Wednesday, July 1, 2015

With a Flourish of Color and Form, the Great Lakes Gardens at Matthaei Bloom throughout the Season

By Ryan Kuesel

Matthaei-Nichols student intern Ryan Kuesel is working in the Great Lakes Gardens at Matthaei Botanical Gardens this summer. The Great Lakes Gardens features plants native to our region and recreates the habitats in which they grow, such as dune, wetland, limestone plain, prairie, and others. Ryan’s photo gallery, taken over several weeks, reveals the amazing diversity of Great Lakes native flora. Scroll through to see what's blooming today, and what to expect in the spring and late summer.

Here in the Great Lakes Garden, our team of volunteers, staff and interns has been working to create botanically diverse display gardens that are representative of the many unique natural environments present in Michigan and the Great Lakes. Many of these plants and their habitats are either hard to access in the wild or require a long road trip to see in their natural state. However, we believe that these ecosystems are both beautiful and fascinating, and we hope to share some of that wonder and excitement with you. Perhaps after seeing each unique ecosystem in miniature at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, you will be inspired to make the trip and see one or more ecosystems in their full grandeur somewhere in Michigan!

As a recent graduate from Michigan’s Ecology and Evolutionary Ecology program, I have had many opportunities to explore and learn about the natural areas of Michigan. The most memorable and astounding were the daily trips into the wilderness of northern Michigan with my Field Botany class at Michigan’s biological station. As someone who has personally explored and learned about the flora of the many habitats showcased in the Great Lakes Gardens, I am excited to be able to assist in creating little pieces of each here in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. And if you need a little more encouragement to make a trip to see some of the environments in their natural form, I can vouch for their beauty!

As summer kicks into full swing the gardens have metamorphosed through different stages of color. While vibrant hues once lay at your feet in the early spring when ephemeral wildflowers bloomed, the buds of shrubs and tall herbs are now beginning to open. A range of colors are here for your enjoyment now, and you can watch over the next few weeks as more plants begin to open their blossoms, adding to the spectrum of the garden.

Here we’d like to show you just a snapshot of the spring flowers that have flowered and faded, the colors that spot the garden today, and the buds that are waiting to burst into vibrancy soon. All of the images were taken within the Great Lakes Garden this spring and summer.

Spring Ephemerals and other Early Bloomers: Spring ephemerals are perhaps better known as spring wildflowers. They pop early in the spring before the leaf-cover appears to block the sun they need to thrive. The ephemerals die back or drop their flowers quickly as shade begins to take over the understory. Anyone who’s ever gone looking for wildflowers in local nature preserves knows that these colors don’t last long. But, when you find a large patch of their blossoms, or just scattered spots of their color, their vibrancy is matched by few natural wonders. Come visit the gardens next spring to see these in person!
Dutchman's-Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria): 
Oddly-shaped flowers of the Dutchman's-Breeches

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis): Short, white blossoms of the Bloodroot.

Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris Lacustris): Short, showy bloom of the Dwarf Lake Iris.

Lakeside Daisy (Tetraneuris herbacea): Short, yellow heads of the Lakeside Daisy.
Marsh-Marigold (Caltha palustris ): Plentiful, yellow blossoms of the Marsh-Marigold.
Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum): These strange tufts of purple hairs are the flowers of Prairie Smoke.

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata): Tall, showy blooms of the Wild Blue Phlox.

Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis): Purple flowers and hairy seed pods of the Wild Lupine.
Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum): 

Brilliant and delicate flower of the Yellow Trout Lily.

Yellow Lady Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum): Unique, shoe-shaped blossoms of the Yellow Lady Slipper.

Currently Flowering: These plants currently have their colors on display in the garden. While the understories of forests bloom with color in early spring, currently Michigan’s grasslands, shorelines, wetlands, and sand dunes are in bloom. Some plant species hold on to their flowers for a long time while others come and go quickly. Warm, sunny weather tends to speed up their cycle, while cool, moist weather tends to keep them flowering for longer. Come visit today to see these in person!

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): Yellow heads of the Black-Eyed Susan.

Blue-Eyed-Grass (Sisyrinchium albidum): Small, violet flowers of the Blue-Eyed-Grass.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa): Showy, orange clusters of the Butterfly Milkweed.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca): Round, purple clusters of the Common Milkweed.

Common Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis): Purple, three-petaled flowers of the Common Spiderwort.

Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus): 
Plentiful white and yellow heads of the Daisy Fleabane.

Foxglove Beard-Tongue (Penstemon digitalis): Large, white blossoms of the Foxglove Beard-Tongue.

Golden Ragwort (Packera paupercula): Small, yellow flowers of the Golden Ragwort.

Indian-Hemp (Apocynum sibiricum): Small, white clustered flowers of the Indian-Hemp.

Kalm's St. John's-Wort (Hypericum kalmianum): Plentiful, yellow blooms of the Kalm's St. John's-Wort

Lake Huron Tansy (Tanacetum bipinnatum): 
Tall clusters of yellow heads on the Lake Huron Tansy.

Limestone Calamint (Clinopodium arkansanum): Tiny, purple flowers of the Limestone Calamint
Prickly-Pear (Opuntia humifusa):
Large, yellow blossoms spout from the tip of the Prickly-Pear cactus.

Silverweed (Argentina anserina): 
Yellow flowers crawl along the ground on the Silverweed.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): 
White flower cluster of the Yarrow.

Late Bloomers: Many plants such as blazing stars, asters, and goldenrods bloom in late July to early August. Come back in a few weeks to see their blossoms!

Common Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum): 
Distinct white clusters will dot the Common Mountain Mint.

Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum): 
Large, sunflower-like blossoms will top the Compass Plant.
Culver's-Root (Veronicastrum virginicum): 
Large, purple flower clusters will top the Joe-Pie-Weed.

Joe-Pye-Weed (Eutrochium maculatum): 
Large, purple flower clusters will top the Joe-Pie-Weed.

Marsh Blazing-Star (Liatris spicata): 
Frilly, purple spikes will cap the Marsh Blazing-Star.

Ohio Goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis ): 
Clusters of tiny yellow flowers will top the Ohio Goldenrod. 
This one's a little early. 

Prairie-Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum): 
Showy, yellow heads will top the Prairie-Dock.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Shakespeare in the Arb Awakens Caretaker's Inner Poet

Hark! Yon Workday Report. 

Nichols Arboretum caretaker Stevia Morawski reveals that after watching Shakespeare in the Arb twice a week for an entire month her workday reports start to veer toward the poetical. In honor of Shakespeare in the Arb, and with suggestions from intern Jared Aslakson, this is Stevia's versiful version of last weekend's dame's rocket pull:

We drove through fields, to farmhouse red, where grass and milkweed lay,
We peeked o'er green, our eyes did see our seeding, flowery prey

Three strong we were, with volunteers, caretakers madeth five,
Our valiant goal, to leave no Dame, nor Rocket there alive

The poison ivy stopped us not, e'er luscious did it grow, 
We’d wash, we knew with sweet Tecnu before a rash could show

We strained, we pulled, we braved the rain, for all our selfless toil
The raspberries, with prickled leaves, didst lay our plans to foil.

Though strong we were, young buccaneers, tough botanists of Ann Arbor,
We could not broach the brambled wall, where Dames Rocket was harbored.

The noontime came and Summer's orb encroached upon its peak
Grinning with our leafy loot for havoc we did wreak 
Yet working past the noontime was a task we would not deign
With bounty bagged, we drove our truck to gardens once again.

Stevia Morawski
Dame's rocket.jpg
To be or not to be: dame's rocket

Jared Aslakson

Monday, June 8, 2015

What I Learned at the American Peony Society Judging

University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum student summer intern Zhenzhen Zhang enjoyed the rare opportunity to observe the peony cut flower judging sessions at the American Peony Society annual meeting in Louisville last May 2015. Zhenzhen recounts her experiences at the show.

My name is Zhenzhen Zhang and this summer (2015) I’m working as an intern in the University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden. I have an undergraduate degree in ornamental horticulture and I’m now pursuing a Master of Landscape Architecture in the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.

My undergraduate background has given me some knowledge of peonies. Moreover, peonies, especially the tree peony, originated in China.

Dr. David Michener, the curator at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum, invited me to the American Peony Society meeting this May. While there I had the rare opportunity to observe the peony judging process. It was an honor to be an observer of the judging and it provided me a lot of insight into the world of the peony as a cut flower in the U.S.

The grand champion—or “Queen of the Show”—at the APS convention was the variety ‘Salmon Dream’. This variety, pictured below, had a clean coral color and perfect symmetry.

Grand Champion - "Queen of the Show"
So what made this peony the Queen of the Show? Judging of cut peonies depends on several criteria. Before we talk about those criteria, let’s review the six peony bloom forms.

First is the single form. Singles in cultivation may have up to 15 petals (wild form 5 petals), with a saucer shape, pollen-bearing stamens, and functional carpels.
Single form peony

Next is Japanese form. Diagnostic of the Japanese form are staminodes—rudimentary or sterile stamens that do not produce pollen, which means there are transformed stamens in which that original is still recognizable.

Japanese form peony

The third is the anemone form. The stamen transformation has progressed to the point where all visible evidence of stamen origin, except for its yellow color, has disappeared.
Anemone form peony

The next is the bomb form. This form looks like a ball sitting on a plate.

The semi-double form has prominent stamens and a bulking of petalage (one of the segments of the corolla of a flower), an increased number of guard petals, or a guard petals structure which adds visual bulk to the flower.

The last one is double form, in which all stamens and carpels are transformed into petals.

We need to know these forms because they are the basis for classifying peonies. If the exhibitor places his or her peony in the wrong group—for instance mistaking a semi-double for a single—no matter how perfect the peony is, the flower loses any opportunity for an award.

Bomb form peony
Another factor in peony classification is its group---Lactiflora, Hybrid, Suffruticosa, Lutea; Moreover, the color is also considered in the classification, such as white, pink, and red.

Double form peony
Now to the peony judging. What do judges look for?

1. Form
The perfection of form is the most important to the judging process. This means petals must be uniform and symmetrical; Japanese and singles should be properly placed; doubles should have petals symmetrically arranged with edges re-curved with a rosebud center.

Semi-double form peony
Poor form will look ‘relaxed’ or drooping, and sometimes the stamens and staminodes are not firmly held. Cupped varieties should not be cupped to hide the center. Guard petals may have notching and uneven length.

2. Color
The color should be clear, clean, and fresh. Multi-colors should be harmonious. The texture of petals should be silken, with a velvet or satiny sheen.
Symmetrical, uniform.

3. Condition and Grooming
Flowers should be in fully mature and peak condition; fallen pollen indicates they are past prime. Judges also watch for bruised petals and dark spots; there should be no side buds.

Judging only considers the condition of the flower at the moment of judging, and does not take into consideration whether the flower would bloom nicely the following day, or whether it bloomed perfectly the day before.

Exhibitors came from all over the United States. Peonies from warmer climates  bloom earlier, while peonies from colder climates may bloom later. In order to make their own peonies show well at the judging, exhibitors employed methods to keep or force peonies to open. Delivery is also a time when peonies might be damaged. So attaining the best form, shape, and condition is challenging. What’s seen at the judging represents an entire year of preparation. They all deserve a reward!

Drooping petals
You can see some flowers in 
this white group are not pure 
white, so they are not good ones

A sample of Carol Adelman's peonies. Carol is owner
of Adelman's Peony Gardens in Oregon.
Examples of peonies belonging to another exhibitor.

The right one is not mature, so not blooming well.

Zhenzhen Zhang, from China, recently completed her first year in the Master of Landscape Architecture in the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment. She is working as an intern in the horticulture department, in particular in the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden. Zhenzhen is interested in ecological design and development.