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, May 27, 2015

Shredded Umbrella in the Garden

Here's an oddity that a fellow gardener shared with me last year. It is Syneilesis aconitifolia. Commerce dictated that it be given a "common" name, thus it is presently sold under the name 'shredded umbrella plant.'

It is a woodland species in the aster/composite family and is native to China, Japan and Korea. The flowers are of no consequence, but the leaves are pretty far-out. This is the plant's first year in my garden, and I expect it will fill in and expand in just a few years.

To me, the big thrill is seeing this plant emerge in the spring. You have to get on the belly to appreciate it, but ain't it strange? More like an emerging mushroom than anything else. Spooky!


Something happened to my primroses this year. I seem to have lost Primula kisoana (generally an easy thing to cultivate) as well as all my cultivars of the revered Japanese primrose, Primula sieboldii (search this plant on google and check out all the images!).  I have to assume my losses are due to the cold winter.

But here is one primrose that is putting on a nice show right now: Primula japonica. Hard to believe I started with just a couple specimens grown from seed!
Syneilesis aconitifolia
Syneilesis aconitifolia

An Explosion of Helicopters

I doubt anyone knows how or why this happens: all the silver and red maples in the region are laden with so much fruit it is hard to pick out any leaves. How can this phenomenon be coordinated among all the trees?

One client called yesterday and asked how to spell the word ‘schizocarp.’ I had always referred to the maple fruit as samaras, but I think she was technically correct, despite what you might read in Wikipedia.  Anyway, expect big messes to clean up if you own a soft maple, followed by a very thin-looking crown until later in the season.

Now that I consider it further, both terms for the fruit are correct. It starts as a schizocarp, which then divides into two samaras. Anyway, tell me that the color of the silver maple in the photo to the right would not cause you some alarm.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Birdwatching people-jam in northwest Ohio

I had no idea that the pastime of birdwatching had come to this. We scheduled our early-May visit to Maggie Marsh in northwest Ohio for a Tuesday in order to avoid any weekend crowd. It was quite cool and very windy, far from an ideal day for viewing migrating song birds. No matter. The place was packed with birdwatchers. Definitely upwards of a thousand people crowding onto the boardwalk. Maybe 5 humans for every little warbler. I have to say: this is a good thing. A large population of people finely attuned and dedicated to appreciating and preserving our wonderfully diverse bird population, whose numbers superbly reflect the biological health of our planet.

Still, it was comical at times. We came across a logjam of people with truly expensive binoculars, cameras and flash accessories all viewing and documenting a solitary Tennesee warbler. It was like a fashion shoot.

At one point along our walk, I briefly spotted a bird whose identity was lost to me, and I jokingly made the off-hand comment to my partner, “Must have been a female Cape May warbler.” In short order there was crowd around us, all peering through binoculars and passing down the word that there was a female Cape May warbler.
I can’t make too much light of this. I saw a dark thrush in the dark shade in front of a dark tree, and someone commented that it was a grey-cheeked thrush. One more for my life list.