Time To Read

DSC_7376I always buy myself a few books at year’s end.  My library is big enough that friends and family are afraid they might duplicate what I already have. Worse, they fear buying a book that isn’t of interest, or is off point. I am not offended in the least.  Choosing a book for me is not an easy task. My tastes are quirky, and wide ranging. I have a long history of collecting books on gardening and landscape design. My library has shelf space devoted to design from lots of countries, regions, and cities. What I love in a book is not something I much discuss with anyone. It is by and large a private matter, based on whatever is going through me at the time. This is not so unusual. The choice of a book, no matter the subject, is a personal matter.  Buck likes to buy me books-I humor him with a list. This goes on all year round. He never fails to deliver 2 or 3 books. Buck keeps me reading, Christmas Day.   Part of the solitary end of the season pleasure is looking into what books I might want to own. I don’t know what I read that made me interested in David Culp’s book, The Layered Garden. But I was intrigued enough to buy the book. The idea of a discussion of how a garden might be layered-what did that mean, exactly?  I read the book over the past 2 days. The book is better than I imagined it would be.  How so?  His writing is excellent and lively.  His thoughts on the garden are well thought out-succinct. The horticulture is spot on. The photographs are heavenly. But most importantly, the book makes it obvious that his relationship to his garden, and to horticulture, is a multi-layered affair.

The-Layered-Garden.jpgMy favorite written passages in the book are in the forward. He speaks to what motivates him to share his experience of the garden. The history, and present-all folded into one.  I admire that he would do whatever he could to encourage people to garden. That almost every question can be answered with a yes is a world view well worth some thought. It has much to do with why I write here, and why I will continue to write.    I hear from readers every day.  They are by and large just as passionate about the act of gardening as I am. They have lives not so different than mine.  We share a lot.  A reader sent me a letter and pictures just a few days ago. He makes me feel like everything I have ever done to make or write about making a garden or a landscape  was well worth my time. To follow is his letter, and his pictures.  Thanks, CT.

Dear Deborah,

I truly hope you are doing well! We corresponded earlier this year about my design needs, and unfortunately my idea has become a dream deferred. And since the ideas of my local designers are unimaginative and template-like, I’ve been working at it on my own. It’s been quite a journey, but I’m appreciating the process. In all I want to thank you for your time. I also want to thank you for your inspiration from afar. Your blog is rich and full of passion–I love it.

This fall I started compiling ideas for outdoor winter decorations–I had never done it before–at least to the DGW scale. I looked many places, but always came back to the designs you all put together for your shop and your customers. The thought, the setup, the attention to detail, the process–it’s a privilege to see. I’ve always had an eye for the finer and more intricate things, no matter the art. But sometimes it’s difficult to figure out how to achieve the same end when you don’t know the means. But you have been a teacher, and I have been eager to learn. Many of the materials you use and write about are not readily accessible to me, so I had to drive some distances as well as send for lots of it. Margarita was also such a great help when ordering from your shop!

Anyway, after weeks of working (my wife thought I was deranged) I put together a few containers and a garland. The process…painstaking but well worth the work. I have an even greater appreciation for what you and your crew does. I think you once wrote that Buck always stresses the approach to the work. And doing this all on my own, I can’t agree more. In fact, my 27ft garland…a 3 person job. I was in a pinch with time, and with no help it took 3 1/2 hours to hang. I’ll NEVER do that again. But I learned from it all. I even made a small pot for my neighbor after she saw my work. My designs aren’t original as you can see, haha. But it was nice to have a reference point for my first crack at this. I’m enchanted with the turnout…and so are my neighbors. I’m sure you have hundreds or even thousands of followers that feel the way I do. But I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you that I appreciate all that you do and all that you know.

Happy Holidays to you Deborah and the entire Detroit Garden Works crew! Enjoy the pix.



CT 1a gardener’s expression of the holiday

CT 2holiday entry

CT 4a winter container

CT 5How I love the letter and the pictures from CT. He read what I wrote, and said yes, David Culp style.Though he stuck close to my designs this year, I know the next season around he will venture out entirely on his own. CT-I cannot wait for your pictures, next year.  Why wouldn’t I? If I encourage any person to garden, my writing will have been worth so much more than I ever imagined it would. David Culp said everything about the process of gardening that needs saying-just my opinion.  His garden is extraordinary. His book is well worth the read. The heart this book is everything I would wish for any gardener, including myself, for the new year. Layered.


The Holiday Dinner, 2014

M and M holiday 2014 (1)For the past several years, I have posted pictures from a holiday dinner hosted every year by 2 very good friends. They both have careers in the arts and are keenly interested in design.  They have a collection of ornaments amassed over a period of many years.  They have strong ties to French art and design.  All of this shows, whether the subject at hand is their collection of boxwood in pots, their perennial gardens, or their French style potager. Their holiday is ordinarily a very subtle and understated affair.  This year’s table is a significant departure.

M and M holiday 2014 (2)This holiday featured an unexpected turn of events. The French blue flocked tree around which they had planned their holiday was not available.  By the time they ordered their tree, the color was sold out. With equal parts pique and nerve, they ordered a flocked tree in turquoise.  M sent me a picture of the tree-I could not imagine what they would do with it.  The color was very strong. Intensely turquoise. As they felt it was either a turquoise flocked tree, or a tree with no flock, they jumped in.

M and M holiday 2014 (3)Once the initial shock of the color had worn off, I could see them both accepting, and later enjoying the challenge. They kept me updated, as the decorating process unfolded. My part in all of this?  Being available to tell them I was sure what they did would be great. The design process always has those moments.  A tree that dies, and leaves an attending shade garden exposed to full sun is a design challenge, as it is based on a circumstance that cannot be altered.  The one boxwood or lavender that dies out mid-hedge, or an exceptionally cold winter that kills the roses back to the ground can present significant design challenges.  Every gardener experiences moments like this.

M and M holiday 2014 (4)But the glory of their holiday is in what companion colors and materials they chose to make that turquoise look beautiful and deliberate.  They harvested lots of weed seed heads, and hydrangeas from their garden.  Those cream colored stems are intertwined, and float over that startling blue.

M and M holiday 2014 (5)They used lots of red, as in pomegranate, and red amaryllis. I am not sure why red and turquoise is such a striking color combination, but here it is-with gold and cream as an intermediary. Big splashes of gold, and some silver added to the festivities. It was clear this design process was not drawn on paper, or completely imagined in advance.  It was a process for which they both had patience. Do enjoy their pictures.

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M and M holiday 2014 (12)red for the holiday

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M and M holiday 2014 (14)the holiday table

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M and M holiday 2014 (16)Sophia

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M and M holiday 2014 (23)I thought their holiday was incredibly beautiful. Their willingness to take on an unexpected circumstance with energy and verve is equally as stunning. Taking chances with design-how I admire this.

Last But Not Least

winter-lighting.jpgWe did finish the majority of our winter and holiday work 2 days before Christmas. That meant we had a little time to lend a hand to Rob.  Like anyone in a holiday design related business, putting together a holiday home comes last. It was looking like he might run out of time. That would not do; he is someone who gives his utmost to gardening people getting ready for the holidays and winter season. My group was happy to take it on.  A multi colored light garland he had looped over the door was brought back to the shop to be attached to a grapevine garland.  Harvested and rolled grapevine is springy and airy, and holds its shape in the fiercest of winter weather. We added several more all white light garlands, and ran the entire affair up the shag bark hickory in the front yard.

winter-lighting.jpgIf you think it looks as if we ran it way up this tree, you are right. Above the second story. A huge capacity, state of the art extension ladder and four people made it happen.  One climber, 2 people at the base of the ladder, and one runner on the ground walking in circles.  The light garland does a good job keeping the house company.  There is also something about the sheer effort of it that was cheery and grand. With holiday decor, I care about the effort someone has made as much as the result.   I knew Rob would think it looked swell. It is asymmetrical, surprisingly light and airy, and unexpected-all good as far as he is concerned.

light-garlands.jpgAll the different colors, shapes, and sizes of bulbs made quite the light statement. The front of the house-glowing.

light-rings.jpgHis light rings are well known to anyone who frequents Detroit Garden Works.  We took a 3′ and a 5′ ring, and added a string of multicolored garland lights to the interior steel wall of the hoop.  This form may be very very familiar to him, but this treatment is a one of a kind.

light-rings.jpgWhat’s to like about them?  The lighted sculpture is striking.  They are simple to install. Pick a spot, push the prongs into the ground, and plug it in. We have plenty of clients who run them all winter.  Why not?  This picture was taken at 5:15 in the afternoon-which at this time of year is better described as 5:15 in the evening.

poplar-branches.jpg2 pots had the remains of a summer planting in them.  That couldn’t stand. Mixed greens and an a bunch of fresh cut poplar branches makes the pots look appropriately dressed for winter.

HW 2014Another client made a last minute decision to order up a few winter pots. Might he have a little color? A mass of yellow twig dogwood appears all the more substantial by varying the heights of the twigs. The color of the plum eucalyptus is brilliant and saturated against that yellow.

winter-container.jpgWe have had a very fortunate late fall and early winter, as in moderate temperatures, and no snow. Once the snow comes, it is difficult to work outdoors.  Even if your effort is late, it will last a winter’s worth.

And To All A Good Night

and to all a good night (11)As it was 47 degrees last night, hauling a tripod around to take pictures in the dark was a breeze. No coat, hat or gloves. The time? 7pm. I am happy to have the light.

and to all a good night (9)Buck came along. We share the garden all summer long.  We just share it in a different way now.

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DSC_7096Happy Holidays!