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:

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Ann Arbor Big Tree Registry -- circa 1995

The Forestry Department at the city of Ann Arbor once maintained a listing of the city's largest trees. The owner and the nominator both received certificates stamped with the official city seal and signed by highly-placed bureaucrats. That effort was discontinued when the forestry department was 'streamlined' and the offices were moved out of the old building on West Washington. In fact the records themselves, while existing somewhere in city cyberspace, have been unavailable for many years. Recently a veteran employee dug up an early iteration of the registry (dated April, 1995) and covertly passed it over to investigative reporter. I now share it with you.

Fagus sylvatica (copper beech):
809-811 Oxford (88' height, 149" circ, 68' crown spread)

Sassafras albidum:
1766 Glenwood (72' height, 58" circ, 12.5' crown spread)

Quercus alba (white oak):
Arbor Hills Sub on Green Rd: (67' height, 187" circ, 80' crown)

Quercus velutina (black oak)
114 Grandview (77' height, 149" circ, 82' crown spread)

Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak)
804 Gott (74' height, 212" circ, 74.5' crown spread)

Quercus robur (English oak)
2631 Devonshire (37' height, 36" circ, 28' crown spread)

Quercus palustris (pin oak)
936 Aberdeen (83' height, 101' circ, 68" crown spread)

Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak)
Tappan St, U-M Law School (52' h, 51" c, 46' crown spread)

Quercus imbricaria (shingle oak)
901 S Forest (75' height, 102" circ, 73' crown spread)

Ulmus procera (English oak)
2100 Devonshire (76' height, 179" circ, 48" crown spread)

Ulmus pumila (siberian elm)
2119 Devonshire (85' height, 179" circ, 84' crown spread)

In addition to the above, there are listings for the largest elm and the largest red oak. Both specimens have died since 1995. It seems suspicious that nine species of oak are included but not a single maple. There must be a page missing. Also Paul Bairley and I measured many more species that are on this list. They would be included in a later iteration of the list, but those records haven't yet resurfaced. And a final note: we did not measure any of the trees in Nichols Arboretum. We figured it was hardly fair to include 'museum' specimens.

I hereby declare myself official keeper of the records. My first pronouncement is to open the field so as to include Nichols Arboretum and territories outside the city limits proper. Let me know if you want to join me in measuring some trees, or if you know of candidates that deserve consideration.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Getting to know the dwarf conifers: a promising talk by an expert scheduled for Jan 21

The #1 problem with growing conifers in the Michigan landscape is that they get big, too big. After 20 years you find that your yard is devoted to a single norway spruce, and your dysfunctional sentimentality will not allow you to just cut it down and start all over. And furthermore you'll complain to anyone who will listen that the tree was planted too close to the house. But here's a thought: if you have a small lot, there is no one solution that will hold up for all time. As the plants grow, you just have to get in there and make changes, maybe even some radical ones

So, where was I? Oh yeah, conifers. There are many dwarf conifers which grow slowly, or are so confused that they don't know enough to grow up instead of down or sideways. These are well suited for the smaller landscape. A wonderful opportunity to lean about them is coming up on Saturday, Jan 21 when Don Wild of the American Conifer Society will present a talk on "Dwarf Conifers for the Rock Garden" at Matthaei Botanical Gardens on Plymouth Rd in northeast Ann Arbor.

Don't worry about the term 'rock garden.' The term is really shorthand for 'limited space.'  Rocks are not required.. The talk is at 1:30 and is sponsored by the Great Lakes Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, of which I was once chair (the chapter, that is, not the wider national organization). This is also an opportunity to meet with some truly astute, knowledgeable, and ambitious gardeners and plant lovers. I can't recommend the group highly enough.