The Next To The Last Of The Winter Work

winter 2015 (3)A lot of work got imagined and fabricated in this garage in the past 6 weeks. A big landscape project that needed Dan and his crew ran late – as in until December 23.  This made me send an SOS to Buck December 1-would his fabricators be able to lend me a hand? Lend me a hand they did.  Lucio, Marzela, David, Owen, Riley, LaBelle, Sal and I produced a boatload of work, with intermittent help from Dan and his group.

winter 2015 (13)A boatload of work does not necessarily imply a beautiful boatload, but I am happy for what is out there. Once my crew is intent on a fabricating project, they proceed at the proper pace, taking great care to do it right.  Should I have a mind to rush anything along, Marzela will look up at me and say, “everything is under control here, Deborah”.  And then she will laugh. Then the whole crew will laugh. Then I laugh, and relax. I could not have a better group. They do prodigious in a beautiful and thoughtful way. They never let me get in the way of that. Each project is particular to the client, the architecture, and the landscape. I figure that part out.  winter 2015 (2)The construction in the shop is a comfortable affair.  The space is big. It is warm enough that we are able to concentrate on the work at hand, and not the weather. We can draw on all of the materials that Rob has on hand in the shop for the winter season. A store chock full of beautiful materials makes all the difference in the world.  I don’t always know exactly what I would like to use for a particular project. If I am interested in good options, I can cruise my own store. No need for a coat and hat and the car keys. This was on my mind, when I decided to open Detroit Garden Works.  First and foremost, I wanted anyone to have access to beautiful objects for the garden. But I also wanted that access to beautiful materials and objects for the garden for the work I do for my clients.  This has been a happy association-between Detroit Garden Works, and Deborah Silver and Co Inc, for going on 20 years. The groundwork of it was considerable.  It took years to make that shop friendly to gardeners and my landscape company- but every bit of the work was worth it.

winter 2015 (14)We don’t worry about making a mess in the shop-it is easy to sweep up at the end of the day.  Where we do not want to make a mess is on the porch of a client, in cold weather. We do not come to construct on site – we come to install.

winter 2015 (4)Creating a centerpiece for a winter pot can be an involved affair. There can be a number of different elements, all of which need to be deliberately placed. An installation mechanism needs to be in place – ahead of time.  The stout bamboo stake at the center of this centerpiece is not visible here-but it is there.  Pounded into the soil in a pot, it will provide much needed anchor once the ground freezes. Picks need to be fluffed.  Some picks have to be bent in a certain direction. Some materials require a lot of fussing before they represent the idea we have in mind.

winter 2015 (6)Once we arrive to install, all of the decisions regarding materials, shapes, textures and mass have already been made.  That time spent outdoors is short and sweet. I am very grateful for the existence of smart phones.  Every one of my crew send me pictures.  What they choose to photograph tells me what they most focus on.  A group of pictures sent before they leave the job enables me to tweak this or that, or give the go ahead. This technology helps us to provide the best quality installation possible.  I will say there are times that what I thought would be perfect is not so great. I like every opportunity to tune up whatever we do. Sometimes it takes the third try to get it right. I am never afraid to redo. Redoing is a sign of sincere interest in a project.

winter 2015 (11)To follow are some pictures of our projects from the past few weeks. We have 4 projects yet to get done-which we will do next week.  I am not so worried that we have work yet to do – nor are my clients. The winter has barely begun.

winter 2015 (8)curly copper willow, red picks, and cream decor mesh

winter 2015 (23)a fountain surround of Branch lattice boxes, filled for the holiday and winter

winter 2015 (24)Silver fir installed up side down-for an especially silvery look

winter 2015 (15)copper and orange willow.  cut magnolia branches

winter 2015 (10)This Branch 48″ wide break form pot is so wide that we had to create a plywood form with foam on top to get this winter pot as wide as it needed to be. Proper proportion is so important. We buy premium evergreen branches that are very long lengths. We need that width.  We are filling pots, not holiday table top centerpieces.  But beyond 16″, a branch will sag under the weight of the winter snow. This pot needed a special form to get the proper proportion to the width of the greens, without compromising the strength of the arrangement.  The greens are thick and luxuriant. Exterior grade plywood helps to make that happen.

winter 2015 (12)contemporary pots for winter

winter work 2015a mass of cardinal red twig dogwood

December 17 2015 103blue white, cream, and taupe

winter 2015 (26)curly copper willow and fuchsia eucalyptus

winter 2015 (9)domed

winter 2015 (18)simple, for winter

winter 2015 (5)eucalyptus and magnolia

IMG_7379 (2)
lighted topiary forms

winter 2015 (1)a low key centerpiece with lots of noble fir as an anchor

winter 2015 (16)blue and lime

winter 2015 (25)The purple berry picks in this pot are on their third year out. We cut them short this year, and paired them with lavender eucalyptus and magnolia.

winter 2015 (17)muted lime berry picks and merlot eucalyptus

holiday and winter containers (9)all green

winter 2015 (19)We have a plywood form for this fountain.  We have replaced the foam only once in the past 6 years. A fountain full is better than an empty fountain.

winter 2015 (22)Red bud pussy willow in a dome of boxwood. noble fir to finish.

holiday and winter containers (10)winter white

winter 2015 (21)We took these great galvanized containers to Rob’s house, and filled them full of greens.  We dropped of an array of other materials we thought he might like. He is a great designer, and he has ideas about how things should look. We never take his pots to the finish.  We are his supporting cast. Does he have time to do winter containers at home at this time of year? No. He runs the shop better than full time, all year round. What we managed to get done for him last week is our version of a leg up. I like the idea that the winter containers provide a winter garden with a leg up.  Think of it.


  1. Debora , the containers are the usual works of creative genius. As a gardener who takes the customer from spring clean up to winter containers, I was so jealous to hear about the retail store in your easy reach. What a treat as a designer to have that resource. Have a great winter and I hope you get some R and R in a warm climate.

  2. Deborah, everything you do is incredibly beautiful! Are the berry picks that you use all plastic? I’ve noticed styrofoam fillers tend to crack and/or the color runs…I also had a rust colored eucalyptus run on white branches I had used in the middle. Any advice is appreciated!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear B, our eucalyptus is preserved and dyed, and does not run. I do use weatherproof faux berries. all the best, Deborah

  3. Beautiful designs. Simple yet so very powerful! A beautiful understanding of materials

  4. Jennifer Taylor says

    Thank you for this and all of your posts. I truly enjoy each and every one of them. Happy New Year Deborah. I too hope you get a little R&R this winter.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Happy New Year to you too, Jennifer. Thanks so much for reading. I will get some R and R-for sure. best, Deborah

  5. Silvia Weber says

    Dear Deborah,
    Those who have their pots, troughs, fountains and jardinieres expertly filled with beautiful greens, branches, cones, etc., designed by Deborah Silver are FORTUNATE indeed! Gazing upon your Winter arrangements gives one’s spirit and soul a lift.
    Even though we sailed through December with Spring-like temps, still we were not able to complete the pots in front of our office until yesterday. As Christmas came and went with unfinished pots. This bothered me terribly. I thought to myself, Deborah would say, “stick with it- there is still plenty of Winter left”. I chuckled when I read this post. Your four clients still to be done. After all, Winter is just a week old…
    Thank you for this and every post!
    XOX, Silvia as Gerry

  6. Cathy Peterson says

    Jaw droppingly beautiful. . .love looking at them.

  7. OMG! Just stunning arrangements! I always enjoy the pics so much and reading your blog Deborah. Thanks for sharing and I do try to duplicate your ideas and those of your team with my own home containers. Might not look as professional, but am eager to give it my best.
    All the best to you and your team in 2016!

  8. These are (as always) stunning and inspiring. I had a question on the fifth picture. You said there is a bamboo stake in the middle of these that you will pound into the soil of the pot. I was wondering how you do this in the center of the arrangement and get it pounded down in there enough without damaging the arrangement. It looks as though the stake must be sticking up in the middle of the arrangement and it comes out the bottom as you pound it?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Shelley, we have a piece of 1 x 2 lumber that we place vertically on the top of the bamboo stake, so we can pound the pole down without damaging the arrangement. A length of round wood dowel would work too. best, Deborah

Leave a Comment