Good News


When Tony B. from Martha Stewart Living Magazine emailed me this past October that they were interested in featuring some objects Detroit Garden Works carries for their March garden issue, my heart skipped a beat.  OK, maybe many more than one beat.  Why wouldn’t my heart pound?  Martha Stewart has done plenty to make gardening mainstream.  I so admire how she connects thoughtful living, decorating, celebrating, cooking, gardening and growing-I read every issue.  I bring the recipes home for Buck.  Why is this?  I have choices about how to live my life day to day.  But I am, like many other people, interested in her take.  She has devoted an enormous amount of time to documenting and inspiring creativity.  In the home.  In the kitchen-and in the garden.  For regular people-coast to coast, and beyond.  She made a gorgeous garden seem attainable. 

 Like you, I have failed miserably to repreduce her gorgeous outcomes-no matter how detailed her instructions might be.  My years ago kitchen never recovered from my efforts to reproduce her spun sugar.  My garden in no way looks like hers.  This has never really bothered me.  The important thing is that she encouraged me to try all sorts of things. She tells me where she shops.  Whom she admires.  She sows all kinds of seeds-she is a teacher.  Regularly and reliably I will run from learning something.  Maybe that’s from worry that I cannot learn something. But I seem to have no problem trying out what she suggests.  I treasure her for this.

I am not always so interested in what is hip, current and fashionable-I have my own ideas about things.  But I respect her take.  I can be fancy-talk to me about hellebores, landscape design, good garden plants, winter containers, garden antiques-and so on.  But I can also be a plain and simple citizen-interested in a little guidance, a few fresh ideas.  Anyone who sows seed gets my respect.  Seed sowers-they are a breed all their own.  They might generate an idea, a recipe, a design; they plant.  They conduct.  They advise.  They suggest.  They connect with you and me and lots of others.  One seed at a time, they make a difference.  One seed at a time, they speak up. 

In any event, I could not be more pleased that Martha Stewart Living reserved a place for three items we carry-in their “Great Finds- Our 50 favorite products, projects and places inspired by the world of gardening.”  I could not be more pleased that Detroit Garden Works was included in their list.  One item, sourced by Rob.  Another-by me.  And the third-a product we manufacture.  I very much like this part.  Many thanks, Martha Stewart Living.

Wind Swept

The effect of wind on a garden is easy to write about, but incredibly difficult to physically document. I had my chance.  Wind is an invisible force that influences hardiness.  Wind can take down ancient trees, burn boxwood, rhododendron and other broad leaved evergreens.  Persistant wind can change the shape of the trunks of trees. Wind is a dessicant-dessication over a winter can damage and kill.  Our winter storm of the past few days is child’s play compared to what people in the Plains, and Chicago endured, but there were lessons in our town.  The wind yesterday was visible-thanks to a steady snowfall.  Neither of the Corgis wanted to go outside, unless I went with them.  As bundled up as I was, the fierce winds took me aback.  The blowing snow stung my face but good.   

The shop property is a walled property.  The mini-storage complex that surrounds us on 3 sides created a walled garden.  The walls of their storage units are concrete block-and very tall.  I have covered most of these walls with Boston Ivy-parthenocissus tricuspidata “Veitchii”.  The wall is beautiful in summer and fall.  Yesterday, a winter incarnation I had never seen before.

Gusting winds blew the snow straight sideways.  Every branch had a snow load.  The texture and color of this wall-pretty gorgeous. The wind was biting.  The snow on my plant tables eloquently speak to windbreaks.  I am sure you have seen pictures, or visited farms whose fields were enclosed by evergreens.  Those work horses of northern gardens-windbreaks mitigate the effect of the wind.  The snow close to the wall-undisturbed.    

Out of the protective range of this wall, every shred of snow was blown off these tables.  Translate this to the plants you have in the ground.  I have my vain moments.  I plant marginally hardy plants-hoping for a good outcome.  Hardiness-what does this mean?  A good bit of hardiness in my zone depends of good drainage.  Given that most of the soil I plant in is heavy clay, this precludes lavender, and Japanese iris.  Lest you protest, Japanese Iris flourish in swampy soil during the garden season, but they need a substantial drain away to survive the winter.  Lavender-how they thrive in England, and France.  In my zone, they hate winter water retentive soil-and wind.  Winter winds play havoc with broad leaved evergreens here.  I have seen no end of badly burned azaleas and rhododendrons.  Wind-is this part of your zone?  Plan accordingly.  Some marginal plants may be able to thrive, given some protection from winter winds.  I have seen Magnolia Grandiflora growing in my zone.  They had to have been planted in the most optimal spot.  Figuring out the most optimal spot-not always so easy.  The plant will tell you sooner or later.      

Today, I am somewhat focused on what I cannot have.  Noisette roses, for instance.  Hedges of rosemary.  I am not thinking about other more tropical places, such as the Bahamas, or St. Barts.  Just a few plants just barely beyond my grasp.  I am looking at what the wind has delivered, and wondering if I will see damage in the spring.  The boxwoods are loaded with snow; the wind it moving that weight in such a way that I worry about stem crack.  Big winds made for a moment I would do well to observe.  Though some weather is impossible to plan for, some thoughtfulness about plant placement can help mitigate what nature dishes out.

At the height of the wind yesterday-I was out there with my camera. This wall with the skeletal remains of boston ivy vines, and their draping fruits-so beautiful.  Blown around, I was.  Blown around I am, regularly, by nature.    

The forceful winds affected every square inch of my life.  The roads.  The ground plane.  The evergreens.  The driveway.  The streets.  The Corgi yard.  I am used to winds in the spring, in March.  These February winds-unusual.  It seems like I see weather regularly that I have never seen before.     These drifts-the wind is the engine. Notice how the wind swirled and piled up the snow.  I am more than  sure should you live almost anywhere in this country right now, you have photos much like like mine.  Windswept-we are.   

Snowy and windswept-this is where we are at this early February.

The New Kid

If you follow this blog, you know the Corgi boys- Howard and Milo.  And MCat, a feral kitten who grew up under a stack of Italian terra cotta pots, and now lives the good cat life in my office and the shop.  Rob lost the last of his mini-schnauzer pair a few years ago; he has made noises on and off for some time now about another dog.  He so missed having a dog.  This past fall, I could tell a puppy was in the works.  One day, an 8 week old standard schnauzer named Larry showed up at the door.  That cute as a button and unsure of himself 8 week old phase lasted about 2 days. We all were in the throes of the puppyhood life and times. Rob-he was happy.    

I had my worries about the corgis.  They are both 5 years old now; they have their routine, and they rule the roost.  Unless MCat decides to take them them on.  Their puppy encounter years ago with Rob’s mini-schnauzers was a trial by fire.  Those aging schnauzers were mean and snarly on day 1; their irritation, disdain and displeasure persisted well beyond day 1005.  In all fairness, they were well up in years- the new Corgi puppies were a colossal pain.  I worried-would my corgis be jerk 1 and 2 to the new kid?  Day 1 through 5 went fine-I could see they were thinking the new kid was an abberation.  We were babysitting, or helping someone through a transition, or providing a home for a stray while we searched for a new home.  The end of week 1, they knew the world had changed.  By the end of week 2, Milo broke the ice.  He threw his weight around with impunity.  Baby Larry was enchanted.      

He did have that irrestible puppy look-good thing.  We were all scooping him up for regular trips outdoors while Rob was busy.  Outside of his propensity to piddle every 10 minutes, all went swimmingly. Once Milo was over the shock, he got right into the puppy routine.  When he had the time energy and inclination, he played hard.  When he was tired, he endured.    

Howard worried me more.  Surprisingly, he took a very benign position.  Larry moved right into the dog quarters under my desk-not much of a peep out of Howard.  When he thought that Milo was playing too rough, he intervened.  Puppies always go too far, don’t they?  Should Howard be pressed beyond reason to reveal all of his teeth, Larry moves his antics a few feet off shore.  Howard likes the baby-who could have predicted that?    

Milo has done the lion’s share of saying hello and welcome.  Should Larry want to interact, he is game.  I breathed a big sigh of relief.  Milo accepted him.  This is not to say he does not drive Milo wild-but there is a good relationship growing there. 

Good thing, for those early relationships.  Larry has grown by leaps and bounds-he towers over the Corgis, even though he is only a baby.  He is teething-there is not one thing he will not chew.  He is a big puppy now-this means lots of energy.  The fallout from him chewing plans, drapes and rugs-we have to make time to teach.  All of us are on Larry watch.   

I am so pleased for Rob.  A dog is a friend like no other.  This one is an adolescent handful-just yesterday he jumped into the lap of a client who came for a consult-and stayed.  The client-not one bit perturbed.  He will eventually learn some manners, she told me.  Gardening people value their contact with nature.  To the last, they like dogs.  The new kid today?  A standard schnauzer baby cyclone.      

It is hard to stay mad at him for long.  He has lots of energy-most of which he puts to demanding some sort of social interaction.  He knows how to bark; there is no ignoring him.  He wants to be a voting member of the group.  OK, he is a voting member of the group.  

This new staff member is in training.  Come spring, ask for Larry.

Pop-Up Structures


A pergola is a big heavy structural object-not a good candidate for moving around the yard on a whim.  But tuteurs, vine supports, vine towers, and plant climbers can pop up in a garden wherever and whenever you have a mind to use them.  My big complaint with plant climbers-they are invariably too short for the plants I’d like to grow on them.  My climbers have always been homemade-from bamboo.  I can make them as tall as I want. I had a mind some years ago to move on from this.  The size of commercially manufactured tuteurs are dictated by UPS regulation.  They will not ship an object over a certain size.  Motor freighting a plant climber-not one bit cost effective. I hate paying more for shipping than what the object of my affection costs to buy.  Everyone thinks twice before motor freighting.  So I removed the ship issue from my design.  I designed a whole series of plant climbers aimed at my local market.  Should you have access to a pick-up, or are fine with strapping the hatch down on your car, we have big and tall plant climbers.  This particular steel climber-available in regular and giant size.       

The four ribs of this giant size tuteur leaves lots of space in the middle for  display.  At the holidays, these towers get strung with lights, and outline a topiary of magnolia branches.  Pop-up plant climbers are just as useful in the winter, as they are in the summer.  Simple plant climbers pop up easily, regularly. 

This steel garlic form, finished in our virtually rust free finish, has a graceful shape that holds its own visually-climbing plants or no.  We make them in 3 sizes.  Gardeners pop them into their containers; I like giving them a choice about the size.   

This giant garlic planter never did have a vine planted beneath it.  A yellow dahlia occupies the interior space with a raft of annual phlox. Trailing-lobelia and black Moses in the Cradle.  This spring planting carried on throught the season.  The garlic tuteur is a sculptural element-always in view.  It organizes the plant airspace in a beautiful way.  Imagine this container planting without the tuteur.  Robust yes.  But not nearly as striking as this.   

This form was designed by Rob-loosely based on an elongated flower bud. The first year we produced this form, I was too chicken to make the 9′ version.  What was my problem? 

Once a giant form gets outside, and has the sky backing it up, giant seems merely just right. This 9 foot form is larger than its galvanized container-but it works.  Growing grapes in pots?  Were someone to ask me to describe Rob, I would say he lives to grow grapes.  Grapes on pergolas.  Grapes in pots and containers.  This container, designed and planted by him, says it all.  The overscaled bud tuteur makes his idea of a gorgeous container planting a gorgeous reality.

I designed this plant climber wholly based on Rob’s bamboo climbers from the early days.  He would sink 4 very tall bamboo stakes into a container at an outward angle.  He would then wrap galvanized wires in circular little, big, and giant swoops around the bamboo.  Small at the bottom-big at the top.  Most plant climbers I see pay no mind to the habit of a climbing or indeterminate plants.  Plants grow out, up, and out.  This form pays some mind to that.   The top of the plant, spilling over-as in a bower-a plant climber that scoops that up plenty of shoots-well designed.  Plant stakes-they could poke your eye out if you aren’t watching.  None of our climbers have sharp edges.  Every vertical stopper is either curled over ostrich fern style,  or capped in a mini-sphere. 

This steel version of Rob’s classic climber-not visible in late summer.  It is the structure making this container planting suitable for company.  The long flower stalks of the nicotiana alata lime are tied up to it.  The vining mandevillea has otherwise engulfed it.  Not all structure needs to be seen.  But all structures need to be strong, and scaled to handle the job. 

Plant stakes-what is so incredibly unnatural about them?  I understand why gardeners use stout twigs and branches to support their plants.  A natural branch is slight at the bottom, and fans out at the top.  This natural support is great for peonies, and delphiniums.  My 12 peony stems coming out of the ground may be 10 inches in diameter. That same peony plant may be 4′ across at the top.  No straight stake does not do them justice.  My steel stakes come straight out of the ground, and then curve out.  The double prongs at the bottom keep them from moving off course.  

The individual stakes in these containers are much loved by the mandevillea vines climbing them.  The overall shape of these containers- natural and pretty.  The stakes-they might be used with the asparagus next year, or grouped, unplanted, in a perennial bed next year.  Who knows where they might pop up next. 

So many years I staked every climber with bamboo.  These 12′ stakes with their twig ball finials have been in use since 2005.  As much as bamboo stakes are part of my gardening vocabulary, I am pleased to have turned that page. 

Some of our steel tuteurs-they top off a planting in a structural and sculptural way.  Not in a help out a plant climber way. Portable structures can pop up in lots of ways, in lots of gardens.      

This tuteur was Buck’s biggest-fully 14 feet tall.  Small squares and loops at the bottom-giant squares and even bigger loops at the top.  Barbara A bought this pop-up plant tuteur.  What she did with it-I hope someday I will hear.