Sunday, May 19, 2013

From A to Z (An alphabetarium of plants blooming on May 18, 2013)

Sprekelia formosissima
Yes, I know the alphabet does not begin with "S" and, No, it has not been through the winter (planted it a month ago about 8" deep in the vain hope it may prove hardy). But it DID grab your attention: NOW the alphabet begins...

Allium akaka
 Looks just like some other akaka I have grown, although it came with a collection of North American alliums. Whatever: I'll take it!

Anacyclus depressus
 This sows all over my garden, loving paths the best. Who has the heart to weed it out?

Androsace sarmentosa and Campanula 'Dickson's Gold' foliage
 I never thought yellow and pink would go well together until I went to South Africa and saw whole mountains of Diascia integerrima mixed with huge mounds of yellow flowered Euryops all over the Drakensberg. .Here is my modest tribute to the combo.

Arisaema thunbergii v. urashima
 A gift two years ago from Tim Alderton, the vivacious and very talented horticulturist at J.C. Raulston Arboretum (thank you Tim!).
Delosperma dyeri
 The first delosperma to bloom this year is the orange phase of dyeri (not the same as 'Red Mountain' more widely sold. I think I like this orange one even better...

Draba imbricata
 I have spent much time this spring complaining about our horrible April frost (mid April the thermometer dropped to 7F with very little snow. Trees around town were even killed by this cold snap, most of the spring flowering Prunus and Malus were nipped in the bud (not to mention redbuds, lilacs etc.) although I've noticed a few exceptions to this last rule. It had a devastating impact on bulbs especially--crisping flowers and the ends of foliage. I can only hope it didn't kill any outright. What a difference a month makes! A casual visitor wouldn't know we'd had the worst spring ever. And some groups--like Draba have perfomed better than ever.

Grusonia clavata and Veronica cuneifolia
 I would NEVER have planted these strange bedfellows together: the veronica sowed across a path and came up on its own in the midst of the cactus. Oh well--they do look good together...

Haplopappus acaulis
 One of the most universal plants of western dryland steppe throughout the intermountain West--and also on the crests of the California Sierras! This is an ultimate nerd plant: plant nerds LOVE it and ordinary folk don't even see it or say "Nyeh" and walk on.

Hesperis kotschyi and Onopordon acaule
 Another unlikely coupling: the hesperis (much more compact than typical matronalis. I notice I have this growing North, South, East and West in my garden--a sign I like a plant. (It's all encompassing you see..) And it smells just as heavenly.

Iris barnumae v. barnumae
 I yearned to grow this for decades and have had it bloom three years in a row now. The vegetation is starting to encroach--it will be much cleaner in a day or two, with a little food to get the clump I only had var. urmiensis!

Iris henryi
 One of the great plant introductions of Darrell Probst--America's greatest hybridizer as well as an awesome plantsman generally. This tiniest of iris is high on my list of faves this year...

Iris ruthenica v. uniflora
 Of the many forms of Iris ruthenica I have grown in my day, this is by far the best. I believe it is what I saw everywhere in the Altai mountains, although these plants came from Beaver Creek Alpines, that most extraordinary nursery...

Iris ruthenica v. uniflora
 More pix of the same: I can never get enough of this!

Iris tigridia Swan Song
 That is not a cultivar name--it's the sad fact that I was down to one fan of this most enchanting miniature, and that's blooming with nothing left to carry on the show. I saw this growing thickly in tundra in Mongolia...I hope I may live long enough (and get some more seed) so I can have it grow for me again...

Lewisia tweedyi
 I saw this growing as lustily as cabbages in Sweden and Germany the last few weeks: I'm glad it's still alive! This bloom show lasted one day (hot sun and it was over)...But worth the wait. That melting apricot color is one of my favorite tones...

Paeonia cambessedessii
 I know I should wait till it's full out--probably today with our heat and sun. But the anticipation is killin' me: I am SO GLAD I moved this last fall--and delayed it long enough that it came through our arctic blast with no problems. I know if I'd left it it would have suffered or been killed. One of the high points of a very disappointing spring (don't let all these pictures fool you: it's the worst spring in our history for plant damage)...

Pediocactus simpsonii v. simpsonii
 I collect pediocacti: Please don't accuse me of being a "pediophile" however! (that little "i" makes a world of difference! The one above is a pretty run of the mill typical Colorado form.
Pediocactus simpsonii v. robutior
              I think this is the Eastern Oregon phase of this endlessly variable species. Love 'em all!

Pulsatilla 'aurea'
 This is the name this thing is being sold under. I like it very much--and almost missed the display this year (all the other clumps were past bloom when I got back from Europe)..

Pulsatilla campanella
 I've been growing this long before I went to the Altai in 2009--so it is obviously a long lived and rewarding plant. Having seen it in its native habitat (I have a few seedlings that are almost identical to this from my trip nearby for comparison) I can declare this is one of my 20 or 50 favorite pulsatilla species for sure...

Papaver croceum
 I'm a sucker for poppies--and this one (our collection from the Altai) is high on my list.

Aubrieta gracilis
 This appears to be out of alphabetical order (and I suppose it is) and this tiniest, slowest growing and most precious Aubrieta certainly merits a place near the top--but I'm illustrating "rock garden" here--this is a good time for rock gardens everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere: I have stuffed mine with so much stuff that blooms earlier and later that it's not as flashy as some...except for spots like this, perhaps...

Iberis taurica run amok
 It is beautiful isn't it? Only it has taken up much too much space and is smothering treasures. This is the last year I shall allow Iberis taurica on the top of the garden--I keep trying to get it to grow along the path or other harmless spots, but NOOOOOO, it has to be king of the mountain. As it turns deep lavender and purple, the spectacle is almost worth the hoggishness. But mid day (on warm days like today) the stench of the flowers--really unpleasant--fills the whole garden and pretty much assures me that a little Iberis taurica is more than enough! Enjoy it while it lasts...

Tulips run amok
Not everything I grow is tiny, rare and a wild species. We thought a splash of color in front would be nice, and Jan had some extra tulips from a job, so in they went. I was afraid they might be impacted by the huge frost in April, but they squeaked by and greeted us in full glory last Wednesday when we got back from Europe. They shall stay.
More rock garden mayhem
 The usual cast of suspects...lots of crucifers and poppies of course. Rock gardens are the best!

Ranunuclus gramineus amid Iberis taurica
 I have to almost pinch myself to believe it was little more than a week ago I was at Wurzburg botanical garden (I hope you are impressed that I managed the umlaut)...which may be the most perfect botanical garden in the world. They had hundreds of this damn buttercup on their unspeakably stunning steppe garden (which was labeled "Mediterranean" garden--a subject worth discussing, incidentally). I really should do a blog about them--only how would I hone down my hundreds of pictures of that glorious place to a mere dozen or two? I have only had that magical a visit to a public garden on a mere half dozen or so occasions (if you discount the several thousand somewhat comparable experiences I've had at my work place that is)...

Rosularia serpentinica and Escobaria vivipara
 Talk about strange bedfellows! Arianna and Al can't hold a candle to these two: an endangered and adorable succulent from a single mountain in Western Turkey and the most abundant and widespread of Western American ball cacti...This--my friends--is a pretty good synecdoche of my psyche. I planted these a year ago and am pleased as punch at how the trough has developed. Sometimes our schemes pan out! (It's probably going to be in full bloom in early June, when I will declare a national holiday and stand everyone a drink!).

Sphaeromeria capitata
 One of the most universal and abundant steppe cushions found in practically every county in Wyoming and spilling only sparingly into surrounding states. I have seen hillsides in Albany county dripping with this little tansy--which has a ludicrous resemblance to Artemisia alpina...I suspect there may be a reason for that resemblance.

Tradescantia occidentalis
Native to my property, this dayflower shows up everywhere and makes massive clumps. I leave far too many and have to finally dig them out. The vacant lot next to me has a colony of thousands that is stunning every morning for a few weeks in late May and June before they mow. These are the sorts of things that weave into our everyday lives not many people know about--except you if you've read so far. I suspect you have your local native plant story to tell as well: I have a kicker I may share in a few days...if all goes as planned (hee hee hee)...(insert snickering emoticon).
Either Tulipa hageri or orphanidea
 I know I could look it up: but who knows if the purveyor labeled it correctly? I love those strange auburn tulips from Greece and Turkey that Holland cranks out and I keep planting, hoping to watch them prosper...and they usually fade away. Maybe these will form fat clumps? Some day perhaps the veronica will fill in and blaze with cobalt fury, and a clump of this (like the one two shots below) will fulminate and I shall be smug as a bug in a rug. The things we gardeners live for!

Tulipa batalinii
 I have read this is considered the albino (so to speak) of T. wilsoniana, which in turn is considered synonymous by some with T. Montana--which has been considered a likely candidate for the proverbial "lily of the field" by those who like to speculate biblically. Of course, the main reason to grow this tulip is that it is incredibly adaptable, long lived and gorgeous. My big clumps on the xeriscape were fried by the cold, but these I'd tucked into a shady spot came through to bloom well a few weeks later. Location. Location. Location!

Tulipa 'Wild Dutch hybrid"
 That's not really the name of course--and I should look it up--but since this is growing at the Extension Office on Iliff here in Denver and not in my garden, I shouldn't have included it--except to point out what I expect my OWN bronzy tulips to do in a few years...

Verbascum atroviolaceum
 It's probably just a really good form of V. phoeniceum, but whatever this taxon ends up being called, it is a superb garden plant. I grow it in conventional rich soil in watered, and partly shaded spots, and these are in an unwatered garden, baking in the sun. And it blooms for months and lives forever: and it has a rich violet color. What else do you need, for Heaven's sake?

Veronica armena
 I am a fool for veronicas, and grow dozens. I saw many more in European botanic gardens I now need to track down. This is one of the easiest and best. Slow enough to have in the rock garden (unlike some that are little piggies).

Viola Corsica (bottom) and Viola x wittrockiana hybrid above
 A few years ago I grew pansies in pots nearby here--and somehow a Viola Corsica sowed into this trough and now they're crossing: and the result looks ridiculously like Viola altaica (the principal ancestor of V. x wittrockiana) as I have seen it on the Altai mountains. Gardens can play some very sophisticated tricks indeed...Of course, I planned all this hanky panky very scientifically at my drafting table...(guffaw).

Zygadenus venenosus
I've noticed lately the "y" is turning into an "i" in some books--I like the looks of a "Zy" so much I shant change easily. This is one of distressingly few bulbs found natively in my vicinity. Thank you Mike Bone and Ray Daugherty for collecting this from a thick stand on a piece of property about to be "developed" north of Denver. I wish we'd quit "developing" on fields of wildflowers and clean up the messes we already have.

Enough plants and pontification. This has been the most frustrating and flawed spring I've ever experienced in Colorado: I escaped for three and a half weeks to Europe (a wise thing to do in many ways), and returned to renewed hope and with refreshed enthusiasm. Meanwhile, several snows and rains burgeoned the weeds amazingly: I've filled three large wheelbarrow loads so far, with at least as much to go. But it shall be done! Thanks for hangin' in there!

I see virga over the Rockies to the West, a new day is dawning and I must brew some coffee. G'day!


  1. You are truly enthusiastic spring is finally staying in Denver...maybe at worst a dusting of snow between 80-90F days? (I share your excitement)

    All the dryland plants continue my yawns at anything Karl F. or not-so-sage Russians!

  2. Please no more snow! I suspect it's nearly summer in Albuquerque: it's warming u here (revving up the sprinkler system...

    Trees are leafing out--but still tender chartreuse.

  3. Verbascum atroviolaceum has had continuous difficulty in my sandy soil while V. phoeniceum has performed very well, seeding itself to excess. When I grew plants from seed of feeble V. atroviolaceum, I found that I clearly had hybrids with V. phoeniceum. The resulting plants are vigorous, long-flowering and deep purple in flower (both parents) and they are especially vigorous and almost entirely sterile - not an unwanted result. I have grown some seedlings from the very few viable seed that I found and will know next year what those become. Monsters?


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