Rare opportunity to see blooming satsuki bonsai azalea

I think just about everyone enjoys looking at bonsai, the Japanese art of growing miniature trees in containers, Even those who are not particularly interested in plants will stop and take a second look at bonsai.

The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens near Ann Arbor, is offering a rare treat this month, Magnificent Miniatures a showing of satsuki bonsai azaleas in full bloom.

satsuki bonsai

The plants are on loan from Dr. Melvyn Goldstein a renowned bonsai collector from Ohio.

satsuki bonsai

The bonsai are flowering right now. And like other flowering plants, the flowers only last for a short period of time.

satsuki azalea bonsai

The show is free and runs from June 6 through June 14, 10 am – 8 pm daily. It’s an easy drive to the Gardens from anywhere in southeastern Michigan. The address is 1800 N. Dixboro Road, Ann Arbor.

It might not be a bad idea to call ahead to make sure the bonsai are still blooming 734-647-7600.


Behind the scenes at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Mark May 10 on your calender, although it is probably already marked. That’s because it’s Mother’s Day and by default, Mother’s day is always shown on all calenders.

However, there is another reason to mark that day. It is weekend of the annual Spring Plant Sale that happens at University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.

Recently, I had a chance to go behind the scenes and got to see how preparations were coming along for the Spring Plant sale.

The day I was there, staff and volunteers were tending thousands of growing plants. They were also designing and planting many, many hanging baskets and containers for the fund raiser.

Collections and natural Areas Specialist Adrienne O'Brien leads a team of University of Michigan student workers and adult volunteers that plan, plant, grow  and design containers and potted plants for the plant sale.
Collections and natural Areas Specialist Adrienne O’Brien leads a team of University of Michigan student workers and adult volunteers that plan, plant, grow and design containers and potted plants for the plant sale.

The sale is a great excuse to take a trip to the Gardens. See you out there.


Driving south to Florida this month? Stop at Imaginary Worlds in Atlanta

If you are planning to drive south this month to escape the winter, you might want to think about adding a stop at the Atlanta, GA Botanical Gardens to experience the Imaginary Worlds exhibition.


Topiary Cobra
Topiary Cobra

Thousands of annuals are growing on metal forms covered with netting and growing medium to bring to life fanciful sculptures.

The topiary sculptures are made from individual plants.
The topiary sculptures are made from individual plants.

The gardeners/artists of the Atlanta Botanical Gardens teamed up with International Mosaciculture of Montreal to create fabulous  works of living art.

Earth Goddess
The Earth Goddess is 25 feet tall.


Imaginary Worlds is the first major exhibition of its kind in the U.S.

Gorillas in the garden.
Gorillas in the garden.

There is only a small window of opportunity left though, the giant topiary exhibition Imaginary Worlds closes at the end of October.



Matthaei Botanical Gardens blooming agave

A few days ago, I had a chance to see the blooming agave plant at University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens Desert House — the one you’ve been hearing everyone talking about.

The agave leaves have a rare variegated green and white color.
The agave leaves have a rare variegated green and white color.

When I first saw this plant over 30 years ago, it was already 50 years old. Through the years it didn’t appear to change much but of course it has been growing and maturing all that time. Now after 80 years, it is finally blossoming.

It has produced a flower stalk so tall that they’ve had to take out some roof glass from the greenhouse in order to give it more room to grow.

The flower stalk has grown through the roof of the conservatory.
The flower stalk has grown through the roof of the conservatory.

I encourage you to get out to the Botanical Gardens and see it. This type of agave blooms only once in its lifetime and then it dies. So, when it’s over, it’s over.

The flowers are producing an abundance of real agave nectar, not the manufactured stuff you find in the store.
The flowers are producing an abundance of real agave nectar, not the manufactured stuff you find in the store.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located on Dixboro Road south of Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, directions and hours are available on their website.


Conservation District Tree Sale Seedlings

The trees I ordered from the Monroe Conservation District arrived Friday. I drove over to pick them up first thing in the morning and got there shortly after they opened the doors.

My package  contained 50 trees — 25 white pine  and 25 white cedar– so it was small enough to carry in one hand. The tree seedlings look beautiful.

I placed my seedlings in a bucket of water for a while to re-hydrate them a bit before planting.

White pine grows very fast in our sandy, somewhat acid soil. I have never planted white cedar here but I’m sure that they will do well too.

Fifty seedlings doesn’t take too long to plant. I noticed other folks picking up orders that were much larger than mine. Some had several gunny sacks worth of seedlings. I mentioned to one fellow walking out with a large order that it looked like he had a big project on his hands — he just grunted and walked out to his truck with the last of his order.

Judy and I planted our  seedlings Saturday morning. The cool weather this week will help them get off to a great start.





30th Annual Plant Sale

Still not decided what to do for Mother’s Day Weekend? Why not take Mom out to the big plant sale at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.

This is a wonderful chance to see what’s new in the world of horticulture  and purchase some plants that may be very hard to find elsewhere.

Members of the Gardens get to look everything over on Friday evening and make their purchases first before the rest of the public is let in. Here’s a little secrete: if you are not a member, you can show up on Friday anyway and sign up for your  membership right there at the door and they will let you in with full Member’s privileges…just as if you were a 30-year member!

Member’s night runs 3PM-7PM Friday May 7th. Along with all of the plants there will be a Party (members only of course) featuring Grizzly Peak Brewing Company, Sandhill Crane Vineyards, and refreshments by Angel Food Catering (Michigan Radio Network is also a sponsor).  Plus there will be discounts on plant sale purchases and gift memberships that evening as well.

Since the Sale takes place under a huge tent, it will go on rain or shine.

People are encouraged to bring along wagons or garden carts to carry their plant purchases.

The Sale continues Saturday from 9AM to 4PM and Sunday 10AM to 4PM.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road, call them if you get lost along the way ;): 734-647-7600.

See you out there.


Agriculture and Natural Resources Week

The 95th annual Agriculture and Natural Resources Week began Friday and runs though Saturday March 13 in East Lansing.

A wide variety of topics are being presented in a classroom setting including, herb gardening, small poultry flock management, horticulture therapy, general gardening and much more.

I remember attending back in the early 80’s when it was called “Farmer’s Week” so many  more areas of interest have  been added since those days.  If you have the time, I encourage you to attend.

There’s also a rabbit show, a wildflower conference, organic farming symposium, displays and more.  Most events are free of charge.


Become a Storm Spotter

We’ve all seen or heard the warnings…they go something like this: “a funnel cloud has been spotted 3 miles south-west of Carlton,  people in the path of the storm should take cover immediately”

Have you ever wondered who these people are who spot these weather events and how they get reported so quickly? Well, they are a combination of emergency personnel and regular folks who have an interest in the weather and  volunteer their time to watch out for the rest of us.

Last week I took the opportunity to join about 100 others  in the weather spotter training that was held in Monroe.  The class was taught by representatives of the  Detroit office of the National Weather service.  This two hour session was a great introduction to evaluating severe weather and how to report it. I have been wanting to do this for years and finally got the chance to do it.

You by no means become a severe weather expert like Dr Forbes of the Weather Channel. The class did inspired me to learn more about severe weather however.

In the meantime, I am certified as a storm spotter, all be it an un-experienced  one.

There are a number of classes scheduled in our area if you are interested in participating.  Admission is free.  Click here for the Spotter Training Schedule.


Soil Conservation District Tree Sales

You know spring can’t be far behind when the area Soil Conservation Districts have their annual tree sale.  Here’s the line up in our area for this spring.

The Monroe District deadline for ordering is March 22;  Lenawee District: March 19; Washtenaw District: March 18;  Wayne County: Mid May  ;  Lucas County Ohio: April 2.

Other Districts in Michigan can be found here.

The Soil Conservation sales give the general public an opportunity to purchase tree and shrub seedlings that would otherwise be difficult for us to find.  Proceeds from these sales help fund various conservation and environmental educational programs.