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Showing posts from January, 2010

There's something about troughs...

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At least one book has been written, dedicated to the subject of troughs and trough gardening. After this interminable winter with tons of snow and now weeks of blasting sun with night temps in the teens, I marvel that anything can grow in a trough, let alone that practically any alpine seems to do better in troughs.
I have noticed that dozens of kinds of plants--notably many Colorado alpines like Eritrichium, Phlox condensata and Clematis tenuiloba, only seem to persist in troughs.
As I was scrolling through old images, this picture with Androsace 'Millstream' and a few specimens of Draba polytricha remind me why troughs are de rigeur!
It's been heartening to see how trough gardening has spread among rock gardeners, and increasingly among the general public. We need more articles, more books and a lot more ways to educate people about these portable rock gardens, these glorious little chunks of nature. Maybe we can call them High Definition containers or Broadband gardens to…

A Colorado artist

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I've noticed that many of the best gardeners are often trained artists. I have not seen Joellyn Duesberry's private garden, but something tells me she would be a winner. I can't think of another Colorado artist who "gets it": the colors, the light, the textures and the dynamic form of the Rocky Mountain landscape, the way she does. I have admired her paintings here and there for many years. It is a great pleasure and a treat to see a fabulous assortment of her landscape paintings on display at Denver Botanic Garden's Gates Court. It has reaffirmed in my mind that she is far and away the finest landscape artist in our region.
Why have I wandered away from gardens and plants to talk about paintings? I believe that the gallery arts may actually "pave the way" for landscape art: how much easier it will be to convince gardeners that landscapes filled with buffs, oranges, tawny browns and just a bit of green here and there (often a muted, dark blue-green) …

Il miglior fabbro

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I grant you, it's not in peak bloom. It may appear a tad rectilinear, but little more than a week ago I stook in front of John Stireman's Sandy, Utah garden and experienced a strange sensation: never have I seen more challenging plants better grown, arranged more artistically and in such novel ways anywhere on planet Earth. You can question my judgment if you want, you can wonder at what I'm getting at. Mosey on down to Sandy some time in April, May, June, July, August, September or October (November to March is quiet season I speck) and you too will writhe with envy and humility. John Stireman is indeed "il miglior fabbro". Of course, I'm no Dante (and eschew the anagram of Toilets as Vlad the literary impaler once observed) but I know a thing or two about gardens, and I believe this may be the Greatest Garden on Planet Earth.

Why? To create a dazzling garden in Brazil or Italy or England is not difficult: you have the Tropical Rainforest or millenia of model…

The golden apples of the sun...

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Okay! So I lied. They are not golden apples at all, but Fuyu persimmons in my brother's front yard. We picked dozens and dozens and ate dozens and dozens and there are probably still hundreds if not thousands on the damn tree! California in winter is pretty nifty indeed. There were flowers everywhere and fruit and fall color galore (the Liquidambar not liquid amber at all but refulgent Rembrandtian purple) and of course glistening evergreens galore not scorched by snow and cold and brash winter sun on frozen ground. We ate mandarins and oranges and even the last of last year's grapefruit. And apple preserve from the apple tree, and lots and lots of Avocados too (Haas and some seedling types George kept apologizing for, but they sure tasted good to me)...The Golden state lived up to billing. We even found silver apples of the moon:
I lied! It's not a silver apple at all, but close! It's Pyrus pashia from the Himal Pradesh in India. One of innumerable treasures we encount…

Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery

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I have seen the picture above (which incidentally, I photographed myself) reproduced on other websites and used on a brochure cover to promote containers and a similar picture was taken and published in a book (I was the author of the planting by the way, incidentally: so is a picture taken by someone else not a form of plagiarism in a way?) Some people would be piqued by all this casual internet larceny and mimicry. And a small piece of me is ticked, to be sure. But frankly, I'm also flattered. There's no better way to know you done somethin' right until it's copied, you see.
The plant, by the way, is Orostachys spinosa, which I have rhapsodied about elsewhere (notably this month's Sedum Society bulletin--which I bet you don't subscribe to! Ha! Gotcha!). And in my Pagodas of Lushan piece from a few weeks ago in this blog. This terrific plant must occur in the billions, nay, the trillions throughout much of Central and East Asia (and that's a mighty big chun…

Unprepossessing at first

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I can't believe the only picture I have in my files of Paeonia officinalis is this wishy washy distance shot. The trouble with growing many thousands of plants is that you often don't get around to taking proper pictures of them. And among the dozen or so peonies I grow, this is one of the best. And there is a good story attached.
We got it six or eight years ago from Bluebird Nursery. Two plants. They graced what we rather grandly called the Perennial Triangle for years until The Separation when in the rush of things and perhaps with just a little bit of malice I noticed that Both of Them had been removed in the division of possessions, and now My perennial triangle was bereft of the essential pink flash in April and May. I was Bereft. And piqued...Considering the many plausible and potential tragedies that the dissolution of 23 years of marriage might cause (and there were a number--thankfully not too many, and none devastating: a tribute to both of us) this was a particularl…

A great unknown

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OK: I'm a lazy bum! So sue me! I still haven't downloaded my images from my recent trip to California and Las Vegas (and there were plenty of them). Colorado obliged by being sunny and warming up once we got home, and I had a cousin visiting and so on and so forth, etcetera, et al... amazing how we either have our excuses or our results!
But I still have some tricks from previous years up my sleve...Like this wonderful penstemon relative from high elevations in California's coastal mountains. Typical forms of Keckiella corymbosa can get a foot or two tall, but Ron Ratko has collected this miniature many times. Why is it so special?
Well, it's a perfect size for a rock garden (in other words, miniscule).
It blooms for weeks and months on end IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER (when rock gardens are often moribund). Best of all, it is a fine flashing red color that appeals to hummingbirds and us Westerners who love flashy things.
Only problem is that there is no commercial source a…

California dreamin'

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Why bamboos? Well I took this picture in July, but it looks almost exactly the same in late December so I can pretend it's one I downloaded (I haven't downloaded my current pix yet...) but I am ready to blog about lotusland...yes, the whole friggin' state of California, not just Ms Walska's gem in Santa Barbara...I could have downloaded one of a dozen pix of Yucca or Nolina in glorious bloom at the Huntington (where these bamboo are and were), only now the place is blazing in orange, scarlet and yellow aloes. I feared midwinter would be rainy and chilly here. It's been sublime: most days in the sixties and downright toasty in the sun. Pelargoniums blazing and more flowers than you can shake a stick at. Everyone back at home is grumbling about the cold, and I'm thanking my lucky stars again that I took a much needed vacation with family and friends in paradise. I'm in the cottage at Quarryhill where Bill MacNamara and Joanna Guy Welti have so graciously let me…

Happy New Year vignettes

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A great way to celebrate this past year is to review some of the highlights: few days of my life can match that early July day in Kazakhstan. They may look like pansies, and they are in a way. These are the two color phases of Viola altaica, one of the principal ancestors of the garden pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) growing above treeline on the Tien Shan mountains above Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan. The alpine pansies grew in amazing abundance everywhere on the Altai mountains, and I was surprised to see the same color phases growing every bit as abundantly on the Tien Shan: coloring the tundra with violet and pale primrose yellow in every direction. This closeup includes one of a dozen or more buttercups we saw that day: name unknown.


This is the local manifestation of a buttercup relative known as Callianthemum alatavicum: there are superficially very similar calianthemums growing everywhere from Japan in the far East to the Pyrenees in the far West of Eurasia--the same pa…