Building The Lucerne Pergola

the Lucerne pergola (2)Phase 1:  Design, engineer, and build  Once Buck had my sketch for the pergola, there were a lot of drawings that would need to be done.  The CAD drawings would indicate the angles, the rolling radiuses, and the exact sizes of every piece of steel that would be necessary to fabricate the piece. Buck constructed the pergola full size – down to the last bolt hole – in the computer.

the Lucerne pergola (3)

the Lucerne pergola (4)

the Lucerne pergola (5)

the Lucerne pergola (6)

the Lucerne pergola (10)Buck’s crew put the base of the pergola together up side down, to be sure every piece fit together properly. Owen was the lead fabricator on the project, with help from Adam, Riley, Sal, LaBelle, and Buck.

the Lucerne pergola (8)Lattice panels were designed and fabricated as an open wall for the back of the pergola, and feature a steel ball detail.

the Lucerne pergola (9) Each of nine panels were hand fabricated and fitted to each opening.

setting the structure (7)The installation: setting the structure.  The bottom of the pergola was bolted in the rear to a seat wall of brick, through the bull nosed blue stone coping.

setting the structure (5)

setting the structure (8)

setting the structure (6)The top of the brick wall is seat height, and width.

setting the structure (4)

setting the structure (3)

setting the structure 2The front post were anchored to 42″ deep concrete footings.

setting the roof beam (7)Setting the roof beams was the most difficult part of the job.  Each half-beam was 12 feet in diameter, and was incredibly heavy.  A support bar made especially to hold these beams, and a loader was necessary to get these pieces to the proper height for bolting on.

setting the roof beam (6)

setting the roof beam (4)

setting the roof beam (3)

setting the roof beam (2)

setting the roof beam (1)

setting the structure 2

the roof (2)Setting the roof.  These pictures are not so swell, with all that sky behind the action.  The top of the finial is 17 feet off the ground.

the roof (3)

the roof (1)

the roof (4)

hanging the lattice panels (3)hanging the lattice panels

hanging the lattice panels (1)

hanging the lattice panels (4)

the finish (3)

Branch Studio pergolaThe finish

Branch Studio pergola (2)

Branch Studio pergola (3)

Branch Studio pergola (1)

the finish (1)5 of the 6 Branch Studio dudes

the finish (2)The two day installation consumed 110 hours of work on the part of all 6 members of Branch. My clients had the great idea to do a time lapse video of the installation-what a treat this is to watch! If you are interested in watching, click on the link below.

the Lucerne Pergola installation


18 Years


18 years ago, on March 29, Rob and I were hosting a party to celebrate the opening of Detroit Garden Works.  My landscape design and installation firm was the ripe old age of 10.  I had always had a dream of a place where clients could find beautiful and intriguing objects to ornament their garden.  No such place existed in my area.  So Rob and I decided to create one.  Crucial to the mix – my accountant.  He also represented a gentleman with a machine shop for sale.  Jeff was able to persuade his client to sell the property and building to me on a land contract.  This proved to be crucial to the mix.  Had I gone to a bank asking for a commercial mortgage to open a retail garden ornament business in an area zoned for light manufacturing, I would have been politely swept out the door.  A shop retailing garden ornament?  What exactly is garden ornament?


A garden group came to the shop Saturday for a talk on garden ornament. I pointed out that garden ornament – as in furniture, tables and chairs, benches and other seating- provides a place for a person to be in a garden.  It is one thing to observe or review a garden, but garden ornament can provide a place to spend time in that garden.  After work.  Before work.  To watch the birds.  To entertain friends. To relax.  To think things over.  To rest.

antique-iron-trough.jpgA garden ornament can provide a focal point for a garden.  An old galvanized washtub overstuffed stuffed with lavender or rosemary can be the star attraction of an herb garden.  A sculpture in the landscape can organize a garden, endow it with atmosphere, and make an invitation to interact.  Pots positioned on either side of a front door say welcome to my house.  And welcome to my idea of making you feel welcome.  Gardeners place birdbaths in their gardens for obvious reasons.  Gardeners also have very different views about what constitutes a beautiful birdbath.  Finding a garden ornament that suits your garden in particular is what gives that garden a personal and individual feeling.


A structure in a garden, as in a pergola, can enclose a space, and give it a sense of intimacy.  A fountain brings the sound and sparkle of water to the garden.  An arbor or trellis provides a home for climbing plants. A vintage bootscraper, rain barrel or garden umbrella is utilitarian.  I could say that any non-living element in a garden would qualify as a garden ornament, but that is not exactly true.  Some objects trigger a memory of an experience, a special occasion, or a person. Those memories are very real.  Some vintage or antique garden ornament come with a feeling of history or culture attached to them.  Some ornament is whimsical.  Some is repurposed from old farm implements and tools. But no matter the origin, I am still interested, 18 years later, in how garden ornament can endow a garden with a little magic.


Interested in more on that moment which was so magical to me 18 years ago?  Here you go.

The Dogs At Chase Tower


My company Detroit Garden Works is in the garden ornament business.  We buy and sell ornament for the garden – new, vintage, and antique and repurposed, from sources in the US and Europe. What is a garden ornament?  Any object deliberately placed in a landscape or garden.  This definition would include pergolas, sundials, sculptures, bird feeders, benches, trellises, staddle stones, topiary forms, grapevine or stone spheres.  Fountains and water features.  Found objects, fencing, topiary plants.  Espaliered trees, arbors, and stone cisterns.  Tables and chairs.  Rain water collection barrels and boot scrapers.   Containers are garden ornament.  They may be handmade Italian terra cotta, or galvanized buckets.  They may be old apple or tulip crates.  They may be contemporary Belgian stoneware, or cast stone versions of classical garden urns.  They may be lead, or steel containers from Branch.  They may be concrete, or wood, or cast iron.


A garden ornament may be as modest as a gazing globe on a steel stand, or as elaborate as a waterfall and pond.  No matter the subject or scale, a garden ornament makes a statement about the taste and interests of gardener in charge.  The inclination to ornament or decorate a space is natural.  People decorate their houses with objects that help to create that atmosphere which feels like home.  How a home is furnished says something about the taste, values and priorities of the person who lives there.  There may be objects treasured for their history.  One person might decorate their place with art, and that art could be sculpture, or paintings, or quilts or hand painted china.  Buck collects vintage doll heads, typewriters, scientific instruments, and accordions.  His personal spaces are just like him, as they reflect who he is, and how he sees things.


A landscape or garden is no different.  A garden endowed with ornament says something very personal about the garden maker. An ornament can infuse a landscape with an atmosphere of history, mystery, or whimsy.  There are no end of gardens where roses are growing.  But the garden that has roses growing in profusion over a picket fence has a much different feeling than the garden that features roses trained as single ball topiaries, planted in orangerie boxes. A 19th century cast iron bench is not just a place to sit.  It is an expression of an aesthetic much different than what is created by 3 rough hewn slabs of granite assembled as a bench.


So why this discussion of decoration?  Once the plants in the garden shed their leaves and go dormant, a landscape with no ornament can be bleak place indeed.  I am thinking about this, as we have just begun our winter and holiday decorating.  Topiary forms, arbors, and pergolas will get lights wound around them.  Doorways will be festooned with garland.  Containers will get winter coats and hats.  Wreaths will be decorated, and hung on the front door. Lights in every shape and color will be hung from the eaves, or stuffed into the pots.  A bench will get a cushion of fresh greens.  The trees will be hung with grapevine and light garlands.  A Japanese maple decorated with glass drops will glitter all winter long.  A sundial will get a wreath boa.


As for the dogs at Chase Tower, they have a carpet of greens.  The dogs look like they have just paraded through a stand of yellow twig dogwood, their leashes trailing behind them.  They have topknots and collars that are one part holiday, and 2 parts winter.  Is this really what was in my mind when we decorated these pots?  Yes.  Decorating that tells a story will have an impact.  There is an amusing and charming story being told that will make the winter a little easier to bear.

winter-dog-detail.jpgSee what I mean?


I do see the decorating outdoors for the holiday and winter as a form of gardening.  A trowel or garden spade is useless this time of year.  The sight of them on the shelf, dusty rather than dirty, is irritating.  On the other hand, a pair of pruners and a spool of good garden twine might be all the tools you need to decorate the garden for winter.




The Morning News At Branch












bon-voyage.jpgbon voyage.