Winter Ready

lighted winter containerWe finished our last winter installation this Tuesday past. A client who is out of town on holiday did not mind if her winter pots did not get done until after December 25th. Her home is now winter ready for her return. Yesterday we finished the winter pots at the store. So we are ready for winter too. The garland got done early in the season. We only have 6 or 7 to do in any given year. Buck’s fabricators at Branch make them, and install them. They do help a great deal with the winter containers, once those holiday garlands are done and hung. Once the first 6 garlands for clients were done and up, they made our shop garland. We had that garland, and not much else until 2 weeks ago, when Rob had a moment to dress this cast iron cauldron for winter. The spruce tips were a new green for us-of course he wanted to try them out. The hand wrought iron topiary form from England is wrapped with Lumineo LED string lights. Not so easy to see in this picture are a number of small scale pine cone picks that for all the world look like they are attached to those spruce tips. For weeks, a garland and a single pot were all we had to show for the winter.

So why wouldn’t I dress the store for winter early in the season? Lots of our shop clients would like to see what we have a mind for the season. Some of them might be inclined to take some aspect of our idea into consideration for their own winter holiday. There are plenty of good answers to that question. The strongest answer is that our clients come first. We did just shy of 60 projects between November 10 and December 24. Just about 200 containers. And two holiday parties. This is a lot of of work to do in a very short amount of time. Not every client can be first, but it is easy to do the shop last.

There is another reason why we dress the shop for the winter last. I consider it a personal challenge to design and install from the left over materials. If you were raised as I was, the meals featuring leftovers were not my favorite. Some were downright unappealing.  But as a designer, I have always been intrigued by the possibility that good design can take a rag tag group of the last of the materials, and make something worth looking at from them. I cannot really explain this, but metaphorically speaking,  making a beautiful meal from a group of leftovers is a challenge that is satisfying.

The greens in the window boxes at the shop were the leftover scraps from a busy season.  Even those scraps proved to be not enough. The day after Christmas we bought 6  Frazier fir Christmas trees at a tree lot for one dollar each.  It took four trees to produce enough greens for the window boxes at the shop. These were trees that were moments from being discarded-  I was happy to rescue them from the discard heap. The labor to cut up the branches was considerable. But the end result was worth it. The window boxes do not look like they were stuffed with a material that no one wanted. The spruce tips in the centerpiece came to us late in the season, so we had those left over as well. I was more inclined to try to put them to use, than pitch them.

It is impossible to tell in advance which twigs will be left over. Every year the twig overage is different. This year, we had curly willow left, and just about nothing of any other type of twig. So curly willow was destined to play a part in the shop winter pots. The sage eucalyptus was not so popular this year, but the color is striking with the curly willow, and the red berries.

I will admit we never have any bleached pine cones left over, no matter how many we buy.  So I did purchase 2 cases of them, just for my clients and the shop winter display. We put them in the garland, and in all of the pots and window boxes.  At the close of the season, we had 2 bags left. Detroit Garden Works has their only sale of the year between December 25 and January 7.  One of those bags of cones was sold yesterday, and I am sure the last one will find a home soon.

lighted winter containerWe also manufacture the most stunning lighted rings for winter gardens; I have posted pictures of them plenty of times. Both the hanging and spiked versions are just about gone now.  But we did have 4 steel rings that had not had lights put on them, so we used those rings as a base for a collection of curly willow wreaths that sit at the back of each window box. Those three foot diameter wreaths are properly scaled to our industrial sized windows, and that vibrant color reads even at a distance.

Lighting is such an essential part of any Michigan winter display. They gray days will vastly outnumber the sunny ones from now until April. We did use left over incandescent garland light strings in the window boxes and pots, as we are transitioning over to stocking only LED lights. The light strings on the garland are attached to the grapevine portion of that garland.  Those light strings are LED lights.  One string is 110 feet long, which eliminates the need to string light sets together.  As the LED lights have a 10 year lifespan, we can store the grapevine with the lights still attached for next year’s garland, and maybe the year after that.  The grapevine is a durable material.

Detroit Garden Works for winterI will enjoy being able to walk past all my leftovers every day all winter long.

winter lightingThat pot at the end of the driveway has some company now.









  1. Beautiful! I live in Texas but was in Detroit for the holidays, wish I could have seen your shop. My daughter lives there now, so maybe next time!

  2. Cathy Peterson says

    We’ve got a cold, gray, windy day here in northern Illinois. . .there are many more to come. Your light display would sure warm things up here! Beautiful as always!

  3. Deborah, your shop is BEAUTIFUL!!! Not in the least does it look like “leftovers”! I grow my own curly willow and have fashioned my own winter pots using your beautiful design ideas and tips. Thank you for your generous spirit in sharing your talent. I’m wondering how you attached the curly willow to the metal ring? Is it woven in and out around the ring, or formed in a circular shape on top of the ring and secured with wire or zip ties? A new challenge for next year….LOL!

    Happy New Year,

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Anne, we go around attaching with zip ties several times. Then we start weaving branches in and out. all the best, Deborah

  4. Diane Amick says

    Your left overs designs are striking! Your clients are likely happy to wait till you can get to them for such beautiful winter pots. I’ve been on the lookout for a pair of large pots for the entrance to my long driveway that won’t break the bank. It’s quite a distance from my modest ranch house, so irrigation is going to be a challenge. Might be better to just plant striking evergreens (in northern Virginia) and light them since you can’t see the house from the road unless you know it’s there.

  5. Terri Benton says

    Deborah, I love what you’ve done with your “leftovers”. Stunning, as always. Are the bulbs in the trees something that you sell at Detroit Garden Works? Thank you. Happy New Year!!!

  6. Elicia Dowd says

    We too are cold, damp and dark here in NH. Thanks again for all your postings throughout the season. The winter ones are my favorite eye candy! I know how long that takes and we sure do appreciate it. One of these days I am going to pop in your shop (it’s actually on my bucket list of things to do).

  7. Deborah-
    As a fellow designer, I too wait to do my personal decorating with leftovers. It is a great exercise in making use of materials “on the fly” and they always turn out beautifully. Plus, it makes me feel better when I have mis-calculated my materials order!
    One question- how are you getting into frozen containers? We were lucky enough to finish client containers before the cold hit, but have used hot water/hair dryers in past years…
    I was lucky enough to find time to stop into the shop while visiting family earlier this week. As always, thanks for your great ideas and inspiration to get the juices flowing!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Km, frozen soil is not of much consequence to us. We make sure the dirt gets lowered in all of the containers by 3″. That depth is enough to accommodate our foam forms. The centerpieces have stout bamboo poles in the center.We put a metal cap (this keeps the bamboo from splitting on the top) over the pole, and pound it down into the soil with a small sledge hammer.We have no problem pounding the pole in to the frozen dirt.I rarely do anything on the fly-even the remains of my materials get just as much attention as a store full. I am so pleased you had time to drop by the shop-we did meet, did we not? Have a great New Year. all the best, Deborah

  8. Hi Deborah
    You always excel In Your work !
    Do you have any classes that we can take on container gardening

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Bela, I do not teach classes. But I have almost 1500 essays on line over the past 7 years. In the right side bar, you can click on any month of any year, and read those essays. There is more to read about my ideas about container gardening there than I could ever cover in a class. All the best, Deborah

  9. Dear Deborah,

    the shop looks fantastic. And I don’t think anyone would have known that you were using leftovers. I had to smile when I read that. You take these elements and craft a look that everyone wants to copy and by the time they do, you will have moved on and taken it to the next level. Thank you for sharing all of this.

    I did get to bring Mom up to your shop on a cold snowy day. The Edison bulbs and the cauldron with the spruce tips were pretty special on their own. A Corgi barked at us as we let the blustery pre Christmas cold in. And we did peak in on the work in the backroom. We did not want to interfere.

    A stout fellow caught us on the way out and we let him know that we appreciated the mix of where the beat meats the elite. He summed it up as rustic chic. I think we were on the same page.

    I am already looking forward to the Garden Cruise!



    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mark, thank you for your too kind letter. I wish I had had a chance to talk to you when you were here. Who knows what we are-but I hope that our sincerity is obvious. The next Garden Cruise will be the 10th, and the last. I am making plans to be sure it is not just the last, but also the best. Have a great New Year. Deborah

  10. Again so generous w/information. Great characteristic.

  11. Tom Baldinette says

    Deborah. Best Wishes to you, your family and your readers for a Healthy and Happy New Year!! Resolutions…? mine: less planning, more doing. which goes for my gardening, too! Best, Tom.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Tom, happy to hear from you. I think I will be doing more planning-and less doing – ha! Thank you for your good wishes. Happy New Year to you, too. all the best, Deborah

  12. The shop looks fantastic. And I don’t think anyone would have known that you were using leftovers. I had to smile when I read that. You take these elements and craft a look that everyone wants to copy and by the time they do, you will have moved on and taken it to the next level. Thank you for sharing all of this.

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