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Showing posts from May, 2014

A garden of Edenic charm.

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One of the many pleasures of taking a lecture tour to a new place is meeting gardeners and seeing new gardens. And one is usually taken to the largest gardens with the most commanding collections of plants. My current jaunt through the Maritime provinces of Canada is no exception, and the garden of Wendy Cornwall has been one of the many highlights of this trip. She has finally read this blog posting--which had several egregious mistakes and misrepresentations, which I hope to rectify on June 17, 2014. The garden is the joint effort of Wendy and her husband John, who passed away several years ago. It is a tribute to their joint talents that such a really large garden can be maintained by one individual, who is fortunately retired and can devote lots of times to the task. This is a grand garden legions of spectacular specimens of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants at their peak of high spring glory during my visit. It is living proof of what super landscape plants rhododendrons can b…

Is beauty its own excuse for being?

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Since you may not have read the poem since childhood, or paid much attention to it then, I shall copy Ralph Waldo Emerson's classic tribute to this astonishing early azalea from Eastern North America:


The Rhodora On being asked, whence is the flower. In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals fallen in the pool
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that, if eyes were made for seeing,
Then beauty is its own excuse for Being;
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask; I never knew;
But in my simple ignorance suppose
The self-same power that brought me there, brought you.
 I have been in the Northeastern US and eastern Canada on m…

O, the month of May, the merry month of May,/ So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!

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Thomas Dekker must have had a spring like our's in mind when he wrote his song: it's been raining every day for much of the last week--some coming as torrential downpours, accompanied by hail (although I admit it's not the hardest hail I've experienced): some of the larger leaved plants like Crambe kotchyana and rhubarbs are a bit tattered: I just call them forma laciniata.

I struggled for years to grow Anemone narcissiflora and had decided it had to be rather finicky. Then I got this specimen in a rather difficult corner of my garden that's come back and even gotten bigger the last few years. I had to lead this blog parade with those lilting, dancing, virginal white flowers.

 I was just a TAD annoyed a few years ago when a Dutch owned company began touting "hardy" delospermas in fabulous new colors. Yeah, right...I eventually discovered they're being created by a Japanese breeder, Koichiro Nishikawa, who lives in Ecuador (or is it Peru?)...The gall…

Milestones: the Ridges are coming of age.

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You may have noticed I have installed a different header: it's about time we let winter have a rest! The two ridge gardens that form a large xeric bulwark to my garden are the most challenging and interesting section of it, I think. Visitors arrive at the top and look down at this unruly madness wondering what the heck is going on...


The ridges are scary most times of the year for most visitors--because they are so gray, dusty and prickly I suppose.

 I have watered parts of them now and again--during dry spells (when plants really looked as thouygh they might perish)...not very often. Had I tried to develop water intensive gardens in this half of my gardens as well, my water bill would have been astronomical. So there is economic logic in xeriscaping!

 The ridges have been the most dynamic part of my garden--mostly due to self-sowing of perennials and many annuals (and weeds!)...I think they've come a long way when you compare what is in the first frame (taken a week or so …

The greatest landscape designer in Denver...

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I shall never forget the first time I drove by this garden a year ago: I noticed the sheen of white and wondered what it could be: the white was an almost contiguous mass of white evening primrose (Oenothera coronopifolia) which you will glimpse among the following pictures. I simply had to trespass (I have subsequently knocked on the door many times: I don't think they live there all the time). Among the primroses were an number of other choice wildflowers including the penstemon, which is the primary subject of this blog. This is near the top of most penstemaniacs "top ten" list due to the intensity of the aquamarine flowers. It causes me a certain amount of consternation to think this once grew by the untold million in my neighborhood before we paved the place over and landscaped with bluegrass and junipers. Who could have planted and designed such an amazing replica of our native prairie in my neighbor's house?

 It had to be a landscape designer of great talent …