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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Dow Gardens- Branches

One of the interesting aspects of Dow Gardens that sets it apart from some others is that it was planned with heavy emphasis on trees. This leads to a couple of unusual features. The one I'm sharing today is interesting branches.

There's not much rhyme or reason to my choice of pictures. They are simply views I liked where the picture turned out reasonably well.

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

There were lots and lots of these trees that grow in a widely spreading clump/cluster. I never did find a label for what they are (lots of exotic species in here), and I suspect they may have been pruned when young to emphasize the growth pattern. But they create peek-a-boo views from one section to another that are appealing. You can't quite tell in the photo what is beyond, but it is a waterfall.

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

Next up is a bronze beech. These have all the loveliness of a regular beech, but the leaves stay dark purple-bronze all summer.

bronze beech at Dow Gardens

I liked this hint of the rocks at pond edge and the bridge through the abstract shape formed by the branches in this one.

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

And this branch hanging over a grassy space seems impossibly long

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

Finally, although you could argue that this picture is more about the rocks, I like the contract between the roundness of those rocks and the lines of the branches.

interesting branches at Dow Gardens

In other news: I'm spending the day with some trail friends and will be heading to Interlochen Fine Arts Camp tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dow Gardens- Just Getting Started

Long day, all good. Need to get to bed, so I'll just give you a quick opener of the Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. Not even any explanation tonight. Sorry. Gotta catch some zzzs.

These are just three of the most formal sections of walkway/bridges sprinkled around the 110 acres.

red bridge at Dow Gardens

This one has its picture taken more often, I think.

half circle bridge at Dow Gardens
This is a short walkway section with a formal appearance. However, a great deal of the landscaping was done purposefully to make it look informal and natural. More on that another day.

walkway lined with flowers Dow Gardens

This was the activity I chose for the day at the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association Conference. Wonderful place. More on the writing later too.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

I Used to Have Nice Plants

I had big plans and worked hard on developing a nice flower garden for quite a few years. Then it all went downhill. For one thing, I'm continually battling really lousy soil. It's more like pure beach sand. Then there are the critters: deer, woodchucks, rabbits are the most devastating to flower beds.

Then along came 2009... the year I decided to hurry up and be the first woman to hike the entire North Country Trail. I did no garden care at all in 2009 and 2010. I've never been able to give it the time required to recover from that neglect.

Then there's the expense. You don't have to be rich, but you do have to have at least a small budget, and I no longer had room for it in my wallet.

I've now made a monumental decision. But first... just a few goodies that managed to bloom this year among the weeds. First a couple of iris. Nothing spectacular, but nice.

purple iris

yellow iris

I thought I had showed you pictures of my rock garden when it was at its finest. But maybe not. Can't hunt up those pictures tonight. That was around 2001. It really was lovely. I spent half an hour a day weeding, all summer long. I had a $100 a year budget, but I also liked digging up odd plants I found, or getting gifts.

Anyway, here's one plant that has been too hard to kill, despite all the grass that's trying to get it. It's a pink bush geranium, variety 'Bloody Geranium' for the dark red leaves in fall. See link at end.

pink bush geranium

Finally, here are two varieties of Dianthus, sometimes called Sweet William, or pinks. Neither one is growing in the rock garden any more. They were probably a poor choice to put there in the first place because although they are a perennial, they self-seed, and they kept moving themselves around. This variety is called 'Brilliant.' I haven't seen any for a few years. This year, there's a patch in the lawn. I mowed around it. They look lots better than the weeds we mow and call a lawn.

dianthus 'Brilliant'

I was especially happy to see this little gem. I ordered this dianthus from a specialty catalog, and love it, but it was never as prolific as the common ones. In fact, I didn't think there was any of it left. But a couple shot up. This variety is called 'Arctic Fire.'

dianthus 'Arctic Fire'

So what's my big decision? I'm not going to play in my horrible gardens here any more. The overall results are too disappointing, and I don't plan to stay home enough to try to reclaim the mess.

I'll go visit other spectacular gardens. Or I'll stroll through other people's messes and dig in the dirt with them. Maybe I'll end up volunteering a bit in some public garden.

Of course, seeing these plants try so valiantly to bloom and live makes me want to just go spend hours weeding and digging and hauling... and then no writing happens and I didn't accomplish enough in the end to make a difference in the gardens anyway.

And what's the next step in this plan? How about a big public garden tomorrow? I'm going to the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association Conference, and one of the day activity choices is Dow Gardens in Midland. Stay tuned!

In other news: I did a lot of stuff for the Writers' Rendezvous. I did some work on the Long Distance Hiker Recognition. I did a LOT of errands. I'm about half packed. Gotta get back at that. I leave at 7 am. No writing happened.

See Pink and Blue for this geranium in the fall
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Local Critter Count

Here's some of the local (in back of my house) wildlife of the past week. Nothing new, although one of them did something new.

First up is a female widow skimmer dragonfly. I actually got really good pictures of both the female and male in 2011. So, if you want to see them better, follow the link below and click on the thumbnails.

female widow skimmer dragonfly

Next, we'll do the plain old whitetail deer. Lots of them, but they do have a certain charm (until they eat all my plants).


The dead branches at the top of one of my aspen trees is a favorite spot of the birds. Today, a flicker took advantage of the perch.


Now it's back to the insect world. This one is a little creepy, but interesting. This is a bracken fern covered with rose chafer beetles. These are annoying brown beetles that will eat certain plant leaves so fast you can almost see things defoliate. They love roses, but also hollyhock and birch. Well, I guess they also like bracken. At least for mating. The ferns in this area were black with pairs of beetles. That's better than all over my rose bush. They don't bite, but they fly and they tickle when they land on you.

rose chafer beetle

Finally, the oriole. Not that this is a great picture. It's not. But it's the solution to my mystery singer. For weeks, there has been a bird here singing twitter, twitter, cheep, cheep. Over and over and over. I could not identify it or find it. I asked real birder friends. I tried to record the sound (with no success). At long last, yesterday, I heard the singer, saw it fly to the aspen, shot a picture and wow. It's the oriole! This is the first time one has ever stayed to nest around my house. I hope I can find the nest this fall to show you.

He wasn't doing a typical song for an oriole, but they are highly variable. I did find a similar one on youtube, so I'm really sure it's my mystery bird.


Saw two sandhill cranes today too. The bird I have not seen or heard this year is the meadowlark. Seems odd. They have always been dependable regular visitors.

In other news: I did some things for the Writers' Rendezvous and wrote two chapters in The Bigg Boss. Also made more rhubarb granola. This batch has more rhubarb, and I like it. I have a trip coming up. Not far away, but I'll be gone nearly a week. I think I'll be able to blog though. Stay tuned.

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See Northern Flicker
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Few More Matthaei Flowers

I think this will be the last day for Matthaei Botanical Garden pictures. But I just want to show these few more.

This was a new one to me. Maybe you plant clock vine in your planters. I like it too. But I did not know there is a blue clock vine, Thunbergia battiscombei, native to Africa. Kinda funky, and my color.

blue clock vine

Next up is a prairie plant. Although it doesn't look as if the restored prairie is being tended much these days, there was one thing in bloom. This is false indigo, a nice showy prairie plant. Baptista leucantha

prairie false indigo

I have to show you this, because it's pretty awesome. This is a really rare and endangered plant, the Pitcher's thistle, Cirsium pitcheri. I showed it to you once before. I found it growing naturally at Arcadia Dunes last year. That was my first time to ever see it. Although it was certainly planted at MBG, the fact that it seems content to grow, and has buds here is pretty awesome. Having multiple populations of endangered species is a really good thing. Yes, it's that scraggly, silvery tall plant in the middle.

Pitcher's thistle

Finally, just because I showed you this once before, I have Malaysian orchid tree, Medinilla magnifica. This was in the Conservatory, of course. This one was labeled, so I've confirmed that's what it is.

Malaysian Orchid Tree

Love, love, love visiting great botanical places. One more coming up soon. Stay tuned!

In other news: my computer was being bad this morning, so I didn't finish some things I started. But in the afternoon, I buckled down and wrote two chapters in The Bigg Boss.

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See Stan Hywet-Medinilla
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Kickboxing or Kisses?

I'm too tired to do a long post, so I'll just tell you about the interesting hawk encounter yesterday. There was a whole lot of screaming going on, so I knew there was more than one red-tail.

There were two, and they were divebombing each other, trying to knock the other one off the top of the utility poles. Was it two males vying for territory, or a love song? I don't know. I caught several action shots of half a hawk. Missed some that would have been pretty cool pictures.

The best I could get was one screaming.

red tail hawk screaming

In other news: It's all other news. I spent the morning making some new promotional materials. Spoke with a book club in the early afternoon. Met with someone who wanted writing advice after that, and then had writers' group this evening. I'm bushed. Bed is coming right up.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

More Matthaei

One more day of Matthaei Botanical Gardens "big picture," posts, and maybe a few more individual plants tomorrow. There is so much I could share from there, but other things are happening too, so I don't want to get totally hung up in Ann Arbor.

Anyway, I'll start with the bonsai collection. When I was there it was kept in a sealed off courtyard and the public only got to see them a couple of times a year. There's a club that meets regularly to work on these little trees. A few of the specimens were ones that were started so long ago that I must have seen them way back when.

However, I think my favorite is this one, begun in 2004. I'm drawn to the style that looks like miniature landscapes. That's sometimes called Penjing. I like the design aspect of the single trees, but ultimately the landscapes make my heart sing. This is a larch, Larix laricina. Keep in mind these are real trees, carefully trimmed so they look full grown but are only about two feet tall.

bonsai larch

There is a small rock garden. I also love rock gardens. This one is not my favorite style, but it is more traditional. There was one section that had some lovely blooms.

Marie Azary rock garden

I also wanted to show you the inside of the Conservatory, just to give an idea of scale. This is the tropical room. There is a similar-sized temperate room and a smaller desert house.

Matthaei Botanical Garden conservatory

But I saved the "best" for last. It's only best because I also have a strong personal connection with this garden. It's a traditional Tudor Herb Knot Garden.

The knot is in the center design. This one then has four large beds arranged around the knot with paths between. The beds are divided by fragrant, medicinal, kitchen, and everlasting herbs.

The thing is... this garden was built from scratch during the years I worked there. See all those border plants. You might recognize the boxwood with the lighter green leaves. The other border plants that look somewhat blue-green are lavender (herb- pretty purple flowers- lovely fragrance). Care to guess how many of them it takes to surround those garden spaces? I don't recall the number of boxwood, but it's 2000 lavender plants. I know. I planted almost all of them. In one day. In the rain. I only helped with the boxwood... not nearly so impressive a memory.

But, again, from nothing, this is now a beautifully designed space with mature plants and plenty of educational opportunities.

Alexandra Hicks herb knot garden

In other news: I did a bunch of stuff for the Writers' Rendezvous, did some other little tasks that seem to take more time than they should, and wrote a chapter in The Bigg Boss. That took a while. I wrote half of it, scrapped it and started over because it was boring- a real snoozer. The newer version is much better. Called my friend Ester, and she helped me craft a missing piece of this entire book to make it immensely better!

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Matthaei Botanical Garden Constructed Wetland 1995-2018

I found the old pictures, so here is the journey I want to take you on. Lots of pictures, but I think you'll see why. Just beyond the parking lot of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and adjacent to the Plants of the New World Gateway Garden is a wetland bursting with, um... wetland plants.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

It was not always so! In fact, it wasn't even wet. There was a small drainage ditch that crossed the area and dumped into Fleming Creek. And that was the issue. At the time, MBG used a reverse osmosis system to treat the water used on the plants. Once a month the tanks flushed and spewed out rusty water and a lot of calcium carbonate (chalky water). It was unsightly. Fleming Creek is one of the few remaining wild watersheds of SE Michigan and the Watershed Council was up in arms.

The solution was determined to be a constructed wetland to filter out these contaminants with long-term monitoring and quantification of the environmental health of the water. This was exactly what I was studying, and Dr. Robert Kadlec set me up to oversee the project. He planned the size of the wetland needed to do the job, and we started from scratch.

First the site was cleared with the exception of a couple of trees. The pictures of construction were taken in 1995.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

Next came the hog hoe to shape the pond. The construction crew was very careful and managed to save both the trees we wanted and didn't compact the soil around them so much that they later died.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

Slowly the deep hole (about 3 feet) began to fill.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

The crew still had to construct the outlet weir that would let the water drain to Fleming Creek.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

Then a new entrance to the trails was designed, with a bridge across the constructed wetland.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

By the summer of 1996, the pond had filled to the desired level and I was trying to establish native plants along the edges. The ducks found the water immediately and raised babies that summer.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

Here's pretty much the same view last week, 22 years later.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

The largest and deepest area of the wetland. I worked like crazy to get various kinds of reeds, rushes and sedges and other flowering plants started there. Some came in on their own. Some I planted. I spent hours and hours (days) pulling non-native plants.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

This is the same area last week, although taken from the other direction.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

This is one of the trees we worked very hard to save. It's a baldcypress, Taxodium distichum, far north of its native range. So this is a specimen tree, and it likes to be damp. There was a lot of concern about whether it would survive the construction trauma.

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland
How do you think it did?

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland
Several years after the wetland was built and the monitoring was ongoing, an effort was made to make the entrance more attractive. Mike Hommel, MBG staff, designed this wall, and then I built it. I envisioned it covered with Virginia Creeper. Guess what? It is!

Matthaei Botanical Garden constructed wetland

A lot of the plants I worked hard on are gone. Funding to keep up the attempt at maintaining native plants ran out. But I could still see evidence of some of my plantings.

The monthly monitoring determined conclusively that MBG was having no deleterious effect on Fleming Creek. I returned to Ann Arbor once a month for several years after the project was completely finished to pull water samples and do the tests. I had a laboratory and a desk.

I'm pleased to see that the project is still doing its job. It's not surprising how much it's grown in over 22 years, but it was still a bit shocking. I wonder if there might be an aesthetic reason to deepen a spot in the middle again, but all those plants are doing exactly what it was designed to do.

Made me feel good.

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