Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Breathless time to talk!

Tulipa batalinii, first year planting in Woodland Mosaic garden, Denver Botanic Gardens

Phlox bifida, in Children's garden crevice bed...

My Daphnarium (with lavender Aubrieta gracilis on lower left)

Going strong for weeks!

Polemonium brandegei, from Southern Colorado, in Rock Alpine Garden trough....

Iris henryi in Rock Alpine Garden

Closer look at my pride and joys: Daphne x schytleri on left, Daphne x 'Anton Fahdrich' on right.

Pulsatilla albana (ina yellow form: comes in white and lavender too), according to an irate Slavic Facebooker. I've grown it as aurea for years. The real aurea is mind bogglingly beautiful...but progbably ungrowable for us on the steppes. This loves my garden: I have it everywhere.

Myt champion clump of P. albana at home.

Daphne cneorum 'Potzka' at home

The real Townsendia spathulata...aaaah.

Eritrichium howardii--an ancient plant in my trough

Ribes x gordonii Love this thang.

Same, closer up

Even closer (ooops out of focus: sorry)
A fraction of the goodies starting to bloom everywhere: yikes! Turning out to be an awesome mid-to late spring: everything blooming at once! Lasting for every in the coolth! Skirting hard frost night after night--eeek! Love it. Plant Sales every few days, and the nurseries are hopping: I fill wheelbarrowloads of weeds every night--desperate to get my garden ins shape for less than a month away. No time to talk! Have a great day....gotta go!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Three irises of the Altai

Iris ruthenica on the Austrian Road, Kazakhstan
Among humans we call them "celebrities"--the phenotype of the species which attracts enormous attention and love. In plants they're must "favorites"--plants like Ladyslipper orchids, or snowdrops in England in winter. Plants that command a lot more passion than the pedestrian posy, which peoplel fly across oceans to visit in the wild or in gardens, which dazzle and delight. For me, wild irises do the trick: I dote on every member of the genus I have grown, and most of the hybrids. I was fortunate a few years ago to find two irises I'd seen Iris ruthenica in Western China (of all places).
Iris ruthenica on the Austrian Road, Kazakhstan
Here's a closer view. I shall never forget the magical day high in the Altai of Kazakhstan: we stopped the vehicle frequently, and took long walks. It was overcase and occasionally misty, and the flowers were in masses everywhere. At first we only found a few clumps of the tiny iris...

Iris ruthenica on the Austrian Road, Kazakhstan
But in the subalpine forest, they grew thickly as a lawn--miles and miles of them, all coming into bloom. I kept stopping to look at them close up. I had grown various forms of this plant, but the form from the high Altai was especially luminous.

Iris ruthenica on the Austrian Road, Kazakhstan
I think you can tell I was enchanted! I hadn't looked at the pictures from the trip for a while, but now that my I. ruthenica is starting to bloom in my garden, I had to look these up again...
Iris ruthenica on the Austrian Road, Kazakhstan
Iris ruthenica in my garden
 And here is a plant in my garden--I believe this is var. uniflora, that is found further to the east in Mongolia and northern China. It is superficially quite similar to the Altai plants and may be the same subspecies for all I know at present. The marking on the falls is a bit different, but the overall color and form are very close. Here is a closer look at my plant:


Iris bloudowii on the Austrian Road, Kazakhstan
Very different in form and color, this husky cousin to Iris humilis was much less common in the high Altai.I wish there had been some seed--I would have loved to grow and compare this form to what we have in our garden already. The pictures perhaps make them look more different than they may be if you could grow them side by side.

A closer look at the Altai form...

Iris bloudowii in my garden
This should be blooming soon: a stunning plant. I'm so happy it's settled down and likes me!

Iris scariosa in my garden
I took this picture a few days ago: it's been blooming beautifully for much of the last week, with many more flowers on it. This was grown from seed we collected on the steppe on the outer foothills of the Kazakhstan Altai, on the Narymski road area. We had no idea what color forms might be in the colony. We grew many seedlings, and they all seem to be these two bluish and pinkish forms.

Iris scariosa in my garden
This would never be taken as a bearded iris by most people (if you look carefully you can see the beard)--in fact it is the easternmost iris in that section. For lovers of tall bearded iris, this is a squinny little thing, hardly worth looking at twice.For lovers of wild iris, however, these are the bee's knees!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter daisies (a few days later)...

Townsendia eximia on West Spanish Peak

This is the peak season for easter daisies--which are aptly named: they bloom for such a long spell (beginning in March almost every year and lasting to May) that they can be pretty much be guaranteed to bloom at easter. The specimen above is an exception: I believe that was photographed in late summer (it's naturally a later bloomer, especially in its alpine home), but most of the rest of these were photographed this week at my home garden.

Townsendia nuttallii in a trough
There is a long complicated story involving this plant. Suffice it to say (mea culpa) this was distributed as T. spathulata decades ago when Gwen Moore and I ran Rocky Mountain Rare Seeds: that species and T. nuttallii were both recorded from Limestone Mountain in the Wind River Mountains where we collected what we thought were both. We assumed this distinctive one was spathulata, and a narrow leaves congener there was nuttallii: the third species I now realize was Townsendia hookeri: there were three townsendias on this mountain I reckon. So confusion has reigned: here is my feeble attempt to make amends.

Townsendia nuttallii
Albeit it's not the little wooly tuffet of spathulata (see below), it is nevertheless a gorgeous little thing.

Townsendia spathulata
I believe this is the real McCoy--surely one of the loveliest of rock garden gems. Blooming for me for the first time: thanks, Bill Adams, for giving me this!

Townsendia leptotes Jeanie
This was collected originally in Easternmost Montana by Jeanie Anderson, a rock gardener from Idaho Falls: we've grown this for decades--one of the showiest of the genus. Blooming this week as well.

Townsendia hookeri
A picture I took years ago of the commonest townsendia of the plains. It's still blooming in  a trough in my garden--this is a picture I took near Denver about this time of year.

Townsendia scapigera

I grew this for years: this looks like an intermediate between Townsendia condensata and T. parryi...only it is perennial (albeit a short lived one) and those other worthy species are both biennial. I grew this for years, harvested lots of seed, but I suddenly realize they are all gone now. One of the best!

Townsendia sp. ign. Rock Alpine Garden

This species is dotted all over one of the crevice gardens at Denver Botanic Gardens. Mike Kintgen believes it was grown from seed collected near treeline on the Flattops plateau three or so years by myself: I assumed it was T. hookeri when I collected it, which it clearly is not: what could it be?

Townsendia florifer

I collected the seed of this floriferous biennial (well named) not far from Mt. Borah in Idaho. I grew it a few years and forgot to collect and sow seeds one more time.

These are just a few of the striking Townsendias that grace the West. Colorado moreover is almost the epicenter of the genus: no wonder I love them so...that and the fact that they grace my gardens for weeks in late winter and early spring...
P.S. My buddy Scott Smith read this blog and noted that he had Townsendia glabella blooming right now (one of my favorites). Although I have many transparencies of this from nature, I've not scanned them : glad to add this to my little rogues' gallery of Easter Daisies!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A week in the life of a peripatetic gardener (Toronto sojourn...)

Iris cf. narbutii
I took the picture of the iris the day before I left for Toronto. Gotta love those Junos--this one from Beaver Creek nursery many years ago.

Prunus subhirtella
The Japanese cherries around town bloomed most of last week--good thing because the snow and frost on Sunday night put an end to the show. Someone has planted many Japanese cherries along Cherry Creek (and Speer Boulevard) which is rather amusing, since the "Cherry" in Cherry Creek is actually a Chokecherry. This is the most stunning Japanese cherry I know in Denver, at an apartment complex near my home. I dote on this every year..

The flowers up close are immense, and a wonderful melting pink color. I would love to see a lot more of these around town!

Paeonia coriacea
This was blooming as well before I left, and came through the snow (under a bucket of course): it's a collection from Morocco by Mike Kintgen. Surely the earliest Peony in any garden?

Marion Jarvie and Daphne mezereum
I'd not seen Marion in 11 years (since she had the misfortune to be in Denver for the colossal March snowstorms in 2003): I was thrilled to see how vibrant and good she looked: her job as a garden designer and lecturer obviously agrees with her. Her garden was stunning, even in late winter. Here she was showing off an incredibly dense specimen of Winter daphne that was ready to pop.

Helleborus thibetanus
I know it's out of focus, but I still loved this incredible plant: mine is alive at least!

Iris x 'Katharine Hodgkin'
Every one of the Katharine Hodgkin's iris at my home garden was seemingly killed by the extreme cold of last winter. They fared better at Denver Botanic Gardens--and Marion's were fabulous as you can see. Not that I'm jealous....or anything....much. They seem to do better on the flat in richer soil than in a gravelly rock garden soil I venture.

Bella and Barbara's garden
My hostesses for the trip have a wonderful garden and welcoming home: Bella Seiden and Barbara Cooper (shown a ways below) are program chairs for the Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society, who made me feel very welcome: I loved this simple garden sculpture that reminded me of fern croziers unwinding.

Andrew and Sue Osyany and me
Andrew Osyany and his wonderful wife Sue drove a long way for my talk later on Sunday: Andrew started the ORGS many decades ago, and our paths have crossed repeatedly over the decades, including a wonderful field trip we took together to the Bighorn mountains and Wyoming decades ago. In addition to being a passionate gardener, Andrew is a lawyer, and his incisive intellect has kept the North American Rock Garden society on course more than once over the years. Traveling for talks is really about reconnecting with special friends like this for me more than anything. Except perhaps for seeing great new plants like the one below...

Adonis amurensis 'Chichibu beni'
One of numerous treasures in Barrie Porteous wonderful Toronto garden: I'd never seen this burnished orangy bronze form of Adonis before: Barrie has promised to divide this for Bella, and perhaps a piece can come my way?

Barrie Porteous and giant Daphne mezereum
Barrie standing behind the largest Daphne mezereum I've ever seen: this was about to bloom: I was amazed by the number, variety and size of daphnes in Barrie's garden.
Cyclamen coum at Barrie's
 I have to show a few of the masses of Cyclamen coum all over Barrie's Toronto garden. They were obviously in peak form. 

And yet more Cyclamen coum! Barrie had a terrific career in business--gardening is just a sideline: but what a sideline! I've never been privileged to see his cottage garden near Muskoka in the the country where there are no end of treasures as well. He's headed out to the Penstemon Society meeting this June and we spend a wonderful morning looking at potential stops he might take in Utah and Nevada--making me terribly jealous. Barrie has explored more than many botanic gardeners, and grown more plants than many botanic gardens: so much for amateurs! (And did I mention that he's a fabulous speaker with the most wicked sense of humor I've ever encountered?) Yes, time with Barrie and Jane was time I shall remember fondly.
Barbara Cooper, Merle, Jane Porteous, Bella and Barrie Porteous
Some of my wonderful Canadian hosts: I've been spoiled terribly over the decades by the tremendous community of horticulturists in Toronto. I like to think I'm a plant person, but the friendliness and good humor of gardeners is just as compelling as the simple majesty of plants. We need more of both in this world of too much asphalt and concrete.

Post red full moon setting over the Rockies from my living room window
I returned to a full moon (it was actually a "red moon" in the middle of the night, but I didn't think my camera was up to photographing it). Turns out my Nikon Coolpix 620 has much better optics than my old Sony point and shoots (despite their famous Leica lenses), and I could have gotten that wonderful bloody moon. Dang it! What a great week!

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