The Thousanth Post

Everyone who commented on the occasion of my thousanth post-I appreciate all of you.  My very sincere thanks that you read what I write.  The people who read help me to fuel up; every regular reader provides to me the energy that encourages me to write tomorrow.  It is as simple as that.  My point, perhaps not so clearly expressed, is that my writing is one part teaching, one part sharing,  one part communication-and one part hello-so nice to meet you.  It is my opinion that any writing asks for, or implies an audience.  There is a writer, and a reader.  That relationship is what makes my discussion about the garden go round.  That people read what I write is very important to me.  A treasure-truly.  Gretchen emailed me today-I was so happy to hear from her.  I did worry that her meeting me in person might have been a disappointment.  Her email tonight made me very happy.

    Hi Deborah,

I feel quite honored to be part of such a milestone and yet, I should be the one thanking you!  I’ve been thinking about what you said about it being a little unsettling that strangers know so much about you through your blog. And I’m sure it is. But from my perspective,  what you do is a generous, selfless act of sharing your knowledge and creativity so that people like me can learn and create.  And you continued that sharing by being so gracious with your time on Tuesday.   I can’t stop thinking about how magical our visit was and how thankful I am that I got the chance to meet you, Rob and your staff and experience your creativity for myself.  

So, many thanks to you, Deborah!  Gretchen   

Dear Gretchen, your email today email meant the world to me.   I am so pleased to have met you, and I plan to stay in touch.  My thousanth post meant something very special to me-thanks to you.  All my best, your gardening friend,  Deborah

Many Thanks To Gretchen

midwest gardeners

For several days I have been fretting about this blog post.  This particular blog post-my thousanth.  What would I write about?  Granted this blog is a journal of sorts, about the day to day, or what is on my mind.  Or some design issue or plant I think might be of interest.  But should the thousanth post not be special?  I had been fretting about it for going on a week, until I had an email from Gretchen. Second from the left in this picture, she wrote that she had been reading the blog for a long time, and had even gone back to read every post all the way back to the beginning in April of 2009.  I was astonished that she had read just as many posts as I had written.  She wanted to tell me that she and 3 gardening friends had decided on the basis of that reading to come and visit the shop.  They would be travelling from Winnetka, Illinois-would I be available to meet them?


Of course we would meet them.  I gave them a tour of both the front and the back of the house.  They looked over my library.  We exchanged thoughts about favorite gardening books.  Anne asked if I knew the plant the English call cowslips.  I had Rob look up hogweed-it is indeed the same plant.  How is it that a plant could have such a graceful common name in one gardening world, and such a threatening one in another?  Where gardening is concerned, there is always a lot to talk about.

This Chicago group of four entertained themselves-and all of us-for better than three hours. I am sure they went through the entire place at least three times. Sue kept reminding everyone that they had plenty of room for anything they wanted to take home with them.  There was a lot of discussion about who liked what and why.  I was interested in what everyone liked the best. 

Gretchen was especially fond of the sundials-I have the feeling she is very serious and passionate about the garden.  I told her I was having trouble picking a topic for that thousanth post.  She immediately suggested I write about their visit.  I loved the idea. I did not know why, until I had some time to think about her suggestion.  

Measuring up in writing, or second hand-a ridiculous endeavor. My most favorite actor-Donald Southerland.  He measures up, via his films.  Would I like him if I knew him personally?  Maybe, or maybe not.  But every design relationship depends on what happens, face to face.  One gardener to another.  Is it possible to forge a relationship over a pot full of baby tears?  This pot-Margery’s favorite.  Subsequent to meeting her in person, I would say yes.  

Another favorite-the salt glazed Errington Ray pots with lemon cypress, violas and white alyssum.  This Chicago gardener spoke for three of them.  I liked her choice.  All four of them put me instantly at ease.  It was as if we knew each other.  In a way, we do know each other.  Via the writing.  And now, there is the face to face.  Did I arrange that?  No.  They got in their car, and came over.  They made a big effort to get to me.  They thanked me for the big effort I have made to get to them.     

Gardeners come from lots of zones, states, countries and communities.  I have yet to meet a gardener that did not interest me.  They have stories to tell, interests.  Those relationships enrich my gardening life.  There are so many common bonds.  The plants.  The weather.  The design.  The seasons.  The dirt.


Each member of this group has a life to which I am not privy.  But we have lots in common, given that each of us gardens.  There are new relationships there-given our face to face meeting.  Now I know the names, and have seen the faces of a few of the people who read what I write.  As for the thousanth post, I realize it is not the writing that deserves any attention on the occasion of the thousanth post.  What matters the most are those gardening people who are reading.  I understood from Gretchen that no one writes without asking for a reader.  She is right-I did ask her to read.  Everyone who reads this blog inspires me to write.  Many thanks to all of you.  And special thanks to you Gretchen.  I am so very pleased to have met you.  And I am especially appreciative that you designed this post for me.

At A Glance: More Spring Plantings


Blue in a Michigan garden?  That would be blue pansies and lobelia.  OK, there are some true blue delphiniums, and cornflowers to come later on.   But if you have a big love for blue, express yourself now. 

Bright yellow and dark purple pansies, orange grass, and cream stick stacks-a spring wake up call. 

creme brulee coral bells

Creme brulee heuchera-great in pots.  The habit, the leaf size and shape-and that color-the stuff that spring memories are made of.  I am not crazy about black and silver leaved coral bells, but these enchant me.    The backs of the leaves-a faint version of red violet-echoing the punch of red violet from these dark pansies.

Fresh cut copper willow twigs, and a spring assortment.  I like lots of spring voices looking for a little harmony.  This-a simple pleasure. 

Picoteed and whiskered violas-I love them all.  They look especially at home in small low terra cotta pots-bulb pans, we call them. 

On the right, a trailing viola I have never seen before.  It may be my favorite bicolor viola-what a treat that it trails.  Pale blue and dark purple-stunning.  On the left, clear sky yellow pansies and angelina. Prairie and copper willow provide a little natural vertical interest.

planting for spring

Lemon cypress and dark red dracaena contrast dramatically with each other.  The softening part?  lavender and peach violas with that lime.  Citrus mix pansies and Ogon sedum with that dark spike.

Ornamental kales and cabbages are great for spring pots-they will grow to a decent size before they bolt.  Barely visible in the right pot, a one gallon pot of asparagus. 

Green spikes are common in summer pots-but they handle the cold in the spring and fall very well.  Any ordinary plant used in an unusual season warrants a fresh look.

This tuft of a lime cypress will grow up to a shrub of considerable size, should you baby it over a few winters.  That lime green says spring like no other color.  Other choices?  Bibb and leaf lettuce.  Green oakleaf lettuce.  Lime green hostas.  Lime green hops.  Lime green leaved columbines and bleeding hearts. Green flowered hellebores. Lime green leaved tradescantia.  You get the idea. 

 Any spring pot makes a better show right off the bat with a plant climber in place.  Some seasons ask for a little backup from some structure.  In this case, steel structure.   Given a few weeks of warm weather, these blue pansies and white variegated ivy will grow, and make a better statement.  All of these plantings need to grow on and up.  But today, these freshly planted pots still say welcome to my spring.

One Thing After Another


One thing after another usually refers to a string of events you’d rather do without.  The story of the tulips at the shop this spring sure started out that way.  They broke ground and grew as if they were possessed in March.  Alarming, this.  Though no one believed the hot weather would stay on, the tulips didn’t know this.  They were growing in a terrific hurry, as if they were late to the party.  Wow, what bad luck to show up to an event a month early.  Add to the mix-no rain.   Dry and hot would soon become dry and very cold.  

The semi double Darwin tulip Akebono was the first to bud, and show color.  Long about this time, the temperatures were threatening to drop dramatically.  As a precaution, we set horizontal bamboo stakes to just skim the tops of the plants.  I had ordered a roll of row cover, knowing that summer weather in March could not come to any good end.    

covering tender plants

Sure enough, the cold weather returned with a vengeance..  Snow on the tulips-not something you see every day.  We covered them for 4 nights in a row.    They hated this.  Though we had bamboo support for the cover, most every tulip bent over to the ground from the insult.

Of course, once we put the row cover and stakes away, the overnight temperatures threatened to dive again.  We spent plenty of time bringing tender plants into the garage. Late in the day, I watered the bed thoroughly, and misted all of the tops to boot.  The sight of ice on those tulips in the morning was heartstopping.  It seems impossible, but water gives off heat as it freezes.  I hoped the tulips themselves would be protected from frost. 


 It took 3 days, but those gangly stems finally stood up straight.  I had mixed the Akebono tulips with the late blooming Cream Jewel and the strong yellow Roi du Midi.  The later two had the good sense to lay low until the temperatures warmed some.

tulips in April

This is the best part of the mix.  Once the Akebono started to drop petals, the single late tulips were coming on strong.  One tulip after another can greatly extend the tulip season.  Most things in the garden come one thing after.  It doesn’t take so much to help a season to linger.  Plant multiple varieties of tulips, rather than one.

The fresh group just coming on distract the eye from the early bloomer-although many of the Akebono.are just reaching their best. Think relay race.  Or strength in diversity. Those double tulips handled the bad weather incredibly well; they have been in flower for three difficult weeks.  I can see they will start to decline soon.  The Cream Jewel is vigorously in full bloom, and the dark yellow Roi du Midi is just getting good. 

tulips in April

It looks like the tulips will peak by the end of April.  Stop by-they really are beautiful right now.