Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The RED ones: the loveliest everlastings...

Helichrysum vernum

Knowing that a few of you are so sensitive you may not have been getting much sleep since I promised this blog some weeks ago,  So I shall interrupt my interminable accounts of the fantastic Central and Northern European botanic gardens I visited over the last month with a longing look back at this extraordinary and underrepresented genus of composites that is so prominent throughout much of South Africa. I start with the first of the reds: Helichrysum vernum is largely restricted to the northern Natal Drakensberg--mostly in what the locals there call the "Little Berg'--or middle elevation sandstone formations. This blooms earlier than the next two species--I photographed the specimen above in October of 1998. I don't believe this is currently in cultivation. It is one of the most spectacular daisies ever--and more is the pity!  It varies from near crimson and scarlet to the rosy red above.
Helichrysum adenocarpum
 This picture was scanned for me by Ann Frazier, a remarkable volunteer at Denver Botanic Gardens who has been busy preserving some of the more important images I've taken as transparencies. I took this picture in 1994 on Platberg--a remarkable nature reserve above Harrismith that is chockablock full of treasures. This may be the most widespread of these three species. There were hundreds of these in bloom that late January. I was taken to Platberg by Dr. J.P. Roux whom we tragically lost last month (see below for a brief tribute).  I have grown this in Denver, but it only lasted a few years. This is in bloom for most of the summer months. I likewise believe this is not in cultivation at present.

Helichrysum ecklonis (Photograph by Todd Boland)
The unquestioned gem of the genus is this monster--whose flowers can often be nearly 3" across. They vary from pure white through soft pink to deep crimson in color. This blooms in late spring--essentially spanning the season between the previous two species. As you can see if you are a dutiful reader and click on my hyperlinks, this one is widespread at higher elevations than the others. I have seen it in many places, although usually when it's past peak, so I have asked Todd if I could use his wonderful image. If you search the web, you will see a vast clump growing at Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, where so many choice plants have had their debut--particularly south Africans--thanks to the work of Olive Hilliard and Bill Burtt (the preeminent botanists of the Drakensberg).

Koos and Kobus

I received an email from a friend telling me that Dr. J.P. Roux, curator of the Compton Herbarium at the South African National Botanical Institute at Kirstenbosch was killed in a bicycle accident on Sunday, May 12, 2013. His son, now 19 years old (this picture was taken some time ago!) was also injured but will live. Dr. Roux was the authority on South African Pteridophyta (that's ferns and fern allies) and a great deal more. He was an extraordinary horticulturist who created the Drakensberg Botanical Garden in Harrismith, which unfortunately was de-commissioned in the late 1980's. I had a chance to walk this garden with Koos not too long after it had been jettisoned by SANBI and it was in wonderful shape still in 1994: sweeps of rare bulbs and choice alpines grown to perfection. A few years later entropy set in, and now it's pretty much back to nature. Some day I must scan those pictures and give this garden and Koos (as he liked to be known) a proper tribute. No one (except perhaps Olive and Burtt) knew or loved the Drakensberg more than he did.

Koos surveying Helichrysum pagophilum in Lesotho
I was so fortunate to have traveled with Koos through the Drakensberg on four separate and magical occasions. He was the best of traveling companions and a friend that many people will miss deeply, especially his loving wife and son.   I offer them here my sympathy from afar.

Koos admiring Mohria vestita and Cheilanthes ecklonis on Platberg
Whenever I think of the Drakensberg and its unbelievable wildflowers, their names often come back to me in the deep, husky, Afrikaans tones of this gentleman's voice. A voice I shall often recall with gratitude, fondness and enormous respect. Everlasting be his memory. (Αιωνία η μνήμη του).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Parting shots: Peter Korn's Garden: just before it EXPLODES!

Peter Korn in part of his remarkable nursery....
 Hard to believe I was strolling around this magical nursery just a week or so ago: I'd returned to Gothenburg after the German/Danish extravaganza, and a lot of new flowers had emerged--but it was obvious the explosion was just about to happen: Peter has put together a collection of many thousands of the worlds most beautiful wildflowers in one of the most spectacular settings imaginable--and they were about to implode. I am not sure I could have torn myself away a few weeks later, so it's good I came when it was still frosty at night and only the toughies were blooming: but there were lots of those!

Dicentra formosa growing very compact in open ground
Primula marginata 'White Lady'

 I'm a sucker for white flowers.

Prunus incisa 'Koju no mai'
 A gorgeous tiny leaves cherry from Japan. I would love to grow this.

Saxifraga sempervivum
 I love this gem from Mt. Olympus--heck! I love all saxifrages! (Malcolm would be proud of me).

Iris bloudowii
 I have admired this iris in the Altai Mountains and grow it too (but not so well---darn it!)

Wyethia helianthoides
 I can't tell you how galling it is to see challenging plants like the wonderful white Mule's Ears that I've yearned to grow for years, thriving in Peter's garden!


Lomatium utriculatum
 OK: it may not knock your socks off YET--give it a year or two. The biscuit roots rock.

Dicentra Canadensis
I would KILL to grow squirrel corn like this. Maybe not kill: just maim or severely disfigure. (I know that's a tasteless joke by the way).
Dicentra cucullaria
And of course he has the common one too...
Anemone x seemanii
 The lovely hybrid between A. nemorosa and A. ranunculoides...

Mystery Fritillaria
 There were frits popping up everywhere...

Trillium chloropetalum (I think)
 And tons of trilliums were coming into bloom.

Vitaliana primuliflora
 Someone had told me Vitaliana did not bloom well in northern Europe. Harrumph!

Caltha palustris
 Caltha decided to take a dip...
A drama of drabas...
 If you can have a pride of lions and a congress of baboons, why not a drama of drabas?

Soldanella in quite a few spots.

Primula hirsuta
 Is this not to die for?

Primula auricula

Polygala chamaebuxus

Euphorbia cyparissius 'Fen's Ruby'
 Why so sparse? He'd actually removed this colony the fall before to plant it at the nearby Airport's steppe garden he'd designed. These had come up from the remains...(ouch!)...

Erodium cezembre
 Erodiums are very under utilized in my opinion....
Labels may be distracting for one, but I loved to know this came from Ron McBeath (one of my all time heroes)

Dracocephalum discolor
 I've grown this dracocephalum for years--and realize that I've lost it. Glad Peter still has it!

Dodecatheon (pulchellum?)
 Of course, pedants would insist this is a Primula...

Mertensia maritima
 As you would expect, this thrives for Peter..what wonderful foliage!

More of the same, self-sowing...


More views

And more views...what a spot!

Thousands of plants bursting forth!

Androsace in masses

Peter surveying his kingdom...

Draba, possibly streptocarpa from Colorado (Mike Kintgen's seed) allowed to run rampant!

A little broom...very cute.

A white Androsace carnea

More pink Androsace...

Phacelia sericea

Lewisia cotyledon self-sowing

and blooming (from wild collected seed)

Lewisia tweedyi about to open--this must be spectacular right now.

Rheum reticulatum

More views (and gorgeous boulders)

A Southern Hemisphere Angelica

Lysichiton americanum

Another vignette

Moss does not grow like this in Denver

Primula elatior--one of this year's Plant Select recommendations. What a fabulous plant!

Persicaria tenuicaulis...obviously happy! I always thought this was tender...

Fritillaria meleagris
 Maybe it's common, but I love to grow this and so does Peter (and it's growing very well--check out the willow to the right of it! The place is one treasure after another.

The nursery ready for sales

Saxifrages if you don't want primulas...

And some of those famous "non flowering" vitalianas----Ha!

Thanks once again, Peter, for you exceptional generosity in hosting me and Jan, and the wonderful dinners and talks. And for the privilege of spending time in that amazing, expansive and incredibly conceived masterpiece you call your garden! See you in Scotland in a month...

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