The December Better Homes And Gardens


February last, Jane McKeon, garden editor at Better Homes and Gardens called-would we be available to host a photo shoot of my winter containers?  Why wouldn’t we?  Better Homes and Gardens reaches an astonishing number of homes all across the US.  Even better, they have been publishing, and encouraging great design for many decades.  BHG came every month in the mail to my house when I was a child.  My Mom poured over every issue.  Home, garden, design, health, food-a compendium of articles and pictures about daily life, touched by design. 

I am not sure I read any of the articles as a child, but I am quite sure I studied the pictures.  BHG has evolved over time, but a few things are quite the same.  They have the idea to share, explain,  teach-and support.  What could be more American in nature? The magazine had run an article about my spring container plantings, but I was excited about this article that would feature containers in winter.   

I have to credit Rob for the seminal idea that no container should be empty over the winter season.  Many years ago he described a plan to offer materials in the shop that could be placed into containers, and not only survive, but enrich our winter season.  What a gifted idea!  The containers that make a home for summer annual and tropical plants could be a home for cut greens, preserved and dry natural materials during our long winter months.  We take such great pride that this idea has spread, both to other designers, and to clients who like to do for themselves.    

No gardener loves the winter.  The frozen ground, the deep freeze, the dead stalks and the gray skies are daunting.  If you are like me, you are longing for spring.  But spring is an impossibly long way off.  Every gardener needs a big idea to occupy at least part their winter.  Seed catalogues, plant research, forcing bulbs, design planning-these things help.  But dressing the garden for the winter season takes such a lot of thought and effort- this extended activity helps to keep the fire burning through the end of the year.

 Our winter 2011 was anything but ordinary.  Warm.  No snow.  BHG wanted a little snow.  The shoot-on hold.  We considered fake snow.  Once that idea was nixed, we held our breath-hoping for snow from the sky.   

At the first sign of an inch of snow, BHG put Chicago based photographer Bob Stefko on the road to our place.  We had but a moment to record the winter pots, in an environment that looked momentarily wintry.  One of my landscape crews was most obliging-moving pots, snow and lights. 

I will admit that both my crew and I about froze,  styling Bob’s shoot.   I was amazed by him-he shrugged off the long hours of cold, and focused on the work.  His photographs-each and every one of them-were beautiful. A great photographer creates opportunity and invention despite trying circumstances.  Bob was no exception. 

Though we had no idea what he was seeing, we kept him company. 

We have had lots of calls and emails from many places, about the materials and techniques used in the creation of these winter arrangements.  All of the excitement, discussion and expression generated by those 5 pages in Better Homes and Gardens-such fun.  

This year’s winter containers-I try to post pictures as soon as they are done.  Any gardener interested in yet another expression featuring the garden needs a timely nudge.  You see it when I see it.  I try to keep up.

Our work is just about non stop this time of year.  No matter that the time frame is short.  We plan to give every project its just due.  All of our clients rightfully feel as though their project is a one of a kind.  No matter how busy we are, we take the time to make every holiday and winter container specific.            

Your winter containers and holiday decor is specific to you, and your point of view.  An original and personal winter display enchants-your family, your friends-and your neighbors.

The creative process is very hard to describe, much less document.  What I like is the idea that so more creativity goes on than I could possibly absorb.  Great winter displays and design are world wide.     

This client came in for a consultation.  In the end, she did all of her own work.  Her holiday display on top of these pillars dating back to the 1920’s-personal.  Singular.  Swell.  Gorgeous!  What we do every day at the shop, Better Homes and Gardens made available to every gardener everywhere.  Many thanks for your confidence and interest, Better Homes and Gardens.   


  1. Congratulations on having your work featured in BHG! I’m so happy to see that your work is “getting play” to a larger audience. It certainly deserves it.

  2. Deborah, I always enjoy seeing what your creative mind has come up with – to that end, I was determined to up the ante this year for my own winter arrangement. I started with a base of evergreen boughs, then, ala Rob, I went into my meadow and collected milkweed pods, eupatorium, and aster seed heads. I had such fun putting it all together. Thanks again for the inspiration! Congratulations on your BHG spread!!

  3. Congratulations on BHG shoot! Although I saw the piece, I discovered your blog via Pinterest. Visited your shop several years ago and thought I had died and gone to heaven. Unfortunately the drive from East Lansing prevents weekly visits. Discovering your blog is the next best thing. Plan on soaking up lots of ideas. Thanks for posting.

  4. Ana Pflueger says

    I’m a big fan of your work!!! Not only do I enjoy your beautiful container pics but love your commentaries as well. Have a question for you though on using dried colored eucalyptus in your winter containers; how do you keep the color from bleeding? They make such a wonderful color impact but I’m hesitant to use because of color run-off. Thoughts?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Our eucalyptus is not dried and dyed. It is preserved with a chemical that contains the color. The branches and leaves absorb the preservative/color. So, no bleeding.

  5. HI Deborah, I simply opened the Better Living magazine today and saw your designs. I immediately knew it was you and was in heaven to find your picture and the entire article on your work. We love you and your talent we are so proud of you! Congratulations from our hearts. You made it in all 5o states. That is an awesome victory!

  6. Deborah I found your website by accident. I am a fanatical gardener and I don’t really do annuals and pots. But I think you are an absolute artist. We don’t even have a similar gardening philosophy ( I am obsessed w/ natives and woodland/wildlife gardening), but I can totally respect the beautiful landscapes you create. I am probably going to pick up the BHG if I haven’t missed the edition. I’m sure the photos are loovely.

    I’m bored garden-wise actually because it is winter, and I’d rather be outside…but guess what?! I am making up winter pots! They’re filled w/ pine boughs and stems I pruned from overgrown forsythias. Not as pretty as yours, but hey…I’m happy. 😀

    Hoping you and your family and company have a lovely holiday.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Thanks for your letter! Gardeners are all different in their approach, but what they share is a passion for it. And a love of nature. Bravo on the winter pots! Happy Holidays to you too, Deborah

  7. Tom Baldinette says

    Deborah. Today I was in a waiting room leafing through the December issue of BHG, and came upon a little tutorial on arranging holiday planters, which made me think they ought to speak to the real expert on the subject, namely you, when to my surprise, there you were on one of the previous pages. I thought I’d come on here and announce the “news” but I see you beat me to it. Well done, Deborah, and the praise by the “press” is much deserved. Tom in NC.

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