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:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lindera, Allium and Chrysanthemum in an Ypsilanti garden

It's mid-October and I saw some very sweet things at a friend's garden on Crane Road in Ypsilanti yesterday. For me one of the most striking plants was this unusual brightly-colored shrub. It is Lindera angustifolia, an Asian counterpart to our native spicebush (L. benzoin).  The grower was very fond of this plant and said it typically turns vivid colors in the fall. I didn't test it firsthand, but I assume the leaves and twigs are aromatic, as is typical of the members of its family, the Lauraceae (cinnamon, sassafras, bay laurel, etc). Given that there are 80+ species in this genus (mostly from Asia), there's a decent chance that more are growable here in Michigan. I wouldn't be surprised if one or more of these are eventually introduced commercially.

A great late-flowering allium is the Japanese A. thunbergii.  Rose-purple flowers are the norm, but a white form is also available. I've been warned that other species are sold under this name, and you have to take care to find a reliable source.

'Ozawa' is the name of a selection that is supposed to have flowers which are larger than the straight species. To the right is the white ('alba') selection.

And then there is this superlative late-flowering and low-growing mum, Chrysanthemum weyrichii. This species hales from Japan, Kamtschatka and islands between there and Alaska. Flowering begins in August. What a fabulous ground-cover. Honk if you agree.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tree frogs and migrating birds

We have a hot tub behind out house. We have mixed feelings about it because of its carbon footprint, and now use it only in spring and fall. But whatever . . it's a super habitat for tree frogs. There are invariably four or five of them keeping warm under the cover. The interesting thing for us it to see what color they will be -- sometimes grey, sometimes silver, sometimes mottled.

A different animal issue entirely: my 92-year-old father invited me to be his guest last week on a cruise along the St Lawrence Seaway. A good trip, great food, never even KNEW that such a place as the Madeleine Islands existed. The only disturbing bump during the week was when I decided to stay up late and I happened to visit the upper deck: some thousands of migrating birds had become confused by the lights of the ship and had landed on the deck, became trapped in netting set up for the golfers, or just didn't know WHAT to do. I gathered four specimens (one flycatcher and three sparrows, pictured here) and in the morning one worker told he had tossed an estimated 50 dead specimens overboard. I have absolutely no idea how many exhausted animals might have met their demise in the waters. The ship's engineer was dismissive and told me the bright lights were because of 'regulations'. Now here's a cause for someone to take up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

'Cherries' in October

Not only do they look like cherries, when the fruit of Cornus mas are soft, they even taste like cherries. Three specimens in a line on the west side of town were so laden with fruit yesterday that the branches were close to breaking. Usually (in my limited experience) this species produces fruit only sparingly.

Cornus mas is a dogwood that has a lot of 'common' names like 'cornelian cherry' and 'cornel.' A couple weeks ago I saw it mixed in a backyard orchard that included peach, apricot and apple. The nursery tag identified it as 'cornelian cherry,' and no doubt the homeowner thought it was just another stone fruit.
These are fun to eat, very tart but with a pleasant aftertaste. Add a lot of sugar or harvest them just before they fall and they can be made into a preserve.  They do that in Eastern Europe.

Also on this particular property were a couple katsura trees. The sweet strawberry fragrance imparted by the fallen leaves could be detected from a good distance. Now's the time to experience it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Attacked by songbirds


In the U.P. last weekend, every time we walked out of the cottage, we were greeted by chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches. They would land on my knee, or my head, and when I tried to take a picture they would jump up onto my camera. A magical experience. But then I wondered: are these birds starving? Did the conifers fail to set cones? I don't know the answer.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trees at North Campus housing

GreenStreet Tree Care has been trimming trees around the North Campus housing units at Northwoods I, II and III, so I've gotten to know the greenery around there a bit. The original landscape architect obviously had an affection for choice but underutilized woody materials. Quite a few katuras, yellow-woods, tupelos and the odd species of maple. Another species he selected is the rarely-seen (around here) chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia). (This is different species than the common and weedy siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) that was foisted on the public as a replacement for the American elm.) 

So here's a picture from North Campus. Interesting exfoliating bark which is highly variable depending on age. Very small leaves -- but typical elm shape with the asymmetrical leaf base. And twigs that seem to do the little jog left-right or right-left between buds, which I also identify with elms (and Tilia). In my experience, the crowns are open and cast only light shade.

Meanwhile, in the back yards of some houses along a short street in the Gladstone/Independence area, the low topography and rich soil combined to provide suitable conditions for some very impressive specimens of bitternut hickory (Carya illinoensis), one of those trees you'd see a lot more of if all that rich habitat hadn't been claimed for "higher use" (i.e., farming) all those one or two centuries ago. Even people who work around trees for a living might be stumped as to their identity. Very distinct sulfur-colored buds, and a bark pattern that resembles shoe laces lined up on their flat sides. Anyway, these lovely trees were intermixed with black walnuts.
And meanwhile, along Arborview, I had to stop and take a mug shot of this maple. Well, my experience tells me that the browned out section is dead, but I couldn't see any reason for it. I suppose maybe drought-related sudden oak death toxic-shock syndrome. Or something else. At least that. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Remarkable Ann Arbor trees . . . and beyond, and such, etc.

Let's start with a remarkable sassafras on Pomona a block or so off Miller in Ann Arbor. Horizontal limbs are propped up at several locations. I don't think the genetics of Sassafras albidum prepared it for an existence on this suburban street. What a beautiful landmark!

From the sassafras, we can move on to a smoke bush I spotted on Dicken off Maple Rd north of Scio Church. I never would have imagined that this modest shrub (Cotinus coggygria) could produce such a lovely trunk. There's a lesson in there about standing back and letting an organism's true nature assert itself. Or not.

Ever since I first was introduced to the large specimen of the tri-foliate Acer triflorum in Nichols Arboretum, I've been a fan of this maple species, itself a relative of the more familiar paper-bark maple (A. griseum). Truth be told, I've been losing interest in the latter -- as lovely as it is, it can seem strangely foreign in the landscape. A. triflorum just seems a more natural fit.

Anyway, these two pictures are of a large specimen on Park Ridge, which sort-of runs west off North Maple but definitely runs east off Wagner. There's no good common name for this species. You could translate the species' Latin name and call it 'three-flowered maple' but it hardly seems a big step forward. If you find that you rarely use the genus name 'Acer' in common conversation, don't fret -- it often appears as an answer in the nytimes crossword puzzles. That and the first name of the son of Woody Guthrie.

What else have a seen recently?  ...  how about this large white ash (Fraxinus americana) that I stumbled upon in Ann Arbor. The tree had never been treated to protect it against emerald ash borer. The photo shows some of the old damage from when the insect first feasted on the tree. New tissue has covered up much of the original damage. Honestly I took the picture mostly just to impress the homeowner with how fascinated I was with her landscape. But still . . it tells a story.

And for my token perennial . . nothing right now is more colorful than the fruit of Arum italicum. I got no common name for this thing. It spreads around in the garden in a nice way. It's from overseas. It's a jack-in-the-pulpit relative. More people in southern Michigan should consider growing it.

I'm glad it rained a little bit today. I was starting to give up on some of the woodies in my garden.

Monday, July 30, 2012

An oddball pest on pine, an oddball condition on oak

I once grew a nice specimen of swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra). It's a five-needle white pine of European origin, and it grows at a much more modest rate than our native Eastern white pine. Given that my specimen was likely one in only a very small number in my end of Washtenaw County, it was disheartening when it was located by an odd caterpillar that wrapped itself in the needles and made a total mess of it. The insect was the pine webworm. (Or maybe it was a false pine webworm. I couldn't exactly figure it out.) I attempted monitoring so that I could spray when the insect was small. I tried this for a couple years. I never saw a small insect. One day the plant looked fine, the next day the new growth was destroyed by this annoying pest. After three years, the tree went into the compost. This year I saw the same damage on a five-needle Japanese white pine. I've never seen it on our native Pinus strobus.

Here's another oddball phenomenon, this one on oak. I won't call it a pest because it doesn't do damage of any consequence. It's called the vein pocket gall, and it is caused by a tiny maggot-like insect that feeds underneath the swollen tissue. There's an impressive number of insect species that create different types of deformities on oak leaves. The swelling can look like a hedgehog (the oak-hedgehog gall) or an apple (the oak-apple gall) or a potato (the oak . . you get the idea). Inconsequential to plant health. Fun to collect!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Lysimachia for all occasions

Lysimachia is genus of vigorous yellow-flowered plants, a fair number native to Michigan, and a small number common as garden specimens. They are called loosestrifes, but are unrelated to purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

I believe it is illegal to import seed or other plant materials of this genus. Like I said, they are vigorous. Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) is a case in point. The first time someone showed it to me, she said, 'uh-oh, bad ju-ju.' It's a low-growing creeping plant that ducks under the blades of lawn mowers; it also established itself in wet sites, riverbanks, and such. When I set up my first aquarium, I was surprised to see it listed as an aquarium plant in my little guide book. So I snatched a piece from the garden and voila! It's been very happy. 

Of the Michigan natives, the only one I've seen in cultivation is fringed loosestrife, L. ciliata. The one that is passed around has purplish leaves. I had it once. It seeded around too much. I eradicated it. This year I planted it again. We'll see. Since I have such dry soil, I don't fear it too much.

Gardening? Anybody gardening?

I don't know about you all, but when the temperature regularly exceeds 100 degrees, and it hasn't rained in a millennium, and the water-well breaks down, I stop with the gardening. About the only thing I've done in the last two or three weeks is triage on some of those woody plants whose leaves are turning yellow or crispy-dead. Amongst my perennials, the southern species of wild ginger Asarum arifolium, known colloquially as 'little brown jugs,' is my number one indicator species as it always tells me when things are getting critical. I can not explain why that particular species tugs at my heart so. That and Triosteum pinnatifidum, which is an asian counterpart to our native 'orange-fruited horse-gentian,' which certainly has the silliest name of anything that grows in Michigan, particularly since the plant has nothing to do with horses or gentians. Where was I? Oh, right, there's not much left of my asian h-g but I'm giving it water anyway. Fortunately I had broken off a piece earlier in the season and located it somewhere where the soil hadn't been ruined by earthworms.

So let's talk irrigation. What's the best way? Please chime in. I've tried hardware-store soaker hoses but they spring random leaks and squirt in random directions, and it's just about impossible to get the flat ones to make turns. This year I bought 1/4" plastic tubing from Loews, into which one can poke holes with a special hole-poker. You then insert an overpriced reducer into each hole so that it delivers a specified small number of gallons per hour. A section of 1/4" flexible vinyl tubing (which is available in various shades) can be attached to each reducer and extended to the plant that is to receive the drip. It's one tube per plant. Or you can link a stretch of vinyl tubing to a weeny elevated 'sprinkler' head and maybe reach a couple plants. That's my experience with it so far. It definitely does the job with great efficiency, but you can only buy the reducers in expensive little 4-packs. My next goal will be to find a better source where these things can be bought in good quantity. I'll start with A.M. Leonard (, where you can buy components in packages of 100.

Here's a plant from my garden that doesn't mind the drought. It's a prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia) that I received from my neighbor Borek. I've never investigated its specific identity. The species that is native to Michigan and Ontario (O. humifusa) has long spines, as does the western species that is most commonly cultivated (O. polyacantha). The latter can be found in a lovely range of flower colors. Of course many other species of cacti can be grown in the open Michigan garden, but I've never delved in that area. If you grow any, please forward some pictures.

And, by the way, this picture was taken with my i-Phone with a lens attachment that allows for close-ups and fish-eyes. As was the following . . .

Yep, I took this picture with my iPhone. This is the viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) which I collected off a mangy beetle-eaten viburnum in Ontario last week. This is a new insect in our area. I found it in Ann Arbor for the first time two seasons ago. It definitely prefers arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) over the popular fragrant species and hybrids.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July allium fireworks

These are among my favorites. I love the summer alliums that open up like a display of fireworks. They are easy from seed. If they like the site, they will reproduce prolifically. First up is Allium flavum, from southern Europe. It is a plant that is readily available through seed exchanges, and numerous dwarf forms have been named. I admit I've had to toss out some ugly ones, but the common bright yellow one is quite nice.

Another very nice one is Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum, also known as A. pulchellum and probably something else since I can't find it listed as either of those first names in my Random House Book of Bulbs by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix (I highly recommend the entire series by these authors!).  I've read on more than one occasion that it can quite rambunctious, but that's never been my experience. I tried it up north at our cottage in the U.P. and it didn't survive more than one season amongst the northern white cedars and spruces. But even if it seeded around prolifically I'm not sure I would mind.

There are two common colors, white and lilac. The late garden author Jack Elliot strongly suggested deadheading them after flowering so that the colors didn't mix and turn into a dull mess. 

And then there is the nodding wild onion, Allium cernuum, which is native to North America from New York to British Columbia. Michigan flora says it is found on "marshy ground, swales and meadows, grassy forested banks, spreading along railroad embankments and roadsides." Flower color ranges from white to rose. All the photos in this post are from a garden within the Ann Arbor city limits. All are in flower now.

Ashes in southeast Michigan today -- little consensus

A green ash in Ann Arbor that sprouted from base
There are many young ash trees growing in woodlots and along fence rows in our area. There is also a small number of mature white ash trees that survived the original onslaught of the emerald ash borer. This spring I saw an enormous specimen off Maple Rd within city limits that was greater than three-feet in diameter with little taper in the first 30' of trunk. It had never been treated. More rarely one will stumble across a green ash that managed to maintain its original single stem.

This tree in Detroit retained its original trunk.
Ask a professional if there remains a local population of borers still threatening the remaining trees, and you'll get a range of answers. Kay Sicheneder at the City of Ann Arbor insists they are still out there in dangerous numbers. Mike McMahon at GreenStreet Tree Care agrees. I have some doubts. Maybe the insect is out there in small numbers like the bronze birch borer, searching for weakened and vulnerable specimens. Maybe the population will rise and fall like the elm leaf beetle in Ann Arbor or the calico scale in Plymouth.

What I don't see in my rounds is any recent damage from the borer. The trees that were never trimmed of deadwood can be returned to respectability by the judicious use of a chain saw. There may be a problem that the sprouts are weekly attached to the roots or parent trunk and will fail under load as they get heavier, but this we'll have to discover as the trees develop.

This is not to suggest that one should discontinue treatments of important landscape specimens. It's just not known what the future will bring.

Note original stem in the center of this green ash
As to that large white ash in Grosse Pointe (bottom photo), a couple years ago I did not see evidence that insecticides had been injected into its trunk. I don't believe any amount of Merit or the Bayer soil chemical would have been adequate to chase out the borers, so the tree must have had some innate resistance.  This year I could tell that it had been treated with 'Tree-Age' via trunk injection.

A modest white ash in Grosse Pointe

Strangeness amongst the Alliums

Two curious garden events just merged in my mind with a flash. Recently some four-foot tall allium stems appeared in my garden, and I've been waiting to see what kind of bizarre mutation will present itself. Also, I've long been wondering what ever happened to the pile of Allium 'Hair' bulbs I planted a couple years ago. Well, duh, I have just been informed by a friend that these are one and the same. She sent me a picture from her garden with the following note: "This mutation of the drumstick allium, A. sphaerocephalon, reaches 3 feet in my garden. It has threadlike tissue emanating from a burgundy center that looks like a cluster of beads.  Whether you like it or not, it is surely a conversation piece....." I'd say this is truly my kind of plant.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tupelo in southeast Michigan

I'm speculatating that tupelo (also known as blackgum or Nyssa sylvatica) might have once formed a significant component of the original woodlands in ye olde lake bed between Ypsi and Detroit, back before it was converted to farmland. The tree develops into a decent size in some woodlands in the Milan area. But in the more hilly glacial topography in Ann Arbor and to the west, it is very scattered in distribution. And it rarely makes a nice landscape tree although I wouldn't fault anyone for trying and I think the one by my garage is quite nice, thank you very much.

Here's some big tupelos that I found growing at Woodmere Cemetery s.w. of downtown Detroit. Now that's what I'm talking about! It forms a very distinct bark pattern which I came to know from working in some woodlands near Philadelphia a lifetime ago. More pictures if you click on the link under the picture to the left.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tornado-like event hits near (my) home

big old ailanthus finally met its match
My neighbor Dale Lesser says the pressure behind his ears was tremendous when the unexpected tornado-like-event hit his family's farm on Island Lake Dr in Dexter Township yesterday. One of his sheds was moved a quarter mile. I had to chainsaw my way home. A lot of big trees down in a small area, but no damage at all a mile east.

A number of trees, like this cottonwood, were uprooted, but most broke off mid-stem. The county responded very quickly by dispatching a bulldozer to clear the road.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Topsoil, mosquitoes, drought and where to buy good perennials

     The topsoil sold by Lodi Farms on Wagner Road seems to be real topsoil! Not muck + sand, not clay + sand, but real actual mineral soil without coarse grit but with enough fines to enable to you to wet it and mold it into a ribbon. Add compost and you have a darn good 'garden' soil.
     It's mid June and I've hardly seen a mosquito. It's mid June and things are flowering that you usually don't see until August. It's mid June and the lawns are turning golden and the soil is powder. My sources tell me there's a line near I-96 south of which things are wicked dry and north of which the precipitation has been closer to normal. You can see it as your drive north/south.  
     I received a box of new epimediums from Garden Vision mail-order nursery. Beautiful plants. I also received Gentiana scabra, which I don't know how to grow, and a form of Primula sieboldii, a very easy-to-grow primrose that enjoys cult status in its native Japan. I never see it in Michigan gardens, which makes zero sense.
     Speaking of well-grown plants, Cathy Melmoth at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market sells the finest plant stock you'll ever find. The roots are always full but never bound in undersized-pots. It's such a pleasure to release them from their pots, gently shake out some of the soil mix, and put them into the ground. And her selection is always choice. She has a base of knowledgeable fans (all avid gardeners) who depend on her for perennials. Of course most people passing through the market would have no reason to know better.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Some June randomness: tree lilac, bristly locust, and how I would like to buy my jeans from Sam's Store

Here's an example of why we love the Japanese tree-lilac: big bushy clumps of white flowers in late spring. This large specimen grows nears an old farmhouse in Chelsea (the trunk is hidden by construction materials).

There is at least one reason why we don't love the Japanese tree lilac. The whiteness of the flowers is short-lived, after which they turn a sickly brown and persist way past the time when the party should be over.  Not sure of this second reason: there seem to be many more specimens in Nichols Arboretum than a sane person would have deliberately planted. Syringa reticulata isn't something I would like to see spread into native plant communities.

I don't recall ever seeing shrubby locusts on sale at the nurseries but occasionally you'll run across them. I first saw the bristly locust (Robinia hispida) growing along a roadside in the pine barrens area of southern New Jersey. Not sure if it is considered a native there, but it's certainly pretty close.

The one in the photo was growing along a side street off Jackson Avenue west of Wagner. Note the bristles on the stem. Note the overall habit: it's a mess of a plant. This species along with the similar clammy locust (Robinia viscosa) are both listed in Michigan Flora as they are very persistent once introduced into cultivation.

No good reason that I know of not to plant the Turkish hazel (Corylus colurna). There is a fabulous old specimen growing in Nichols Arboretum, and I've never seen one yet in cultivation that I didn't like. This young specimen is in someone's yard on Copley Street off Brockman. Beautiful foliage and form.

Daphne mezereum produces very attractive fruit. Quite poisonous, the books tell me. I yank out seedlings by the bushel, but never far from the parent plant. Daphnes do not produce fibrous roots, and they do not transplant readily. Probably easier to just toss the fruit around.

I need new jeans. I would like to buy them from Sam's Store which has been in business on State Street as long as I've lived in the area (at least 40 years). But they never have my size on the shelf, and then the salesman always goes into the basement to check the stock down there, but they always come up short. It's an incentive to order on-line, but I'd rather help maintain a vibrant downtown. July update: I can't find my size on-line either, the reason being that my preferred style has been withdrawn from production.

I'm always thrilled to see the late-arriving Arisaema candidissimum. Usually the flowers face the wrong direction -- I can't figure out how they do this -- but this year I had good luck.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chinese tulip-tree meets his cousin after million-year separation

A submission from plant expert Tony Reznicek:
Many people realize that the closest relatives of many of our distinctive and unusual deciduous forest plants occur not nearby, or even on the same continent, but on the opposite side of the globe in temperate southeast Asia (China, Japan, and Korea). The list is long, but one of the most striking is that fact that there are only two tulip trees in the world. Our eastern North American (and Michigan) native, and one in China (and northern Vietnam). After waiting for years, this spring was the first flowering for my small Chinese tulip tree, Liriodendron chinense
This is a smaller tree than our native Liriodendron tulipifera, very rare and mostly subtropical in China. The hardiest forms from the northernmost colonies can survive in southern Michigan, but it is exceedingly rare in cultivation. But while it is fun to see the first flowers, compared to our native, they are less attractive. The flowers lack the orange flare on the petals, and they are smaller and duller. That's not a big deal -- nobody really grows tulip trees just for their flowers since they are borne high in the tree, and when the leaves are fully expanded. But the Chinese species does have much larger, more strikingly cleft, leaves which are often purplish tinged when expanding. And besides, you could ask the same question of stamp collectors who treasure the rare misprinted stamps, like ones with the image upside down. They are very rare and so is the Chinese tulip tree. Besides, it is amazing to think of how similar the two species are despite having been separated for many millions of years on opposite sides if the earth, and why this should be. What is so special about tulip trees that their form has not changed despite such a long period with different histories?

Allium karataviense

One reader responded to the description of Allium karataviense as being "stocky, dull-looking overgrown and dandelion-like." He said, "The comment is right on.  But attached is a pic of here is a nice color form of A. karataviense -- 'Red Giant.' It's pretty nice."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Horned rampion

How much time should I spend thinking up a clever title for a posting like this? I mean, I want to draw the crowds and everything, but what can I honestly say? As far as I know, people in other parts of the world put rampion on their breakfast cereal. One thing that I am certain about is that the 'horned' species (Phyteuma scheuchzeri) is a very easy plant to grow, and I regularly weed out seedlings. Phyteuma is a sizable genus from Europe and Asia, and they are much beloved by rock/alpine gardeners. The odd flowers bear little superficial resemblance to the bellflowers (Campanula) which are close cousins.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Forelock and Bletilla

Here's a humurous Allium that I had never seen before. It is sold under the name 'Forelock,' and I think it's just beginning to develop into its potential -- if the plant grows according to plan, the flowers on top will extend vertically to produce an unruly tuft "looking a bit like Tom Hank's buddy Wilson in the movie Castaway," according to the catalog promise. An updated picture to come . .

I paid big bucks for this hardy orchid from Asia named Bletilla striata. After I put it in the ground, I never saw it again, but at least one Ann Arbor resident is doing fine with it. She has two patches. The one in the shadier spot seems healthier, whereas the flowers are somewhat bleached in the patch that receives more exposure to the sun. That's a tip for you all.

The Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is a non-smelly Allium relative that spreads so aggressively that many people may shy away from planting anything in the genus. There are some good ones, though. O. magnum, for example, grows to 3' or so, sports nice white flowers, and mixes well in the perennial bed without being a nuisance. This species, along with the Allium above, is available for cheap from While you're shopping check out as well.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Four more plants with nothing in common except that they are in flower now

Gillenia trifoliata: how this plant first got to my attention is lost to my memory. It's in the rose family, it is native to eastern North America (but probably not Michigan), and it sports very crisp, attractive foliage and flowers with slim five-petaled white starry petals. I don't recall ever seeing it in another garden. It seeds around lightly, which is how I like things to seed around, and, all that being said, what more could you possibly ask of a garden plant? The 'common' names include Bowman's root, Indian-physic, and American ipecac, none of which mean anything to me.

A friend in Ann Arbor sent this picture to me. It's Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus. It grows to 16-24 inches tall and, as she reports, is much easier to use in a mixed border than the typical store-bought gladiolus. Neither of us recall ever seeing it grown in local gardens.

An iris. Maybe someone can tell me what iris this is. The flowers are on short stems and surrounded by much taller leaves -- definitely not a species you'll find on the short list at your average garden center. Even so, they are of a nice cool color, and I'm happy to include them in my garden.

Here's an odd species of solomon's seal (Polygonatum) that was shipped to me from a 'nursery' in China some years ago. Nothing at all showy about it, but it is of interest for the twisted hooks at the ends of the leaves that allow it to scramble up neighboring plants. I've got several other exotic examples of this genus in my garden, and I extirpated one or two others for reasons of being overly rambunctious. But not to worry, I have an electrified fence around my property that prevents anything from escaping the perimeter and polluting the natural environment. Not true, but I do keep an eye on these things.

Gillenia again!! Same picture, more or less, but this one taken with the little camera that came imbedded in my new iPhone 4S. The picture has more detail in the shadows and highlights than the ones I have been taking with my digital Nikon SLR and with my Canon whatever-it-is. Every single picture in this blog (minus the recent Alliums) had to be adjusted in my software to bring in some detail to the highlights and to increase the contrast. And neither of the aforementioned cameras would capture the magentas and light blues that seem to populate my garden. The iPhone manages just fine. So, there is my plug for one amazing pocket-sized gadget.

If the color of the flower of this Geranium does not display as a brilliant magenta on your screen, it's not the fault of the camera on my iPhone.