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Showing posts from June, 2010

The best design is accidental...

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We THINK it's Melica ciliata...and it has produced a few unwanted babies here and there, so it probably is a potential weed. I would never in a million years have planted it on that amazing perch next to the waterfall, but somehow it got there, and for weeks in late spring and early summer it makes a spectacle of itself in this highly visible spot. The spot it's growing in gets very dry and is extremely exposed, so the plant is probably a fraction its usual size: typical Melica ciliata can grow a yard tall if pampered while this barely exceeds a foot. In nature it occurs in much of Europe eastward to Kazakhstan--central and western Eurasia.

Over the years I am constantly surprised at plants that somehow miraculously appear in the perfect spot: often plants I am sure I never planted (sometimes, like this one, I hadn't even heard of them before I had to research them to put a name on them), suddenly appear in just the right spot and proceed to flourish and grow better than d…

Moment of glory

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My moment of glory is over: the summer doldrums have started in earnest. A couple of days in the 90's and the alpines have hustled through blooming, everything looks a tad wilty and the mariposas are done for the year. One or two bedraggled blossoms are left is all. The bluegramma meadow (my pride and joy) in the soutwest corner of the garden is drying out again, and the speckling of calochortus you see in the picture above are forming fat seedpods. I wish Wayne Roderick were alive for many reasons, not least of which would be to show him how his godchildren, his minions that he sent to Holland have come back to the state where his mom was born and grew up in to thrive. Amazing these California lotus eaters thrive so well in our dusty steppe prairie. But life is mysterious like that: Wayne's house is where Tom Peace's brother now lives, Tom being a good buddy of mine who lives not far away: it's a small, cuddly world, this gardening world of ours. Spangled with magical…

A REAL xeriscape

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Pictures do not do the Barnett garden justice. I have been lucky enough to visit hundreds (maybe thousands?) of great gardens in many countries, but Don and Celia's Pueblo xeriscape rates near the top. Nestled in a pleasant suburb not far from CSU campus in North Pueblo, whenever I turn the corner and see this shocking, extravagant and faithful tribute to our Southwestern canyonlands my heart skips a beat: if I had not visited this great garden repeatedly I wouldn't believe it was possible to pack a hundred species of penstemons and many times that of cacti, lots of other native wildflowers and shrubs and have it in glorious bloom whenever I drop by. And it's beautiful in the dormant season. And needless to say, they water with a teacup. I've never asked, but I doubt if the Barnetts have "studied" gardening formally in school. And I doubt if they are botanically trained. But you would be hard put to find a botanic garden with as much integrity in its vision a…

Raining on my parade...

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I would have liked to show you pictures of my mariposa lilies: several hundred blooming. But it's been drizzling/raining for 3 days and they're all drooping and looking miserable. And I publicized my garden to several hundred people as open (in about an hour)....oh well. It rained on Atlanta Botanic Garden's special evening when we visited a week and a couple days ago, but the sun providentially emerged as well, and the glowing evening ended with fireflies glimmering in the woods.

Eastern wildflowers seem to hold up in the rain better than our poor sun loving westerners. The pitcher plants peppered with Calopogon were incredible at ABG. I had been wanting to visit Atlanta for ages, and the APGA (American Public Gardens Association) annual meeting was really good: a chance to reconnect with friends and meet new colleagues and the sessions I went to were good, but the evening dinners at Atlanta and Calloway gardens were really over the top. It was humid, but not hot, and lush…

Pax Verbascum

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There are those purists who would object to a verbascum (even a dainty one like this) in a rock garden. There are those who regard all mulleins as noxious weeds. There are a lot of silly people in the world. Last year was the year of the Verbascum at my Quince St. Garden...I kinda overdid it. This year I edited the vast majority of seedlings when they were small. Instead of two or three hundred, we probably only have fitty or so here and there: nothing too radical.

I think the only plant that gets more commens in my garden than the mulleins is Anthriscus sylvetris 'Ravenswing'. Although, I confess, with the tall bearded iris are in bloom, or the peonies, people do gawk. And of course there's Glaucium, a whole different story!

As for mulleins, I really can't have enough kinds. And miniature hybrids or sports like this one are all the more beguiling.

Columbine of the rocks...

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I've struggled for years to grow Aquilegia scopulorum, and finally this year it grew and bloomed marvellously. Of course, so did they prosper for all my friends. In the top picture a fine clump is blossoming on Jon Lawyer's exquisite crevice garden. Below it's blooming away for Bill Adams, owner of Sunscapes, in Pueblo. Botanists are tempted to lump this into our Colorado columbine, but it must surely represent an ancient (and stable) intermediate between A. jonesii and A. caerulea. As you would expect of something of hybrid ancestry, it is enormously variable: I remember climbing to tundra on a central Nevada peak and finding hundreds of them growing soboliferously on a slope, in every pastel shade with white petals. And I recall the tiny, deep blue gems on a high, limestone scree on the Aquarius plateau. Something about this spring has inspired our cultivated specimens to grow and bloom like crazy and set heavy seed (notice the pods on the plant in the lower picture)...o…

The last tulip

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Several tulips are in contention to be the last to bloom in the garden, but in my experience, Tulipa sprengeri takes the prize. It has lots going for it: although tulips seem to have perfected the color red, few plants seem to have as laquered and shiny of Chinese red flowers as this amazing species. Don't bother looking for it in catalogs: it eschews the conventional methods of cultivation used in Holland. This is one to get by getting a handful of seeds from a friend and scattering them hither and yon. It seems to grow wherever you put it. These came from my late friend John Worman, who gave me an envelope of seed from his garden almost 30 years ago. They have been prospering in the Rock Alpine Garden ever since (still blooming on June 7!). I have scattered them in my old and new gardens, and they have popped up in shady beds, rich borders and in bluegramma lawns, growing as lustily in shade as in full sun. I have read that this is extinct in the wild. I somehow hope some of this…

Succulent fire...

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It's hard to believe there was a time when we thought Lewisia cotyledon was a challenging alpine. Nowadays you can find it sold occasinally at box stores and even rarely at grocery stores even, and finding it in a garden center is no great feat. Yet there was a time when this local endemic of the Siskiyou mountains was coveted and yearned for by gardeners. The two plants in the lower of the two pix above are growing at the fringe of my dry garden, where they rarely get a drink of water. The red one above is at Denver Botanic Gardens. The secret, of course, of growing this Lewisia is to grow tons of them from seed, plant them everywhere, and keep propagating them: single plants usually only last a few years, and you never want to be without this gem. I remember finally getting to Vincent Square a decade or so ago, where the Royal Horticultural Society still held its fortnightly flower show in a cavernous, Victorian hall the size of a football field. Although massive, the dingy sett…

Atraphaxis on the Oxus

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Do we really need another white flowering shrub that blooms in May and June? Albeit this one can grow in Colorado with no summer watering. The name is intriguing: Atraphaxis buxifolia. It sounds to me more like a Persian satrap's name than a plant. We grow several accessions of this genus at Denver Botanic Gardens, although the monster above is on East Ridge at my Quince St. garden blooming several weeks ago. The second picture shows what it looks like almost a month later from the same spot (the magic of gardens is their changeability after all)...full disclosure: there is a certain little down side to the plant.

It stinks. Literally: a strange scent somewhere between rancid and down right pungent. I planted it fifteen or more feet from the nearest path, but the scent still wafts along. During my garden open day the stiff breeze saved the several hundred visitors from staring at one another and wondering who hadn't showered...small compensation for stiff breezes--when you want…