Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Burn the present, oh! sun,. That the future may last,. But protect the past" Nikolai Gumilev (of the alphabet that is)...

Quercus cf. dentata, Yulongshan, Yunnan China

                                                       Fearful sun, menacing sun
                                           Like the mad face of God
                                           Going through space

                                           Burn the present, oh! sun,
                                           That the future may last,
                                           But protect the past.

                                                  Nikolai Gumilev [Gumilyov] (the Pearls, 1912)*

The younger of my two sisters, Eleni, had a slightly different version of this poem typed and printed on an index card, and pinned to her door for many years (decades?) in the 20th Century along with quite a few other pithy quotations that have stuck with me. It has teased my memory down through the years.. and thanks to Google I was able to track it down. Somehow it seems apropos, given my peregrinations through my past via these freshly scanned slides (thanks again, Ann!). I'd almost forgotten many of these, which I haven't seen for a very long time...

The tiny figure in the picture above is Jim Henrich (formerly director of horticulture of Missouri Botanic Gardens, then director of horticulture at Denver Botanic Gardens, then acting director of San Francisco Botanic Garden and now honcho at Los Angeles Botanic Garden and Arboretum). Quite a résumé, that! We supposedly have the same species planted in our "Plantasia" garden at DBG--I can confidently say that I shall not be around to see it as big as it gets in the wild.Perhaps one day I can persuade Jim to pose alongside our simulacrum of the species?

Ramonda myconi
Somewhere along the way we lost this wonderful Pyrenean endemic at the botanic gardens. There is something about gesneriads--like orchids, or petaloid monocots, they are somehow intrinsically more aristocratic than the general run of forbs!

Ranunculus macauleyi
There are a number of outstanding alpine buttercups in the Rockies: the best known is undoubtedly R. adoneus, which is found throughout our alpine regions in snowmelt basins. Like most such snowmelt plants, growing in gardens is a challenge..but in much of southwestern Colorado there is an abundant buttercup which superficially resembles its snowmelt cousin--only with gray, lanceolate foliage. Macauley's buttercup has the charming quality that it is easy to grow in an alpine garden or trough.

Ranunulus eschscholtzii
As beautiful as any alpine buttercup, this unpronounceable beast with severn consecutive consonants (try and pronounce those carefully!) surprised me by thriving in a trough for years. The fourth common alpine species in Colorado is Ranunculus pedatifidus--also easy to grow....

Rhododendron "macrantha"
Two or three times I've posted this on Facebook and sent pictures to various authorities, trying to find out what the heck it truly is. It used to be sold by Walter Kolaga, who owned a fabulous nursery ("Mayfair") in New Jersey in the mid 20th Century that Paul Maslin and I would buy alpines from. Paul and I grew this for decades--it was bone hardy, and bloomed in late June and July. Kolaga called it "Rhododendon macrantha"--and it certainly resembles the usually tender indicum forms that are related to macranthum. It also looks like a Kurume type--which are likewise usually tender for us: this was indestructible and long lived...but we no longer have it. Maybe one of you will recognize it and can tell me if it is still in commerce and under what name...

Romulea atrandra on the Roggeveld
This and the next show the miraculous variability of romulea on the Roggeveld. The Paradise of bulbs AND succulents...
Romulea on Roggeveld
I recall this was a narrow endemic of the area we found it: I hope I have the name written on the transparency (where did I put that anyway)--I have forgotten has been 17 years since I took it...


Rosa "hemisphaerica" in Marilyn Raff's former garden


I gave Marilyn a start of this many years ago..which obviously thrived. It didn't quite fit the description of hemisphaerica in Flora of Turkey--and Dr. Campbell visited it one spring and pronounced it in the "hugonis-xanthina" alliance--although those are supposed to occur much further to the East. I hesitantly keep the original name--but in double quotation marks!

Rosa "hemisphaerica"

A slightly closer look...

Rosa "hemisphaerica"
Marily long ago sold her house and I stupidly didn't take cuttings. But I did give a plant to Tom Peace as well who has it growing in Crestone--must get a start from him next year!

Rosa sericea ssp. platyacantha
This is the one rose that one grows for the huge, translucent spines...we may have lost it, but I notice Sandy still has it caning away...more cuttings next summer!

Rosa persica
The famous "rose of Persia" elicits all sorts of responses: most people yearn to grow it for those luminous yellow flowers with their lurid maroon spots--and I admit the flowers are beautiful. The stems are strangely flattened, and a host of peculiarities have even led this to being classed in a different genus "Hultheimia". A few cognoscenti shudder at the thought of planting this: it can sucker and be almost weedy in spots that suit it--and when I found it on the plains north of the Tien Shan sure enough it carpeted acres! My one little clump in the Rock Alpine Garden was removed by an otherwise dazzlingly talented horticulturist who didn't like it (he also didn't like Acanthus, and dug them up and "Rounded them up" all of the garden). These two acts were vastly offset by the good that Dare did (oops his name slipped out), and ironically both the rose and acanthus have come back stronger than ever: they are weeds after all! But glorious weeds I love. (Did you notice the out of focus Euphobia clavarioides on the right?)

Rosa pulverulenta
I grew this from one of the Czechs decades ago also under the name "Rosa hemisphaerica"--and at least this does have the dense, hemispherical form of the mythical Turkish yellow rose which I still yearn to grow. But this also has a pine like scent in its leaves and pink flowers (which are pretty enough, but evanescent)...the hips and habit are its chief glory and make it essential to grow in my book. I don't think anyone offers it around the USA: more is the pity--it produces bushels of seed. With its pine scent and pink flowers, it recalls the much larger Rosa glutinosa of gardens, with which it is obviously allied--the latter, interestingly enough, was described from the island of Crete--and furthermore from "in Cretae montibus Sphacioticis" which perfectly describes Mouri, the village "in the Sphaciot mountains of Crete" where my paternal grandfather was born and the Kelaidis name originates. No wonder I love this Turkish cousin (the very first Kelaidis came from Constantinople after all)...
Rubus pedatus and Gymnocarpium dryopteris
In the rose family, I believe I photographed the lusty berried birdsfoot raspberry and oak fern on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska in July of 1998 or was it '99? Although I first saw this (and didn't photograph it alas) on Mt. Arrowsmith on Vancouver Island in late July 1976...I carry a cheerful burden of remembrances like this for almost every plant I've seen or grown or loved (in this case I've not grown it--but woud love to). I have grown the oak fern pretty well at times, and its Limestone cousin (Gymnocarpium robertianum) was almost a weed for a while for me once. I still have it!

Ruschia sp. Hantamsberg
What's with the blue color? Let's pretend I'm being the process of tweaking the image, it turned blue and I couldn't turn it back. I have the original lurking in my files, but decided to keep it like this--I never got a name for the species that forms such huge, symmetrical hummocks on the top of Hantamsberg. I believe David Salman, of High Country Gardens, still has this kicking around...Symbolism: I am blue just thinking about Hantamsberg...

Saxifraga florulenta
I'm pretty sure I photographed this some 15 years ago (or longer--the date is on the transparency which I've misplaced) at Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh when those gardens were at their airy height of perfection under Ron McBeath. I am happy to say that John Mitchell has brought this most amazing (along with Gothenburg and Wurzburg--AND Kew-- I hastily add) of public gardens back to the forefront.This incredibly beautiful saxifrage is notoriously difficult to grow. Reginald Farrer rhapsodizes especially well about it. Only the finest botanic gardens in the world, and a few gardeners of the caliber of the late Eric Watson or Cyril Lafong should even try growing it--it is not for us peons, believe me.  It is the ultimate saxifrage and I am so thrilled I even got this picture and have had it scanned. For the rest of us, Saxifraga cotyledon and S. longifolia have utterly stunning, massive rosettes and spectacular flower stalks--and are extremely easy to grow and compensation enough. We should be content with these (and we are. We are). Modern technology being what it is, I fear some Dutch company, hiring a Japanese breeder who works in Bolivia may end up cracking the code of S. florulenta, and one day it will be sold in droves in the world's Migros for 4.50 Euro apiece and at Home Despot for $7.95. Undoubtedly, they will be mislabeled ("Primula marginata"). My cynicism is profound at times.

Saxifraga on Sierra Nevada, Spain
A truly incredible mossy saxifrage that was more or less dormant half way up Sierra Nevada in October of 2001. I often find myself climbing those slopes in my very best dreams--and can't wait for the day I shall return to that magical mountain range (and others in Spain) in May and June.

Sclerocactus parviflorus (albino)
This was given to Allan Taylor by a member of the Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society who was moving out of state and he grew it a few years in Boulder. Sclerocactus are not really suited for growing in gardens with more then 12" annual precipitation (I have only succeeded with them long term in pots--although I have successfully adapted them in one spot in my garden half tucked under a pinyon pine where it NEVER gets watered...If these were grafted onto a water tolerant understock (perhaps an Opuntia) it is likely they would be very good garden plants for us...something a clever local gardener may do one day...or maybe I shall do it first!

Sebaea sedoides
I am not 100% sure of the name. I don't even remember which part of the Drakensberg I photographed this at--I'm thinking the East Cape? Or maybe somewhere on Mt.-Aux-Sources. Better find those transparencies and see if I didn't write it down. Quite a few of these South African gentians are being grown in Europe--although they have to be constantly struck from cuttings because they bloom to death. That incredibly dwarf form of Helichrysum cooperi (I believe) behind the gentian is likely easier to grow outside for most of us--although even more monocarpic...

Sebaea sedoides
Boy would I love to have this in my garden!
Sorbus scopulina

This has been labeled Sorbus scopulina at the Gardens--although the plant is already so huge and the leaes are so big and the fruit clusters so massive I wonder if we haven't made a mistake: I have no doubt our largest, oldest specimen labeled scopulina is larger than anything I've ever seen in the wild--strange to have a state Champion of a native plant--but we may. Flower clusters and fruit clusters are almost twice the size of S. aucuparia, and much redder--this is a heck of a glorious plant. With good fall color too--I must scan put those transparencies in the scanning pipeline next...

Spiranthes diluvialis (Jefferson Co., CO: type locality)
Today is not the day...but some day I must tell the tale of this lady's tresses: suffice it to say, I pressed the first specimens in the early 1980's (they're in the DBG herbarium!) an alerted the local Orchid community to the find--which ultimately led to Charles Sheviak naming this a new species (the first "new species" I've been party to discovering. The steamy details and intrigue surrounding the naming of each of my half dozen "new species" would make a very sad, bitter, contorted little novel: plant naming is an incredibly strange and ego-inflating occupation--fraught with intellectual and ethical turpitude. Dr. Sheviak (probably out of ignorance) did not site my specimen (which was the first to be collected after all) as the type, but he did give credit to the right person (Stanley Smooker) for finding that first colony (once he was informed that is)...end of story. Sniff. No bitterness or frustration here...

Spiranthes diluvialis in cultivation
This is proof I even grew the little bugger for a while. I thought it was Spiranthes cernua instead of a rare new species when I did this (the transparency is even labeled S. cernua!). Ironically, the 'Chadd's Ford' clone of S. cernua thrives in my bog--and self sows...

Spraguea umbellata
I believe this robust and gorgeous race of Spraguea may have a new specific epithet  (Mark McDonough informs me they are now "Cistanthe" along with Lewisia tweedyi: I shall wait to change my labels!  I first collected seed of in the early 1990's on a field trip with Ted Kipping and a very young Sean Hogan on the upper Yuba River canyon--I believe we were the first to introduce this giant flowered, bright pink form to cultivation on that trip. It is a gorgeous and easily grown rock garden plant. I sold seed of it for years through Rocky Mountain Rare plants (This was one of many husky specimens in my old rock garden)...I just check my old seed files--I would not be surprised if some old seed is still lurking there. And I would be even less surprised if it germinated after 15 or 20 years (Portulacaceae can do that)....

Stanleya pinnata
This was the only time I ever have seen Prince's Plume growing so gracefully and well. It is long gone (as is this garden) but I am happy to report that the same species is now growing surprisingly vigorous on several spots in my West Ridge garden: Maybe I can take a picture like this there next May?

Stellera chamaejasme
I took this picture on Yulongshan (Jade Dragon Mountains--southernmost "Snow Mountains" in China) where this was common. The transparency has better color than this--it freaked out when I tried to manipulate it. That's Iris collettii scrunched underneath the Stellera. Few places have lived up to their billing quite like this mountain range. It's another place I wander in my dreams...I basically only had two days up there--and I saw literally hundreds of spectacular plants and got some pretty good pictures of many of them I must have scanned. The strange coloration on this is appropriate, to convey my dream ecstasy...

Stomatium sp. East Cape
An undetermined Stomatium I photographed on a farm in the Tarkastad mountains--a very special place...

Stomatium (Roggeveld)
I think I took this near Fraserburg: there have to be at least eight or teen specific names for Stomatium from this area. I refuse to choose...

Strobilanthes atropurpurea
I first obtained this from John Whittlesey, of  Canyon Creek Nursery, one of America's great plantsmen. He operated a mail order nursery for quite a while (I still have all the old catalogues) and once he came through Denver with his family and I finally got to know him face to face. Since then we've rekindled our friendship--and I must plan a visit to Oroville in January to see him again! Oh yes--he actually sold me two Strobilanthes--plants for the true plant nerd. I never succeeded with the smaller one (which I'd love to try again--I'll have to ask him if he still has it)...but the bigger one did SUPERBLY--and was a great source of pleasure for me. Time and the river changed things...

Strobilanthes atropurpurea
Here is the bigger one at about it's happiest state. It's no longer there--but I recently got some more of this species from another mail order source for my private garden: not sure I want it to get THIS robust in the little perennial bed I planted it however!

Sutera (Jamesbrittenia?) aurantiaca
I only saw this wonderful orange form once--north of the Drakensberg proper on the Highveld. A brick red form is commoner in the Drakensberg under the same name...I have grown the latter--but it was short lived. Try and try again...

Greyia sutherlandii
This endemic tree of the Drakensberg is probably only hardy to Zone 8 (it occurs at the lower elevations of the "Little Berg"--although I germinated seed sent to me by Olive Hilliard in the 1980's and had several husky plants in the "Alpine House" at DBG that eventually perished before blooming...I took this picture in the 1990's on my first tour to the Drakensberg I led for DBG members...a magical trip in October.

Greyia sutherlandii
Closeup of the same. They probably grow this in the Bay area...

Swertia radiata
I wish I remember where I photographed this miniature form of the Monument plant...which can often grow six feet or more tall in our mountains.

Symphyandra hoffmanii
I think this was published at least once (in Graham's lovely Dwarf Campanula book). Typically, this biennial from the Adriatic gets enormous in rich soil.
Symphyandra zangezura
The genus may have been lumped into campanula, but this long lived perennial form is utterly distinct.

Talinum confertifolium
Hard to believe any plant I grew so much of has disappeared from my garden. It is very close to T. rugospermum--another Eastern/Midwestern American succulent that is little known. Some of us would like to have them all...

Tanacetum heterodonta
I used to get lots of seed off this shrubby tansy from Turkey--why didn't I sow some?

Tanacetum heterodonta
Here it is a few years later--what a terrific plant. I know nowhere it's being grown now.

Raillardella argentea
Hard to believe this rather modest and undistinguished plant from alpine heights in the Sierra of California is closely related to the Hawaiian Silver star

Teucrium chamaepitys
I grew this for decades and cherished it, and lost it somewhere along the way.  A rare Mediterranean species I would love to grow again.

Thermopsis fabacea
This now goes under a different specific name--but whatever the name, the plant is terrific, long lived and long blooming and should be seen more. Come to think of it, I need it at home too!
Townsendia florifer
I only grew this once, and this was that once--probably 25 years ago at least. I collected buckets of seed not far from the sign near Arco, Idaho, telling about the colossal earthquake that occurred there in the 1960's...(by buckets I mean a plump legal sized mailing envelope)...but must not have sowed that seed that was destined for Rocky Mountain Rare Plants seed business I ran at the time...I would like to grow this again some time, even if it is monocarpic. I believe I have grown every species of Townsendia that has been in cultivation...more than you might think!

Trichodiadema sp. on the summit of the pass near Cradock
I took several pictures of amazing plants on the summit of the mountains near Cradock: this would be one of the highest elevation Trichodiademas--and would very likely be a zone 5 hardy one--it gets cold and snowy on the pass..not in cultivation that I know of...

Tulipa wilsonii
This picture was taken in the Rock Alpine Garden "upper meadow" in the late 1980's--those tulips did not persist this long--but they did last many years here..I suspect if the soil weren't clay, and perhaps watered a bit too much they might have persisted...

Tylocodon sp. (possibly wallichii according to my friend Jan Emming) 
A picture I took in the Tankwa Karoo not far from Clanwilliam many years ago: I did not know what a Tylecodon was when I took this picture...Now I do know!

Vella spinosa
This Spanish and Moroccan endemic has stuck with me through thick of the decades, some plants forming big mounds. It blooms for several weeks in late spring--although the chickenwire armature is charming year around to us acanthophiles. I shall never forget finding this in the "chickenwire" zone on the Sierra Nevada where everything was prickly.

Verbascum x 'Letitia'
This well known hybrid from Wisley (one parent is Verbascum spinosum--from Crete) was named for Ken Aslet's wife, Letitia, whom I met in July of 1976 when the Aslets attended the First Interim International Rock Plant Conference in Seattle and Vancouver. I was startled to see Letitia wearing a Greek peasant-style shirt/blouse--the very same one I had at home (and which I still have in my closet).

Verbascum x 'Letitia'

Here she shows up again--the year I had planted quite a colony on the Limestone Cliffs at DBG--probably around 1985 or so..

Verbascum dumulosum
One of the other miniature mulleins--this one the famous species form Southern Turkey that is unfortunately still rare in gardens. Considering it produces bushels of seed and comes easily from cuttings, there's no reason for this plant being so rare...

Verbascum pyramidatum
One year this grew magnificently in the Watersmart Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens. But has not persisted here...
Verbascum songaricum
A wonderful mullein from Central Asia which grew vigorously at my house--I still get seedlings from this volunteering--but not enough!

Viola pedatifida
Possibly a 40 year old picture I took at NCAR at one of the few known localities for this Midwestern violet that only grows in Boulder and El Paso counties in Colorado.

Waldsteinia idahoensis
A very rare plant from the Idaho panhandle I photographed a decade or so ago. This is much smaller than its Eastern and Eastern American cousins. Alas! It did not persist in the garden..

Yucca brevifolia
We were told this was the biggest Jushua tree in its namesake National Park--not sure I believed that--but it was big. And in bloom!

Yucca harrimaniae
A gift from Louis Budd Myer of Brooklyn, New York (with a garden in the Poconos) the first or second year of the Rock Alpine Garden. This had been dug in the Flaming Gorge area of Wyoming--classic harrimaniae locale. It has gradually turned into a little tree. Everyone wants a piece!

Yucca sterilis, near Roosevelt, Utah
A wonderful, strange little Yucca that is practically restriced to this stretch of highway...that's the high Uinta in the background.

Yucca sterilis, near Roosevelt, Utah

Everyone who sees this wants it desperately! I have grown it in three gardens thus far and it stays distinctive. I suspect it is "sterile" only because Pronubia moths are rare in this area...

Yucca treculeana, central Texas
I would like to try growing this plant. I have failed repeatedly with the superficially similar Yucca schidigera from the Mojave. West Texas plants tend to be hardier...

Zaluzianskya ovata
This enchanting rock garden plant was grown from seed I collected in 1994: it only persisted a few years. I would very much love to try it again. Good to have images to remind us of these things...

*Apropos of Gumilev, last post I gushed about my brother-in-law Allan Taylor. I have another brother-in-law, Earl Delos Sampson who just happens to be a living authority on Nikolai Gumilev, and wrote a book about that romantic Silver Age poet (not to mention a PhD. thesis on the poet for Harvard). If anything, Earl has exerted an even greater influence on me than Allan: he has epitomized for me a devotion to scholarship and a commitment to family that I would quite frankly not have believed possible had I not lived alongside him for over half a century. And I suspect he will read this since I know he keeps tabs on me! He will have noticed that I've used apropos twice (oops--now three times) in a single post--a trifle much.


  1. The Greyia sutherlandii does grow quite easily here in the Bay Area, and used to be offered by San Marcos Growers in Santa Barbara, Ca. Unfortunately it is not deer resistant, and here in Berkeley/Oakland a winter's freeze can damage the flower buds and kill off young foliage. It is a spectacular shrub in full bloom, and both species of Greua are large and happy at the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden.

  2. Thanks for the recognition, Acantholimon, although I feel it's overstated. It would be all but impossible not to be committed to a family that I had the great good fortune to marry into. My late wife, her parents, her three siblings and their children and childrens' children, as well as numerous members of her extended family in the US and Greece, are and were all remarkable, admirable human beings.

  3. The Romulea on Roggeveld looks like it might be R. albiflora (can't claim any genius here, I just google well), look-a-like found on PBS:
    Romulea albiflora, found in the Roggeveld escarpment:

    Spraguea became Calyptridium becomes Cistanthe, so we call it Cistanthe now (I too first grew pussypaws as Spraguea umbellata). In the Flora of North America treatment on Cistanthe, all former Calyptridiums + 1 former Calandrinia join forces to become the genus Cistanthe. However, bizarrely they throw in Lewisia tweedyi to become Cistanthe lewisii, an absurdity beyond absurd, we have taxonomists surely under the influence of a Lophophoric fog. Either a psychedelic drug influence, or they're flexing their taxonomic powers and messing with our heads, sitting back and chuckling to see if everyone goes along with the joke.

    Speaking of Peyote, Ruschia and Stellaria pics look peyote induced ;-), either that you may be inspired by the Booker Effect ;-)

    Stanleya pinnata, is this tameable? It's the American Eremerus, always loved this plant, looks great in your photo, but can it be grown under general conditions?

    Nice Zalu, they have such distinctive long-tubed buds, a magical genus of little plants, I shall revisit them one day.

  4. Hi Panayoti, Thank you for the post. It will take me awhile to internalize it all. You have shared much great information. You might be glad to know that a Talinum teretifolium showed up in one of my pots after an absence of well over five years. Maybe there is still hope for your Talinum confertifolium.


  5. Thanks for the info on the Greyia at Strawberry Canyon, Anonymous #1--and for the rest of the comments and corrections: I've incorporated most of them into the text of the blog. I have not yet waded through my files to find the Talinum seed--but will let you know when I do, James: didn't know you shared that passion--I may send you a pinch! My T. rugospermum is a minor weed........

    1. Hi Panayoti, Yes ... I've seen how well the Talinum's are doing on the rooftop garden of the Plant Conservation Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I only wish T. brevifolium was hardy in my zone. What I would really like is the rose colored Penstemon grandiflorum they have at that rooftop garden. I've seen white and lavender P. graniflorum, but I did not know a rose colored hybrid had been bred until I saw them on trial.



  6. I love to have a big pot of Zaluzianskya ovata outside my bedroom door along with some Datura for sweet summer dreams

  7. We have all colors of Penstemon grandiflorus at Denver Botanic Gardens as well, James (as well as many gardeners in this area)...there are two strains: 'War Axe" from Bluebird and 'Prairie Jewel' strain from Plant Select ( that have the whole spectrum of colors from white, lavender to pure pinks and deep violet blues: unfortunately, no one has segregated the shades, so it's a crap shoot if you get the pink when you grow a batch of either strain--but if you do a dozen or so some are apt to be pink: I can send seed if you like. And your big pot of ovata, Mary, sounds wonderful! Do you keep it over the winter or start fresh in the spring?

    1. Unfortunately, I have no place to store plants so I will start over next year. I try to remember to do it in Feb. inside so I get a little head start.

    2. Hi Panayoti, Yes, I would like some seed. Now I'll just have to figure out where to put them.

  8. Hi Panayoti, I love all Yucca very much.
    The Picture of Yucca treculeana remember me to my Y. x schottii. Are they from the same Location?



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