Archives for July 2018

The Summer Containers

By no means have I had a chance to go back and look at all of the container projects we planted in late May and June, but I have had a chance to see a few.  The season so far has been very friendly to the tropical plants. I am referring to the heat, of course.  Any gardener that has been able to keep up with the daunting task of watering their containers properly has been rewarded with an astonishing display of lush growth and lavish flowering. Proper watering is not constant watering. It means watering ahead of that moment when the plants stress from lack of water. A consistent and measured watering hand makes for great looking summer containers.People ask me what my protocol and procedure is for watering all the time. My best advice is to never assume a plant needs water. Assess whether it needs water first. The roots of plants that get too much water will rot, and will not be able to absorb water no matter how much is available. Keeping plants on the slightly moist side encourages root growth. That said, every plant has preferences about what level of moisture they require.  Planting containers with plants of a similar inclination makes a watering routine easier. The box pictured above is watered by hand. The boxwood and hosta had substantial root balls before they were planted into the container. Add a bright shade location to the mix, and you have a container that does not require a daily drenching to prosper.

The mandevillea this year are blooming profusely. They love the heat. In Michigan, they thrive in full sun.They also like just the right combination of regular water and good drainage. A mandevillea sporting yellow leaves is either getting too much, or too little water. You will not be able to figure out which until you try more or less water, and see if the trouble stops. This container is mechanically watered via a dedicated container zone on the irrigation system. Figuring out how often to water, and for how many minutes each time is a trial and error process. It is simple to tell by looking at these plants that the amount of water they are getting is just right.

The window boxes pictured above and below also have a mechanical watering system, but I happen to know my client does not rely on it.  His irrigation buys him some time, if he is busy and can’t get to the watering immediately. He checks them routinely.The exposure here is easterly, so the boxes are shaded from the sun in the afternoon. All these plants like the heat, and a reliable source of water.

The ability to look after plants does not come standard issue. It takes patience, observation, and experience to figure out what way works for both the gardener and their garden. Fortunately, a lot of ways work. Plants can be incredibly forgiving of mistakes, but over the course of a summer season, their water needs are not negotiable. It doesn’t hurt to site pots and pick plants with some thought to how they will be maintained. I am pleased with how our summer plantings are getting along.

My pots at home are doing fine. Karen, David and Marzela give me a hand with the watering on occasion. I have 43 containers. 20 boxes and pots in the front now have their own automatic watering zone. The two pots by the front door are hand watered – that much I can do. The remaining pots are all watered by hand. They were all soaked on Friday. Today’s a day I will need to check to see if they need water, or restraint.

Home For The Garden Cruise

Our 11th annual Garden Cruise this past Sunday July 15 was a success in a number of ways.  We sold a record 405 tickets, and hosted 150 people at Detroit Garden Works for our after tour bites and beverage reception. The fine dining part of that reception was engineered and presented by Toni Sova, the chef in chief of Nostimo Kitchen. Her idea to serve Froses- frozen rose cocktails –  was a big hit, considering the temperature was hovering around 90 degrees. A client who owns Argent Tape and Label sponsored that reception-thank you Lynn and Fred.  The Erb Foundation had pledged to match funds raised from ticket sales up to 10,000.00 I am happy to say we were eligible for the entire amount.  A generous donor wrote a check for 5000.00, meaning we raised 32,600.00 for the Greening of Detroit this year. A record. I am very pleased indeed to have sponsored an 11th tour. I am a member of the Board of the Greening, but I never go to their meetings. My contribution to them is to raise money for their projects, as they plant trees in our city. They teach people how to make things grow. Their garden at Lafayette Park is a vegetable garden that produces many hundreds of pounds of produce that is sold at the Eastern Market, or donated to those in need. It feels good, being a fund raising arm of an agency that benefits our city.  Will there be a tour in 2019-yes.

I have put my own house and garden on tour for all 11 cruises. That has become fairly stress free over the years. I the early years I fretted about every detail. But it became obvious that visitor gardeners were simply appreciative that I took the time and trouble to garden, and invite people to see it.  Visitors to my garden have seen all kinds of things that are not perfectly lovely, and some things that are downright bad looking. I have never had a tour visitor point those things out to me, or ask me what I had in mind to fix them. The 2014 tour, coming on the heels of a bitterly cold winter in 2013-14 that damaged boxwood and killed back roses, was taken by gardeners who had similar troubles of their own at home. What was to talk about? Every gardener had wreckage at home. Inevitably, some plants or spots are not at their best on tour.No stress, being on tour? I have a small and unruly perennial garden that looks its best later in the summer. The hardy hibiscus, phlox, platycodon and bear’s britches begin to bloom at the end of July. The roses will have a smaller flush then. On the tour, that garden is a tall tangle of green with not much going on to recommend it, but no one seems to mind. I also have a company that maintains my landscape. They do the worry and the work of making it presentable. My yard is what it is. Better some years than others.  I like to enjoy the tour too.  It is the one summer day I spend at home, and I want to relax and enjoy that day.

However, I do fret about my pots. People who have taken the tour multiple times like to see how I have done my container plantings. I do like to do them differently every year, with some sort of point of view in mind.  I might be interested in exploring a certain color scheme, or maybe texture is the organizing metaphor. Sometimes I will take a fancy to a certain plant, or a leaf size, and a scheme gets a life from there. In April, I start to think about what direction I might like to take. Well, April was bitter cold this year.  Unbelievably, we had snow on the ground for most of the month. My hellebores were buried in the remains of the snow until well in to May. I was not thinking about planting summer pots.

In mid May, the temperatures zoomed into the 80’s and 90’s. We were scrambling to plant our customers pots as quickly and efficiently as we could. The reality that it was spring was overcome by an emotional certainty that the summer had arrived to empty pots. Add a little anxiety to the process of planting pots in very hot weather makes for a planting season that takes even more focus and concentration than usual.  I wasn’t thinking about my pots at home then either.

My landscape super finally told me in June that maybe I need to at least get the pots out of the garage. Perhaps that would help push the process along a little. I went along with his suggestion. So for weeks I was looking at empty pots, and still having no thoughts about what to put in them. Fortunately, inspiration finally decided to make an appearance.  A client who would be on tour had asked me several years ago to plant birch trees in a pair of very large planters.  Amazingly they survived the winter. After under planting them with a mostly green and white annual scheme, I decided I really liked the look. Trees in pots?  Why not?

So I decided to forego annual and tropical plants in my pots in favor of trees, shrubs and perennials. At last, a decision. But the real work of it was to come. I still had plenty of landscape work to do, so David did all of the shopping. He is a great choice for that, primarily because he is as good a hort head as anyone I know, and he loves shopping for plants.  He also has the patience to text pictures and talk to me on the phone. But neither one of us really anticipated how difficult and time consuming this would prove to be. Planting the Japanese maple in a large terracotta pot on the driveway was easy. It had spent the last 2 summers in that pot. However, it did take 3 people to dig it out of the nursery and lift it up into the pot. The two large Branch pots on the driveway would also get trees.

Suffice it to say we looked at a lot of trees. David found a pair of black gums -nyssa sylvatica – that featured a full head of leaves, and root balls small enough to fit in a 30″ diameter pot. That shopping trip involved 3 nurseries, and plenty of conversation.

David and I were talking non stop for better than 3 days about the plants for the pots. Of course none of the plants I used were available at the shop. It was vastly more work to pick the plant material, as the size of the root balls was as big a concern as the plant itself.

birch and carex

Do I like my pots planted with trees, shrubs and perennials? Oh yes, I do. I am actually surprised how much I like them.

 

Planting shrubs and perennials in my containers brought the landscape onto my deck. Though I was certain none of the plants would grow, they have. Maybe they have just settled down into their environment. The planting seems appropriate and natural to a Michigan garden environment.  Almost everyone was curious about what I would do with the plants come the end of the season. I will plant the trees and shrubs at my landscape yard-we have 7 acres of land there. The perennials in ground in the driveway I will leave, and see if they winter over. Perhaps that hort head who was so instrumental in getting these pots planted before the tour will take some of the plants home to his own garden. A good bit of the fun of planting containers is the opportunity to do it differently every year-so all of these plants will need to find good homes. And for those of you who are too far away to have taken our tour, I hope you enjoy all of the pictures.

tour morning

  

2018 Garden Cruise Tomorrow

I have seen every landscape and garden that will be on our tour tomorrow which benefits the Greening of Detroit. They are all very different, and all very strong. To follow are 19 good reasons why the this 11th Garden Cruise is worth taking.  The 20th, and most important reason, is that all of the proceeds from the tickets sold are turned over as a donation to The Greening of Detroit.  We strongly support the work they do in our city. We still have tickets available; call 248  335  8089.   Rob opens Detroit Garden Works at 8am tomorrow, for anyone who wants to decide in the morning they would like to tour.

I will be home in my own garden all day tomorrow-please stop by and say hello.

The 2018 Garden Cruise

When one of my dearest friends told me that he did not know we would be sponsoring an 11th garden cruise this year, I took that as a sign that I needed to step up and spread the word that we are indeed sponsoring a cruise this year. I did feel last July that having met my goal of raising over 100,000.00 for the Greening of Detroit, it was time to gracefully bow out. I was surprised by the numbers of people who expressed regret that the tour would not go on. Many people told me that day that they really enjoyed the tour, and would I reconsider?  The Greening of Detroit was not so happy about it either. One of their donors, the Erb Foundation, subsequently offered to match every dollar we raise selling tickets up to 10,000.00, for both 2018 and 2019. A treasured landscape client who owns a manufacturing company known as Argent Tape and Label offered to sponsor our tour dinner and drink reception. Our heartfelt thanks to the both of them. I thought about putting on an 11th tour over the winter, and finally decided to go ahead. I was able to line up some great looking landscapes and gardens which will be available for you to see this coming Sunday, July 15, from 9-4:30.

7 gardens will be available to cruise. This is our first year, including the Greening of Detroit’s Lafayette Greens. This garden, designed by noted landscape architect Ken Weikal, and underwritten by Compuware, grows countless hundreds of pounds of fresh produce and flowers-all of which are donated to local food banks, church pantries, and volunteers. Though the garden is open for visitors every day of the week, we feel a trip there would help every tour person to understand something about the Greening of Detroit, and what they do for our city.

Four of the 6 other gardens are of my design and installation. The fifth landscape was designed by me and installed over a period of time by my clients. The 6th garden is a an extraordinary collection of known and rare plants, beautifully arranged, from a pair of gardeners who regular shop at Detroit Garden Works. This is a very strong tour. No two properties are remotely alike. But every garden reflects a passion for nature, and a love of the landscape.
Should you decide to take the tour, I promise you will be engaged and intrigued. Pictured above, a writers cottage of my client’s own invention, nestled in the landscape I designed for them. If the idea of a writer’s cottage in a landscape intrigues you, I invite you to come and see the rest of their lovely property.

I always put my own garden on tour. The fact that I work to get it ready for visitors helps other gardeners decide to go ahead with putting their gardens on tour.  My pots are always different, and I do make changes on occasion, so most people seem to enjoy coming back for another look. That said, this year’s tour is remarkable for its diversity. People look for very different things from their landscape. Some cultivate a wide variety of plants for the sheer love of plants of all kinds. Others have cultivated a landscape that is friendly to outdoor use and enjoyment, from places to sit, to a terrace that can accommodate friends and family for dinner. My landscape is fairly mature. So my enjoyment has much to do with planting out my pots.

This serene and beautifully maintained property will take a while to tour, but it will be obvious that the gardener in charge has a big love for the natural world.

A small city garden has a client equally passionate about the landscape.

The descriptions of the gardens on tour this year can be found at the tour website.  

I am also so pleased that our tour reception will be catered by Toni Sova, who owns and operates a catering company called Nostimo Kitchen.  Her food is terrific.  Check her out for yourself:      And we will have equally terrific live music as usual by Tola Lewis.        If you have never attended our after cruise reception before, I can highly recommend it. The food, drink and company is exceptional. And the 15.00 it cost over the price of a ticket also goes to the Greening of Detroit.  This year’s reception is underwritten by  Argent Tape and Label, a woman owned business. 

I sincerely hope that if you are able to attend, you will.  The Greening of Detroit plants trees, sponsors urban gardens, and teaches respect and stewardship of our environment. This is a cause I support, as I know it has benefited our city. What the landscapes and gardens on tour have to offer is icing on the cake.  To purchase tickets – 35.00 per person for the tour, and 50.00 per person for the tour and reception – call Detroit Garden Works at  248  335  8057. As an added incentive, Rob will open the shop at 8am on Sunday the 15th, should you decide to make a day of it that morning. It is the one gardening day of the year I am home all day-I love seeing my garden full of other gardeners.