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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
lemon cypress and lime scotch moss
On June 1, my landscape superintendent Dan and I walked through a project we had been working on since mid April, and decided we were done. A whole lot of work got done in those 6 weeks. To follow are pictures of how that project looked this morning, 6 weeks later. And following this, the story of that renovation.
Last August I had the opportunity to consult on a landscape renovation for a lovely house and property dating back to the 1920’s. The current owners added a sizable addition to the back of the house, solved many of the problems that old houses are heir to, and had redone the interior to suit them. They were ready to tackle the landscape. A mixed planting of privet, viburnum and Annabelle hydrangea on the sidewalk was healthy, but disorderly. The bark path was not centered on the front door of the house.
The landscape at the front door looked congested. A pair of kousa dogwoods were placed in front of the windows. The boxwood had been planted right next to the walk to the front door. This placement all but obscured the front porch. Planted behind the boxwood, a run of All Summer Beauty hydrangea, and a longer run of privet. There was a lot going on here, none of it especially friendly to the architecture of the house. Shrubs and trees growing up and over the windows of a house-not a good look. A landscape that overpowers a house looks like neglect, even when a property is being very well looked after. Funny, that.
A large block of Annabelle hydrangeas facing down the sun porch were planted in a little bit too much shade. The bloom was spotty, and green. Carpet roses that had been planted in front of them were in altogether too much shade. In the left background of this picture, an old concolor fir that was just about gone.
An old blue stone terrace in the back was becoming overwhelmed by the plantings. All of the plants were robust and healthy. The relationship of the plants to the terrace-uneasy. My clients wanted a terrace large enough to be comfortable both visually, and physically.
As in the front yard, there were a number of big old trees that were nearing the end of their lifespan. Some had been severely damaged by lightening, and disease. Others had suffered considerable storm damage. Some were just at the end of their lifespan.
An informal perennial garden with a rock border had too many dirt spaces created from plants that had been lost. The garden did not have enough presence to be seen from the terrace. The weeds were beginning to run wild. This is a very large property-where to begin?
We began with a plan. The landscape plan for the back was simple. The original terrace would be taken up, and relaid level. A border of old reclaimed brick would add a good deal of space to the terrace, and repeat the brick on the walls of the original house. the ground adjacent to the terrace would be regraded to slope away from the house, and would culminate in long low brick seat wall, punctuated by wide steps that would lead to an upper level lawn. The terrace garden would be planted with Nova yews, and boxwood. The trees that could not be saved would be taken down, and that upper level spot regraded to produce a large flat area suitable for touch football and the like. Flanking the lawn, a pair of triangular shaped meadow-like beds with multi trunked Himalayan white barked birch. If my clients liked the look of those shapes of long grass, we might at a later date formally plant it as such. The shape of these beds had everything to do with the unusual shape of the lot. At the back of the property, the boulder wall would be redone in a curved shape. Soil would be added above the wall to create 2 levels of plantings. Above the wall, a mass of Annabelle hydrangeas that would cascade over the wall, backed up by a hedge of limelight hydrangeas. Hydrangeas would be in bloom from June through September. On the lower level, an improved perennial garden. Anchoring that garden at either end, a pair of the same birch. Last fall’s project-tree removal.
In April, we moved every shrub from the terrace garden out of harms way, and heeled them in. Given the cool rainy conditions, we also moved all of the Annabelle hydrangeas, privet and viburnum from the garden at the street, and behind the boxwood in front. The viburnums and privets would be relocated along the driveway to provide more privacy from the neighboring house. The Annabelles would go to the new garden in the back. By this time, the installation of the new terrace was underway. We were fortunate that the weather was perfect for transplanting. We got everything moved before it leafed out. We moved well over 100 shrubs, and did not loose a single one.
We only had to add one pallet of rock to complete the new wall. Better than 20 yards of soil were added behind that wall, and feathered into the existing grade going up to the rear lot line. Loads of soil were used to level the lawn area.
A pair of Palabin lilacs on standard that had been on the terrace were relocated out away from the house, where they would have all the room they needed to grow to a substantial size. Old Palabin lilacs on standard are impressive. Once the irrigation was installed, we were able to work on the finish grade.
The final step was to have the upper rear yard hydroseeded. The grass seed is mixed into a slurry of recycled paper. This acts as a mulch for the seed, and helps to make sure that the seed has the access to moisture that it needs.
We protected the trunks of the birch, and some newly planted spruce from any over spray of hydroseed with landscape fabric, although this turned out to be unnecessary. The seed was very precisely applied to the ground.
The lawn in front was spot hydro seeded in those areas where the grass was thin. The boxwood from the rear terrace was replanted across the front of the house, for a simple and continuous look. Only four new boxwood were needed to complete the hedge.
The sun porch garden was planted with shade tolerant hostas, brunnera, and forget me nots, set in pachysandra. There is nothing here that is unduly tricky or fussy to maintain. Both of my clients are busy professional people.
The shrub bed at the street was redone in lawn. The kousa dogwoods had long since been moved to the back yard, where they would get a little afternoon shade, and have the room to grow large. The architecture of the house can be seen from top to bottom, and side to side. I like to think the austerity of it is in keeping with the period and style of the house. The boxwood were backed off of the front walk, so the entire porch is visible. In celebration of that porch, a pair of vintage wood champagne crates were placed there, and planted with pansies. We managed to finish June first. They have a whole summer and fall ahead of them, to enjoy the change. I like leaving a landscape renovation at this point. Once my clients live with it, they may decide what they have now is enough. Or they may decide to take the landscape a step further. But for now, there are some good bones in place.
Deborah Silver is a landscape and garden designer whose firm, Deborah Silver and Co Inc, opened its doors in 1986. She opened Detroit Garden Works, a retail store devoted to fine and unusual garden ornament and specialty plants, in 1996. In 2004, she opened the Branch studio, a subsidiary of the landscape company which designs and manufactures garden ornament in a variety of media. Though her formal education is in English literature and biology, she worked as a fine artist in watercolor and pastel from 1972-1983. A job in a nursery, to help support herself as an artist in the early 80’s evolved into a career in landscape and garden design. Her landscape design and installation projects combine a thorough knowledge of horticulture with an artist’s eye for design. Her three companies provide a wide range of products and services to the serious gardener. She has been writing this journal style blog since April of 2009.