Garden On Tour

summer-storm.jpgThe prospect of having ones garden on tour is equal parts excitement, and dread.  I know.  It is my job early each season to persuade 6 gardeners, most of which are clients of mine, to open their garden to visitors.  The fact that every ticket dollar goes to benefit the programs of the Greening of Detroit helps considerably.  But a garden on tour implies a garden that is not only imaginatively designed, but well maintained.  Getting a garden ready for an event is plenty of work.  My garden has been on the Greening of Detroit tour every year since 2007.  It seems fair.  If I would ask someone else to put their garden on tour, I like to be able to say I am right there with them.  We are on call at no charge for any participating gardener the 2 weeks before the tour.  Every gardener with a garden on tour wants that garden to look its best.  Our gardening season has been tough.  A very cold and wet spring.  Torrential rains, regularly.  Storms and storm damage-everywhere. Last week, blistering and relentless heat.  This giant tree limb came down across the street from me-just this past Friday.

rain-and-wind.jpgI do the best I can to get my garden road ready for this tour. I would want every square inch of my landscape and garden to be thriving.  Many of the people who take this tour are very interested gardeners.  They look at what is there-intently.   It is my idea to do whatever I can to encourage people to garden. Gardening is good for people-I truly believe this.  But a garden has a tough side.  The weather can be terrible.  Plants die.  Some days nothing seems to be right.  Thee are those places that look rough.  IO would not want that to discourage anyone. A garden tour is a visual expression about the value of a landscape and garden.  That visual expression is not perfect, corner to corner.  Gardens have problems and failures. Gaps.  Troubles.

saturated.jpgI never get my wish for a perfect tour garden. Every gardening season presents challenges.  If I had my way, I would have no challenges the month before our tour. But in fact my garden has as many gaps and troubles as it has good moments.  I have said this so many times to both old and prospective clients.  Perfect applies only to diamonds, and moments.  The most beautiful moment of a garden may last but a few hours, on that one day. Maybe no one else will be there to see it with you.  Rough spots in a garden cannot always be fixed.

tour-garden.jpgHaving had my garden on tour, once a year, for the past seven years, I have this to say.  The time and effort that it takes to maintain a landscape and garden is always evident.  Those places that do not look so good-every gardener has them.  The evidence of bad weather-that is a battle every gardener understands.  I don’t fret about every square inch anymore. The people who take our tour seem to simply appreciate every gesture. They see things entirely differently than I do.

rose-garden.jpgMy yard was not at its finest this past Sunday.  Even Buck remarked that my container plantings seemed listless-plagued by rain.  He was right.  No matter my efforts, the stormy weather prevailed.  Was I worried the day of the tour?  Not in the least.

rain-storm.jpgNot one person who came to my house for the tour remarked about the Japanese beetle damage, the mildew on the dahlias, the rain soaked petunias, the rotting scotch moss or the delphiniums out of bloom and listing from the wind.  Instead, to the last,  they chose to thank me for opening my garden.

ferns-and-European-ginger.jpgA garden is a very personal relationship between a gardener, and the environment. A garden tour presents that relationship to visitors, without any commentary.

garden-on-tour.jpgI am not so interested in the commentary about gardens.  Go see gardens. Every garden you can. Absorb from them what seems pertinent.  Take home what works, and do better.  The tour seems to encourage people to go home, and take on a project.  This is the best part of putting a garden on tour.

boxwood-garden.jpgMy landscape is a blueprint for my life.  No matter the troubles.  As for being on tour-I would hope that any person who came to my garden this past Sunday would not be discouraged by its failures. I would hope they would be encouraged by the care and energy I put to my landscape.

garden-on-tour.jpgIt was a great tour!  So many visitors-so many questions.  So many kind comments.  Those garden failures-the furthest thing from my mind.

garden-cruise.jpgA garden?  What is it?  So sunny.

 

 

At A Glance: Petunias

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What brings a hot summer day to mind quite like a petunia?  I love the simple shape, the vibrant colors, and its robust habit of growth.  They grow companionably with other annual and tropical plants.  They are not in the least bit demanding or troublesome to grow.  Petunias even smell like summer.  Why are they on my mind today?  We have had a very cool and very rainy start to our summer.  Early mornings the end of June-still jacket weather.  We’ve had many more inches of rain than our average.  The petunias are looking bedraggled and forlorn.  Here’s hoping for some hot and dry weather-for the sake of the petunias.

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The Fourth Of July

Campus-Martius-Detroit.jpgMy fourth of July was a holiday of an unusual sort.  We installed and planted 9 steel Branch planters at two commercial locations in downtown Detroit.  The decision to install on the holiday made sense to us.  This is a hopping busy place during the week.  There are thousands of people who work in this area.  Parking is always at a premium, and parking for 4 trucks right off Campus Martius is just about impossible to find.  The planters were located just outside the buildings.  But at 8am on the Fourth of July, we were able to park close by.  No Detroit police officer gave us a second glance, even though we were parked in no parking zones.  Tents were being set up for Fourth of July festivities, but by and large we had the locations to ourselves.

planting-annual-containers.jpgHaving a favorable set up means the work goes fast. We were able to spread out and stage the work on the sidewalk, without bothering any pedestrians.  The First National Building, a 25 story limestone building, was completed in 1930. The stately old building is undergoing an extensive renovation, courtesy of Bedrock Real Estate Services.  The planting of these large steel Branch planters are part of that renovation.

annual-planting.jpgFrom what little I could see from my scouting and planting visit, it appeared that ground floor spaces were being renovated for retail use.  Who knows what is going on upstairs.  What a pleasure to see a historic building such as this one in loving hands. It reminded me of my trips downtown better than 45 years ago.  There is an energy, a sense of purpose, and a determination to endow a downtown business district down in the heels with new life.  Impressive, this effort.

watering.jpgGiven some time, these plantings should grow up into these very large pots.  They are 36″ in diameter, and 36″ tall.  The pink mandevillea Alice Dupont is the most floriferous, vigorous, and brightly colored of all the pink mandevilleas.  Though I love the glossy leaves of the Sun Parasol Giant pink mandevillea,  I opted for the size and heavy blooming characteristics of Alice DuPont.  This cultivar will endure the hot conditions of a downtown location.  The Persian Queen geraniums feature bright chartreuse leaves. Alternating with the Persian Queens, a brilliant orange sunpatiens  that have already outgrown their 6″ pots.  The giant pink petunias, lime licorice, and small plugs of red mandevillea will make for lots of color and volume around the rims of the pots.

Bedrock (26)The Bedrock staff turned on the street level spigot, so we could soak all four pots.  A good watering settles in all of the plants, and eliminates any air pockets.  We wanted to drench the plantings with water; this is our idea of good bon voyage.  Being July, we planted 3 gallon size mandevilleas,  and 6″ and 8″ pots of the other materials.  All of these annuals love hot weather. Given that our summer weather has only recently warmed up, I think these flowers will settle in and start to grow quickly.  They have made a great start, protected by the greenhouses in which they were grown.

First-National-Building-Detroit.jpgEveryone we have had contact with over this project has been enthusiastic, hard working, and willing to get things done.  Young people, of course.  So much good energy in one place-it was a treat to be involved.  I will admit I was a little bowled over.  So much discussion and sharing.  My design charette with them-on the streets.

wired.jpgOwen and Lucio wrapped the tops of the bamboo poles for the mandevillea in purple aluminum anodized wire.  It seemed to be an appropriate gesture.

variegated-willow-on-standard.jpgOur second location-the Chrysler House.  The neoclassical building was completed in 1912, and has already undergone extensive renovation.  The facade outside had some “improvements” made in the past.  By this time, I was absolutely certain that Bedrock would restore the outside of this building with the same spirit and care that fueled an extensive renovation of the interior spaces.  Each of our 5 steel Jackie boxes-4 rectangles, and 1 27″ cube, features a variegated willow on standard in the center.  Salix integra “Hakuro Nishiki” is a dwarf cultivar with white variegated leaves. The willows grow fast, and can be left as a starburst, or trimmed for a more formal shape.

palnted-Jackie-box-rectangle.jpgThe exposure is from the east.  All of these flowers and coleus will thrive in this setting.  The building across the street features a glass facade.  I am thinking the reflected afternoon light off the glass will provide enough sun to make the petunias thrive.

cleaning-up.jpgWe had no access to water from this building given the holiday.  We brought our own, in 3  40 gallon plastic garbage cans.  I wanted to be sure the new plants were soaking wet, just in case they had to go without water over the weekend.  There are advantages to choosing to large planters for commercial settings.  The big size seems in better proportion to a building that is many stories high. The not so obvious advantage – a large soil mass is slow to dry out.  Big pots buy you some time.

Chrysler-house.jpgI don’t have serious concerns with the care to come for this planting.  The other plantings and site furnishings in buildings on streets radiating from Campus Martius were well looked after.

planted-Jackie-box.jpgThis single box sits next to the door of a ground level restaurant.  Yes it belongs to the Chrysler House, but this ground floor restaurant space needs its own special sign.

Chrysler-House-Detroit.jpgThis was a great way to spend the beginning of my Fourth of July holiday.  Lingering on my mind was one very independently minded business who feels a substantial investment in the renovation of our city is well worth the effort.  There is every evidence of a fearless pioneering spirit that marks the best of what our country can be.  Brave American fought for our freedom.  Other brave Americans go on to forge a path.  They take risks.  They invest.  They go for broke.  Buck calls them the captains of industry-how apt.  I so respect the investment that Bedrock Real Estate Services has made with the core idea that the city of Detroit is a city well worth preserving.  A city well worth energizing.  They are lending a huge hand to the future of downtown Detroit.  Bravo, Bedrock.

 

Pruning The Boxwood

June 23b 2013 (1)The day the evergreens get pruned at the shop is one of my favorite days in the gardening year.  Mindy from M and M  Flowers comes with a crew; they make a day of it.  The first order of business is the discussion.  Are we pruning as usual?  Is there perhaps a new shape or different direction in mind?

pruning-boxwood.jpgMaking changes to the shape of a boxwood hedge- even an established hedge- is not difficult or impossible.  It just takes time. The spheres at the corners of the parterres have not grown in evenly all around. The west side spheres get more water, as the land drains in that direction.  The east side spheres are planted in what was once asphalt, and they are shaded by the lindens.

pruned-boxwood.jpgThe spheres to the east also suffered a considerable fungal infection that has been very difficult to cure.  Simply put, the conditions for the 4 spheres are not at all equal.  One pair is much larger and more robust than the other.  So there was discussion about a moving towards a different shape at all 4 corners.

boxwood.jpgThe corner spheres could be trimmed as follows.  The bottom of the shrub could be brought into line with the existing rectangular hedge.  The top of the shrub could be pruned as a top-knot, or a smaller sphere that would appear to sit on top of the hedge.  This pruning would take a few years to accomplish, as it means pruning down to old wood.  There would be bare spots that would need to grow in.

green-velvet-boxwoodWe have some time to think this over.  Though I like to wait until the spring growth is fully flushed out before any pruning is done, pruning back to bare wood as the heat of the summer season is imminent is a recipe for burn. Boxwood grows out of winter burn fairly readily, but summer burn is an unsightly state of affairs that persists.

formally-pruned-boxwood.jpgI am not so sure that it bothers me that the spheres do not match.  Perfection is a state that does not really apply to living things.  We may just stay the course. But there is always the option to change course in a landscape.  That just takes planning, and patience.

pruning-evergreen-shrubs.jpgThis hedge has been grown from the species buxus koreana microphylla.  It is a big growing boxwood.  The hedge has been maintained at a height of 32″ and a width of 48″ for a number of years.  Grown in full sun, it readily handles the winter wind and cold weather.  The only danger posed by the winter is when we have heavy snow, the weight of which can crack the woody branches.  Those cracks make the shrub more susceptible to fungal infections.  It’s not always easy to decide whether to remove the snow, or let it be.  Disturbing branches when they are frozen can produce more damage than the snow itself.

pruning-a-boxwood-hedgeKorean boxwood does have a pronounced orangy cast in the winter, a characteristic that is not to everyone’s taste.  Our most important issue is tending a hedge that is in good proportion to the size of the building.  If that large overall size were not so important, “Green Velvet” boxwood maintains its green color all winter, and matures at 3′ by 3′.  “Green Mountain” boxwood is  virtually indistinguishable from Green Velevet, but matures at 4′ tall, and 3′ wide.  “Green Gem” is a good choice, if a more refined leaf and smaller mature size is what your garden needs.

 

pruning-the-boxwood.jpgWe lost 2 boxwood in the hedge over this past winter.  We did have one replacement available. In this spot, we went another direction.  We stitched the hedge back together, with a pair of potted boxwoods.

pruning-the-boxwood.jpgThe pruning makes a world of difference in the appearance of this garden.  I am enjoying that change thoroughly.  If you have a boxwood hedge or specimen boxwood plants that ask for a precision pruning, I highly recommend M and M Flowers.  Their work is superb.  248  340  0796.