Season’s End

winter lightThe close of the gardening season is coming up fast. This means I am trying to finish four landscape projects before the coming of the cold closes me out. An old client with a new project-just today we decided to push the envelope. There are bulbs still not in the ground.  Garden cleanups not finished.  Fountains to drain, leaves to rake, boxwood to protect.  An old pergola restored by Branch that needs installation.  A new pergola for the same client which will need to be assembled. The season’s end is unpredictable, and always too early. But my season’s end is a a beginning for a Rob.  Detroit Garden Works offers keen gardeners a way to celebrate the cold and dormant seasons.

nOV 4 2014 (11)His light sculptures are extraordinary.  They are engineered to be easy to install, whether you hang them in your trees, or  sink the free standing models into pots or the ground.  The coming of the cold foretells the coming of the dark.  Gardeners understand that the life of the garden is energized by light.  Once the sun sinks low in the sky, and the daylight hours are few, what gardener is not interested in lighting the landscape for the winter?

custom-lighting.jpgWe have only one event at night per year at Detroit Garden Works.  Our winter/holiday open house provides a chance to experience, and review our winter lighting designs.  I would not miss this night for anything, and I work right next to him day after day, and year after year.  I can bank on a look I have not seen before. Rob has made a mission of sourcing materials for winter and holiday pots-he has been long and strong in this regard for over a decade. Every year he manages to surprise and enchant.

merry-Christmas.jpg I feel confident that if you should pay us a visit at 5pm on Thursday, you will be treated to a warm and energetic experience of the winter holiday. Whether your taste runs to formal and elegant, or naturally rustic, there will be materials to decorate a holiday or a winter from a gardener’s point of view.


As much as I regret my garden going down, I would prefer to put my best foot forward.  Looking forward is sign of a gardener. Dividing perennials in the fall, seeds ordered for spring, the spring flowering bulbs that just went in the ground – planning for the season to come is fueled by hope. We have a holiday and winter season coming up. That season is as much cause to celebrate as any other. Most of our fresh cut twigs and greens will be here in the next week. The landscape crew will switch gears for a month, putting together and installing holiday and winter containers. Incredibly, we are as busy at this time of year as we are in May – and for good reason.  No one who loves to garden wants to give it up, even for a moment.

winter.jpgAnything light and light hearted will appeal to those of us who have a long winter ahead.

white-flocked-holiday-tree.jpgOur flocked Frazier firs, available by special order, are new this year.

flocked-tree.jpgThe French blue flocking is an especially sumptuous and elegant color.

holiday-open-house.jpgI hope you are able to stop by sometime this season-we hope to make the experience a good one.


The Grapevine Deer

deer 2014 (2)It is a yearly thing at Detroit Garden Works – the arrival of the grapevine deer.  In celebration, we outfitted a window box with all the fruits of the harvest. Cabbage, romanesco broccoli, lime green cauliflower, white onions, pumpkins and gourds. Tieing all of the individual elements together – one roll of grapevine-a material so versatile and appropriate for display in a garden. The window box turned out to be a perfect spot to place a grapevine sculpture of a doe. The two elements compliment one another, and speak to the time of the harvest.  The rolls of grapevine that we stock year round look great in, under or around containers.  They soften and highlight any fall planting. A deft hand can make the wiry dried vines drape gracefully. A tree trunk gift wrapped in  grapevine for the winter is a lovely wrap indeed.  They can provide a support for a more lax growing vine, such as clematis.  The grapevines that hang over our fence are lush in the summer, and so sculptural in the winter.

grapevine deer (1)These grapevine deer are the most beautiful use of grapevine I know. They rank high on my list of beautiful garden sculptures.  This natural material and the natural form it represents fits into the garden effortlessly. Sections of the sinewy vine are woven over welded steel forms.  They are a powerfully sculptural interpretation of the beauty of nature.  Who makes them?  A group of people who most of the year tend a vineyard full of wine grapes. In the fall, when the vineyard work is done, they collect the prunings from the vines, and sculpt.

grapevine deer (3)
The vines of the grapes are quite stiff, and unyielding. Working with them to create a shape is sure to produce blisters-I have first hand experience. It could be that these vines are soaked and softened before they are fitted over the steel form. I do not know their method of construction, but I do know they are beautiful.  I marvel at these gracefully curving forms.  I further admire the perfectly parallel placement of the vines over the form. These vines woven over a form is a study in strength and endurance.  Just like a garden.

grapevine deer (8)It is striking that such a stiff material could be made to convey  such soft and natural natural emotion as a doe tending her fawn. Though  I have plenty of clients whose gardens are under siege from deer, it is hard not to appreciate this pair. These sculptures are not about the trouble that deer in the garden present.  They are about the the presence and beauty of nature.

grapevine-deer.jpgThe standing buck sculpture is tall. The antlers are woven around square pipe that insets into a larger pipe hidden below the surface.  I could see it placed in a field of hellebores, or in a grove of trees.

Dec 23 2010 047One year I took a buck home, and used it in lieu of a Christmas tree. It spent the rest of the winter outdoors in the garden. With a yearly rubdown of a penetrating oil sealer, they last for years outdoors. If you have ever tried to compost grapevine, you know how long it persists, even in contact with the soil. Should the vines ever need replacing, the forms can be sent back for fresh vines.

grapevine deer (5)The sculptures are remarkably stable.  If they do blow over, they are easy to right.  For a completely sturdy installation, it is easy to hook a heavy gauge steel hairpin through the steel loop at the foot.  All of the sculptures are life size.  The standing buck is about 5.5 feet tall, excluding the antlers.

grapevine deer (6)A family

grapevine deer (5)Garden sculpture, properly placed, is all about adding another layer to the experience. Looking for a garden sculpture that will look like it has always been there?  Consider the grapevine deer.  Interested further?

Late To The Party

Ethe-greenhouse-at-Wisley.jpgFew months in the garden in Michigan can rival October.  The changing of the leaves on the trees and shrubs saturates the garden with color from top to bottom. I would not say that we are having a peak color year. The factors that influence fall color are many.  Factoring every variable in does not fully explain why one year is more colorful than another.  But nor every plant in the garden is remarkable solely from their fall color. These photographs of the RHS garden at Wisley, taken by Rob two weeks ago, are ample evidence that the garden can persist long into the fall.

October 23 2014 (18)Their are those garden plants that are just late to the party.  My favorite late fall perennial is the Japanese anemone.  The white flowering “Honorine Jobert” is at its peak right now-the 22nd of October.  It has been flowering for a month or better.  I find them easy to grow-decent sun and reasonable water is all they ask for.  The pink species anemone robustissima is vigorous in more shade. The fall blooming anemones are persistent; my patch has been in place for almost 20 years.  Their simple flowers are extraordinarily beautiful.  Atop long willowy stems, they nod in the slightest breeze.  The large grape like foliage is lower, and dense.

Europe 2014 825

The fall blooming colchicum is not a perennial-it is a bulb.  They are every bit as long lived as the anemones. They come up in the spring, with their long gawky leaves.  Their dramatic flowers emerge from the ground, leafless, in the fall.  Commonly known as autumn crocus, their flowers are crocus shaped, and over sized.  They need almost nothing in the way of care, and persist in the garden. The bulbs ask for a very early fall planting.  Those colchicums you see blooming in a bulb bin in the fall are blooming under stress.  That said, blooming colchicum that I have taken home in the fall took hold without a missed beat.

Europe 2014 801There are those perennials that mature in the fall-their fall statement may be just as beautiful as their summer flowering.  In my garden, hardy hibiscus stems are beautiful in the fall.  The large seed heads crack open revealing shiny black seeds.  The remains of the flowering echinacea stems will persist late into the fall. In Rob’s photo from Wisley, I am guessing that these are the seed heads of phlomis.  What a handsome statement they are making in October.  To follow are more of Rob’s pictures from Wisley. The fall gardens there are stunning. The late blooming perennials and bulbs, the ornamental grasses, the fruit trees in the orchard garden, and the perennials that persist into the fall all contribute to a garden still full of life.


Wisley-in-the-fall.jpgwaiting for tulips



beech-trunk.jpgwet beech trunk

ornamental-grasses.jpgornamental grass

grass-pattern.jpgsculpted lawn

ornamental-grasses.jpgcarpinus and ornamental grass

Europe 2014 775Asian pears

Europe 2014 764pears

Europe 2014 767pears

Europe 2014 773pears

Europe 2014 747ripe chestnuts


At A Glance: The Malvern Autumn Show

Europe 2014 351The following are Rob’s pictures from the Malvern Autumn Show in England, one part of which was the National Vegetable Society’s Midland Branch Championships. Every flower vegetable and egg – exhibition quality gorgeous.

Europe 2014 359

Europe 2014 377

Europe 2014 378

Europe 2014 367

Europe 2014 371

Europe 2014 345

Europe 2014 344

Europe 2014 372

Europe 2014 361

Europe 2014 375

Europe 2014 364