Thursday, January 3, 2013

Petite in size, pleasure aplenty! (and..oh yes, a little Clematis clamoring...)

Oxlip (Primula elatior)
I'm not sure why...but I have never blogged about Plant Select--one of the most wonderful things I've had the privilege to participating in over the last quarter century (it's probably nearer 30 years old as a program actually--but who's counting?). If you are not familiar with that wonderful research/marketing/educational phenomenon, do click on my highlighted hyperlink and browse the website: it's well worth your time. They have launched a new initiative called Plant Select Petites that is near and dear to my heart: I have spent much of my life growing small plants in containers, rock gardens, xeriscapes and have always felt these needed to be promoted better...others in the program thought so too, so much to my amazement and delight a whole new facet to this program has been born. It is being launched with three of the greatest plants imaginable: if you do not grow oxlips, well now is the time: Plant Select has dozens of wholesale nurseries participating and I suspect there will be as many oxlips out there this spring as in some English meadows! The one above was photographed in my garden where it is duking it out with Nectaroscordon siculum (another great plant). There's something about that pale yellow that melts the heart (it is a tad like melted butter, come to think of it--something close to my chubby little heart). I rate this the toughest primrose in our harsh steppe climate.

Heuchera elegans--very similar to H. pulchella
 I have probably 50 pictures of Heuchera pulchella--all of them transparencies and I confess I don't scan. I take to Walgreens and have THEM scan. No time for that. There are several dozen adorable heucheras that festoon cliffs all over the American West (and East for that matter). I know Dan Heims has cranked out no end of gorgeous foliaged hybrids, but I am pure at heart and like my wildlings unadorned (most of the time anyway). By the way, that is Primula capitata below the Heuchera in the picture--NOT a good primrose for our steppe climate (it died minutes after I took the picture).  Heuchera elegans is Californian, but looks remarkably like the wonderful miniature championed by Plant Select that I first collected seed of nearly 30 years ago on Sandia crest. I have a sneaking suspicion a lot of the germplasm out there may trace to that collection...(not that I'm proud of it or anything). You'd think I'd have a friggin' picture of it if that were the case, though.
Scott's clematis (Clematis scottii)

I could write a gospel about Clematis scottii--one of America's greatest native plants. I've been horribly infected with the Clematis virus (a fatal condition I'm told--everyone who has it eventually dies). But you die very happy. There are a dozen or so Clematis in the Viorna section found across America--most of them excruciatingly rare, and all of them horribly wonderful and disgustingly desirable. Scott's clematis has been lumped with C. hirsutissima by myopic botanists, who probably have astigmatism and possibly cataracts. It is its own wonderful thing, and incredibly variable. Do check out the positively lascivious pictures of it on the Plant Select galleries--my nasty shot of a particularly dark and sleek specimen was taken at Laporte Avenue Nursery--the holy grail of great Western wildflowers and the best alpines imaginable. That nursery is responsible for not just this clematis, but a cluster of the best native clematis getting into cultivation--and a heck of a lot more. I have blogged about them before, and am likely to do so again--they are the premier specialty nursery in this quadrant of the Universe, and you have not lived if you have not placed a gigantic order from them. If you don't do so pronto, they'll be forced to quit business and run for Congress instead (and raise your taxes substantially). It's cheaper in the long run to order plants.


Clematis mandshurica (Plant Select wannabe)
That's it for petites...now for the petty part (were you aware that petty comes from petite?--your etymological lesson for the day). Since I know certain people whose names I dare not mention, but who have a great deal of influence with future choices in Plant Select (notice how crafty I'm being, changing font color to distract you)...actually read my blog pretty regularly I figure this would be a GREAT opportunity to promote yet ANOTHER Clematis...(by the way, notice that sign in the lower left corner of the picture above--isn't that stick figure falling under the "Caution" a kick?)....

Clematis mandshurica was introduced to our regional scene at least (maybe nationally) by Harlan Hamernik from one of his jaunts to inner Mongolia...he was the co-founder of Bluebird Nursery and also Wild Plums...This Clematis ROCKS! You ought to know about Clematis paniculata (a.k.a. Clematis ternifolia) which is widely grown in commerce, and which also blooms quite late in the year (late August onward) and spreads rambunctiously...well, mandshurica has been synonymized by some of those same eye-challenged botanists...and I confess it does look somewhat similar--only imagine that THIS clematis starts blooming in late spring and lasts all summer! Imagine, moreover, that it doesn't swallow up your garden: my ten year old plant only grows about 9 feet tall each year (dies to the ground in winter)...Now are those winning traits or what? Only problem is, of course, that no one grows the rascal (Bluebird dropped it: "no interest"). Can you think of a better candidate for a research/marketing/educational program to adopt? Well...as it happens, I can think of one other one:


Clematis fruticosa, the only truly shrubby Clematis, also introduced by Harlan
Oh yes...there was ONE other one too....
Clematis hexapetala, yet another Hamernik gem from Inner Mongolia
And come to think of it...there was just one more...
Clematis fremontii--another Bluebird introduction

Clematis fremontii--in glorious golden seed much of the summer...

I'm sure if you have made it to this last sentence, you too may be terribly infected by that Clematis virus...the only cure is to acquire another score or more of those most glorious of vines, and perhaps acquaint yourself with the Roger Brewster Clematis collection where they grow over SEVEN HUNDRED Clematis and realize that by contrast, your's-truly is not just petty--but finally PETITE!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Mike Bone and Brien Darby are working as we speak on building up stock of the other clematis for member growers. Looking towards 2015 perhaps? especially of the C. fruticosa - actually introduced through Great Plants. Loved the green font - our favorite!

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