July 4th

The last stop, on my 4th of July holiday overnight?  A visit to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners Michigan.  Don’t forget, Buck was on this trip too.  As any machine that moves and moves fast is of great interest to him, our friends knew he would really enjoy it.  I am a Detroit girl, so of course I like cars-but I was not really prepared for what I saw.    

There are over 200 cars in this privately maintained collection. All of the details of how Donald and Genevieve Gilmore came to collect cars, and then open this museum can be accessed via their website- www.gilmorecarmuseum.org. Situated on 90 acres of land, there are 10 restored or reproduction old barns, all maintained in pristine condition. 

They house all manner of motorized vehicles, each one a visual treat.  Most of them I had never seen before.  Though their forms were incredibly varied, all of them had one thing in common.  They were sculpturally interesting objects in their own right.  I cannot imagine the design skill, thought, ingenuity, inventiveness and science that went into the manufacture of these objects. So many different fields of expertise are represented in each vehicle; many people and many processes had to come together in a very precise way.  It is equally as amazing that these vehicles were made in numbers.  This museum is a visual education in the history of the automotive industry.  

This model A Ford was dated 1903.  But for a few dings in the paint on one side panel, it looked brand spanking new.  The woven wicker baskets on each side-gorgeous.  I don’t have much to say about the individual vehicles, as I know so little about them, but I did have my favorites.     

1963 Chrysler turbine

Checker Motor Co cabs

hardtop Metropolitan

 Ford Cobra, courtesy of Carroll Shelby

DeSoto detail

This 1947 DeSoto was my favorite. 

This was an in depth look at a uniquely American phenomena, and an appropriate way to spend a few hours in celebration of Independence Day.

The grounds were every bit as uniquely American style as the automobiles.  The museum sits on a giant tract of land.  As far as I could see, mowed grass, and a few maturing shade trees-mostly sycamores. 

This is a vast landscape, mostly devoted to wide open spaces.

It poured hard for 20 minutes while we were there; what a pleasure to watch the rain.

This dose of Americana-inspiring.

At A Glance: Ensata Gardens

The first time I ever visited Ensata gardens in Galesburg Michigan was 27 years ago.  I was 34.  My dear friend Denise was pregnant with her child Jacob-who by the way has been married 3 years now, and is about to buy his first house.  I was fiercely obsessed with gardens, and had all the energy to go with; so was she.  I was in my “have to have every iris” phase-the species iris, Louisiana iris, tall beardeds, siberians-and of course, Japanese iris. Being the painter that she is, Denise shared that love of iris kaempferi with me. 

We lost track of each other over the years until the day she decided to drive up to the shop on a Saturday.  We have been thick as thieves ever since, as if that twenty year gap never existed.  Buck and I drove up yesterday to spend 2 days with Denise and her husband Ken.  On the itinerary-a visit to Ensata Gardens. 

What a thrill it was to see that this small highly specialized nursery not only still existed, but was thriving.  They are the largest nursery devoted to the hybridizing and sale of Japanese iris anywhere-outside of Japan.  www.ensata.com   John Coble and Bob Bauer have persisted in a way I truly admire.  Their iris, and all of their other perennial offerings are beautifully grown.  Though it was 96 degrees when we got there at 10am this morning, I hardly noticed.  I hope you enjoy my pictures. 

If you are interested in growing them, I can attest that they do not just propagate these iris-they eat, sleep and live them.  This is a long way of saying that they are happy to coach.  The iris I bought from them I had for the better part of 10 years, before I sold my land.  Today’s visit made me want to grow them again; every plant was beautiful, and the flowers extraordinary. 

dreaded beetles!  After I took this pictures, I squashed him.

I so very much enjoyed this visit. I liked the memories-I loved what is going on there right now.

Before And After

Some of my before and after projects are about such fine tuning, that you have to be there to see it.  This landscape is so dramatically rearranged, you will have no problem sorting it out.  This mid 1960’s modern ranch, belonging to a young couple with small children, had been gutted, remodelled, and added on to in the early 2000’s with the help of architect Michael Willoughby.  The landscape had been renovated, but without much regard for the striking architecture.  From the street, a small bed anchored by a beautiful chamaecyparis, an amelanchier, a few boxwood, and an assorrtment of perennials had suburban landscape written all over it.  A big hedge of globe arborvitae on the right side obstructed any street view of what was planted behind it.  There were boxwood on the left side of the front door, but no answer on the right side.  The left side landscape trailed off in the winter-nothing evergreen going on there.  All of the plant material was good-I just needed to transplant-and transplant lots. 

This picture I took today shows the globe arborvitaes moved to the center of the yard on the street side of the drive; they now enclose a perennial garden that can be seen driving up to the front door.  The small marooned bed on the left side of the drive was removed; that space was sodded over.  The chamaecyparis, and the perennials were moved to the right side of the drive.  The fabulous collection of mature Sum and Sunstance hostas are now visible from the street, given the globe arb move.  I am liking the long low slung look of the architecture-punctuated by a few well placed vertical elements. 

The driveway was the primary element of the front yard. But for 2 small and disconnected beds, the majority of the front yard was home to a single large tree, and lawn.  The majority of the landscape was confined to the house side of the driveway. Beds on one side of the drive-grass on the other.  A drive that appears to intersect a large bed makes the landscape more important visually.  Anyone who drives to the front door now has a landscape all around them.  This is very friendly and welcoming to company.

Homes of this vintage-my clients wanted to get rid of the gutters in favor of a cleaner more modern look.  Rain chains would be installed where absolutely necessary.  However, heavy rains pour off this roof.  A barked bed of hydrangeas struggling in the shade, and ornamental grasses do not  make a good winter presentation.  The spring look-not so swell either.  There is a lot of wall here-a wall that seemed to be asking for something evergreen.   

I know we have not gotten to the back yard yet, but the yews in the back yard were suffering in poorly drained soil.  We dug them up, and moved them up front-to higher ground.  Yews respond almost instantly if the unwelcome water gets drained away-this group of yews are looking great.   The grass patch in front of them-a raincatcher.  At some later date, another solution might present itself. In two days, I moved most every shrub on this property to different locations.  My quick idea here-get rid of a barked surface in a place that would get pounded by a heavy rain.    

The best part of this redo-a substantial evergreen presence on the left side of the front door.  All of the rest of the existing plant material was beautiful, and very well cared for.  The challenge of this project-designing a renovation that would take full advantage of all of the existing plants.   

The rear yard was dominated by tall ornamental grasses, and limelight hydrangeas.  I am all for both of those plants-in the right place.  My clients have 2 acres of property.  Their view out to that property was completely obscured from their terrace by plants that grew too tall. 

A beautifully long and low slung house from the seventies asks for a landscape that respects the gestures made by the architecture.  The hydrangeas were a strongly vertical mass in a spot that asked for a view out.  The yews were suffering in the watery soil.   

I moved all of the yews to the front yard.  I realigned the beds off of the terrace. The limelight hydrangeas off the terrace I moved to stage left, to in front of the bedroom wall.  The short All Summer Beauty hydrangeas planted in front of the left bedroom wall, I moved to the center.  I recut the three boxwood beds so the lined up with one another, , and rearranged the boxwood in a symmetrical way. A grass panel between the beds permits a great view of the dogwood on the terrace level from the yard.   My idea?  A crisp and clean landscape.  And a great long view from the terrace to the far landscape.  

Minus the yews and limelight hydrangeas, there was space for a fountain cistern.  We placed and installed it today.  I hear tell there will be water next Tuesday. The scale of the landscape here is better in keeping with the terrace.

Last summer, my clients had a view out of of the sides of a big block of limelight hydrangeas.  Today, they have a a great view of their yard from their terrace, outdoor kitchen, and a pergola.  A great pair of modern dining tables and chairs are just asking for friends and family; everyone has something to look at now.  The fountain cistern is a mid-ground focal point; the sound of water will be lovely. I could not be more pleased about the great views they now have of of their property.  All of the effort that has gone into the far landscape can be seen now.  A good bit of their shrubby plant material found homes where they could better be appreciated.

Love That Lime


A client who saw the Princeton Gold maples-all 14 of them-in my yard, decided he had to have them.  Bravo, I said.  Mind you, they are not a tree for the faint of heart.  Their lime green leaves are visible for blocks.  Love that lime, or grab your sunglasses and wince-these maples make a statement.  A big statement.  It is one thing to have some lime green coleus, or a few creeping jenny.  These maples say lime green on a big scale.     

OK, I went ahead and planted 12 Princeton Gold maples down his lot line.  Each tree had multiple trunks; each one is a gorgeous tree in its own right.  The trees got planted in an open curve.  My infatuation with lime green dates back to 1967.  My junior prom.  Against my Mom’s advice, I bought a lime green dress-I went so far as to wear it.  Against a sea of pale blue, peach, and pink prom dresses, I stood out.  Oh yes, lime green stands out.  I do not remember much about that night but my interest in lime green has persisted.         

The twelve maples in the ground needed some finishing.  66 flats of baltic ivy made these trees seem part of the existing landscape. Ancient spruce on the lot line had declined.  The tops were green; the bottoms-skeletal.  Some landscape renovations simply ask for a planting to face down an old and declining planting.  Maples do so well in shade; a climax forest in Michigan is beech and maple.  I have better luck establishing this tree when it has some protection from afternoon sun.  The heads of these maples add some green back to the landscape view at eye level.    

Princeton Gold maples stand out from the crowd of greens.  This brilliant spring color does fade some when summer arrives. In open areas the top leaves may scorch when the weather gets very hot.  They mature at a fairly small size-25-30 feet tall.  This makes them an ideal shade tree for a small property.  

Lime green in the landscape-I have a soft spot for this.  It is especially effective at brightening up shady places. It makes every other color look better and brighter.

The dracaena Janet Craig is all about that lime.  This Belgian oak box is stuffed full.  What makes this planting especially dramatic is the architecture.  The porch is very deep, and covered with a roof, but for a skylight right in front of the door. 

The light from this skylight really brings that lime to life.  This dracaena will do well in this very low light environment.  Like the maples, these leaves will scorch if exposed to too much sun.  These pots have a very fresh and contemporary look, courtesy of a little lime green.