Posts

Showing posts from January, 2011

Oh! The tales I could tell...

Image
Somewhere in my voluminous slide library (and I mean SLIDE library: 35 mm.: remember those?) I have a picture of the first specimen of this plant I ever saw. Not far outside Bristol, with a wonderful view of the Severn estuary lived Eric and Mabel Hilton. Eric was a keen rock gardener, and he and I had corresponded and swapped seed many years. I visited them on my very first visit to England, and his expansive garden "Severn View". I recall the wonderful days I spent there, photographing and marvelling at the hundreds of wonderful alpines thriving in Eric's endless screes and rock work, all in crisp, bright April sunshine with the sea shining below. There were hundreds of plants in that garden I yearned for, but none more so than a tiny bergenia with white flowers. I photographed the clump, easily a meter across, studded with hundreds of flowers...
This picture isn't that original plant, incidentally. It's a rooted cutting I brought home from the plant below, whic…

Strange bedfellows...

Image
Perennial gardeners dwell on plant combinations with almost annoying persistence: a border is all about color repetitions and contrasts: rock gardeners are strangely silent on the subject. It's as if every rock garden plant is a gem set apart from any other neighboring plants. But in fact, rock garden plants often jostle and combine, and they certainly sit in proximity to one another. I find these combinations fascinating: who would think that a buckwheat from Wyoming, a woodruff from the Mediterranean and a South African succulent from the Eastern Cape province would grow so cheerfully next to one another? The buckwheat is Eriogonum ovalifolium, one of the most widespread and variable and truly wonderful plants in that great genus--this being a very congested form that Mike Kintgen brought back as seed from central Wyoming. The Asperula eludes me: I grow a half dozen or more and they are all wonderful and I get them mixed up: I'm sorry. I am not perfect. Sorry to disappoint.…

Graceful, no?

Image
Everyone loves orchids, and our gardens are chockablock full of all manner of daylilies, hostas, penstemons--you name it. But who cares about milkworts? Well...I do! If you Google image Polygala you will an astonishing range of treasures found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, with some of the most outlandish restricted in nature to South Africa. Only a very small number have made it securely into North Temperate gardens, notably the alpine Polygala chamaebuxus, which you may find in early summer in the Alps, usually in its yellow phase.

The lovely pink milkwort above is Polygala amoenissima, although I had a very similar plant once labeled P. amara--both originating in the Caucasus of Western Asia. This has proved to be a very vigorous, long lived plant in my rock gardens, producing a few welcome seedlings to expand the display. Its first flowers can appear in late April, and it continues to sport its little pink orchids through summer and into the fall: quite a display for any pla…

Baroque interlude

Image
Of course, I'd heard of Balboa Park in San Diego: big park, nice trees people would say. Why didn't anyone tell me this is America's grand recreation of Spanish Renaissance architecture? The endless complex of buildings in Spanish style at the heart of the Park are almost surrealistic in their extravagance: I was enchanted (despite the drizzle) and amazed at the scope and the extent of the illusion. And the trees and gardens are there....but those buildings!
We spend enormous amounts of money on things nowadays: the Olympics for instance. They seem to have taken the place of the old Expositions and World Fairs. But any buildings constructed are always contemporary and functional. There is something amazing that people would have gone to such enormous extremes a hundred years ago to honor the Spanish heritage of California. I have not researched it yet, but I suspect there was a single person at the bottom of it all--and a damned persuasive one at that.
Many images and vista…

Gold for the New Year...

Image
One of the highlights of this past year for me was finding this delightful umbel growing practically everywhere in the Altai Mountains: after much searching and seeking and groping on the internet (or should I say googling) I believe that it appears this is the REAL Bupleurum aureum, which everyone insists on lumping into Bupleurum longifolium...utterly different from the animal of that name I have grown for decades (and which I can't even find a picture of in any book or on the web, but which grows everywhere in my home garden and Denver Botanic Gardens)...

So this may likewise prove annual: but it is very different from anything I grow as Bupleurum, and much much showier. I found a similar plant in 2009 that was even flashier (if someone bugs me, I will unearth that picture) which seemed perennial. But even if this is an annual, who can't use some glorious gold like this in the New Year? It grew practically everywhere: in moist spots and dry, high and low. It had been bloomi…