Friday, May 11, 2012


 I have friends who like the daisy form in flowers, and those who shun daisies and only approve of posies (took a while to figure out what a posy flower was)...then there are those bedding plant folks who seem to want everything to be a sort of mound, rather like rock gardeners and their buns and cushions. And then there are spikers: usually tall, slender folk who like things long and lanky like themselves. Rob Proctor  eschews dumpy little annuals, and always goes for tall willowy thing. Most penstemons (like this rather squat little P. alamosensis) fit into this plant body type pretty well...and who doesn't love penstemons?

 When I say spike, Eremurus are realy what fit the bill: here is E. fuscus which I grew from seed nearly twenty years ago. When we sold our last house, I dug up no end of things (like my senescent non-flowering clump of this) and divided it: now I have nearly a dozen blooming clumps...a success story!

 This is an exemplary spike, one of Bob Nold's signature plants: Asphodeline damascena. An Asphodel from Damascus--pretty heady stuff!  He has this growing prolifically all over his garden (no mean feat). I have a mere two he gifted me. And alas, they are blooming now--which means that I shall have none soon, since they are monocarpic. The flower may be merely white, but with wonderful bronze stripes and undertones, and that wonderful boss of foliage! Diana Capen has urged me to nominate this plant for Plant Select, she is so fond of it. Tracing its pedigree through her, Bob and back to Jim Archibald would certainly add cachet...but a monocarpic, white-flowered spike: that is a tough sell except for us plant nerds. You should see people's eyes glaze over with boredom and disdain at committee meetings when I propose plants like this...Once in a while I've thrown a tantrum and they consider and even accept white monocarps such as Seseli gummiferum (which has enjoyed modest success in the program)--let's not even talk about Salvia argentea (which lives forever despite its reputation for monocarpism--and nurserymen only sell one to each customer per generation)... What they really like best are flashy groundcovers that propagate like schmoos (Delosperma Firespinner being the poster boy currently)...Sorry Diane!

 A closer view of the Asphodeline damascena above...and now for my piece de resistance; Eremostachys laciniata.

 This is a sizeable genus of labiates found mostly on the steppe in Western Asia. I have scene a miniature species growing above tree line on the Tian Shan, but most species are taller, from lower drier altitudes. I have grow this perhaps five or six years and it bloomed perfunctorily last year...but this year it is giving a sense of its grandeur. The foliage is bold and pleasing in its own right, although it reveals the dry summer nature of its habitat by going dormant as the plant reaches its peak of floral beauty...

Cushions, posies, daisies, buns and mounders: gotta love 'em all: but these spiky things pierce my sensibilities with their bold presence: What can compare with the steppe spiked and aspiring with countless foxtail lilies intot he distance, or the swale where I saw thousands of cornflower blue Delphinium elatum rise and melt into the distant azure of the sky...or Madrean hillsides towering with agaves in full bloom. Ah! The places I have been, the things I have seen!

And yet, I may never see Puya raimondii growing profusely on Andean puna, whole hillsides spiked with innumerable giant stems dozens of feet tall, each spike containing myriad myriad speckled, brooding, trillioid flowers of ghostly creamy white...but I have seen Guillermo Rivera's stunning images of these and can only dream...

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