Best Plants of 2017: The First Quarter

Fuchsia 'New Wind Chimes Dark Eye' shares a container
with Pelargonium 'Distinction'.
Looking back on the year of plants, I decided to choose two stand-outs for each month of 2017, and list them one quarter at a time, the same way I organize my plant photos.

During the winter, I keep a few dozen plants taken from cuttings and other new plants purchased just for the house.
Pelargonium 'Distinction' is pretty even without flowers.
For January, 2017 there was Fuchsia 'New Wind Chimes Dark Eye', impressive enough for just making it to January, but it actually offered up a few flowers while little else was in bloom.
Oxalis adenophylla asks little and performs
well in early winter.

I can't seem to get enough Pelargoniums (commonly known as geraniums), especially the fancy-leaved varieties. Some will even bloom, lightly and sporadically just to keep things interesting during the cold, dark months.

By February, a couple of little Oxalis (shamrocks) began to shine, producing leaves and flowers at the same time. My favorite is the species O. adenophylla, commonly known as wood sorrel. Although it is hardy, I can't imagine not planting where I can see it up close to appreciate its delicate-looking bluish leaves, which is the main attraction.

Another Pelargonium continues to impress, even sending up a few blooming stems. It's called 'Mosaic Silky', which I'm guessing refers to the leaves and flowers respectively. The pale green leaves are etched in white; its double flowers a mid-pink with petals as ruffled as the bows on a little girl's party dress.


Pelargonium 'Mosaic Silky' has flowers as pretty as its leaves.

Zephyranthes primulina is a pretty little flower that grows
easily from a bulb.
March can be a frustrating month. You've pretty much had it with winter, but if you're lucky you might be rewarded with blooms as impatient to get going as you are.

Such was the case in March, 2017 that my little pot of yellow rain lilies brightened up my days. Easy to grow from a tiny bulb, these little guys put on a subtle show throughout the summer after I'd put it outside.

Stinky heirloom Freesia, or Freesia
leichtlinii subsp. alba
looks better than it smells.
A match made in heaven occurred when I had unexpected success with a species Freesia. According to the botanists, this species is now called Freesia leichtlinii subsp. alba, meaning it's a subspecies of F. Leichtlinii. Whatever. I heard it was easier to grow than the colorful hybrids you see in bouquets, so I gave it a try. Amazingly, the pot of straggly leaves sent up some blooms in March! The only drawback is that I couldn't stand the smell. It's one of those scents that hit you like a ton of bricks, somewhat like paperwhites, which I also find offensive. I imagine if it were warm enough to put them outside, they might be enjoyable. I put them in the garage instead.




Love is Understood: Peony Book Both Beautiful and Informative

It's one of the prettiest books to come out in years. Sure, I might be prejudiced, but what peony-lover wouldn't love to receive Peony: The Best Varieties for Your Garden in their Christmas stocking? Authors David Michener and Carol Adelman combine their expertise to create a luscious and colorful immersion into the world of the peony.

Books like this one, along with print catalogs, and memories of my Grandma's peonies are what have encouraged my lifelong love of peonies. My peony passion hasn't wavered, and I still can't get enough of them--in pictures and in real life.

This latest book on my favorite flower, published by Timber Press just this year, is for those like me, who are already sold on peonies' allure. It also is for those who think all peonies flop in a rain shower, or haven't mastered the exclusions of ants in a bouquet. Michener and Adelman address these excuses for not growing this breathtaking flower.

But well beyond the tips and techniques are the photos and descriptions. The authors have chosen a wide selection of types, forms and colors; from heirloom varieties to the latest hybrids. Because it takes so long for a peony to go from promising seedling to available plant, the latest might include the beautiful 'Belleville' introduced by Harold Wolfe and Don Hollingsworth in 1988.

When it doesn't get as much sun as it likes, Peony 'Summer Glow'
will benefit from support
The newest also includes 'Carnation Bouquet'. This herbaceous variety, a double fragrant hybrid was introduced in 1996 and listed as needing support. And the thing about support, the authors say, is that some peonies, from old to new varieties, need it.

And in my opinion, such beautiful flowers are well worth the extra effort. For example, I have to stake the new Hollingsworth introduction, 'Summer Glow' even though it is one of those labeled, "support not needed" in Peony: The Best Varieties for Your Garden. It's because of what the authors call "shade creep," a phenomenon many gardeners contend with.

David Michener is associate curator at the University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum and is overseeing the rejuvenation of the historic Peony Garden. The garden, which I've visited several times, is the largest public collection of historic herbaceous peonies in North America.

Carol Adelman and her husband own and operate Adelman Peony Gardens near Salem, OR, where they grow nearly 500 varieties of peonies. I had the pleasure of visiting their growing fields in the spring of 2007.

Tree peony 'Door County Sunset'.
In the Tree Peony category, the authors include several new varieties, most by William Seidl, of Manitowoc, WI. Mr. Seidl passed away in October, 2016, leaving a legacy that included dozens of tree peonies. My first introduction to one of Seidl's peonies was in 2010 at the American Peony Society's convention in Janesville, WI.

I'm looking forward to acquiring some of William Seidl's new hybrids, introduced between 1989 and 2013.

And that's what the best gardening books do--encourage you to plant more, grow more, and learn more about the flowers that evoke the most emotion. In this case, peonies.

If I hadn't already received a review copy of Peony: The Best Varieties for Your Garden, I would certainly include it on my Christmas gift list.

How Does Your Garden Grow When The Sunshine Fades?

Peony 'Tom Cat' was smothered in blooms in 2012.
When we chose this house 17 years ago, I dug up the Hostas that were running roughshod over the garden and replaced them with sun-loving peonies, ornamental grasses, lilies and cone flowers. I dotted the gardens with dwarf conifers, and tucked in a few butterfly bushes, more peonies, and anything else that caught my fancy.

These lilies have been the same size for three years.
It took 17 years to come to grips with the reality--I was losing the light. The pin oaks on our wooded lot grew and grew, eventually cutting off any chance of a good day of full sun. It was hard to see the growth, but the result was undeniable. My peonies produced fewer flowers. Everything flopped. Reaching toward the sun, for a plant stem, is tiring business. They'd sacrificed important load-bearing cells as they stretched out to attain that all important sunshine.

Four years ago I had options for sun-loving plants.
One indication of my plants' plight is the number of plant stakes I'd accumulated. Over the past three years, everything has had to be propped to the nth degree. I was supporting dozens of plants that had no business requiring assistance. Some, like the Buddleia, defied gravity and stood strong, even producing a good amount of flowers. It got to the point that even the short Zinnias threatened a swoon if they didn't have a fence of crutches to lean on.

Some of my favorite lilies disappeared, while others bloom without thriving or producing new bulbs as they'd be doing if they were truly happy.

After acquiring an average of three new herbaceous peonies each year for the first 12 years, I switched to tree peonies, as they purportedly didn't need as much sun. I guess it speaks highly of them that the flowers were so big I had to stake the stems. I've curtailed my peony collection, and have even been digging a few up to sell on eBay.



Baptisia overshadows the three year-old peony.
I tried to dig up a seven year-old false indigo (Baptisia) but it wouldn't budge. Now, after it blooms, I cut it back so it doesn't drape over everything within a 10-foot radius. It looks terrible for about three weeks, but at least the peony I unthinkingly planted nearby will have a chance at life.














Garden Without Deer...and Unsuspecting Sisters... You Can Grow That!

I wish I'd been home when it happened. My sister Donna was visiting from Michigan and hadn't gotten out of bed yet when I realized we needed creamer. I returned from the store to find her looking like she'd been involved in a water balloon fight. One side of her hair was flattened and soggy, her shorts were drenched on one hip and she greeted me wringing out the front of her shirt. And I'd only been gone a few minutes.

"I was strolling in your garden," she said. But her tone was accusatory.

"Did it rain here," I asked, thinking perhaps we had finally had an anticipated cloudburst while I was in the store.

"I thought you got a new garden ornament--something abstract, but with eyes," she said. "I was standing there with my cup of coffee and stooping down for a closer look..."

"Oh no!" I exclaimed. "The Scarecrow!"

"Is that what you call it," she asked, more calmly now and with her humor and dignity returning.

I explained that the Scarecrow is the name given by Ortho for its deer deterrent sprinkler that emits a high pressure spray of water along with a sound whenever a deer (or unsuspecting garden stroller) was detected.

"Did you finish your garden stroll," I asked her.

She hadn't, which is a good thing, because she might have thought I was out to get her. I also had one of the new Havahart Spray Away Motion Activated Sprinklers near the tomatoes. The regular Havahart Spray Away works much like the Ortho Scarecrow. It has additional features like a lighted low-battery system, adjustable sensor and larger coverage area. If my sister had encountered the Havahart model first, she probably wouldn't have gone in for a closer look. The Spray Away looks very much like what it is, its red light and sensor right up front and making no attempt to look like a garden ornament. I am still experimenting with its range and peripheral vision, and it seems to detect movement only in front of its sensor, while the Scarecrow goes off in a more unpredictable fashion--not a bad thing for deterring savvy deer or other wildlife.
Havahart Spray Away Motion Activated Sprinkler

Both systems must be connected to a hose, and I've added shut off toggles to each of them so that I can disarm them before entering the garden. I've gotten used to the last spurt remaining after turning them off from the hose connections. On warm days, their ineffectual final burst is refreshing.
Clever shut-off system.

The sprinklers were sent to me by the companies that make them. But if that had not been the case, I would have invested in them anyway.

I've been using the  Scarecrow for two seasons, the Havahart Spray Away for just a month. The models that require a hose hook-up are priced around $60 each. Google them and you'll find both available at a fairly wide range of prices.
The hose-free sprinkler is much pricier, coming in at no less than $160. When the Scarecrow first came out many years ago, it could be had for around $100. Contech has perfected it since then and lowered its price. If I had to choose between the two hose hook-up models, it would be a toss-up. Of course, if I'd chosen the Havahart, I wouldn't have gotten to enjoy envisioning my sister's surprise as she bent in for a closer look at my new "garden ornament."

This blog is part of the You Can Grow That campaign where garden bloggers gather to offer their insights, experiences and photographs. Check out the link for more offerings.



Flowers and Spirits in Northwest Michigan

While our vacation this year to the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan wasn't to visit flower farms (it was too late in the season to have that much going on.), I was able to revisit one I'd discovered a couple of years ago.

The area, which contains a clutch o.f charming towns, has become known for its wine producers, with a generous supply of wineries in a variety of sizes. 

We even visited a distillery in Lake Leelanau called Northern Latitudes. I tasted a few of their offerings, and ended up purchasing Limoncello di Leelanau, Mackinac Island Fudge Liqueur, and Horseradish Flavored Vodka, which I'm told makes wonderful Bloody Marys. 

Pre-distillery, I visited Omena Cut Flowers.
Just down the road in Leeland, my designated driver and I stopped in at Good Harbor Vineyards, where I tasted a few wines and staggered to the car with a box holding a 2016 Pinot Gris, a red blend called Collaboration, and a Pinot Noir Rose, plus some stemless wine glasses with doggie paw prints. 

That afternoon of tasting taught me three things: It's not much fun to taste alcohol, no matter how good, by yourself; it might be a good idea to limit tastings to fewer than two per hour, and I'm a serious lightweight where alcohol is concerned.

Zinnias, Scabiosa, Lisianthus and Dahlias from
Omena Cut flowers lasted more than a week in a vase.
Before I put myself into an alcoholic stupor, we found ourselves in Sutton's Bay, where Carolyn Faught operates a u-pick farm she started 20 years ago. Omena Cut Flowers is a place for brides and florists alike, while locals and visitors to the beautiful area come by for a bunch or an armful throughout the growing season.

I was happy to see her farm was still going strong, with a few Zinnias, Dahlias, and a smattering of smaller flowers numerous enough to make a bouquet that lasted more than a week. They traveled home with us, where I added a few flowers of my own to make a bounteous bouquet.






T

What Would Your Shed Look Like?

Dictionary.com offers up two conflicting description of the word SHED as:  
1.a slight or rude structure built for shelter, storage, etc
2. a large, strongly built structure, often open at the sides or end.
Vocabulary.com defines a shed as:
an outbuilding with a single story; used for shelter or storage. The site goes on to list five types of shed, including an apiary or bee house, a boathouse, coal house, toolhouse or toolshed and a woodshed (which, for some reason is described as storing firewood AND garden tools). 

Have you heard of she-sheds? Other terms include hen hut, and lady lair, but it’s a structure, typically built in the backyard, that can be designed with a look that's anywhere between a hut and a palace. Why the apparent trend? Lots of reasons, many of which I can rattle off from my own life, including: I had to always share a room with my sisters, I can think better without distractions, (including laundry that needs to be done and deadlines that need to be stretched), and I could decorate it any way I want. I'd describe it as an adult playhouse. Whether it is a structure for women is up for grabs in my mind. But if a man designed it for himself, it would reflect his taste and hobbies. But it would be called a "man cave." Whatever.

In her book, She Sheds: A Room of Your Own, Erika Kotite presents examples of sheds built by and for women all over the world. From a reinvented corn crib and transformed metal shed to built-from-scratch retreat, the sheds in the book are as diverse as their uses. Kotite was interviewed on Central Texas Gardener, where she explained a bit about how the idea came into being.
If I had a she-shed, it would have a double entry, the first one a netting curtain to discourage the mosquitoes. It wouldn’t deter them. Not much does that. But it would at least slow them down and possibly lower the number of blood suckers from following me into my sanctuary. The vestibule, let’s call it, will contain a few plants. Shade-lovers, but disposable from year to year. These, I hope will serve to distract the mosquitoes while I dart into the shed.
My shed would be modeled somewhat like the Year-Round Potting Shed on page 32 of the book She Sheds. One of the features I liked is the spigot so conveniently located on the outer shed wall. 
One of the sheds (pages 104-109) in Kotite's book even features a bathroom, a fully-functioning kitchen, and a sofa bed! Hmm... It sounds tempting.
My shed would be brightly lit, courtesy of a series of awning style windows on three sides to provide a nice cross-draft.
Furniture inside couldn’t be too frou-frou. We have lots of humidity, so it would be the outdoor type--two tables flanking an anti-gravity chair, which I find really comfortable. Okay, I’ll make sure there is enough room for a second chair. I would want flexibility, so there would be a two-person settee that can be hoisted up to the ceiling and out of the way unless I need seating for four.
This gorgeous, working sink would have
a cutting board that would slide to close
it for added work space.
There would be one large, lazy ceiling fan that would not infringe on the ability to hoist the two-seater. And it wouldn’t make a sound. My shed's walls would be insulated, the insulation sandwiched between the siding and wood paneling painted white. The walls would have places for movable shelves and bins that could contain books, light throws, pillows, caps, and containers for fresh cut flowers.
The dominant and most used feature would be a Butcher block counter and a comfy bar stool with a back. The counter would have boarded in storage below with a little door that allowed access to a trashcan. The counter would have a hole covered by a tight-fitting lid that would be flush with the table surface. This would be for cutting flowers, and easily pitching the scraps to clean up in between vases. 
Of course, I'd landscape around it, so the windows would have window boxes. There would be a door large enough to put the lawnmower inside, but the lawnmower would be a rechargeable electric type so there'd be no gasoline smell. The place for the mower would be walled off from the rest of the space, and be just large enough to store the mower with an electrical outlet so it could be charged. There would also be at least two outlets in the main area.
That's all I have for now. But as soon as my fantasy builder finishes the outside of my fantasy shed, I'm sure I'll think of additional features. She Sheds: A Room of Your Own offers instructions on how to build a shed from a kit and some pretty cool options for windows, flooring and more. There are lots of books out there about sheds, but Kotite's book provides a ton of ideas and inspirations. If I had one, I'd consider it one of my best coffee table books. Since I don't She Sheds is one of a handful of books that will be left near my reading spot. 

Into the Garden, Potted and Pruned

You don't have to live a gardening life to appreciate the chapters in Potted and Pruned by Carol J. Michel. It's one of those little books you can carry around and read, snippet by snippet, when you have a spare minute or two. Or leave on the nightstand to sample before falling asleep. Chances are, you'll drift off with a smile and wake up with a new way of looking at things.

From the first chapter when Michel admits to being an eccentric gardener, to the ending with a prompt to garden forward, Michel's missives make you think. And she knows how laughter makes thinking much more pleasant.

Take Chapter 27, The Gardening Equation. Michel actually comes up with an equation, which scared the heck out of me at first, until I realized it contained no x's or y's, meaning it probably wasn't one of those quirky conundrums that gave me nightmares in school. So I figured at first that it was a Dave Barry-style chapter. (I'd describe Barry as a humor writer who makes the ridiculous sublime.)


But no. Chapter 27's equation works--and without having Bob get on a train and figure out when he'll get to Poughkeepsie if the wheels rotate 27,386 times.  Michel points out (but in a nice way) that you don't have to be a math major to figure out how much mulch to buy to cover, say, the row of yews in front of your house. But this chapter is essential if you think you might be doing something wrong, or even if you're not certain you should grow anything at all for fear of being ridiculed by your neighbors.

While long-time gardeners will see themselves in most of the chapters, Michel hopes her book also might fall into the hands of the "Great Ungardened." She doesn't use the term in a negative way, but as a way to describe anyone whose interest is piqued by a potted plant or even by the concept of growing a few vegetables.

Potted and Pruned: Living A Gardening Life is a small book that packs a big inspiration. It's best taken in a bit at a time, like a recipe book for ideas and little stories you'll find amusing, sentimental, or just what you needed to coax you into the garden.

More of Carol Michel's work can be found at her award-winning blog site, www.maydreamsgardens.com.

What do Hummingbirds Like?



Gladiolus 'Atom' tempted hummingbirds in mid-summer.

The hummingbird and I scared each other this afternoon when he buzzed around the corner and right past my ear. He was busy, as most hummers always seem. Only this time of year, he's stocking up for his journey to a warmer place.

Fuchsia magellinaca 'Riccartonii' is considered hardy, but only to Zone 7.

Nasturtium 'Troika' bloomed all summer and into fall,
luring hummingbirds to their nectar.
I really thought he had already left, which is why I brought in the Fuchsia. The Salvia he likes are still in big-time bloom, but I grew four different varieties of Fuchsia in pots that I'm sure he'd love to visit. I hurriedly dragged them out of the garage.

Looking back over the summer, I got the feeling I'd let the little guy down because I'd concentrated on flowers for cutting, and plants with gorgeous leaves. But here are several I know any self-respecting hummingbird would never pass up.

Justicia carnea reaches just 12" tall in a summer, but what a bloom! 

Justicia brandegeeana, or shrimp plant.

Digitalis, or foxglove.
There is nothing like Salvia to make hummingbirds come buzzing over. 
Kniphofia 'Echo Yellow' (torch lily) has the
hummingbird's favorite flower shape.









Cape fuchsia (Phygelius x rectus) 'Winchester Fanfare'
is hardy to Zone 7, but made it through our mild winter.












Scadoxus (blood lily) grows from a bulb native to South Africa. It is related to Amaryllis.

Digging Tropical Flower Bulbs for Storage

I especially wanted to save Gladiolus 'Atom'.
Digging bulbs can be be a cinch if you know where you planted them. I grew several non-hardy bulbs this summer, some of which were hard to find, tricky to cultivate, or incredibly attractive, making me want to grow them again. 

Two of the tropical bulbs I planned to dig and store were the Gladiolus, especially the varieties 'Atom', 'Starface' and 'Lucky Star'; and Peruvian daffodils (botanically Hymenocallis.) 

Gladiolus 'Starface'
I'd never gone to the trouble of digging Glads before, but I'm completely in love with the lipstick red 'Atom' with its delicate white edging. The variety called 'Starface' is one I don't plan to be without, with its tropical peach and yellow coloration.

Gladiolus 'Lucky Star'

And then there is 'Lucky Star', which actually bloomed twice from one bulb and has such a non-glad look I couldn't let it go.

It made it easier when it came time to dig the glads because I'd left the foliage on the bulbs so I could find them. Here are a few handy tips you might find helpful:
Gladiolus corms after digging
  1. If you even think you might be digging bulbs in the fall, leave at least part of the stem on the plant. In the case of Gladiolus, it's easy, as healthy leaves don't detract from the garden, nor do they take up much space. But there's another advantage to leaving on the leaves. They take up and store nutrients gathered from the sun, shoring up strength in the bulbs for next year.
  2. Use a digging fork and dig a few inches further out from where you imagine the bulbs are so you don't skewer any of them. 
  3. Let the bulbs dry for a couple of days before storing them, making sure any soil that might have adhered to them is removed. I didn't rinse the Gladiolus bulbs (more accurately called corms) because I can't count on any dry, sunny days in late October.
  4. Finally, during the summer, take photos of the flowers from bulbs you might want to save so that you remember where they are in your garden. It will also remind you how pretty they are. 

Hymenocallis front and center, just weeks
after I'd planted the bulbs.
The other tropical bulbs I planned on digging were the Peruvian daffodils, or Hymenocallis 'Sulphur Queen'. I'd planted the three large bulbs in a large container with other plants, and amazingly it bloomed by late May.

The Peruvian daffodil put out two stems with blooms out of the three bulbs I planted. But they lasted a nice, long time.


The problems arose when I went to dig the bulbs up to store indoors for winter. The foliage had died back in July, and by October the only thing left on the surface were a few limp, dead leaves. I knew the bulbs were down there, but they seemed to have sunk to a level I couldn't reach without dumping the entire container upside down and then prying the clump of bulbs from the cold, damp soil's grasp.

Three bulbs became several, but the original three were the only ones of good size. Then I read that the most successful method of overwintering Hymenocallis was in soil, so I planted them in potting soil to which I'd added medium granite chicken grit for drainage and watered them very lightly, just until water came out of the bottom of the pots.

Next season, the Hymenocallis will get their own pot, either one large container for all of the bulbs, or two of medium size. They'll be much easier to store for winter that way.
Hymenocallis 'Sulphur Queen'
Freshly dug Hymenocallis bulbs.
It could be awhile before I can actually put these bulbs and corms to bed for the winter. They're not completely dry yet, and it hasn't stopped raining since I dug them up. I'm sure I'll find a way though. I'm really looking forward to growing them again next season.

Blooming Potential in Succulents

Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy' flower.
While many of my inside plants got to play outside for the summer, a few hung out on the light table. Two are blooming now!

Echeveria runyonii ‘Topsy Turvy’, which I bought last November, sent up a shoot in early September and has been putting on a show for weeks, each flower, from the bottom up, opening slower than a striptease.


It's a busy time of year for plants. Some have already been brought indoors, as others hover in plant purgatory, waiting to make as sure as I can that they don't have bugs. 

I've dosed anything that is remotely a candidate for wintering indoors with a systemic insecticide. There, I've admitted it. The sprinkle-on-the-top-of-the-soil-and-water-in product is just part of the arsenal of prevention I engage in throughout the winter. 

Meet Sandy, wintertime host of Albuca spiralis.

Yes, I'll admit that, 
in my heart, indoor plants are a tad more valuable that the ones I've left outside to fend for themselves--even the hardy ones. Those are like the Cubs to a life-long fan--not expecting much but a happy surprise if they're successful. 


Back to the indoor candidates and graduates. One I brought back with me from Arizona, called Albuca spiralis 'Frizzle Sizzle', pretended to bite the dust in late spring, but valiantly began to sprout little stems from the top of what looks like a bald bulb, somewhat like Ryne Sandberg, only with a bright green scalp. 



Albuca spiralis sprouts from its little green "head."

I'm enthusiastic about 'Frizzle Sizzle', not just because of its cool name, but because it turns out it did what it was supposed to in summer. It went dormant. That is, its leaves fell off and it just sat there and did nothing. It's winter-growing, you see, and according to Fred Dortort in The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World, it produces dramatically spiraled rosette of narrow leaves around the time is spring flowers begin to fade. 

It didn't flower last spring, probably because I ripped the poor thing from the Arizona climate in the middle of winter. It spent the past seven months recuperating from the shock. Albuca spiralis, which shares a family with asparagus, is from South Africa, a place I've become particularly interested in for its really cool plants.


Faucaria tigrina shares a pot with other succulents.
Another South African plant is Faucaria tigrina, also known as tiger's jaws, or shark's jaws. It lived indoors during the summer, and was therefore kept bug-free, green and compact with the lights close above the pot. It's a pretty fast grower, and soon will outgrow its container.

Many plants won't bloom until they're pot bound, and it could be true with tiger's jaws. It shares a small terracotta container with several small succulents, but that didn't stop it from sprouting bright yellow flowers that demand attention. They close up at night or when I turn the lights out. 


Faucaria tigrina in bloom.
Even though November is breathing down our necks, I'm getting little signs of spring, thanks to plants from another part of the world.









The Four-Season Maple

If you're looking for a tree that stands out in every season, find yourself a paperbark maple. Botanically called Acer griseum, it's a stunner from May, when its leaves begin to slowly unfurl, the horticultural version of a fan dance.

Plant just about anything beneath it for an instant vertical accent--coppery hues of curled bark, like cinnamon far from Ceylon.

Beginning in October, the leaves slowly change--darkening and becoming mottled in bright pumpkin shades before turning to bright orangey-red.