Monday, August 25, 2014

New found gems in New found land...

Glaucidium palmatum 'Album' at the botanic g=Garden in Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's,

I'm in a Starbucks not far from Atlanta Botanical Garden on the 25 of August: I doubt if it's 80F outside right now with a gentle, almost autumnal breeze: you can hardly blame me for revisiting May and the cool breezes of Newfoundland. I know I've milked that trip endlessly on behalf of Nova Scotia (where a sizeable chunk of my heart has been left behind), and I did touch very briefly upon the glories of Newfoundland alpines (you're supposed to click on that bolded phrase to access the URL for my blog, get it?)...but it would be wrong if I left that trip float into the past without sharing a few pix from the wonderful botanic garden in St. John's. Beginning with that mind-boggling clump of the rare Japanese Glaucidium.

I show this charming window box filled with tulips and narcissi to stress how late the season was: I was there the end of May: they'd never had such a tardy spring: but what fun it was to revisit all the bulbs we'd seen pass weeks earlier! Spring is often a tardy affair in Newfoundland, but so then is Autumn--which can stretch almost to Christmas.
Primula 'Betty Greer'
Everything at this garden seems to proliferate: the primroses all formed masses in the cool climate in which they most revel to grow....

There are many neatly laid out bveds--and of course, most of the summer annuals and veggies and even perennials were not in evidence: they'd just had a hard frost a few weeks before, but you could see that they were about to rush into activity!

"What" you may ask "is this strange picture about?" Well...look carefully and you will see a sizeable crater caused by a MOOSE! They have many critters who wander through at will: I can assure you standing next to a curator when he's just noticed moose tracks through a bed of treasures is almost as alarming as it is entertaining in a cruel, sadistic sort of way (forgive me Todd..). I learned several salty and quaint Newfy curses that afternoon.

I love the old logo and the name that used to be bandied about: I never heard anyone hereabouts using it--I suspect that its been "rebranded" away: More's the pity. I may be a pinko politically, but when it comes to names and horticultural traditions I'm a die hard Tory.

 Boy, would I love to see these veggie beds today in August: they were beautiful in their spring promise! Everythings so tidy there!

It's obvious that the Optimist club has a large and enthusiastic contingent in Newfoundland: just LOOk at all those tomatoes! I can only imagine the caniptions they leap through to get them to ripen...I have no idea how to spell caniption (the spell check doesn't like my spelling): I will be curious if anyone actually reads this blog and can come to the aid of my spelling.

I should expunge this picture from the Blog: I only took it to remind myself to swap germplasm on this Alchemilla, which we grow as saxatilis but which is sold as alpina. I love this thing and have been struggling to get it into Plant Select for years without luck. I'm curious if there's and our's are identical (if so, it has to be a winner to do so well in two such different climates). Now you've caught a glimpse of the tortuous workings of my feverish mind...

More crisp, promising beds: when an unplanted garden looks good you know you have talent in the works...

I was stunned by the health, rubustness, vigor and just plain beauty of the border in spring: the clumps of perennials--just look at them--are incredibly thick and uniform and healthy. I can tell you that right now they will be a riot of color: but a garden even in the "off season" that has such crisp beauty is the real test.

Closer looks at the vigorous perennials, all cleaned up and ready for summer...

Our "queen of the meadows" doesn't look like this: it forms wispy little tufts: this is an army by comparison!

The rock garden, constructed by Bernard Jackson (q.v. my encomium) just before all heck breaks out. The attractive mats, mounds and rocks combined just so are a tributre to his fantastic eye for design, but also to the continuing talents of his successors like Todd Boland. This garden has been a perfect storm of excellence!

One of the many heath, heather and rhody beds. The less said by me the better: I am extremely fond of Ericaceae, and they love the Maritimes of Canada. And I'm very jealous...

Look how lusty and lustrous the conifers and mats and cushions of the rock garden are: this is year around gardening at its best!

I can't believe they can grow 'Cole's Prostrate' hemock in the full sun. I can't believe that Bolax glebaria--the wonderful Astroturf plants of the southern hemisphere, loves it so well here. And what lovely rock mulch. It has my seal of approval, believe me!

Just get a gander at the lichens on the rock. The less said the better--this is an amazing garden.

They'd just had two really tough winters--and look how happy and robust and healthy the rhodies are. It's a good thing I like Liz Klose their Director and Todd, my old rock garden buddy....

Speaking of Todd, here he is: in addition to being a stalwart researcher here, helping with curation, design and who knows what else, he has authored a sizeable "oeuvre" of books about the plants of the Maritimes that is eating up more and more of a bookshelf at my house. He's really a star of North American horticulture who's not gotten a tithe of the acknowledgement he deserves. He is also an enthusiastic and widely traveled birder who's been all over the world in pursuit of the critters who eat my plants. He is a superb lecturer, and a mensch. If you've not had him speak, your local garden is all the poorer for it.

Yet more borders, bursting with fresh buds and growth: this really is one of my favorite times in the garden--although the blowsy summer would no doubt impress more.

Look at the bark on this tree which I photographed to remind me of something: since I've said all those flattering things about Todd, I'm hoping he'll fill us in (check back on this blog in a week or so and the name may magically appear in the caption!) [Just as I thought my trusty friend's checked in: this is Laburnum X vossii.]

More lush borders and one of the relatively small staff who keeps this enormous garden in tip-top shape. I think We "United Statesers" could learn a lot from our fellow "Americans" up north. (National nomenclature is a subject of discussion outside our borders).

The alpine house had lots of permanent denizens: the nature and the way they manage this feature is absolutely fascinating: you don't pay me enough to delve into the details--but like much else at this botanic garden it is ingenious, effective and economical.

Not a lot in bloom yet--but what's here is healthy and lovely.

A beautiful form of Bergenia ciliata--one of my all time favorite plants. I shall not elaborate because I might go on for pages...

More views of the alpine house--you can count the number of alpine houses in the United States on a single hand. And that with digits missing. European botanical gardens bristle with them: another way in which we lag further behind (real patriots look to see how to improve their country rather than just crow about it in ignorance).

Salix calcicola--a rare plant in Colorado...and a wonderful plant in their garden!

This garden is full of sexy willows: and I was fortunate to be there at their peak of bloom. Woo hooo!

Closeup of a wonderful crevice garden created bvy Todd.

What a beautiful pasqueflower: forgot to write the name. Todd! Come to the rescue! [Todd did: it's P. pratensis 'Nigricans']

                                    Pulsatilla pratensis 'Nigricans' from another angle.

Another view of their endemic willow. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. We can't import it without enormous grief. Such are the joys of the new order created by bureacrats and busybodies--(not that I have an opinion on the matter!).

Here Todd is demonstrating that crevice gardens are excellent for yoga practice: every Yoga studio should have one for their students to have in order to perform the "rock hip tilt"--the excellent strengthener of pelvic joints.

In addition to providing leadership, their CEO provides these imaginative antique crystal flowers she fashions from trophies she finds at Thrift stores. I find this charming. Liz Kloze (her name) is a gracious hostess and seems to be a wise leader who empowers her staff as well as inspiring them.

I was thrilled to find Epigaea repens growing naturally on their site--and especially pleased that they've gone to great lengths to keep it happy. I was disappointed that the flowers had just gone over and I missed the spicy sweet fragrance--one of the sweetest I've ever smelled.

More heaths and heathers...there can never be enough in my opinion! Especially in these wonderful maritime places.

A parting shot of the alpine house and rock garden. You don't have to be a rock gardener to notice that the finest gardens: Edinburgh, New York Botanical Garden, Frankfurt, Munich, Kew, the University of British Columbia's botanic garden, Gothenburg, Wurzburg all have magnificent rock gardens and alpine houses. And many other botanic gardens that I've not mentioned or visited. As for the rest of you duffers, get off your butts and put some in!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celebrating Marpa! Forty great years.


 Marpa Landscaping celebrated 40 years of creating beautiful gardens across America last Saturday. We were privileged to join that celebration--here we are entering the magic garden that was virtually wiped out in last year's floods, and has been nourished back better than ever in time for this party!

Late afternoon light filtering through Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra')
Many years ago I thought there were "Japanese" gardens, focused entirely on the scene where plants were nothing but paints to create a Zen-like state of contemplation. And then there were flower gardens, which are all about color and interest. Then I came to know Marpa Landscaping, and Martin Mosko, its principal. I remember watching the trucks with Marpa logos driving around Boulder when I was a relative youngster (not to give away my age)--little knowing that Martin, his wife Alxe and their company would become one of the touchstones of my professional life, and dear friends. Marpa has perfected the contemplative garden (in fact they wrote a book about it!--click on the link and see!), but filled those gardens with intimate, colorful details that would grace a cottage garden. Their wonderful home garden (virtually destroyed last September) illustrates this remarkable fusion of Oriental and Western views.

From a distance the various forms are calming and harmonious--but look at the dramatic color contrasts in shrubs, groundcovers and dwarf trees--that offer lively interest in winter as well!

A large pond filled with Koi and various water plants adds drama and appeal to any landscape and Marpa is no exception!

There were huge deposits of debris and much of the garden was washed away less than a year ago: it's amazing to see how quickly the new plants are filling in--and there is something charming about the dotted plantings of groundcovers that will only too quickly blend into one.

Martin is a master of contrast--the subtle contrasts in textures everywhere, the contrast of gnarly shrubs and trees and soft groundcovers, with rocks and a wonderful range of greens...

More glimpses of trees and vistas.

There are numerous handsome specimens, like this Chinese Table Pine (Pinus tabuliformis)

Japanese maples thrive in Boulder's cooler climate--and more neutral soils.

I believe this is a California strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) which I haven't seen used elsewhere in Colorado at all. A wonderful, lustrous dark green. I must remember to ask for some divisions!

Late afternoon is restful and evocative in any garden: at Marpa it's sublime!

Jan and I felt lucky to be included with the many dozens of old friends, associates and customers that the Moskos included in the list: despite the crowd, the garden swallowed us up! It felt intimate and welcoming.

Another view of the Japanese grass and the contrasting view...Just realized I don't have any blood grass! I must find a spot to do this on a modest scale!

The mass of waterlilies are wonderful, but it's the reflective empty space of the water that makes it work: as Lao-tzu observes, it's not the bowl, but the hole in the bowl that is useful"...

The occasional splash of color, like this lily in the ice plant, makes the calm green spaces all the more eloquent.

I will enjoy watching these new perennial groundcover beds develop: Martin has developed an obsession with Sempervivum: yay!

A reader of the blog has saved me the effort of looking up the Kanji I was unsure of: Mason Brown informs us that the characters transliterate as "Haku bai ji", which translates as "White plum temple".

The host with guests

And here Martin is pointing out something very interesting...wish I knew what it was!

Yes...that is one of the desert tables on the left...if you know me, you know I couldn't resist. Not only was there good company, good food--but a magical evening of poetry and music. Marpa has always done things in style...

Another glimpse of the festivities: the food was delicious!

Chairs and views beckoned in every direction...

The waterlilies were amazing!

I'm a sucker for backlighting through grasses...but then, who isn't?

I can only imagine what these Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola') will look like in a year or more ribboning through the purple Heuchera.

It is worth doing a bit of sleuthing if you're not a Buddhist scholar to learn about the mythic figure, Marpa Lotsawa, who inspired this Landscaping firm. Hovering beyond the haunting landscapes they create there is a whole other world deeply rooted in spirituality, a world we could sense almost tangibly last Saturday. Happy Birthday, Marpa!

*I here re-enter the link to Marpa Landscaping I started this blog posting with--knowing that you may have glossed over it. Do browse their website and sample the work the Martin, Luke Sanzone, Alxe and their remarkable cohorts have done: perhaps the most lavish and wonderful gardens I've seen not just in Colorado, but in the World. You should know their work.

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