This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info: guerinw@gmail.com

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hot weather and cool gingers

It's been so hot and I've been so busy this past week that plants have come into flower, fruited and returned to the earth without my notice in just the last five days. The flowers of nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) came and went.  Cranberry-bush viburnum (V. trilobum/opulis) is now finishing up. The flowers of my southern blackhaw (V. rufidulum) are still in good form. Hey, speaking of looking good, have you ever witnessed such a wonderful full-monty display from black locust? I was hating that tree; now I have to give it a bit of credit.

Anyway, forget about those flowers for a second. I want use this post to show off my wild gingers, all of which I feel great affection for.

Here be Hexastylis naniflora, a native to North and South Carolina. Nice shiny mottled leaves that presumably remain evergreen down south. Not here. I've had it for years and this little patch is about the same size as when I got it. Other little patches went to ginger heaven.


I think this species from California is exceptionally pretty. It is -- let me look it up, ah yes, Asarum hartwegii. Apparently it has never crossed the border into Oregon, and it's a little bit of a mystery to me why it seems so content in my Michigan garden.

This gentle and soft-spoken species is from the Pacific Northwest: Asarum caudatum. I love the puckered leaf texture. It makes a nice spreading ground cover.

Over a period of many years Hexastylis arifolia has maybe doubled in size.  This species from the southeastern US is called colloquially 'little brown jugs' because the flowers look like 'little brown jugs.' I don't think I have a good form. Many pictures on the internet show it with more pronounced mottling.

To be fair, I'm including a picture of the glossy Asarum europaeum, which seeds around lightly and can be used to fill odd spaces. For some reason I find it offensive and rank it just below Norway maple.

After two half-hearted tries I failed to take a decent photo of our own Asarum canadense. I like it fine, but it requires some effort to keep it contained. I'm always yanking it out to keep it away from its less-vigorous neighbors.  In my garden I also have Hexastylis speciosa, which Fred Case collected in Alabama and brought back up north. It needs steady moisture which is something I am unable to guarantee to any plant. You can have mine if you would like.

One of the nicest species available for Michigan gardens is the Asian Asarum splendens with very large, very nicely mottled leaves. Is it fully hardy? I know people who claim to have success with it, but it wouldn't surprise me if it all got wiped out one winter. 

About the taxonomy: it's in flux. One treatment took ten North American species out of the genus Asarum and put them into the new Hexastylis. Until the dust settles, you can use either name . . . and if you say it with authority, everyone else will follow.

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