Iris and Trillium at the Thompson's

I have visited hundreds of gardens in dozens of states and countries...any one of which has been a "favorite" for a while.  But right now (and perhaps forever), I believe my very favorite garden in the world is in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Andrea and her husband Jacques have created a haven that feels vast (and it is many acres I believe), every square inch of which seems to be perfectly planted with nary a weed the day I visited. Two more gracious and wonderful people you will never meet. And their dogs are pretty cool too! But what a garden! I am picking only two genera: Iris and Trillium, that happened to be in peak bloom on Mother's day when I visited. In Denver it was snowing and freezing new growth. In Ypsilanti it was Heaven on earth! Notice that each plant could win a medal in an British competition, and there are no end of choice plants!

  (After I first published my accounts of their garden, Jacques was inspired to add some text--which frankly thrilled me more than I can say! I am appending Jacques' commentary in blue after the appropriate pix: parallax rules!)

Most all of the Trillium grandiflorum in our garden (those which made large clumps), were castoffs from Dicks garden.  You are no doubt going to get tired of reading the name Dick in these pages.  It can’t be helped, as no discussion by me, about this garden can happen without repeated references to the man who had such a profound influence on my life, and our garden. Back in the mid-80’s, Tony Reznicek brought Andrea and me to meet Dick and experience his wondrous garden.  That was like bringing two magnets close enough together, and Snap!, we just clicked together and that meeting made all the difference.  Generous mentor, patient teacher, understanding friend, the person who knows all your quirks and likes you just the same.


We’d get together 2 to 3 times a week  for nearly 30 years.

Dick had a 7-acre plot of forested land within a much larger forested area.   He couldn’t add a plant to  his ‘garden it the woods’ without unearthing Trillium grandiflorum.  He’d toss them to the side and get on with planting whatever new plant was going in.  Often (day’s later), while we walked thru his garden checking out what was new, I would look around for these sometimes quite-sorry-looking castoff’s, gather them up, take them home and add them to my own garden.

Eventually I quit doing so as there were just too many.

The yellowing foliage in the foreground above is Corydalis solida ex ‘George Baker’, they love our clay loam soil and seed-about with great abandon.  Dick had given these to me, repeatedly,  as we had failed to notice that our gardens were in different time zones.

Even though  our gardens were only a 15-minute drive apart, Dick’s garden was on acid-sand and forested with primarily Quercus (huge, 20 -30ft. up to the first branch Quercus).  Whereas here, Andrea and I garden on clay-loam, and all of our big trees are conifers, mainly Picea abies.  Every spring the sun’s rays penetrated the bare forest canopy over Dick’s garden and quickly warmed up his light, sandy-soil.All of these big, brooding Spruce trees here,  stand guard, protecting the snow-cover from the warming sun’s rays.  And so while Dick’s garden is waking up, punching the clock and getting to work, its’ still “Snooze Ville” back in our garden.

As any gardener knows spring is the busiest of times, so much to do and we were both working on projects and not paying that close enough attention as to how things were proceeding, simultaneously, in our gardens.

It was Corydalis solida that (as they say), brought this to light for us.  As I mentioned earlier we got together often, and whenever possible, each visit started-off with a stroll thru the garden to see what’s recently come up.

We’d been the best of friends for over a decade by the time Dick had acquired Corydalis solida,  plenty long enough so that there was no hesitation.  If either of us caught sight of anything the other had, that we needed, ‘Oh, I’d like a piece of that”, it was automatic.

One early April morning, we are touring the backside of Dick’s rock garden, I catch sight of this bright, glowing, pink-red patch near the ground. “Wow” says I,  “You don’t have that ?” queries Dick. “Not yet” I reply. Out of his back pocket comes his ever-present trowel and dig, dig, and it’s onward we go.

Next year, early April, round the bend, (me) “Wow”!, (Dick)“You’ve got that”,  (me) “Nope” I say shaking my head back and forth, trowel whip, dig, dig, moving on.

Following  year, same time, same rock garden, same (me) ‘Wow”! (Dick) “I already gave that ,  didn’t I “?, (me) ‘It’s not in my garden”, out comes the trowel, dig, dig, and away we go to see what’s next. Within the week Dick would be over and we’d tour the garden and sure enough no glowing pink-red C. solidas.

Another early April visit to Dick’s garden,  you know the drill, ‘Wow” “I really like that”,  Dick  gives me a double take, “I’m sure I gave that to you”! (We could have sold tickets to this routine),  While I’m shaking my head, slowly the trowel emerges, poke poke, dig dig, “What are you doing, eating these things”? “Dick says in disbelief. “What can I say, I told you I got a brown thumb”.

Finally the late-April visit from Dick, We’ve just begun the tour in my garden, with shock Dick turns to me, “Hey you Turkey”! “I thought you didn’t have ‘George Baker’”!  “I got it form you” I say with genuine surprise.  “Looks like you got it from me a lot”!  And that’s when we realized how far apart our gardens were in time.


A sessile Trillium in front of a sea of Epimedium: wonderful foliage and flower contrasts throughout!


Trilliums & Epimediums also seem to enjoy clay-loam soil. Same area, however this is a different plant.  The Trillium in photo #2 is T. chloropetalum (from Nature’s Garden) , It’s also shown here, but now behind the bamboo stake along the right edge.

Another view of the same spot...


The Trillium here (centered )is T. sessile, a seedling from a couple of fine plants I  received from Steve Whitsell.

A similar vista nearby with Trillium luteum in a very greenish form...

 

I have never managed to catch seed of this very green flowered T. luteum.  I did however, divide this clump and I could send / bring you s copy of it if you so desire.


I love the brown seedling popping up among the blue SDB....

According to the label this is Iris missouriensis RMRP 99-615, but I’m pretty sure there was some mix up of seed or labeling.

"Not our best pink" aver the Thompsons. Pretty good to my eyes...


In fact this isn’t even T. g. ‘Roseum’.  Its just one of Dick’s castoff ‘s, making a fine clump and looking so rosy here due to the unusually cool sprig temps.



One of a half dozen clumps of Iris lacustris 'Alba' (they gave me a seedpot full of seedlings!)


Not a single seed pod on any of my Iris lacustris this year.


I'm sure this SDB has a name: tell me Kelly N. if you know!


It does and it’s ‘Boo’.  Though I could not locate the label, I believe I got this beauty from fellow Great Lakes Chapter members John & Laura Serowitz, who are NARGS members as well.  While we’re probably not on par with the Rocky Mountain Chapter when it comes to dual memberships,  the Great Lakes Chapter , like the “kids in Lake Wobegon”is above average.  We have an initiative that we’ll be trying out to promote more dual memberships within our chapter and the National.


Lots of trilliums in front, but get a load of those monster clumps of Podophyllum!


The Podophyllum is a Chen Yi acquisition, again Thanks to John & Laura Serowitz.  For a number of years they placed annual orders to Chen Yi and included many of our chapter members in those orders.

Stylophorum and Trillium grandiflorum pop up everywhere: such weeds!


As I said the Trillium from Dick’s woods really clump up fast!  Once he gave me a BIG clump that he dug from his woods that I divided into 20 separate, 2-3 stemmed plants.


More of those pesky weeds...

Part of a mass several meters across of Iris lacustris!


I still say this is a named form of I. cristata that I got form Holbrook Nursery back in the early 90’s.


Did I mention that Jack-in-the pulpits in a dozen forms were everywhere too?


Arisaema thunbergerii ssp urashima.  Arisaemas are dead easy from seed.  I raised these from a plant I got from Dick,  He had to give me several tubers over several occasions, no not that early spring thing again.  It took several tries to find the right spot for them, out soils are so different, it took a while for me to learn not to copy what Dick, or Tony or Fred were doing, but rather to adapt their practices to the very different conditions in this garden.



And yet once you get the plant established, and you get seedlings growing into and naturally selected to your own garden conditions, well, then you’ll start getting them everywhere they can grow.



Dick received the seed for his A. t. ssp.u’s  from fellow Great Lakes Chapter member Jim Briggs. Jim mailed the seed from Japan years ago, when  he was teaching English there.



Another massive mat of Iris lacustris 'Alba'


There are several clones of white-flowered I. lacustris in circulation.  This one seems to be pretty vigorous, and  it is the one that I had found the seed pods on.  It will be interesting to hear if it seeds true.  This clone was found as a chance seedling growing in the middle of a trail, not far from the Northwestern shore of Lake Huron.



Love this yellow SDB
There is something about pale yellow--just love it! I regret not sniffing it: the smell was undoubtedly lemony...



Me too! Odds are that this came to me from Dick who had a thing for Irises and yellow flowers in particular.  There is a bit of a problem with location labels this time of year.  The causes are two-fold.

First as I said before  I don’t like to see labels in our garden, so I bury them down in the mulch.  Secondly the limestone gravel mulch has set-up like concrete now that the droughts of July are upon us.



Back when these rock garden beds were constructed, I never thought to first lay down a fabric barrier over the ground.  The rock , sand and gravel were hauled in and laid down directly on-top of the clay-loam soil.  The plants really responded to 12 to 18” of lean, well draining soil.   However that changed as over the years, as ants and worms brought  the under-laying clay-loam  up into the sand and mulch.



In the spring and fall when there’s moisture in the surface of  these rockeries, I can scruffel-thru the 3-4” of  the amended mulch and most often come up with a label. Now that the  clay and gravel have dried –up and solidified, it would take a small pick to break up this mixture.



A symphony of foliage and flowers...


A collection of woodlanders.  The Trillium ludovicianum (I think) seeded itself into this tapestry.  It’s parents were “rescued” from a hillside in Northern Georgia.  The timber on those hills was scheduled to be cut for paper.



This one makes the perfect addition to this contrast of foliage with the neighboring Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’, A. ranunculoides.



Yet more trillium and poppy--joined here with Primula kisoana...
What a wonderful combo of spring color! Makes me homesick for April and May!

Next...the Thompson Daphne extravaganza!Stay tuned...

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