Garden Cruise Tomorrow

A few years ago this client in Dearborn put her garden on the garden cruise we sponsor every year to benefit the Greening of Detroit. If you are not familiar with the Greening of Detroit, in the past 21 years, they have planted thousands of trees, sponsored hundreds of urban farms, and made respect for the environment a mission.  Our tour raises money for them.   I had been working on her landscape for a good many years, and she was kind enough to agree to share it with others.  I am pleased to say that this year, her son Rich and her son-in-law Jason, have agreed to put their gardens on tour.

They are both young people; one landscape I designed and planted only this past summer.  Jason’s landscape and garden is entirely of his own design and installation-he goes so far as to grow his own flowers from seed under lights in the winter.  The landscapes represent very idividual tastes, and are entirely different.  What I like the most about them both is that young people are growing them.  I visited CB and her garden while I was in Dearborn checking out the tour gardens.  She and I both were struck by how the landscape suddenly seems mature and finished.  The landscape is looked after by Melissa and her crew from M and M flowers-her level of maintenance makes every landscape she tends look great.

I have wintered these wax leaf privet single ball topiaries in a greenhouse for the past 8 years.  With root pruning in the spring, we have managed to keep them in these glazed French pots for 8 summers.  The hydrangeas were originally planted in the front of the house.  I moved them here to take advantage of a bigger dose of sun.  They seem entirely happy now.  Planting a landscape is just the beginning.  Some things will not do well.  Other things ask for a different spot.  Moving things around is part of an garden experience.  Most everything thing can be better, if you have patience and resolve.  I try to own up to mistakes early on, so the moving is not such an ordeal. 

CB’s house is situated on a very steep lot; a deck upstairs spanning the entire barck of the house is her garden in the air.  Lots of containers help to create that garden.  On the far right, an old wild rosemary that spends winters in a greenhouse supplies the kitvchen.  On the left, 3 pots devoted to herbs-mostly basil.  To trail in the basil pots, everbearing strawberries. 

There are never many strawberries, but the idea of it is enchanting, and the texture of the strawberry leaves is great.  Tidal wave petunias, mandevillea and dahlias are thriving in the high heat we have had.

My only addition to the deck was to plan and build a pair of very long planter boxes installed outside the deck rail.  This keeps water and debris from the boxes off the deck surface.  Lavender, purple and yellow petunias are punctuated every so often with dark red violet potunias.  The trailing vinca maculatum will traill almost to the ground by the end of the summer.  There is very little maintenance to them. 

Several large perennial garden enclose the pool.  They have been struglling in recent years; the local deer polulation has exploded.  This year, Melissa installed steel post 4 feet tall all the way around the gardens, and strung them with three rows of fishline.  The deer have not touched a thing all season. I can hardly believe this is working, but it is. The lollipop Coralburst crabapple pictured is one of a pair that were planted in celebration of her son Rich’s wedding years ago.  They have matured beautifully. 

On the landing, two lead boxes with green coleus and orange begonias.  All of the containers have drip irrigation in them, and they stay in place all winter. The taupe colored terra cotta pots are frostproof terra cotta from Italy.  Each pot is elevated on feet, to prevent any water from collecting and freezing underneath.  I always enjoy planting these pots, and I enjoyed even more going back and visiting both the garden and my good friend CB. 

A small deck off the master bedroom is large enough for a pair of comfortable chairs, and 4 large pots.  The branches of some old Norway spruce in the backdround are a reminder of how high up in the air this garden really is. 

CB is an accomplished gardener, but today I am thinking about how much she has nurtured that interest in two young people in her family.   In my estimation, she has accomplished something very important.

The Garden Cruise

This coming Sunday is our 4th annual garden cruise.  Detroit Garden Works sponsors this event, so that all of the proceeds from the sale of the tickets goes to benefit The Greening of Detroit.  This organization has been planting trees, and sponsoring urban farms and educational programs in the city of Detroit for the past 21 years.  I sit on their board, but I do not go to the meetings.  They do not need my help figuring out what needs reforesting, or what skills need to be taught.  The best way for me to help is to try and raise some money for them.   

I have a relationship to every garden on tour.  I may have designed the landscape, planted the containers, consulted on this issue or that.  This year one of the gardens belongs to my landscape superintendent. His hand is evident in every square inch of his garden.  The pergola, the fence, the fountain, and the concrete tiled terrace-all hand made .

Another landscape is quite contemporary in design; I designed and installed it 16 years ago.   Yet another is traditionally formal in a modern way; this landscape I designed and installed last year.  This is all by way of saying that the 7 gardens represent widely divergent styles and age. All of them are handsomely maintained.  This year’s group of gardens is an especially good one-you’ll see.         

I admire the work they do.  They persist in planting and teaching.  I am all for beautiful green spaces and tree lawns in cities.  They make what I am all for a reality.  Thery sponsor 700 urban farms throughout the city.  They have a balanced budget; all of their programs are paid for through grants, and donations.   

Like many other people, I think it is important to give back to the greater community that has enabled me to have a business.  So we aim to make the day’s outing all the much more fun with a reception at the shop at the close of the tour.  Rob makes his signature gin and tonics, Christine tends the wine bar, and we have food for all.  We pick up the bill for this, so that all the proceeds from the sale of the tickets goes right to the Greening.    

My garden is one of the 7.  I so enjoy spending the day at home, answering questions, and hearing what people have to say.  Other pairs of eyes are good for a garden.  Every year I hear something that never occurred to me.      

This landscape belongs to one of the gardeners whose house in on tour-but this is his previous house.  The new house and landscape is well worth the visit. 

This garden that I designed was on the national tour some years ago, sponsored by the Garden Conservancy.  We no longer have a branch of this tour in our area-what a shame.  Visiting gardens is one way to learn more about what you like and don’t like.  It is a great way to see new plants.  Best of all, it is an excellent way to see that a great landscape and garden is within any gardener’s reach.    

The landscapes are different enough that I suspect everyone will find something that intrigues them. 


You may be wondering if any of the gardens on the tour are pictured in this post.  Though I designed all of these landscapes, only one photograph is from a 2011 cruise garden.  You’ll just have to come and check them out for yourself.  For more information:  www.thegardencruise.org

Mad For Orange

Though the annual planting at the shop this year was inspired by a client’s planting of Orange Punch cannas, I owe part of my infatuation with orange this year to Margaret Roach.  She published a picture of this potunia “Papaya” on her blog-  www.awaytogarden.com ; it did indeed look delicious. I knew if anyone was growing it, Telly’s would.  George sent me up to his growing farm for 8 cases of 4″ plants.  This petunia is planted along the shop driveway, along with Freckles coleus, lime licorice, and red violet petunias.    

An all out, all orange annual garden seemed like it might be difficult to achieve, since the color orange in plants varies so widely.  One small strip of Sonic orange New Guinea impatiens at home is as loud as a brass band.  I decided a mix of all of those colors that look great with orange would be better.  Yellow, lime, and red violet seemed like a more visually interesting way to go.  The rain has been tough on the petunias.  I quickly realized that the petunia “Terra Cotta” is not the performer that other petunias are.  One of the best reasons to have a mix of plants-the weather.  One never knows what a season will be, but for sure some things will do poorly, and others will do well.    

The red pigment in this banana leaf reads orangy-brown to my eye.  I have never grown “Siam Ruby” before.  I have it placed at a sunny corner of the shop building; this is a very sunny and very hot spot.  There is plenty of room, should it grow large and tall.      

I have underplanted it with that Sonic Scarlet New Guinea impatiens, which is as orange as orange can be.  I think they will appreciate a little shade from the banana leaves-we’ll see.

This rhizomatous begonia is called “Madame Queen”; it is perfectly named.  The large crested olive green leaves are a fiery red/orange on the obverse.  I underplanted it with Ruby Red spikemoss, or clubmoss- a red foliaged selaginella.  The combination is one of my favorites in my series of containers featuring orange. 

The Bullseye series of seed geraniums is a great performer for containers and window boxes-I have better luck growing these than I do with zonal geraniums.  The tricolor geranium right next to it is just as easy to grow.  Sometimes known as Skies of Italy, the variegated leaves of green, orange brown and cream yellow look great with lots of other plants.  The orange flowers are not so showy, but they are obligingly bright orange.   

I have had plenty to say about the Solenia series of begonias.  They are tolerant of lots of sun, and relatively easy to care for.  I just make sure to be sure they are in need of water before I add some.  When I do kill them, it is almost always from rot.  Their thick juicy stems are very watery-I wait until the soil seems tgo be just about dried out before I water.      


My annual garden is well on its way-a little dry warm and sunny weather will help bring on the orange.  The freshly trimmed boxwood and arborvitae provide some cooly elegant structure for what will soon become riotous color.  This is a substantial change from last year’s green and white scheme-this I like.  For those of you who would rather visit an Orange Punch garden than have one, we will be ready for company in short order.

The Garden Cruise 2011

There are but 10 annual plantings left to go this season-I am very happy to be on the far side of what is the most intensely felt and most rigorously engaging part of my gardening year.  I did have a client tell me yesterday that it was too late for me to plant herb pots for them.  For Pete’s sake, I told him, the first day of summer is ten days away.  I am trying myself to keep that in mind-my pots at home are barely half done. In the cracks between the days, I have been organizing our 4th annual garden tour to benefit the Greening of Detroit.  The fabulous garden pictured above is but one of 7 gardens on tour this year.  Please save the date – Sunday, July 17, from 9 to 4:30.  

The Greening of Detroit has been actrively involved in the reforestation of my city for the past 21 years.  I greatly admire their focus, and their results.  In recent years, they have sponsored over 600 urban farms. They teach.  They never give in or give out.  I am in awe of what they have been able to accomplish; I even more admire their dreams.  It is my simple intent to provide my clients with a landscape better than they thought they could have it.  It is even more important to me that they experience and engage with their environment in a successful way.  I sit on the board of the Greening, but I am not much good with meetings.  The only way really for me to help them is to try to raise money in support of their programs. The landscapes and gardens are of my design, or influence.  One landscape was designed and planted from scratch 15 years ago.  Another was designed and planted from scratch last year.  Some gardens are renovations.  One garden has but one connection to me; his mother is one of my oldest and best clients.  His garden is solely of his own making-and beautifully made at that.  You won’t want to miss it.   

My garden is on tour, as usual.  I tinker with it often enough every year that there is always something new to see.  At least people do not seem to get bored with it.  Another member of my group has graciously agreed to put his garden on tour-my landscape superintendent. This garden goes far beyond a design and installation.  Almost everything in his garden has been handmade by him.  A beautiful privacy fence and pergola.  A fountain.  A terrace of handmade concrete tiles.  Anyone with an interest in creating a gorgeous garden space with their own two hands will find a lot to look at here. 

The 7 gardens are uniquely styled.  I would say my garden is very traditional and formal.  There is a very contemporary garden, and a traditional garden with contemporary overtones.  There is a classic French influenced English garden and a cottage style garden.  A 1970’s modern garden on a large piece of property is in contrast to a small, intimate and uniquely styled garden.  Many points of view are persuasively represented. 

I am hoping that if you live in this area, you will join us for the tour, and the afterglow reception at Detroit Garden Works.  In return for your contribution to the Greening of Detroit, we promise an exciting day of touring gardens, and great gin and tonics at the close. 


For more information, see our cruise website:  www.thegardencruise.org