If you should be a card carrying gardener in my area, no doubt you have been to Telly’s.  If you have not, it is located on John R north of Big Beaver.  I have been shopping there for over 20 years.  I have never known anyone who had a better working knowledge of an incredible range of plants.  I have known few whose enthusiasm for plants matches his.  Wildflowers-he is a source.  Great roses, unusual hostas, specimen hostas, great grasses, the largest population of dianthus and other rock garden plants, the tried and true, and the cutting edge on perennials of all descriptions, great annuals-great tropicals.  His place is the physical incarnation of a first rate horticultural encyclopedia.  Plan to spend some time. It will be time well spent, no matter what time of year you go.   

I called George today-I have 3 large marble planters in a very contemporary conservatory to get planted.  My calls to George with a need for unusual plants, or plants in big numbers have invariably been answered.  The time and effort he has spent sourcing plant material over the past umpteen years-He deserves a seat with a brass plaque at the Library of Congress, department of plants.  I would vote for this.    I have great respect for George-as well I should. We send people to him all the time.  Detroit Garden Works features plants of size, plants I take a fancy to, some of this and a little more of that.  Telly’s is a plant nation.  Of course George says-I just got back from Florida with some very cool plants-when can you get here?  

My holiday and winter work is over, as are the holidays.  My buying trip to Atlanta-over. Coming down with a cold-a given.  I have time now to have a stinking cold, so why not.  A visit to Tellys today helped reduce my irritation level..  The idea of standing in a working greenhouse full of very interesting plants sounded good.  Steve and I got on the road first thing this morning. I am sure you can tell from these pictures that George likes succulents.  We are not talking hens and chicks.  We are talking echeverias.  OK, the sum total of my knowledge is out there, once I say the e word.  Want more info-go see George.  Though I have no name for this plant, I so like how it looks.  I like even better how these 15 e’s look in the case.    

Tray after tray of gorgeous succulents-I snapped this wavy edged turquoise rosette succulent flat up in a second.  George immediately rolled his eyes-do you need all of them?  Mais Oui, George-I need them all.  He gets over it quickly-he can reorder.  But I understand his reaction.  Gorgeous plants are so tough to let go of.  We gardeners are just ordinary people after all-but we have a true passion for plants and growing that can take us over the line.  Over the line-I am happy to be a member of that group.     

Drocera, commonly known as sundew, is the largest genus of carviverous plants on the planet-there are at least 194 species.  Plants that attract bugs, dissolve them, and ingest nutrients from them-creepy.  But George has them, should you be interested.  They are fascinating looking.  They also look like trouble, but I did not mind this case of trouble plants one bit.  January 24 I am happy to have a greenhouse to visit.  How a greenhouse smells in the winter, delicious. The air is heavy with water, and the smell of soil comforts me.  This winter promises to be a long one.  I will be back, regularly.  

Tropical plants are not my forte.  I am better when I am outside. But I have no problem spending time in a warm spot, with strangers. We have had overnight lows recently of 2 degrees, and 8 degrees.  My choices for gardening company-not so great.  Whatever gardening company I might find-fine.  Telly’s is looking really good right now.  

I bought box after box of tropical plants for my conservatory installation tomorrow.  Black, grey, and white leaved plants of a number of sizes and shapes.  Different than these green and red plants whose name I do not know.  No matter. I know the growing conditions for my client.  I know how it is heated.  I know how it is cared for.  This makes it possible for me to design and plant plants whose names do not know.  Margaret Dixon, who may have been the best gardener it has ever been my privilege to know, knew no names.  But she could grow anything and everything, beautifully.  Though she has been gone 15 years, I can still hear her saying.  Ask the name last.  Ask about what makes it happy first.  Should you be a new gardener, skip the name, and move on to the ideal conditions.  Should you be more that 100 feet away from good conditions, consider another plant. 

Phalaenopsis orchids mostly require what I cannot provide.  Though the flowers are lovely beyond belief, I do not attempt to grow them. I like looking at them at Telly’s, and at orchid shows, and at my local botanical garden greenhouse.  Shouild I ever decide to turn over my entire gardening life to the cultivation of orchids, I might consider them.  But in general, I welcome plants into my gardening life that like my gardening life to start with.     

OK, I might make an exception for this amaryllis.  Only as I might possibly provide the conditions they require to flourish.  And successfully summer them over for flowers next year.  This one flower alone was worth the trip today-yes, we had daytime ultra cold and snow.  I am sure there is a greenhouse near you.  My advice? Get out your gardening passport, and go somewhere.

At A Glance: Driving North

Lush Life in Atlanta

south of Berea, Kentucky

south of Cincinnati

heading into Cincinnati storm

Dayton, Ohio

icy Chevy

An average tire goes 6.28 feet per revolution.  Detroit to Atlanta and back, 1500 miles.  My tires-1,261,146.40 glued-to-the-road revolutions this trip. 

My Chevy is heavy. It features 4 wheel drive and traction control via computer.  Add that to a rocking set of tires, state of the art windshield wipers, and the orange windshield wiper fluid that Fred made me buy, I had a safe trip back in bad winter weather.  

Can you not see it written on their faces?  Just where exactly have you been the past eight days??  We are all ears.

Eva Gordon

I am just back from a week’s buying trip for the shop and the landscape company that took me to Georgia and Tennessee.  I shop in Atlanta first and foremost for holiday 2011.  What better time?  The holiday and winter work is fresh in my mind.  My holiday season goes way well into January-I am not complaining.  I rather like it.  Whatever work I do usually has a sidecar attached.  What could be different?  What could be better?  Where do we go now?   Shopping the Atlanta Mart for holiday is not for the faint of heart.  Three buildings in the heart of downtown Atlanta, each in excess of 20 stories, is home to manufacturers of every description.  Holiday.  Gift.  Garden.  Museum.  Children.  This list is long.  Atlanta hosts business owners from all over the country; this is the Mart’s main event of the year.  The showrooms are packed.  It takes every bit of 5 days to see everything, put an idea for a collection together, and place orders.  This usually means 5 days that start at 8am and are still going on at 8pm.  Some showrooms are permanent, but open only on specific days or specific shows.  Some showrooms are temporary; Eva Gordon shows on the temp floors.     

Eva is a Canadian ceramicist; I would guess she is in her mid seventies now.  She comes to Atlanta every January.  Though her work is well known, she comes to Atlanta herself.  She wants to talk to people like me, who own shops, about her work.   I greatly admire her work-I admire her more for this.  The Atlanta Mart is a forum, a place to show, for no end of talented people who have the idea to convince people like me that their work deserves attention. The Mart is much about people meeting over beautiful work.      

This is a shopping trip of a different sort.  It could not be more different than my Monday afternoon Christmas trip to a store in town to browse and buy a gift for a friend, or for Tine.  This is a working shopping trip.   The Atlanta show-any hundreds of showrooms, each and every one stuffed with objects that I may or may not have a love for-this is work to focus, and really see what is there. The work is to make a plan, sort out what you like, and buy. What am I thinking will drive the 2011 holiday season, and what else is out there that will make my idea clear?  I may visit the better part of the showrooms we like spread out over 60 floors 2 or 3 times.  I walk until I cannot take one more step.  Part of the fun of this shopping trip-I am not alone.  Atlanta is alive with shop owners from all over the country- much like me.  I meet some of them at Eva Gordon’s booth.  All of us like her work.   

Atlanta in January is my idea of a working vacation in a warm climate-but for this year.  They were slammed with 7 inches of unexpected snow, and incredibly low temperatures just before I got on the road.  Ice, and more ice.  This city has no store of salt for bad weather, nor do they have a plan for bad weather.  No plows.  I delayed my trip there for two days, hoping  they would sort it all out.  The downtown area looked a little like the beach-tons of sand had been spread over the ice.  The Atlanta police direct traffic at the intersection of the 3 buildings all day and every day- so everyone can cross safely.       

The winter beach streets amused me-I am from a northern climate that handles wintry weather routinely. Meaning, we melt the snow.  As there is no postponing the show, Atlanta did what they could to welcome their guests.  It is a lively, energetic and friendly city.  Who knows how Eva Gordon got here, but I am happy she did.        

Any fruit or vegetable, any garden idea, any holiday reference to the garden-no matter the medium-I am in Atlanta searching.  I searched for the better part of 5 days.  Did I mention that Eva Gordon’s plates make my heart pound?  My pictures are from a wall in my kitchen; I think they look great.

Once A Year. This Is It!

We have been slammed at the shop since this past Monday.  Detroit Garden Works conducts one sale a year.  From the day after Christmas until January the 8th, we put every holiday item on sale for 50% off-and everything and anything else in the shop at 20% off.  Should you be a gardener interested in a bit of a bargain-once a year, we oblige.  This is it.  Jenny has plenty of pictures posted;  After the 8th, we are open by chance or by appointment until March 1.  This gives us some time to travel, shop, repaint, clean, and plan.  So should you have a mind to drop by after January 8, email us, call ahead, or knock on my front door.        

Gardening might be best defined as a “this is it” pursuit. Should I neglect to plant crocus in the fall, I will have plenty of time regret it, come spring.  Should I not take the time to see and enjoy my March crocus, I might miss them. A two day span of exceptionally cold weather-those flowers will vanish-until next year.  There are times when I might turn back the clock, or ask for an extension-but time waits for no garden. Tune in to the crocus, or wait until next year.   

The hellebore flowers are not nearly so fragile.  They stay with me for a while in late March and April.  I make it my spring business to look at them every day.  Planting them on the driveway was no accident; I have two chances every day to enjoy them.   How the flowers emerge from the ground, mature, and dry right on the stalk is a process that takes weeks.  But once those weeks pass, hellebore heaven will have to wait until next year.  I leave the flowers be, hoping some seed will mature, drop and grow.        

I may photograph the tulips outside my office every day.  Like the hellebores, observing their manner of emerging from the ground and growing is a yearly treat.  The flowers are glorious.  They come in an extraordinary range of sizes, colors and forms.  For my pots in the garage, I bought smaller numbers and as great a variety as I could.  Why not try as many as possible?  I was caight flat footed by the early cold this fall; the pots were outdoors a little too long. Every time I look at these pots filled with dirt, I search for signs of a bulb-fest to come.  Nothing doing.  I’ll have my this is it moment, for better or for worse, months from now.     

With the exception of double bloodroot, no flower is more fleeting than the magnolia.  Really cold spring weather can shut down the show before it even opens.  No matter than you have a valid ticket. Should I be so fortunate to have a good show from my Galaxy magnolia, I can be assured it will not be a long one.  I have 2 chairs and a table on my upper deck.  They are placed to take advantage of the aerial view pictured above.   I may need a coat and hat, but I am out there. The ephemeral beauty of everything that blooms in my garden has much to do with why 2011 will be my 33rd gardening season.   

I cannot remember another year when the roses were this prolific. 2010 provided spectacularly great growing weather from early spring through June.  This John Davis rose of Janet’s was smothered in flowers for weeks. Wherever I saw roses, they were glorious.  Janet, who devotes her summer gardening life to her roses insisted that I come and spend some time with hers.  I am so glad I did.  On both of our minds-is this it?  Is this the best the roses will ever be?    

Even the Queen Anne’s Lace in the field was lush.  Regular rain early, and a very hot and dry July made the meadow next door look dreamy.  This was nature at its weediest best.      

The sunflower season is one of my favorites.  I buy them at market as often as I can.  There is not a form shape or color I do not like-although the orangy brown varieties seem a little silly.  I like my sunflowers to remind me of the sun, and sunny summer days.  I like to have bouquets of them throughout the season.  These stems I stuck into a large brick of oasis taped into a clear floral dish.  Sunflowers are big, heavy and unwieldy.  Worst of all, the water fouls quickly, and needs frequent changing.  I set this dish on top of a glas vase full of water which I tinted yellow with food coloring.  Amazingly, sunflowers last for days out of water altogether. 

By the time my Honorine Jobert anemones start blooming, I know the end of the season is not long off. The cooler nights make this once a year display go on for quite some time.  But once the nights turn very cold, the flowers vanish-until next year.   

The fall color on the Boston Ivy was short lived this year.  Some leaves dropped from cold before they turned. The color-not so great as it was in 2009.  But I had no complaints.  Once a year, I have my chance to enjoy it.