Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Christie's of Angus...(random images from the first few minutes...)

Granite monument!
I have long been curious about the advertisement that graced the back pages of the Scottish Rock Garden Society's journal alluring speaking of "Christie's Nursery" and I knew it had to be good the way people mention the name ever so casually in connection with the best plants "Christie's has that" or "Only available at Christie's". Needless to say, one more of the numerous highlights of my visit to Scotland last June was a luminous day at this mythical Scottish nursery in the rolling hills of Angus. Why is it when one speaks of Scotland, language seems to grow more sonorous and rich?By the way, Christie is technically retired (although I know he still participates in a few shows and some mail order. Not to America alas!

Glimpse of one of the many rock gardens--here a symphony of white flowers and foliage plants...

Celmisia cv.
Scotland is famous for the ease with which Celmisias grow: this one was primo (and look at the seed on the little one lower right!

Glumicalyx cf nutans
I'm guessing at the Glumicalyx: it could also be flanaganii...South African plants seem to thrive in Scotland!
Dactylirhizas pop up everywhere!
Deep pink form of Saxifraga paniculata
Late June is ordinarily a bit late for the silver saxifrages, but this June was behind the times--there were troughs everywhere filled with them.

A remarkable Thymeleaceae: possibly a Wikstroemia (wish I'd photogrpahed that label on the left!)

A bevy of daphnes--the big one in back looks like a huge Daphne aurantiaca.
Peat beds full of treasures
I believe the dark purple is Epipactis gigantea 'Serpentine night'--the wonderful Western American chatterbox orchid form discovered by Roger Raiche. It's not made it for me yet in Denver--although our collections of the species are hardy here. Oh yes, big clumps of Cypripedium reginae and Lilium Mackliniae.
Closeup of the wonderful Lilium Mackliniae
I found great clumps of this in all the greatest Scottish gardens. I've never seen it in the USA.

More Dactylorhizas--they're practically weeds there...

Bulbinella hookeri--a fabulous New Zealand petaloid monocot that is distressingly rare in America (I have seen it in California). This is an alpine plant that ought to be hardy for us!

Corydalis in the flexuosa group.
I first saw these in 1991, not long after they were introduced. Kath Dryden had one at an Alpine Garden Show--and the British were already rather ho-hum about them.

MORE weedy Dactylorhizas: I did offer to clean them up for him...

And MORE dactylorhizas!
This one has lovely mottled leaves. Notice the Daiswa behind! (That's Paris to most of us)

Yet another stunning Celmisia

Allium insubricum
A stunning clump of one of the most beautiful onions. I purchased two pots from a nursery in Maine last year...when will they do this for me?

A particularly nice dwarf form of Geranium sanguineum

The Rhododendron yakushimanum behind was just past bloom--but we caught the Celmisia in perfect flower.
Another wonderful mound of silver saxifrages

An immense Arisaema of the consanguineum section.

Ian Christie showing off a very old plant of Salix x boydii: not for sale!

Something gorgeous...

Enkianthus campanulatus: one of the Ericaceae I most want to grow!

An astonishing trough: What gorgeous rock work and limestone rocks! Large silver Saxifrage blooming gloriously in the distance.

I can never have enough Celmisias. We can actually grow C. angustifolia in Denver. But not like this!

A huge container filled with Cypripediums (the Dutch and Germans are cranking these out quite cheaply in Europe!)
These may be variations on 'Gisela'

One impeccable alpine house after another.

A little pot of Arisaema urashima
This has to be one of the most enviable pots of jacks I'ver ever beheld!

A greenhouse full of woodland treasure (Trilliums are very popular in Northern Europe of late)

I remember seeing Paris polyphylla everywhere in Yunnan--but even there it didn't look as good as Christie's!

A lot of woodland treasures throughout the nrusery...he is a patient man and has many seedlings in various strages of growth.

An incomparable specimen of Daphne (Wikstroemia) gemmata

J.C. Raulston once gave this plant to me. I wish I had it now!

More wonderful corydalis, and a very happy specimen of Claytonia nivalis in the foreground.

Rhododendron (nakahari complex perhaps?)

Corydalis calcicola: need I say more?

I grew this form of Iris chrysographes from seed that came from Jack Drake many decades ago. I am so glad it's persisting in Scotland...

I must warn you that this was just the very beginning of the nursery: it went on and on and on: Ian has literally HUNDREDS of Meconopsis, and they were all in magnificent bloom: you are spared them because my camera memory was filled and I did not have a backup. Just imagine this show going on for another sixty or hundred panels. The garden is that good!

Monday, January 27, 2014



Tree diversity conference    2014

Scott Skogerboe and Acer tataricum in fall color

Our urban forests are under siege from disease, aging canopy,
budget constraints 
and more.
Leading experts on creating a
vibrant urban canopy from across America will launch this first event of its kind in Colorado.

Lindsay Auditorium, Room 281

Sturm Hall, University of Denver

Map and directions to the Lindsay Auditorium and

Parking options on campus will be provided to all registrants.

For Additional Information contact Sonia John at

Friday, March 7, 2014  9:00AM to 4:30PM 

Attendance $60 per person. $35 for registered students. Includes Panera box lunch. Prompt payments made by credit or debit card by logging on to and clicking on the “Send Someone Money” button. Specify that the payment be made to in the field “Their Email.” Please include the names of all the people you are registering in the comments box on the PayPal form . The charge will show up on your credit card statement as 2014treediversityconference.” Refunds of fees will not be available after 2/28.

Contact Sonia John ( for details.
A map and directions to the Lindsey Auditorium on the University of Denver campus will be sent to all registrants and will provide information about parking and public transit options.

Continuing Education Credits: Attendance at this event will confer continuing education credits for arborists. Certification has been arranged with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).

The University of Denver Chester M Alter Arboretum &

Denver Botanic Gardens

Committee: Rob Davis, Denver City Forester; Sonia John;

  Panayoti Kelaidis, Denver Botanic Gardens; Martin Quigley, D.U.


“Trees For Hot Dry Places”

Steve Bieberich owns Sunshine Nursery in Clinton, Oklahoma. He’s developed numerous trees that thrive in the dry climate and alkaline soils of western Oklahoma. He has collected in Asia and across America,  grown and evaluated in his nursery-arboretum. He was the first to introduce the thornless male Osage orange cultivar ‘Whiteshield.’ He’s a world authority on cultivated Ulmaceae.

High Plains
Tree Selection & Propagation”
Scott Skogerboe is the head propagator at Ft. Collins Wholesale Nursery, growing over 300,000 plants a year. Scott, a Ft. Collins native and CSU graduate in landscape horticulture, has spent decades in exploring, selecting and propagating trees and shrubs that are adaptable to climate and soil conditions in communities stretching from Casper, WY to Albuquerque, NM.

“Tough Trees for Urban Landscapes”

Guy Sternberg owns Starhill Forest Arboretum in Petersburg, Illinois. Guy retired after a long career with the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources and is a life member of the International Society of Arboriculture as well as a landscape architect. He was also a founding member of the International Oak Society. He has written two books on native American trees (Timber Press), and has introduced many new tree cultivars.

“Citizen Activism to Revitalize an
Urban Tree Canopy”
Mike Hayman lives in Seneca Gardens, Kentucky. He was a professional newspaper photographer who undertook a major tree planting and diversification program near Louisville after a freak windstorm devastated a mature but non-diverse tree canopy twenty years ago. His efforts, now codified in city policy, were among the first to mobilize major citizen support of species diversity and Seneca Gardens is now viewed as a mini-arboretum.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Munich revisited: the rock garden.

Dryad among Dryas octopetala

A few weeks ago I featured the wonderful annual displays at Nymphenberg, the extraordinary botanical garden of Munich. I promised then I'd give you a glimpse of another garden there: their amazing rock garden. The was the end point of a three week extravaganza that Jan Fahs (pictured above) and I undertook from Gothenburg. We spent a magical week in Sweden, then visited a host of public gardens in Denmark, and mostly Germany, many of which I have featured. this was a trip I'd dreamed about for decades, and though the locals complained bitterly about the cold spring, by the time we got there, things warmed up and I was blown away. All the white flowers around Jan above are Dryas octopetala, the mountain dryad that I've seen all over the Northern Hemisphere--but never quite so wonderful as this!
Peonies, daphnes--all the good stuff!
Rock gardeners often regard the Royal Botanic Gardens' rock garden as the supreme example of the art in public horticulture. I revisited Botanics in late June, and they're still supreme--but just it's a bit unfair to compare the Matterhorn to Mount Blanc, Mount Evans to Mount Washington--each mountain has its forte. And Munich is as good as you will find anywhere. Perhaps it helped that it was a perfect, sunny, warm spring day--that so much was in bloom. Or that the whole trip had been exhilirating. All I can say was that the hours I spent hovering over plants at Munich will remain with me forever. I took hundreds of pictures. Mostly mug shots of plants and labels (there are countless plants new to me here)--but I am only sharing the vistas with you: they are entrancing!
Aubrieta pinardii Boissier

A large number of the plants at Munich--like those in Copenhagen--are Mediterranean wildflowers like this Turkish rock cress: staff at Munich have been collecting across much of that region, and the rock garden houses untold treasures from there. Since this is one of the focuses of my own work, you can imagine I was more than a little curious. I grow the same aubrieta--not so picturesquely, I regret!

Steep slopes covered with treasures, all meticulously labeled

Words are really superfluous when it comes to great gardens like this: these are about the romance of the hills, the dance of rock and plant, the music of the spheres. Great rock gardens occupy the same aesthetic space as Beethoven symphonies, the novels of Tolstoy or Byzantine mosaics (at least in my private cosmology): they are the highest aesthetic expression of human spirit in harmony with nature and God (you atheists can substitute the last with Evolution!). Need I say I was in paradise? Except for a few captions, the rest (to quote Hamlet) is silence.

Grand vistas all around the garden

Pathways are understated and wide

Lots of interest on all sides

Iberis semperivirens glows in early May

Every way you turn a different feel and vista

Cytisus albus

Part of a huge display of Dryas octopetala in peak bloom

The alpines blend in as they do in alpine meadows

Saxifrages, hellebores helianthemums--all the good stuff!

Visitors everywhere--studying and taking pix


Paeonia daurica ssp. coriifolia (=P. caucasica)

More aubrieta with Alyssoides graeca crowning the hill.

Even without flowers the textures are supreme

A wonderful backdrop and throngs of visitors: a botanic gardener's dream!

Paths winding everywhere. Can't get over the dang Dryas!

Areas being redeveloped--a good thing!

I find this sumptuous

The steppe meadow nearby with plants from Far Eastern Europe

Of course one must have Gentiana acaulis in a rock garden!

Rhododendron augustinii in a nearby woodland

The rock garden from across the pond--beautiful from afar

Generous spreads of plants throughout Munich's gem--these are mostly Salvia glutinosa, I think.

Back to the garden, a steep slope covered with dense mounds

More Gentiana acaulis, and ferns seeding in everywhere! They don't do that in Denver!

Another view of a central path

Jan on another corner of the garden

Featured Post

A garden near lake Tekapo

The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...

Blog Archive