Monday, February 11, 2019

The glory that is Greece in the Springtime

Zeus of Artemision
A fascinating discussion of this can be heard on Youtube video. Some things speak for themselves

Ophrys apifera

Hundreds if not thousands of orchid lovers descend on Greece to find these little gems in the springtime..

The vistas vie with the fantastic diversity of flowers...both win!

And then there is the history, the archaeology and the art: here, a frieze from Delphi. I don't envy the soldier!

I was amazed how many animals I came close to in Greece: here these red deer were within view of Athens on Mt. Parnitha!

Even on the Parthenon a persistent weed has sprouted: I fear probably Perilla!

And we finish with the Charioteer at Delphi (my favorite of the ancient sites)...there's still time to join a cozy group of us this April as we visit a wonderful assortment of sites, islands and glory in what is expected to be an especially floriferous spring!

Click here for more info!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Jumpin' for Junipers

Juniperus osteosperma at Irish Canyon, NW Colorado

One of my blog posts has had a quarter million views thanks to Pinterest (and human's fixation with human things--namely a rain chain in this instance). I can't believe that's what the public has fixated upon among the thousands of images I've generated on this blog. But YOU, my wise reader, know that there are things far more lovely than even the greatest human efforts. They're called trees. I hated Junipers as a kid (the giant Pfitzers in our front "foundation" planting that were smothering the house had something to do with this). I've spent the last umpteen decades recanting. I have come to realize that junipers are the most remarkable, ubiquitous and fantastic trees on the planet--at least in the steppe portions (the most poetic portions that is to say!). I'm now literally jumpin' for junipers! Just take a gander at that gnarly bonsai: there are literally millions of these in the West, where "progress" hasn't bulldozed them for strip malls or Eurasian grasses.
Juniperus osteosperma near Glenwood, Colorado
 Of course, not all are bonsai forms: just your generic Utah Juniper is wonderful to some of our eyes. This could be many hundreds of years old, and the fragrance! For those of us fond of gin-and-tonic, it's pretty  dang good.
Juniperus scopulorum at Cherokee Ranch
 But not just the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau's J. osteosperma has elegance of form. Here you have our common Rocky Mt. Juniper forming ancient gnarly specimens at Cherokee Ranch where I lead field trips half a dozen times a year--better come check it out!

Juniperus scopulorum near Cody
 This was in a garden not far from Heart Mountain in Northern Wyoming: sumptuously thick...

Juniperus scopulorum at DMNS Juniperetum
 One of the original sites of Denver Botanic Gardens was around the present DMNS (Denver Museum of Nature and Science). The Juniperetum planted there over half a century ago--OK, probalby more like 70 years ago!--has persisted, although recently "improved" by the City stuffing it with giant pines that will one day ruin these gnarly junipers. Gotta speak to them! But look at how elegant they are: dozens, and each utterly different from the next!

Juniperus scopulorum at DMNS Juniperetum
 Here's a weeper: it will weep more when shaded out by a misguided and truly ignorant planting of stupid pines! Have I made myself clear enough? Move those damn pines before I get ruder!

Juniperus virginica & J. scopulorum at DMNS Juniperetum
 Midwinter shot showing the fantastic range of color these Junipers can have... This whole rant was inspired by my drive today: everywhere I looked there were magnificent Junipers...every other garden seemed to have one--either scopulorum or virginiana, or sometimes even sinensis...all elegant of form and utterly xeric. Now we need to add a dozen others to them!
Juniperus communis 'Taurifera' at Denver Botanic Gardens rock garden
 And let's not forget the most Universal of Junipers--which in Europe is almost always upright (although not as condensed as this cultivar perhaps)...

Juniperus communis on Boreas Pass
 But in the Rockies it makes a lustrous green mat--rarely seen in gardens. Hopefully Plant Select will fix that!

Juniperus horizontalis in a Boulder Table Mesa Garden

But the real pancake of the genus is the "horizontal" Juniper that spreads from the Northern Great Plains across much of Canada and Northeastern USA. Dozens of cultivars selected--but mostly from wetter regions! Surely many areas with struggling lawns would be so much better served with these!

Prostrate Juniperus species on the Altai of far western Mongolia
Of course, America hardly has a monopoly on prostrate junipers: look at the variation here in Mongolia! There were two or three species of creepers here!

Juniperus excelsa at treeline, Pakistan Himalayas
 And the American West hardly has a monopoly on gnarled, bonsaied Junipers: as you can see, despite being at tree-line over 13,000 this specimen had been already hacked as so many trees were in Pakistan. But a wizened branch is trying to grow nevertheless.
Juniperus excelsa at treeline, Pakistan Himalayas
 Another severed Juniper high on a ridge overlooking the Himalayas. It doesn't get more magical than this!

Juniperus turkestanica at treeline, Pakistan Himalayas
And yet a different species on another cliff.

Overlooked, taken for granted, hacked at felled, and yet the world is still graced with innumerable beautiful junipers. It's time we gave them their due!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

From my hotel window in Boise...

I see a greenhouse in the distance. If we were in Victorian times, it would be full of flowers. I blew up the image and peered and peered: no flowers did I see. For all I know, they're empty...check the next picture...

See them there, tucked away left center? They were quite a ways maybe there were flowers in them. Or maybe they're for some other kind of research. I'd like to have some greenhouses like that all to myself. I guess I have a whole Botanic Garden--musn't be greedy!

 I look a little over to the right--and there are two of the towers of Boise: both banks. Banks have an awful lot of money in order to build monuments like this. I guess, you get what you pay for (and we apparently pay for big banks). We're not paying government workers right now--something I hate to think about.

I can't begin to explain how big this roof is: YUGE!  I think we're approaching acreage up on top of this really nice Hotel. The rooms are more spacious than usual, and nicely appointed. Hate to think what the Trade Show pays for them. There was a pool and a gym on the fourth floor. The restaurant and bar downstairs were better than average. But if they had turned that roof into a green roof, I would have been really impressed: such a vast waste of space! And all the runoff!

I peer to the right of the banks--there are the Boise Hills: I would like to hike those in late March when the distinctive Pacific Northwest flora is burgeoning. I imagine there would be Fritillaria pudica there, and I'm told there's Primula cusickiana....and who knows what other treasures? I saw pictures in the lobby of hills covered with Balsamroot.  I'm sure it's there...For all the grandeur of cities--I really prefer the wild hills.

Most lecture tours to clubs I'm hosted in homes which I prefer. Hotels are really much of a muchness, no matter how fancy. Except for rustic, colorful old hotels. Chains invariably suck, no matter how expensive.

I sometimes wonder what I would have done if I'd actually been picked to work here fifteen or so years ago. I have quite a few friends, and like the people I've met here. I don't think I have the skill sets that would have allowed m to succeed at the job I applied for. Instead, I stayed in Denver, have traveled to a dozen magical places I would not likely have seen otherwise, and helped with a number of books I'm very proud of, and learned so much from colleagues and from a boss such as I've never imagined could exist

And looking out my window this morning, I look at this wonderful Western town I've come to love and realize all has worked out for the best.

Just wish they had some Pelargoniums in the greenhouses!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Wondering about weeds

Cardamine quinquefolia, Corydalis marschalliana and Alliaria petiolata in a forest at Sabaduri, Georgia
 It's Georgia the country, not the state, incidentally! I was reviewing and labeling some images today when I noticed that the white crucifer growing alongside the Corydalis and Cardamine was in fact Garlic Mustard, the undeniably pernicious weed that's been smothering woodlands across much of the United States. I had assumed Colorado would be safe from its ravages,,,
Alliaria petiolata along Cherry Creek in Denver
Until I found a huge patch midway between my house and work, smack dab next to Cherry Creek shopping center. But look! How gentle and harmless it looks alongside the other spring ephemerals in its native habitat...

Cardaria draba at Sabaduri, Georgia
 Around here this is known as "white top" and it does make a striking groundcover (that will smother anything in its path) you often see in Colorado along highways or in the homes of inattentive gardeners (usually rental homes, or poorer neighborhoods of course). I've not been cursed with this in any space I've tended, but I'm told it's well nigh ineradicable, but look how innocent (almost lonely) it looks in a meadow in its native habitat...

An image of Cardaria draba from the web
I'm surprised looking through MY archives not to have found a single image of White-top anywhere in my files. But I think this picture pretty well depicts how the species spreads and looks on countless acres across the West.
Euphorbia cf esula, near Red Bridge, Georgia
I will not SWEAR this species is Euphorbia esula--but it sure looks like it! I have seen the true species in Central Asia where it was likewise growing rather modestly, but in Colorado it has smothered countless acres.
Euphorbia esula in a planter bed in Aurora
 No, Virginia: the Euphorbia wasn't planted here. I've seen this here and there all over Metro Denver--but it's really in the foothills and on the Great Plains where literally acres can be smothered by this toxic and really invidious pest. This is an undeniable noxious and toxic plant...but look how harmless it looks in nature in the photo further up... I find it slightly amusing that Metro area cities have gone on an extremely aggressive witch-hunt to eliminate Euphorbia myrsinites from regional gardens...
Euphorbia myrsinites

You have to admit it's pretty alluring! I secretly still love this plant and plan to sneak a bit into my non-city garden (where the Gestapo won't arrest me for growing it)--what kills me is that tons of money is spent propagandizing against myrtle spurge (which occupies a tiny FRACTION of our native habitats compared to Euphorbia esula) while the homelier spurge ramps on

One of a dozens of pieces produced by various local agencies on the witchhunt for myrtle spurge (they're after Cypress spurge too--but not so often). Meanwhile the far more noxious spurge ramps on in municipal garden beds!!!

 Meanwhile, I've found myrtle spurge treasured in gardens elsewhere...

A lonely Euphorbia myrsinites at an arboretum in Kentucky
I've seen it planted proudly in an arboretum in Kentucky...Not the best specimen, I'll voucher..

Euphorbia myrsinites in the alpine house at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Am I condoning weeds? Of course not...what amazes me is that our "weeds" are often harmless in their natural settings or even choice in an alpine house at Kew...

The problem isn't the plant--but its context. In the wild there are obviously ecological factors (insects, pathogens, biochemical factors) that prevent the "weed" from rampaging...

But first we have to distinguish which are the real invasive weeds, like Euphorbia esula, and target them instead of far less invasive and merely attractive (and therefore more easily identified) taxa like Myrtle Spurge.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Roses are red, violets are yellow?

Viola biflora at the Reykjavik Botanic Garden in Iceland in late June
So "Violets are blue" eh? Poets do take their liberties. I was recently thinking about how amazing it is that the Universal yellow violet of Eurasia is pretty much restricted to the boreal parts of America, except for Colorado, as you will see. Above it makes a heck of a mound in a botanical garden...

Viola biflora at Brunquist Gulch 20 miles West of Denver
Here it is at an amazingly low altitude not far from Denver in Denver Mountain Parks. I have featured this locality in a past blog.

Range of Viola biflora in the USA from a BONAP map
Here is the overall range map according to the US Government...which has unconscionably been shut down by the Narcissist-in-chief inflicting suffering and grief on nearly a million of my fellow Americans in order to build a hideous, ecologically disastrous and symbolically repugnant wall: I HATE IT, but I digress... I can't help but wonder if there aren't a few Viola biflora lurking in Idaho or Wyoming!
Viola biflora on the Austrian Road, far easternmost Kazakhstan

And here it is in Central Asia--another of those links between Colorado and the Altai that William Weber first limned.
Viola sheltonii: short lived in my garden
I have never seen this in Colorado, although Dan Johnson did last year and photographed it. High on my Bucket List for the last Colorado wildflowers that have eluded me. I grew it from seed and bloomed it--but it only lasted one year.

Viola pensylvanica in Kentucky
Here's the commonest yellow violet of the East: apparently this can be weedy in some gardens. It has grown for me but I'm still waiting for seedlings: I think it's lovely

Viola nuttallii on the Flattop Mt. in western Colorado at 11,000'
By far our commonest native violet, this is found all over the Great Plains, the foothills and I've seen it all the way to timberline. These were taken on subalpine roadcuts in Western Colorado a few years ago.
Closeup of same

Viola atropurpurea
Surely the silliest name for a violet--named for the purple color on the undersurface of the leaf, in my home state, this is restricted to Northwestern Colorado where I photographed this years ago. But it's common throughout much of the West. Chary of gardens I've found thus far.

And there are so many more--especially pansies from Europe and Asia that often come in yellow....dozens of species really--but they're another story to be told another time:

Roses are red
Violets are yellow
I'll be pleased as Punch
when we're done with that fellow.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Anno wunderbar! A year comes to a close...farewell 2018!

Many the wonderful years I've lived, but none have been quite so action-packed and rewarding. Come join me on a quick glimpse over the recent past.
Mt. Cook from my hotel window
 January: My idea of a perfect January is escaping to the Southern Hemisphere, and I was fortunate to have 3 weeks in New Zealand leading a tour for the American Horticultural Society. Fantastic gardens and companions along the way: I blogged pretty frequently about this trip ...but the memories (and slides) are legion, so you must settle with this sunset on the highest peak of this magic isle.

Iris x histrioides 'Katharine's Gold'
February: Home for the month.  I have been lucky to be able to purchase a wide variety of Iriodictyon section irises over the years--many of them Alan McMurtrie hybrids--which thankfully seem to like my garden.  This was the first year I bloomed 'Katharine's Gold' which lasted much of February--and warmed the cockles of my wintry heart. I don't think I shall ever have enough of these! They make February worth waiting for!

Paeonia tenuifolia in bud
 My home garden provides perennial (and annual and woody) delight throughout the year. I little suspected when my clumps of fernleaf peony bloomed the last day of March that less than a month later I'd see acres of them in the wild in easternmost Georgia (within sight of Azerbaijan, Russia and not far from Armenia! Hooboy!

Old town Tbilisi from the botanical garden
April and early May were a three week expedition on behalf of the Plant Collection Cooperative with Boyce Tankersley of Chicago Botanical Garden and Peter Zale of Longwood: one of the most productive, fun and fantastic experiences I shall ever have! I fell in love with this unique country and was thrilled to finally experience the Caucasus (both lesser and greater).

Quince in full bloom
 Coming home to your garden in full bloom only enhances the joy of travel when your a plant nut! My rock garden gives me endless delight every month of the year--but never more than in May.

Tony Hall by Mike Kintgen's "hell" strip
 June: A brief visit from Kew's brilliant horticulturist early in the month was a highlight in a year of highlights: Tony and I first met and went camping together 41 years ago: I have enjoyed his hospitality at Kew repeatedly over the decades and was finally able to lure him to Denver for a fantastic presentation on the Scorpiris--perhaps the single group of plants I yearn for and love more than any other...and that's saying a LOT!

Meconopsis and Incarvillea at Napahai

Once Tony left, June consisted mostly of just over 3 weeks in northern Yunnan with 13 intrepid North American Rock Garden Society members: I don't think I've had another more rollicking, fun, flower filled or rewarding trip (Okay, Georgia was pretty dang cool)...the Chinese mountains exceeded my fondest memories (I'd visited briefly 20 years earlier) and the weather was perfect!

Sarracenia purpurea near Hawk's Hill, Newfoundland

In July I attended the North American Rock Garden Society's annual meeting in St. Johns Newfoundland. I'd visited in May--which was wonderful. But the flowering of practically everything at once around the 4th of July in the Maritimes has to be experienced to be believed. Todd Boland--organizer of this meeting--is a Continental treasure. If you don't belong to NARGS you're missin' out!

Monardella macrantha 'Marian Sampson'
I may have taken this picture in May, June, July--but let's say August. It kept blooming until October--surely the longest blooming spectacle one can grow in a rock garden. But here the best specimen I've ever seen is growing in the Labyrinth at Chatfield Farms--Denver Botanic Gardens' amazing "satellite". I suspect one day it will be a satellite much as the Sun is to the earth--a lot bigger and pretty dang outstanding! Getting the know the fantastic gardeners there, and taking a field trip with them was another high point for me this year.

Westridge in August
I think I like my prickly pears in fruit almost as much as in bloom: the vast xeriscape that is Westridge at my home garden keeps morphing. Opuntia has become a centerpiece for me.
Zdenek and Zdena at Spring Creek with Bryan Fischer
Zdenek and I began corresponding nearly a half century ago, and he's been visiting Denver and sharing his great knowledge for nearly four decades (his first visit was in 1983). What a pleasure to have him tour ten regional botanic gardens, at each of which he saw spectacular crevice gardens in progress or on the planning boards: evidence of his huge influence so far from the Czech Republic. I could tell he was pleased, and his presentations were a huge success. Launch of a Rocky Mountain lecture series!

Butchart Gardens
I was deeply honored to be the annual speaker for the Elizabeth Miller Garden lecture series in Seattle later in September: Jan and I took over a week to visit Vancouver island and various friends around Puget Sound. Four powerhouses have had an enormous positive benefit to gardening in North America: Martha Stewart, Dale Chihuly, Longwood Gardens and Butchart Gardens. These four have inspired millions of people to leap into and revel in Public Gardens and gardening. "Sophisticated" gardeners are understandably a tad jealous (been there, done that) and returning to an ever more sophisticated Butcharts this past fall humbled me. The spectacle is astonishing and really superb. There, I said it. Until we fully acknowledge the debt owed to these four Gods of our art, we will always remain mean and thwarted. I hereby bow down, hell, I kowtow to all four! bang bang bang bang (that's my forehead hitting the ground).

Nonegenarian and her white pine in east Denver (she remembers it as a sapling: "I sure hope I die before it does"
Fifty years ago my friend and mentor, Alan Rollinger, began a survey of the street trees of the Denver metropolitan area. He identified and measured 1200 or so of the most unusual trees in the area. He published a booklet with his finds. I have been fortunate to work with Ann Frazier on our staff, partnering with Rob Davis and Denver city arborists and Master Gardeners and DBG volunteers to seek out and re-measure all the trees identified by Al. After several years of frequent field trips across the region, the final measurements were concluded in November and we're now working on a report--another highlight of this past year's work!

Ray Radebaugh's astonishing garden in Louisville
Nature and gardens are the focus of my work--but people create the latter and we have an increasingly complex relationship with the former (a stranglehold perhaps is a better way of describing our grasp of nature). Ray is another friend of half a century: both of us going through divorce and the distractions of time, we'd lost touch for nearly two decades. This past fall I finally had time to get to know his new wife and children, and visit his fantastic garden. These are the things that make life precious to me.

Alpenglow from my driveway, December 29, 2018

Now the year closes: for several months every morning it seems (or at least the bulk of them) I wake to a gorgeous dawn of Alpenglow igniting the Continental Divide--200 miles of which stretches within view of my living room windows. I have taken dozens, perhaps hundreds of pictures of the Front Range peaks which are sometimes pink like watermelon snow, other times Marmalade shades of orange and apricot, or the whole jelly case of fruit tints. Despite living less than ten miles from Downtown Denver (seen in this picture) and surrounded, really, by scores of miles of city in all directions, the half acre I'm blessed to live on--and our dispersed neighborhood give me the illusion of being somehow in nature. But its the Rocky Mountains that remind me of why I live here--so near and yet not so very far!

My blog usually dwells on plants, and this posting may lead you to think my life is a perpetual lark (and at times I'm almost persuaded myself)...but there are undertows in every life: this year I lost family members whom I have loved all my life, and who have had a great impact on me: my brother-in-law Earl Sampson, my first cousin Spiro Callas (on my father's side) and just two weeks ago my coeval first cousin on my mother's side, Eleni Nikolaou nee Kornaraki.

And I have experienced anger, depression and fury over the political direction of my very own country. I believe that treasonous collusion with a foreign power has polluted our political process and led to the installation of an illegitimate administration which is despoiling our environment--social, political, ecological and especially the airwaves with non-stop vulgarity, dishonesty and cupidity. The frightening contrast between the heinous world of national and international politics and the fantastic fulfillment of my work, my remarkably wise and good extended family and friends and the hundreds of honest, kind and thoughtful people I deal with from day to day is hard to jibe with so much violence in our country, our poor southern border and the world at large.

View of distant construction via the Romantic Garden promenade at Denver Botanic Gardens

Just noticed the last picture is out of focus: let's pretend it's "impressionistic" instead! The Blossoms of Light come to an end tomorrow night--and the crane looming over the Boetcher building presages the excitement of the Freyer-Newman Center that will expand our programs enormously and finally provide our Science, Exhibitions, Education and Library staff the Lebensraum they need to work even more powerfully.

I only wish there were a crane that would remove the demonic elements of our body politic and bury them deep in the compost heaps of history!

Featured Post

A garden near lake Tekapo

The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...

Blog Archive