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.


  1. The violet might be V. sororia. The easiest way to distinguish V. odorata from V. sororia is V. odorata has stolons. Incidentally, having Violets in your lawn is a good reason not to broadcast herbicide. I spot spray the dandelions to save the violets.

    I do like the rock work in the last picture. Making it must be like playing Jenga with rocks.

  2. I bet it is V. sororia, thank you Anonymous for your correction! I do hope they didn't use cement on that rock work you allude to--but didn't want to test those rock stacks to be sure...

  3. "Stylophorum" looks a bit like Chelidonius majus

  4. Self correction - "Stylophorum" looks a bit like Chelidonium majus


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