Thursday, October 27, 2016

A rhubarb to die for...

Rheum nanum in the Steppe Garden, DBG Sept. 30 2016 (Photo by Eleftherios Dariotis)
One of my MANY favorite quotations by Chekhov is that "In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.”

Same plant a few weeks later, photographed by Mike Bone

I should have stopped at Florida and Uinta this afternoon where I was driving, and saw below me Denver outstretched to the west, a half hour or so before sunset: all lavender and mauve with a band of vivid vanilla, golden light on the horizon, and the trees of the city all golden--old gold, but also schoolbus yellow: poplars at the height of fall color, but also elms, the last ash, but also lindens and all manner of oaks as well--with the occasional scarlet smudge here and there. Simply awesome! But notice how the rhubarb has changed in three weeks--when Mike Bone photographed it...

And yesterday, I took a picture of the same plant in the same spot--a week or so after Mike. This awesome transformation, caught in miniature, is a miniature of the grandeur of autumn in temperate climates. I wish I didn't have a hundred distractions. I should have been wandering the streets of Denver, the foothills and the prairies capturing the magnificent colors of the season. Winter, of course, has her majesty, and spring is spring and summer glorious, but the extraordinary coloration of fall is never sung enough...

Somewhere I have a picture of the plant that produced the seed from which this plant was grown: I hope it hasn't been lost in the shuffle of a crazy life. It was back in 2009...on the windswept barrens of a rocky canyon that could have been in Bryce or Zion. Look the taxon up in Google Images, and you'll see why I'm a little daft about it: I think it justified our two trips to Kazakhstan. If I find the picture I shall add it (you see, you have to revisit my blog--I am always quietly upgrading things in the interim...)
Rheum compactum

Rheum nanum may be the smallest, but this one was very compact (as the name suggests) as well--photographed above treeline in Westermost Mongolia.

Another shot of R. compactum
I believe this one is in cultivation in Britain: I saw (and photographed) a lusty plant at Wisley in 2009 I believe [they were doing Rheum trials]--and if I find that one I shall add it as well...

Parting shot of Rheum compactum in late June of 2009
We saw three, maybe four other species in the Tian Shan and Altai mountains of Kazakhstan--and saw people selling the stems by the side of the road (although I believe they're all considered protected due to overharvesting). And we saw stems of dormant Rheum tataricum that had blown into gullies (the plants were dormant)--that has to be another gem we need to grow.

There's a lot more to rhubarb than just pies, and the cultivars we grow in our gardens currently. I hope one day this miniature gem will produce viable seed and we can eventually grow more and share it far and wide...that is what botanic gardening (and plantsmanship) are all about, after all...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pray for the prairie dogs, please!

I was in the Bozeman, Montana airport last September, waiting for my flight. An  ordinary enough fellow--probably my age--was sitting nearby with friends or family. He began telling them about he loved to drive out to thus and such a ranch in some Montana county and shoot prairie dogs, and how he did it in Idaho, and  here and there and everywhere it seemed. He was matter of fact: I don't know if it was for "sport" or for some sort of bounty (various agencies have paid for prairie dog eradication)...There was an undertone of cheeriness in his repartee I found incredibly repellent.

I have become very fond of the works of Joe Truett--a champion of Western conservation who writes eloquently and knowledgeably about this much maligned and misunderstood rodents: I highly recommend reading his book entitled Grass: in search of Human Habitat. You will never look at prairie dogs the same way ever again.

I sincerely hope there is some celestial place where the prairie dogs have the guns, and our Bozeman bozo is the prey. I find America's gun culture to be repulsive and contemptible.

These pictures of a tiny prairie dog colony--not more than a few thousand feet in extent--surrounded by apartment houses just a few blocks from my house. I am astonished at how they have persisted (and they're obviously loved by the surrounding apartment dwellers). There's another colony a few miles away that has a huge sign saying "For Lease or Development" in the middle of it...otherwise you have to many miles to see these original denizens of our region.

Of course, not only black footed ferret--but many other birds and mammals require prairiedogs for their survival: burrowing owls in particular will not persist without them. The very prairie itself is sustained by the churning of nutrients they bring to the surface. But alas, they're rodents--and humans have very little sympathy for that Order of Mammalia.

I have driven by this colony many thousand of times (it's that close to my house). I am embarrassed to say that this was the first time I actually stopped to admire and photograph them. Pretty eloquent testament to my own myopia. And I only did so because of visiting friends who were charmed and asked to stop.

You have to admit, they're really just as cute as pikas. Hard to believe we've obliterated so many in such a tiny moment of geologic time.

If you Google "Prairie Dog hunting" you will find out that there is quite a market for gun "afficionados" who love nothing more than blasting these little critters to bits. This is a typical page that shows how macho he-men get their jollies. I like to think of myself as a card-carrying liberal, who tolerates all manner of nonsense. But I have become more and more repulsed by the vast number of people who are enmired in all manner of "passtimes" that devastate what little tatters of nature are left.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A study in reds (Denver Botanic Gardens October 18, 2016)

All of these pictures were taken about 5:30-6:00PM on a rapid visit of two or three of the dozens of gardens at Denver Botanic Gardens. Ordinarily, we will have had hard frost by now, but this is obviously a special year. It seems the various shades of red/vermilion/fulminating scarlet are the theme of the evening and this blog, starting with Tigridia, which was still blooming in the Ellipse garden. For some reason, the images weren't all loaded sequentially--so scenes reappear randomly. So be it (I don't have the time or inclination to spend  hours fixing things!). I'll try and label what I can...

Diascia 'Flying Colors Red' in the Steppe Garden

Diascia 'Flying Colors Red' in the Steppe Garden

Diascia 'Flying Colors Red' in the Steppe Garden

Diascia 'Flying Colors Red' in the Steppe Garden

Diascia 'Flying Colors Red'  alongside Diascia integerrima 'Coral Canyon' in the Steppe Garden

Diascia integerrima in the Steppe Garden

Foliage of Arctotis adpressa in the Steppe Garden

Senecio speciosus
in the Steppe Garden

The Steppe Gardebn

Berkheya purpurea

Berkheya purpurea

Melinis repens in the Steppe Garden

Melinis repens in the Steppe Garden

Leonotis leonurus

Dia de los muertos altar

Dia de los Muertos dedication to staff horticulturist Ann Montague who died rather suddenly a month ago.

Ann's altar

Gate in Romantic Garden

Romantic Garden

Chihuly's "Colorado" sculpture in the Ellipse

Adlumia fungosa trailing in the parking lot

Adlumia fungosa

Digitalis purpurea v heywoodii

Aster tataricum

Eupatorium in seed

Amsonia in fall color

Aconitum carmichaelii

Verbascum nigrum in two color forms

Muhlenbergia reverchonii

Crataegus hybrida

Crataegus hybrida

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima): incredibly fragrant

Chihuly's "Colorado" sculpture in the Ellipse

Chihuly's "Colorado" sculpture in the Ellipse

Hardy Agapanthus in seed

Katy Dickson taking a picture

Boston Ivy on the Waring House

Castor beans in the Ellipse

Chihuly's "Colorado" sculpture in the Ellipse

Amaranthus cruentus 'Joseph's Coat' mimicking Chihuly's "Colorado" sculpture in the Ellipse (or the other way around?)

Chihuly's "Colorado" sculpture in the Ellipse