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: greenstreet@mindspring.com

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's been a horrible summer and I, for one, am really glad fall is arriving

This summer was the pits. Couldn't go outside because of the mosquitoes, couldn't even open the windows because of the humidity. In Ann Arbor proper things weren't nearly as bad, but residents was driven to distraction by the mosquitoes in parts of Burns Park and elsewhere. Really, what purpose do mosquitoes serve? Are they an essential part of any ecosystem? Perhaps they have assisted in mammalian and bird evolution via their role in transferring genetic material between organisms. Thank you, I'd rather not participate in that grand game of chance.

With the recent cool weather I was able to shake off the 'I hate nature' blues and get back into the garden, take a few pictures, and pull up a few tons of Acalypa. I found that I have at least three color forms of the late-summer-flowering Anemone hupehensis, a big, easy, vigorous and spreading plant. Don't underestimate this species -- it likes to grow.

What else?  Hmm. I finally got some nice flowers out of my turtlehead (Chelone obliqua). I moved it from a spot that was just a bit too dry for it and into a brand new-terraced bed of heavy moist soil. We're all happy now. The turtlehead species are native to North America, and I was surprised to learn from michiganflora.net that the genus was recently moved out of the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, and into the Plantaginaceae, where it resides with the common weedy plantains. Weird to me! Perhaps meaningless to you. Wikipedia lays out the arcane details at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/plantaginaceae.

But check out the fruit on my devil's walking stick, Aralia something-or-other. I've never keyed it out. I dug up a piece near St Joes hospital prior to it being bulldozed. It took readily and now I've got a small forest of prickly sticks topped by umbrellas of giant compound leaves. I'm sure I'll regret planting this some day, but so far nobody has been badly mutilated by the thorns. There is one woody spiny species of Aralia native to the eastern U.S.; two others come from Asia.



Only a fool would pass up a chance to grow the fall flowering Clematis terniflora. It will put on rampant growth in sun or shade. It will crawl, it will climb, it will smother weeds, and it will flower so prolifically that it will hide the foliage. Missouri Botanical Gardens writes that it can self-seed and become a pest, but I've not seen that happen in Michigan.

My umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) is now sporting lots of these brilliant red lanterns. I can hardly say enough about how fond I am of the large-leaved southern magnolias. The foliage is bold and tropical, and the plants seem to be completely drought-tolerant. I also grow M. macrophylla, which has ridiculous white foot-wide flowers -- it's easily the most impressive tree on my property.

This is a good time of year to prove to people that the maple with the plain unlobed leaves is truly a maple (note the fruit). This is Acer carpinifolium. It's just a novelty in my garden.  Might make a nice specimen tree if given a chance.

I think I originally introduced bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia) into my garden by digging up a piece out of the woods. I learned to appreciate its gentle beauty in my exploring around Pickerel Lake. It spreads underground and has made appearances in my lawn. It's a small chore to keep it under control.


I have mixed feelings about Colchicum. Am I crazy, or do the flowers collapse if they are not given enough sun? My neighbor Borek has a patch in his sunny rock garden that really stands out, but mine often look quite sad. Ah, if only I had more time, I'd move them around and find the best places for them; but as it is, they'll have to manage where they are. These things have huge underground bulbs that can be broken apart and distributed to wherever the spirit moves you.

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