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Showing posts from August, 2009

All seasons in one...

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In Denver our state flower is usually in peak bloom in May, fully in seed by June. The picture above was taken this past week just below Lake Isabel in the Indian Peaks Wilderness where my son and I climbed Pawnee pass. There was a meadow filled with marsh marigolds in full bloom--which usually bloom in June at this elevation (in Denver they would bloom in April at the latest if we could get them to grow at all!). All this of course is due to a cool summer, and the vast snowbanks on the slopes where these plants grew, essentially putting them into refrigeration.
I was a perfect day: Jesse is 17--about the age I might have been when I first climbed this pass. It seemed interminable then and it seems pretty big even now. The trail sign said 4 miles from the trailhead to the pass. It felt more like six or seven to me...huff huff.
I last hiked this pass over 35 years ago. If someone had told me then I wouldn't be up here again until I had a son thinking about college and fulfilling all …

Amen to Amanus

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Not too far from Alexandretta (now Iskenderun, Turkey), where my beloved aunt Eleni Papantonakis was born and grew up, loom the Amanus Mountains of Turkey, on the border with Syria. Strange to think that this region, not far from Antioch, was once teeming with Greeks and heartland of Hellenism, and that I have such a dear personal link to the magnificent flora thereabouts in the person of my remarkable great aunt (one of the sweetest relatives crowding my coddled childhood), who's been gone for several decades now. I have been fortunate to explore so many mountains in my crazy life, but there are still so many to visit. High on my dream list are the Amanus.
I imagine they are not terribly imposing. Yet they harbor no end of fabulous plants. Cyclamen pseudibericum ranks high on my list of this fantastic genus--it is largely restricted to this mountain range. And Helleborus vesicarius is probably the strangest and most fascinating (and most difficult to obtain) in its genus. The magn…

Tempus fugit

It's been several days since my last blog and life slips by. Highlights of the last few days include seeing "Julie and Julia" (or is it the other way around) where the plot is driven by a blog by the younger heroine on this same Blogspot! Is that coincidence or what? Went to the movie with Jan and my son, both of whom are foodies so needless to say a good time was had by all.
Thursday night I went to DBG's Bonfils Stanton Lecture Series. John Greenlee talked on meadows. I've heard several iterations of this talk over the years (I've known John for a quarter century), and it is inspiring. The message reverberates, first of all, that we pour so many chemicals and treated water on lawns unnecessarily, and that there are so many creative alternatives. My favorite picture is of Neil Diboll levitating in a misty sea of highly symmetrical and very rosy, cloudy pink Erianthus (love grass). But all his pix are good. He's coming up with a new book "Meadows by D…

Cute as a button!

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Escobaria echinus
There are those who don't like cacti. Even those people make an exception for these little golfballs with outlandish, unbelievably beautiful blossoms. If you are one of those who actually likes cacti, the miniature gems scattered liberally across much of Western America are the very quintessence of our marvellous flora. They are tough. They are often rare and obscure. They have a fascinating stem and spine structure interesting in their own right, and evident all year long. And when their flowers open, time stands still for a while and nearby angels can be heard strumming--not harps, of course--but perhaps a bluegrass or country melody. Nothing says "America" like cactus (in fact, it's down right unAmerican to dislike them I think!). You can hardly be out of sight of one prickly pear or another throughout the American West at lower altitudes. Sophisticated gardens in the Denver area are sporting more and more and more cacti of all kinds in their rock…

Inspiring spires...

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There are people who claim they don't like the color orange, and others who find pokey and stick-em-up plants a little, well, offensive perhaps or just plain....phallic. Freud being long dead, I think that as Groucho said (I think it was my favorite Marxist) "Sometimes a red hot poker is just a red hot poker"). OK, it wasn't Groucho...It's me who says it.



For most of the benighted 20th Century, the only Kniphofias sold in Denver (or much of the United States for that matter) were "Kniphofia uvaria" (in double quotes because I doubt that species is even in cultivation widely here even now). That serviceable and rather dowdy Kniphofia strain is still sold occasionally, only now more and far more glamorous pokers are showing up at garden centers, and a wealth of species and cultivars can be found mail order.




Kniphofia caulescens


Two of my faves are starting to bloom in gardens hereabouts. For those of us lucky enough to visit the Drakensberg in January or Fe…

O Hail!

(I've copied the following from a post I did for the Colorado Gardening forum...I think it said what I needed to say about whether or not to visit Kendrick Lake soon after their disastrous Hail)
Kendrick Lake was extremely hard hit three weeks ago by the hailstorm: about as hard hit as much of the West side of town in the Kipling-Wadsworth zone from southernmost metro to Arvada. I went a week after the hail and saw Molly and Greg and their crew essentially cutting everything that was damaged severely to the nubbins. It was heartbreaking.
Everyone who has experienced hail of this order knows the feeling: helplessness, depression, sadness. I as sure most people on the list have read Lauren's magnificent chapter on hail in the Undaunted Garden. I also recommend the opening chapters of The Thunder Tree by America's foremost nature writer (and our native son too) Robert Michael Pyle. Hail sucks.
But suck it up, we live in a Hail zone. I was STUNNED to see that every manzanita at K…

August doldrums

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Gentiana paradoxa x septemfida


Gentiana paradoxa
I fiercely resented August as a child: after the vast ocean of June and the endless undulations of July, August stretched out with depressing interminability: my best friends, you see, were off to the beach or visiting grandparents, and I was stuck in Boulder--which back in the fifties was a sleepy little town with few students in the summer and no hippies, yuppies or tourists to throng our real downtown. Which was not a mall.
I would go fishing with my dad: always fun (although if my mom knew what he did with me she would ring his neck and never let me accompany him again). He was old school, which meant kids were tolerated but not necessarily cosseted. Fishing trips were his fun time and I was frankly a bit of baggage ("so you want to go fishing again? take the kid this time") and once we parked the jeep at whatever trailhead, he would park me by a stream or reservoir and tell me to stay put and spend the rest of the day on…

Thought process

Prairie is pretty self explanatory. I considered "steppe" (a tad too exotic). Plains are just too plane. So prairie it is! Break is a little more complicated. Let's quietly tiptoe past the various sharp shards of connotation to the good stuff: everyone needs and wants a break from routine, from strain, from the hum drum. What you resist persists, so let's revisit the negative connotation ( let's grasp, however painfully, the thistle): every day represents a broken word, a broken promise, the shattering of a tiny illusion or of a grand delusion. More prosaically, every moment represents the anastomosis of eternity. Let's face it, nothing is made without breaking. Each moment pits or splits or splinters from the diminishing block of our imaginary futures bright hard tiny fragments of the past. 
More literally--and perhaps more practically--I was also thinking of those magical places on the prairie where the levelness ends: the Breaks! Cedar Breaks, the Missouri …
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Today Eleni Ann Kelaidis, my daughter, boarded an airplane for New York City to start a new life at twenty two. She is a beautiful young woman, with many talents and great charm. She has friends and a few relatives there, and has shown her independence and responsibility and growing maturity for several years now. Young people need to spread their wings and fly? Why, then, are my eyes full of tears?
I remember when she boarded the bus to go to school the first time. My GOD, she was only threeish at the time (whatever possessed us to start her in Montessori?), let alone at a school near Five Points when resonated back then with danger and layers of racist fear for whiteys like me. OK OK, I know I'm kinda brownish--but technically I'm as Caucasian as you. She was unusually brave for a child that size, and I shall never forget the way her leg reached up--really a stretch--to board the yellow bus, lunge up and fly away forever it felt like then and feels like now. I blubbered ridi…