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:

Friday, August 12, 2011

A west-side garden

Today I stumbled upon a remarkable back yard garden at an address on W Huron. The focal point was a massive butterfly-bush (Buddleia) that worked like a sci-fi tractor-beam on butterflies and hummingbirds. A lot of birds followed just to see what the commotion was.

A powerful sweet fragrance came from Clethra alnifolia, a shrub that was very au courant a decade ago, but didn't end up as amenable to cultivation as we all hoped. I had forgotten about. It comes from New Jersey. So do I. I wonder what is behind that coincidence? I tried Clethra it in my garden once and it didn't last a week. "Give me rich, moist soil, damn you", it called out minutes before it expired.

What the heck is this bizarre plant with the turtle-head flowers and goth foliage?

(Tony Reznicek answers:  "Acanthus, probably A. spinosus. It might pass on in a really severe winter, but other species are quite hardy.")

In front of the house was a very happy oregon grape-holly (Mahonia/Berberis), an evergreen barberry relative which I deeply wish I could grow. Maybe I'll excavate the parent soil at my house and then order a glacier to carve our some depressions and leave behind a nice till soil. These plants are everywhere in the Pacific Northwest where they are native.

(Tony Reznicek comments: "The lovely Mahonia appears to be one of the Japanese species, M. bealii or M. japonica -- also marginal in hardiness, but doable in a sheltered site in town -- not one of the west coast species.")
Great foliage on this viburnum, don't cha think? Someone please save me a search and e-mail its name.

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