Monday, May 11, 2015

Where have you been all my life? A true blue Corydalis.


Corydalis turtschaninovii

 Occasionally you stumble onto a plant you never heard of and suddenly it's everywhere: everywhere (that is) in a certain garden: The garden of Jacques and Andrea Thompson was brimming with more color than seems quite proper, really: vast sweeps of creeping phloxes, Trilliums in drifts here and there in every color imaginable, dozens of daphnes the size of small eastern states and what seemed to be the genetic stocks colletion of Stylophorum diphyllum: I will eventually get around to blogging about all of these (probably in several blogs: that garden is just too dang big to boil down to just one blog) But tucked here and there all over the garden among the many treasures I kept noticing a piercingly, lavish blue corydalis that was new to me: Corydalis turtschaninovii is a cruel Latin name to saddle upon such a graceful little nymph.


 It seemed to grow in all manner of spots: sunny, shady, among other plants, and by itself. In gravelly soil and woodsy soil. Of course--as soon as I could, I Googled it and discovered it's a popular Chinese medicine: so I hate to think of how many of these are consumed each year by organs other than the eyes. Doesn't seem right in my opinion!


Many of us find ourselves growing more and more corydalis in all shades of yellow, pink, rose, nearly red and purples of course. Decades ago we would obtain "Corydalis ambigua" from Japan which shares the heavenly blue color of this waif, but lacks it's durability and staying power in the garden.  And yes, there are a positive truckload of Chinese species of the "flexuosa" persuasion that have piercing cobalt or azure flowers for a long season in summer. Though these are more accommodating than the spectacular Corydalis cashmeriana one sees in Scottish and Swedish gardens (where it's sufficiently cool for it to thrive) they do need to be divided frequently, and insist on fertile, fluffy soils to settle down for their performance...In hot summer regions this performance is often brief and temporary. Not so, apparently, for our Chinese medicinal blue one!


Each time I turn the corner, another monstrous clump. And that blue!


Unfortunately, we  are now going to all have to memorize the spelling of the accursed turtschaninovii: why couldn't it have been named for some crisp, monosyllabic Anglo Saxon instead? Although I'm one to talk with my name.


But when you look at these graceful azure flowered nymphs curtseying here and there all over the garden, it will be worth it don't you think? Easily and quickly grown from seed as well as division: I dare say we'll be seeing a lot more of this outside the Thompson garden in the coming years!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Clearly Clever Clematis

Clematis albicoma
Not flamboyant like poppies or peonies, but for us devotees, nothing beats an herbaceous 'Viorna' clematis (Viorna is the name of a prominent semi-vining species in the Eastern woodlands that is the type of the sub-genus that includes the American clumping clematis: it has even been used as a Generic name for the section--not something I advocate). Superficially reminiscent of the Eurasian Clematis integrifolia--which I suspect they will prove to be related to as well one day--there is a great variation among and within the American clumpers: these pictures have been taken this past week at Denver Botanic Gardens and at my home. I begin with the rare Clematis albicoma, known from eight counties in Virginia and three in West Virginia) here blooming at Denver Botanic Gardens. The chartreuse flowers with a wonderfully hairy (albi=white; coma=hairdo) glow. How cool is that?

Clematis fremontii
I was privileged to see this in the wild north of Wichita on a wonderful fieldtrip four years ago led by Larry Vickerman, who directs Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. I was struck the by the variability of flower color in the wild--and equally so with the colony I myself once planted at the entrance of the Rock Alpine Garden (I put in the personal note: quite a few artifacts of my tenure remain in that garden, but it has been so utterly transformed by my successors--especially Mike Kintgen--that these remnants are increasingly rare). You can't blame me for being proud of this one!

Clematis fremontii
Doesn't it look as though it's dancing?


Clematis fremontii
This one is beginning to form the incredible seedheads that are almost showier than the flowers when fully formed: they glisten gold and irridescent--incredible plant.

Clematis scottii
Mike Bone, propagator at Denver Botanic Gardens as well as the intrepid Curator of Steppe Collections, took me to a colony of this wonderful plant at the outskirts of Denver--I never dreamed it grew so close. I know it mostly from the Wet Mountain valley, where it is abundant.

Clematis fremontii x hirsutissima
Clematis pitcheri (? x fremontii)
I obtained this plant as Clematis pitcheri from Bluebird Nursery--and I suspect it may have some pitcheri in it--but since it only grows to a meter or so tall, and is much thicker leaved than true pitcheri, I wonder if it too doesn't represent a cross with C. fremontii? It seems to have hybrid vigor as you can see, and blooms on and off all summer....

Clematis integrifolia 'Mongolian Bells'
Our super clump of lavender blue Mongolian Bells in the perennial border that Jan oversees in my garden. She approves of this!

Clematis integrifolia 'Mongolian Bells'
And an even bluer form of the same grex growing in the Plant Select garden at Denver Botanic Gardens. Now to get this, the white and pink and purple forms for my home garden....

If you haven't had enough of these, I've referenced these again and again in past blogs....and more than that too: I'm clearly smitten!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Revisiting Kentucky 3 years later in the spring...part 3


A rather portentous visit to one of America's great National Parks--Mammoth Caves. Biggest cave system in the world (300 miles and counting). I was disappointed to find the verges of the path crowded with garlic mustard: with the thousands of daily visitors, surely they could hire a few weeders? The last blog was written at the end of April, but the season was so advanced then that this time we encountered a whole different palette of plants. Part three, you say? The other parts may or may not be forthcoming...it was a fabulous trip that could produce another six blog entries, but the season marches on!

Saxifraga virginiensis
This trim saxifrage was on every shady slope. Hundreds of them around the cave--maybe thousands. We found these in several nearby spots--on moist, shady cliffs and slopes.

Saxifraga viginiensis duking it out with Bignonia capreolata

Saxifraga above, Sedum ternatum below.

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
These looked as though they'd just come up!

Phlox divaricata
Blue phlox is so variable!
Julian Campbell alongside escaped Pyrus calleryana
Bradford pear has escaped into the wild--here are two husky specimens in an abandoned field alongside our guide--the amazing field botanist Julian Campbell who lives in Lexington and travelled with us the last time we visited.

Gleditsia triacanthos
Now THOSE are thorns--I wonder if they slowed down the mammoths at all?

Viola pedata
We were so fortunate to have Julian, who'd scouted things out. He knows Kentucky like the back of his hand! I've never seen birdsfoot violets looking so perfect before--dozens on the hard, limy clay alongside a road: I always thought they demanded acid soil!


I took this picture to show the variability: two very different seedlings growing next to one another--a giant on the right!



And here was an albino...I was tempted to dig it...


And my favorite of the lot...you can tell I was crazy about these!



Violets growing with pussytoes: the pussytoes are dead easy--why do the violets have to be such a challenge?

Prunus munsoniana

One of four wild plums that grow in Kentucky!

Julian raising cane!
Several species of native bamboo have been delineated in recent years--this is
Arundinaria gigantea,which grow near streams and can get nearly 20' tall. It burned badly this past cold winter.

Lithospermum caroliniense
Another fabulous native: puccoon--which grows all the way to Colorado.

Prunus americana
The American plum in Kentucky was more upright and less wicked than our scrubby little things. I love the fragrance on this plant!

Cercis canadensis
The redbuds were glorious everywhere in Tennessee and Kentucky: we returned to Denver at the peak of redbud season, and they're glorious for us too. In the East, however, I noticed that they tend to be smaller than ours, and more delicate:


Bonanza: a hillside practically smothered with Trillium flexipes var. walpolei (most forms of this species are white flowered.

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Dutchmen's briches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Why does this plant leap over the Rockies and grow in the Columbia River valley in the Palouse prairie of all places. A truely annoying geobotanical riddle, that!

Isopyrum thalictroides
This rue-anemone look alike grew in vast mats everywhere in Kentucky as far as I could tell (in moist forests that is). Not many nurseries sell this.

Jeffesronia diphylla and Stylophorum diphyllum
These diphylloid endemics of the Midwest are garden classics: but to see them abounding in nature is one of the great pleasures of traveling for me. A plant in wild is worth two in the garden, to maim a cliche.

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei
More flexipes. Sorry....I was smitten!
More Isophyrum

Mertensia virginica
The bluebells/chiming bells/languid ladies were everywhere. I love this thang (the local twang is getting to me!)
MORE Mertensia

More isopyrum duking it out with Hydrophyllum

Phlox divaricata and Polystichum acrostichoides unfurling at right.
Another wonderful clump of phlox growing with a bevy of cool plants.

And more Trillium flexipes var. walpolei
The dang flexipes was everywhere...here with a choice woodland Cerastium which makes a great contrast!
Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Dicentra canadensis
I was surprised to see squirrel corn growing right next to Dutchman's britches (who says "breeches"?). They look so superficially similar in leaf--but the flowers and co
Proof I was there! Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Our guide, Julian and Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Julian and a cliff...
Julian not only LOOKS like a sprite, he prances around like a woodland spirit: I've met few keener botanists in my day.
Asplenium (Camptosorus) rhizophyllum
And I finish with one of my favorite plants: the walking fern (which refuses to walk for me)...

Thank you, Kentucky, for a fabulous week of plants, generous people and fun. Now back to work (grunt, groan, moan)...