Thursday, May 15, 2014

A half dozen modest morsels at Denver Botanic GardensS

Salvia cf cryptantha
 Roses and rhodies, irises and orchids, daylilies and dahlias are all heavy on floral flesh. I admit that I admire these floral fleshpots--and their oversized flowers. But I find that much of what fills my gardens are more modest plants that are heavy on grace--or at least are very interesting--often for a long time. Denver Botanic Gardens is chockablock full of oddities and special plants indoors and out--a lot of which are never noticed by oi polloi--or even astute visitors. Like this strange little Salvia in front of the entrance crevice garden in the Rock Alpine Garden. Salvia cryptantha always has lime green bracts like this, but usually pale chartreuse flowers--is this a hybrid? Or another species? I only know I want it badly (I want to grow every Turkish Salvia and all their forms--a daunting task!)

Camassia leichtlinii
 Camas are well known. But do you have some in YOUR garden? I finally broke down and ordered a half dozen of this variety for the Perennial Triangle (as we grandly call the central perennial bed in my garden). I have to admit, they look pretty squinny the first year! Dare Bohlander planted these ten or so years ago--a stroke of brilliance. I assumed greater duties in the 1990's and began to neglect the Rock Alpine Garden. Sandy Snyder retired and we went through some "transitional challenges" (several years of neglect) and the Rock Alpine Garden filled with bindweed. Dare pretty  much got rid of it, and cleaned the place up amazingly, adding some dramtic flourishes here and there--none more felicitous than the Lower Meadow full of camas in May. Thank you, Dare! Wish you were still working at the Gardens (preferably in the greenhouses where I know you wanted to be). Instead you're having a whale of a lot of fun in your own garden and traveling the globe.

Staphylea "sp"
 Another mystery plant dating from my curatorship...Surely it came with a name? We have S. colchica at the other end of the garden, and S. americana in Bird's and Bees Garden.. There are a few other species trailing across the north temperate band where so many such parallel species occur (a phonemon at least as interesting as the China-Eastern American twinship business)...

All Staphylea seem to be pretty much of a muchness--but a very cool muchness that is: the willowy growth and bright green leaves, the clusters of nodding flowers and outrageous bladder seedpods...I would think this merits a little more horticultural hoopla? In how many private gardens have you seen a Stachylea growing?
Neviusia alabamensis
 This did have a lot of winter damage this year: but if that were trimmed up, this would still look quite full and attractive. It would be great fun to grow the recently discovered California cousin of this species--which I've heard is proving winter hardy in colder zones. But who sells it mail order?This moppet from the Southeast is apparently quite rare in nature. It is not all that common in gardens either. I love the flowers. I had to get me one of these--not easy to do, there aren't many nurseries that sell it. But my friend, Bill Barnes, had a large, happy specimen and dug me a piece.  Thank you, Bill!

Hydrastis canadensis
The flowers on this herb are reminiscent of the last shrub. Both are eastern Americans, but this one is more widespread and common. It is apparently used by herbalists--I generally don't like to eat my plants (I'm a carnivore as a consequence). I grew this for many years and suddenloy lost it. I must get it again!
Paeonia anomala ssp. veitchii
Not nearly as showy as the Paeonia anomala I've seen in the Altai, this possesses its own shy charm. I love the svelte foliage. Come to think of it, I've never met a species peony I didn't love.

These and hundreds more plants are blooming right now at Denver Botanic Gardens: do come visit soon!

1 comment:

  1. I walked through a prairie restoration yesterday and saw many Camassia scilloides which grew from seed sown years ago. We have a nice patch of Staphylea trifolia in a nearby Forest Preserve. The steward of that preserve has to keep a close guard on it. It has been cut a number of times by people enlisted to control invasive brush like buckthorn and Asian honeysuckles. I am embarrassed to admit I have never seen Hydrastis canadensis in the wild. Every year I visit habitats that should have it. I must be selectively blind to this species.



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