Sunday, May 12, 2019

Fickle frits

Fritillaria acmopetala
 Fritillarias are undoubtedly an acquired taste. I'm afraid I acquired the taste a long time ago--and many of the subtle greeny ones that people walk right past are some of my favorites. Fritillaria acmopetala is pretty widely available commercially--and generally considered one of the easiest: I've planted it time and again in my rock gardens, in my blue gramma prairie--heck I've put it everywhere--and each year a few will bloom here and there. Not quite what I'd hoped for--namely thick sheaves of flowers year after year. But they do persist. And then today I was walking along my alley and Lo! and Behold! what should be growing in the sparse shade of a pinon pine but a self-sown seedling of this very frit: where I would NEVER have dreamed of planting it in a million years!

What galls me isn't just that its growing in the wretched spot, in awful soil, with sundry weeds--but it is nearly 18 tall and gorgeous: it LIKES this spot! This isn't the first time this Western Asian has annoyed me: one of my colleagues planted it in a woodland garden at Denver Botanic Gardens where it's going viral.

It's self-sowing wildly--hundreds and hundreds of seedlings are maturing and blooming around the original plants!

The Fritillaries that are whitish and finished blooming are F. assyrica, growing intermixed but blooming a week or two earlier. I would have never dreamed of putting either of these in this bed (if you look at the upper left you'll see a big clump of Cypripedium  Frosh Hybrid--and there are Hostas and Dicentra and other classic woodland plants. So I recommend if you want to grow this Fritillaria, put it in the woods or out in the alley!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Pancratium or Papyrus? That is the question...

"Papyrus" murals from Akrotiri, in the Santorini Archeological museum
I achieved another long yearned for goal of finally seeing the site of Akrotiri, the ancient Minoan era city on Santorini that was discovered and very partially excavated since I last visited Thera many years ago. One of the murals that has been expertly moved to the museum is this, which is our guide referred to as a painting of papyrus--a plant that does not grow natively in Santorini or anywhere in Greece for that matter. Theoretically, Minoans brought papyrus plants back to Crete and Thera (the other name for Santorini) and grew them, and subsequently painted them. I don't buy this  hypothesis.

I "borrowed" an image of papyrus from an Indian website (rather as Elgin borrowed some marbles once), and beg you to compare this to the previous image: the resemblance is vague at best and specious at worst. "Fiddlesticks", say I! I don't think that the ancient Therans painted the elegant, but not very sexy papyrus at all. I think they had a much better plant near at hand that would have inspired them far more...

Pancratium maritimum
I've come to discover that others have determined that the ancient fresco is really a rather good depiction of one of the most gorgeous, certainly the most fragrant and wonderful wildflower that abounds on beaches throughout the Mediterranean (where it hasn't been supplanted by beach desecration and swimmers). Anyone who's spent any time on the beaches of Greece in the summer has certainly come upon this magnificent Amaryllid: its fragrance permeates the air for a vast distance and the crystalline flowers fascinate and delight.

Compare the images and see if you don't agree with me that the ancient Therans surely would have preferred to have this gorgeous white monocot on their walls, rather than a big green grass. Let's supress those papyrus-theorists once and for all!

Liberto Dario and Pancratium
Here's yet another image of sea daffodils being admired by a direct descendant of the artist who painted the original fresco. Case settled.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Aegina: a great start!

How promising a new vista opening up: for years now I've wanted to visit the island of Aegina--one of the largest Aegean islands near to Athens, and this April thanks to my wonderful cousin Eleni Kornaraki, I was able to do so!

Verbascum undulatum
One of the first plants I noticed is this, near the top of the list of my favorite verbascums...

Verbascum undulatum
Gorgeous in any manifestation...

Cistus incanus
There were masses of rock rose (Cistus) all over the island, and all over Attica as well..

When I was perhaps 12 years old, the far too short lived "Greek Heritage" magazine featured the sculptures that came from the amazing temple of Aphaia on Aegina.  I have wanted to see these ever since (well over a half century of waiting)...and it may have been raining lightly but I got to the temple. Now to get to Munich's Glyptotek!

Among Greeks, Aegina is best known as the site of Agios Nektarios home--one of the most recent saints in the Orthodox religion. Of course, one has to visit if one comes. Quite imposing church...

I enjoyed the sparrows, one poking out of every pipe in the parking lot wall.

Sedum sedoides

This sedum is in Plant Select: how gratifying to find something I have grown in the garden in the wild...

Sailing back to Athens on the ferry, what fun to catch a gull as it soared past in the near sunset light. The trip has been going rather like this...

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bouncing back from the snow... (after the "bomb cyclone" After the snow: the Show must go on!

Draba polytricha
One of the many reasons to love alpine plants is that they're immune to "bomb cyclones" and other more or less mythical phenomena (Colorado always gets spring snowstorms and always will)...

Verbascum atropurpureum
Fresh foliage on one of the best Verbascums--possibly just a race of V. phoeniceum, but one that is soundly perennial, self sows moderately, and has deep violet-purple flowers.

Tulipa humilis
Several tulips self sow for us--this is my favorite...
Tulipa humilis

Corydalis shanginii ssp. shanginii
Still hanging in there--a division of a gift from Goteborg Botanic Garden over 30 years ago.
Cooper's Hawk
Or possibly a Buteo--not as good with birds as I am with plants. It swooped down in front of me and snatched a nearby garter snake instead of the dozen or so bunnies that plague my garden: chubby, very succulent and delicious bunnies, I'm sure. (Gruesome movie to prove it:
Fritillaria michaelovskyi
I am thrilled to be going to Greece, but will be sorry to miss my garden in bloom while I'm these Frits!
Tulipa cf. albertii
It's always a good year for tulips.
Ornithogalum cf. nanum
I've been acquiring lots of stars of Bethlehem (including the weedy one)...and none of the little ones are weedy, dang it! But they come back reliably...
Ornithogalum (different)
And bloom early.

I love yellow and blue in nature and the garden...
Tulipa greigii
These took more of a hit in the cold than other tulips. Not sure why..
Paeonia tenuifolia and Crocus flavus
Newly divided fernleaf peonies coming up strong their first year...

Narcissus fernandesii
Yellow jonquils love my garden--and I love them.
Scilla siberica
I know it's a tad weedy, but what a color!
Lomatium grayi
I must grow more biscuit roots!

Fritillaria amana
There are masses of this at Denver Botanic Gardens self sowing in one garden. But at least I have one (mine looks like a smaller form).

Viburnum farreri v. nanum Fried
The whole top of my little viburnum was fried by the cold: hope the branches sprout again. First year it bloomed for me too--my worst casualty in the cold.
Fritillaria persica (v. prostrata?)
These frits were flattened but persist, sort of like the Democratic party...

Draba hispanica
Irrepressible and essential in any garden. It's been blooming for months!
Narcissus watieri
 I love this thang. Mike Kintgen grows it superbly in his buffalograss lawn.
Pulsatilla halleri
Slightly out of focus--but had to how this comes up.
Erythronium umbilicatum
A gift of Tim Alderton, fantastic horticulturist of the J.C. Raulston Arboretum: he sent me a white one too, but it may have died. This has settled in beautifully!

Scilla mischetnkoana
My new second favorite Scilla. My favorite I saw almost exactly a year ago in Georgia (Caucasus), Scilla rosenii. At treeline in the Lesser Caucasus above Bakuriani. Where I dream to visit again.

Fritillaria caucasica
I saw this in seed in the Caucasus, and love watching it come back year after year...

Corydalis solida forms
These look just like they did before the cold...

Bergenia 'Silberlicht' (I think)
I love this crazy genus. One of my fondest memories of Pakistan were the acres of Bergenia stracheyi above treeline.
Draba bruniifolia (ex Toros dag--very dwarf)
A super plant I've had forever no one else seems to grow--and I share seed!

Fritillaria sp. ign.
AA mystery frit--absurdly tall. I love it.
Coluteocarpa vesicarius
Somewhat flattened by the snow but persisting nonetheless. I must grow more of this--one of the most delightful crucifers with outrageous swollen seedpods. Another gem I saw in the wild last year--so rewarding to have one's garden connect with the magical wild places still left on the planet. I like to think of my garden as a sort of nerve center connecting me with Nature. Probably won't post much right away: boarding a plane in a few hours...

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

My "national" corydalis...C. malkensis

Corydalis malkensis
If states can have state flowers, why can't we have our own personal "national" flowers? Although I grow quite a few corydalis, none have taken to my garden as much as this species, which is getting to be a tad much. Which I love!

I first obtained it from Kath Dryden, with whom I was exchanging seed and plants. I put out a half dozen or so at my first house on Eudora where they settled in and began seeding. And seeding. Some plants would make me nervous when they seed like that--not this one! Every seedling seemed to grow in a great spot, and pretty soon they made a veritable carpet of glistening ivory. And what a wonderful commemoration of the great English Plantwoman!

C. malkensis and Anemone blanda
When we moved to our current house twenty years ago, I dug a number of the bulbs (I have a hunch there are still more than ever in the original garden) and planted them in the shade of our newly planted Musclewood trees (Carpinus caroliniana) where they took off like the proverbial. And each year now they spread their bounty and show up further and further from the original spot they were put! They look especially fetching along with Anemone blanda and other blue flowered plants I think.

Here is that original colony taken a few days ago: it's YUGE! and getting huger. Should I be worried? Nah! These will completely disappear by the middle of May--and this spectacle in late March (they've been blooming for weeks) and April is so stunning--and they are so easily dug if need be (I've shared them with many friends) I'm not the least bit worried.

Corydalis incisa
And now for a slight change of subject, here's a picture I took a few weeks ago in friends' garden in Maryland: what a fine and delicate Corydalis THIS C. malkensis, it pops up early in the spring and blooms for weeks with bright color and delicate foliage. Unlike C. malkensis, however, I would regard this as definitely truly weedy and borderline invasive (it can't be put in the same class as Callery pears or cheatgrass however--the truly noxious weeds). I'd characterize this more as an ObNoxious little pest: so charming that the weak willed will leave it--and soon it will carpet much of their garden and the neighbors and show up down the street in a few years. C. malkensis spreads neither so far nor so quickly: you could easily eliminate it, while this winter annual could be a problem in moister climates. That said, I did bring a little tuft home (insert smiling emoticon)....

Another closeup of our little darling! Spread away dear!

And here you see the dangling seedpods getting ready to explode and expand the colony a bit: YAY!

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