Showing posts from October, 2012

Barrels of fun...New Mexican autumn

These are the literal barrels, Echinocactus grusonii to be precise. What makes this clump special is that it survived subzero temperatures two years ago for several nights (with cold days between) and survived without damage. It is growing in the Arboretum attached to the Visitor Center at Bosque del Apache, one of New Mexico's secret gems...more at the end about this wonderful place...Much could be said about Golden Barrels, but this is not the blog for just them.

Here is another view of the very artistic Arboretum plantings of succulents. These were begun nearly two decades ago by Dan Perry and Socorro Gonzalez Valdez. Big clumps of Opuntia microdasys survived the subzero devastation with equanimity.

Here is another glimpse of the cactus plantings (notice the golden barrels to the far left?)

Dan and Socorro also have a wonderful private garden with many treasures at their home (where their nursery, Rio Grande Cactus, is also headquartered. One of the MANY plants there that amaz…

October Pagodas

I've grown this Orostachys for many years, but this year it has performed overtime (a dozen or more towers arising here and there all over my garden. I believe it is O. japonica: the names of these odd little succulents are in something of a muddle. But whatever the correct Latin name may one day turn out to be, it is a welcome flourish to end the gardening season. I can't seem to put my fingers on a picture of Orostachys boemeri (a much commoner plant in gardens) which is also spectacular right now...perhaps it shall merit its own blog some day...

I obtained the species above from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew--as Orostachys chanettii (which I assumed had to be correct, considering the provenance).  I have been told it is probably just Orostachys thyrsiflora, which in turn has been lumped with O. spinosa (see below). This blooms in June for me--much earlier than the superficially quite similar O. japonica.

The picture above was taken this summer at Bob Nold's garden: it is…

Rock Garden Design

My favorite Mr. Anonymous (that's YOU Jim) emailed me today saying "you always do plant portraits" (or words to that effect) asking me if I might not address Rock Garden Design (which I have capitalized ot underscore its significance. I occasionally brush briefly past the subject here and there, I aver, and have written a number of pieces, most recently in the Rock Garden Quarterly (pp. 106-117) as well as contributing pieces to various other magazines over the years and several books. Like most other person on the planet, I do not claim to be an "expert" designer, but like EVERYBODY on the planet, I know what I like. Above is a picture of Sandy Snyder's wonderful crevice garden which is fifteen or more years old now: the rock placement is rather schematic, but the plants love it and have knit it together...

This is my home rock garden: much of the flagstone and especially the wall and stairway were here when we bought the house. The rock work was largely …

A must have Sedum from Siberia

If this were called Echinacea or Hosta, there would be scads of gardeners buying it, and hybridizers fussing over it and nurserymen loving it. Alas, it is but a mere Sedum (or perhaps more correctly Hylotelephium. I prefer to use the latter as a Sectional of the genus Sedum [and stick to the old generic] for the sake of simplicty, clarity and to annoy sticklers). This pink form is to DIE for: it's growing (like so many treasures) at the Gardens at Kendrick Lake, the Lakewood city Xeriscape demonstration garden.

Here is a pure white form of the same taxon, growing the same place. Dontcha love variability?

And here is a rather impoverished individual I photographed years ago at my old house: in more shade and otherwise tortured it does not make such a wonderful dome, but it is still charming (and you can see the terrific, silvery, toothy leaves. I first obtained this from a great rock gardener from Brooklyn named Louis Budd Myers--we're talking thirty years ago. The two plants …


A highly impressionistic, shall we say, depiction of the "hard frost" that was supposed to occur last Saturday night. It did drop to 28F, and fried most Coleus in exposed spots, as well as Basil and Salvia fulgens. But, like Superman, the Southerwestern "Autumn" sages (S. greggii and S. microphylla and their kin) revealed their true, mountaineer souls by coming through pretty much unscathed. That's a seedling S. greggii above that decided it wanted to grow in my pathway: so be it!

This is the real gem of the bunch: Salvia 'Raspberry Delight' represents a hybrid between Salviamicrophylla ssp. wislezinii (a.k.a. Salvia lemmonii) and a greggii parent, produced by David Salman several decades ago: this has been far and away the toughest, most cold hardy and just plain wonderful of the autumn sages in my garden. I have it on my unwatered xeriscape where it must have several hundred thousand flowers right now, and this specimen that gets more shade near my r…

I'm changing my name to Ptolemy...

Crocus speciosus 'Albus'
Yes! I am the "King of De Nile": after two nights of dodging the frost bullet, the Weather Service is predicting anything from 23F to 25F tonight. I have lugged all the tender plants I care most about indoors--a real mess--and am wistfully looking at the dozens of pots full of still cheerfully blooming Pentas, Plumbago, Callibrachoa, Gomphrena, Petunia, Nicotiana, Angelonia, Euryops--and more--that shall succumb to the Grim Scythe of Hard Frost. Rather than dwell on the demise of all my tropicalia, I have decided to declare premature spring: since Autumn Crocus has been comandeered by Colchicum, I propose we call these "Premature Spring Crocuses" and just declare spring once and for all.

Crocus pulchellus
Once again the wonderful throng of Crocus pulchellus I planted decades ago in front of the Alpine House in the Rock Alpine Garden which have proliferated, are doing their thang. I must find a spot where I can get these to repeat …

First frost

There is something sad about a fellow who loves alpine flowers and plants from cold temperate climates generally, and who resents the winter that these plants require in order to exist. Doesn't make much sense, really: I know I should give up my resentment of frost and learn to appreciate the crisp, clean outlines of winter, her simplicity.

Everyone says we are burdened with too many things...rather than the garish displays of poppies and pansies, as we see above, I should enjoy the crisp gray outlines of the hills and the clean, crisp emptiness of winter.

And a piece of me does: I get a lot of reading done in the winter months (which I love), and get to California (which I love) and sometimes the southern Hemisphere (which I love a lot)--which is cheating I know, because I'm escaping into lushness and verdure (and summer) again.

One of my favorite poets is Antonio Machado, a wonderful Spaniard, who sings the praises of the bleak Castilian landscape at all times of year, esp…