Thursday, July 28, 2011

Farmbrook Designs - Large Troughs

For our upcoming Garden Tour on August 20 (10a-2p), we'll be featuring the work of Chris Hopp of Farmbrook Designs.

I started to get to know Chris about four years ago when both of us were vendors at the Master Gardener Conference at Michigan State University.  It was my first time there with my pottery and it was a pretty heady experience (not least because it was held in East Lansing on March 17; amazing what people are up to on the highways of Detroit in the early hours of St. Patrick's Day!)  I had seen Chris's work at previous conferences when I had been an attendee but only then had the opportunity to start getting to know him better.  In the intervening four years, Chris, his girlfriend Chelsea, his Mom Glenda and Grandmother Mildred and Chelsea's parents Gar and Gerry have definitely become part of my family.

Trough #1 (Tallest)
From the get-go, I had really liked Chris's work - beautifully designed, high-quality, climate-proof garden enhancements, ranging from small planters and larger troughs (empty or planted with winter hardy Sedums, Sempervivums and other plants, with carefully-selected rocks and gravel to complete the piece) to fountains, lanterns, candleholders, mushrooms and Inukshucks (go, many of which are also suitable for indoors or out.  I certainly wanted (at least ) one of his pieces but wasn't quite seeing what I wanted - I wanted something... bigger.  We were doing an event together at in Saginaw in the Fall of 2009 and I asked him if there was anything he had wanted to try but hadn't had the opportunity to do so.  He mentioned he had wanted to try doing a really big trough on legs.  So, I asked him about how much it would cost (so I could start saving) and said, "Go to it!"

Trough #1 and Trough #3 (Shortest)
Chris delivered that first trough just before my Garden Tour in May 2010.  It was actually pretty funny, the day he delivered it, as we were deciding where to put it.  I was concerned that the lawn mower could knock it over (during one of the three times per year when I actually do mow); Chris patiently explained to me that the trough, alone, unplanted, without the legs, was about 200 lbs.  So, no worries about the trough being tipped over.  Ever.  Three days later he made it back to plant while I was teaching class off-site; I rushed home and turned on the outside light and was just delighted with the composition of plants, larger stones and gravel Chris had used.  Hey, the guy's a natural-born designer!

So I loved the trough.  I ordered two more.  Thought I'd make a "wall" between the grassy, seating area and the driveway (which will someday go away for more garden space; Chris has already offered to supply the beer when we tear out the lawn, as well).  It didn't hurt that, when I had my Clematis Pruning Workshop in April this year, the attendees were absolutely swooning over the first trough, even though it was still coming out of its winter dormancy and looked a bit worse for wear.

I tend to leave the concept stuff up to Chris and he came back with two more troughs, same size, with different heights for the legs.  These he delivered just before our Garden Tour June of this year and, despite a rough start with some early hot weather, they've done beautifully.  We've since decided to move them closer together to make more of a wall and give more space at each end for traffic.  I'll let Chris take care of that, too....

(Photos courtesy of Don Schulte at

No comments: