The Renovation Of A Small Landscape

landscape renovation (5)Last September I consulted with a client who had just purchased a jewel of an old home on a small property.  Extensive renovations to the interior were just about done.  The existing garage had been enlarged, and a living space above it has been added.  The neighborhood is lovely.  All of the homes are in close proximity.  They had gone so far as to install a new blue stone walk to the front door. A new landscape plan had been proposed, but she was hesitant about it.  My advice to anyone seeking the services of a designer is as follows.  If you have any reservations, sort them out before there is any arrangement to start the work.  Right off the bat, I loved the lollipop crab apples in front, but I disliked how they covered the beautiful bow windows, and the view to the outside. Plants do grow.  A good designer will site plants such that they do not grow into the elephants in the front yard.

landscape renovation (9)A beautiful sun room was faced down by yews and boxwood that were not doing well, a kousa dogwood which was obviously unhappy, and a random collection of knockout roses. The bed line seemed out of touch with the arrangement of plants. Idea 2: if you have bed lines in mind, cut them before you plant, and arrange the plants to repeat that line.  If you plant before you have a bed scheme in mind, your job is tougher.  You may need to plant a series of plants that reinforce the shape you have established.  Bed lines are a very powerful visual force in a landscape. I always set them first, before I go on to a planting scheme.

DSC_3107The back yard had a privacy fence, and a row of bradford pears. The trees had not been tended to much in recent years, and were in poor condition.  A new blue stone terrace had been set at the correct height out the rear doors.  The ground dropped dramatically to the fence line. I spent a lot of time looking over those trees. Could they stay? My clients previous landscape proposal called for keeping these trees.   My clients were happy with the neighborhood, but wanted some privacy in the rear yard. But these trees?

DSC_3116Landscapes can get away from a property owner so fast.  Plants die from this or that. Trees deteriorate. Other trees grow out with abandon-the result not so desirable. There are gaps, and spaces that contribute to a weary and untended look. My client brought lots of treasured garden ornament with her to this new home.  They needed a home.

DSC_3130A new lawn went a long way to banish the blues.  But the space was asking for a landscape that was beautiful, and functional.  Small properties are great for lots of reasons.  I love that my city lot and a half is manageable.  But a small space means there is no room to fudge.  Every square foot needs to be part of a plan that works.  A good designer listens to a client-first and foremost.  They need to design to the client they represent. Occasionally they need to step out, and suggest a different approach. Next a designer, or a gardener designing for themselves, needs to draw the landscape from edge to edge. That drawing is a benchmark.  The reality is where the spade meets the dirt. What works out on paper needs a sure hand to interpret the intent of the benchmark, once the landscape is being laid out, or underway.

DSC_4772The  over anxious landscape company before me sheared the backs off of these trees, with the idea that arborvitae would be planted under the power lines. I will say I have never seen this done before. I believe this is why my client contacted me. I could not imagine how trees in poor health to begin with would take to this kind of pruning. Nor did I believe arborvitae would prosper in the one wedge of sun they would get at noon every day.landscape renovation (6)Once the Bradfords were gone, it became obvious that the wood fence needed repair.  We shored up the leaning panels, and covered the deteriorated pickets at the bottom with a new cedar reinforcing board.

landscape renovations (4)Of course we painted the fence. That was easy and fast, given we had no obstructions to work around.

landscape renovation (4)The garage wall was big, and bare.  A trellis panel from the previous owner was set in the corner, to hide the electric service. My client placed her charming lead fountain in front of the wall.  Charming as it is, the wall overwhelmed it.  This wall needed a new idea. And the fountain needed a smaller more intimate location.

DSC_3109A generator is a big appliance which is not so great looking. In a small yard, they seem gigantic. The idea to celebrate it with a giant graveled area edged in granite block did not seem like such a great idea. Both the wall and the generator area needed some green relief.

DSC_5256Once my client approved the new plan, we set the bones of the front yard. We added a small gravel path from the walk to the drive.  And we designed a large steel pergola some 20 feet long which would be a better scale for the house. The new pergola would balance the sun room on the opposite side. The older wood arbor would be completely refurbished, and relocated to the entrance of the smaller and more intimate rear yard.  That structure will be beautiful in a space where it can be better appreciated.

landscape renovation OctoberWe did replace winter damaged yews, and boxwood.  We added more boxwood, in a formal square.  Between the boxwood and the yews at the sidewalk-a row of Little Lime hydrangeas. The new front landscape is respectful of the beautiful concolor firs, arborvitae, and the low wall at the walk.  We were underway with the renovation.

 

On Tour Tomorrow

July 18, 2015 (16)I was in the garden early this morning. Early enough that the dew still covered every surface.  The agreement to be on a garden tour is just the beginning.  Of course you want every moment in the garden to mean something, and make a good case for that meaning. The planning starts months ahead, long about when you see what did not survive the winter, and later, when you go to plant the pots.

July 18, 2015 (31)That comittment to put your garden out there is one part bravado, one part luck, one part a benevolent mother nature, and 100 parts work.  I try to mitigate those circumstances with my clients as much as I can for the Greening tour. Monica Tabares from the Greening staffs every garden with two people. Detroit Garden Works springs for tee shirts for all of them, including the shop staff, so every tour person remembers that this event is all about the work that the Greening does.  This year means 28 people – the morning and the afternoon shifts – will be staffing the 7 gardens on tour.  Monica has told me in years past that the tour docents are volunteers from the Wayne State dental school.  I never asked about how that came to be, but I appreciate all of those students who take time on a Sunday to help make the experience a good one for all.

July 18, 2015 (18)Both crews from Deborah Silver and Co pitch in. We handle this and that.  We are available to replace plants that have gone down from whitefly, or add new grass in spots that need it. And we send tickets to the tour and reception for every client who agrees to put their garden on tour.  Some enjoy the day at homer meeting fellow gardeners.  Others leave the garden in the capable hands of the Greening people, and go on tour themselves.  Others yet are willing, but able to keep a comittment in another place that day.

July 18, 2015 (9)Every landscape that is on our tour belongs to people for whom the garden is a way of life.  Every tree, shrub, perennial and seasonal plant gets in the ground is a result of the belief that stewardship of the environment is a pleasure, a joy, and a responsibility.  The Greening has been all about that belief, since 1989.  They have planted in excess of 90,000 trees in the city of the Detroit since their inception.  They sponsor urban farms.  They teach people how to care for trees, and grow food.

July 18, 2015 (23)They are a self sufficient non profit organization. Meaning they have staff who apply for grants, and raise money.  I sit on their board, but after my first board meeting I knew that I would never catch up to their history and long range plans enough to be of any use to them. So 8 years ago Rob and I decided to put on this tour, all of the proceeds of which would go to the Greening.

July 18, 2015 (27)The money we have raised usually goes to those programs that cannot be funded by grants – programs that rely on donations.  One of those programs involves hiring young people with not so much opportunity to obtain a job.  The Greening pays them to water newly planted trees, and tend vegetable patches.  I have had occasion to hear about what an impact this experience has had on young people who were so fortunate to participate in this program. Of course I like the idea that young people become exposed to the work, and the satisfaction that gardening provides.

July 18, 2015 (67)I can barely remember my life before I grew plants, and gardened. I would want to do what I could to pass that along to others.  Especially young people. My generation will need young people to grow peonies, and heirloom tomatoes, and as many trees as they can mange. Suffice it to say that this is a cause near and dear to my heart.

July 18, 2015 (8)Monica W, the manager of Detroit Garden Works, Deborah Silver and Co, and the Branch Studio, organizes the reception we hold after the tour at the store. She furthermore organizes all of the ticket sales, so soon after the tour we have a check available to the Greening.  It is an amazing amount of work on her part to make it all seem effortless. Though she is very much behind the scenes, she is the unusual combination of the work of an engineer, and the work of a compassionate and caring person.

July 18, 2015 (49)As for me, my garden will be on tour for the 8th time tomorrow. I am happy with most everything I see.  The delphiniums that bloomed their hearts out in early June are suffering from a fungus brought on by the cold and rainy early summer.  I have no plans to replace this plant, or disguise it.  I am a gardener, and I have plenty of trouble in my garden.  It comes with the territory.

July 18, 2015 (51)I have talked with every client who has a garden on tour tomorrow. To the last they are concerned about this bad spot, or that plant that is not performing, or some boxwood still showing signs of damage from last winter.  My job near the time of the tour is to suggest that no garden on this tour is a show garden.  They are gardens that belong to real people.  People with kids, jobs, and lots of other responsibilities. Our tour is a chance for people who garden to see what other people who garden do.  This tour is about exchange. My garden is for all to see what it is –  tomorrow.

July 18, 2015 (50)Though some parts of my perennial patch are not so swell, other places look fine to my eye.  I have no doubt that every person who visits my garden tomorrow will remember the good things.  None of them will hold my failures against me.  Why would they?

July 18, 2015 (59)After years of trying to get herniaria to take hold in this garden in the front of my house, I grassed over it.  The grass looks great, and is easy to keep. I am happy to come home, and not have to weed the herniaria.

July 18, 2015 (5)If you are able to come on our tour tomorrow, I would encourage you to do so.  We have 7 really beautiful landscapes and gardens for you to see.  If you are too far away to be here – I will post pictures of all of the gardens next week. So looking forward to the tour tomorrow-this is my news.

 

At A Glance: Moments From Previous Garden Tours

Hudson cistern fountain from the Branch StudioTo follow are some pictures from previous garden tours.  Enjoy them.

zinniascutting garden

landscape in Junea bowl garden

ew garden 003front yard landscape

garden tourside yard landscape

July21 023a rose garden

DSC_0061contemporary landscape

DSC_1483garden in the front yard

august gardens 068sanctuary garden

ew garden 006pergola garden

Italian terra cotta potspots on the steps

July 27a  2012 010

firepit

July22aa 057Rob’s garden

landscape 2013
view from the second floor

The Branch Studio custom Jackie boxesa cutting gardenDSC_2730pots on the driveway

obeliskFountain with an obelisk

 

The 2015 Garden Cruise

the Garden Cruise 2015 (5)Every year since 2008, Detroit Garden Works and Deborah Silver and Co have jointly sponsored a garden tour to benefit the programs of the Greening of Detroit. This non-profit organization is devoted to promoting healthy urban spaces through green initiatives. In more concrete terms, they have planted 89,000 trees in the city of Detroit since 1989.  I sit on their board of commissioners, although my participation largely centers around this event. We make an effort to raise money for them – over 84,000.00 in the past 7 years.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (6)The money we raise goes towards sponsorship of programs for which there is little or no grant money available. In one such program, the Greening hires young people to fill summer jobs that involve watering trees, and looking after Greening sponsored farms. I have to believe that the experience is a good one.  I am all for any program which promotes stewardship of the environment, and a love and respect for nature.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (7)This year’s tour features 7 gardens, five of which were designed and planted by Deborah Silver and Co. The other two belong to gardeners who have done all of their own design and installation work, and have shopped at Detroit Garden works for their pots, furniture, ornament, fountains, sculpture and tools. I have put my own garden on tour every year.  People who take our tour every year do not seem to tire of that.  I always make some changes in the garden or landscape.  And the scheme for planting my pots changes.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (2)The horseradish plant that I planted for Buck has reached an alarmingly magnificent size-as I knew it would. Be sure to take a look at it.  If you are relieved the plant is in my yard, and not yours, I completely understand.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (4)We charge 35.00 for a tour ticket, and 50.00 for a tour and reception ticket. For the extra 15.00, we provide enough great food to satisfy hungry people who have been touring all day, and Rob’s current roster of summer cocktails. His gin and tonics are on hand every year, as is his selection of white wines.  He will also have available a small group of more unusual summer cocktails-every year that group is different.  This years reception will also feature live music from a very very talented local musician –  Tola Lewis. And as always, there is always much lively discussion of the landscapes and gardens that were part of the tour.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (3)100% of all of the proceeds from the sale of tickets for the tour go directly to the Greening of Detroit. We do what we can to make the process of contributing to an organization whose work is so vital to our city a great experience. I am very pleased to report that this year’s tour features a wide variety of landscapes and gardens, all of which are interesting in their own way.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (13)One landscape completed only a few months ago shows how a very large property can be designed to be friendly to entertaining friends, family, -and the family dogs – and still be beautiful and visually satisfying. Seeing a landscape that is newly installed is the best possible view of how any successful landscape depends on the creation of a solid framework – a good set of bones.  Another landscape has been developed over the past 15 years, and features mature trees and shrubs.  This garden has unusual trees and shrubs, in contrast to areas that have recently been reworked. No landscape, no matter how old, is ever truly done.  The overall feeling of this landscape is relaxed,  informal and serene.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (15)Another large landscape is but a few years old, and is the product of a close collaboration between an experienced and dedicated gardener, and a designer. It features a number of perennial gardens, featuring unusual varieties of plants.  One garden is comprised of an interesting mix of dwarf shrubs and perennials.  Another area is planted with shrubs, and presided over by a collection of columnar sweet gum. Another area features roses and perennials.  Of interest is a large collection of espaliers, both fruiting and ornamental, and a large pond with all of the pond plants to go with.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (1)Yet another landscape features an older home of classic traditional architecture in a neighborhood setting.  The landscape is very formal.  A large pergola and a collection of custom made containers from the Branch studio punctuate the space.  A large rear terrace features a lovely lead fountain of English origin. Custom handmade fencing and gates provides a secure yard for dogs and grandchildren.  A lovely semicircular hedge of Venus dogwoods provide screening and privacy.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (8)Another landscape is modeled after Monterey Square in Savannah-a childhood home.  This very formal garden has an incredibly lovely old home grounding it.  Yet another features a landscape with a strong eye for outdoor living, a level of whimsy that enchants the younger members of the household, and a passion for strong color.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (11)What you are seeing in this post is a look at the planting scheme this year for my containers.  I have never planted an all green scheme on my deck at home before, but I am liking how neutral and calm it is looking.  In contrast, my pots in front are orange and red, and look great with my yellow brick.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (10)But these pictures do not tell the entire story. There are places and spaces with changes you will just have to see for yourself.  For those of you who cannot participate in our tour, I will post more pictures from all of the gardens, after the tour.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (9)It is possible to purchase tickets in person at Detroit Garden Works.  Rob will open the shop at 8am on Sunday July 19, for those people who wish to purchase tickets the day of the tour.  We can take your order by phone, and mail the tickets.  If the time gets short, we can take phone orders, and email tickets. For more information, and descriptions of all of the gardens on this years tour, please visit our website.   http://thegardencruise.org/    For more information about the organization we feel is so essential to the environmental vitality of Detroit:  The Greening of Detroit 

the Garden Cruise 2015 (12)Many of the gardeners who have so graciously agreed to put their gardens on tour will be there to answer questions, and talk. I spend the entire day at home.  Buck and I both thoroughly enjoy the chance to meet other people with a serious interest in the landscape and garden. We all are hoping you will be able to join us.

the Garden Cruise 2015 (14)bird’s nest ferns

July 9, 2015 (61)

lemon cypress and lime scotch moss

the Garden Cruise 2015 (17)the driveway garden

July 9, 2015 (55)just pruned by Melissa and her crew from M and M Flowers

July 9, 2015 (52)I am just about ready!