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Showing posts from January, 2013

Utah hurrah at U

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My very first palindrome![Almost, anyway.] I've blogged so much I have to Google each new topic to be sure I'm not repeating myself (too much) and no, I apparently have not featured Landscape Arch before which is somehow remarkable since I make at least biennial visits here and have for decades: for a rock gardener, after all, this is something of a holy site. Actually--much of Utah qualifies as holy land, and not just because of the L.D.S. presence (that's Mormons for you ignorant gentiles!). Utah is exceptional for so many reasons that as a neighboring stater, I could go on for pages. It hogs the lion's share of the Canyonlands--which we Coloradoans smugly refer to as the "Colorado Plateau". Utah is chockablock full of rare and absolutely gorgeous plants as well as common plants that are uncommon elsewhere...talk talk talk--let's get down to some brass tacks and see what I mean:


Now I know I HAVE blogged about this little bugger before, and will not…

Fifty shades of brown

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I might have labeled this post "the fifty shades of gray" since gray (or grey) is just as prevalent a color this time of year on the steppes...but I understand that name has been preempted by a soft-core pornographer. In have actually stolen this title from Jan, my girlfriend, who coined this memorable paraphrase as we flew home from California a few weeks ago. Her utterance was not meant to be complimentary. Brown has a terrible P.R. problem: ask the next fifty kids what their favorite flower is and I can pretty much guarantee you that almost all will opt for red, yellow, blue in pretty much that order. Likewise with adults--although depending on which circle you inhabit, the responses could be "mauve, chartreuse or taupe", or "green, lavender or pink"--we mature beyond the mere primary to the increasingly recondite in this long life of our's.

You cannot live on the steppe--or at least not happily--unless you come to fancy brown. Not just Cordovan l…

Ex Africa semper aliquid novi: the "dark" continent

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Of course, all Humanity ultimately emanates "ex Africa"... I suspect most anyone who stumbles on my blog knows that "out of Africa there are no end of novelties" according to Pliny--and on Martin Luther King's holiday on a toasty January day when an African-American Barack Obama is sworn into his second term, I would like to pay tribute to the most magical of continents...

I love both North and South America for certain, and Eurasia is grand in every way. I'm sure Australia is just peachy, but Africa is where the last of the vast herds of ungulates that sustained and co-evolved with early humanity still persist in a few last strongholds.


If I had to name two of the most gorgeous spots I have ever botanized on Planet Earth, Oxbow (above) and Sani Pass (below) would surely be in the top ten. You can glimpse the incredibly protean and variable Kniphofia in another of my blogs. Notice the throng behind the big clump!

I'm thinkiing I should dedicate a whol…

Pterribly good scabious....the petite Pterocephalus

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There is something charmingly old fashioned about scabiosas: the homespun shape of their nosegay flowers flowers (lilacs, purples, smouldering gray blues), looking for all the world as though they’d been fashioned at a quilting bee. There are a host of stately scabious—like Scabiosa caucasica—that grace all self respecting perennial borders and even a good many xeric Mediterranean sorts that are perfect for the xeriscape. Let's not even mention Cephalarias, the Goliaths of the Garden, begging for some David with a spade to take them out! There are a rabble of relatively compact, long blooming scabiosas that are often planted in rock gardens. Some of these have been among the most beautiful of rapacious weeds I have ever introduced to the Rock Alpine Garden. Let’s just say, anything labeled S. lucida or S. columbaria should be approached with great caution and a bottle of roundup handy. There are forms that are incredibly cute, compact, evergreen that bloom from spring to fall and…

Comparative gardening

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A horticultural sonnet (Heaven forfend)... [Proceed with caution]                                                          I gaze about my modest yard and sigh
                                                        (I don’t have half the budget of Versailles).
                                                         I bow to Nenuphar on bended knees
                                                         (My pond is not size of Giverny’s)
                                                          But if I had a brush like Claude Monet
                                                          I’d paint my lily, not a stack of hay!
                                                          My list of plants is not as long as Kew’s
                                                          Ask me for cuttings though: I shan't refuse!
                                                          Try as I may I’ll never be half the trixter
                                                          That…

Summer thoughts in midwinter

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The temperature today is approaching 60F (we're talking January 9!) and the same tomorrow...so you can't really blame me for thinking about summertime: and what says summer better than Echinacea purpurea? This is one of my all time favorite "artsy" shots I did in the Birds and Bees garden at Denver Botanic Gardens years ago....I am so lucky to work there!
Another overall shot in that wonderful garden...here with a typical mix of annuals, Kniphofia--you name it!
The contrast of bright blues and oranges, the cool lavender pink of coneflowers and the fiery yellows and oranges of composites or torch lilies--this is summer at its best! We have Agapanthus aplenty in several gardens, but never enough for my taste!


A sweep of Agapanthus 'Headbourne hybrids' in the South African garden...these look pretty much identical to Agapanthus campanulatus ssp. patens I've seen all over the Drakensberg...the most reliable hardy agapanthus in our severe winter climate. Alth…

The OTHER ice plants....

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Bazeball may very well have bin bery bery good to Chico Escuela, but Delosperma bin berry berry good to me too. So much so that I fear Mr. Delosperma may be carved on to my tombstone. But there is more to hardy ice plants than merely that wonderful and seemingly bottomless genus of delight and confusion. We have had several dozen genera of Mesembryanthemaceae (or Aizoaceae or whatever they're being lumped into nowadays) make it through our very harsh steppe winters. One genus that gives me no end of delight is Bergeranthus--concentrated heavily in the Southeastern quadrant of South Africa, mostly in the East Cape, this genus seems to be enormously cold hardy considering that much of their range is warm temperate at best. We've had a half dozen or more survive--but the two toughest seem to be B. jamesii below and that stunning gem above. Did I mention that these bloom for months on end? and they are dead easy to propagate from cuttings or seed? Why are they virtually unknown in…

Petite in size, pleasure aplenty! (and..oh yes, a little Clematis clamoring...)

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I'm not sure why...but I have never blogged about Plant Select--one of the most wonderful things I've had the privilege to participating in over the last quarter century (it's probably nearer 30 years old as a program actually--but who's counting?). If you are not familiar with that wonderful research/marketing/educational phenomenon, do click on my highlighted hyperlink and browse the website: it's well worth your time. They have launched a new initiative called Plant Select Petites that is near and dear to my heart: I have spent much of my life growing small plants in containers, rock gardens, xeriscapes and have always felt these needed to be promoted better...others in the program thought so too, so much to my amazement and delight a whole new facet to this program has been born. It is being launched with three of the greatest plants imaginable: if you do not grow oxlips, well now is the time: Plant Select has dozens of wholesale nurseries participating and I…