The Garden Tour

This coming Sunday is the date of the third garden tour my companies have sponsored to benefit the Greening of Detroit.  Should you not be familiar with this organization, I can provide my overview.  The have been planting trees by the thousands in the city of Detroit for the past twenty years.  They sponsor some 700 urban farms.  They teach.  They teach people how to grow food.  They help people to understand the importance of a healthy environment.  They have an uncanny ability to translate an idea into a working organization.  They impress me.  They work incredibly hard to make a dent in support of  what an industrial city neglects.  Trees-the planet needs lots of them.  The residents of our city-they are getting what they need to live, expand, and eat from the Greening.  The Greening of Detroit-look them up.

The noted architect Michael Willoughby persuaded me to take a place on the Greening board.  I have little to contribute as a board member, but I told him I would do what I could to raise money for their programs.  They are an organization that makes a giant difference to my greater community.  I am incredibly impressed with what they do. The 20,000 trees they have planted in our greater metropolitan landscape over the past 20 years-worthy of your attention.  My response-a garden tour.

 The tour involves gardens of my design, or my influence.  The tour ends at my shop-Detroit Garden Works.  We serve finger friendly dinner, and Rob’s gin and tonics.  Christine oversees the wine bar. I feel I should support the work of the Greening of Detroit-so I do.  Every dollar of every ticket sale goes to them.  I donate the rest, as well I should.  We are open Sunday morning, the day of the tour, at 8:30 am.  We are ready for you.

I so believe that a healthy planet, a beautiful landscape, a thriving relationship between people and plants is important.  I have devoted a life and a career to this-why would I not support the Greening?  Please support the work of the Greening of Detroit. This coming Sunday-please join us.  If you are able, please donate, and tour.  Our afterglow is a blast-try it.  A giant group of people who love gardens and landscape in one place for an evening in July-what could be better?  Please join us.

For all of you gardeners that signed up to put your landscape on this tour-many thanks.  I know every one of them favors a green Detroit.  In the interest of a green Detroit, take the tour.   Thanks, Deborah

Ready For Water

These early June days, my days are filled with projects, and those scraps and pieces more commonly known as following up.  The fulfillment of all of those little ending details that transforms a job to be done into a finished and beautiful presentation.  These big things and little things, at the same time, is the normal course of events.  At home, a big and little thing of my own.  Carter has rebuilt my leaking fountain, and Buck repainted the inside.  The chlorinated rubber pool paint has to cure five days before the pool can be filled. It seems like it has been a lifetime since I have had  my water.      

Post the appropriate waiting period, Buck is filling the fountain.  Gillette Pools installed new out take jets-installed properly in the wall of the basin.  The original pool had these jets installed in the stone riser-not such a good look. Lest you not understand the effort expended for my fountain by Gillette Pools, they took on a massive mess, and made it right. They took on a deconstruction and reconstruction; this is tedious and uncertain work.  I had to commit to the project before what they knew what it would take to fix it. Yikes! Though we cleaned the inside, the sandy grit from the concrete work is still visible on the bottom of the pool.     

Howard and Milo are happy about getting their overscaled water dish back; the moment water started pouring into the fountain, they were there checking it out. Sometimes I leave the water at the level shown here-sometimes I fill it all the way to the top.  Today, I am feeling like to the top is an excellent idea. If you think this was the equivalent of Christmas Day to me, you are right. 

Milo is in motion running for his life the very second water starts blasting out of those jets. How did I know when the exact moment was at hand?  Buck and I were on the phone with each other-as he needed to be in the basement to adjust the valves governing the height of the water.  I was so worried the pumps would not work at all-having been silent almost 10 months.  No science here-just a nagging worry that something else would go wrong.  Buck had hauled the filters outside and cleaned them, and was very confident all would work fine. 

The water coming out of the jets-old stinky and dirty water. It will take a few minutes for each jet to be flushed out, and spouting clean water.  The corgis are no where to be seen.  Then the tedious job of getting the jets adjusted so the height is just so-meaning high enough to make enough sound to blotto the sound of my neighbor’s lawn mower.  The sound that a jet of water produces is the best part of having a fountain. 

Each valve gets turned up or down and up again until the pressure produces spouts of equal height. 

The water is murky with mortar and dirt.  It will take a few days stirring up and filtering out before the water is clean.  The reconstruction was such a beautiful job; the water appears to my eye to be exactly level-as if the fountain had a sheet of glass over the top.   

In another few days, the water is clean, and the Corgis are back to drinking from it like nothing had ever happened. But I know plenty has happened-and more is yet to come.  Dealing with the damage to the landscape is the next order of business.  There is more work to go than what I would like.  The good part-I have the luxury of rethinking certain parts of the composition.  Luxury from disaster-this is what I call trying to keep a good attitude going.    


I will keep you posted.

Turning Loose

 

Fifteen years ago I engaged Madame Pellier from the Poterie de la Madeleine to make three number 0 classic anduze pots-for the front of my then new shop.  They number their pot sizes; the largest pot is a zero, the smallest, a number 8.  The 0 pot is their largest-plenty big enough for me to climb in, and be hidden from sight.  There might be room left over for the Corgis, and my most treasured possessions.  They are very big footed vases.   

Every six months or so, she would call.  She would tell me pots were breaking, during the cooking.  The third year after placing the order, Rob went to Anduze to select pots, and place an order. He told me the hillside above the pottery was littered with broken number 0’s-with my name on them.  At the end of the third year, she had three perfect pots.  Our shipper in London, Headlees, drove to Anduze, collected the pots, crated them in London, and sent them to me.

I remember the day they arrived vividly.  I thought they were surely the most beautiful three pots I had ever seen. They came with some 1’s, and 2’s of the same classic design, but those zeros were beautiful to the bone.  How I worried that I could never plant them beautifully enough.  The French-they edit everything in the garden in a way I could never hope to aspire to.  I imagine a French designer, placing them, and not planting them at all.  

I am an American designer through and through.  In my mind, I saw a garden in those pots, the shape of fireworks exploding.  Up, and out-graceful, lush-bigger than those beautiful vases.  The best dress that in my life I could ever design for those gorgeous dark green shapes.

After some years in front of the store, I took them home.  It could be I always wanted that. I placed two in the front of the house-dead center to the windows in my dining room, and our den. Having dinner, or relaxing with the dogs, they were right there-representing.  I placed the third vase in my side half lot.  This small garden came to life when this giant pot took the center; every other element revolved around it.    

I stuffed it with giant nicotianas, white angelonia, a vigorously trailing white variegated plectranthus-and petunias.  It may not be so sophisticated, but petunias deliver the goods-great color, great scent, easy care, and exceptional vigor. Fireworks.  The early days, creating a shop devoted to fine objects for gardens-there were none. No precedents. Early visitors to the shop often demanded an explanation-a shop devoted solely to fine objects for gardens?  I had none. Just a fire burning inside-every gardener can understand that. My love for landscapes and all that entailed was a very powerful engine that powered my ideas.  I am much better able to explain years later.   The commission of these pots fifteen years ago-I am amazed, and so appreciative of whatever fueled that audacity.

I could see that stately vase from inside in the morning, from the lower terrace, from the street as I drove by on my way home.  A pair of chairs in that garden made it possible for Buck and I to talk about the day’s events; close by a party of the first order going on.

I planted a path of herniaria, rupturewort, up to, and all the way around those pots in the front.  The pot was every bit as important to my garden as what was planted in it.  I wanted to be sure to devote the space to the celebration of that 0.   The hedge of dwarf Russian sage framed my view-for those days when I was just too tired to walk up close and say hello.    


Two years ago I returned the Anduze pots, and this Madeleine Faune pot to the shop.  I could not leave them out in the winter, and I so wanted pots that could stay in place over the winter; I wanted pots I could dress for the winter season. This was not an easy decision. The Faune found a loving home straight away. The zero trio-this is the second season they have been in the shop.  Only a few days ago, a client for whom I had specified a completely different series of pots, spoke for a pair of the zeros.  They were the vases she had been looking for.  She told me today she could not imagine that it would not be difficult for me to give them up.  Indeed it is. Her question alone tells me they are going to the right home. She and her husband are both crazy about them.  I will place them, plant them, and visit regularly.  I am pleased that those vases that for so many years so enchanted me are due to be passed along to someone equally as impassioned about them as I have always been.  Today was a very good day.

The extraordinary Mr. Phil Savage

I have a big love for magnolias; I would have any and all of them, if I could.  I admire their big glossy leaves, and pale grey bark.  Most zone 5 hardy magnolias top out at 25 feet; they are a perfect tree for a small property.  Their spring flowers are strikingly large-and simply beautiful.  Some years our spring is so short they might be in bloom only a few days; I do not fault them for this.  Write a protest letter to Ms. Nature-should you have an inclination-but do not expect an answer.  Zone 5 gardeners-we ought to be used to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune-I am quoting Shakespeare here. No matter how many years in a row I would need to live through a late season killing frost, I would still plant magnolias.  Magnolias are so beautiful in every other regard, I have no problem recommending them.

Magnolia Stellata, or star magnolia, and the saucer magnolia, Magnolia Soulangiana, are common to my area. They, and their progeny and hybrids, grace many a spring landscape in my city.  Wada’s Memory, a hybrid of Magnolia Stellata, is a particularly beautiful white cultivar.  Ivory Chalice, bred by Dr Leach from the species Magnolia Denudata, is exceptionally striking in a good year.  It blooms early, and the blooming can be damaged by unexpected cold.  Should you have Ivory Chalice on your property this year, I am sure you are dancing with delight.  Plant this tree if you are a trouper gardener.  Do not plant this tree if you live by your expectations.

But by far and away, my favorite magnolia is Yellow Butterflies.  Bred by Phil Savage, a world renowned magnolia hybridizer, its fragrant pale yellow flowers are the best part of my spring landscape.   He lived on a large property right on Woodward Avenue in Bloomfield Hills for many years.  I met him in 1987 courtesy of Al Goldner, a noted landscape designer who mentored me for some years.  Al was very interested that any designer first and foremost needed to learn as much as possible about plants.  He was forever hauling his group to see this breeder, or that farm.  It was an education bordering on priceless; I understand that now.

I have no photographs of Phil Savage’s property, but I can describe it.  Magnolias towering at the better part of 50 feet tall were everywhere. Some were white, some were pink.  Others were peach, or yellow, or bordering on orange-colors I had never seen before.  Some trees with trunk calipers approaching 40 or 50 inches-magnolias grafted onto ash tree rootstock. The grafts were giant and incredibly sculptural.  Visiting his property was like visiting another planet. 

Just a few years ago, I visited his property again-courtesy of his niece-a client. He had passed away, and the property was for sale.  She thought I might like to see the magnolias in bloom.  What I saw there took my breath away.  A lifetime devoted to growing trees was in evidence everywhere. Magnolias, and more magnolias.  The size of his trees-like nothing I had ever seen. A giant forest of magnolias-imagine it. Most of these trees have never been introduced into commerce; the scientist and the dreamer had grown trees like I have never seen before or since.  The property is pure magic. 

The property was purchased from the family by a group intending to build a facility for the aged.  His niece was concerned that many of his trees would be felled, destroyed, in that process. I did have GP Enterprises, who successfully moves big trees, look at the property.  So many of the big trees were much too big to be moved. This was not so much comfort for her-she felt her Uncle’s work should be looked after, not cut down.  I was powerless to do anything-this felt so bad.

Phil Savage’s most beautiful and well-known cultivar-Butterflies.  This clear pale yellow flowering magnolia -I planted ten of them on either side of a walk to my back yard, and underplanted them with boxwood.  They have been in 6 years now; this spring their blooming is heavy and gorgeous.  A cross between the cucumber magnolia-Magnolia Acuminata, and Magnolia Denudata Sawada’s cream-it is exquisite in bloom, in leaf, in bark, and in habit. Every day for the last week, I pull up in front with the corgis in tow-and get out to take photographs. They lean out the rear window as if to ask-what are you up to?  I am up to trying to capture the color, the shape, the fragrance-all those things that defy recording.  No photograph could possibly do justice to how beautiful they are right now-come by if you can. 

I know I posted a few days ago about how I wish Detroit had a botanic garden, and that in the event I decided for the first time to buy a lottery ticket, and won, I would put that money towards a botanic garden for my city.  I could refine that dream.  The group that bought the property-they have no plans to build over Phil Savage’s magnolias right now; their project is on hold.  If I could, I would write them a check, and wave them off.  I would make a botanic garden-presided over by the most singular and amazing magnolia grove it has ever been my privilege to see.  I have my dreams, yes I do.


Wish me luck.