Showing posts from February, 2013

Wild iris: just about my favorite thing in the world.

Since I doubt that you are counting, I might as well tell you that this is my 300 post on this Blog: although I am not preternaturally fatidic [in case my buddy Bob is reading: I like to make him look up a word or two], I thought I should blog about something special. Irises (and especially the only native Iris of Colorado) are as special as it gets in my book. So here ya go!

There are many flowery spectacles on Planet Earth that I adore, but not many delight me more than a vast field of wild iris. There is something about that blue color, and the variation one can find in them. It's another snowy, blustery day (finally! winter decided to arrive at the end of February) and I am catching up on many tasks, but I stumbled on these and realized that they bring the bounty and beauty of Colorado back better than anything else I can think of. Can't wait till late May and June when the iris fields in our mountains are blooming again!

Of course, one of the great pleasures of trodding*…

Another childhood mystery solved...

"I have grown to believe that the one thing worth arriving at is simplicity of heart and life. That--
     "One's relations with others should be direct and not diplomatic.
     "Meannness and hardness and coldness are the unforgiveable sins.
     "Conventionality is the mother of dreariness.
     "Pleasure exists not in virtue of material conditions but in the joyful heart.
     "The world is a very interesting and beautiful place.
     "Congenial labor is the secret of happiness and many other things which seem, as I write them down, to be dull and trite commonplaces, but are for me the bright jewels which I have found beside the way".

          A list of observations written in her diary, quoted in "Separate Lives, The Story of Mary Rippon" by Silvia Pettem, The Book Lode, Longmont, 1999.

I can't begin to imagine how many times in my life I have sat on the sandstone benches of the Mary Rippon Theater on the Boulder C.U…

Life well lived: RIP Robert Johnson.

Bob Johnson, proprietor of Intermountain Cactus Nursery, passed away on Saturday, February 16, 2013. I met  Bob on three occasions, on almost ten year intervals. The first time was when the Wasatch Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society sponsored an Annual General Meeting of that group in the summer sometime in the mid 1990's. Bob gave one of the talks at that meeting about hardy cactus: it made a huge impression on me at the time: the wonderful pictures of plants I did not know as well as I wanted to, and his delightful delivery and repartee. It helped fan the flames of my love of these wonderfully prickly plants.

I finally visited his remarkable home and garden in Kaysville, Utah only three or so springs ago on a wonderful cross country trek I took with my son his last year of high school (spring vacation to be exact). We dropped by to visit Bob and typically I have lots of pictures of his garden--and none of him!

Here's a slightly closer view of the majestic…

The first iris: Mrs. Danford's bright gem

It's not blooming yet. Most years, Iris danfordiae opens its first flowers in early February and we have even had January bloom. But this strange, dry year things are retarded. In fact, I had the hose running around my garden from morning until sunset...It would be hard to convince a Scotsman that we have to water in mid-winter (even the cacti!), but such are the dues for living in a semi-arid climate. So this post will be something of an act of hubris (or stupidity) or both, because not a single iris is poking up yet. But I predict the hundred Iris danfordiae I planted in my blue gramma grass meadow (where a wealth of other bulbs follow on their heels) will be out before long. The bed is hard as a rock much of the year, but many bulbs seem to like it--and it dries out in summer. Iris danfordiae are a bit of a crap shoot in Colorado, but I have read that if they are planted deep enough or where they can "bake" they can become perennial and live to bloom again. For inst…


This time of year, gardeners get might "impatient"--so what better post on a Valentine's day than these wonderful summer delights (with their somewhat heart shaped flowers and buds)... I doubt you have seen this one before--Dan Johnson and I collected seed of it in September of 2001 (yes--not long after the infamous 9-11-2001) in the Himalayas of Pakistan. I don't recall seeing this offered by any company--we may have indeed introduced it to cultivation subsequently. Like all impatiens, it is prollific and explosive in its seeding--so we have been a tad cautious about sharing it. But it has shared itself generously at Denver Botanic Gardens and a few local gardens as well... I am a bit surprised the botanist only thought it had "bi" colors--I see white, yellow and pink. Like others of its clan, it likes shade and not too dry a spot--although Pakistan being at the dry end of the Himalaya this is not as fussy as the gigantic sorts that are such weeds in Engl…

Vermilion blush...

I realized (blusing a deep vermilion shade) that approximately 2% of those visiting this blog are probably pretty pissed off: the page that has received far and away the most hits is "Autumn Embers" which is a very mediocre post I did years ago talking about the subtle shades of foliage in the fall: I was curious why this was such a popular post, so I Googled "Autumn Embers" and realized that rhody fanciers were clicking on it to learn more about the re-blooming orange-red azalea by that cultivar name....I can almost hear them click another URL in disgust...oh well. Perhaps a little bouquet of tulips will calm their souls. Red tulips tulips. They are brash and bright and frankly, I can't have enough of them. They love Colorado, so you must forgive me for flaying you with them: I like them! Red emperor (above) is hard to beat: I was responsible for planting hundreds of these in front of Mayor Hiclenooper's offices in Downtown Denver where…

Pax Verbascum

So there! You think all mulleins are coarse and gigantic: here's one that fits in your teacup. I have grown it on and off for decades--and it is currently missing in action in my garden. From alpine heights of Greece: someone needs to go fetch a pinch of seed!

 The queen of dwarf mulleins has to be this gem from Southern Turkey--a shrub actually. It should be required that everyone grow this some day--and I mean everyone! I've seen this grown a meter across at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (and it was a royal display as well!). Apparently quite restricted and vulnerable in nature. I do not think gardens really serve as safeguards (although think Franklinia, alas! which only exists in gardens). But by growing these plants we are reminded how imperative it is to preserve them in wild habitats. A profound and important service of ornamental horticulture that is conveniently overlooked or downplayed by many botanists!

 I trust you notice my Zeus-like demeanor next t…