Thursday, October 31, 2013

Old Gold: Annus mirabili (ending the growing season with a BANG!)

End of October--and fall color still blazing (and trees still green!)
Of course, Autumn is pretty wonderful everywhere. New England and Northeastern Asia are famous for the brilliant fall foliage of maples and oaks. We have our own leaf-peeping season the last week in September when aspen turn bright yellow throughout the Rockies. Fall can be a hit or miss affair in Denver: a few years ago things were shaping up nicely when an arctic front crisped the green leaves up and down the Front Range in early October. No fall color that year. And then there is this "year of miracles": Denver Water declares drought just in time for the wettest summer in history (in Boulder and Aurora at least). The extra moisture was probably the reason trees have the most prolonged season of fall color I can ever remember. EVERY tree seems to be turning--above is a random shot showing the predominant Old Gold color in Denver--more and more punctuated by bright scarlet Acer x freemanii and purple Ash. But practically every tree is turning brightly--including the normally dullish elms, locusts, lindens, Norway maples, and other "meh" trees. They are just glorious this year!
American elms, lindens, locusts, Norway Maples--all the "dullish" trees have turned a glorious gold!
Typical vista today--bright golden color on practically every tree!

Buckeyes that ordinarily turn in September are in full color October 31!
The buckeyes are a secret weapon hereabouts: Although named for Ohio these seem to like it better out here, turning glorious orange--and often deep crimson and even pink--these two are just outside my office---obviously turning just hunky dory this year!
A brilliant red Ohio buckeye at Denver Botanic Gardens
Timing is way off: the bright red and orange buckeyes at the West end of Denver Botanic Gardens usually shed their leaves before October: this year they're still hanging on and its November 1 tomorrow! Amelanchiers usually last just a few days, but I've driven past the same bright crimson/orange shadblows for weeks! The cool weather combined with lack of strong winds must be the cause--and the fact the soil is still quite moist perhaps.

Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry at Denver Botanic Gardens
Even the little critters, like the prostrate Pawnee Buttes sand cherries are lasting much longer than usual. Here in the Plant Select garden it's been wonderful pinky purple for weeks....
Pawnee Buttes along Monaco Avenue in Denver
Whole boulevards are planted to these in my neighborhood--like these along Monaco: I almost had an accident photographing these in slow traffic the other day. My bad.

White oak (Quercus alba) on 6th Avenue Parkway
There are WAY too few white oaks in Denver. A half dozen of my colleagues who commute along this road commented to me about the bright red color on this that lasted several weeks (instead of the few fleeting days it does normally). I drove by today and it was maroon rather than scarlet--but still stunning.

Closeup of White oak leaves
I just love that iconic foliage.
Acer triflorum at Denver Botanic Gardens
Maples hog more than their share of the autumnal fireworks: the color on this Chinese maple was so vivid that several colleagues commented on it, and I even saw it posted on Facebook!

Acer triflorum at Denver Botanic Gardens
A closer look: I love that luminescent tangerine color...

Norway maple along 6th Avenue
The Norway Maples are notoriously dull--but this year they're turning bright yellow all over town. These are not the problem here they are in the east (nor many other "weedy" trees that are well behaved on our challenging steppes...

Crabapples along the promenade at Denver Botanic Gardens
I never think of crabapples and Prunus as being particularly vivid in autumn: not THIS year--they are as bright as maples and oaks! Here the wonderful promenade in front of the Orangerie at Denver Botanic Gardens has been ablaze for weeks!

Crabapple and Silver Maple on Jersey Street
A very random shot on my commute of a mere crab and silver maple, for Heaven's sake: looking mighty good together!
Acer ginnala at apartment complex Quebec Way
And the trees that are commonly brilliant like Amur Maple have burned even brighter. We have been blessed with more than our share of disasters in recent years: colossal forest fires, floods and droughts. So when we're granted a long and gentle autumn like this one--with gorgeous fall color (and no end in sight) from mid September to November--well, time to count our blessings. I've upgraded autumn many points on my private "Standard and Poor" system this year! (It has far outpaced my favorite season of the year--Spring was such a dud!)...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Autumn's last blossoms

Delosperma "Son of Kelaidis"
 A seedling of my namesake that was grown by Alan Tower in Spokane, was tested for Plant Select and struck the committee as too close to Mesa Verde TM (aka 'Kelaidis')--although I have to say it seems to me to be quite a bit more orange in color--in my garden.

Aloe aristata
That's the same delo above--below is the form of Aloe aristata derived from my Semonkong, Lesotho, collection that made it through winter at Timberline gardens a few years ago in a rather exposed spot. Here it is tucked under a rock...check back in April and I'll tell you how it fared!
Delospermna 'Tiffendell'
 The delospermas are fabulous year around--and seem to bloom at all but the coldest seasons: this cultivar is one of the best--positively SMOTHERS with flowers in spring...but I like them sparse like this too...An Eastern Cape collection--I think by Dan Johnson.

Delospermna 'Tiffendell' close up
 Closeup of same. Hard to believe a few decades ago there wasn't a single species in the genus in cultivation outside a botanic garden or two in Europe and America!

Delosperma lavisiae
I guess they sort of overdo the Magenta thing. We can't all be perfect you know!

Delosperma floribundumn
 I finally have this growing in a few spots. Since I did collect the seed in 1994 at Springfontein, Orange Free State, that's only proper!

Delphinium pylzowii backlit
 This close ally of Delphinium grandiflorum has become a minor--and very pretty--pest in my rock garden, germinating seedlings in the midst of draba and saxifrage clumps where I have to mangle the cushion to remove them. These two shots were taken a few hours apart of the same plant from different vantage points: which do you prefer?
Delphinium pylzowii front lit (same plant as above)
 That color amazes me! And there have been plants of this blooming since May! (that's six months!). It's a the contrast with the neighbor's silver maple and Cotoneaster divaricatus--which we will visit closer in a minute.

Colchicum boissieri
 I think these have been blooming for over a month: I love the tiny colchicums--most of which bloom in the spring for me.

Ilex verticillata
 Almost a cliché in the East, you hardly ever see this wonderful deciduous holly in Colorado: I have this girl and a boy tucked somewhere nearby (they must have frantic sex when I'm not looking)...

 Beesia deltoidea
The flowers are almost a distraction--Dan HInkley's best herbaceous introduction. Hard to believe this is a CRUCIFER!
Daphne cneorum 'Eximia'
 Most of my pictures are from my home garden, but had to include this daphne at the Gardens' parking structure that smells the whole place up wonderfully (and confusingly--it smells so much of springtime to my brain). I wonder if these will always bloom so heavily in the fall...

Daphne cneorum 'Eximia'
 It's quite a massive colony: notice the Agave parryi in the back? Southwestern Agave + Eurasian Daphne= Colorado Horticulture? Well...yes--we are a blend of Madrean and Holarctic floras!

Geranium fremontii
 I photographed this last Saturday at Cherokee Ranch--an exquisite private foundation of over 3000 acres where I lead 5 field trips a year. Every field trip unearths some new treasure, like this.

Acer tataricum 'Hot Wings'
Growing at my girlfriend, Jan Fahs', hell strip where it gets NO water. What an awesome plant. Gary Epstein and Scott Skogerboe of Fort Collins Nursery introduced this through Plant Select a few years ago--hands down the finest small maple for most gardens (even in mild climates) since the stunning scarlet samaras look like flowers all summer and then THIS!
Campanula x stansfieldii
 I love campanulas, and a few keep on chugging like this one!

Salvia darcyi
 Slightly out of focus: I apologize (I have oodles of crisp pix, but this was taken this past weekend--we're doing cinema veritas)...what a color! And this came through last winter and springs brutal cold...
Salvia x 'Schoolhouse red'
 This hybrid with the latter occurred spontaneously at Kelly's nursery (Timberline): the original seedling is still there after a decade--the other parent is Salvia microphylla ssp. wislezinii. I believe this will be Plant Select in 2015: hope so anyway. It's a magnificent plant and very hardy. STILL blooming after months and months...

Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips'
 Why this exotic plant from Southern Mexico is so hardy I will never know: but it is: my plant must be five feet across and nearly as tall. I know of no other plants in Denver--except a few at the Gardens that were cuttings from this one. I know Kelly sells tons--but where do they go?

Phlox paniculata and Amsonia illustris
 The flowers on the phlox are fried--but hey! It's November in three days! I love the tepid pink agains the golden Amsonia foliage....

Asparagus and Amsonia
 Same plants from further away--an Acer ginnala glowering in the distance. I shall have to cut back this jungle in midwinter to make way for a sea of tiny bulbs next spring there...

Sphaeralcea incana cv.
 This appeared in one of the soil bins at the Gardens: I tried to make someone at DBG dig it up and plant it in a garden, but none of my colleagues liked it enough. I LOVE those pale pink flowers! And now it's all MINE MINE MINE! (They will probably come beg cuttings one day once I have this flourishing and making a vast mound of pale pink loveliness! Braaaw ha HA!

Sphaeralcea incana cv.
Is that not delicious? Since I've already had a baby pink Delosperma named after me, I'll forego the name on this one...

Othonna capensis
 Harlan Hamernik got this from me ages (decades?) ago and Bluebird has offered it ever since. The only place I ever see it is in my garden. I love this little morsel that blooms for seven months (or more) and is so dainty. I lost my ancient mound last winter (probably in the April calamity)--but I replanted it in the same spot. Better not have another calamity very soon!

Othonna capensis
 Closeup of same...

Crocus speciosus
 I must have a hundred images of Crocus speciosus. Never enough! Those stigmata!
Crocus serotinus?
 Lost my name on this one...any takers?

Flowering Kale
 These were planted late, neglected but thanks to abundant natural rain, they came through in style...I fear I may be planting these deliberately henceforward I enjoy their colors and textures so much...

Opuntia cycloides
 One of my larger Opuntias from the Big Bend of Texas. This went through the last brutal winter with style.

Escobaria vivipara
 Seedpods can be as charming as any flower...

Cotoneaster divaricatus in neighbor's garden
 I'm so glad my neighbor is growing this monstrous shrub so I can enjoy it through the backlight this time of year. That way I don't HAVE to grow it (and it's a bit too rangy for my taste)..That's the true Daphne caucasica in my garden in the dark foreground.

Erodium cf. petraeum
 My garden is getting overrun by Erodium--and it's a good thing. I keep finding new ones I can't live without, and now they're all self sowing like mad., Dense, evergreen filigree foliage on many that's attractive in its own right, then flowers all year long (although the main April -June display is especially brilliant). These deserve much more in the way of attention!

Erodium absinthoides ssp. amanum

My camera refuses to focus on this psychedelic one: if we can work out the micropropagation (probably through Tissue Culture). This blooms all the time, but the spring display is beyond psychedelic.

Saccharum ravennae
I am so delighted that this is related to Sugarcane, I adopted the new name right away. This is a self sown seedling in my back yard I kept forgetting to move. Now I need a back hoe!

That's it! And so the season gradually dies down which is a good thing. Now I can label my images and get them filed, help finish writing an important book, travel and speak at trade shows and actually read some real books (I've spent three weeks plowing through one page turner)...I love these "later flowers for the bees/ That think warm days will never cease/ For summer hath o'er brimmed their clammy cells" (Keats, Autumn).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Monochromatic succulence: the Autumnal move.

Mammillaria plumosa
 Once you get beyond the spines, most people associate cacti with their miraculous flowers--which are so often garish magenta, scarlet, yellow, orange--you name it! Anything in the flagrant hot end of the spectrum...and then there are the other ones. You may be amused to compare the specimen above to what it looked like just two years ago! And to think I got a blue ribbon with that squinny little plant then: I should do pretty well with this one this coming March (show time!) if all goes well!

Astrophytum myriostigma
 Not in bloom right now, the wonderful texture shape of Bishop's cap cactus makes the flower almost irrelevant (although it can be quite pleasing in bloom). If you clicked on that URL you could see the flower, and compare the plant which has grown considerably in two years as well. This time of year cactus and succulent enthusiasts all over the Northern Hemisphere have moved most of our collections into greenhouses (if we are very clever or lucky) or more often, onto the window ledges around our homes. I don't know anyone who really enjoys this seasonal scramble--but once you have the plants placed and properly groomed for their winter's sojourn, I, for one, find it a great pleasure to sit for a minute and just contemplate these amazing plants. They always look so much happier in the autumn, after a summer in the open air, buffeted by breezes, enjoying real rains! The next six months are a bit of a trial for many of them, and the move outdoors in the spring is far more complicated and frustrating (it's so easy to burn plants after they've been cosseted indoors).

Contrasting colors and textures
 Of course, we plant nerds love the individual plant, but we come to enjoy the ensemble of many plants together: contrasting spine colors and shapes ultimately constitute a sort of garden in pots for the winter season.

Mammillaria candida
 Here is anew one for my collection I purchased from Harriet Olds, who had to divest herself of some plants as a consequence of a move. I have already gotten many times the purchase price by just hovering over this gem in a sort of Fibbanocian daze. I do love spines...

Agave Americana 'Variegata'
 I am not sure I trust the label on this one: it looks so petite and innocent. Staff at the gardens just moved three enormous specimens of this same taxon that weighed hundreds of pounds each. I wonder how long it will take for this to outgrow its welcome? I know the color is not exactly monochromatic, but the charm (you must admit) of this plant comes from contrast in colors more than its brightness of green or yellow!

Mammillaria sp.
Another hand-me-down from a member of our cactus club--namely, Dana Such. Dana is one of a handful of members who rake in most of the ribbons at the annual Show and Sale (the last weekend in March--put it in your calendar!). I couldn't believe she had this in a plant exchange a few years ago--and that no one else had grabbed it! If the terrible symmetry of these does not cast a bit of a Fibbonacci spell upon you, you are a tough customer indeed.  I do have the name tucked somewhere: if someone demands it I shall look it up.
Albino Ariocarpus retusus
I posted this on Facebook a few weeks ago--and it has put up another flush of those outrageous flowers. Most Ariocarpus bloom a virulent magenta. I have never photographed the magenta form of this species (incredibly enough), but do have pix of its cousin. Astrophytum and Ariocarpus are two of the most sought after (and therefore expensive) cacti: is it because both genera lack spines? Or their wonderful habit of blooming in the late summer and fall?  Or is it because they have perfected the monochromatic perfection of succulence. Or is it all three of these?

The wonderful symmetry and beauty of these plants sustains me throughout the winter (more than justifying the twice yearly shuffle in and outdoors)--and each year my windows seem to get a bit more crowded! Where on my property could I possibly put a greenhouse?

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