Sunday, September 16, 2018

Yet ANOTHER book: this one is a killer.



I confess, I haven't read every word on the 400+ folio sized pages. I have skimmed every page, however, and stopped and read far more than I intended. Not many books come out that are utterly novel and fresh and new. And superbly produced, chockablock full of fantastic images and truly novel information that you will not find anywhere else.

If you search my blog, you will find several posts about my travels in the Tian Shan: I am stunned as I look through this volume how few of the plants I have seen on several visits over two years time: that mountain range is simply astonishing! I have also blogged about the senior author several times. Vojtech is extraordinary on so many counts: I know no other plant explorer who has explored more mountains over a longer period of time (for over 3 decades so far he's traversed much of Eurasia yearly, as well as North America, South America to boot!).  I doubt that many people have seen and photographed more species of montane and alpine flowers. Or grown them in his exquisite garden.

Meanwhile holding down a job as Director of the Gene Bank of the Czech Republic. Vojtech just gave a stunning presentation about this book (and its namesake mountains) at our second Rocky Mountain Steppe Summit--and sold a goodly number of books while he was at it!

The flora of the Tian Shan shares a few species with the Himalayas to the south and the Altai mountains to the north and east. But the lion's share of the plants that grow there grow no where else.

And unlike Himalayan species, the Tian Shan wildflowers are amenable to cultivation in North America.

There will be 18 copies of the book sold for $69 advertised in the forthcoming copy of the North American Rock Garden Society bulletin: I don't expect these will last very long. But yet another great reason to join America's premier organization of plant connoisseurs. (NARGS was the only organization to provide a grant to the authors to print this book).

Hopefully more will be ordered. It is conceivable you can obtain a copy from the author  (he gives details as to how to get it on his webpage) but the cost will be much more.

If you live on the Eastern Seaboard, you may be able to buy one at one of the many places he will be speaking: I can assure you if you can make one of his talks, you'll need his book!

I hope he can obtain an American distributor so that libraries and bookstores across our country can get copies of this book!

Excuse me while I go back to skimming the text: who ever heard of Vinca erecta? What a stunning perennial. And all those Corydalis!




Saturday, September 8, 2018


Now I shall find out if anyone really reads my blog--and one you may even be rewarded if you read to the end...I happen to be in Victoria (British Columbia) and the fog was pea soup this morning at dawn, but now the sun is threatening to come out and the misty air is positively glowing with a promise of sunlight. And if Jan ever gets off her damn I-Phone, we'll be off to Butchart's (yes, Butchart's) where I've not been for quite a few decades since my last color headache there...

In this misty luminous light it should be even more electrifyingly incandescent....

I have a bit of history in Victoria: I've been here quite a few times, even before 1980 when I quite literally launched my lecture career at the Empress Hotel (a long and embarrassing story). My first visit was July 1976 when I went on my first adventure in the old Falcon attending the Interim International Rock Garden Conference in Seattle and Vancouver....afterwards, I drove up to Anacortes and the ferry to spend time with my best friend from High School, but was highjacked by Roy Davidson, his cousin Linda Wilson and Sharon Sutton--and we spent nearly a week camping on the beaches of West Vancouver Island and exploring Mt. Arrowsmith vicinity. I still grow Dicentra formosa I collected on that trip over forty years later!

But before that even, as a teenager or earlier I'd discovered Hugh Preece's book--the feeble picture above isn't the real cover (I have it with a dustjacket). It's a quirky Edwardian piece--strangely personal and full of great data. I am sorry I can't seem to find any of the images inside it on the Web to post--and my copy's in Colorado (and I'm in Preece's backyard, figuratively speaking). But honestly, his commentary on a vast variety of American wildflowers inspired me as a kid: even then I knew the prose was a bit much, and that he was a piece of work.

I met Ed and Ethel Lohbrunner on my first trip, and asked them if they knew Preece. Indeed they knew Hugh (who was long gone by then). He was sumpthin'! I never quite figured out what that Sumpthin' was...but his book is something. If you look below and click the title of the book, you'll go to the Abebooks page where several copies are for sale, some for under $10.00 for a first edition from 80 years ago!



The classic North American Rock Plants by Hugh Preece has apparently been reprinted by one of those South Asian publishing companies--I'd go for a first edition myself..

I know you may have a kindle or whatever brand of e-book reader--I've resisted. I know much of the world's literature is digitized: I don't think this book is. And no matter how good the reproduction and how wonderful the digital glow of text, there's something about those old black and white images on slick paper that isn't reproducible on a screen.

Some day I think this book will be recognized as a classic--it is surely the first time that many great garden plants from North America were described so well, photographed so nicely, and rhapsodized in such fine Edwardian-era prose...

I wrote a review 8 years ago I stand by--which they've attached to the new ersatz edition (not sure I think that's kosher). Click on the first sentence and you can get a bit more about it...

A misty day outside our Air-bandb in Victoria--and Hugh's spirit still lingers in my memory, and just beyond the corner there, hidden in the mist.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Two weeks to Steppe Summit!

Steppe Meister!
Perhaps it's not the most flattering portrait...but this does perhaps convey some of the whimsy that balances Mike Bone's many other more serious sides: I've had the pleasure of working with Mike for two decades, and I have come to know and admire much about the man. Heck, I adore the son of a gun! I eulogized him almost two years ago (Genghis Bone) with many better pictures of him....

I have also done Prairiebreak portraits of the three other exotic speakers who will be speaking at the Steppe Summit on September 15 at Denver Botanic Gardens:

Vojtech Holubec on the Flowers of the Tian Shan (feauturing photos from his just published book o the same subject

Christopher Gardener, Garden designer and plant explorer who now lives in Turkey who co-wrote Flora of the Silk Road and will speaking on the subject.

Zdenek Zvolanek on "The Beauty Slope" (his spectacular private garden of steppe plants at Karlik)


Mike will be giving an update on his work in Lesotho--the mountain Kingdom surrounded by South Africa where so many of our Plant Select treasures originated. He's been assisting staff at the Katse Botanical Garden there with projects, and collaborating with Munich Botanic Garden in seed collection and research in the high steppe environments of the country in the Southern Hemisphere that most closely resembles Colorado in climate and geomorphology.

Mike is also the mastermind who has orchestrated the creation of the Steppe Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens--which has generated enormous interest in the last few years. It contains several dramatic takes on the theme of "crevice gardening" that won the admiration and high praise from Zdenek Zvolanek last week.

Zdenek and Vojtech were two of the handful of Czech gardeners who evolved the Crevice garden technique of rock gardening--which is now featured in several areas at Denver Botanic Gardens, Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, Montrose and Durango Botanic Gardens, the Yampa River Botanic Park, Vail Alpine Garden and several public gardens in Colorado Springs, as well as the spectacular Simms Street APEX crevice garden in Arvada. There is talk about new Crevice Gardens at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, the Gardens at Spring Creek in Fort Collins and elsewhere in this region. Come "drink at the source" of what is proving to be one of the most exciting new garden styles!

Just click below and sign up! There will never again be a line up like this--at least not in America!


Or you can join the ranks of "Coulda! Shoulda! Woulda!)....


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Just how hardy are hardy ice plants? Hereby hangs a tale...

Delosperma cooperi (by Nevin Bebee)

Nevin Bebee has volunteered at Denver Botanic Gardens as long as I've worked here (let's not bandy about numbers...but let's just say the plant you see above came from a cutting I gave Nevin in the mid 1980's--and we'd both been around for a while at that point...

What is so remarkable to both of us is that the plant you see above has persisted in that same spot for over 30 years, which is to say it's endured shallow soil in winters which have dropped below -20F and summers which have baked above 100F. This should put to rest any doubts about the hardiness of this taxon! Here's what Nevin had to say in a recent email: "I guess I am surprised long lived patches of Delosperma aren't more common, after all, don't they commonly clone themselves much as other succulents do? I believe mine have found ice plant heaven on the boulder because the surrounding garden has always been pretty well irrigated, receiving water 2-3 X/week in the heat of summer. They ice plants are too well drained to rot and too well watered to dry out completely. This may change due to changes I'm making in the surrounding garden."


 I have pictures of the original planting of D. cooperi in the Rock Alpine Garden where it did persist (and there may even be a fragment left--I wouldn't be surprised) [The picture above is NOT that planting incidentally]...I don't know if I've ever published the whole story of its introduction (it's a pretty good one!)...and perhaps I shall...but the theme right now is longevity: the scene above was the most dramatic planting I ever made of it at the entrance to the Rock Alpine Garden--probably in the early 1990's almost a decade after our first getting cooperi... For those who don't believe in revolutionary change, here is that same spot this past winter:


I've shown a winter shot of the entrance crevice gardens so as not to shock you too much! Honest..it's the same spot as in the garden above--needless to say, Delosperma cooperi isn't in evidence!

 I suppose I should do the entrance crevice garden a BIT of justice--here's what it looks like in bloom:


A shot of the garden from the West end looking East...


And a more frontal picture: a lot more complexity than bedding out masses of a single Delosperma!




Spearking of which, here's the slightly dwarfer and much hardier race that Sunscapes has been selling for years, but which doesn't seem to have caught on. We've had five or six very different accessions of D. cooperi from high elevations--none of them in commerce.


Here's Delosperma cooperi growing at its highest altitude in Lesotho near Oxbow lodge--which may explain its thriving on top of rocks...

D. cooperi on cliffs at Oxbow


This sign is clearly visible from the cliff where Delosperma cooperi was growing in nature--which translates to 8284' elevation. The sheep to the right and wrecked car on the left give some characteristic local color to the scene!

This is, after all, a ski area--and one of the coldest areas in Southern Africa where subzero temperatures are not unheard of. So the toughness of Nevin's plant is perhaps not so surprising.

What does surprise me is that growing with the Delosperma on these same cliffs are masses of Aloe aristata, Cotyledon orbiculata and Euphorbia clavarioides. None of these (let alone the Aloe polyphylla that grows not too terribly far away as well) have yet to prove as durable and reliable as the ice plant. But one can only hope!

But Nevin has reinforced my faith in what will probably go down as the most important plant introduction I have personally been part of--and if the whole process had been delayed, it's very possible that D. cooperi wouldn't be introduced at all--at least by a public garden. And thereby hangs another tale!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Where are the Songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

As August comes to a close and the nights are starting to get cooler, the thoughts of spring are getting more and more remote and fall is fast approaching. This past spring was so glorious, I can't help but take a fond look back! Four months ago the daphnes were still in bloom, and tulips were dotted about here and there...


It's a pretty awful combination, but which do I take out? The pale pink Aethionema or the fiery Firespinner sib? Or do I just grin and bear it?

Draba rigida (left) Draba longisiliqua (right) and Gentiana acaulis (upper right)
I hoped but didn't really expect to find Draba rigida in the Caucasus--and yet I did--not far from Mt. Kasbek: how surprised I was to see it was still in bloom the day after I returned from Georgia--just a little past the stage I saw it blooming in the wild! Alas, I didn't find its woolier cousin pictured right--nor D. mollissima which is blooming just off camera to the left: the finest drabas seem to come from there!

Gentiana acaulis

Alas, the trumpet gentians don't make it to the Caucasus! But they do love our home garden!


Including this icy white!


The garden is a tad "overmature"--everything is growing into one another--I like to think they squeeze out weeds that way!

Salvia caespitosa (center) and Asperula daphneola (left) aren't weeds! Yet anyway!

The everchanging rock garden
The various gardens here occasionally get away from me--but the rock garden is right by the kitchen and gets extra attention and care.


We are fortunate to have almost 20 drop from the top end of the property to the lowest corner of the lot!


April is daphne season, and dozens of species and hybrids bloom sequentially--and there are iris in bloom from January to July some years! Two of my favorite genera...come to think of it, I have a LOT of favorite genera...


And there seems to be more shade all the time as the way too many trees we've planted get bigger...I like the foliage contrast of woodland plants...

Polygonatum hybridum ‘Grace Barker'
The Solomon seals are proving to be quite diverse and durable in my often dry shade. This is the most spectacular of them all--a gift of Rob Proctor who got it from Helen Dillon: quite a pedigree!


The shade vignette I featured a few panels above can also have flowers--Monardella macrantha 'Marion Sampson' glowing red above. Much more petite than the monsters at Chatfield!

Looking at the same from a different angle, with a vista opening up of the lawn below and distant hills.


May is saxifrage season, and I seem to be getting more and more of the silvers....


This year I mystified a few visitors by bedding out a small Aeonium tabuliforme, which (needless to say) will not be staying out for the winter...I'll probably repeat the experiment--it almost doubled in size over the summer!


The colors can be brash in late spring...delospermas are not modest in their hues...but they are my claim to fame, and I have to grow a number of them. Dozens actually!


A late summer picture of the "vegetable garden" (a very liberal use of the term)....Jan doesn't have the heart to pull out the Ipomoeas!


Another view of the so-called veggie garden. Oh well...it is pretty in a very wuld way...


The various borders around the garden are somewhat more managed...only somewhat! But they're full of goodies. The phlox was growing here when we moved in--and we kept it.


A dry border with Amsonia illustris (which seeds about a bit too much perhaps) and giant Atraphaxis buxifolia behind. Alas, the atraphaxis smells bad. We collected one in Kazakhstan that blooms in summer and smells like honey...


Closer look at our heritage phlox...


A combo in a border with Orientpet lilies, Eryngium giganteum and Hemerocallis 'Corky'


Glaucium season! Peak color for us...several species have hybridized and we get every shade from nearly red to yellow...


It coincides with Oncobred Iris season--we have nearly a hundred along our "ridges"...


West ridge is full of cacti and western wildflowers--the scary part of the garden for gentle souls...but it needs no water!


Some of the hardy Southwestern cacti are getting bigger and bigger...


Some more views of the dry gardens in horned poppy season...


The mulleins seem to modest this time of year!


By late summer, the mulleins (several species and hybrids) create a rather wild tableaux of anorexic ballerinas careening wildly through the dry garden!


But the thing that's perhaps most special at Quince St. garden is the views--here Mt. Evans in full snowy panoply in spring--he's almost snowless now (we can finally see him again now that the winds have cleared the smoke of Western forest fires).

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Come chassé ("sashay") down the silk road with us....


You probably didn't realize the colloquialism "to sashay" came from the French "chassé": See how educational this blog can be? But not nearly as educational as hearing the gentleman photographing you above speak about the Silk Road Flora! Trained as a horticulturist and garden designer, he now runs a tour company (Vira Nature Tours) with his wife Basak, with whom he wrote and photographed the exquisite book below:


The Silk road not only crosses 5000 miles of Eurasia, it was the main channel of communication between East Asia and Europe for hundreds of years. It skirts hundreds of mountain ranges and bisects the largest steppe biome on the planet. Chris will be bringing a number of this book to sell at the Steppe Summit on September 15 at Denver Botanic Gardens--it is currently out of print and I noticed that Amazon only has copies starting at over $899! The book has stunning photography of over 500 wildflowers growing from Turkey to China along the Silk Road.


Here is a photograph of Fritillaria eduardii taken this past spring at Denver Botanic Gardens Steppe garden. This is the most recently designed garden at the York St. site of DBG--and has generated much interest and curiosity.

The Steppes are where humankind first evolved, and where much of the drama of our history has transpired. The steppe flora has provided most of the staples foods that sustain us, and the steppes of Asia are the current stage where many of the world's political flashpoints are found. To understand the Steppe is to understand humanity.

Click here to find out more about and to sign up for this year's Steppe Symposium

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A dusky walk in the Garden

Echeveria in the Cutting Garden

The Gipsy King concert was going to start soon, and I had to do the announcements. But the dusky light looked perfect for pictures, so I dashed out and snapped almost 100--and I mean snapped. Here they are, from the evening of August 15.


You can't accuse us of not being patriotic! What a gorgeous form of Agapanthus!


I've never seen so many forms of Amaranth as we seem to be growing (as you will see)--these are some of Dan Johnson's outrageous mix of colors.

Love that amaranth!

One of the outdoor displays of tender succulents

Leuchtenbergia principis
The so-called Agave cactus is about to bloom!

Salvia penstemonoides

The Watersmart Garden is still looking good despite a long hot summer

Contrasting planting of Hylotelephium sedums

Vintage Dan Johnson style: native Grass, Mexican Yucca rostrata and Greek Seseli gummiferum

Vignette from the O'Fallon Perennial Border
Another view
Lilium speciosum 'Rubrum' chiming in at the end of the Border

Ipomoea batatas and Cardoon--an unusual combo for the El Pomar water feature this year. I like it.

I can never have enough Athamanta turbith

The Ellipse garden full of fragrance thanks to Lobularia maritima

And yes, there is a statue there: "Colorado" by Dale Chihuly
The first gift of the Freyer and Newman families of Denver, who later gave even greater gifts that has allowed the construction of our new Center for Science, Education and Art.

A new site for Victoria


We're at the height of Echinacea season still, here with Salix rosmarinifolia behind them

Jennifer Miller has created quite a number of complex annual tableaux
This one is hard to miss! What a tour-de-force of combinational magic! Constantly changing through the summer.

Liatris ligulistylis doing its thing again

Michael Holloway seems to outdo himself every year with these planters featuring amaranths (again!)


The crowd is enjoying the gathering twilight: it was an outstanding concert by the way!

The high altitude Cortaderia is in fine form in the Patagonian section of the steppe garden

Water gardens are looking good everywhere...mostly day bloomers here I think...

Another of Jennifer Miller's extravaganzas


Arisaema consangineum lording it over Plantasia

The true Clematis texensis, finally! In Birds and Bees garden

Wonderful medley of Birds and Bees where Fritillaria meleagris proliferates in spring

South African plaza in late summer climax


Mike Kintgen's first crevice garden is now a silver symphony of Acantholimon

Amazing how much is still going on in the Rock Alpine Garden (which is best in spring)

Stipa capillata (I think) at the entrance of the garden

Epilobium fleischeri

Gentiana septemfida

View from the top of the "RAG"

Origanum 'Barbara Tinguey
I think I like this oregano even better than 'Kent Beauty'

Species peonies in seed--mostly P:.mlokosewitchii
People everywhere enjoying the garden. It wasn't always so popular!

A few last glimpses of RAG--here Mirabilis multiflora

Here closer up

Silene schafta
Still in the Rock Alpine Garden--I've had trouble tearing myself away for several decades now...
Zauschneria garrettii
And perhaps you can see why with this orange cataract on the Scree mound!
South African plaza full of tall cereal grasses

Greeting them from Dryland mesa is Sorghastrum nutans

T

And a delicious infestation of Cochineal! They no doubt have instructions to leave it for the education classes to show the kids biological controls (who love this sort of gruesome thing)

We don't often see pods on Echinocereus coccineus. I notice some are missing! It could be rodents (the pods are delicous)

Mahonia fremontii in glorious fruit

The Plains' garden blazing away so to speak

Rogues gallery of Nicotiana mutabilis: one of my favorite annuals

The Potager, trim as always


One of several "self watering" box plantings: watered from condensed humidity from the air

A vignette in Victorian Secret garden

Cutting garden is full of annuals in bloom


Annuals afloat

The next few panels are Bridget Blomqist's amazing annual garden








Steppe Garden


Clerodendron trichotomum
This has done well four or five years now: still not seen in local gardens. I love it!

I call this the Promenade--always in bloom.


And yes, Stinky is going to bloom--probably right about in time for the Steppe symposium! Better sign up!

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