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:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Out with the Old, In with the Pinky Winky

Other than the oak-leaf, Pinky Winky is my first hydrangea. (No, that's not exactly true: I remember killing an Hydrangea paniculata tar diva years ago. Apparently it requires water.)

So why Pinky Winky? I saw it at my brother's place in southeast Maine. Not only was it it lovely, not only was it flowering at a time when most other things had packed it up for the season, it was so full of pollinators that you could hear the buzz from inside the house. So listen closely to the video I took with my cell phone.

What else is new? How about this one from Detroit's Eastern Market: a bougainvillea! If anybody out there has ideas about how to keep this over the winter, please clue me in. I expect I'll bring it inside, place it in front of a bright window, and attend to all the fallen leaves before family members tell me I have to toss it out.

And here are some plants I have decided to retire: Saruma henryi, an upright yellow-flowered asian relative of wild ginger (Asarum canadense). (Note that the two genera names are anagrams). Saruma is fine early in the season but it gets too large and bushy and then it seeds around, and I am tired of managing it. Also going is Sinocalycanthus chinensis, an Asian relative of Carolina sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus). It is unusual for sure, and the flowers look just like sunnyside-down fried eggs. But being unusual with eggy flowers does not cut it when space is at a premium.

But wait! Look what I dug up: one giant cyclamen bulb. That one stays for sure.

I'm thinning out my collection of jack-in-the-pulpits. Half of them I received via seed exchange, and knew nothing about them until I grew them on. There's some satisfaction in knowing that I probably have the largest collection of Arisaema's in Chelsea, Michigan, but I've got to face the fact that, while curious, they are not all garden-worthy.

Well, at least that's a small start. Anyone out there want a seedling of my hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata)? It is beautiful, wickedly thorny, and the big parent plant didn't make it through this past winter. Plenty of offspring from where my son and I pelted each other with the sour limes.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Apricots in August

I suppose it is not generally recognized that apricots will grow quite nicely in southeast Michigan, thank you very much. They do. My tree service once had to cope with one specimen near Portage Lake whose trunk was 4' in diameter.

So I remembered passing a specimen on Fair off Burwood which I had seen laden with fruit a few years ago. I went back to check it out this month. See the photo to the left. They were good! OK, not as good as the fat cultivated Turkish apricots for which you have to empty your wallet, but . . . this tree was probably not provided a whole lot of TLC, given that the masses of fruit on the driveway had been run over repeatedly by the homeowner's car. Also the last two winters had taken their toll, much like they did on many ornamental cherry trees.

Another August event: the big native lobelia that gave me a case of syphilis when I planted it in off-site in a dry soil, Lobelia siphilitica. It is native to most Michigan counties on wet sites. Actually it did fine in my normally-dryish garden, thanks to lots of rain and fresh soil. Or maybe I am wrong about which species I am growing -- that's always a possibility.

Golden-seal (Hydrastis canadensis) is listed as having many useful herbal properties, but my guess is that the original herbalists were mostly impressed by its "knotty yellow rhizomes"* and assumed the plants had higher powers. It is native to southern Michigan. I grow it. It spreads. It makes a couple nice "raspberries." They don't taste good. I think I will make room for something better next year. says the plant has become rare in the wild due to intense harvesting by evil herbalists. 

(* -- I quote

This one on the right flowered back in July, but I don't want to forget to write about it. It is a huge-flowered evening primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa (= O. missouriensis). They were selling them for a buck a pop at the farmer's market in Ann Arbor so I splurged and bought five. Quite a show when they were at their peak. A lovely color. The plant is also called both Missouri evening-primrose and Ozark sundrop. What is the difference between a sundrop and an evening primrose? To my knowledge, none, except the sundrops flower in the sun, and the other ones . . you get the idea. This one, I don't know, it was always in flower when I got home in the late afternoon.

Today's comic relief comes in the form of the thousands of Japanese beetles that I found feasting and making insect nookie on the grape vines next to the parking lot at the Chelsea High School. You usually find them in great numbers next to golf courses and other places with extensive lawns. Lindens are a favorite food.