Posts

Showing posts from March, 2012

Okay, okay! Enough clamoring! A few more treasures...

Image
I suppose Joe Seals asking me to post a few more pictures doesn't exactly constitute a mandate....but what the hey! A few pictures of plants I was thrilled to obtain on my recent trip to California. The first picture was taken at Annie's Annuals where I seem to have seen it blooming most any time I have visited. This amazing South American has not thus far proved hardy for me, although I keep trying. But well worth growing as an annual. How to pick from Annie's amazing collection (but I have gone on about that nursery before...)




Space and a measure of decency prevent me to reveal the vast sea of pots of Cyrtanthus breviflorus coming into bloom at Suncrest: I last found this in full seed on Oxbow, Lesotho (February 2008) and I have found it blooming in January on the summit of Naude's Nek Pass in the East Cape, both locations above 2400 m. Nevin tells me this blooms all summer long in Watsonville. Needless to say, I brought some back...What a wonderful Amaryllid: and on…

Of pigsqueak and Megasea...Queen of Bergenias

Image
George Orwell once wrote a book Keep the Aspidistra Flying, a condemnation of Victorian bourgeois values symbolized, epitomized and practically embodied by Aspidistra, a dusty, indestrucible and usually quite prosaic houseplant that was universal in Victorian houses... had George been a bit more of an outdoor gardener, he might well have picked Bergenia instead. These dusty, musty, often slug-nibbled, plasticky mostrosities are universal in English "rockeries", and everywhere in rocky strewn cities on the left coast: as thick as wheat in Kansas, bergenias are everywhere in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco etc., clambering and slopping onto pathways and over rocky walls wherever you look. Any self respecting gardener rightfully might eschew them...


But not me: I love bergenias. Given the right spot, and a little T.L.C., they can be cheesecake in the garden. I grow a dozen species and special forms and have barely made a dent in this genus. But I only encountered th…

Misnomer Garden: Not just Rhodies, and more than a foundation

Image
I believe it's Rhododendron strigillosum, in full glorious bloom at the Rhododendron Species Foundation, one of the most miserably named of magnificent gardens. Of course they have lots and lots of rhodies (nearly four hundred species, I believe, and dozens of forms of some of them, almost all with locality data)...that would certainly be enough to justify their existence, but this is in fact a full fledged botanical garden and a wonderful display garden to boot! There are tons of un-rhododendrons to complement the rhodies, and a depth of programatics and extensive facilities and appurtenances of all sorts that put many mere botanical gardens to shame. I first visited this institution way too long ago (not long after it was founded, I fear), right after a large rock garden had been constructed and planted to tiny lepidotes...maybe twenty years ago. Didn't think much about the place subsequently...


After all, rhododendrons are not exactly appropriate landscape plants in Colora…

Edenic nursery: "Far OUT" Reaches Farm

Image
No, Virginia...this is not an extraterrestrial space vehicle but Epimedium grandiflorum in an especially luminous, wine-red form...one of the thousands of treasures grown and sold by Far Reaches Farm, arguably the finest mail order nursery in America today (OK, OK, Tony...you are hard to beat! but they are gonna give you stiff competition!)...If you have not yet ordered from them, I'd hurry up: they've posted their catalogue on the web for the first time this winter, and it is awesome (and easy...too easy to use). Mind you, it only has a smattering of what they grow at their incredible Port Townsend treasure trove...



Here's one of the jillion Corydalis they offer, this one a hybrid between elata and a flexuosa type that promises to take over your woodland garden with frothy blue for much of spring: get a load of the size of their plants! No puny stuff here! There are umpteen greenhouses full of treasure, each named for some deceased plant collector ("Forrest", &q…

Mountain kittentails: a synaesthetic Synthyris everyone should grow

Image
I know it looks like a cross between a Galax and grape hyacinth, but this gorgeous morsel from the interior Northwest is surely one of America's least appreciated and most glorious wildflowers. Synthyris missurica is found from the Idaho panhandle to the Warner Mountains of northeasternmost California, a substantial chunk of territory. Although I have crossed its range innumerable times, I have yet to find it in the wild (something I hope to do this summer). But I have grown it for forty years. I first obtained it from George Schenk and his magnificent nursery the Wild Garden in Bothell, Washington: the spiritual antecedent of Heronswood and Far Reaches Farm, where I spent yesterday afternoon and will return in a few hours.






These clumps in our slowly diminishing colonies at DBG were grown from a clump I shared with a colleague a quarter century ago: that clump was divided into dozens of pieces, and plumped up in the greenhouses, and then planted along the north side of one of the b…

Eureka! Caucasian iris blooms....

Image
There are plants one waits to grow for a very long time: I have known about this wonderful pale yellow reticulate iris for many a decade. Once or twice I have even been given small bulblets that failed to flourish. Last summer I saw it on a wholesale bulb list for a surprisingly reasonable price (provided you bought fifty that is)....I pooled resources with four other gardeners, and we bought quite a few kinds of bulbs including the requisite fifty Iris winogradowii...and I got ten for my share, five of which so far have shown some color so far, and the one above has been blooming since February 26. If you are not aware, this is one of the rarest irises in the world, only a few hundred of which persist on its alpine home in the Caucasus. It is well established in European gardens, enough so that you can now get these for a few bucks a bulb if you shop around (and buy quantities, that is)...

It is reputedly quite sensitive to heat, so I have placed it on the north slope of my rock gard…

Dun buns...

Image
Rock gardeners are famous for their bun fixations: more than one casual visitor at a rock garden meeting has been put off by people constantly commenting on one another's buns, extolling buns and saying how much they love to pat buns. Of course, they are referring to the cushiony form of plants in extreme environments. Above you have Erinacea pungens (top) and Acantholimon ulicinum (bottom), two cushion forming buns you shan't want to pat: the picture was taken a week or so ago in the Rock Alpine Garden at DBG: a bunnery.

Many succulents form buns, especially in our climate. Above we have various clones of Stomatium mustellinum, a wonderful night blooming succulent from the Drakensberg. I am fascinated how different the coloration is between one plant and another: all from the same wild pinch of seed.





Even cacti can form buns on our windy steppes: here is our native Echinocereus viridiflorus, forming a veritable "pollster" (German for pillow), a term used for buns th…