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Showing posts from July, 2012

Bomb squad

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In our gorgeous, biodiverse, and blessed land where so many fine people seem to be passionate about possessing, "bearing" or otherwise abusing firearms, I have an excellent substitution for them. Somewhere in The Essential Earthman, Henry Mitchell translates bombyciferum (in reference to the Dolly Parton of mulleins) as "carrying a bomb": there is certainly something incendiary, outrageous and explosive about verbascums. Not a few are bona fide (albeit lovely in a fashion) weeds. Many if not most are massive and create problems with disposing of their bodies (like the year I grew two or three hundred: where to dump so many almost human sized corpses?) (P.S. you should click on the picture above to get a PROPER view of my harem early in late May)...

So what better way to indulge your slightly sociopathic urges, (if not altogether psychopathic) than to grow verbascums? That must explain my passion for these wooly monsters: I have grown dozens of species in my day. …

Forever foxgloves!

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If I could pick one genus of shade loving plants I would not want to live without, I would pick the foxgloves without a second thought. Thanks to Darrell Probst, Epimediums are far more numerous and variable (I'm tempted by these, I admit), Primula is fabulous, but most species of primrose need far too much irrigation to be practical for most people. Hellebores are terrific, but the flowers (except, of course, for H. niger) for all their improvement are still a trifle glum for my taste.

 Ironically, the only foxglove commonly grown in "conventional" Denver gardens is D. purpurea, which is the least satisfactory in my opinion. It needs far more water than the other species to do well, and it is one of the few that is biennial. The one above came to me as Digitalis fontanesii, which has been lumped with D. grandiflora: the latter has a large range, and I suspect this is a regional variant--both are worth growing! [I stick to the old name because I see distinctions that e…

Woodland wonders this time...

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I know it's garish and brash and really in awful taste, but Hosta 'Patriot' does make a statement: all the more so because there were a bevy of these planted--all looking splendidly healthy--along Denver's longest and least attractive street (Colfax) not far from Denver Botanic Gardens...


This is all preamble to say how much I enjoy shade plants generally, especially in this beastly hot summer when my poor summer alpines are being cooked and even the cacti are scorched. A closeup of 'Patriot' (I am almost tempted to buy and plant one in my own shade garden)...almost is the operative word....


THIS is more like it: a terrible picture (I took a good one, but how to find it?) of one of my favorite "new" finds: Dan Johnson has had this for years in his home garden, and gave a giant clump to the Gardens where it completely befuddled the Ratzeputz Gang (only a half dozen of the world's greatest perennial experts) and me too. I eventually tracked down th…

Midsummer wonders...

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It seems as though everyone (except Seattleites) has had an incredibly hot summer thus far. Last weekend we received 3" of truly blessed rain, otherwise I can't imagine how frustrated we would be by now. The vast throngs of gems that bloom from early spring to early summer are now mostly in seed (or long past seed) and I am busy cutting things back and removing debris. But there are still a few gems that brighten the garden and lift our spirits...I highly recommend all of them for your garden as well. The first is the only truly hardy form of Campanula fragilis, var. cavalinii, which I believe first came from a Holubec collection from Italy. Campanulas truly are the backbone of summer rock gardens.

It is ironic that the West which boasts dozens of stunning buckwheats is utterly trumped in the garden right now with this glowing mound of gold from West Virginia's shale barrens. Eriogonum allenii is one of the toughest, longest blooming and most rewarding perennials I know…

Salvia mundi redux: The Salvia canescens complex.

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Does the world really need another salvia? I featured a closeup of Salvia phlomoides from Morocco (collected by Mike Kintgen, and photographed in his garden this spring) earlier this spring and I think you will agree this deserves a second view. There is an astonishing website that features closeups and glamour shots of literally hundreds of salvias (interestingly enough, this one is not included!). What is intriguing to me is the variability that is found within a single species and within a section of a genus like this...incidentally, this Western Mediterranean species has a cousin found in Turkey, Salvia hypargeia (below) has lax rosettes of narrower, leaves, not quite so silvery, and much taller wands with these wonderful lavender blooms--altogether different in the garden, but morphologically quite close: indeed, they cross readily!

And then, of course, the only one of this complex that is widely available in commerce is Salvia daghestanica (or Salvia canescens var. daghestanica

God's flowers: the underappreciated pinks!

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Technically I suppose these are "Zeus' flowers", since "Di-" must be the genetive plu-perfect subjunctive aorist of Zeus somehow in Ancient Greek (don't take my grammar too literally by the way)--and since Zeus was born on the Dictyan peninsula (as was my grandfather) it makes perfect sense that I am daft for pinks.

My first picture is a patch of one of innumerable hybrid Dianthus groups allied to the "Floral Lace Mix" (Dianthus x allwoodii "alpinus"), involving Dianthus chinensis, D. barbatus and probably D. alpinus. These are anathema to alpine purists, but I have to say that few plants have provided more color in my garden for longer this year than a vigorous patch of these I planted several years ago. These are usually grown as annuals, however, they have proved quite perennial in this one spot, and (letting my plantsman's guard down a tad..) I have to say that they are hard to beat!


This is much more along the lines that purist…

Childsplay...DBG's stunning annex

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If someone had told me years ago that Denver Botanic Gardens would have created about an acre of scree on top of a garage roof and filled it with floriferous gems, I would have surely have never believed it possible. And now, entering its third growing season, the Children's Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens has gone from strength to strength: It is amazing how little tiny pots of alpines have spread a foot, two feet--even three or more feet across in just a few years. Of course, they are growing in an amazing medium consisting of expanded shale with special amendments and micronutrients: all the plants seem to love it...behold not just ice plants above, but big mounds of crucifers (Alyssum, I believe) and the white mass in the back I will speak about at the end: the garden consists of hundreds if not thousands of perfect mounds and mats, each of which would take a prize in a British flower show!

Although many of the plants growing here are rather choice, there are workhorses like…

An All American treasure for the 4th of July...woo hooo!

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Truth in advertising: the picture was taken a few weeks ago. I find it hard to believe I haven't blogged about this little morsel yet: Escobaria sneedii var. leei (or just plain Escobaria leei for some of us) rates off the charts on the cuteness scale (a scientific measurement of plant adorability invented by Pat Hayward several decades ago). This plant is unique and notable for a whole suite of reasons:
            1) It is one of the easiest cacti to grow
            2) It is hardy almost anywhere (provided it has drainage, of course, and lots of sun): I know it is being grown all over southern Canada, the Northeastern and midwestern USA and all across this great country of ours (it is Fourth of July after all today)...not to mention Europe.
            3) It propagates like a schmoo (if you do not know what a schmoo is I feel sorry for you).
            4) It is listed as Threatened on the Federal Endangered list (only a few thousand individuals are known in its limited range …