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!