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, February 17, 2012


I smelled witchhazel in bloom yesterday. Today I saw it on Devonshire. Everyone should have some. The flowers providing the background to this page are from said plant. Love it, love it, love it.

Remembering Ed Voss

Ed Voss, author of the three-volume Michigan Flora, died earlier this week. Some years ago I was fortunate to take his field class "Boreal Flora," which he took tremendous pleasure in teaching every summer at the University of Michigan Biological Station. And when I found myself stumped on the identity of some plant,  I would visit him on occasion at his office at the University Herbarium.

Ed was a private individual, and he was particular about things. When his office was moved from central campus to location off Ellsworth, he made sure that his books were all put back in the same order on the shelves, and that the shelves were similarly ordered. Exactly once a week he took dinner at the Old Country Buffet. When someone would act as housesitter, Ed would present them with a small booklet of fine details and instructions. Of course this character trait was essential for any individual who would serve as chairman of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, which Ed did for six years.

I think of Ed Voss whenever I visit the shores of the Great Lakes. I have never known anyone as passionate in their love and defense of a 'place.' To him there could be no greater crime that causing damage to such an environment. 

I just pulled out my autographed copy of the first volume of Michigan Flora from my shelf.  Date of publication is 1972 (what I call the height of the '60s). The third and final volume ("Dicots concluded") came 26 years later. Tony Reznicek informs me that Ed and he just completed a condensed single volume of the work. Michigan Flora was his life's work.

The formal notice of Dr Voss' passing follows:
"Eminent Michigan botanist and long standing expert on nomenclature, Edward G. Voss passed away Feb. 13, 2012, a few days short of his 83rd birthday. Born in Delaware, Ohio, Ed spent his entire professional career, including a productive retirement that began in 1996, at the University of Michigan, studying the plants and Lepidoptera of his adopted state. He is best known among botanists for his three volume Michigan Flora, plus his work on botanical history, especially his "Botanical Beachcombers," and for his long service to the International Association of Plant Taxonomy, serving as secretary of the editorial committee of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature from 1969 to 1981 and chairman from 1981 to 1987. Ed also had a strong interest in Lepidoptera, publishing a number of papers on the butterflies and moths of northern Michigan. He was a highly skilled field botanist and collector, a dedicated teacher who was very focused on showing students the living plants in their natural settings, especially during his many summers teaching at the University of Michigan Biological Station, and a strong advocate for plants and their environments."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In memory of Bob Stewart, genius behind Arrowhead Alpines in Fowlerville

Bob and Brigitta Stewart
If you have been a reader of the voluminous and hugely entertaining catalog of Arrowhead Alpines, you would have known that co-founder Bob Stewart had been battling with cancer for several years. It came as news to me recently that he passed away in December.

A most excellent profile of this fantastically knowledgeable, highly opinionated and reliably ornery individual was posted by the Human Flower Project. I recommend it to you.

For now, a little about me before I return to Bob. When I initially discovered Arrowhead Alpines, I was so wowed that I made a herculean effort to become associated with the owners. Bob had put together two catalogs -- one for seeds and the other for plants. There were thousands of items offered in each, an almost incomprehensible number of taxa, as far I was concerned. Back then the people who used the internet would access it via AOL and telephone modems. My big plan was to take Arrowhead Alpines on-line. It was going to be a big generous surprise to Bob and Brigitta and they were going to adopt me and teach me everything about plants and plant propagation. That was my hope. So without consulting them  I scanned all the pages of the catalogs and used character recognition software to translate the images into numbers and letters. All the scientific names had to be in bold face and italicized, of course, so for each entry I manually added the formatting code. Ditto with the prices. It was tedious work.

When the job was complete, I drove up to Arrowhead, told Bob what I had done, and gave him the discs. He put them on a shelf. And that's the end of that story.

I became familiar with a lot of Latin names from that exercise. The next time I visited Arrowhead, I tracked down Bob and asked him if he could recommend any good 'andro-sackies.' I thought I could impress him, but my hillbilly pronunciation of Androsace blew my cover. 

Bob would be the first to admit that he did not 'suffer fools gladly.' I was one of those fools. So were the 'master gardeners' who would visit the nursery and comment on the strange or unorthodox ways he grew his plants. Or maybe they complained about all those foreign species he was housing. It wasn't always recognized that his understanding of the plant world was a universe beyond theirs. He knew that, and he was never coy about it.

My final association with Bob came when he was involved in some very heated on-line exchange in a public forum. As I recall, I e-mailed him and suggested that it would behoove him to tone it down a bit. He replied with a rant, which I then forwarded to a friend after appending my own snarky commentary. But I clicked the wrong button. Instead of 'forward', I clicked on 'reply.'  Oops.

People, BE VERY CAREFUL when communicating on the internet. It's fast, and there is no 'undo' button. And don't ever be hard on yourself when it comes to gardening. As Bob Stewart would say repeatedly, "you buy them, you kill them, and that's how you learn."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hey. how about his crazy winter?

Snowdrops are about to open!
If this keeps up, I won't have to move to Apalachicola, Florida when I retire.