the roses”.  They get there long before I do.  I treasure the late day in this garden.  The temperature has cooled off.  The arborvitae shield the hot summer sun.  I am done working for the day.  This is my idea of a garden which is a sanctuary.

late-August-garden.jpgIn late July, the Limelight hydrangeas come into bloom.  Though we had a cold and rainy summer that was not so friendly to my container plantings, the hydrangeas were stellar.  They were laden with flowers.  The foliage was a very healthy green.  The herniaria carpeting the ground plane of this garden loved the cool and rainy summer.

September-garden.jpgAugust was notable for the street trees that were cut down by the city.  They were rotted and hollow-I worried they would fall and hurt someone.  As sure as I was that they needed to come down, I regretted their demise.  Big trees are a treasure-their loss is not to be taken lightly.

September was a great month for my garden. My container gardens finally picked up speed.  The weather cooled.  The grass grew like crazy.

October-garden.jpgOctober-one realizes the garden is waning.  The season will come to a close.  Parting from the garden is hard..  Buck shut down the fountain in mid October-over my protests.  I did not want to let go.  He knows when it is time to say goodby.   How the moss grew in the still water!

November-garden.jpgEarly December-an ice storm.  The ice coating every surface is beautiful, and alarming.  There was nothing to be done, except to hope for the best, and endure.  No matter my worries, plants do a good job of protecting themselves from harm.  They have lots of coping mechanisms for which I am grateful. So many things that govern a garden are out of my hands.  But in the end, the will to live and prosper is a powerful force indeed.

December-garden.jpgThis gardening year may not have been my most favorite ever, but I appreciate what I had.  There is much to learn and live by, via the garden.


  1. Love this retrospective. Two questions. When you discussed decidious hedges. Would boxwoods be in that category? I live on Lake Huron. Those north blows can be harsh. Could I grow magnolias? I could work those on the west side of my house which would be more protected from the wind. Thanks.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Claudia, boxwood is an evergreen hedge-not deciduous.It tolerates shearing much better than a deciduous hedge. A nursery person near you should be able to answer your questions about siting a magnolia-I would not know how to advise you. Best, Deborah

  2. Exquisite garden. Every month is such a treat. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Deborah, after a week with no power and the devastation caused by the ice storm, your advice on pruning and perhaps the good that will come from the new sun and air exposure were very inspiring. I struggle with the gardener who does my privet hedges, trying to explain how important it is to prune more pyramidal and I have drawn pictures – at first he resisted strongly as he was sure that as he had never done it that way before his reputation as the man in the neighborhood to go to would be ruined. As the hedge improved in health he has a very different point of view. I was intrigued by your choice of ground-cover, herniaria – just gorgeous, do you find you need to patch year to year or is the spread and self seeding enough to keep it lush? Thank you so much for the gorgeous pictures.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Gwen, I try to prune deep into a shrub every so often-with the idea of producing pockets or holes that permit light to penetrate. Sheared shrubs eventually become a mass of twigs on the interior, with no leaves. It took a while for the herniaria to take hold. The first and second year I added more. The biggest headache was removing the weeds. It is happy in this spot. Thanks for writing, Deborah

  4. What a pleasure to see your garden month by month, especially sitting in front of the fire on a cold Wisconsin morning. Your own garden is a marvelous advertisement of your design and planting skills.

  5. Ross Hamilton says

    Lovely garden, and beautiful roses. Do you not suffer from Japanese beetle? Every year, they destroy my roses, this past year more than most.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Ross, I do have Japanese beetles-they attack everything in my yard-hellebores, hydrangeas-even cannas. I try flick them into a coffee can very early in the am-when they are sluggish. Who knows if this even makes a dent in the population, but I do it anyway. Deborah

  6. Linda Hagler says

    I started getting your blog in the spring and I can’t wait to get it every month. I also have a love of roses and have had from 20 to 100 depending on where I live. We had 4 acres at one time and was on “A Rose Lovers Four Acres” on HGTV. We used no sprays. We have since moved out of town on 5 acres and I am starting the garden all over again. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and helpful hints on all the fabulous pots you do.

  7. Your year in the garden review is a testament to your skill in creating a structure against which foliage and blooms can shine. Your comments on pruning are appreciated. We acquired a house with a lot of hedge materials, as well as mature trees, but both appear to have been poorly pruned for years. After trying to make some headway in rejuvenating one particularly homely hedge, I’ve put an order in for a professional arborist to tackle the trees and I anxiously await my scheduled appointment, still almost a month away – I hope the arborist can undo some of the damage done by years of poor pruning by prior owners.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Kris, plants have an incredible will to live. And they are forgiving. Given half a chance, they will rebound. Deborah

  8. Hello Deborah. I don’t know if you will see this post or not, since its from 2013, but what are the roses in your rose garden? Are they Carefree Beauty? The roses and the boxwood, and the beautiful fountain and the green grass……and the darling dogs! So beautiful. I can just see you sitting there with your feet in the pool, a glass of wine in your hand…just having returned from a hard day of work/play! I love your beautiful pictures and writing. I have received your blog for a long time now, I don’t remember what year I started so I went back and started at the beginning 2009 ….to read it all. I look forward to every posting. I love everything about it. Your stories of clients that you have worked for for many years, to Robs trips to buy those lovely pots and what ever takes his eye. I have been taking notes about many things that you talk about, and have looked up many plants. I live in Iowa and love seeing what works for you. I could go on and on…but I’ll close by saying thank you for taking the time you do, to write all your wonderful stories and pictures that makes want more!

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