Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunscaper! (dare I write about a best friend?)

Bill Adams in his element!
 I was recently quoted in an article about another friend in our local paper, and I have to confess I was chagrined to say the least (fortunately that friend and I are close enough that she forgave me for having accused her of killing people and being a battle-ax on the front page of the Entertainment supplement)...but writing about one's best friends is tricky. I don't know how Bill regards me, but I think of him as closest of friends, despite his living exactly 100 miles away and not agreeing one one or two other facets of polity (come to think of's just one). Anyway, Bill and I have 34 years of friendship, and despite the daunting distance between us, we seem to get together quite often. He is such a modest individual, and so quietly effective, I think he needs a publicist as well as friend. I have modestly decided to perform both functions: meet Bill Adams, SUNSCAPER EXTRAORDINAIRE!

Trough with Penstemon laricifolius var. laricifolius and other gems
 This is a little hint of the magic he performs: stoneware pot (possibly a Grand Ridge pot) filled with treasure. The Penstemon, by the way, is not the easiest species to grow well. I've never seen it happier, not even in Wyoming where it grows everywhere and looks mighty good.

Crocus cf. kotschyanus in the fall
 Bill loves bulbs and grows lots of them extremely well. This isn't the rarest nor the choicest one he grows, but it is one of the few in his garden I could put my hands on easily. If you aren't impressed, click on this URL, and you will ramp up your admiration quotient significantly.
Heterotheca jonesii
 I confess, these pictures are rather random: mostly from one or two of my dozens of visits--when you drop in on friends, you're not always thinking of documenting the moment. But occasionally my point-and-shoot was strapped on, and I could get pictures, such as this wonderful mat of this rare Utah native.
Adams rock garden in the fall (Zauschneria californica cv.)
 Here in late summer the Zauschneria is smouldering in front and the garden behind is mostly quiet.

Summer vignette with Hesperaloe parviflora 'Breaklights'
 This must be a summer shot--a little rebloom on a daphne below, and the Acantholimons in early seed behind--late July?
Sempervivum city
 Bill grows a wide variety of sempervivums (wrote a great piece about them for an old issue of the Rock Garden Quarterly, as a matter of fact! "Live Long and Prosper"). Thanks to the miracle of computers (and a miracle it is) you can click on the URL above and read it!

Escobaria sneedii v. sneedii
 I never cease to be amazed how well cacti grow in Pueblo: many of our best cactus nurserymen and gardeners live there: no wonder! Bill has dozens of really stunning cacti tucked casually into this or that trough or pot--and each is a show stopper. Here one of the rare New Mexico endemics is going to town!

Same, a closer look
 Couldn't resist sharing a closer look--love these cushion cacti!

Penstemon and Agave
 The agave sustained a bit of damage that winter, but came out of it and bloomed a year or two later--the penstemon (superbus? havardii?) is one that Bill has been growing for years under a superfluity of names...(couldn't resist that gentle jab...)

Digenia velebetica in seed
Bill is very fond of this, and brings flats of it to rock garden meetings. it is an extremely rare Dalmatian endemic that few know and fewer buy...

Aquilegia scopulorum
 Perhaps the most wonderful of columbines (after our State flower of course--don't want to get a ticket), this alpine from Utah and Nevada thrives in troughs.
Aquilegia scopulorum with cushion Convolvulus in background

Adams back yard
 Bill's back yard has a terrific shady border and more rock gardens and troughs...a great restful spot in summer heat.
The shady border in summer

Another view of the rockgarden
The rock garden in late spring, with Erigeron compactus/consimilis blooming its heart out. Wish it would grow for me like that! And look at the claret cup!

Neighborhood park with my namesake Delo and Allium karataviense albino
 Bill has had an enormous impact on his native city: this is in a park just a few blocks away from him: what other town would have flower beds in parks with Mesa Verde ice plant growing with albino Karadag Onion? Lakewood perhaps...Bill has personally designed some public spaces around the city--some going back 30 years. He sparkplugged a remarkable city-beautification program that has lured me to Pueblo many times: I'm headed back in two weeks to speak at a symposium: come join me: here's the link: Western Landscape Symposium.

x Aloinananthus hybrids at Denver Botanic Gardens
 Bill has accomplished a great deal in his lifetime already--but he was really the one who began the incredible new initiative to hybridize ice plants in the Titanopsis Section: here are some blooming a few Marches ago at Denver Botanic Gardens (all plants he donated to us by the way)...

x Aloinanthus hybrid
 He invented the name "x Aloinanthus"--hybridizing the genera Aloinopsis and Nananthus, which are the two predominant genera used in these crosses. Check his FANTASTIC catalogue at Sunscapes (the secret reason I'm doing this blog--it's just been posted on the web)...and you too will drool as I have over these gems. If you clicked on the URL above, you'll see the cover of the catalogue showing a fantastic buckwheat--yes, Bill is treasurer of the Eriogonum Society, just as he's president of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, and treasurer of NARGS nationally and helping organize the annual meeting in August in Santa Fe. He was treasurer of our Rocky Mountain Chapter of NARGS as well, and he attends meetings of all these groups (and did I mention the annual Penstemon Society field trips?)--he is a DYNAMO and what some might call a player.

x Aloinanthus 'Thay Dyed'
I have stolen this image of the first (and maybe still the best) of Bill's selections. Which you can buy for peanuts. This guy is amazing!
Bill and his other passion!
Did I mention Bill's an awesome mycologist? I believe he has been to every Telluride Mushroom Festival since that august event's hoary beginnings several centuries ago. I consider it an incredible coup that he chose to start a world class rock garden nursery rather than join Gary Lincoff (my arch-nemesis) in founding the Mycological Institute of advanced Learning and Fun. (Just kidding about that last sentence.) Live Long and Prosper Indeed!


  1. Thanks for bringing his light to us from under his bushel. No doubt a fascinating and knowledgeable star.

    1. I've been ordering for years and the plants are always superb. All Sunscapes plants from this year's order are already planted and performing beautifully. Bill's plants rock! (maybe a tiny pun intended).

  2. I just mailed in my Sunscapes order for this season. Wonderful nursery. I look forward to thanking Bill in person for his excellent plants at the upcoming APS meeting. I ordered E. sneedii v. sneedii and E. orcuttii v. koengii this year; I couldn't decide, and then why bother deciding? But, I couldn't bring myself to get the Convolvulus; maybe when I'm finally rid of its bindweed relative, I'll give in.

  3. “Water, water, water....There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be.”
    ― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness


    1. Love that book, James. And there is more truth in it than anyone admits (especially the Western boosters and developers)...

  4. From "Superman: The Movie"

    LUTHOR Now. As you may or may not know, I am as they say, very heavy into real estate. In order to make money in that game you have to buy for a little and sell for a lot. Right?

    OTIS Right.

    LUTHOR Right. So. Problem: how to make the land more valuable in between the time you buy it and the time you sell it.



  5. Uh, the Penstemon superbus/havardii confusion is entirely the fault of a nameless individual who, upon request for an identification, unhesitatingly (that is, without thinking) said it was P. havardii, when in fact it is P. superbus.

  6. Thanks for clearing that up, nameless individual Bob (oops that slipped out)...


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