The Collectors

the collectorI may not know all of their names, but I recognize their faces. Those people for whom the world turns on an axis determined by a garden, a landscape, or a property –  firmly entrenched at the center of their universe. That landscape may be a dream, or a work in progress. It is most assuredly a life’s work. That landscape is visionary, and very personal.  I would not call it a hobby, or even an avocation. I would call it a passion for nature that runs deep, and most of all, wide.  That emotional landscape is the foundation upon which all else in life rests. Their interests are varied. Some collect seed.  Some collect heirloom vegetables.  Some collect memories of nature.  Some dig, and find the smell of soil the most intoxicating perfume they have ever had the pleasure to experience. That experience of the garden is constellation wide. There is the smell of grass, the sounds of the birds, the sight of the first clump of crocus coming into bloom. Some click with and collect a specific plant. Some take great pains to prepare seed beds for a favorite species. Some see themselves as stewards. Some are all of the above, and more.


the collectorThese two have been clients of Detroit Garden Works for many years. Most recently they bought the house and property next door to them.  For the property, not the house. The second half of a bowl shaped parcel of land defining their landscape was part of an adjacent property. They chose to purchase that property which would make their landscape whole. The reuniting of the two pieces of land-the act of a collector.

DSC_8575They came to Detroit Garden Works today, and left with 2 full flats of hellebores.  The discussion about which varieties would be appropriate for their garden was lengthy, and interesting.  I so admire that the two of them see themselves as stewards of a large property. The lengths to which they go to look after it, and develop the landscape is astonishing. Their garden making is not a project.  It is a way of life.

DSC_8573A smile upon the face of a collector is music to my eyes. This is not about commerce – this is about a world view. A world view that I recognize and admire. They have differing points of view about lots of issues.  The one hates looking at weeds.  The other hates pulling weeds. Somehow they work it out.  It is obvious they have a long standing and serious romance with their garden that sustains the both of them.

DSC_8572The two of them weighed down with a collection of hellebores did my heart good. It is a sure sign that great plants have a strong and committed audience.

DSC_8576 They collect earth, nature, garden, shade plants, landscape, hellebores -they grow vegetables and trees. They grow it all, in their own style. They enable us to thrive.  Rob and I treasure them. Plain and simple, they are family. This is the best part of our hellebore festival. It brings out the collectors.




  1. I love this: ” That emotional landscape is the foundation upon which all else in life rests. … The experience of the garden is constellation wide.”

  2. Amy kampfe says

    Thank you for sharing this article. Don’t we all get caught up in the “job” of creating a garden that looks good, instead of the ” joy” of creating a lovely space!

  3. Joyce B in Atlanta says

    Gorgeous plants, wonderful story. Hopefully, someone who cares about the land will take over this house and garden when I leave it. I don’t run into too many people like me, though, and none of our 11 houses has ever had a yard worth talking about. I am big on ordering things to ‘try out’, and in our climate here in north Georgia, most everything succeeds. The 5 Hellebores I put in about 12 years ago were beautiful this year. Suddenly, with the explosion of pink varieties and doubles available, I am finding so many places suitable for them. I examined the boxes the gentlemen are carrying and see that they are heading towards creating a restrained and ‘elegant’ garden. I wish them great success in creating a beautiful and lasting retreat. They certainly know where to find the best help!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Joyce, thank you for your letter. You may have more company than you think. I just happen to have a place where gardening people like you come around.You are right about their taste. They like green, and restrained and elegant is appeals to them. best, Deborah

  4. Heather Burkhardt says

    I love this post. I am one of these. My life revolves around my garden and the greater landscape of our property. This year we are making huge changes, putting in a barn and I have been planting our entryway garden since November (NorCal zone 9b). Yesterday, I created the support grid for my new Eden Climbing Roses along a 20ft wall. I am so excited to get them in the ground and to see how they will grow this year…

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Heather,I am always happy to hear from any gardener/steward. It sounds like you are making a life of it. all my best to you, Deborah

  5. “The smell of soil the most intoxicating perfume they have ever had the pleasure to experience.” I am happy for you the snow is gone, we have a ways to go here in Maine; and then I too will have a smile on my face as I procure my flat of posies. jeanne

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jeanne, when I got home last night, Buck asked me how our helleborius festival was doing. I told him it was illustrious, and glorious! best, Deborah

  6. Beautiful photographs, a wonderful story told.

  7. Christine Beck says

    Thanks for sharing their happiness

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Christine, I feel confident in saying that you are a collector and a steward, in much the same way as the two of them.They did seem so happy! best, Deborah

  8. cynthia woodyard says

    Just wonderful, and thank you, Deborah!

  9. “Some dig, and find the smell of soil the most intoxicating perfume they have ever had the pleasure to experience.” — I might have to paint that on the side of my truck.

  10. Expand this, it’s a book

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Tara, They are the book. That is simple to see in them, and everyone else I know who is a serious gardener. all the best, Deborah

  11. Erica McKoane says

    Great page on the passion of gardening; especially early spring passion. Here in Chicago snow is gone; the birds are back and singing their hearts out each morning, geese came in waves of chattering flocks. I began removing some leaf mulch to liberate daffodils poking through, but my “oh yeah!” moment was the hellebore who sat proud, green and budding, ready for action…amazing how they know the time is right no matter the species. I’m a sucker for it every time! Just seeing your pictures makes me ready to jump in the car to roadtrip!! Thanks, and Happy Spring!!

  12. Deborah, I agree with Tara… I think you should write a book. This was a wonderful way to start my morning… reading your words about the Inner Landscape of Nature Worship. “Nature is my church, Love is my religion” is an email signature I often use… and your words above could be sung by a choir of gardeners as a hymn.

  13. Amanda Burkett says

    Have been told many times that I must write a book . . . Simply cannot commit, as the garden calls much more loudly to my soul! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful part of our family with us–the far-reaching lovers of the earth. From the wooded portion of the Texas gulf coast–where spring is shouting all around–wishing you warm soil and a rich awakening–and most of all–His blessings on your labors! Fondly–Amanda

  14. My thanks to Detroit Garden Works for making this wonderful collection of hellebores available to your customers. The hellebores I bought last year had attractive flowers/sepals and were not touched by any critters (we have deer and rabbits). And the new growth today is healthy and strong. I’ve added more. Thanks Deborah and Rob.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Joanne, this is a perennial that I think has everything going for it. Great habit and hardiness. Gorgeous foliage,and stunning flowers. The deer don’t like them. They are long lived. Once established, they as as close to carefree as any perennial can be. Neither Rob nor I have any hesitation encouraging gardeners to add hellebores to their gardens. If you live in my zone, they are the first perennial to bloom in the spring. How I love them for their April bloom! all the best, Deborah

  15. Awe shucks Deborah, you nailed us perfectly. As I have told you your observation and style, both in conversation and captured on the page are welcome and uplifting. We look to many more opportunities to enjoy the gifts both you and Rob bring to our imaginations and to our home. -Dan and Richard

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Dan and Richard, both Rob and I know the two of you in a way that we all share. We truly appreciate the relationship. thanks, Deborah

  16. I’ve been found out! Just wish I lived much closer to Detroit!!! Some day I may just jump in the car and drive several days to breath deeply at your glorious store. LOVE your webpage. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

  17. I sure wish you would put all this in a book.

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