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:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

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.


  1. I have one set of the Nelson Simple Soaker hose "system" which is like what you describe with a narrow hose (50') and little sprinkler heads that you can place on the hose where ever you want. I used to have 2 but the hound chewed one up when we lived in Ann Arbor (hated being cooped up in yard). I have been moving it around to different beds, but I am going to get several more (cheapest on Amazon). Wish it would rain.

  2. Viburnum leaf beetle has reportedly decimated the viburnums in the UM-Dbn natural area. Keeping an eye on my trilobum, but nothing yet. BTW, for woody shrubs, I place milkjugs at the base with holes in the bottom and the top cut off for easy filling. Been doing a lot of filling.

  3. The person who gave me the cactus remarks: According to my notes and recollection it is O. humifusa that I collected in 1970 when I was canoeing Potomac river in West Virginia. It grew on flats by the river mixed with some low grass. At that time I was amazed by a cactus not growing in a more desert like place. -- Guerin

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