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, April 23, 2012

A better scilla, a reddish euphorb, and beautiful katsuras

I'm counting the days until that wretched Scilla siberica goes into dormancy -- won't be long now but until then: what a mess.  I've heard kind words spoken about it, but I think I will pass, thank you very much. A second species, one that is flowering now, is Scilla litardierei. It's better looking and somewhat better behaved, but still bordering on a being a nuisance.
This euphorb in my garden is the closest thing I have to poinsettia. Images available on the world wide web show it forming nice sweeps, but this cultivar of Euphorbia griffithii just sends up random shoots here and there, usually right in the middle of another perennial. A good thing is that is doesn't seed around excessively like many other hardy euphorbs.

On the subject, do any of you readers know of anyone growing our native Euphorbia corollata as a garden plant?  I see it around Pickerel Lake and I'm quite fond of it. If nobody warns me against it, I will give it a try this summer.

And another one: crown of thorns, Euphorbia milii, is common in landscapes in subtropical Florida. I assumed it would tolerate light freezing, but my potted specimens lost all their leaves after I failed to bring them inside during the recent cold evenings. A lesson learned.

I love the look of fresh green leaves in the spring. These are from a disease-resistant American elm planted by the city along Scio Church Rd. If you're looking to plant a fast-growing shade tree, this is definitely worth considering.
On my errands about town, I snapped this photo of a line of katsuras surrounding a driveway circle. I remember when these were planted, didn't seem very long ago. The homeowner is very happy! The second photo is the typical branching pattern for this tree. Dr Burt Barnes tells me this is how they grow in the wild in Japan. How they manage to reach heights surpassing 100' without falling apart is a puzzle to me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Artillery fungus

Mrs. Joan Doe called my office yesterday to inquire about black spots on the leaves of her rhododendron . . and on the patio bricks and on the side of her house. I brought a sample back to the office and looked at it under a dissecting scope. Hmm, very curious: the size and shape of a scale insect, but when pricked it schmooshed out like a glob of tar. Couldn't be of biological origin. No way.

Yes way. Behold and wonder at the amazing artillery fungus. The organism grows in decomposing mulch, then reproduces and spreads by shooting out massive spore globules, generally in the direction of light. The literature suggests that the number one casualty is the expensive white sports car parked in the driveway next to a mulched flower bed. Is damage covered by insurance? It depends on how strictly one interprets the term 'mold.' Mold is usually not covered by insurance. But the artillery fungus is a basiomycete and not technically a mold. Call in the attorneys!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Poncirus, plum and a cat

So lovely and so deadly. There are dried-up oak leaves in the center of this Poncirus that got stuck there a decade ago, and there is no way to get them out. No way.  
An attractive and mostly unrecognized native plant: the wild plum (Prunus america). I didn't plant it on my property -- it found its way on its own, along with the oaks and hickories and wild cherries. Right now if you drive into the countryside you can easily spot it in full flower along the roadsides, but if you don't slow down you might think it is a serviceberry. Plum flowers a bit later and readily sends up suckers, often giving it a clonal habit. I've only once found a fruit on it.
The cat came back. We thought he was dead. We didn't seem him for three days and we were dressed in mourning. And then he appeared on the arm of the couch I was sitting on. He was sick with fever and infection, but a trip to vet made him all better.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Some epimediums (aka barrenworts)

Lots of Epimediums are up, and many more are on the way. If forced I could most likely come up with names for the majority of these, maybe even all. If you are interested in any one in particular, just e-mail and ask. I might even share a piece.

The pictures demonstrate some of the variation in leaf shape and color. One that is not pictured here was selected for bold leaf markings that show up strongly in the fall.

My favorites are probably the ones that send the flowers up a mast way above the foliage, such as the one immediately below. With my limited skill and equipment, these are hardest to photograph.

The yellow selection immediately above is fantastically floriferous. The pink one above and to the right is a common cultivar, very vigorous.