Saturday, September 10, 2011

Basking in the glow (still)...Suncrest Nursery

It's been over a week now, but I'm still basking in the glow of a really fabulous visit to the Bay area...judging by the amazing crunch of people at the rent-a-car complex, everybody else in America knows what a great destination San Francisco is (I couldn't believe the lines). In fact, as I was waiting in the Budget line two very impatient foreigners tried to cut in front of the patient American throngs. Of course, they had to be Greek...they stormed out (probably looking to see if they could find a shorter line elsewhere), but came back later with their tails between their legs, so to speak. I struck up a conversation with the husband: the Greek-American wife was here on business (American diplomatic service, actually!), he a tag along for vacation...he had a Cretan accent, I asked him where he came from. Wouldn't you know, it's a village not far from my father's birthplace, the beach town of Kalives where I spent many an enchanting weeks as a kid. Of course, we ended up knowing a lot of people in common. If we'd spent more time together, we would have probably found out we were cousins!

What I ought to be talking about is Suncrest Nursery: I don't think I have found more spectacular landscape plants I could use in Colorado anywhere ever before in such a short period of time. The place is huge: dozens of acres. They are noted for their native Californians. We got that mindboggling Monardella macrantha from them, for instance. They grow an unbelievable range of plants from trees and shrubs to all manner of perennials, succulents and bulbs. Nevin Smith is their horticultural mastermind (he was visiting daughters up north), and he hooked me up with Ginny Hunt, of Seedhunt, who works at Suncrest three days a week and has an amazing grasp of the place. Her seedlist rocks, by the way. I've known Ginny for decades: she is one of America's premier plantspeople. Nevin is obviously a horticultural wizard. I wish I had taken a picture of Ginny (she is very photogenic). I wish I had taken a jillion more pictures, and worked at it (these do not do the place justice). I snapped a few, and am sharing these with the proviso you not judge Suncrest by them. They were placeholders to remind me to go back this winter and bring back stock plants of Agastache and Salvia greggii cvs. to plant next spring in my garden. Suncrest has a dozen or more unique Agastache, all of them stunners. I liked the orange one very much (above) and the pale one below: these would make spectacular additions to the Butterfly hyssop palette of Denver (where we almost invented these as major horticultural attractions: it is such a trip to see huge clumps of them this time of year as I drive around my native town here!)

Fortunately, I took at least ONE picture of a Kniphofia (they had a ton of them, but this is one I have yet to try and took a picture to remind me to get one. It's K. thompsonii, from central Africa, and not likely to be hardy, but we need to at least try. And they had spectacular clumps of these--they had to be 6' or more tall. For just a few bucks! Sheesh! How to get them back in my luggage!

Then there were the Salvia greggii and S. microphylla block. Literally dozens of selections of these, most of them crosses made by Nevin. The flowers were huge, and they were just awesome. I wish I had a truck to get a sampling of these: I can just TASTE them on my big West Ridge in my Xeriscape (where I have several greggii blooming now as I type)....if these prove as hardy as 'Furman's red' or 'Wild thing' they would trump these in the market place. And those have been cash cows for the local garden centers. I don't think Nevin has tried to patent any of these: Plant Select could make a MINT on any of them...(Pat, are you listening?)...but whatever Plant Select does, I can assure you next autumn I will have these blazing away in my own garden...(insert all sorts of snorting and grunting sounds here)...Brawww hahhhh hhhhhaaaaaaaaaa!
Is this not the most luminous, moonlight, glowing yellow thing you've ever seen (a selection of Salvia "jamesii"--basically just yellow greggii). It comes from the same area in Nuevo Leon where S. darcyi, Scutellaria suffrutescens and Hedoma ciliolata all come from (all of which are hardy, and all of which I have blogged about--I'm too lazy to hyperlink these, sorry): I gotta go there before I get to be even older and more decrepit and check that area out...I'll bet there's TONS more good stuff around Galeana the Yucca do boys missed....(insert more grunts and snorts here). Get a load of this lovely pink one: me wanny! me wanny! (insert jumping up and down)

Just LOOK at these massive blocks: pinks next to yellows next to magenta: all under a wonderful slightly foggy light. Suncres,I love you! (Gawd, I admire production nurseries: how do they do it?)

Another pale yellow. We have GOT to get some hardy forms of these. I know that if I planted them out of gallons like this in late April they would all thrive in my big Xeriscape and bloom like crazy after each rain. And I have a hunch most of them will be landscape plants across most of America before too long. Nevin: you are amazing!

Twenty years ago they would think you were crazy if you suggested Salvia greggii was a hardy plant in much of America. Even in Denver, there are lots of great gardeners who struggle with it...not me: if you leave off the damn hose in late summer and harden them off (and put them in the right microclimate, needless to say), you can grow a wide suite of these. And of course, they are great even as annuals. We only have three or four cultivars growing at DBG: I can't believe my clever colleagues haven't figured out about these. My 'Hot Lips' (a microphylla from Southern Mexico for God's sake) has thrived for nearly a decade on the south side of my house, blooming for MONTHS AND MONTHS with its astonishing red and white flowers. It must be nearly 4' tall and wide. Is there one at DBG? (Do put on your best Belushi voice for this one.... )


Are any of my several dozen horticultural colleagues reading my blog? I doubt it. Oh well. They're young and have better things to do. But you can trump those clever youngsters by hightailing it out to Watsonville and loading up....

I'm already planning my raids next December and April. See you there!

P.S. Thank you again, Nevin and Ginny. You give Walters, Kurt and Pierre a run for their money... and have even more plants for sale I can't live without!

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