Are you Crazy?

First it was here, for 20 years slowly sadly sinking in the dirt. I secretly coveted it to rescue it every time I walked by it.
Then it was here.

Why would someone not want to use this artifact in their garden? Yes it was heavy and yes it wouldn’t fit in the back of that beautiful K mart blue truck, so I had to go back and get my trailer.

See, it fit. Yes it took two of us to load it and a gallon of dish soap for lubricant. And no we don’t need surgery

Yet

Taking a page from the Pyramid builders, I built a long ramp, and using rollers under the artifact- industrial sink, to roll on. It took only three men to roll it up the ramp successfully, and we still don’t need surgery.

Yet

I used a cement pipe as a pedestal.

Ain’t it cool daddy!

Thank you Jacques and Tony

Next what kind of rocks should I use?

This Is A Test

This is a test but you won’t have any questions to answer, better still Its just a trial run to see if I can still Post.

For the past two weeks things have progressed so quickly that there’s been little time to take pictures, let alone sit down, collect my thoughts enough to produce a post.

One of things that has gotten done is the transfer of a very large industrial sink (one of three) that was given to me along time ago by John Serowitz.

I had intended on snapping a Pic of of the Big “Sink of Shame” prior to moving it, here’s where it rested, slowly sinking into the ground for nearly 20 years.

I’d always thought of utilizing the sinks together as a fountain, or even 3 separate containerized gardens, but it never happened. During the past nearly 2 decades I never could picture these within any of the parts of the garden that I built. As the year’s passed, I’d given the two smaller sinks (30″ diameter by 10 ” deep), to Don, but held onto the big 54″ by 10″ sink (always hoping for some epiphany to come as to how I could incorporate it somewhere where it would fit esthetically in the garden.

But the years kept flying past and more and more of the garden areas were developed, without ever coming up with a place to site the BIG sink. Every time I walked past where it leaned against the back of the garage, I was shamed with guilt for wasting such as prize. Finally I couldn’t bear any longer and I told Don to come and take it away.

So on the appointed day, Don came by and we rolled the sink over to where we had planned to slide it up on timbers into the back of his truck, only to realize the truck bed was too narrow. Don had to go and get his trailer and come back.

It went up and onto the trailer much more easily than our first attempt, at loading it into the taller and narrower truck bed. Here it is loaded up and ready to travel to its new home.

Don will have to post part 2 of this story.

And We’re Off!

For several weeks I’ve been prowling about the garden, repeatedly scanning patches of ground where something should be showing up. All the while having to count on a handful of the earliest Spring Bulbs to satisfy my plant-lust. The up’s & down’s of SE Michigan’s transition from winter to spring is close to reaching the tipping point, brought on by just a couple of 70 + degree days.

The winter aconites & snowdrops, along with Cyclamen coum, Hellebore tibetanus, and Adonis, have thrilled and delighted for almost a Month now. Each opening flower pushes the winter-blahs further to the back of my mind, while stoking a near-burning desire to see what comes next. Gradually, the once brown, almost blanket-flat mulch of last years leaves, had started to bubble from the push of activity beneath, and now that activity has boiled into an eruption in a colorful blooms and vibrant foliage.

Corydalis solida’s and Iris reticulates have appeared almost everywhere in the garden.

Over the past decade, Corydalis solida seem especially determined to occupy every vacant space they can find. There are several other Corydalis species in bloom but none can match the nearly rabbit-like fecundity of C. solida.

Corydalis ornada has slowly and steadily, increased for us. Sadly we haven’t been successful in keeping any of the electric blues or rich, saturated rose-pinks.

For reasons unknown to me only the white flowered forms of C. ornate seem happy in various locations to the garden. It’s really a shame as this species (if you can keep them) come in some of the most spectacularly- saturated, colors that I have experienced within the genus.

Above is Corydalis x allenii ‘Gilded Beauty’ purchased from Janis Ruksans in April 2004. It has happily coexisted here along with an Anemone nemorosa and Ajuga ‘Metalica Crispa’. I don’t think one could ask for more of a plant, except maybe for more off-sets or seed!

All across the garden Hepaticas are popping out.

Over the years we’ve amassed a number of good color forms.

Although they are not usually the earliest hepatica to bloom, I believe these (pictured above) are all H. nobilis. A species that in this garden are easy to please and happy to seed about.

H. acutiloba

Hepatica media is usually the first of the species to flower for me (but I failed to look for them).

This H. acutiloba has decided conditions are right to open now.

T. cuneatum
T. cuneatum

Several trillium species are up as well. The clay-loam soil that covers nearly all of the property (except for the alpine beds built on-top of it), seems to suit most all of the species that grow . After T. nivale, Trillium cuneatum will be the next to bloom. Although several other trillium species are up including T. recurvatum, T. sessile, and T. stamineum. No doubt. there are another half dozen species whose noses are just beneath the leaf litter, waiting a little longer.

T. recurvatum

Abeliophyllum distichum as it grows here, spreads slowly by lower branches rooting in where they contact the ground. The thousands of tiny white blossoms flood the lower garden with their sweet perfume.

This early flowering and frost-proof shrub is commonly referred to as White Forsythia.

Among the multitude of plants now coming up, most have not only settled in but have increased themselves to the point of becoming (almost) common. Then there are others that, while they have persisted, have proven to be more reluctant.

Many species of Erythroniums have proven to be difficult to established in my garden (I’m sure this failure is entirely mine) though there have been successes. E. caucasicum seed (from Joseph Halda) sown back in the early 1990’s, yielded two plants that made their way into the garden. It was probably 5 or 6 years before I stopped collecting the seed they set (to try and grow in pots) and simply allowed them to self sow. Three to four years later, their pale pink-violet blooms (the first erythronium species to flower in my garden), were multiplying nicely.

E. sibericum ssp.altaicum

That was before the flower of this Erythronium opens, usually about a week ahead of E caucasicum. Around 2015 I had transplanted the entire contents of a seedpod that contained several, second year seedlings without dividing them. Sadly this is the sole survivor of that batch of Archibalds’ seed from the Kahem Valley, Tuva, Altai ex Russia sown in March of 2011. It’s Flowered every year since, and perhaps that’s a seedling leaf just to the lower right, If so It’ll be the first!

I expect the E. caucasicums to be opening in another week, followed rather quickly by thus Hybrid I have labeled simply as E. ‘Pagoda’.

Sanguinaria canadensis Tennessee form.

The common Bloodroot have made their own way into this garden and have demonstrated a great ability to expand their range.

That is not the case with this form of bloodroot. I believe it came from Garden Visions, and its a lovely form that has shorter, wider, petals and appears to be a clumper which sends up bunches of stems. It does seeds about, but only lightly!

Narcissus ‘Phalarope’

In the 90’s I had a not-so-mild Narcissus addiction, One of my favorite dealers who supplied my “fix” was Grant Mitsch Novelty Bulbs. For a host of reasons (none of which were theirs), many of the treasured daffodils they sent are no longer with me. This is one of the exceptions that always makes me smile when I see its mature flowers.

While one might think these Cardiocrinum (widely scattered thru the garden) have a death wish by coming up so early. This form (that I believe came in a Chen Yi order) has proven to be very resilient. None the less, they will all be getting a small pile of dry oak leaves on them this weekend, as the low temperature, forecasted for Easter Sunday, will be in the low 30’s!

There are a dozen more things I could show in flower, and masses of other things coming up. Vast patches of Anemone nemorosa and A. ranunculoides, along with dozens of ever-expanding, mats of Geraniums are greening up chunks of the garden, while Scilla biflora, S. tubergenia and S. siberica, create lakes of blues. Hundreds of Crocuses (the “Chippies” have somehow missed) in a rainbow of colors, Spring cannot be held off any longer.

We are all about to be so very busy in our gardens trying to keep up. So I hope you are as ready, cause ready or not… Here we go!

Fingers Crossed

In our garden, the cool (if not cold) early Spring weather seems to be the domain of the “little bulbs”. Cyclamen coum, Eranthis, Galanthus, in addition the the early bulbous irises (histories and reticulata) all command the opening of the Spring Gardening Season.

However, there is a little vignette in this garden that never fails to captivate my attention, not so much for it’s well planned construction (because it wasn’t), but instead for the serendipitous success of the plants sited therein.

The star of this little corner is Trillium nivale, commonly referred to as the snow trillium. This minute Trillium makes its appearance in the garden, along with last of the Eranthis blooms, as well as Galanthus nivale.

Most years this petite trillium is joined by Corydalis and Iris histroides ‘Katherine Hodgekins’. This unplanned pairing never fails to delight me. The fact that these little treasures thrive here has more to do blind luck than any forethought to this particular bed’s construction. The area of lawn that preceded this site was first covered over, first with sections of wet newspaper, the edges overlapping each other by roughly 20%, and then I covered the newsprint with the day’s grass clippings, until I could bring home a load of wood chips that were then applied in a 6-8″ thick layer. It was an effective method for killing the grass & weeds without resorting to a chemical application.

Later on when I decided to construct the Limestone Bed here, I simply hauled in the large chunks of limestone from a local quarry, backfilled between the larger rocks with coarse sand, and mulched everything with crushed limestone gravel. For the paths in and around this bed I utilized the same crushed limestone gravel 5-6″ in depth.

My first encounter with Trillium nivale, was in the magical garden of Roberta & Fred Case, known for their extensive collection of Trillium. It was by no means my first visit to this special place, though it was the first time I was there early enough to experience this earliest flowering of the trillium species.

I noticed that these diminutive gems were growing at the base of a low, broken ridge, made up of Limestone rocks. I don’t recall if the word calciphile was used, but it was made plain that a higher alkalinity it what they really desired.

It was sometime before I was able to attain my first plant of T. nivale (which happened to be the Indiana Form ), at a Great Lakes Chapter Spring Plant Sale. The Indiana form sports larger blooms than does our native Michigan Snow Trillium.

I thought I had a suitable spot (though it was technically in the edge of a path) and the medium was basically just crushed limestone gravel, so I worked in a bit of my heavy loam soil before planting, as well as into the gravel I used to backfill my new prize. Little did I realize how fortuitous was the site I chose.

That plant bulked up quickly, allowing me to divide it on several occasions. Clearly delighted in it’s new home.

Several years later, a fellow GLC member imported a goodly number of new T. nivale plants from Indiana and I acquired several. The following spring I cross pollenated them all by hand. (Obviously I failed to capture all of the seed that was set).

Only in hindsight do I realize the unique conditions of this site which enables such success. For they hold far more importance than simply the limestone.

Over time the continuous activity of ants and worms had transported the heavy clay-loam soil (enriched by the heavy application of now decomposed wood chips), which underlays all of my beds, and throughly infused it within the limestone gravel.

Another factor is the ridge of Limestone which backs them has a SW exposure. At this time of year the spot is bathed in hours of afternoon sun. In combination with exposure is an Amelanchier canadensis (the first tree I planted), located to the WSW (on the opposite side of the path), now leafless, but in a couple of weeks it will leaf out and offer relief from the hot sun of late spring and summer.

It’s been a happy accident and I didn’t think that I could be more pleased.

Then four years ago something quite new appeared. Among the stems of the largest clump of T. nivale, was one that had a bloom made up of four petals rather than the usual three. When I examined that stem further, I noticed that the leaf contained a complement of four leaflets as well. Now this is not unheard of, and while oddly intriguing, this anomaly is rarely stable (as I was often reminded). As the size of that clump had gotten quite large I decided to remove a division which comprised nearly 1/2 of the clump, but I left the half containing the 4 x 4 stem in place.

The following year the 4 x4 stem reappeared, looking as healthy as all of its sister stems in the clump. I made mention of this, and was reminded of its dubious stability, as the blooms opened, the four petaled bloom was there, and returned once more in the Spring of 2020, that made three years running!

Then last year this happened. Yep that’s a second four petaled flower with its full complement of four leaflets. Now that’s enough to make one sit up and take notice! What would next year bring? Well…

The short answer is a third 4 x 4 stem, but wait there is also another odd stem, and this one has a five petalled bloom and five leaflets!!!

Now I don’t know where this is going to lead, but for the past week I’ve been cross-pollenating the 4 and 5 petalled blooms with each other. If these unusual stems are offset from the same clump and not one of many seedlings, then they may not be self compatible (hence no seed). It has been so cold and dreary nearly all week I haven’t seen a single pollinator anywhere in the garden, so who knows. All I can say is I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Now, about dividing this clump again…

Sternberg(ia) variations

No, not a Mozart composition, but a natural one, with one of the less well known genera of bulbous plants. Sternbergia is in the Amaryllidaceae, like Narcissus and snowdrops, and in fact Sternbergia lutea is sometimes called fall daffodil (though the resemblance escapes me). There only a few species, all from the Mediterranean region of Europe and western Asia, but despite this, all have at least some forms that are hardy in southern Michigan. Though they might get lost among larger bulbs, the flowers have a definite charm, with the delicate translucent venation on the tepals being a particularly special feature.

I was reminded by the blooming of Sternbergia candida this spring of how many Sternbergia I have killed – giving me some insight, in an inverse (or is it perverse) sort of way, on how to grow them.

Although people think of them as fall plants, there are both spring and fall blooming  species, like so many other bulbous genera, and they can look quite alike.  Now, the only one seen commonly is the fall blooming Sternbergia lutea, some clones of which do well in southern Michigan, and some which don’t last at all – or maybe it‘s the gardener, not the winter? It’s a moderately sized flower, and I find I don’t have a good picture – so here is a bad one. Have to remember to take some more this fall.

Sternbergia lutea — this large-flowered from did not last

Another fall blooming species, sometimes “lumped” in with Sternbergia lutea is Sternbergia sicula. If it is part of the overall variation found in Sternbergia lutea, it is still worth getting, as at least the clone I grow is a good performer in southern Michigan. I’ve never had a capsule on these, so either they are self-incompatible and I have only one clone, or whatever pollinates them is absent.

Sternbergia sicula in flower September 17 a few years back

A big disadvantage in our climate is that the leaves of these two fall blooming species come up with or just after the flowers, and are wintergreen. The broad leaves of Sternbergia lutea are somewhat upright and often get damaged in winter. The smaller leaves of my clone of Sternbergia sicula soon lie flat on the ground, and are typically in good shape still in spring. But regardless, the plants don’t seem to be too seriously injured by this leaf damage.

Sternbergia sicula leaves and flower buds coming up at the beginning of fall
Sternbergia lutea leaves looking poor at the end of March
Sternbergia sicula leaves lying flat and still looking good in April

The smallest species of fall blooming Sternbergia is Sternbergia colchiciflora. It has quite small star-shaped flowers and is easy. It does things differently from all others. The plant blooms in early fall (late September typically), but the leaves come up in the spring. Not only that, this always sets capsules, which also come up above ground in the spring. It is surely self-compatible, and maybe even selfing. I’ve even had it sow itself a little. If only it were bigger…

A couple flowers of Sternbergia colchiciflora
Sternbergia colchiciflora left, leaves and capsules coming up in the spring, right leaves with almost mature capsules

The two spring species are lovely surprises – but can get lost in the blaze of bulbs blooming in late Match or early April – when they flower. One species, Sternbergia vernalis, has yellow flowers and is much like a spring blooming Sternbergia sicula. It is sometime sold as Sternbergia fischeriana.

Sternbergia vernalis
Sternbergia vernalis flower

The other spring bloomer is the most remarkable of all Sternbergia, as it has pure white chalices – Sternbergia candida. This is a rare plant in the wild, native to a small area of Turkey, and the only white Sternbergia.

Sternbergia candida just before the sun hits it this morning (April 2)
Sternbergia candida open April 2

Both the spring blooming Sternbergia species send up leaves in the spring with the flowers, so the foliage is not damaged by winter. But like the larger fall species, I have never had a capsule, even with efforts to hand pollinate them.

For years, I found all Sternbergia difficult. Assuming they were xeric bulbs, I put then in a lean sandy mix and treated them like desert plants. They rewarded me by slowly (sometimes quickly) dying. After killing a batch of Sternbergia candida raised from Archibald seed, it slowly dawned on me that this species apparently grew at the edges of and in Cedrus libani forests. So switching gears, I put them in richer, heavier soil, and fertilized them. That slowed my rate of killing them considerably.