On Tour Tomorrow

July 18, 2015 (16)I was in the garden early this morning. Early enough that the dew still covered every surface.  The agreement to be on a garden tour is just the beginning.  Of course you want every moment in the garden to mean something, and make a good case for that meaning. The planning starts months ahead, long about when you see what did not survive the winter, and later, when you go to plant the pots.

July 18, 2015 (31)That comittment to put your garden out there is one part bravado, one part luck, one part a benevolent mother nature, and 100 parts work.  I try to mitigate those circumstances with my clients as much as I can for the Greening tour. Monica Tabares from the Greening staffs every garden with two people. Detroit Garden Works springs for tee shirts for all of them, including the shop staff, so every tour person remembers that this event is all about the work that the Greening does.  This year means 28 people – the morning and the afternoon shifts – will be staffing the 7 gardens on tour.  Monica has told me in years past that the tour docents are volunteers from the Wayne State dental school.  I never asked about how that came to be, but I appreciate all of those students who take time on a Sunday to help make the experience a good one for all.

July 18, 2015 (18)Both crews from Deborah Silver and Co pitch in. We handle this and that.  We are available to replace plants that have gone down from whitefly, or add new grass in spots that need it. And we send tickets to the tour and reception for every client who agrees to put their garden on tour.  Some enjoy the day at homer meeting fellow gardeners.  Others leave the garden in the capable hands of the Greening people, and go on tour themselves.  Others yet are willing, but able to keep a comittment in another place that day.

July 18, 2015 (9)Every landscape that is on our tour belongs to people for whom the garden is a way of life.  Every tree, shrub, perennial and seasonal plant gets in the ground is a result of the belief that stewardship of the environment is a pleasure, a joy, and a responsibility.  The Greening has been all about that belief, since 1989.  They have planted in excess of 90,000 trees in the city of the Detroit since their inception.  They sponsor urban farms.  They teach people how to care for trees, and grow food.

July 18, 2015 (23)They are a self sufficient non profit organization. Meaning they have staff who apply for grants, and raise money.  I sit on their board, but after my first board meeting I knew that I would never catch up to their history and long range plans enough to be of any use to them. So 8 years ago Rob and I decided to put on this tour, all of the proceeds of which would go to the Greening.

July 18, 2015 (27)The money we have raised usually goes to those programs that cannot be funded by grants – programs that rely on donations.  One of those programs involves hiring young people with not so much opportunity to obtain a job.  The Greening pays them to water newly planted trees, and tend vegetable patches.  I have had occasion to hear about what an impact this experience has had on young people who were so fortunate to participate in this program. Of course I like the idea that young people become exposed to the work, and the satisfaction that gardening provides.

July 18, 2015 (67)I can barely remember my life before I grew plants, and gardened. I would want to do what I could to pass that along to others.  Especially young people. My generation will need young people to grow peonies, and heirloom tomatoes, and as many trees as they can mange. Suffice it to say that this is a cause near and dear to my heart.

July 18, 2015 (8)Monica W, the manager of Detroit Garden Works, Deborah Silver and Co, and the Branch Studio, organizes the reception we hold after the tour at the store. She furthermore organizes all of the ticket sales, so soon after the tour we have a check available to the Greening.  It is an amazing amount of work on her part to make it all seem effortless. Though she is very much behind the scenes, she is the unusual combination of the work of an engineer, and the work of a compassionate and caring person.

July 18, 2015 (49)As for me, my garden will be on tour for the 8th time tomorrow. I am happy with most everything I see.  The delphiniums that bloomed their hearts out in early June are suffering from a fungus brought on by the cold and rainy early summer.  I have no plans to replace this plant, or disguise it.  I am a gardener, and I have plenty of trouble in my garden.  It comes with the territory.

July 18, 2015 (51)I have talked with every client who has a garden on tour tomorrow. To the last they are concerned about this bad spot, or that plant that is not performing, or some boxwood still showing signs of damage from last winter.  My job near the time of the tour is to suggest that no garden on this tour is a show garden.  They are gardens that belong to real people.  People with kids, jobs, and lots of other responsibilities. Our tour is a chance for people who garden to see what other people who garden do.  This tour is about exchange. My garden is for all to see what it is –  tomorrow.

July 18, 2015 (50)Though some parts of my perennial patch are not so swell, other places look fine to my eye.  I have no doubt that every person who visits my garden tomorrow will remember the good things.  None of them will hold my failures against me.  Why would they?

July 18, 2015 (59)After years of trying to get herniaria to take hold in this garden in the front of my house, I grassed over it.  The grass looks great, and is easy to keep. I am happy to come home, and not have to weed the herniaria.

July 18, 2015 (5)If you are able to come on our tour tomorrow, I would encourage you to do so.  We have 7 really beautiful landscapes and gardens for you to see.  If you are too far away to be here – I will post pictures of all of the gardens next week. So looking forward to the tour tomorrow-this is my news.

 

At A Glance: More Silvery Leaves

 

July 28 2011 005

silvery (34)

September 1, 2014 (32)

Sept 21 032

nicotiana and company

May 1, 2015 (33)

August 29 2014 (5)

blue agaves

silvery (3)

the shop 002

May 21, 2014 (9)

Sept 6, 2012 029

DGW  12

June 7jt 2012 047

 

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DGW 2006_08_10 (19)

silvery (37)

fall planting 004

Aug 5 2012 060

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Aug 22 020

 

 

Silver Leaves

silver foliage (12)Cynara cardunculus, or cardoon, is also known as an artichoke thistle. It is a member of the sunflower family, and is native to Mediterranean climes. The giant coarse toothed leaves are architectural in form, and incredibly dramatic. A lot of that drama comes from the fact that those leaves are a very bright silvery gray. These silver leaves, in the right light, have a decidedly metallic cast. This amazing photograph of a cardoon is from www.greatplantpicks.org.  Great Plant Picks is an educational program of the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden which debuted in 2001 with the first recommendations for a comprehensive palette of outstanding plants for the maritime Pacific Northwest.  No wonder this cardoon has such a fascinating and an exotic look to me.  I do not garden in the Mediterranean, or in the Pacific northwest.

silver foliage (13)Silver leaved plants are not coated with some natural form of metallic silver. Many of them have leaves which are covered with very fine hairs that reflect light.  That reflective quality makes the leaves appear silvery.  According to the Plant Delights website, “The silver color is not a pigment, but rather some type of mechanism that scatters and reflects light. Some plants with silver foliage have a thick coat of foliar wax. Others are covered with fine hairs. A few silver perennials get their luster from blisters that separate the outer and inner cell layers of the leaf.” Silver leaved plants by and large hail from regions that are very hot and dry. That silvery surface is an adaptation – a means by which the plants can survive high heat and drought. Though I garden in a zone which gets regular rain, and infrequently has temperatures over 90 degrees, I love the look of silver leaved plants. This year’s window boxes at the shop-a celebration of silver leaves.

silver foliage (14)In the window boxes this year, I have planted artemesia “Valerie Finnis”, a blue/silver eucalyptus whose name I do not know, Cirrus dusty miller, a lavender with silver leaves, kalanchoe “Flapjacks”, the trailing artemesia “Silver Brocade”, an unknown silvery white succulent, and artemesia absinthium-or wormwood. I think I have identified these accurately, but maybe not. My knowledge of the names of exotic plants is sketchy. I was not shopping names for these window boxes.  I was shopping color.

silver foliage (15)Some of these plants might be hardy in my garden, provided they were planted in poor, gravelly, and fast draining soil.  Others are strictly seasonal for me, as they would only survive the winter in a very mild climate. Some would thrive and return the following year,  only given the absence of a winter.

silver foliage (17)I am not generally drawn to succulent plants, only because they seem so out of place in a Michigan garden. But my container plantings can be comprised of any collection of plants that interest me. The best part of a seasonal/summer container planting is that I am not restricted by what would survive my winter. Most of the annual plants I use in containers come from tropical regions. I do use perennials hardy in Michigan in containers, provided their habit, texture, form and mass is such that they will look interesting all summer long. A columbine, or lupine in a pot has a very short season of interest. The coming of the hot weather – especially the hot nights – takes a toll on them. The tropical plants can handle the heat, should it come.

silver foliage (16)As long as I have been gardening, much has been said about the hardiness of lavender.  Early on, I planted no end of so called hardy lavender, without much success. My longest relationship with a lavender plant-4 years, and 3 winters. Hardiness is not exclusively dependent on winter temperatures.  My area is known for its heavy clay soil.  Lavender likes perfect drainage – light soil. Drainage is a surprisingly big part of winter hardiness. A new lavender from Peace Tree Farm shows a great deal of promise.  From their website:  “One of the hardiest lavenders seen throughout Europe and the United States, ‘Phenomenal’ has exceptional winter survival, as it does not have the winter die back that other varieties like Munstead and Hidcote commonly demonstrate. Lavender ‘Phenomenal’ has also shown tolerance to extreme heat and humidity, and is resistant to common root and foliar diseases. Most commonly popular for its silvery foliage and consistent growth with uniform, mounding habit, ‘Phenomenal’ has an elegant flower presentation and fragrance, perfect for fresh and dried arrangements and oil uses.”  Hmm.  I will have to buy some plants.  What summer garden seems like a summer garden without lavender?

silver foliage (1)For the moment, I plant lavender in containers, never expecting I could plant them in the ground in the fall, and winter them over. This silver leaved plant is just as Mediterranean in its roots as the cardoons. I am happy to have them, one season. Lavender seems very happy, planted with other plants of like persuasion. The range of silvery colors from bright silvery gray to silvery blue gray in this iron cistern all seem visually compatible. I suspect all the plants enjoy the heat absorbed by the cistern.

silver foliage (2)Proper watering will be key to their success. At Detroit Garden Works, we group all of the silvery leaved and succulent plants together on a table that is a do not water zone.  Euphorbia “Diamond Frost” will deteriorate quickly from too much water.  The leaves of helicrysum-licorice-will pucker and decline from too much water. Water the silver leaved plants as infrequently as possible, and then some. Your restraint will reward you.

silver foliage (3)Some of our echeverias only get water from the sky, when it comes.  Otherwise, nothing, and certainly nothing from the hose. It may not have been the best year to decide to plant a collection of silver leaved plants.  We have has lots of rain, dating back to early spring.  Today, it rained all day, and it looks like it will continue to rain all night. My magnolias and parrotias have that lush green tropical look about them. The high temperature today-59 degrees. Not exactly Mediterranean.

silver foliage (11)Silver, blue, and gray leaved plants are beautiful in containers. The teucrium fructicans, or silver bush germander, in the center of this container, was lovely all summer long.  I wintered it over indoors successfully for 3 years.

silver foliage (8)Plectranthus “Silver Shield” makes a beautiful seasonal groundcover.  This small bed on a pool terrace is hot and dry in the extreme.  I have never been able to get a perennial groundcover to winter over in this spot. The silvery gray is so beautiful with the pale pink roses, and white washed wall.

silver foliage (9)Though the miscanthus grass in the center of this container is white, all of the silver leaves surrounding it makes those white leaves glow.

DGW 2006_09_05 (1)My most successful cardoon planting ever was in a tall container the top of which measured 14″ by 14″.  Once it was established, it was happy to be hot and dry.

silver foliage (4)Some silver leaved plants do well in the shade.  This silvery green begonia with silver blotches is underplanted with Shadow King gray begonia, and Pilea “Silver Tree”.  Pilea “Silver Cloud” is equally as lovely. Silver leaved plants-I am happy to have access to them.

silver foliage (10)silver leaves

silver foliage (5)silver thread leaves

silver foliage (7)dusty miller

silver foliage (6)These are the silver gray leaves from a partridge feather plant.  Have you ever?

 

 

 

A Little Sizzle, Please

I  2015 (11)The last two weeks, and the next two weeks, are what I affectionately refer to as hell month. I am designing containers and shopping just about non stop. My crews grab hold of the rope. I print pictures and add notes-scribbled very early in the morning. They scoop it all up, and make it happen-day after day.  We all plant containers for clients this time of year-lots of them. We plant close to 60 projects-all of them different.  My grower delivers plants to jobs for me. His willingness to do this makes big installations possible. He greatly obliges by custom growing lots of annual plants for me.  I am interested in those plants that endure, and perform. And plants that are unusual and interesting. Though all of us are incredibly tired at the end of the day, we have work that has tangible results. Good looking containers, and clients who appreciate them.

I  2015 (20)This client likes lots of color, and more color. I try to put together color combinations that sparkle. Years of planting containers means I am able to imagine what the finished arrangement will look like in the coming months. So I focus primarily on the color relationships, as the eventual size of the plants is a future I can imagine. I can shop an entire greenhouse in no time, and pick plants for one or several jobs. This is not a skill. It is all about experience. I take special interest in this planting, as this is a landscape, garden, and container client with whom I have had a steady relationship for 25 years.

I  2015 (35)Her landscape is the best that I have ever seen it. This is a great pleasure for me, seeing a design grow in.  Trees and shrubs take time to take hold.  Then they need time to grow. This year, her landscape is maturing, and growing. This has taken 15 years. Her summer containers, a gesture for just one summer season, is set off by that landscape.  The relationship of the landscape and gardens to the containers is a lively relationship. She is a very lively client. I plant her containers with that in mind.

I  2015 (12)I do pick a palette of plants for this project that relate to one another-in color, size, and growth habit. Some plants and colors hop from one container to another.  Some colors are thematic.  Some colors are unexpected. The selection of the plants for a collection of containers is all about rhythm, color, mass, texture-  and strong relationships in all of these areas.

I  2015 (29)I do like pink and orange together. Just the right pink, and just the right orange,  is electric.  These French made orangery boxes  have a centerpiece of orange punch cannas – they will grow up and out once we get a little heat. Some color relationships can be subtle.  But in the event that strong color is a primary consideration, I like to use plants whose flowers are large.  Orange geraniums are brash and big headed.  Giant pink petunias are just that-giant, and intensely pink.  All of the plants in these boxes require similar light and water, so the care will be easy.

I  2015 (33) The best part of container plantings is that you have the option to choose the color, shape, mass and texture for just one year.  That one year of pink and orange might make you long for white flowers the following season. The commitment to any scheme lasts but for one season. This is so freeing, and empowering. Anything scheme I might try, I only have to live with for 4 months. The nature of containers should encourage any gardener to experiment. The willingness to flirt with failure can result in a sultry and season long love affair.

I  2015 (23)Strong color asks for strong and sure placement.  The visual relationships you establish from one plant to another will strengthen your container design. The growing relationships from one plant to another is just as important.  A container, grown out , should have a beautiful and graceful shape.These lime green Persian Queen geraniums have a luscious chartreuse color.  The hot pink flowers are like frosting on a cake-yummy. They will get large, and drapy. These Hypnotica lavender dahlias are highly disease resistant, and heavy in bloom.  The pink mandevillea vines have a habit of growth that is loose and lush. The vista petunias will soften the entire mix.

I  2015 (13)Today’s project was an eyeful about the relationships of one color to another. Some gardeners value the color green, or textures of green, or color from foliage, but this client likes flowers.  So flowers she gets.

I  2015 (22)pink and orange, with an intervening phormium.

I  2015 (15)The color is to come.  The lantana topiary is red and orange.

I  2015 (50)Yellow lantana standard and peach pink cascading ivy geraniums.  This container is in full hot south sun.

I  2015 (42)Pink orange and purple.  Th orange is a Caliente orange geraniums.  It amuses me whenever I hear that geraniums are so pedestrian and ordinary.  Their colors are brilliant, their habit is great.  With enough sun and food they perform tirelessly. Geraniums are the little black dress of the seasonal plant/container fashion world.  Orange geraniums are stunning-I would not do without them.

I  2015 (39)What a great day we had today, planting pots. In another month, there will be much more to talk about.