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; www.detroitgardenworks.com.  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.

In Case You Missed It

My heart goes out to all of those people on the east coast who are up their proverbial armpits in snow.  I have never experienced 20 plus inches of snow at one time; this I cannot imagine.  I remember a storm in the late seventies while I was living in Ann Arbor.  I was young, unprepared, and had few options except to go home.  It took a week for me to be able to get there.  I still remember the 6 inch thick ice patches on I-94; the trip home was very, very slow, and very bumpy.  Not so many years ago we got a foot of snow in one fell swoop.  I stayed at the shop, ordered in pizza, and worked on a project during the five days it took for the neighborhood to get shovelled out.      

The snow that just buried New York and New Jersey goes far beyond imposing an enforced time out on the people who live there. They have serious trouble out there.   I am only lucky that weather that threatens lives comes my way only once in a blue moon.  Most of the time, should I be forced to change my schedule to accommodate the weather, I have enjoyed the show.  The winter holiday of 2005 was one of my favorites.  This is not to say that I did not work hard on my end.  The giant grapevine spheres and hickory bark strips Rob brought back from Europe needed a home.  He has this idea that I will figure out what to do with materials he likes.  I can be challenged by this, but I am not shy about taking on trouble.  Four thick 10 foot long bamboo poles buried in the concrete pots captured those spheres.  I cannot remember now how we managed it, but each grapevine sphere had a starlight embedded within. The hickory bark strips were stiff and ornery-they had to be wired on with concrete wire. They may look graceful, but the installation was anything but.  A finishing and thick nest of white pine at the bottom; we had a winter holiday going on.   

Rob had lit all the trunks of the lindens with garland lights. Light strings that have the bulbs spaced close-we like these.  More light, less wire-this makes for a very good winter look.  He always hangs something in the trees.  Who doesn’t have a tree in their yard that could use a winter outfit?  Simple flat gold stars, and red plastic sputnik ornaments-jazzy. 

We looked good at night-which means we looked good at 4:30 in the afternoon.  All the winter blue sky and snow and black trunks were just asking for a little electricity.  Among other things, Rob is incredibly good at designing with light and dark.  2005 was no exception.   

Upon reflection, I think these three dimensional lighted north stars had plastic arms that could be unscrewed. Once the light knob was inside the sphere, we could reattach the arms.  Any material that I can break down is a material that gets my attention.  I may only need half of it, or a wisp of it.  When in doubt about any material, cut it up, and put it back together in your own way. 

The front of the shop was subtly lit; the lights on either side of the front door did the lion’s share of the work.  The warm yellow of the spotlights on the pots-the resulting blue and yellow-we were pleased. 

 I was not much prepared for what nature thought to deliver- a substantial snowstorm.  The snow fall was fast and steady.  I went to bed in one world, and woke up in another, ala JB Priestly.  I think we had 10 inches in all of a wet snow that stuck fast to every surface it touched.

What I thought was a fine holiday display was transformed overnight in a way that took my breath away.  I had no hand in this whatsoever.  I was nonetheless thrilled it came my way, for me to see.   

My shop has never looked like it did this day-not before.  Not since. Very few photographs do justice to an experience, but this is the best record I have for that night.  Moments like this account entirely for my belief that nature rules my roost.  


Don’t be fooled by this picture-it took hours to dig out the front door to the shop. This branchy linden roof of snow-the finest it has ever been my privilege to witness.  My advice?  Be convinced by what you witness.  Once you have done that,  enjoy.