Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lavender cloudburst

A year ago we lost the greatest plant collector I have known: Jim Archibald succumbed still in his sixties to cancer. Just as Horace erected his monuments in poetry, a plant collector leaves graceful footprints in our gardens through the wonderful plants he introduces: my gardens are positively cluttered with Archibaldiana. I have a special weakness for a dozen or more Turkish Salvia that have somehow escaped Plant Select (I know, we have S. daghestanica, but that was a Zetterlund collection). Chief among these is this lovely lavender cloudburst: Salvia cyanescens which I have treasured since the early 1980's, here photographed in front of the Succulent house at Denver Botanic Gardens where it is now reblooming (a wonderful trait in a plant). I scattered seed of this at my girlfriend, Jan Fahs', house and there hundreds--nay thousands--of plants of this salvia have made a virtual groundcover. I filled a garbage bag with their crispy (and intensely aromatic) seedheads a few weeks ago: very gratifying.

Here you can see the silky rosette of foliage. It looks for all the world like some sort of sexy gesneriad: a strangely delicate texture for a plant that thrives on heat and drought. I have grown this in several unwatered gardens where it thrives.

If you email me your snail mail address I will be happy to send you a plump packet of seed of this Turkish treasure: panayotik@yahoo.com. You will not regret it...a memento not merely of me, but of that Scottish prince of plant collectors, may his memory be eternal.

I regret however, I will not have enough seed to share of this gem (yet another Archibaldian Turkish salvia): Salvia pisidica really must get into Plant Select before too many more years. It is one of the most scrumptious and wonderful of garden plants and should be in every temperate garden (at least those blessed to be situated in steppe climates)....

This is a glimpse of an especially fine spread of Salvia pisidica in Mike Kintgen's gem of a garden I photographed in June.

There must be some compensation as one strolls through life being reminded of a friend through the plants he gave you, or (more accurately in this case) the plants you grew from seed he gathered. I summon the trim beard and the Edinburgh burr quite often, and the nasal tonalities of that extraordinary presence that shaped--still shapes--so many of my garden views. Our gardens gradually become repositories of these memories, and the very flowers are celebrations not just of their intrinsic beauty, but the associations surrounding, emanating and buzzing around them, sweet as their fragrance or sonorous as the busy bees.

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