A Fantastical Garden Find – Southfield, Michigan’s Hidden Treasure

Visiting my sister who lives in Southfield, I was walking with her and my brother from Southfield Gardens to Lathrup Village and back to Southfield Gardens when we noticed a garage sale in progress and stopped to see what was for sale. Standing there we noticed the profusion of plants and garden objects next door.  We also noticed a man who was cleaning and weeding and asked about one of the plants.  This was Jeffrey Weinstein who, we learned is an art teacher and an artist.  We were very interested in the plants and when Jeffrey offered to give us a tour of his front and back gardens, we were delighted.  So delighted, in fact, that after we spent  more than an hour touring, we returned the next day for an even more comprehensive tour and the chance to take photos and videos to include with this article for Detroit Splash Magazine readers.

There is more about Jeffrey on his website: www.jeffreyweinstein.net where he notes “I think that art is a kind of language, often between artist and artist, but also between artist and the public, so I’d appreciate feedback.  This site is a work in progress.”  I think it is fair to say that his garden has also been a work in progress for the past 25 years.  Jeffrey is a member of two garden clubs, The Michigan Cactus and Succulent Society, (http://www.cactus-mall.com/clubs/michigan.html) and the  Hardy Plant Society Great Lakes, which offers occassional garden tours.  He offered to give us a walk through his garden. We began in the front of his home, through the serpentine walkway. Some of his artwork reflects snakelike patterns in the snow which can be seen on his website. Three years ago he spent a year planting a serpentine pattern with an old tree as its center to allow more plants to be placed within a small area and also provide an easier watering access. He is a plant collector and he says he often overplants, placing three plants that he loves in the space where one could go.  It seems that he also collects varied rocks to surround his gardens, garden décor, pots and pictures. 

The path has been completed on the right side of his house but he is currently trying to establish a similar look to the left side of his house within his botanical plants. As we walked along the path, there was a surprise in every direction with sculptures of every size, shape and function.  Several pieces have been created by the same artists and were purchased at favorite garden centers and art fairs.  Jeffrey created some of the pieces himself.  He mounted many of his pieces on cement blocks purchased for one dollar a piece.  

Jeffrey pointed out that all of beds tend to overgrow their boundaries and often there is “warfare” at the borders of the plants.  Moving to the back of the house, we saw a wide variety of plants, many of which are full grown large trees that began as small plants in pots, and lots of whimsical sculpture.  The back yard is the place where it all began.  About twenty-five years ago there was only sod leading up to a back fence that looked into the neighbors yard.  Early on the planting was established to create privacy.  Now it is all filled in and like a sanctuary.  I experienced this garden as a magic like place where no houses could be seen nearby, only plants and shapes of all kinds, high, low, narrow, wide, hanging, standing, and hiding.

In this area there were once three sections that have grown together but Jeffrey maintains a path that is one mowers’ width. Jeffrey took us across the back to the other side of his house and the space there is packed with about one thousand succulents and cacti of all kinds many of which need to be taken into the basement during the winter and returned in the spring.  And then we were in front again where we saw and smelled one of the plants that is ten years old and finally bloomed for the first time. Jeffrey spends about an hour each day hand watering and of course, whole days when he is doing special projects.

Jeffrey has has exhibited his art in New York and Detroit in the past.  Now his garden is filled with his artistic sensibility, in ground plants, planters with wonderful shapes, exotic plants, tall, short, ground cover, vines, flowering plants, various colors and shapes, and whimsy.

Jeffrey says that he likes to create order from chaos but sometimes he also creates chaos from order.  He also says that he will not allow his garden to hold him hostage.  I, for one, am so thrilled to have stumbled upon this delightful, whimsical, charming “hidden garden” and hope to visit again when I am in Southfield.  I can’t wait to see all the new additions. 

All photos and videos taken by Lawrence Davis with the AMAZING Sony NEX-5NK Camera.

Read the review of this fantastic camera: Sony NEX-5NK Camera Review - Go On Take the Shot


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