Showing posts from August, 2010

Apropos of Gentians...

I really do have much better pictures--probably slides--of fringed gentians. I know I took some on a trip a few years ago with Kelly Grummons and Sean Hogan somewhere in the Arkansas Valley. These are probably taken in South Park where I have managed to go just about every year for four or more decades to enjoy the spectacle in mid August. Not this year. Somehow I've gotten so bogged down with other commitments (weekend parties, and this past weekend it's been catch up in the garden) that I have not been to the hills in a month. Of course, I am about to go to Kazakhstan and spend almost a month in the Altai and Tian Shan (words that once seemed so distant and alluring, and now are familiar and almost homey to me now Since I have been there once, and spent countless hours filing images and researching plants I saw there). So for the sake of distant hills I've neglected my back yard--the Rockies--this year. I am not proud of it. So what if I've spent over a half century e…

Change and the garden

As I was sorting my pictures from this year into manageably sized files, I couldn't help but notice how radically certain areas of the garden change. I am including four pictures taken of essentially the same garden at four different times: I've misplaced (or lost) my camera so I can't show you the current manifestation, which is frankly pretty crispy. It's been a long hot, dry summer in Denver!
The ridges are two slightly ridged berms with a path between that comprise much of the Western half of my garden. The soil is pretty much pure sand 80 feet deep. We composted copious amounts of leaves for five or six years (which added almost a foot of compost) which was tilled in when the berms were contoured. The East Ridge is supposed to contain only plants of the eastern hemisphere, and West Ridge only plants of the western hemisphere, but plants keep jumping back and forth. Very annoying!
I delight in these gardens throughout the gardening year: they are really full of treas…

Prospecting in catalogs

I remember running across Tradescantia tharpii in a flora once decades ago, and wondering if I would have to trudge out to the Ozarks personally to collect the little bugger since I'd never seen it offered in a catalog. Years went by, and I saw it at the Dyck Arboretum outside Hesston and a year or two later found it in a Bluebird Nursery catalog. I eventually got several plants from Harlan, and here are the two that I've grown for years in my home garden. I need more. They have put up with a great deal of abuse (I've sprayed the grass growing with them with weedkiller for instance) and carried on: unlike other dayflowers, these will not spread all over your garden and become a menace. They are demure and comely, covered with silken hair when they emerge, and blooming for weeks on end in early summer. Who could ask for anything more? (Far more deserving of the GCA Freeman medal than the recently awarded Spigelia marilandica, which is a fussy woodlander for humid, mild micr…


Harland Hand, an artist and gardener of genius, spoke of the path, the lookout and the shelter as the three touchstones that a garden must provide. Here is a glimpse of Jan Sachs and Marty Schafer's garden in Carlile, Massachusetts, one of the great gardens. I took the picture two years ago. I could go on and on about that place, but focus instead on the white eruption center left in the picture above.

Here it is closer up: that's an Artemisia whose specific name has been lost in translation, as it were. It's similar to but a better garden plant than the famous A. lactiflora 'Guizhou' (pronounced, incidentally, "Gway, Joe" and Not "Gooey, dzoouee" or the hundred other silly ways I've heard it called)...the Schafer/Sachs got seed from NARGS (donated by me) a long time ago. It has long since vanished from Denver Botanic Gardens, but flourishes still in Massachusetts. I must get it back! I pick this plant to commemorate my mother, Artemisia Kor…

Requiescat in pace

Several correspondents emailed me today to tell me that Jim Archibald died yesterday. I know and admire many people, but none more than I admired Jim. I respected and loved Jim with a sort of unalloyed quality hard to describe. Jim could be harsh (especially in the famous forwards to his catalog): and I loved it. He could be many things. I somehow approved and enjoyed everything he did. The three weeks we spent together in Africa are a highlight of my life. I treasure our too few visits in America and Britain. I think he was the greatest plant explorer ever, and the greatest plantsman in the world.

I am despondent that I will never again have the opportunity to hear that nasal Edinburgh twang, nor watch that pipe point demonstratively. I will miss the zingers and the thoughtful circumlocutions and the always wise observations and the zest for people and plants. Oh Jim! I will miss you.

Thank God my garden is full of treasures Jim and Jenny brought back from around the world. Like Campa…

And the skies are not cloudy all day...

Don't those swirling, dark clouds impend doom and gloom? (And no doubt some farmer out near Limon may have gotten hailed out later that afternoon). But the Moore bronze sculpture ("Oval with Points") in the Schlessman Plaza at Denver Botanic Gardens is unfazed, as were the blazing Kniphofias last June when I took this picture.

This picture captures so much for me: where else are so many rainy, cloudy days interspersed with so much glorious sun? It reminds me that sky is a perpetual and endless artistic element of our every day lives in Continental climates....OK OK, I know those who live in coastal regions do have skies as well. But they are so often gray or leaden, whereas we in the middle of continents are positively blase about our giant cumuloninbi, our ethereal stratus, our cirrus and alto cirrus, and pileus...and every imaginable permutation thereof....I am a sky worshiper and wonder that no one is out there with me gawking, glorying and agog (instead they are indo…

Gifts and the Garden

If you had asked me about Ebracteola wilmaniae a year ago I would have said "huh?" and yet nowadays, every time I stroll through my rock garden I admire the rather lush clump of this and think many thoughts: how many more outlandish South African ice plants are going to grace my garden over the years? And I think of David Salman, who has this penchant of bringing by some amazing treasure every time he visits my garden...I have an ancient specimen of Echinomastus intertextus in a trough he must have given me fifteen years ago and not one but two wonderful Bulbinellas from the Drakensberg he dropped off this spring that have been blooming their heads off ever since: my garden is peppered with plants from David's visit and his astonishing nursery. Needless to say, if David's good company weren't more than enough, I look forward to his visits to see what other treasures might not be lurking down there in New Mexico, just waiting to be tested in my gardens!

As for thi…

In praise of weeds

Ever notice how weeds keep morphing? At one point in my life the bugabear was Malva neglecta, at another point Convolvulus arvensis (which come to think of it is still with me) and there are always thistles. This year crabgrass is everywhere in my garden: in the grass, of course, but in garden beds, in pots: everywhere. As soon as you get a handle on one weed, another appears. By the time you get geared up to deal with it, suddenly they've started to go to seed and you are behind the 8 ball again next year.

Mike McLaughlin calls it the morass: the icky place where we slog and suffer day to day. I don't care if you are Doris Day or Polyanna of the most irritating ilk, you spend much if not most of your time there. Trust me. It can be a black depression, or boredom, or irritation or despair. But the quiet desperation is not just for the mass of men, Henry, it slogs and bogs and jogs the life of Pencil factory owners as well.

Perhaps that explains my love of marginal weeds, those I…