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Showing posts from February, 2011

Sempiternal rosularity

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That's Agave havardiana growing in the Watersmart Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens. Thank Heavens it was chilly and snowy in Seattle last week: typically the weather would be balmy there and chilly here on the Plains, but somehow returning to much warmer temps on our blasted heath made the transition somewhat less painful: March is a telling month for me. You see, Colorado is perhaps its least fetching right now. Things are in tatters, sear and raw. There is an austere poetry, I know, to the crisp horizon, the fringed and bleached grasses. It was, however, going to California in March repeatedly as a child that inspired me to dedicate my life to gardens. Surely things could be better!
Thank Heavens for woody lilies. Agaves (when they're not too crisped: and this year they've sailed through -22F relatively unharmed) are the queens of succulence and rosularity (don't bother looking it up: I think I coined it: sempiternal, however, is basically just another way of saying …

The best American primrose

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What I mean, of course, is the best American primrose to grow in your garden. There isn't really a best when it comes to nature: nothing could be better than the tundra on Pikes Peak studded with Primula angustifolia or freshets ringed with giant Primula parryi almost anywhere above 11,000' in Colorado. But who would have thought that a narrow endemic that grows only in tight limestone crevices on the summit of the Sandia mountains of New Mexico would settle down happily and bloom year in year out in a shady rock garden and in troughs in Denver, Colorado? Ellis' primrose (Primula ellisiae) has been lumped into Primula rusbyi by botanists, and it is clearly allied to the more southerly plant which is much commoner, growing on various mountain ranges of New Mexico, Arizona all the way to nearly central Mexico. I have only grown the northernmost form well, so I'll stick to the old name. There are nearly a dozen species (depending on the botanist of course) clustered in th…

Memento

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Today would be my sister Mary Callas Taylor's 78th Birthday. This was her high school graduation photograph (taken about the time I was born). I think it conveys quite a bit about her. No words, no matter how eloquent, how labored can begin to convey the sadness, nostalgia and yearning one still feels decades after losing a loved one. The only compensation in her case is that I can see bright glimmerings of her style, of her looks, of her character in her three wonderful daughters.

Candid comments

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I wish I could say these clumps of Sternbergia candida were taken in my garden. The plant is indeed blooming today in my garden, but with only one flower per clump...but my clumps do look happy! The picture above was taken by Bill Adams of his Methusalah. My picture of the same plant a few days earlier is below (where it belongs!). I have no doubt the plants look just about the same this year, and I am publishing these for several reasons: first of all because I am going to copy this posting to Bill to remind him to divide the rascal this summer. When plants get this big and congested, they are apt to rot. And more importantly, I have a pretty good hunch that Bill has a goodly proportion of all the Sternbergia candida in cultivation in his clumps! It would be good to spread the bounty around (particularly since he is a nurseryman!)...I know people who would cheerfully spend $20 for a good bulb of that plant, in which case he's sitting on a small fortune... [P.S....it did the tric…

Overlooked gems

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Every serious gardener knows the cobweb houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum), or I suppose I should say every serious ROCK gardener. Which the plant pictured above is not, by the way. As I was skimming over my pictures from last year I noticed it and thought: why is it that I have never seen this grown in very many gardens? This is Sempervivum ciliosum var borisii, from the Balkans. It does not have cobwebbing, but fine cilia, or hairs around the margins of the leaves. It makes every bit as lovely of mats and mounds as its stunning cobwebby cousin, but the flowers are a soft yellow rather than the chalky pink of its better known congener.
There is another form of this species, a cultivar named 'Mali Hat' for the Balkan mountain where it was collected. I grow it too: similar only the rosettes are stained reddish. Succulents are staging a major come back in gardens and especially in container gardens. Here is one that is incredibly cold hardy, beautiful all times of year with lov…

Be my valentine, O! Hedeoma ciliolata!

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I am always surprised florists don't do more on Valentine's day to sell flowers. I suppose they have enough trouble just fulfilling the demand that day, but I have always thought there would be a market for diminutive plants, like this wonderful Mexican treasure. You will find an even more startling image of this gem on the web taken on the gympsum barrens near Galeana where this is restricted to a very small area. Wouldn't this look imply stunning in a little pot? Wouldn't it be charming if we gave our loved ones endangered plants like this, with a label telling them about where they grow. Then, perhaps, they can even plant them out a few months later and they will continue to prosper... Come to think of it, it would be good to see even a few more generic Cyclamen out there (with its heart shaped leaves, a natural for this holiday). But this post is an excuse to show off this tiny mint...and let you know how nervous I am about it. I have planted it several places on my …

Winter blaaahs....

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Nothing wintry about George here...I post this as a reminder that in barely a month I expect that we will have Draba hispanica and the first Corydalis in full bloom. This week the temps have dropped below zero repeatedly and daytime highs have been in the lowest double digits (Farenheit to be clear!) and icy snowpack is everywhere. Everyone is starting to get the gardening itch, and the local industry trade show was hopping.

I first created this acetic combination at Eudora--a garden that is gradually decaying as I type. We redupicated and amplified the combo in the new rock garden at my Quince house, where both the draba and the corydalis are expanding. I noted the Spanish Draba's Latin epithet above, but Corydalis solida 'George Baker' is now my focus. There are dozens, if not hundreds of named selections of what used to be called Corydalis transylvanica: coupled with Corydalis solida, you can find the entire spectrum of pinks, magentas, pure quite, appleblossom and quite…

Witch Hazel in January!

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Okay...I confess. It was January in Portland...more precisely on Sauvie Island at Sean Hogan's phantasmagoria called Cistus Design Nursery. There were a dozen or more things blooming in the area: Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin' and Iris unguicularis in full force, Camellia japonica and C. forrestii, Daphne bohlua and D. odora, and time and again I would catch the bewitching fragrance of Sarcococca....But there is something about witch hazels that really captured my imagination. That's Linda Buley, a grower in the Portland area who produces standards on witch hazels (many selections) as well as other unique plants. She's hawking her wares at Cistus: I wish I had the cash and that she had some wares in Denver: it would be wonderful to have a small, treeform witch hazel in my back yard. As it is, my 'Arnold Promise' is still in tight bud (and hope it got through the -20F of the other night OK)... So if you live near Portland, shimmy on down to Cistus and pick one of th…

Son of sage...

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Last August I did a tribute to my mother, Artemisia Kelaidi on the centenary of her birth...at the time I did not have a picture of her scanned. My nephew-in-law (John Sooklaris) has conveniently scanned one of the loveliest images of my mom when she was about the age I am right now: she was a beauty! And come to think of it, her silver hair did justify her generic honorific (sagebrush [Artemisia], to cut through some of my baroque prose). Although she passed away a decade ago, I probably think of her more frequently now than I did when she was alive...one of the compensations of aging, actually. Some of us realize, as we age, that we are treading on familiar footsteps. We think we are so original, so different. As I grow older I realize that much of what is best in me is the result of my parents' aspirations and deliberate molding. Most of my neuroses are a consequence of what I have resisted and still avoid. They say, "may I be the man my dog thinks I am", I might coin …