It is a much easier job to keep Milo clean than the shop. Once he dries, the dirt falls off. Once a month, he gets the works from Lexi from the Aussie Pet Mobile. The shop, however, is 10,000 square feet that is likely to get very dirty-daunting, this. My work life grew out of a love for dirt. The soil that comprises the earth beneath my feet-life giving. The dirt that goes into any container sustains all manner of visual dialogue. Who was it that said dirt is soil in the wrong place? Though we spend lots of time sweeping, vacuuming and dusting, the end of a season means some part of a season’s worth of dirt has accumulated.
We close (but are open every day by chance or appointment) from January 15 until March 1st. We move every object we own out of the way, in order to thoroughly clean the shop. Once we have vacuumed and dusted and wiped every surface clean, we repaint. Though we are about to enter our 16th year in business, there is nothing about Detroit Garden Works 2012 season opening that will prove dusty or thoughtless. Just like every other new season, we will be ready and fresh. My shop spring cleaning takes from mid-January until mid-February. In the same spirit as we imagine, acquire and assemble a new collection, we sweep out all of the dirt. The fresh paint is a given. How we choose to redecorate the six rooms of display space has everything to do with the spring collection on the way.
That chocolate color that reminds me of the darkest and richest compost-it was on my mind. These bracket fungus engage my interest in beautifully natural textures, and my enchantment with that color I call dirt. That dark dirt color seems just right.
I will admit I own a fleet of ladders. They enable me to clean and redo, to look at what I have done before from a different perspective. I have been up and down the ladders for a week now. I will admit committing to the intensity and saturation of this deep chocolate worried me some. But I am more than pleased with how it is shaping up.
We have no end of antiques and great vintage ornament. Great contemporary ornament. We manufacture our own garden ornament, and represent many other fine makers. I so enjoy this yearly ritual by which we integrate our existing garden ornament with all that comes new. Each season has its own distinctive flavor and emphasis.
I do have pictures of most everything on the way, whether it is coming from France, Belgium or Biloxi. But photographs are a representation, not the real thing. Everything that Rob has ordered will need an introduction to the shop. Taking the time to completely redo every space is a considerable and satisfying undertaking. Rob has spent over 2 of the past 16 years travelling and buying objects for gardens. The presentation of that work of his takes time.
I should have named him Hoover, considering all the dirt he manages to pick up. Hopefully we’ll make quick work of the shop dirt, and move on to making the shop an experience we’ve not yet had.
You may recall a post I wrote just before Christmas entitled “Gifts That Gardeners Give”. I pictured a wreath I had made as a gift for two very good friends. They live on and love a big wild piece of property in what I call “the country”. They were very enthusiastic about the gift-enough so to suggest they would make it an integral part of their traditional Christmas Eve dinner celebration. Of course I asked for pictures. I got more than that. I got the story of the evening in pictures.
The mercury glass candlesticks I had seen before. Their 19th century stone house features generously deep window sills that are perfect for collections. The simple wood bird sculptures I had not seen. How elegant they are, each holding a sprig of holiday greens in their beaks.
The candlesticks and birds dressed for the occasion ran the length of the holiday table. I like that height that captures one’s attention and sets the mood upon entering the room.
They would do little to obstruct the seated views across the table. I was delighted to see that the wreath was most definitely part of their holiday celebration.
The table setting was exquisite. The silver and linens, quite formal. The arrangement of all of the elements, rhythmic in a purely personal way.
Arranged around the bases of the birds and candlesticks, an assortment of fruits, ornaments, and bits from the garden. The nest in the wreath was handmade by some unknown bird with various grasses, twigs, and other natural detritus. I added a lining of milkweed seeds still attached to their fluff. The surface of the table was similarly decorated with an assortment of like-spirited objects of their own choosing.
I think their table was breathtaking. The rickrack over the mercury glass calls to mind the string that could easily be part of a bird’s nest. Fruits, nuts, and ornaments in various colors and shapes are the unexpected underplanting to the silver, white and glass dinner service.
The photographs are as beautifully composed as the table.
Many thanks to my friends for permitting me to share the photographs of their Christmas Eve dinner table. It is gorgeous, is it not?
I am as tired and headachy as you are about trying to put together a holiday season inside and out, so I thought I might write about a different topic. What about the garden? I have a dead willow in the back of the property being colonized by bracket fungus. Fungus? Any gardener’s relationship with fungus is a potentially stressful one. The black spot fungus on my roses is unwelcome, and uncalled for. I feel bad for Buck, the day the fungus appears on the roses. It makes me very grumpy. Black tar fungus plagued all of my maples all summer long. I had leaves dropping all summer long. The mildew on the dahlias and verbena bonariensis is especially annoying. Trouble to come from fungus is in the air, and in the soil-unseen. unanticipated. And definitely unwelcome.
I am not particularly knowledgeable about fungal bodies, but the topic interests me. This is my fairy tale version. The kingdom known as Funghi is separate from the animal, the plant, and the bacterial kingdoms. Scientists believe they are closer in genetic makeup to animals, than plants. It is easy to not know much about them. Their spores live and thrive on decaying matter, wood and bark. They only make themselves known via their fruiting bodies.
Mushrooms are among the most recognizable forms of funghi. Mushrooms have beautiful and instantly recognizable shapes. I see garden sculptures of them all the time-and am drawn to them. We have felt and fabric mushroom garden ornaments in the shop now. What is the allure of the mushroom? They populate the forest floor-in those moist and mossy spots that have that primeval atmosphere. They arise overnight under mysterious circumstances; one can take spore prints from the tops. This picture of a pair of the deadly poisonous Amanita mushroom came from Alaska-In-Pictures.com-they are beautiful.
This photograph of a pair of giant mushrooms came from Wikipedia Commons. They have a ghostly and ancient appearance. Rubbery, yet fragile. Their stalks glisten; for all the world, it looks like the undersides of the caps have gills that are breathing? Could they be breathing? They smell like dirt, and decaying organic matter. Earthy. Earthy-anything coming from or smelling like the earth-sign me up. This is my most favorite scent-the combination of shade, moisture, compost and soil, with a dash of the spa of an ancient forest-sublime.
I eat mushrooms; I love their musty taste as much as I love a port that tastes like the inside of an old trunk, or a cheese of similar age. I am neither a hunter nor a forager of these funghi, but my parents were. I have memories of visiting relatives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during Morel season. I cleaned many a morel-for breakfast with eggs. The morel lunches-I cannot remember what they were, exactly. I was probably 10 years old. The morel endowed dinners-my family lived for this yearly event. This photograph is from activerain.com-and was taken in Michigan.
Why fungus? Why now? Thanksgiving Day I came to the shop to write a quote for a design I had done that was long overdue. I took plenty of breaks, outdoors, with Howard and Milo. We walked out to the willows, to see what was going on. The second trip, I took my camera.
I planted these willows 15 years ago; I bought them from Bordines nursery in late fall. How they have grown. Their bark is amazingly textural. They grow so fast-everywhere I see what seems like growing pains in the pattern of the bark.
One of these willows blew over in a bad storm 2 years ago. Though we uprighted the tree, and cut the top back severely, it is close to dead. What is living? The bracket fungus that have taken up residence, and are thriving. A colony of fungus. Should I be happy, or should I be horrified?
This is my take. Nothing about nature is necessarily happy, or horrifying. There is a process going on, given a grand plan. Peeling away a piece of bark on the dead willow reveals this “structure”; what is it? Another piece of the process to learn about-that’s what it is. The funghi, they have their place. I am part of that place-this feels fine.
Deborah Silver is a landscape and garden designer whose firm, Deborah Silver and Co Inc, opened its doors in 1986. She opened Detroit Garden Works, a retail store devoted to fine and unusual garden ornament and specialty plants, in 1996. In 2004, she opened the Branch studio, a subsidiary of the landscape company which designs and manufactures garden ornament in a variety of media. Though her formal education is in English literature and biology, she worked as a fine artist in watercolor and pastel from 1972-1983. A job in a nursery, to help support herself as an artist in the early 80′s evolved into a career in landscape and garden design. Her landscape design and installation projects combine a thorough knowledge of horticulture with an artist’s eye for design. Her three companies provide a wide range of products and services to the serious gardener. She has been writing this journal style blog since April of 2009.