Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry: the scoop
|Prunus besseyi 'Pawnee Buttes' at the Shinn Garden, Fort Collins last week|
If you drive almost anywhere in the Denver Metropolitan area this week, you are apt to see quite a few of this plant growing (and glowing) on median strips and industrial landscapes: I would be very curious to know what Landscape Architect has glommed on to this plant...Pawnee Buttes is quietly becoming "bread and butter" (i.e., a universally grown, serviceable shrub),and yet it has become an emblem of sophisticated xeriscapes and connoisseur's gardens in our region as well...not many plants can straddle both rather contradictory realms! The dramatic specimens featured in this first image have been growing quite a few years along the driveway at the garden of Carol and Randy Shinn--who have one of the finest plantsmen's gardens in Northern Colorado.
|Pawnee Buttes Sand Cherry along York Street near I-25 interchange two years ago|
Here are a row of Pawnee Buttes (actually a few hundred feet more of them outside the frame!) in their most furious fall color phase--they look pretty much like that this week, although this is a picture I took several years ago "on the fly" from my car. I suspect those are 'Autumn Blaze' Acer freemanii behind them, which are likewise blazing bright scarlet all around Denver as I type this. I remember quite vividly a time at a Plant Select meeting fifteen years ago or so when the subject of Pawnee Buttes came up as a potential candidate for the program....I averred that it had good fall color, and everyone around the table laughted at me said they didn't think so, but somehow Gary Epstein and I bulldozed the plant through anyway. Little suspecting it would have quite so much traction since. I am quite sure if I could gather the naysayers together today, they would deny they ever denied that it had fall color. There is a bitter irony in being right some times....
|Original plant of Pawnee Buttes at Rock Alpine Garden, blooming in late April|
The first law of photography is that you never apologize--although my pictures are so mediocre usually apology is truly redundant...but the glaring light in which I photographed the original plant of Pawnee Buttes obviously doesn't do the plant justice. This is the specimen that caught the eye of Gary Epstein (proprietor of Fort Collins Nursery Wholesale) and his propagator Scott Skogerboe--two of the greatest plantsmen in America. Their partnership merits many another blog--and someday perhaps I shall celebrate that dynamic duo--but this plant would not be a universal landscape plant across America today had they not taken cuttings and gotten it into production several decades ago!
|Pawnee Buttes in early June (Photo by Randy Tatroe)|
|Jim Borland (right), Charlie Weddle (left) in 1982|
|Jim Borland on the Uncompaghre Plateau, 1983|
|Jim Borland last year in native habitat, West Denver|
Here be Jimbo nowadays--perhaps not quite so wiry thin as he was. He broadcasts with Keith Funk at 7:00AM-9:00AM on KEZW every Saturday morning: "Ask the Garden Pros" has become iconic--it's been on for decades. I love to listen in and often call in: click on the URL above (and if it's Saturday morning) you may hear Jim dispensing timely and very good advice. I clicked on it, and Lo! and Behold! there was a banner add promoting the sale of CD's by Nana Mouskouri (whom it just so happens I fancy). The insidious capture of our personal data by computers is far wider than we can begin to imagine. I can't quite summon you, however, but in my mind's eye I imagine you at a table with a cup of coffee off to the side. I have resisted placing product adds on my blog (there have been some offers!)...but we have drifted a bit far from the Pawnee Buttes and their little minion. I am glad to finally write this story out fully: there is a story like this for all the thousands of plants in our gardens. Alas, most of those stories may never get written down.