The Garden Cruise

I will admit to being a little tired today-the garden tour is an all day affair.  It happened to be conducted in 93 degree heat-but I am happy to say we had a great turnout.  The gardens to the last looked fresh and well tended.  The annual plants are thriving on our heat.  I did go through 3 cases of water at my garden-most people come to my place in the afternoon.  But I had a little treat waiting for the hot and the tired who came after 2.

 My fountain is my most favorite feature in my landscape.  It is a pleasure to watch, and to hear.  But it turned out to be quite the cooler for my overheated guests.  I invited everyone to take off their shoes, and get in.  Almost everyone took me up on the invitation.   

Six of the seven gardens on tour featured water in some form or another.  A pair of beautiful swimming pools-one from the late 1920’s, and one from the 1970’s-each made a strong visual statement.   I myself would not want one.I have a scaled down, hybrid version of a swimming pool.  My fountain is filtered and cleaned with same equipment that cleans a pool or spa.  This means my fountain does double duty-when I have a need, I get in it, and cool off.  This fountain could be home to a hot gardener, but yesterday it was home to a school of goldfish and some water cabbage.    

Not everyone has space for a vegetable garden that consumes acreage.  This small garden has a trio of tomatoes, underplanted with various herbs.  What is better in late summer than homegrown tomatoes?  This very small garden made a big nod to the idea of good food from the garden.

This very contemporary home I landscapes probably 16 years ago.  The columnar beech are maintained at a level beyond my wildest dreams.  It is an intellectually ad toughly minimal landscape.  I was happy to hear the level of discussion that I did.

When someone calls me to design a Japanese garden for them, I direct them elsewhere.  I am a westerner by heritage, culture and experience.  Under no circumstances could I design a Japanese garden-I am woefully inadequate.  In this case, I did reluctantly design and plant a contemplative garden in that Eastern style.  There was much talk on the tour about this small space-unexpected, it was.  No kidding-it is the only landscape space I have ever done like this.

One of the Dearborn landscapes is freshly done-it has been in ground but 11 months.  The son of one of my oldest and most treasured clients got the bug for gardening from his Mom.  Many thanks, CB.  This house new to he and his family has been completely renovated.  A pergola with a solid roof is slated to go over his western facing rear terrace any day now.  This formal landscape with a decidedly modern twist-fresh and striking.

Perennial gardens,planted largely with white, purple and lavender hardy plants, got some help this first season from some verbena bonariensis. 

A Normandy style tudor on acres of land belongs to oted interior designer Linda Powers.  I had nothing to do with this old and established landscape.  I came late to the landcape conversation; I consult with her about her container plantings, and plant them.  Her garden was the subject of much conversation.  Her old Stewartia in full bloom-on every Iphone in the group.

It was a very hot day, yes.  But all manner of keen gardeners came out, and toured.  The reception afterwards-I had such a good time. At 5pm, Buck promised he would water the pots, so I could go that afterglow party.    I live a charmed life.

At A Glance: Company Coming Today


Can you tell I am excited for the day?

Garden Cruise Tomorrow

A few years ago this client in Dearborn put her garden on the garden cruise we sponsor every year to benefit the Greening of Detroit. If you are not familiar with the Greening of Detroit, in the past 21 years, they have planted thousands of trees, sponsored hundreds of urban farms, and made respect for the environment a mission.  Our tour raises money for them.   I had been working on her landscape for a good many years, and she was kind enough to agree to share it with others.  I am pleased to say that this year, her son Rich and her son-in-law Jason, have agreed to put their gardens on tour.

They are both young people; one landscape I designed and planted only this past summer.  Jason’s landscape and garden is entirely of his own design and installation-he goes so far as to grow his own flowers from seed under lights in the winter.  The landscapes represent very idividual tastes, and are entirely different.  What I like the most about them both is that young people are growing them.  I visited CB and her garden while I was in Dearborn checking out the tour gardens.  She and I both were struck by how the landscape suddenly seems mature and finished.  The landscape is looked after by Melissa and her crew from M and M flowers-her level of maintenance makes every landscape she tends look great.

I have wintered these wax leaf privet single ball topiaries in a greenhouse for the past 8 years.  With root pruning in the spring, we have managed to keep them in these glazed French pots for 8 summers.  The hydrangeas were originally planted in the front of the house.  I moved them here to take advantage of a bigger dose of sun.  They seem entirely happy now.  Planting a landscape is just the beginning.  Some things will not do well.  Other things ask for a different spot.  Moving things around is part of an garden experience.  Most everything thing can be better, if you have patience and resolve.  I try to own up to mistakes early on, so the moving is not such an ordeal. 

CB’s house is situated on a very steep lot; a deck upstairs spanning the entire barck of the house is her garden in the air.  Lots of containers help to create that garden.  On the far right, an old wild rosemary that spends winters in a greenhouse supplies the kitvchen.  On the left, 3 pots devoted to herbs-mostly basil.  To trail in the basil pots, everbearing strawberries. 

There are never many strawberries, but the idea of it is enchanting, and the texture of the strawberry leaves is great.  Tidal wave petunias, mandevillea and dahlias are thriving in the high heat we have had.

My only addition to the deck was to plan and build a pair of very long planter boxes installed outside the deck rail.  This keeps water and debris from the boxes off the deck surface.  Lavender, purple and yellow petunias are punctuated every so often with dark red violet potunias.  The trailing vinca maculatum will traill almost to the ground by the end of the summer.  There is very little maintenance to them. 

Several large perennial garden enclose the pool.  They have been struglling in recent years; the local deer polulation has exploded.  This year, Melissa installed steel post 4 feet tall all the way around the gardens, and strung them with three rows of fishline.  The deer have not touched a thing all season. I can hardly believe this is working, but it is. The lollipop Coralburst crabapple pictured is one of a pair that were planted in celebration of her son Rich’s wedding years ago.  They have matured beautifully. 

On the landing, two lead boxes with green coleus and orange begonias.  All of the containers have drip irrigation in them, and they stay in place all winter. The taupe colored terra cotta pots are frostproof terra cotta from Italy.  Each pot is elevated on feet, to prevent any water from collecting and freezing underneath.  I always enjoy planting these pots, and I enjoyed even more going back and visiting both the garden and my good friend CB. 

A small deck off the master bedroom is large enough for a pair of comfortable chairs, and 4 large pots.  The branches of some old Norway spruce in the backdround are a reminder of how high up in the air this garden really is. 

CB is an accomplished gardener, but today I am thinking about how much she has nurtured that interest in two young people in her family.   In my estimation, she has accomplished something very important.

Another Perennial Garden


I did plant a second perennial garden this week-however many days ago I posted about the prep.  Steve did a great job of prepping the soil-we usually add plant mix, a mix of topsoil and compost- to garden soil.  I like perennial beds to be pouffy.  Crowned in the center.  So many perennial plants are extremely hardy, given good drainage.  A perennial bed that sits lower than the grade of the lawn will have problems.   This picture makes clear how this perennial sits higher than the lawn.  Perennials swimming in waterlogged soil will give up without much of a fight.  If I had my choice, no ground in a landscape would be perfectly flat.  Every surface would have positive drainage, in addition surface drainage.  The best part of landscaping a new house-I have a good relationship with that person on the bulldozer that sets the grades. Raised boxes specifically built to grow vegetables-this is all about drainage.   Lest I spend too much time on the obvious, I will simply state that water runs downhill.  Sculpt the ground accordingly.       

The photograph of this phlox Nicky is courtesy of the Crownsville Nursery.  The darkest carmine/purple of all the summer phlox, it resists mildew and disease such that you would want to grow it.   The smell of phlox in the summer-divine.  I like the color, and I like the vigor.  This phlox is going into this perennial garden.    

We refined the curve on the edge of this perennial bed.  Perennial beds without edger strip ask for an edger/gardener of great skill.  Any bed edge that curves needs a long slow curve with no flat spots.  If you are having trouble determining a curve, get your hose out.  Play with that hose until you get graceful curves-and then cut the edge.  Alternately, but a stake in the ground, and tie a loosely tied string to it, and mark an arc as long as you need.  Finding the right spot to put the stake just takes a little experimentation.   

The Vision series of astibles are amazing.  They are vigorous growers.  The colors are clear, and striking.  This pink, purple, lavender and white perennial garden got a big dose of these astilbes.   Should you have some part shade areas, consider Visions pink or red. This garden begins and ends with some shadier spots.  I plan to mass both areas with lady’s mantle, Jack Frost brunnera, and this astilbe.   

I have never been convinced that Gaura is hardy in my zone, but here I am planting them.  They are willowy, and beautiful in a very understated way. 

My love affair with lilies is at least 30 years old.   That is a story appropriate for another post.  But this week, the Oriental hybrid lily known as Acapulco got my attention.  Where the idea came from to plant lilies in this garden was driven by the small space in question. Bulb lilies take up  very little space, but add lots of color to any perennial garden.  They require good drainage to persist; they sometimes need to be staked.  The Lily Garden offers a wide selection of lily bulbs by mail.     

The Magic Fountains delphiniums made a big statement the day they got planted. They are fairly easy to grow, and are quite vigorous.  Their shorter stature makes it easier to gracefully stake the heavy flower stalks.  Double pink knockout roses alternated with white hardy hibiscus and planted behind the delphiniums.  Pink platycodon, and pink echinacea are alternated with Russian sage.  On the border, Blue Mist scabiosa, Geranium Rozanne, and lady’s mantle.    

The Oriental hybrid lily Tom Pouce flowers are orchid pink with lemon yellow streaks.  This is a very showy flower indeed-not at all for the faint of heart.  Flowers that are attention getting are good in gardens viewed from a distance.  Who would not want to walk up to insepct a flower like this at close range?  Subtle flowers are best up close, where they can be better appreciated. 

Though the perennials have not been planted yet, it is easy to imagine what the garden will look like once it begins to grow in.  The white flowers of the Annabelle hydrangea we left in the garden will draw the eye towards the back of the garden.  The very large existing clump of Sum and Substance hosta in the foreground provide wecome green relief to the mix of colors all around this.  My client likes pink, purple and white.  I think this garden will provide her with a summer garden she will really enjoy.