At A Glance: Sunday Morning

late blooming tulips

Sunday morning before the shop opens is a favorite time of mine.  For those of you who live too far away to visit, to follow is what we are looking like the end of April.

English urns

vintage English urns on plinths

mid century garden chairs

mid century French garden chairs

Detroit Garden Works

new fountain from Branch

Do you have time to play catch?

spring container plantings

concrete dogs

English concrete garden pots

English concrete containers in the Italian style

Detroit Garden Works

white concrete boxes and boxwood topiary


Errington Reay and Co salt glazed pots


French pots

topiary myrtles

zinc table



Zinc for the garden

late April

garden candles

 blue votives

Other Pairs Of Hands

Two clients, gardening partners, purchased a vintage ranch home on a substantial piece of property a few years ago.  After spending a lot of time renovating a backyard landscape and pool, they were interested in tackling the front yard.  They called me to consult.  They had the original landscape plan-I am guessing it dates back to the 1940’s.  The plan was drawn up by Ilgenfritz Nurseries, a Monroe Michigan based nursery and landscape business which first opened around 1915.  How great they have this original document.

The landscape had declined some since the original installation.  Every landscape is either going forward or backward-there is no such thing as neutral, where nature is in charge.  Some very large trees survived, including one of the most gorgeous mature green spruce I have ever seen-in the back yard.  The house sits up high- and the neighborhood is known for its walking population.   A city owned walking path runs through their property.  They wanted privacy from the street. 

Another major issue-a greatly degraded driveway needing replacement.  The drive was due to be ripped out-but they wanted a landscape design consultation before they went ahead.  The orange circle in the above picture-would their landscape benefit from a landscape island in the center of the new drive? 

A breezeway between the garage and the house had been enclosed.  That breezeway is now the dining room.  The plants in the beds?  Those plants moved out of the rear gardens to a temporary”nursery” spot.  The original sidewalk was showing its age, but the concrete itself seemed appropriate to the architecture of the house. 

 They were in need of a schematic plan.  A concept that would include a driveway, a walk,  and some screening.  This is an instance where I would rather look at a plan on paper than the real property.  It is very hard to look at what has always been, and imagine it in a completely different way.  If you fancy doing your own design, find a document that describes how the house sits on the property, and blow it up so you can see the spaces.  The relationships of house to land.  A scale drawing comes in very handy, should you want to determine how many astilbes, or how many magnolias you should buy.  As for a new driveway, be sure you drive the route before you commit to the paving.

Since they would be doing their own planting, I marked up the front facade of the house with those lines that represented the edges of architectural features-as in the location of solid walls, and the architectural edges.  This house had walls in a number of different planes-that would play a part in the design. The sightlines-meaning those views from the windows, would play a crucial role in determining where evergreens should be planted for screening. 


 True to the original landscape, they were interested in an informal plan which would have plenty of opportunities to plant specialty evergreens.  They  also wanted a very simple landscape that would look good year round with a minimum of maintenance. They wanted to spend most of their time in the summer gardening in the back yard.  After putting a sheet of trace (tracing paper) over the original design, I drew in the givens-the house, garage and porches. The existing driveway in this picture is outlined in red.   I could see right away that the most dramatic change they could make to their landscape would be to relocate the driveway further away from the house.  The house has plenty of green company on the left side, as pictured above, but little on the garage side.  

 I am not crazy about landscaped islands marooned in a sea of paving.  They look disconnected.  Oftentimes they do not prosper.  The roots of trees and shrubs favor a free run over a space limited by hard surfaces.  I like driveways and walkways that look like the garden came first, and the hard surfaces last.  I proposed to keep the entrance to the drive at the street in the same place.  But I thought a drive that veered away from the house would allow for a generous amount of green on the garage side of the house.    Why a parking court?  The front of the house is quite a hike uphill from the street.  They have the room for off street parking. 

The existing sidewalk was very close to the house.  I moved it out by three feet.  This made a long gracefully curved walk to the parking court possible.  Should that walk be too long for an older person, a garage entry would be close at hand.  A large landscape area around the new drive would focus visual attention on the plants, and not on the expanse of paving.  A simple and linear evergreen planting describing the changes of plane would look appropriate with the architecture, and be fairly easy to maintain.  Proposed locations for evergreens take the locations of the windows in front into consideration.

 Their driveway starts where you see the road ending in the distance.  A very unusual cicumstance, this.  But I feel they will take the project in hand, and put the landscape to right in their own time and way.  The slope you see to the right?  I am sure there are some pines in its future.

One Pair Of Hands



I have plenty of clients who like to do their own gardening-LW is one of them.  How she finds the time, I have no idea.  She is a PPWC-a professional person with a full time job who by the way has children.  I greatly admire this kind of determination to garden.  Why would a gardener who does all of her own work want a landscape plan from a designer professional?  It takes just as much resolve and money to plant a visually disappointing landscape with a poorly chosen plants as a good landscape with interesting and well chosen plants.  She wanted a plan.  My plan-a birthday gift to her from a close friend.  


do it yourself landscape installation

I cannot remember how long it has been since I did the plan, but I recently got a call-she was ready for the next step.  This small spot near her back door is just as it was when I first visited-and I did not specifically address this area in the initial plan.  We decided in just a few minutes to bring the front yard boxwood pattern through the fence panels that visually enclose her drivecourt, and return it to the wall of the house.  That her plan had called for a double row of boxwood, it was easy to see an espaliered fruit tree as the ending element of the boxwood.  The same set of perennials planted in the front yard would be planted behind the boxwood in this section.  But the big treat of the visit was to see what she had already installed from the original plan.


The original landscape featured boxwood planted on either side of the steps, and against the foundation of the porch.  The front bed seemd too shallow for the size of the staircase, and much too routine.  The Japanese maple on the left looked forlorn, and neither here nor there visually.  An old weeping cherry on the right end of the porch was in very poor health.  

I kept the boxwood-it would be a fine compliment to the architecture.  But I moved the hedge out past the bottom step of the porch-away from the foundation.  The porch has a much stronger presence now.   And I specified a double row, so the depth of the hedge would be generous.  Once these small boxwoods get to be 30″ tall, that 6′ depth will add a strong green element to the presentation of the stairs, porch, and front door.  Moving the boxwood away from the foundation meant that she could grow tall shade tolerant perennials in the space behind them.  Her landscape would not substantially alter in appearance over the winter.  The side yard would get a new fence.  I suggested adding a pair of fence panels on the left side of the house  This makes the garage less prominent, and the front view stronger.    

The right hand side of the steps featured a large bed whose main reason to be had to do with the shade under the cherry.  I suggested that the front yard landscape would benefit from a planting scheme that was consistent, all the way across the width of the property.  This would provide for an interesting transition from the front yard to the side.


Each end of the porch is visually anchored with a Venus dogwood.  The planting does look sparse, as the plants are spaced correctly-but plants grow.  It will be faster than she thinks-the growing in part.  Every year will look some better.


The grass path to the side yard gate is a transition from the front to the side and back yard.  When the boxwoods have matured, and the perennials have made big clumps, it will be a pleasant walk.  Transition spaces in gardens serve the same purpose as a foyer in a home.  The moving from from one space to the next is graceful and unhurried.

 Though the hydrangeas had not yet leafed out, it is easy to imagine that from the street the foreground view will be about the staircase, and attending hedge of limelight hydrangea.  Venus dogwood are set within this hedge too, so they repeat the dogwoods in the boxwood.  4 more Venus dogwoods frame the street view to the side garden gate-the picture of the plan makes the idea clear.  The hydrangeas will help make the midground lawn space much more private. The sidewalk and staircase will be visually enlarged with the addition of decomposed granite on each side, and the walk will be carried all the way out to the street.  She has plans to do the drivecourt garden, and the sidewalk additions this year-but would I take a look at the side yard, to look at the design in a less schematic, and more finished way?  I like her style-already, she is making plans for next season.

Tins Crates Baskets and Tubs

The little and special plants that mark spring containers-how I love them.  I love the tubs, pails, baskets and crates that make great homes for those little and special spring plants.  I did post some of these pictures on the Detroit Garden Works facebook page today, but I couldn’t resist posting them here.  These spring container plantings make me smile.  What about you?  

heuchera, angelina, and citron alyssum

spring container plantings

spring purple

a basket of pansies, phlox, and lavender violas

A round tin of spring flowers

A rustic basket featuring heuchera and citron alyssum

An oval tub of English daisies and violas

A rustic basket of violas, white alyssum, and twigs

Lavender and alyssum

An orange carex and trailing violas

Enamelled tub of spring flowers

a crate of chard and lettuce

 Citrus mix pansies and angelina

spring baskets

spring pink and yellow

A birdseye view of spring

Milo has a great view of this crate of chard and lettuce!