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Showing posts from December, 2012

Out phloxed...Ending the year on a sad note...

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 Let's make next year better! I have known for some time I would have to eventually write this post, and I suppose the last day of the year is appropriate. 30 years ago the Mexican phlox that my friend Paul Maslin (and I) brought into cultivation were reaching their apogee. There were a dozen or more clones making the rounds...some propagated in prodigious numbers for a while. Everyone had them. And eventually just about everyone lost them. Above is 'Mary Maslin', which Paul named for his wonderful wife who passed away in her mid nineties a decade or more ago. Paul died in 1984--he would be sad indeed to know that most of his phloxes would one day be nearly extinct. Or possibly extinct.



The yellow one still persists in the wild, at least. And on the fringes of cultivation...Above you can see how well it once grew for us. I thought it would be a keeper!
I know a few people who still have 'Tangelo'--maybe we can bring it back from the brink...…

California dreamin'

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For the last few years I've spent Christmas in California (Jan, my partner, has never not spent Christmas here) and I've been basking among the Bougainvilleas for nearly two weeks. Most years we wend our way northward for a week or so at the Bay area, but this year exigencies made us cut the trip short. I did go Bayward three times in the last year, so I haven't exactly neglected the area. Christmas here is a kick: everyone complains about how cold the weather is (days steadily in the 60's with lots of sun) and it seems to rain mostly at night...bone chilling lows in the fifties mostly. and there are masses of bloom everywhere. I am featuring one of my favorite California places--the garden of Ted and Diane Kipping, in the south part of San Francisco. This garden seems to encapsulate so many of the contradictions and delights of this amazing State for us gardeners...



Ted and Diane's sidewalk view is an uncharacteristic monoculture of Geranium maderense from th…

I want a blue...blue.. blue ....blue Clematis!

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Now that I have Elvis' annoying Christmas song ringing in your head, I should clarify: even the BLUEST clematis has more than a hint of lavender. I've tried expunging that with Adobe, and a touch of pink still lingers. Oh well...lavender is a wonderful color too...if you are reading this, you have probably grown lots of Clematis integrifolia--that massive Eurasian clump forming perennial that annoys nurserymen who can't figure out what department it belongs in (shouldn't it be in with the vines?)

As you can see, it's habit is not really vining: here on Sandy's rock garden it makes a wonderful columnar statement, rather like this column of text.


 The typical forms of Clematis integrifolia found in nurseries grow several feet tall (I've seen them more than a meter) and of course, they flop and cause no end of annoyance to fastidious gardeners. but those heavenly blue flowers! You can of course stake them, and fuss to no end. Or you can seek out of of severa…

Waiting for the Barbarians

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If you have never read C.P. Cavafy's eloquent poem, "Waiting for the Barbarians" do yourself a favor and click on that URL...

The apocalyptic light of sunset (that was a few weeks ago not far from my house) peppers Facebook. Everyone seems to be allured at some point or another with the fascination of "the end". One of my friends is passionate about Horror Movies, and we all know far too much lately about the disgusting American addiction to firearms--another form of frenetic (if sublimated) barbarism and deathwish.

I often imagine the apocalyptic horror that my distant ancestors must have experienced in 1204 and a few centuries later in 1453 when the Barbarians did indeed breach the walls of The City. I shall never forget one of my aunts as we sat gazing from the summit of Roca near Pervolakia, describing how they watched the thousands of Nazi paratroopers descend like confetti a mere fifteen miles away on Maleme in May 21, 1941. The barbarians are out there …

A cup of claret to cheer the season....Christmassy cacti

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Echinocereus polyacanthus
I know these aren't Zygocacti, for Heavens sake... discounting those (which deserve their own blog by someone who can actually grow them well) I realize that Christmas isn't exactly cactus season (except maybe in Patagonia)...but there is something terribly Christmassy to my eyes about the flowers of the myriad claret cup cacti (a section of Echinocereus that is distinctive for its badminton birdie flowers that stay open rather than close at night like most echinocerei). A dozen or more species have been named in this section of the genus based on their genetics and distribution: one of the most spectacular, Echinocereus polyacanthus, is found primarily in northern Mexico--but has proved very hardy at Denver Botanic Gardens for twenty or more years. It has especially lovely, immense crimson chalices--a rich claret cup indeed! Cheers!

Echinocereus coccineus ex Taos David Salman, proprietor of the recently disbanded Santa Fe Greenhouses, once gave me two…

Going with the Phlomis...

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I realize this looks suspiciousliy like Lamb's ears--and the Phlomis are distantly related, it's true--but these fluffy, very touchable leaves are one of the innumerable "Jerusalem sages" that have barely entered cultivation, or have yet to do so...the Mediterranean is chockablock full of Phlomis--and strangely few are out there. This is one that Dan and I collected half way up the Sierra Nevada above Granada, little suspecting it would have such lovely, burnt orange flowers...


Which I have yet to photograph properly. I suspect if I take the time and photograph this in just the right light, it will get the notoriety it deserves. Dan has propagated dozens of plants which now cover a wide swath of the Watersmart garden, producing buckets of seed. Now if it would only do this in MY garden!

Here is yet another execrable picture of a fabulous plant, in this case Phlomis lychnitis--we managed to get only a little pinch of this at a high elevation on Sierra Mágina, a magic…

Autumn embers redux (April in December?)

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Autumn embers still? And what's this "April in December?"--hold your horses, it'll all come out in the wash! The "April in December" is the easy part: April is the perfect month at the beginning of the growing season. March is a tad too early (and ragged around the edges, so to speak) but by April the bulbs are all out in force, the first lilacs and flowering trees are blooming and the alpines are going great guns: everything is crisp and full of promise and the hailstorms and summer droughts and insects have yet to take their toll. December represents a similar sort of perfection: We've finally managed most of the fall cleanup, and the beds are pretty trim, the last bulbs planted, and the last fall color is glowing and lots of bulbs are actually poking up their cute little noses (you should make some squeaky sounds here)...winter has yet to wreak its worst--and one can admire with optimism the many new succulents (and other plants of untested hardines…

прощание

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Farewell

....Thus life has been an endless line of land
receding endlessly.... And so that's that,
you say under your breath, and wave your hand,
and then your handkerchief, and then your hat.
To all these things I've said the fatal word....
"Softest of tongues" Vladimir Nabokov (the fatal word is "прощание"=farewell: pronounced "praschay" more or less...)

Don't be alarmed: I'm not going anywhere. Yet. I am simply acknowledging the universality of leavetaking (something we do every day: you break a spatula. You throw it away--and shall never see it again [ever] although it was something you used for years almost every day): that simple parting repeats itself every moment: that very breath is gone never to return, that sunset was unique and evanescent--and then there comes a certain age when you quite often see old friends for the last time quite frequently: I took leave of more people in the last year, shaking their hands or even huggin…