The Garden Cruise

I will admit to being a little tired today-the garden tour is an all day affair.  It happened to be conducted in 93 degree heat-but I am happy to say we had a great turnout.  The gardens to the last looked fresh and well tended.  The annual plants are thriving on our heat.  I did go through 3 cases of water at my garden-most people come to my place in the afternoon.  But I had a little treat waiting for the hot and the tired who came after 2.

 My fountain is my most favorite feature in my landscape.  It is a pleasure to watch, and to hear.  But it turned out to be quite the cooler for my overheated guests.  I invited everyone to take off their shoes, and get in.  Almost everyone took me up on the invitation.   

Six of the seven gardens on tour featured water in some form or another.  A pair of beautiful swimming pools-one from the late 1920’s, and one from the 1970’s-each made a strong visual statement.   I myself would not want one.I have a scaled down, hybrid version of a swimming pool.  My fountain is filtered and cleaned with same equipment that cleans a pool or spa.  This means my fountain does double duty-when I have a need, I get in it, and cool off.  This fountain could be home to a hot gardener, but yesterday it was home to a school of goldfish and some water cabbage.    

Not everyone has space for a vegetable garden that consumes acreage.  This small garden has a trio of tomatoes, underplanted with various herbs.  What is better in late summer than homegrown tomatoes?  This very small garden made a big nod to the idea of good food from the garden.

This very contemporary home I landscapes probably 16 years ago.  The columnar beech are maintained at a level beyond my wildest dreams.  It is an intellectually ad toughly minimal landscape.  I was happy to hear the level of discussion that I did.

When someone calls me to design a Japanese garden for them, I direct them elsewhere.  I am a westerner by heritage, culture and experience.  Under no circumstances could I design a Japanese garden-I am woefully inadequate.  In this case, I did reluctantly design and plant a contemplative garden in that Eastern style.  There was much talk on the tour about this small space-unexpected, it was.  No kidding-it is the only landscape space I have ever done like this.

One of the Dearborn landscapes is freshly done-it has been in ground but 11 months.  The son of one of my oldest and most treasured clients got the bug for gardening from his Mom.  Many thanks, CB.  This house new to he and his family has been completely renovated.  A pergola with a solid roof is slated to go over his western facing rear terrace any day now.  This formal landscape with a decidedly modern twist-fresh and striking.

Perennial gardens,planted largely with white, purple and lavender hardy plants, got some help this first season from some verbena bonariensis. 

A Normandy style tudor on acres of land belongs to oted interior designer Linda Powers.  I had nothing to do with this old and established landscape.  I came late to the landcape conversation; I consult with her about her container plantings, and plant them.  Her garden was the subject of much conversation.  Her old Stewartia in full bloom-on every Iphone in the group.


It was a very hot day, yes.  But all manner of keen gardeners came out, and toured.  The reception afterwards-I had such a good time. At 5pm, Buck promised he would water the pots, so I could go that afterglow party.    I live a charmed life.

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.