Thursday, July 3, 2014

A hunny of a bunnery

Bunnery near Cody

 I'm not sure who coined the word "bunnery" to describe those special places in the West where a ridge or slope harbors a concentration of choice, miniature gems--many of them cushion plants. Rupert Barneby refered to these as "pseudo-alpine" fellfields--and interestingly enough, many dryland bunneries also harbor bona fide alpines that reappear far below their usual alititudinal limits. Most such bunneries are unprotected--on public lands that could be bulldozed for oil or gas exploration, or other whims of "progress". This one is on the private acreage belonging to the St. Thomas the Apostle Retreat Center in Cody, Wyoming (tucked almost out of site at the bottom of this ridge). I believe it is quite secure as a consequence.

Erigeron ochroleucus
I know that for most people, daisies are just daisies--but I have a special fondness for the genus Erigeron which must have its greatest concentration of species in the Rockies. Adding a new one to my "life list" is a treat--this was my first sighting of this graceful fleabane, which enchanted me so I shall inflict many pictures of it upon you! Just wait...

Eriogonum pauciflorum--slightly pinkish clone
 Although there is great diversity of plants on such bunneries, part of the appeal for me is seeing the same plant reappear in different guises and forms depending on the aspect it grows, its companions and siting: You will see many more of this buckwheat--but looking quite different!

A cairn
 There are several handsome cairns--I have an irrational fondness for these simple, functional sculptures.

From a distance the bunnery can look stark
The counterpoint of intricate plant tapestry in the foreground, the rocky outcrop in the distance and mellow countryside further out never ceases to delight...You are welcome to watch TV instead, however. This is my World Cup competition!

But as you look closer all sorts of wonderful tiny plants are encrusted therein! Any help on the composite? (Yes, I know, it's a DYC--but I happen to like them).

More dramatic slopes encrusted with steppe gems...

Stenotus acaulis, cunningly placed.
The tufts of plants are lovely, of course, but the outcrops above enhance them: the secret alchemy of rock gardens (wild or contrived)...

Eriogonum pauciflorum
I can't get enough of the Eriogonum: I grew the subspecies nebraskense for years at my Eudora garden--bloomed all summer.

Erigeron ochroleucus
I love the way the fleabane is tucked below the boulder here...

Erigeron sp.
What a contrast with the orange and yellow lichens! Would these would grow for us in gardens...

Erigeron ochroleucus

Stenotus acaulis
I never tire of this little gem, which I have seen from the alpine heights of the Sierra Nevada of California across virtually every Western State--endlessly variable throughout.
Eriogonum ovalifolium (different subspecies)
A distinctive (if rather gangly) form of one of the most wonderful of all buckwheats.

Rocks and plants in combos everywhere
You would raise eyebrows were you to put this in your rock garden (the rocks I mean). The Artemisia between the tufts of fleabane is A. tripartita var. rupicola--one of the tiniest and most wonderful of that very special genus. I neglected to take a closeup--alas.

Retreat Center in the distance

A bevy of wildflowers
I pity the poor souls addicted to humidity: the steppe--even in the heat of summer--provides such rich, Rembrandtian color combinations.

Eriogonum ovalifolium in a crevice this time...

Very spiny Opuntia polyacantha
I never tire of prickly pears. They are so variable in spination, flower and fruit.

 Tetraneuris acaulis with E. ovalifolium
I love to see the way my favorite plants combine....

Different views of the retreat center at every bend, with Stenotus in foreground
Another combo--with melting vistas beyond. Aaaaaaah....
A wild rock garden
With a view beyond: this "vista and vignette" of rock gardens is only part of their magic.

Arenaria hookeri
It may be ubiquitous in the Intermountain region (and Great Plains for that matter), but Hooker's sandwort is one of our classics!
Retreat Center from the hillside
Retreat center in the distance. What a place!

I wish I knew which fescue this is--it would be a very interesting addition to a dryland garden...

Labyrinth at the Retreat Center
Jay Moody created (with great care and determination) a remarkable Labyrinth with stones--here seen from far away. One of the many unique and interesting features of the Center.

Eriogonum pauciflorum
More buckwheats...

Eriogonum pauciflorum
I can't stop myself...
Eriogonum pauciflorum
How different it looks perched on this mound of scree! You want me to eliminate this picture?

Eriogonum pauciflorum
Or this closeup of the last?

Eriogonum pauciflorum
And even a tad closer...

Arenaria hookeri
The sandwort--up close and personal!

Arenaria hookieri
A tad further away...
Arenaria hookieri
And here with the vista background: how can I pick?

Opuntia polyacantha with different colored blossom buds
I will never understand people who don't love prickly pears....they're a tad prickly, of course--but such grizzly charm!
Caryl Shields and a cairn
Caryl is a Colorado gardener and naturalist- we have visited some great places together in recent years.. We were joined by John Brink...another fine rock gardener and old friend.

Expansive views of the steppe--misty with forest fire smoke from Idaho

Opuntia polyacantha with two blooms closing in the late afternoon

Another view of the ridge towards the Retreat Center
Heart Mountain stands misty at left center: it stood out crisply two days before..
Cryptantha thyrsiflora
Widespread across the Southern Rockies as well, this bristly borage stands out in the backlight...

Cryptantha thyrsiflora
A different view of the same--amazing how the angle changes the look.

Uncommonly colorful rock on the hillside. Even if there were no vascular plants to look at, the scenery and lichened rocks would make the trip worthwhile.

Silhoette statue of Christ bearing a cross
Primarily for Anglican religious retreats, there are a few simple reminders here and there of the Retreats principal focus. I have always admired the Episcopal Church for its liberality of spirit combined with reverence for tradition--an powerful synergy.
Shadow of sculpture
Love the shadow of the Silhoette.

Restful gardens in the Retreat center
I have grown very fond of this Retreat Center after two visits now: The views are charming at all times, of course, and this wonderful steppe bunnery to the South is compelling. The wonderful accommodations and the delicious food, of course. But the magicians who make this spot so special are a couple, Jay and Connie Moody, who manage the Center.

Jay and Connie Moody
I have incredibly never taken a picture of these two in their native habitat (and natives they are too--Connie from Cody and Jay from nearby in Meteetse)--but I did catch them when they visited the Botanic Gardens last autumn.

Golden columbines (Aquilegia chrysantha)
The last few pix capture a little of the calm beauty with which they have surrounded themselves...
Shady back garden

Spent Inky Cap mushroom

Peony in late June

Colorful corner in the back yard

And a portable container garden.
Can't wait to get back!


  1. I have seen Eriogonum pauciflorum once in the badlands of Nebraska. It looks fitting in it's habitat, but I think I will have to stick with smaller species in my little rock garden. I was wondering what fabacea, Oxytropis?, was in the out of focus picture of the Arenaria? Possibly O. multiceps. And what are those creatures in the background of the photo above the caption "How different it looks perched on this mound of scree?"


  2. The creatures in the background you ask about, James, are Llamas that are allowed to browse (I believe they belong to neighbors). They don't seem to hurt the native vegetation.

    I blush at my out-of-focus Arenaria--didn't examine it carefully. The Fabaceae is an Astragalus, not an Oxytropis: possibly a compact form of besseyi? There was besseyi around there...

    1. Llamas seem fitting in this habitat. I would not be embarrassed by the one picture having the Arenaria out of focus. Especially, considering the caption indicates you had done this on purpose to emphasize the vista in the background.


  3. I have never been to Wyoming- thanks for the tour! I love to see how things grow in other parts of the US as well as how things grow naturally. Beautiful collection of photos!


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