The Garden Cruise 2011

There are but 10 annual plantings left to go this season-I am very happy to be on the far side of what is the most intensely felt and most rigorously engaging part of my gardening year.  I did have a client tell me yesterday that it was too late for me to plant herb pots for them.  For Pete’s sake, I told him, the first day of summer is ten days away.  I am trying myself to keep that in mind-my pots at home are barely half done. In the cracks between the days, I have been organizing our 4th annual garden tour to benefit the Greening of Detroit.  The fabulous garden pictured above is but one of 7 gardens on tour this year.  Please save the date – Sunday, July 17, from 9 to 4:30.  

The Greening of Detroit has been actrively involved in the reforestation of my city for the past 21 years.  I greatly admire their focus, and their results.  In recent years, they have sponsored over 600 urban farms. They teach.  They never give in or give out.  I am in awe of what they have been able to accomplish; I even more admire their dreams.  It is my simple intent to provide my clients with a landscape better than they thought they could have it.  It is even more important to me that they experience and engage with their environment in a successful way.  I sit on the board of the Greening, but I am not much good with meetings.  The only way really for me to help them is to try to raise money in support of their programs. The landscapes and gardens are of my design, or influence.  One landscape was designed and planted from scratch 15 years ago.  Another was designed and planted from scratch last year.  Some gardens are renovations.  One garden has but one connection to me; his mother is one of my oldest and best clients.  His garden is solely of his own making-and beautifully made at that.  You won’t want to miss it.   

My garden is on tour, as usual.  I tinker with it often enough every year that there is always something new to see.  At least people do not seem to get bored with it.  Another member of my group has graciously agreed to put his garden on tour-my landscape superintendent. This garden goes far beyond a design and installation.  Almost everything in his garden has been handmade by him.  A beautiful privacy fence and pergola.  A fountain.  A terrace of handmade concrete tiles.  Anyone with an interest in creating a gorgeous garden space with their own two hands will find a lot to look at here. 

The 7 gardens are uniquely styled.  I would say my garden is very traditional and formal.  There is a very contemporary garden, and a traditional garden with contemporary overtones.  There is a classic French influenced English garden and a cottage style garden.  A 1970’s modern garden on a large piece of property is in contrast to a small, intimate and uniquely styled garden.  Many points of view are persuasively represented. 

I am hoping that if you live in this area, you will join us for the tour, and the afterglow reception at Detroit Garden Works.  In return for your contribution to the Greening of Detroit, we promise an exciting day of touring gardens, and great gin and tonics at the close. 


For more information, see our cruise website:  www.thegardencruise.org

A Little Change

A little change can turn out to be a very big change.

See what I mean?


Scale, volume, shape, mass and porportion-these elements are so important to good design.

Orange Punch

The idea for the 2011 annual gardens at the shop started with these pots at a client’s house.  I did not plant these-I was there consulting on another matter entirely.  I was so struck by how beautiful the orange cannas were-the flowers reminded me much of a clivia. She told me she got them from Telly’s Greenhouse; I called George straight away this spring to see if he planned to carry them again.  When he told me he had hundreds of them for sale, I responded in kind.  I planted lots them in the roof boxes, and in all 6 of the big concrete pots out front.   


It is a strikingly beautiful flower. Lushly tropical in appearance, it looks even better against a blue sky.  The large, juicy looking blue green leaves are just as attractive as the flowers.  I could feel a scheme coming on. 

Margaret Roach egged me on; she posted about a new Potunia variety called Papaya.  I called George again-was he growing this potunia?  The color is every bit as unusual and luscious as Margaret promised. They seem to be a decent growers-this is a big plus in an annual plant. I planted it in the ground with neon petunias.  I am a fan of orange and carmine together.  The color orange in annual plants is highly variable. There are those yellow toned carrot oranges-as in Magellan zinnias and Orange Punch cannas.  There is that brilliant medium orange on steriods, as in Sonic Scarlet New Guinea impatiens.  There are those blue tinged oranges, as in Caliente ornage geraniums, and these Papaya potunias. 

Surprisingly, all of the oranges do not look so swell together.  I needed to mix some other colors to create a sense of visual community.  The very dark carmine potunias and a little lemon yellow from yellow supertunias, vanilla butterfly marguerites and trailing lantana gives this container a happy family look.  I could feel a party coming on.

The Sonic series of New Guinea impatiens deliver a jolt of orange like no other plant I know of.  Given enough sun and plenty of water, they perform beautifully.I was warming up to the idea of a wide mix of colors in celebration of the color orange in the windowboxes and beds.       

The boxes have lime nicotiana (a staple green in my gardening diet), misty lilac wave petunias, orange dahlias, orange geraniums, Butterfly marguerites, and neon petunias.  To come, some dark purple trailing verbena, and some lavender star verbena.  The corner pot has those Sonic scarlet New Guineas in it-I have not quite figured out what else should go with it.

The Solenia series of begonias are my favorites-they are the most forgiving of  of any large flowered begonia. They also tolerate a good bit of sun.  The toothy olive green coleus with the dark red violet stems?  I do not have a name, but I really like the look. 

On the roof, I planted my beloved Elegant Feather grass-it is a beautiful plant from a distance, and it breaks the wind that whip around up there.  The cannas are small, but they will beef up quickly; it is always hot up there.  Caliente geraniums are a great performer in difficult situations, and they flower continually without any coaxing.  The trailing vinca maculatum are plants from last summer that I wintered over in hanging baskets-I hope they will drape way down the front wall.   

Perhaps the most exotic looking plant in my summer orange repertoire is a coleus called Rainbow Festive Dance.  Bordines grows this plant, and they have great 4″ pots of it right now.  My photograph does not really do it justice; it is olive , orange, carmine and parrot green-on every leaf.  I cannot wait to see these plants grow large.


The bed inside the boxwood is planted with Dazzler Blush impatiens (it has a distinctive orange and carmine eye) Super Elfin Blue Pearl, and solid orange impatiens.  I am hoping it will look like confetti sprinkled thickly on the ground.  A twenty minute soak with my fountain sprinklers, and the bed is thoroughly wet.  Our 4th annual garden tour to benefit the Greening of Detroit is scheduled for Sunday July 17th.  We host a party afterwards-we’ll be ready for company.

Tuesday Morning Opinion: A Member Of The Choir

Sunday is a short work day-the shop is open 12 to 4.  Most Sundays I book landscape consults in the morning-most people work, and weekends are easier.  I do not do evening consults.  Buck and I need some time together every day.    Evenings, Buck and I, and the corgis have a routine that I treasure.  So I do Sunday morning landscape consults-before the shop opens.

I have no problem in the world with this.  Every one of my clients work, and work hard. They may be novice gardeners with day jobs.  They may be seasoned gardeners with kids.  They may be professional men and women with the notion that their landscape is an important element of their life.  Whomever they are, I am happy to accomodate.  I know what it means to work.

My consult last Sunday-I will admit I was dog tired, and not anxious to add one more garden to my list.  As usual, that cloud lifts-once I meet a client.  This woman was of Japanese descent.  After living in my community for 30 years, she recently and unexpectedly lost her husband.  Her only relative now-a daughter in Australia.  I would have never guessed she was 70 years old; everything about her weas graceful and beautiful.

 Her modest 50’s modern house was architecturally strong, beautifully furnished, and spotless.  But what really engaged me was the landscape.  The private rear yard was simple, serene, mature-and beautifully maintained. Really beautifully maintained. The front yard was wild right up to the front door. The only evidence of the human hand-large stands of Jack in the Pulpit, wild geranium, may apple-and so on. An old wild flower garden.  Her landscape was a landscape design crash course-I was enchanted and interested in her story and her garden.   I could not imagine why she had scheduled a consult with me-I told her this.  She had just two requests. 

 What would I advise for the floor of her small terrace off the back of the house?  I told her the old concrete studded with gravel was beautiful and appropriate, and did not need any change.  She persisted in a very gentle way, so I responded that she could stain the concrete a pale blue grey. She seemed to like that idea.  Her last request-where could she have water?  A modest representation of water.  A little sparkle and splash.  A small addition to her choir.  I am thinking about that for her.

Last Sunday, I had no appointments.  The shop closed late; I took some plants home anyway, as my pots are not even close to planted.  I backed the suburban into the driveway, and unloaded the corgis.  Buck brought me a glass of wine, and I started planting.  For several hours, I was a member of the choir.  The dogs, the dirt, the plants, the birds, the early evening sun, the water-divine.  Those several hours did so much to restore my spirit and energy.  This week is the last of my intensely driven spring work.  I hope everyone’s flowers will be planted by next Tuesday, and I can devote my time to a slew of landscape projects patiently waiting.  A little time for one’s own garden-I highly recommend it.