Monday, September 30, 2013

A masterful gardener comes to Denver...

Peter Korn: Swedish gardener extraordinaire
I think this closeup of Peter's face pretty much says it all: incredible goodwill, openness and enthusiasm characterizes his spirit. His physical energy, however, is manifest only if you hear his presentation--or visit his vast gardens...and his incisive intellect which has propelled this youthful gardener to visit and grow a large proportion of the world's loveliest plants (and sell them into the bargain), well that is something you must visit his garden to really appreciate!
Tussilago fanfara
Most gardens are rectilinear, and relatively small. It takes a special style and temperament of human to garden on acres and try to grow a large proportion of the world's flora! On Sunday, September 6 we will be lucky to have just such a person speak to us at Denver Botanic Gardens--Peter Korn is perhaps the most ambitious gardener on the planet--unquestionably the most ambitious rock gardener: he has several gardens, but the magnum opus near Landvetter airport near Gothenburg, Sweden, is many acres in extent--and stunningly beautiful by many measures. The picture above, which I took last April, shows a little daisy and gives a hint of the scale Peter achieves. He has uncovered cliffs, some many dozens of feet in height, and steep screes, meadows, bogs, woods--you name it. And he has planted many thousands of kinds of plants according to their cultural needs.

Erythronium dens-canis in scree
A few more shots, closeups and distance shots, to give you the faintest glimmering of what this Nordic deity is doing...I have blogged three times about him on one, two, three...nay FOUR times--click on those numbers to sample lots of pictures of his garden in April (and a late April at that--it was more like March but lots was in bloom nonetheless)...

Throngs visiting on Nerd day!
More vistas...

It is hard to convey the vastness of this garden in pictures...that's his home in the distance. The whole area is gardened.

Lysichiton camtschatcensis in the bog

If you possibly can, join Peter Korn at Denver Botanic Gardens this coming Sunday, October 6 at 1:00 PM: sign up at this URL:

You will not regret it!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Remembrance, like Rembrandt, is dark but festive"

Michauxia tchihatchewii
For whatever reason, my transparencies come across rather darker than digital images would. hence my quote from Vladimir Nabokov's Ada...Rembrandt is perhaps a bit darker than these even, and despite the somber neutral colors, the expressions on the faces of his portraits glow with light. I flatter myself to compare my little posies with the great Dutchman--but you have to admit, the giant Campanula cousin resembling nothing so much as a lily--does seem to glow. I am lucky that Mike Bone, head of Propatation at Denver Botanic Gardens, is fond of this plant and grows lots every year...
Mimulus cusickii
This little muppet self sowed for years in my original xeriscape. We collected seed in the early 1990's near the John Day monument in eastern Oregon. I'd give a lot to have it again!

Moraea inclinata
I think there are five or more Moraea along the trail to Sentinel (including one that Jim Archibald and I collected that turned out to be a new species--another story that)...I did not see this species on my first trip (too early)--it was in full bloom in March of 1997...wish it had seed then!

Muscari chalusicum?
I obtained this as a bulb from Jane McGary--I got several Muscari from her some 8 or 10 years ago--and might have mixed up the species. Most Muscari are quite well behaved...and some are elegant!

Narcissus serotinus near Cordoba, October 2001
It was early October, not long after 9-11. After leaving Pakistan we decided to spend two weeks in Spain (to the great annoyance of family, colleagues and friends) rather than rush back to a truly traumatized America. A field of these in bloom just outside Cordoba, Spain, was one of many rewards for our tardy return. Alas, this autumn flowering daffodil is not apt to be hardy outdoors in Colorado!

Oenothera macrocarpa ssp. incana and Stachys ex California
Something about the combination of pink and yellow reminds me of Africa (where the combo occurred frequently). These are two native Americans--a Stachys from California and Oenothera from Kanas.

My slide label said "Olsynium sp." which implies I photographed it in the Andes. I do not recall an Olsynium like this. I do remember a pink Ixia on the Roggeveld...must rummage through  my slides again and see which way I'm mistaken!

Ophyrs scolopax
Photographed in 1994 at Eastertime in Delphi. There are few more enchanting places filled more more wonderful plants. I must go back!

Ophrys speculum
This was growing nearby the last...

Ophrys cornuta
And so was this: I actually purchased and grew these in pots for a year or two...Now I must try them in buffalo grass: I'll bet they'll grow!

Opuntia phaeacantha 'Elsinore'

A stunning orange Opuntia my brother-in-law Allan Taylor collected 40 years ago in a private garden in Elsinore Utah. I rued this plant for years until I realized we had it growing lustily in Dryland Mesa at Denver Botanic Gardens... Would you believe it, two or three pads MIGRATED to my xeriscape! Wonder of wonders...

'Elsinore' again, with Swallowtail
This is the original plant growing in Allan's old xeriscape (once all cacti, now overgrown with dryland shrubs--albeit fabulously choiceones). I believe this picture was taken more than 30 years ago!

Opuntia polyacantha 'Peter Pan'
And this was taken in Kelly Grummons marvelous private garden. Kelly found this permanently nanate form of Opuntia on a field trip with Mary Ann Heacock in southern Wyoming many years ago. The daisy is Hirpicium armerioides--the tiny high alpine form. And the tiny tuffets are Delosperma sphalmanthoides--a bevy of treasures! Grummons never ceases to amaze.

Opuntia arenaria
Growing in a stone trough in the former Wildflower Treasures garden (one of the finest gardens in any botanic gone). I'm not bitter. Really...I'm over it! I'm cool about it...honest! I don't miss it much at all any more. I'm really moving on...It had its moment in the sun. All things must pass...I know perfectly well. I'm fine, honest.
Grusonia clavata
I have never had this bloom in the ground like it does in a pot. I love this dang plant.

Ornithogalum sp. high Roggeveld (October 1997)
Some day some clever person will prove that all the high Roggeveld bulbs are as hardy as the succulents they grow alongside. I would love to be that person! Jim Jones, from Massachusetts, grew an incredibly homely Ornithogalum from this area for years from my seed back in the 1990's...

Ornithogalum sp. high Roggeveld (October 1997)
There are even yellow high altitude stars of Bethlehem. This one is very tiny. Rock gardeners go nuts over plants like this!

Orostachys japonica (came as fimbriata)
Someone at the Huntington got this off a rooftop in Suzhou (I'm pretty sure). They have lost it and want it back. Hope my two blooming stems on my diminished pot set seed!

Pelargonium on top of Roggeveld...
Ernie Demarie or Robin White shall have to chime in on this one!

And this one two...which might be the same species?

Pellaea breweri on Carson Pass
The little "desert ferns" (or in this case, just hot rock ferns--they're actually growing in montane or subapine cliffs. This one is rather widespread (even makes it to Colorado)...

Pellaea bridgesii on Carson Pass
This one is pretty much limited to California and maybe Oregon? I know it grows in one spot in Idaho. I love the steely blue color. The fronds feel like aluminum.

Pellaea occidentalis on the Bighorns
This is found in all the limestones around the Bighorn basin (Absoroka, Owl Creek, Bighorn and Pryor mountains). It is the tiniest and cutest of the Pellaea glabra complex...

Petrophytum hendersonii at RBG Edinburgh
I have never seen this in the wild. Maybe NEXT year? From the Olympics (could visit Kelly and Sue afterwards!)

Phlomis russelliana and Allium caeruleum
I am always suprised to see how well this Phlomis grows--and yet in so few gardens. Surely, one of the best genera for my climate--and we only have a half dozen or so...

Phlox lutea habitat in Chihuahua
A magical spot near Cusihuiriachic--the only place where the yellow phlox grows abundantly. Thank Heavens, this is still other locations have been urbanized.

Phlox lutea
Here is a picture taken in October 1978 in the wild. That was also a year of torrential floods in Mexico and the Chihuahuan desert (like this year)...According to the sunspot theory, the floods should have occurred LAST year (every 22 years). Maybe they were delayed a year?
Phlox woodhousei
A phlox I no longer grow--very similar to Phlox grayi which loves the Green roof at the Children's Garden...only this rebloomed heavily in the fall.

Phlox woodhousei
I've grown some awesome plants in my day: this one at my old house. I want it back! (the phlox and the house come to think of it)...

My friend Richard Naskali, retired Director of the University of Moscow Arboretum. He took me on an enchanting field trip through the Idaho panhandle one May, and showed me this champion Pinus monticola, which has since died (the tree--Dick is still here!)...

Pleione limprichtii in Sweden
A patch of this incredibly lovely orchid growing in a private garden in the West of Sweden: I photographed this in the late 1990's: I asked about this garden, and it is no longer being maintained: hope the Pleiones found new homes!

Podophyllum hexandrum (top left) and Bergenia stracheyi (lower right)
Two of my favorite plants in the world. I was the first to grow the May Apple in my region--where it is well established. The Bergenia is still not widely available (the smallest of the genus that I know)..

Polygala paucifolia at the Ledges State Park, Wisconsin
I have seen this growing wonderfully in gardens...but not mine yet! There were big patches under the Hemlocks at Cornell when I was a student there: I fear the Hemlocks (and possibly the Polygala) are gone now due to Hemlock adelgid...Would some things wouldn't change--like my Wildflower Treasures....but I'm not bitter. Honest!

Primula pulverulenta in Yunnan
I notice a large number of these pictures were taken on trips when I could escape my work in April and May--not an easy thing to do in Public Horticulture. One of the principal accomplishments I pride myself on is helping to widen the window of nursery sales and gardening in Colorado: when I begin my career, many nurseries only opened up for business in late April and shut down again in June. Year around horticulture in Colorado is a truism nowadays!

Primula helodoxa in Yunnan
I photographed a lot more primroses than these, but these are a good start!

I was so proud of these--which only lasted a few years...the tiniest of candelabra primulas, in my Quince Garden. Primula chumbensis I believe...I saw these this year all over Sweden and Germany where they grew twice the size! This would be a fun one to find in the Himalayas!

Primula luteola
This actually lasted quite a few years in the Rock Alpine Garden: I completely forgot I'd grown it (or grew it well) before seeing this picture, and I recalled them. We also have herbarium specimens to prove it. We need it back again! A rather unusual plant from the Caucasus...

Primula vulgaris 'Mark Viette'
This started out as a gift to me by Andre Viette, the great nurseryman of the Atlantic Seaboard who helped invent and perpetuate the "Perennial Boom"...he came and spoke to us years ago, and we hit it off and he shipped a box of goodies as a thank you gift, including this. I divided it and got quite a colony (I think we have a tuft persisting)...he named it for his awfully sweet tribute I think. Sons and daughters never know the depth of parents' love until they have their own children.

Prunus pensylvanica v. saximontana
This exquisite native tree of the Colorado foothill canyons is by no means common in the wild. It's rare as hen's teeth in gardens as well--these grew well for many years in the Birds and Bees garden at DBG--but they are suffering and dying out lately. Bummer!

Prunus tenella 'Ruth's 100'
This miniature form of the Russian Almond was named for our Benefactress, Ruth Porter Waring. Alas, it has proved difficult to propagate, and is not sold commercially (that I know of). I was surprised to see quite a few specimens in Europe this last April where a dwarf tenella has been in the trade for decades...Our tribute was perhaps a misfired shot.

Pulsatilla halleri "Rubra"
This was labeled halleri--not sure I believe it. Whatever it is, I end on a high note: the bright red pulsatillas are some of my favorites...come to think of it, I dote on all Pulsatillas. I'm typing this on September 24, 2013 not long after the Fall equinox. This would bloom on the Spring equinox--exactly six months later. We shall have frost nightly during most of the intervening months--sometimes severe...At times like this, we need old pictures more than ever---to keep our spirits up! Hope you've enjoyed them--we're nearing the end of the alphabet...

Monday, September 23, 2013

The best phlox, and more (a tale of woe!)...

Phlox nana ramping through the Hayward garden in Masonville
 Time to make amends: I rather rudely (and prematurely) declared the end of High Country Gardens last year...well: I was wrong! High Country Gardens is alive and well, although reconfigured (it's complicated!)--but David Salman is still Horticulturist, and making sure the best plants are offered and grown, albeit in Denver rather than Santa Fe! David talked to me last week, and although the business is booming, he was astonished that Phlox nana (their featured introduction of the year) has sold poorly. He asked for an endorsement: I told him I'd do better than that--that I would talk about this best of phloxes: and I ought to know. In case you don't know, I happen to be a very phloxy fellow! I doubt that anyone has grown more Western phlox than I have, and Eastern ones too!

Phlox nana...a closer view
What makes the Santa Fe phlox so special? The huge flowers help (two inches across on some specimens) which are a melting pink. And they start blooming in late April some years, blooming pretty heavily and consistently after that (depending on rains or consistent irrigation) through May, June, July, August, September...I've had flowers in November as well. Tell me another plant (let alone a phlox) that blooms for seven months? And go back to that first picture--taken at Pat and Joel's garden ten or more years ago--I featured this amazing garden recently, and if you click on that link you will see this phlox blooming in August this year in the same bed! Or better yet, click on High Country Garden's link to their fantastic cultivar 'Perfect Pink' and buy one now!

Phlox nana even closer...
 This closeup doesn't do it justice. Paul Maslin, my (and Pat Hayward's) mentor in Boulder was obsessed with this Phlox and wrote an article about it in the Alpine Garden Society (Here is the citation: MASLIN, T. P. — 1978, "Phlox nana Nuttall", Quart. Bull. Alpine Garden Society, 46 (2):) and while I'm at it, here is a link to a .pdf of Paul's other article on this group, which occasioned the first color photograph ever in the North American Rock Garden Society bulletin!--check pages 62-69). NARGS has made all their old bulletins available online! I wish AGS would do the same...but I digress....By the way, for you Easterners worried about growing Western Phlox--this phlox was first featured in the Rock Garden bulletin by Norm Deno in Pennsylvania in 1976 (That's almost 40 years ago! Check page 2 on that linked .pdf!)
Phlox nana at Mike Bone's garden

 One last shot of the phlox--this time in the garden of the indomitable head Propagator and Curator of Steppe collections at Denver Botanic Gardens! You can pretty much gauge a garden's status in Denver by how big of a patch of Phlox nana they boast! I am deeply chagrined that Lauren and Scott Ogden, the Haywards, Bone and Mike Kintgen are far ahead of me in the Phlox nana department! The only issue that Phlox nana has had in the past is that nurseries had not determined how to propagate it in sufficient quantities: David Salman has cracked the code, and Phlox nana will now be reliably available, although only from High Country Gardens (until we can get Plant Select to take note that is...!)

Penstemon mensarum
Speaking of Plant Select, this penstemon was featured a two years ago in that program, and of course there was not enough to go around. But High Country has a superabundance of this right now--and this is the perfect time to plant it. I mean really, folks---this is the color of Meconopsis--it's much cheaper to buy a few plants of this rare Colorado Native for peanuts than to fly to Scotland to see the Mecs next June.

Penstemon pinifolius 'Mersea Yellow'
David told me that he was surprised at how poorly penstemons have sold this fall, and mentioned the Penstemon pinifolius group as an example...I chuckled because I focused on buying penstemons at the recent rock garden club sale--now is the best time to put these in a xeriscape: they establish wonderfully in the fall and winter, whereas spring planted plants often dry out in late spring before their roots buy some penstemons from David, already!

Penstemon pinifolius

Penstemon pseudospectabilis
He also mentioned that he has a large stock of pseudospectabilis and clutei--two of the best of the genus! Both belong to the Floribundum group (which includes Penstemon palmeri). Unlike palmeri, however, both are long lived in the garden, and share the winsome trait of blooming prolifically for a very long time...rather like Phlox nana! There's plenty of time to get these gems this fall and get them established so you can enjoy months of color too! Check out High Country Gardens right away, and bring some magic of the West to your home! Oh yes--the tale of woe? That magical plants like this are not in your garden! And by the way, isn't the Hayward's dog in the first picture adorable?

(P.S.--this is not a paid solicitation! I just want to keep that fabulous nursery chugging along!)

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