Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Michigan? Impossible!

 My blog OFFICIALLY does not begin until the seventh picture: these six beginning pictures were sent to me by Rimmer Devries, who doubtless wanted his garden to show up in the very best light with his superior photographs! These were all blooming about the time I visited--only were OVERLOOKED by me--do check back on these when you get to his (the fourth) garden I discuss... Meanwhile...enjoy! The captions for the first six pictures are taken from Rimmer verbatim.
"This is Colchicum hungaricum form Odyssey bulbs"

"C. biflorus ssp. crewei JJA 034.1150 ex Turkey Denizli- seed started Jan 2008-"

Another view of "C. biflorus ssp. crewei JJA 034.1150"

. "Galanthus forsteri"


"Galanthus ex Greece"

"C  abantensis"


Dr. Tony Reznicek

My "mission" was Michigan, and it turned out to be possible (to explain my arcane title)...

A few posts back I featured a Colorado garden in late winter: since that time our gardens have exploded with hundreds of spring flowers. I visited Michigan last weekend and they were poised in the same spot: truth be said, if your garden is not beautiful in winter, it sucks. I was privileged to visit four best of class gardens in a single day (Sunday, March 22), and I must say that aside from the two  Stireman masterpieces in Salt Lake City, Ann Spiegel's gem in New York and one or two others (which I shall not divulge), no rock gardens in America approach these four for superb garden design, wealth of plant collections and just plain genius. Michigan has been blessed with a great history of garden excellence: Fred and Boots Case, Bob Stewart and Betty Blake all have been luminaries in the Rock Garden Zodiac. These four gardens are all worthy of them!

A few shots of Tony's amazing crevice gardens
Susan and Tony purchased the house next door: to get a slight sense of the scope of what they're up to, click on this URL to get a Google Map sense of their site.

A few MORE shots of Tony's amazing crevice gardens


I have to say something about the daphnes in Michigan: I thought we grew daphnes well... I've never seen so many grown so superbly: tucked into crevices like this, or forming monster masses in more open sites. I must have seen several dozen that were well over a meter across!

Choice Eriogonum tucked in a crevice.

Xeric sand bed full of treasures (dianthus, acantholimon and yucca here)

He grows lots of cacti too

This very long spined Echinocereus triglochidiatus amazed me

Cylindropuntia whipplei with a very dense form of E. umellatum:v. porteri?

A very happy Aucuba: I believe he'd given it a little protection from winter burn.

More shots of the xeric garden: Cylindropuntia imbricata doing well despite a very cold winter.

The obligatory Hellebore: Tony had lots of them.

Bignonia capreiolata
I envied this magnificent specimen of crossvine--which is native mostly in the Southeast and lower Midwest. I've always wondered about its winter hardiness: here it has gone through -25F and thrived. Perfectly situated along this fence where suckering is not an issue.

Daphne 'Stasek'
My specimen is always dying back: this lusty specimen looked wonderful...envy again!

Jankaea heldreichii
What a treat to see this silvery gesneriad from Mt. Olympus growing so well in Michigan. I've not seen anything comparable anywhere in the U.S.A.: Tony is a magician!

Untamed hillside
Tony had purchased the house next to him since my last visit, and there are some areas he has yet to tackle-mostly overgrown with vinca or here, English ivy: there's room to expand!

Pachysandra procumbens
Wonderful mounds of the native pachysandra keeping up their color after a hard winter....

The path climbs and climbs and the garden is suddenly far below!


All manner of rock work, and wonderful dwarf conifers livening up the wintry scene...

Merendera (Colchicum) trigyna
I have grown this Eurasian miniature for decades--but this was twice the size of any of mine...

Cyclamen purpurascens
Tony has lots of cyclamen, especially this species, but this individual was especially brilliant...

What a shock to see Dryopteris sieboldii after a -25F winter!

Lots of coum budding up to bloom...

Wonderful rock garden slope with specimen evergreens...

A hefty clump of Adonis amurensis about to bloom...

An enviable Acer griseum

Who doesn't dote on the bark of Acer griseum

Helleborus niger 'Potters wheel' with enormous flowers.

Very different rock work along this wall...much of it tufa

Another view--love the red Penstemon hirsutus 'Pygmaeus'

Some fabulous cacti--including a huge clump of Escobaria leei: how could a plant from Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico be so hardy?

Quite the lump of Tufa...(a rock with a story: come to the meeting and find out!)...

The bark on the Hydrangea competes with yet another paperbark maple.



Two kinds of palm trees made it through this hellish winter: Rhytidophyllum on the right and Sabal minor from Oklahoma on the left

I suspect there will be some more rock work accomplished by meeting time in a month and a week!
Don and Mary Lafond
Troughs everywhere full of treasures...
Here is the very beginning of one of America's extravaganzas: Don and Mary Lafond have created a rich, complex and wonderful garden on a grand scale. Just click the link for the Google Map overview to get a taste of just how big it is!
The first glimpse of yet another extravaganza!
I was astonished by the size and scope of Don and Lafond. Everything is here: conifers, perennials, woodlanders, alpines, containers--and fabulous hardscape helped by the fact that Don is a master carpenter (his shop is in the background)..


I love this rock garden in a wooden framework...


Stately views in every direction: can't wait to see these brimming with color in five weeks!

More monster daphnes. Grrrr.

A choice Dracocephalum I have lost...

Gypsophila aretioides--one of the greats.

Even a skull: the Lafonds could join the Rocky Mountain Chapter (you're required to have one here)...

Lots of wonderful conifers--although Don was lamenting the damage on his giant Cunninghamia: I would too actually.

More wonderful graceful views...

A very happy Acantholimon perched on a raised platform...

Another long view...the orange Cunninghamia on the left: he's darn lucky to have had it so many years!

These woodland gardens will burst with color in a few weeks...there were buds everywhere.

Carex platyphylla a new one for me. Tony identified it (nothing like walking in the footsteps of the Carex deity)

Hellebores just coming out: Don was surprised to see them.

More garden next to the house.

A vew to the alpine house on the left of the house...

Goodies everywhere: here a tufa wall and pond.

A wonderful mat of Gypsophila nana

Scots pines are succumbing along the road--but an understory of Japanese maples will make a great screen soon.

Even the shed was elegantly decorated!

Sneaking into the Alpine House

Lots of booty in here!

Arabis cypria--a new one for me.



Conandron and other wonderful alpines for the sale in May...


More good stuff in the cold frames: I love the brick pattern on the patio...
Mystery snowdrop...
I squirm as I am about to attempt, rather miserably, to describe Jacques and Andrea Thompson's private garden in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I suggest you click on this URL: an aerial overview of their garden from Google Map: it has to be the most ambitious and wonderfully fulfilled rock garden complex in North America. Jacques is very tall, very strong and very bright! He has incorporated untold tons of rock, planted the most wonderful plants and boasts a collection any botanic garden would be proud of. If you have not visited the Thompson garden in Ypsilanti, you've missed out on a lot!
Stewartia koreana
Who knew Stewartia was so hardy? This was a brutal winter, and the Thompson garden looked awesome--full of rare trees, shrubs and all manner of alpines in fine fettle.


After seeing this stewartia, I'm not sure I can live another year without one. It was just too beautiful for words!

Dozens of troughs--one more imaginative than the next.

Iris 'George'
The Thompson garden is in a bit of a dell, so things were even more behind than in other gardens. There were nonetheless many early bulbs out already...

This garden will blow people's minds for the Annual Meeting in May!

What's that under the tree?


An especially fine spread of Eranthis


Wonderful conifers and shrubs combined artistically wherever you look...and daphnes up the wazoo. Don't ask where that is.

Three wonderful Rottweilers help keep the garden deer and rabbit free: I think I need a few myself...

The containers are amazing and everywhere, and elegantly planted...

Wonderful rockwork combined with conifers and alpines...on and on and on...

The style differs in each bed, with some fabulous and interesting rocks brought back from trips...

I just love these convered pipe containers: they bring the level of the garden to your face!

This Daphne cneorum had to be six feet across. I was livid with envy.

Maybe the daphnes need an occasional Rottweiler to stand in them to thrive like this?
Here is the man: surely a giant of American gardening by any measure. And a wonderfully good friend to many.

The vistas across this enormous garden are beautiful in all directions.

A look back towards the house, with a few of the "perched" trough gardens..

An enormous tufa garden full of saxifrages and other treasures...


A mini tufa garden to bring the surrounding one into perspective...

More views...What a place!?

A fascinating piece of tufa with calcified stems of Vernonia (says Tony--and who's to argue?) I believe they said this was to bu up for auction at the annual meeting.

A marvellous cactus bed.

Love them cacti!



Get a load of the fabulous Opuntia compressa lower right, next to an Eriogonum, but a variety of conifers further back, and a wonderful treeform Hydrangea: this garden has it all!

Lesquerellas and other westerners ramping around large Oil Shale boulders brought back from Garfield County Colorado in another giant trough.



A local Opuntia fragilis--I forgot to ask for a cutting! It would be fun to have one from Michigan.

The pit house had lots of bulbs coming on.


Some conifers in the pithouse and other shurbs.

Adonis amurensis had just popped...


There was a fabulous form of Helleborus foetidus all over the garden with deep red stems.

An enormous Abies koreana ''Horstmann's 'Silberlocke'
I was so proud of my squinny two foot specimen before I saw this...

Some wonderful conifer plantings--balm to winter eyes...

Yet another rock garden...

Another tufa garden...

Jacques and Tony in contemplation...(Sean Hogan lurking in the shadows beyond)

Yet another trough filled with tufa

Susann Devries on the right with pet in arms, talking to Tony
The last garden we visited was that of Rimmer and Susann Devries: on a city lot, it was brimming with bulbs and all manner of conifers and alpines. Rimmer grows many rare bulbs from seed--and they are coming on quickly! Susann shares in the garden--her passion is conifers.

A terrific spread of Eranthis hyemalis again...


Crocus abantensis
There is something of all styles of rock gardening here--I love the cushions, mats and conifers along with gnarly rocks.

Not sure what species--but delightful backlit.

Another colossal daphne. Harumph! Heck: it's bigger than the car! [this was identified by Rimmer as
Daphne x napolitana 'Bramdean'

Wonderful bulb frames filled with rarities

Endless pots of seedlings in the bulb frames.

Another iris to die for: who's ever heard of "Iris zagrica"? But I want it!

The Devries were justifiably proud of their brand new pergola--what a great place to sit and admire the plants!

I loved this elegant rock--and some very nice dwarf pines...

A very healthy Sarracenia bog--vicious creatures apparently need to be caged!
Rimmer has clarified that " the cage keeps the rabbits from eating the Lilium iridollae growing in the bog."  The pitcher plants are not as blood thirsty as I'd supposed!

Another fine spread of Eranthis...

A form of Galanthus elwesii

Gentiana acaulis budding up to bloom...

Chrysoplenium macrophyllum
There were large mats of this in some of the gardens, but this one in a pot had come into bloom--quite different from the yellow species found across the subarctic (including Colorado)...
More wonderful contrasting mounds and cushions (pines, daphne and silene?)

I believe this was Colchicum trigyna...another wonderful spring bloomer...

I'm sorry you've seen these gardens in midwinter: you can see a few more of these garden in full color on their newsletter, just click on this URL to access these. It will give you a sense of what I have NOT shown: but better yet...sign up for the AGM of NARGS and you can enjoy these in REALITY (imagine that)--as well as meeting up with fellow rock gardeners from around the World. You won't regret it...

Click HERE for more data on the annual meeting  See you in Ann Arbor!