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:

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What to do with Parrotia persica?

Parrotia is a connoisseur's tree. Well, that seems to be its reputation. And it's a tree I really would like to love: tasteful witchhazel-like leaves, brilliant fall color, bark that blotches like a sycamore. It's not a common species in the Ann Arbor area, even though it has been known for many many decades.*

Too bad it is often a sorry sight in the landscape. It holds its brown desiccated leaves throughout the dormant period (i.e., over half the year); and its branching it so crowded and twisted it can look like a wall-o'-tree. And then, as you can see from the photos, it sends up the odd exploratory branch at the top of the crown, begging for intervention with a pair of lopers.

In my garden I have a Parrotia that looks like all heck, and it is flanked by two 'cornelian cherry' dogwoods in full flower right now. I want to shave the parrotia right to the ground. I will give it one final year to redeem itself and prove to me why it deserves a spot in my landscape.

* Parrotia is listed in old garden literature, but it has been difficult to find for purchase for decades. Why? The usual story. Growers need to know there will be a market for their trees ten years ahead of time. If a tree is not well known, growers will balk at the risk. And that guarantees that the tree will remain in obscurity. On the opposite end, the industry ends up producing a limited number of sure-fire hits: most recently red maple cultivars, prior to that green ash, and before that the thornless honeylocust.

Corydalis solida jumps the shark

Well, here's another taxon that I have to chase down into the woods with my backpack Roundup sprayer. SO SORRY for those who took to heart my previous effusive accolades for this species, Corydalis solida (sorry, no common name).

C. solida is a spring bulb that begins flowering with the early crocuses. There are some beautiful forms, such as the brick red George Baker cultivar. I have one with a pure white flower that I received from a grower in Latvia. Or was that Lithuania? But generally you commonly get horrid shades of mauve and wussy pinks.

The common mauve type, not very pretty in situ
I started to get suspicious of this species last fall when I noticed that a large population had sprung up on my property alongside Waterloo Road. A few individuals had even jumped to the other side of the road, which I think means that this species is now eligible for a listing in michiganflora . This spring the plant has showed up most EVERYWHERE in my garden.

I am terrified of the possibility of introducing a new weed into our woodlands. I am equally terrified that it would be obvious where the weed came from. I would live the rest of my life in shame.

For the record, there is one native species of Corydalis (syn. Capnoides), the attractive 'rock harlequin' that grows in disturbed gravelly habitats further north. Two other species -- one with yellow flowers, the other white -- are not uncommon garden plants.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Bee and Flower in February

This is probably not a first, but certainly the first I've seen: a fully open flower (winter aconite) being pollinated by a honeybee in February. In my own yard. In Chelsea, Michigan. Yep, February 28 still qualifies as February. I had hundreds of aconites in full flower on this date.

And a more current picture: Helleborus thibetanus. This is as good as mine gets, the flowers never spread their petals, but it's a nice attraction for so early in the season. I searched for images on the google. Nursery catalogues show off a much nicer-looking plant. I never believe those pictures.

What Happens When Norway Maple Roots Are Confined


Ann Arbor Gardener Rises Again from Its Leaf-Moldy Grave

Can't believe it's been two years since my last post. So much has happened. I grew my first beard. I sold my business. I was elected governor but was subsequently impeached. So now it's just me and my beard and some extra time on my hands . . .  and hopefully enough spirit to keep this going again for a good while. It sure would be gratifying if YOU would help by submitting posts. This project was never intended to be a solo endeavor. Even if you are just selling divisions at a yard sale or want to show off pictures of your vegetable garden, jump in. I am now at
-- Guerin

New(:) Annuals for 2018

Amaranth "Dreadlocks"
I don't think less of the firefly than the raccoon. So why does it take a person (i.e., me) half a life-time to  accept that annual plants can be just as much fun, as exciting, and as worthy as perennials. You get a new world of plants to work with. And you get to re-create something new every year. Well, that's the theory. Ask me next year how this project went.

What I did NOT want to do is grow the same bedding plants that are commonly offered commercially. Instead I ordered seed of the following taxa from Select Seeds (good website with a broad selection and useful advice on germination). I am clearing out a patch of lawn that gets, well maybe not FULL sun all day, but hopefully enough to allow me to get satisfaction from my new 'sandbox.' Let me know if you have any particular experience with the following, good or bad . .

Linara maroccana "Rhythm & Blues"
Viscaria oculata (German catchfly?) "Blue Angel"
Agrostemma githago "Ocean Pears"
Linaria maroccana "Northern Lights"
Persicaria orientalis "Cerise Pearls" -- Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate?!
Mina lobata (Spanish flag)
Anagallis monellii (Pimpernel) "Gentian Blue"
Ammi majus "Graceland"
Cynoglossum amabile "Mystery Rose"
Zaluzianskya capensis (Night phlox) "Midnight Candy"
Orlaya grandilora "White Lace"
Salpiglossis sinuata (Painted Tongue) "Kew Blue"
Echium plantagineum "Blue Bedder"

And some choices that are not uncommon or that I have grown before:
Verbena bonariensis
Amaranth "Dreadlocks"
Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)
Ricinus communis (Castor oil bean)