Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Deck the halls with succulent monocots!

Agave neomexicana
Everyone knows how valuable conifers and broadleaf evergreens are for winter color. But the year around drama and beauty of succulent monocots--especially Agave, Yucca, Hesperaloe and Nolina--these are admired for their flowers and summer effect. But winter is when they reveal their stellar status!

Yucca schottii ?? in Watersmart

These pictures were all taken in the last few days--although still technically "autumn" we've had several snows and temps down to the lower teens pretty consistently. These, in any case, will hold up all winter like this!

Yucca linearifolia in Watersmat
Everyone wants these in their garden hereabouts!

Agave utahensis v. kaibabensis

Hesperaloe x 'Pink Parade'

Yucca baccata

Yucca faxoniana (left) Y. thompsoniana (middle) Yucca rostrata (right)
When Mountain States Nursery sent a semi load of these monsters to the Gardens in the late 1990's I had a conniption: surely these would be the most expensive annuals ever? But they (and Dan Johnson) knew better: these and the masses further out around the entrance to our Boetcher Education building are now labeled "Yuccarama" on our Gardens map (a jocular nickname we used at first that stuck!).

Mass planting of Yucca rostrata

More "Yuccarama"

Agave parryi

Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies'
Three of Sean Hogan's selection perched on three parapets at the west end of Watersmart--one day soon these will be a spectacle!

Agave neomexicana

Yucca elata

Yucca faxoniana (left) and Y. thompsoniana (right) on Dryland Mesa

Yucca glauca
We even grow our local yokel that's found in vacant lots around town! Here in Sacred Earth--our ethnobotanical native garden.

Yucca harrimaniae
Easily 40 years old, this clump came from a collected specimen from Southwesternmost Wyoming--a gift of Budd Myers. It's turning into a miniature tree.

Yucca rupicola
One of my favorites--army green. It never ceases to amaze me how hardy plants are from the Edwards Plateau of Texas.

Yucca pallida
The OTHER Edwards Plateau endemic, also thriving here.

Agave lecheguilla (above) and A. neomexicana (below)

Yucca sp.
Not sure which species Mike Kintgen tucked at the top of the very first crevice garden at DBG...I'll fill in when he tells me.

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard'
Early morning picture: look how different it looks with backlight compared to the one below!
Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard'
Taken in the evening half-light: looking quite different.

Yucca thompsoniana
Another tree yucca, this one on our parking structure.

Yucca harrimaniae
In 1980 I collected a series of Yuccas around the Uncompaghre--and planted them in a big semi-circle around the Upper Meadow of the Rock Alpine Garden: "they Persisted!"... they are surprisingly different from one another in bloom...

Yucca harrimaniae #2

Yucca baccata in the RAG

Yucca harrimaniae #3

The "West Terrace" Nexus berm: from generic annuals to a desert extravaganza full of cacti, monocot succulents and more
I was startled when told this was planned: but I think it's already turning into a tour-de-force!

Agave toumeyana var. bella
One of the many choice morsels planted in the new terrace bed.

Nolina microcarpa

Denver is not the only place that monocot succulents are used effectively: this is a stunning garden in Pueblo that belongs to the Conrad family: one of Colorado's most spectacular gardens. Like a mini-Huntington--only with views of Pikes Peak and a huge pond!

A view down one of the Conrad's succulent planted slopes: what a collection!

Agave lecheguilla at the Conrad's

There's Pikes peak in the distance and the Conrad's pond below: this is a killer garden!

Bill Adams' greenhouse
Everyone needs enablers: we wouldn't have the enormous selection of rare plants available to us in Colorado without Bill Adams, whose Sunscapes nursery ( has consistently supplied us with the choicest, rarest plants of all kinds. Including a revolutionary series of rosulate succulent hybrids (x Aloinanthus)! Bill is a national treasure.

Jeff Ottersberg stepping gingerly in his succulent garden
The ultimate enabler, Jeff's Wild Things nursery has provided literally tens of thousands of rare succulents (mostly natives) grown meticulously from seed to regional retail nurseries and our Botanic Gardens sales for decades. Jeff's plants are not only beautifully grown, they're ridiculously cheap.

Here Hans Graf (who owns the largest hardy cactus nursery in Europe) is admiring a plant with Jeff

A few of Jeff's treasures: that's Delosperma sphalmanthoides immediately at above these words. The first new species to be described from plants that came from Denver Botanic Gardens (ultimately from John Lavranos and Komsberg Pass).

More succulent gems to be sold next spring

Four great cactarians: Klaus Werner from Darmstadt Botanic Garden far left, Bill Adams, Jeff Thompson (Pueblos master succulent expert and grower) and Hans Graf far right.

Kelly Grummons
The "Hardy Cactus man", Kelly Grummons is not only a local leading purveyor of cacty, but Cold Hardy Cactus is providing these plants everywhere.

Cold Hardy Cactus views
He has an unparalleled selection of hardy cactus, yucca, agave, hesperaloe: you name it! Many superior selections and hybrids. And you can buy these now!

Agave sp.
One of Kelly's stock plants... views

And many plants outside as well...

A greenhouse full of gallon sized agaves and manzanitas galore. All selling for ridiculously cheap prices.

There is no reason you can't fill your garden with these treasures. I know I've got more than my share growing at Quince: come by some time next spring and you will be evergreen with envy!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

From Orangerie to Menagerie

I know botanic gardens are all about plants. But we occasionally venture into other artful realms. My colleague Jennifer Miller (in addition to being a gardener extraordinaire) has a flair with Papier-mâché, and has spiced up the Poinsettias and other holiday flower decorations, transforming our Orangerie into a Menagerie of creatures. I've noticed children getting excited as they spy these here and there....

But adults who aren't to obsessed with their adulthood get a kick out of them. I've photographed a selection of these little creatures, which I think provide a bit of a break from my plant and garden obsessed blogs..

Oops,  plant snuck in...fortunately not a real one!

Much of the charm of these creatures is the obvious whimsy that went into their creation: these are not the slick, plastic productions of multinational companies aimed at product placement, Movie-themed ephemera and the fast buck. They're personal and somewhat rustic. And I have seen few visitors wander through who aren't struck and charmed.

It's obvious the squirrels below read the book above!

If I were that mouse I'd be a tad nervous...

Here is a long view of the Orangerie walkway--the creatures tucked here and there as you walk along

Here are some more of Jennifer's handiwork: there are a number of constellations of poppies suspended overhead as you wander down the Orangerie--quite a labor of love!

This is the season of "Blossoms of Light" at Denver Botanic Gardens: most nights are already sold out--everyone wants to come and see the gardens illuminated at night with masses of colored lights. I've been impressed from one year to another to see how many people--especially young people--I see wandering around enjoying the plants and gardens in the daytime as well. So much for the "slow" season! Best of Holiday wishes to you as well--I doubt I'll be as faithful a blogger in the next few weeks!

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