Sunday, January 14, 2018

A brief glimpse of Queenstown..New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand, is perhaps the premier destination in what is definitely a much loved country when it comes to tourists of all persuasions...which means it's a busy place. Even here at the top of the gondola, you can see dozens of people lunging with luges, helicopters landing after doing adventure rides. There are mountain bikers galore, bungy jumpers (although the one I photographed below was jumping a dozen or so miles away at the very Mecca of the sport where it originated) and of course a few mild-mannered flower loving hikers like myself and a handful of companions from the trip we're on at the moment...

 I did not follow in Wonder Woman's bootstraps--this isn't a pastime for mild mannered flower lovers!

 There is an extensive garden on the peninsula shown in the first picture--filled with some pretty remarkable trees. And a lovely rose garden...

 Much of the mountain soaring above the city is muffled in dense forest of douglas fir--many surely over 100 feet tall. There are obvious efforts to reduce and perhaps eventually eliminate this noble as these very straight and tall trees may be, they have obliterated the native biodiversity wherever they grow--and the undergrowth is the horticultural equivalent of a bombed city, or perhaps just a slum of the most depressing kind. Not that I have an opinion about it!

Danger of fire is likely a factor in this: they've just experienced almost 3 months of virtually rainless weather...

Here you can see lush dark green Douglas fir on the left and in the distance. The extensive gray patch on the right was either burned or perhaps sprayed to kill the trees to keep them from spreading further in the alpine. The foreground and right show areas that had been cleared but which are full of young douglas fir seedlings. As we hiked further there were large areas of pristine "bush" with the occasional orange douglas fir (that had been sprayed to kill it)...very encouraging.

 I was thrilled to find a Dracophyllum in bloom: these abundant and widespread shrubs are found throughout New Zealand and neighboring islands--sometimes forming small trees that much resemble Dracaena, which may be the origin of the Latin name. They were once classed as members of the Epacrid family, but are now considered Ericaceae...

And the flower can be construed as somewhat resembling some of the heaths in form...Being deliciously spiky, I'm enchanted with these...and find them delightful as well since almost precisely 100 years ago, the redoubtable Reginald Farrer conflated this genus with the Labiate genus Dracocephalum, the most humorous and egregious Homeric nod in the monumental English Rock Garden. You know you have to be a pretty recondite humorist to get a kick out of that!

Polystichum vestitum
 A stunning Polystichum that could almost pass for P. braunii if one were in eastern North America, or P. andersonii if one were in the West or P. setiferum in Eurasia. I love them all!

Blechnum penna-marina
 I believe this is the New Zealand take on this widespread miniature fern--here dangling on the edge of a trail cut. I saw this looking far more like its South American sibling along the Godley River in 2016...but it is delightful in any manifestation. Widely grown in Europe and the Pacific Northwest, it's not fond of Denver's continental conditions.

Gaultheria depressa var. novae-zelandiae
 A highlight of the walk for me was finding this wonderful wintergreen: I couldn't resist sampling a berry, which seemed to have a hint of the wintergreen taste I love in our native procumbens...or maybe I was imagining it. I'm very suggestible.

Raoulia cf glabra
There were wonderful mats of raoulia along the track, nany coming into bloom. I have grown one that looks like this under this name--I'm assuming it's the same....

This genus is one of the gems of the New Zealand flora--and one of the great treasures of rock gardens. I saw many in bloom in November, and heartened to see some still blooming in January.

Lycopodium fastigiatum
There were masses of this fantastic diminutive club moss fruiting along the trail...what it takes to please me is often pretty small!

Lophozonia menziesii

As we were sitting among the Southern beeches relaxing, a lovely young Kiwi mountain guide stopped to chat and inform us that these were Silver beeches (Lophozonia menziesii). We took her at her word: this was near the limit of trees perhaps half way up the hike to Ben Lomond--a trek I would like to complete one day...not too hard if you start in the morning and take your time I reckon!

I've seen Nothofagus thriving in Newfoundland in the garden of Bodil Larsen and in Hamburg Botanic Garden. Is it too much to dream that we might grow these one day in Denver?

Wahlenbergia albomarginata
 On our way down I had to get a picture of the campanulad that was here and there among the turf.

Geranium sessiliflorum
 The dusky little New Zealand geranium didn't look quite the same as I'd seen before further I had to take a picture!

Hieracium aurantiacum
We found only a single blossom on this orange hawkweed--considered a noxious pest in New Zealand (and beguiling many a gardener to include it in their gardens--to their own disgust later). I'm always tempted--the burnt orange color is very much in my personal pallette!

Janet and Doug Davis
Five of us rode the gondola up the mountain, and here two of our party--the delightful Davises--are seen here launching on the descent. It's perhaps the greatest testament that one can give Facebook that it has provided a means by which like minded flower lovers from all over the world can get to know one another. I don't know if I would have met Janet and Doug without Facebook--and here we are exploring New Zealand together! Janet's stunning eye for angles and views is a delight to watch in action. She shall perhaps blog eventually about New Zealand: when she does she shall put my pictures to shame. In the meantime, do check on her blog, The Paintbox Garden: a feast for the eyes!

Friday, January 5, 2018

In the depths of winter...a stroll through Denver Botanic Gardens' York Street gardens.

Galanthus elwesii
Let's get it over with: there IS a flower blooming (probably a few more if I'd scrounged)--a snowdrop in the Rock Alpine Garden. Those who know me (and I suspect there are quite a few) know that I'm not a lover of North Temperate Winter. I know no end of sensitive, wise and very artistic folk who've tried to make me love the dun season. And on warmish winter interludes (as we've had most of the so-called winter thus far), when I can almost wander without a sweater most days...I'm almost persuaded...

Finding this anthology of mushrooms in Woodland Mosaic garden at Denver Botanic Gardens
I don't deny that ice and architecture combine in fascinating ways...

Calceolaria arachnoidea
 And seeing sexy plants that are fabulous in summer looking pretty cool in winter too is interesting to be sure...
Verbascum wiedemannianum
 Some plants have the temerity to look just as good in winter as they do in summer. Almost.

 I love the little vygies that have popped up amind the mulleins!

Arctotis adpressa is looking pretty good thus far this winter...what will it look like in March all budded up?

 I wish I could find some history for this "Helichrysum thianshanicum" that's being sold all over the USA: it looks suspiciously like H. heldreichii to me--not anything like any curry plant I've seen in Asia...harrumph!

Araucaria araucana

 The monkey puzzles are looking pretty good still...but then we haven't had subzero weather...yet!

Acer griseum
 And there's the obligatory nod to "bark"

In the foreground is a broom--have you ever noticed how many brooms are not only very leafy, but evergreen?
Kerria japonica
 More bark. This time the delightful Rosaceous shrub from East Asia that is under appreciated in Denver.
Add caption
 Sculpture does show up well in the winter garden. This fellow needs some acne medicine I reckon.

Liriope spicata
 In much of the country Mondo grasses and Liriopes are horribly cliche. Not in Denver, where almost the only place you see them is Denver Botanic Gardens--although we have masses everywhere.

Here's a whole symphony of evergreenishness...

Rohdea japonica
 I find it hard to believe how tough this has proven. Thank you Bill Stufflebeam and Bobbie-Lively Diebold for filling Denver  Botanic Gardens with these! (I must tell the whole story some day about these...)

I grant you grasses can look mighty good in the winter months....

Epimedium colchicum
 And many epimediums look fresh as in the growing season: although this is really the time to cut them back so the flowers show up in a few months...ahem!

Liriope muscari 'Variegata'
 Hmmm. This is one I'm not growing yet...

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'
  My favorite of the whole clan--forming masses in Plantasia...and blooming and setting seed like crazy here.
Helleborus foetidus
 I love the brooding buds, like Snoopy pretending he's a vulture.

The ever expanding bamboo grove in Plantasia
 Otherwise known as Mark's legacy.

We did the bark, now the berries...

Dwarf conifers are renowned for their winter presence.

Scarlet Curls R Willow

The xeric crevice garden is pretty cool to look at in winter...

From different points of view...

For a little reality check...this is the same spot as the previous picture--at the opposite end of the seasonal spectrum.

 A miniature pinon pine (Pinus edulis).

A different clone of dwarf pinon (Pinus edulis)

Juniperus horizontalis 'Allanek' (a.k.a. 'Two Buttes')

Junipers often take on wine colored tints in winter.

Daphne 'Anton Fahdrich'

Plantago sempervirens

Acantholimon halophilum
 A monster spikethrift on the summit of the Rock Alpine Garden...

Kniphofia triangularis
 One forgets how many torch lilies are evergreen...

Pinus banksiana 'Schoodic'

Yucca pallida x rupicola

Fruiting Ivy

Evergreen barberry
 I am not sure which species--in the x mentorensis or juliana complex. It's gotten enormous! And reliably evergreen and probably drought tolerant...

Iris foetidissima
 The Gladwyne is surely one of the most underappreciated perennials...

Cephalotaxus harringtoniana
 I planted this a very long time ago--almost 40 years! I'm amazed how durable and tough it's been.

Acanthus balcanicus
 One forgets how attractive deciduous perennials can be if you don't cut them back!

Garrya flacescens
 We should put this poor thing out of its misery--NOT the best form of this for gardens--but it's been there forever.
Ephedra procera
 The color is much more bluegreen than this brownish-gray the pictures shows. An enormous Mormon Tea. Not many mormons where this grows...

Rubus cockburnianus
 The icy blue stems on this bramble are stand ins for the "branches" aspect of winter (you know, "berries, bark, branches and buds"...

Festuca scoparia 'Pic Carlit' 
 Almost as prickly as an Acantholimon, this fescue could serve a purpose--perhaps to dissuade pets from a lawn?
Sedum rupestre 'Apennine'

 Leave it to Mike Kintgen to find the perfect spot for this fantastic Sedum collected by Betty Ann Addison of Rice Creek Gardens in the mountains of Italy. A plant I would not want to be without!

Xeric gardens hold up well in winter.

Dasylirion texanum

Sporobolus wrightii

Rabbit brush

Physaria bellii
 I love the flannely texture of our local endemic bladderpod. Rare in nature, but easy in culture.

One of my favorite spots--always good looking Dryland Mesa

Arctostaphylus x coloradoensis
 Manzanitas always start blooming now in nature and gardens.

Garrya lindheimeri
 Thank you, Dan Hosage, for the gift of these. Ridiculous that it's not in cultivation elsewhere.

Arbutus texana
 Some also call it Arbutus xalapensis. I've been amazed how tough this has proven.

Wonderful vignettes everywhere...
 That's Pinus engelmanii on the right. 'Raydon's Weeping' Cupressus arizonica was a gift of Alan Tower, great nurseryman of Spokane: he drove two of these down as gifts to Denver Botanic Gardens. (Among a great many other goodies he's given us as well, including his namesake Delosperma!).

Potager at DBG
 The boxwoods look livelier in reality...

Calamagrostis brachytricha
 I always think of this as a shade loving grass--but it obviously likes son as well. Much better than its cousin, Karl.

Sporobolus wrightii
 I've been seeing this more and more around Denver. Still not as fraction the numbers of Miscanthus, alas.
Hard to imagine this full of cacti...

Another flashback!

Cotyledon orbiculata
 They came through LAST year OK...

Crassula peploides and Helichrysum flanaganii duking it out

So far, so good..
 Various Aloinopsis, Bergeranthus and Titanopsis calcarea...


Hydrangea 'Limelight' looking towards the Northeast

Hydrangea 'Limelight' looking towards the Southwest...
 Some may even prefer hydrangeas in their winter guise!

Themeda triandra (reddish) and Javaba (Stipa) ichu (yellowish)

Two killer grasses. Now can we have Spring?

P.S. for decades (almost four to be exact) winter has been such a slow season that we might as well have closed the gates. Hardly anyone would come...

As I wandered around taking these pictures today, I had a hard time NOT getting someone in the picture. There were a tremendous number of visitors wandering around the grounds. And that's like that every day (unless it's fiercely snowy or cold). People hereabouts have discovered Denver Botanic Gardens--and they even come in the winter months. Of course, there are some things to see--which is key, of course. It's also important to use enough interesting plants for winter effect--conifers, broadleaf evergreens, for sure, but anything with appealing form and color--not just bark, berries, branches and buds--and combining them in creative ways will lure you out to your garden more. And lure visitors too!

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