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 garden...now 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 there...my 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 son...an 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...


  1. Cliff Booker Whitworth Lancashire UKSeptember 25, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    Another magical trawl through time and torment, Panayoti (you have got over the loss of that garden) ... many thanks for the opportunity to enjoy such a diverse and visually stunning collection ... the stars of the show for me being the phlox and the mouth-water inducing Orostachys japonica.

  2. Love the Phox lutea pictures - they bring back the joy of having it flower one year a long time ago. Those different phloxes were one of the most fabulous introductions.

  3. Amazing group of plants. Particularly like the Opuntia polyacantha 'Peter Pan' and the Orostachys japonica

  4. Really, Cliff. I've long recovered from the wanton destruction of my very favoritest garden of all. I don't give a damn any more. REALLY, I don't. Honest.

    The Orostachys almost slipped away (I still have one potful I will pamper and bring back). I once propagated many flats of this and gave most of them away!

    As for that Garden, Cliff, I can barely remember it. The Mexican phlox were a great experiment that came at the wrong time. Hopefully we can resuscitate them...

  5. Thanks PK for your thought provoking reminiscence, it jarred some memories for me, but mostly introduced great plants I wasn't aware of but must look for. The Olsynium sp (Sisyrinchium, I still like that name) looks like O. junceum. I once grew Olsynium biflorum (under the name Phaiophleps biflora, from Kew seed, a really fun genus name), it was pure delight, as are many S.American "sissies". Mere memories for me as well, are Phlox woodhousei and lutea, which I grew for some years and propagated, I miss them.

    The selected cacti are truly temping, the trough of Opuntia arenaria and the dwarf mat of O. polyacantha 'Peter Pan' are both magical (even though pokey). As a semp fan, Orostachys japonica beckons with those bluish and caramel colored rosettes, you show a picture-perfect planter.

    And oh to imagine a sunny ledge adorned with "Aluminum Fern", Pellaea bridgesii, one can dream.

  6. Perhaps it was an Olsynium I photographed (I shall dig up and scan my Ixia for comparison--that Ixia has haunted me because it was so pink, so high in elevation, and so unlikely a plant to find on the high Roggeveld)...I collected bushels of Sisyrinchium/Phaeophleps/Olsynium and got almost none to grow after my trip. It was my least productive collecting trip ever. But Sisyrinchium macrocarpumj and S. arenarium seem to have settled into our local hort scene--both gorgeous plants!

    The hot rock ferns are surprisingly good in the garden: I have a number of Cheilanthes and Pellaea that have been long lived, and even somewhat vigorous (I dig up chunks of C. fendleri regularly for visitors). Once we get these growing from spore, they will doubtless add to the fun...

    I have quite a few Orostachys that are fetching--but hate to be mailed. I got a bright red flushed O. spinosa in Germany this past spring I shipped back with other plants. Everything came through, but the Orostachys was pure jelly. Next time I smuggle!

  7. Sorry PK, I skimmed your blog and missed where you said the plant labeled as "Olsynium sp" was from (South Africa), I blame my mistake on hasty multitasking; there are no Olsyniums in S. Africa that I know of. Looking at the amazing resource of Pacific Bulb Society wiki, your plant bears a strong resemblance to Ixia trifolia, or possibly I. scillaris. http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/IxiaFour#trifolia

    1. Will research those, Mark: you are a fountain of information! Thanks. (I never had it I.D. when I was there--and had 25 or more bulb experts with me!)

  8. Hi Panayoti, I think North American orchid propagators are working on the Ophrys as we speak. You may be able to try them in your buffalo grass soon. At the moment you can purchase seed of Mimulus cusickii from Alplains.
    Regarding the loss of your garden, I too can sympathize. I was force to grow all my plants in pots for years as I moved from one location to the next. I lost many when I had to place them with relatives and only tend to them on weekends. I am glad I now have a garden to call my own. I think moving on to better things helps us get over past losses. Now my bitterness only seems to surface when I feel people are unfairly criticizing my garden. This brings the pain of past losses back as if they had just occurred. Maybe the bitterness stems from hopes I had that I was never able to realize. I hoped for so much more, but like many I have had to settle for less. Aspirations where delayed, but never forgotten. I feel a criticism of my garden is a criticism of my ability to achieve aspirations in life.


  9. I would love to see your garden one day, James--but no trips to Chicago next year I fear (just about everywhere else, however!)..I know I would enjoy it. I can't imagine anyone criticizing it--but I suppose that there are those who do that sort of thing. I have found something to admire in almost every garden I've ever been in--if only the hardscape!

    1. If I had a penny for every criticism, I'd be the wealthiest man in the world.

      I am reconsidering removing the weed fabric I laid down just under the surface of my gravel bed. On the edges of my gravel bed, between the weed fabric and garden border, the worms have deposited significant amounts of castings. Each midden already contains a couple of table spoons of castings. I am worried the weed fabric is the only thing keeping the worms from adding soil to the pure gravel mulch. The surface of this old pea gravel bed originally had soil among all the voids. I painstakingly used a sieve to remove the soil from the top inch or two of gravel. I think having a clean gravel mulch is much preferable to the compact gravel/soil mixture which was present before. The open voids in between the gravel slows heat transfer helping keep the soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The loose nature of the clean gravel mulch also makes pulling weeds easier. I could periodically apply an inch of gravel on top of the gravel/soil mixture created by worm action. However, I am worried that the crowns of my plants would eventually get buried from repeated applications of gravel. I have already removed weed fabric from a portion of the bed. I think having both treatments should allow me to make a good comparison over time.

      I did remove the weed fabric from underneath my rock garden. It should have been placed deeper than I had placed it. The roots of my plants had indeed grown through it. After a few days, I already began noticing little piles of grit where I think worms had been surfacing. I think they are invading my rock garden to eat the potting soil I mix in with the grit. This behavior is also concerning to me. The worms consume the potting soil rapidly making the growing medium less suitable for certain plants. I know vegetable gardeners like worms because they break down organic matter quickly resulting in a rapid release of nutrients. This rapid break down of organic matter is not always desirable. Organic material insulates soil, feeds symbiotic fungi, and holds both nutrients and water. When growing plants from areas where earthworms are not native, like the recently glaciated area where I live, the rapid decomposition of organic matter by earthworms has been observed to be detrimental to plant growth.



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