Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Rainy Day Tour

SJG - October colors (taken on a sunny day)
by aleks

Yesterday was raining cats and dogs and my calendar had 1:00 PM tour for Arboretum Foundation Unit 41; would they come in such weather?   The SJG docent group makes AF Unit 86 (that's us, the guides) and I always wondered who the remaining 85 units are, now I could ask, if they show up.  Almost all of them did and it turned out they share the love of gardening and mainly help with AF events.  'So, do you want a TOUR tour? You probably know all of that already'.  Regular tour is fine, but may have some questions about the design and maintenance, they answered, and off into the rain we went.

I normally avoid guiding groups listed as 'gardeners' of any kind, simply because my knowledge of plants is not enough for their curiosity - this gang tricked me, being listed as something else. May have to be that they will teach ME something, I thought after they revealed their true gardener identities. We just started the tour and stopped by the paperbark maple;  the question came: 'do you know its botanical name?'  Nope, eerr, or maybe I do, kind of: Acer? Acer palmatum something?  Several of them noded and then told me: 'Acer, but not palmatum, no palm-like leaves here, it's Acer griseum'. (All right, the way it's going I'm sure by the end of the tour I'l get several tree names firmly attached to my brain cells :) )

Paper bark maple leaves
It's pretty hard to find pictures of Acer griseum leaves because most people photograph its famously peeling, cinnamon colored bark: try putting the name of the paper bark maple into a goggle 'image search' and you will get countless images of the trunk alone.  I had to do a specific search, and the pic here came from the TreeTopic website.

By the Katsuga lantern we are all under umbrellas or rain-hoods; the Garden looked spectacular with its autumn foliage, just with a different, but still breath taking away wet-angle to it.  Unit 41 gardeners had many questions about maintenance, plus noted and admired many details normally overlooked by the tourist-visitors: how well the moss is kept, clever rooting of the cotoneaster in the northern rock wall and the general weed-free look of the place; they had a deep understanding why our garden maintenance crew starts their day at 6 or 7 am, well before the rest of us gets there -  to prepare the garden for presentation.

The tour lasted well above the prescribed hour - as the rain never stops a true gardener.  It was the cold air that finally brought us back to the gate, our hands and noses red, but still chatting the garden wonders.  Now I have only 84 AF units to figure out.  Joan L. and Maggie C. guided the rest of Unit 41; perhaps they'll chime in with their wet impressions.

十人十色 •  juu nin to iro - different strokes for different folks • lit: " 10 people; 10 colors "


  1. Hi, Aleks - strikes me you drew out your visitors' store of botanical knowledge. Clever move, I will remember. I try to learn One New Plant a tour, no chance of running out :).

    I seem unable to complete a tour in less than 1 hr... I may need a script editor...

  2. you too, are running over 1 hour? nowadays i ask visitors to tell me time in 15 minutes increments, as i tend to drag it up to 2 hours if not stopped. Unit 41 ladies said: 'we have time and we like being here', which is typical, but no help. maybe taking an alarm clock along? DRRRR!

    one new plant a tour? yeah, you will a guide for a looong time:). i'm on the plant group, but don't broadcast it, result is about the same...

  3. Enjoyed the tour. Found my old guiding notes and Juki Iida's article. Seems the white birch (Betula) is the princess's family tree. The Japanese white birch is B. platyphylla, but still a 60 foot tree. Birch when you prune them develope black knobby scars which detract from the white bark. Rather than plant in isolation along the lake in bright light, plant a grove among the evergreens in the garden and just beyond into the borrowed scenery. The white trunks would give the elegant effect of shafts of light and could grow without the destructive pruning. The prince's tree is among an orchard of cherries. Seems appropriate to put the princess's tree in a grouping too. I grew up loving white columns of birch amid the pines of Northern Michigan.

  4. Welcome, Unit 41! Thanks for the info on the effects of pruning on white birch bark. That's an arresting picture - the white trunks among the greenery. I spent my summmers in northern Ontario and share your memories of birch and pine surrounding lakes. The color will be spectacular there now, too. Drop by again!

  5. yes, welcome on the SJG community blog, Unit 41 member and a fellow trained guide. it's odd that they chose european betula, instead of the japanese one (thanks for teaching me about another tree!)- probably didn't have any around... i was always struck by the weird placement of that white birch - alone and away... you are right, would look much better grouped with evergreens for background. come back again, to the garden and to the blog - yours was a very enjoyable, funny group to take around!

  6. Birch bark is still used to make canoes.

  7. Interesting picture of the unusual maple leaves. I always point out on my tours that the pbm is a maple with leaves that would lead you to believe otherwise.