Monday, October 27, 2014

Harper Ferry rock wall art (...discern/ upon the rough gray wall a rare wall fern. Pale Fire, Canto 3 line 605/5)

Woodsia obtusa
 I doubt that a woodsia qualifies as rare--in reference to the quote above from Vladimir Nabokov's stunning Pale Fire. But this was the first time I'd seen it in the wild ten days ago at Harper's Ferry (hence the first part of this blog's title--you see it all makes sense!)

Stylophorum diphyllum
I was astonished to see the parking locked jammed with cars on a weekday in the off season, and the busses ferrying the people to the town gave its name fresh meaning. I had no idea it was such a tourist destination--and these were all American tourists--not like Washington where most are Chinese nationals nowadays! Oh yes, there were walls: I gravitate to walls to see what's growing on them, and wasn't disappointed at Harper's Ferry--these were old walls for the train along the Shenandoah river--and they were full of goodies. This must be about as far East as the Greater Celandine grows--and here it was on a wall! Wish it were still blooming...

Pellaea (atropurpurea?)
 This would have been a better candidate for Nabokov's wall fern--rarer than the Woodsia, but not exactly rare. I presume we're looking at Pellaea atropurpurea, although there might have been a few P. glabella var. glabella mixed in here. I grow them both, and should know the difference--I'm pretty sure they're all atropurpurea. It was abundant and my camera kept snapping without my permission!

MORE Pellaea atropurpurea
 I've seen this only once in Colorado, in Baca county, and I imagine that I might have seen it once at Owl Canyon north of Fort Collins (or maybe I just dreamed that I did). Where I have seen it best was at Biltmore, filling the mortar between the stones in the incomparable Potager there (you have to look between the branches of the espalier to see them--or at least you had to 33 years ago--the last time I visited the spot. For all I know, they may have been removed. (I doubt it)). My clumps at home are mighty snazzy too--perhaps I'll include pictures of them the next time I do a piece on my garden. But seeing them in the wild is best of all.

Viola sororia
 This looks suspiciously like the common garden violet--but my initial misidentification was corrected within the first few hours this blog was posted by "Anonymous"--do give me your name and I'll give you credit!

More Pellaea. I could never tire of these.
I love the dark green of the new frond curling up from between the blue older ones. This is the sort of recondite pleasure only rock gardeners can really fully appreciate...

Aster oblongifolius and Solidago and severed trunks of Paulownia
 I know the Aster is now probably classed as a different genus, and I'm only stabbing at the name--a foolish thing to do there are so many out east. But it looked a lot like 'Raydon's Favorite' which was in every garden I visited in the Atlantic Seaboard. Note the stubs of herbicide-killed Paulownia. Such a weed!
More aster, more violet.

Bouncing Bet (Saponaria offiinalis)
 I have a fondness for this rambunctious ruderal so common around farmsteads across America. Who ever thought it was a wall plant--notice the fern below it!

More woodsia

More woodsia

Heuchera sp. 

 I suspect it's just Heuchera micrantha, but without flowers one can't be sure.

And a mystery Solanum sp.
Sedum sarmentosum
 When we strolled back onto the city, we found more things on rocky spots like this East Asian weed--watch out if you put this in a garden setting where it can swamp out everything, but it was rather fetching on the rock. I have a pretty good story about this plant...another time.
Catholic church
 There is more to see in Harper's Ferry than just plants and walls. I was especially taken with this amazing church on the crest of a hill in town.

The Potomac at Harper's Ferry
 The view of the larger river just above the junction of the Potomac and the Shenandoah--not far from Thomas Jefferson's favorite vantage point.
There were several old bridges--no doubt left over from flood events. Fall color just beginning...

Avant Garde rock garden
As a rock gardener, it wouldn't do if I didn't share this lollapalooza of a rock garden. The Czechs have NOTHing like this. It appeared that these were not cemented--quite a tour-de-force to have them dry stacked like this. They don't seem to be sprouting any ferns yet, so I shall have to come back again some time and see how these have fared. Yes, I know my lens has a smudge.

My thanks to Jim Dronenburg and Dan Weil for hosting us (they live just a few miles nearby) and
Leonard Foltz and Fred Weisensee who drove and accompanied Jan and me that enchanting autumn day.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Fusion Garden...Italy + Japan = gorgeous!

Bill Barnes (right) at Colibraro Nursery in Horsham, Pennsylvania (suburb of Philadelphia)--Mike Colibraro (the manager) standing between Bill and Acer rufinerve in spectacular fall color!
The modest fellow in the center of the picture above is the Fusion artist: lifelong gardener and manager of a magnificent nursery filled with treasures, Mike has a secret garden at home that represents a lifetime of love and plantsmanship. My wretched pictures, taken in late fall, hardly do justice to Mike's remarkable fusion of Japanese-style garden techniques with his Italian sensibility (he was born and reared in Calabria before coming to America). Mike is one of the most sophisticated (speaks English, Italian, French and Spanish fluently), erudite (reads and thinks voraciously) and gentle, kind souls I have ever met. I know he will squirm at my pictures and putting his garden on display (he does have a lot of visitors, so it's not TOO much an imposition). I've visited twice now--in late winter and fall. I yearn to see the garden in high spring and summer next (and yes, in winter too!). It's a gem.

If you persevere through my mediocre pix to the end, I think you will still manage to gauge the magnitude of Michael's accomplishment. He has not only blended Occidental and Oriental modes in his garden, he has employed every trick in the book to magically transform a small city lot into a vast wonderland of never ending garden art.
Near the entrance
Right off the bat I was flummoxed by this variegated vine...which Michael informed me is actually an espaliered Cornus Kousa "Gold Heart"!

Extravagant succulent container
Succulent containers are all the rage--but have you ever seen one like this? In a marble container, with all the plants just so?

Another succulent extravaganza....
Puto and boxwood
In this corner the garden waxes more traditional, the sort of garden you'd expect from an Italian immigrant (although the Tinantia erecta popping up on the right hand corner adumbrates something unique)...

A closeup view of said Tinantia erecta
I was surprised to see this popping up here and there all over Michael's garden: a plant I have always thought of as subtropical. I saw it in several Potomac Valley gardens the following week--it's apparently hardy in the Mid-Atlantic states, despite its Central American origins. Something to learn every day!-
Tovara (Polygonum) virginiana in a wonderfully variegated form
The happenstance of self sown gems in the cracks everywhere (always the best forms) are a hallmark of stellar gardeners. I'd never seen this extravagant form of our underappreciated native knotweed.

Pot whimsy
You have to get that this is a rather compact garden: the numbers and varieties of containers artfully tucked everywhere make the garden seem vast however. The run the gamut from these amazing pewter colored sculptures...
Aroid and ferns
To this simple gray stone-like container brimming with perfectly contrasting foliage forms.

Clerodendron trichotomum v. fargesii
Despite the masses of fragrant white flowers in summer and these riveting seedpods in autumn, this glorious Chinese shrub is still little seen in gardens.

Some pots don't NEED flowers in them...

I've seen many a hypertufa trough, but never would have thought to perch them on an Ionic column...and use them to show off such a lovely piece of driftwood (one pot you never have to worry about watering!)
Talinum paniculatum 'Kingwood Gold'
I have a hunch this lovely Talinum jumped out of the pot and now persists from self-sown seed in the cracks of the walk (one could do a book on Michael's "crack" plants)

A longer glimpse
Although the Colibraro garden is chockablock full of gorgeous vignettes, you do get long views from many vantage points. Michael had not planned on my visiting at all this day, so he would be abashed that I show the garden before he'd "picked up" and readied it...I thought it looked perfect nonetheless..

Begonia evansiana
This is far from rare in Eastern plantsmen's gardens, but I only know of this at DBG here in Colorado where I established it years ago. I need some for MY garden!

Asarum splendens
Another popular ginger on the East Coast that's proved challenging in Denver (we're a tad colder than Philly perhaps. Isn't it beautifully grown here?

Rustic stone pathway
Although on a modest lot, Michael the Magician has made it seem vast by compartmentalizing, capitalizing on every square inch of space, and different paving materials in each garden room.

Intimate garden rooms
Compare the paving in this space--which is designed for showing off bonsai, outdoor eating and barbecues.

Streptocarpella 'Concord Blue'
Many house plants enjoy growing in the garden during the growing season.

Another plant of the Streptanthella
 You can always tell that a gardener loves a plant: there are always replicates around of the faves!

The bonsai speak for themselves!

More bonsai, and a bowl full of glitter...never know what you find.

The white flowered pelargonium makes a fine contrast to the stolid olive and conifers.
Pelargonium cv. closeup

A demonstrative echeveria helps demarcate two garden rooms. Note the different paving materials.

A small hosta wonderfully showcased.

Obviously, Michael was not aware we were coming--I suspect he'd be mortified that I photographed the pots doing obeisance to the Buddha, but I rather liked the idea...

Japanese painted fern nestling under a pot with a sedum groundcover.

If I'm not mistaken, that's a Japanese umbrella (Sciadopitys verticillata) pine with a toad lily at its feet.

Closeup of the toadlily (Tricyrtis)
Quercus dentata 'Pinnatifida'

Begonia grandis (evansiana) 'Alba'

Green rooflet

MORE bonsai

More container plants and sculpture

Chamaecyparis bonsai

Bonsai corner

Daphne odora (variegated) and ferns in a corner

Container on a high

Vistas galore

Vista and vignettes..

Arachnoides standishii
I love this fern: I wonder if it would be hardy for me? I also love the dramatic contrast with Asarum europeum on the left and the Hosta on the right.
Begonia evansiana (grandis) pink
In the Ground...

Begonia evansiana (grandis) in a pot

Pelargonium cv.
Perhaps not the rarest plant--and an annual to boot--but what a color! Michael doesn't deign the common if it is special in some way.
Elegant wood
Even the stems of plants seem more graceful here than usual...

Ledebouria socialis
What delightful staging on a small plant of this South African Scilla: I'd give it a prize!

Camellia cv.
Somehow, when I think "Philadelphia", Camellia doesn't leap to mind. Isn't this a stunning color?

Every corner seems to have something nifty tucked into it: what is that white flower anyway?

Agave victoria-reginae in a very brightly variegated form.
It may be small, and in a plastic pot, but even this young succulent seems to already have a bit of a canter and attitude--it knows it's in Colibraro land!

Variegated American agave mounted upon a glorious Ionic column: makes my Achaean heart beat a tad faster!

Wonderfully shaped Juniper on the wall

Most people don't fill their hell strips with interesting perennials, nor do they place their mail boxes in an attractive rusty armature with a pot enclosed.

Michael is one in a million--a gentleman, scholar and gardener extraordinaire. I feel privileged to have visited his garden twice. Can't wait to get back again!

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