Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Caraway day!

Carum carvi

[CAVEAT: Do click on the pix: for some reason, Blogspot is making the pictures blurry unless you click. Click twice and you can zoom in on various parts of the pictures. I must be uploading too large of files--sorry!]

Treading gently to avoid the obvious pun, I begin (and end) this shortish blog with shots from the Wet Mountain Valley, one of Colorado's many magical and less visited corners: that's the backbone of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the distance, that have only one paved pass (La Veta) that traverses them at their only "low" point at 9,426' (2,873 m). Most of the spine of the Sangres stays above 12,000' for a hundred miles and more--with only a few hideous four wheel drive roads approaching the divide (but not the Continental Divide--which swerves far to the West on to the La Garitas and San Juans.) Colorado is a very cool place.
Cirsium scariosum ssp coloradoensis
On the way TO the Wet Mountains, north of Walsenburg we stopped at one foothills locale that was full of interesting flowers. This thistle may strike terror in the hearts of some gardeners, but it's not an exotic or weedy one by any means--in fact, it's possibly tricky to grow like many of our native thistles: this is one of relatively few plants with my native state's epithet--so I can't help but be rather fond of it.
A closer view of the "Scary" thistle. "Scarious" actually means "dry and membraceous" in Latin (usually referring to bract margins or leaves)--one of those words that only botanists know or bandy. I suppose I'd rather by scary than scarious.

Astragalus shortianus
This is one of our commoner Great Plains milk vetches: there are nearly a thousand taxa in this genus in the West--so one prides oneself on recognizing any of them!

Hyjmenopappus filifolius
A relatively small but widespread genus of composites--only one of which is very showy (H. newberryi which has large white petaloid ray flowers--which in fact grows hereabouts but we didn't stumble on it this trip).

Leptodactylon pungens
There are showier prickly phlox--but I even like this squinny species. The petals spread open at night.

Erigeron caespitosus
A wonderful and widespread fleabane....

Oxytropis lambertii
One of our commonest and showiest locoweeds was scattered hereabout...

Penstemon auriberbis
And then we saw our first lavender penstemon--this one an endemic of the region (largely restricted to the Arkansas river drainage of Colorado). The "golden beard" it's named for is a delightful feature. It has not proved to be one of the longer lived penstemons even in troughs. It's close relative in New Mexico nearby (P. jamesii) with wider leaves and larger flowers is likewise ephemeral for us...

Soon we came across a whole meadow filled with the lovely lavender penstemon...

Thelesperma filifolium
One of my favorite composites was blooming nearby--this threadleaf cousin to Coreopsis blooms on and off all growing season--a flush of bloom soon after a rain.

We drove further north, and took a short detour as we entered the Wet Mountain valley to where Mike Bone and Larry Vickerman had seen some yellow ladyslippers along an irrigation ditch in the scene depicted in the very first shot--those meadows dominated with Caraway (Carum carvi)...

Maianthemum (Smilacina) stellatum
Finally we climb higher onto the Wet Mountain valley--the vast hayfields stretching around us (many white with Caraway in full bloom by the countless acre). Along one irrigation ditch the starry false solomon's seal was thick (It'll take a while to get used to its new Latin name). This is a common liliaceous woodlanders all over the country, I know, and spreads in the garden like a weed--but I love it anyway!

And finally, the ladyslipper--which I showed earlier this year in a posting I did on ladyslippers in the wild: but  I didn't show this picture at that time (you see, I always hold something back for the winter months! Clever old chap, don't you agree?)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

North Carolina Arboretum near Asheville (Part 3)

I've already posted two rather longish blogs about this arboretum: and now a third? Well--it is a big place (400 acres!), and the terrain is hilly and the architecture grand throughout. There are enough cool plants to justify this focus: and the maintenance of the facility and collections is terrific. I have to say that part of the reason I seem to obsess is because he setting, the scope and the status it already has are such that it could be poised to make a great mark on American Horticulture: what's missing at this point is publicity and a more visible research and public engagement function--which could easily come about with the right new staff. Kelly Norris at Des Moines Botanical garden is the perfect example of the dynamic impact a personality can have on an institution: Kelly's put Des Moines on the Horticultural map in just a year or two! Although I have no doubt Kelly's got a terrific team to work with (and CEO Stephanie Jutila has been orchestrating effectively behind the scenes!) the catalytic impact of a driven visionary plantsman is key to the short or long term success of a botanical garden.

These long borders of perennials and annuals look so good after our arctic blast last week!

The lichened trunks on the shrubs speak to the growing venerability of this garden
I made note (and lost it) of what these multitrunked trees (shrubs) were--but I'm a sucker for lichens. I recall that this Arboretum was started after I'd begun my own career--so we're not talking centuries here--but trees and shrubs grow quickly in North Carolina, and there's obviously humidity here!

The keen gardeners I met educated me to the extent that microclimates prevail around Asheville--there's a significant difference in temperatures and rain/snowfall depending on aspect and especially the location--due to prevailing storm patterns: a factor of almost two from one place to the next: such is the power of mountains!

Schizachyrium scoparium
It never ceases to surprise me how widespread and adaptable little bluestem is: the USDA map (q.v.) shows that it grows in practically every state, and all Canadian provinces south of the Arctic--except for Oregon and Nevada. If I were a resident of those two states, I'd go find a promising hill at middle elevations and show me some bluestem seed pronto!I think it merits "National Grass" status--although if Obama proposed it, I can pretty much guarantee the House and Senate would vote it down!

More elegant interpretation--here of the Quilt Garden (See next slide)

I showed a number of panels of this garden in the previous blog post I did on NCA--but this one shows the viewing stand where I took some of those pix (and where you get the "intended" view of the quilt. Here Carpet bedding has been literally raised to plain bedding, if you can forgive the exerable paranomasia.

Why did I take this picture? The lush pots are nice enough--oh yes--that gray flagstone: love it!\

Hibiscus coccineus: on of America's great wildflowers

There are those who are crazy about poppies, and those who are nuts about hibiscus. Some of us are fond of both groups! This wonderful giant perennial, with leaves like marijuana and these outlandish spidery huge crazy red flowers--can't believe we don't have it at Denver Botanic Gardens yet!

They even put Mallows on their banners!

Another of those enormous allees! They're ready for throngs here!
We could have used a few miles of these vast allees at Denver Botanic Gardens this year to accommodate our way over a million visitors (who filled our paths and made it hard to get by all over the gardens from opening to closing). I luxuriated in these empty ones (although I did wish to see a FEW more people on them!)...
Celosia argentea var. cristata

Contrast between the architecture and well grown annuals (like this scarlet coxcomb Amaranth) that invite a closeup look--part of the charm of Gardens.

And the luxury of lawns and distant views of hills...

If you don't have flowers handy, you can always put up a banner with sunflowers...

Lagerstroemia 'Natchez'
Here we are quite high in the hills of the Appalachians, and crepe myrtles are hardy--with no damage even after the notorious Polar Vortex winter...we have to try these here in Denver!

You can see the flowers were starting...

Here beautifully sited surrounded by sensual grasses

And a view from further away--I find it fascinating to see plants in different contexts and distances...

How's this for an interesting play of shape and form? The Pennisetum is twice as nice thanks to the meatballs.

Who comes up with these names: "Bunny Blue"? I've never seen a blue rabbit!

The obligatory green roof--here a rather rustic one (which I enjoyed...)

The grand lawn alongside the greenhouses

Tipularia discolor

And now we're in the woods! Having an Arboretum is a good thing: having that arboretum cocooned, as it were, in a vast forest of extraordinary biodiversity--well, that's just peachy! Finding a new wildflower (and an orchid to boot) for the first time--now that's the bee's knees! You may be getting a sense of what a lovely day I had at the North Carolina Arboretum: late summer--warm but not hot--a gentle breeze. Great views, architecture, flowers: I call that Heaven!

More Tipularia. What a great name...what the hell does it mean?

Goodyera pubescens
ANOTHER dadburned orchid--in this case the Rattlesnake Plantain (great common name)...although I've seen this before (not quite so rare)...(Thank you James for the correction)...

I love ferns (in this case a bevy of dryopterids I think--should have looked more closely). Colorado has over sixty kinds of Pteridophytes, and you can drive from one end to the other and not see one. One of the many reasons I enjoy going East!

I love the seedling Sassafras and oaks--so cute and small and portable--surely they could spare a few (no I didn't dig them up: I don't do that sort of thing...).

I walked quite a way through the woods--lovely big paths here too! Wish I'd seen just a few more walkers..

A young planting of Arizona cypress--I'm surprised that this Southwestern tree does so well in the East.

Some dramatic clumps of Switch grass liven up an out of the way grassy bank. Nice tough.

Liatris sp.? or was it Lobelia?
There were a number of "pocket" prairies tucked here and there that had to be deliberate since they were full of cool plants. Lobelia siphylitica now that I look more clearly (thanks for corroboration, James!)

Another pocket prairie

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)
I realize this is just a weedy little Senna, but I love the Partridge Pea--I must see if I can locate seed--we need a weed as pretty as this!

Ripe fruit on the Hawthorn
Late summer is definitely the season of fruiting trees... 

What an aristocratic parking lot planting: Franklinia altamaha--in full bloom no less!

Any Arboretum that fills its parking lot with a plant that is extinct in the wild deserves three blogs! I would love to come back in April one day and see the woods full of their ephemerals, and enjoy the spring blooming perennials and flowering trees. Here's hoping they glom on to a great Plantsman soon, and that they don't get too crazy a marketer in there who will try to turn it into a garish Cathedral. Botanic gardens tread a fine line, and so far North Carolina Arboretum has tread it like and acrobat!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Prose poem: "The house on the hill with a view"

Hang in there....[I get deep quick in this short Post (just one picture [can you believe it?]!): I promise it's worth it if you can untangle a few baroque threads of thought]. For as long as I can remember, I have marveled at this house on a hill a mile or two east of the Clifton cutoff (on Highway 141) Just east of Highway 50 just south of Grand Junction heading back towards Palisade. If that sentence made sense to you, you're a bona-fide slopey and deserve an extra box of overripes next August (you'll know what I mean)...

How far back do I remember? Forty years minimum it's been since Paul Maslin taught me about this cut-off that saves at least half an hour when you're tooling north alongside the Gunnison river which is headed that direction. You've just passed Whitewater where 141 goes West towards Gateway (another long story--that haunting canyon where the Gunnison once raged).

Back to the house: I've decided it's a symbol of Civilization: we've plunked ourselves on top of nature. We've planted trees on the desert in a nice row leading up to what must be a heck of a view. I'd like to think that block shaped house is more interesting than it appears in this picture: perhaps there's a garden surrounding the house worthy of the view. I will probably never know. Did I mention Land's end road we just drove past? I've never driven it--and every year I forget to photograph the sign saying "Kannah Creek" to email Pat to post on Plant Select's website: life consists of these details that slip by (except when art snatches them up). Oh yes! The Grand Mesa. Off to the right in the picture (you can click on the pic and see it up a little closer, you know)--one of the Many Marvels of my State! Have I ever mentioned I'm intensely proud of my silly rectangular state? Just us and Wyoming are so profoundly trapezoidal on this planet earth--kind of putting a house on a butte.

There's a boldness verging on--nay, exceeding arrogance--in the act of plunking a house atop a mesa--and watering the bejesus out of it to grow those trees (I should say "them trees" as a true Westerner).  This spot is where steppe verges on and frequently is true desert after all.

Each time I drive this cut-off I marvel at that house and wonder who lives in it and what it looks like close up: I have probably driven that road 100 times over the decades (it's forty years after all--and I've driven it at least twice, maybe four times or maybe eight some years--do the math). And this last September was the first time I took a picture of the spot. There are probably a thousand touchstones like this on my travels around Colorado alone (let's not even talk about the rest of the West--or South Africa!).  If you're a Denverite, think the clamshell house (or hamburger, false teeth or whatever your local idiolect called the Sleeper mansion on Genessee). Or Finger Rock near Yampa (it's labeled that way going one way and labeled "Chimney Rock" coming the other way on the highway--did you ever notice?).

I am about to write the profoundest paragraph in my whole blog series, sit tight: In the Songlines*, Bruce Chatwin delineates the way that primitive cultures like the Aborigines have an enviable sort of Unity of Culture: song, cultural and personal history, the very act of moving through the landscape, the rhythms of both the individual and the social unit's lifetime, lifelines actually, are knit together such that one cannot distinguish where one ends and the other starts. In other words, the landscape is the song is the culture is the individual. In a poem I can't put my hands on any more, Jorge Luis Borges observes that if you could raise yourself above, you would see that the steps you take in your life actually trace the outline of your face (or words to that effect). Although supposedly civilized, we are simply aborigines lost in a technology of our own making, which tricks us into thinking we're alienated, when in fact art (and art alone) reveals that we too are synonymous with the road we travel, the song we sing. So sing! and soar!

Perhaps before I die, I shall have a chance to visit that mysterious house on the hill up close. It's been like that with most of my pipe dreams, ya know?

*Since I can't really promise to buy you those peaches, I thought I'd link you to a .pdf of the whole frickin' book: one of the best books ever! Don't try reading it at one sitting however (it's pretty rich).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Barbour of the ville.

Michael Barbour himself (and garden behind)
Back in June I got a call from Mike Barbour--a wonderfully talented horticulturist--suggesting I drop by and check out his garden (I hadn't been there in MUCH too long). I first met Mike when he worked at Timberline Gardens--not far away from where he lives. Jan and I dropped by--at dusk--which explains the moody darkness of the pix (I lightened them up a lot in photoshop). Even in their distorted form [Jane Strong informed me that the photos look better if you click on them--it fixes the fuzz factor...I just discovered that if you double click on any portion of any picture, you can zoom in--first time I discovered this feature of Blogspot--woo hoo!], I think you will agree that Mike's a terrific gardener, as well as being a great guy altogether! With subzero temps every night pretty much this past few days, a quick peek back a few months seems like a good idea, don't you agree?

Front garden
Hardly a conventional front garden--but what pleasing design!

Far right side of the front yard not visible before...

Lallemantia canescens
I love this mint--which I first obtained from Jim Archibald probably 30 or more years ago. It's monocarpic, and wildly self sowing in some gardens...but then so are larkspur and even marigolds for many of us...it's easily pulled (and blooms for months on end). I'm astonished it's not better known.

Pathway through the front yard

Diascia integerrima 'Coral Canyon' and Sempervivum calcareum
I don't think the original was so fuzzy--something lost in the translation: heck. Let's just say it's impressionistic. I posted this pic on "Plantporn"--a hugely popular site on Facebook. The first respondent (of course) was Tony Avent--who had to stick it to me saying "I was hoping for pictures that showed what the plants look like there after -14F in mid-Nov."....Well, Tony, me boy, it probably looks much the same only let's say "freeze dried": we've been growing the sucker by the bucketload for 20 years now and it's tough as nails. Parenthetically, I think Tony's the greatest gardener in the world, and he's my hero--he can say anything he likes (no matter how snarky) and I think it's brilliant!

More impressionism. You're supposed to say "ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo"

Sideritis phlomoides
I'm not sure I'd vouch for this name: I've grown a half dozen plants that looks surprisingly like this under a variety of names from Stachys citrina to Phlomis rigida and a bunch of similar Sideritis. Fascinating how genera seem to converge on a plant form--or are they remembering an ancestor? Some would look at this and go "ho hum": gray leaves and squinny lemonade flowers. I love it.

If you are not charmed by this, you're fired.
(just kidding: I can't fire you). I love the empty space between the clustered plantings. I posted a picture not dissimilar to this on Facebook recently, and a "Friend" of a Facebook friend commented that "Hmm. A hodgepodge of colors that dont compliment eachother. No real design. I guess you have to walk over everything to maintain. Creative i guess." I resisted correcting the solecisms. You have to give me credit for that. People who snark had better spel gud.

Stomatium mustellinum
I will be curious to see what Steve Hammer does with this genus when his treatment comes out (soon I hope). There may be more hardy species of Stomatium than Delosperma--although the fact that they bloom at night is a strike against them. And they're tufts, not groundcovers. They smell like juicy fruit gum--doesn't that count for somethin', huh? I suspect the ancestor of this plant was a withered collection sent to me in 1989 or so by John Lavranos from Naude's nek. I cannot look at this plant without seeing that amazing spot reassemble around me: possibly the most plant rich place I've ever been (and shall be in about two months again--I am a lucky mortal). There's a lock packed into a garden...

I never thought I'd want a golden juniper until I saw this one.
Michael just emailed me that this is Juniperus c. 'Saybrook Gold').

Digitalis thapsi
This may be the best looking form of this wonderful plant (which we also owe Jim Archibald for collecting way back in the early 1980's) I've ever seen. I begged Michael to collect seed from the albino form--I just realized. It's pretty snazzy, don't you think? I'll have to ask him when I send him the link to this post.

Closer view

Phygelius x rectus Cherry Ripe ('Blacher' PPAF)

Click on that URL in the caption for a bit more info...Forgive me while I rant on a bit: Timberline has been selling this for a long time: it appears to be not only the richest flowered Cape Fuchsia, but extremely drought tolerant and tough as nails. It is, however, Patented and despite being touted by the likes of Monrovia and Proven winners (two of the biggest brands in the business)--it's still barely known. If you put "Phygelius x rectus" in your Google search, Cherry Ripe doesn't even show up...Branding is constantly touted as a big deal: well..............sure didn't work for this little honey. OK, now buddies, stand back and let's hear the marketers spin!
Probably just P. strictus in foreground
Honest folks--my original pix were pretty crisp! Really. I'm too lazy to upload them all over again to prove it to you. BTW, Claude (Monet if you are wondering) would approve of this sweep dontcha think? I'd go on another rant about penstemons (why is P. strictus almost a cliche in plantsmen's gardens in the Rockies and virtually unknown elsewhere in America: I know people who've removed it because "it's too spready" or too common--I know we're a tough climate, but why are our commonplaces so hard to grow everywhere else? Answer me that? I grow this penstemon unwatered...and it loves it!

Isn't this an outrageous combination?
Colorado gardeners do some pretty amazing things you won't see anywhere else. Leastwise I think so.

What a great garden to grow up in!

Daphne x medfordensis 'Lawrence Crocker'
That's one honker of a Lawrence Crocker daphne. Lawrence was one of my many mentors: even though I only visited his garden once, over 30 years ago (the daphne was probably already in his garden then, but I was too shocked by his enormous acantholimons and that he had a huge mound of bulbs--mostly Brodieas, Allium, and Triteleia he'd just dug out of his lawn. That had to be in February or March, because I also remember that Cyclamen coum was a weed for him (although he left that in his lawn). Lawrenced co-owned Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery, op cit.

MORE Digitalis thapsi. Never have enough.
I think Digitalis mariana (which I co-introduced from the Sierra Nevada) is even nicer. Lumping it with D. purpurea is pure hooey which proves Botany may be less a science than a flawed art.

Sedum cauticolum
I wish I'd gone back to visit Michael when this was in bloom. The complex of Hylotelephium (as they insist we call them now [yeah, right]) from the Himalaya and Central Asia that includes this species, as well as pluricaule and ewersii are all among the least appreciated gems in the vast throng of Sedums. This (in my experience) is the toughest of the lot.

Ms Barbour has transformed the scene into pre-Raphaelite vignette!

That Juniper again!
These are all the same garden slope taken from different angles--amazing how different it looks each time (something the mis-speller couldn't fathom apparently in panel 9 or so (not that I was ticked about it or anything. "Compliment" my eye. Harrumph: better not dis anything I like, buddy, or I'll be on YOUR case too.)

This one is supposed to elicit an "Oooo" tooo.

Salvia daghestanica
This has to be the most spectacular bloom on daghestanica I've ever seen: why is only the top part blooming, however? Nice that it does, and shows the frosty leaves. Nobody can grow this plant like we can (we need some compensation for struggling with the likes of rhodies and the blue hydrangeas).

Salvia daghestanica
Another "ooooooooooo" shot: I shall never forget seeing this for the first time in Jack Elliot's alpine house where he cosseted it. I think he may have provided us with the first cutting. I never dreamed that in a few years it would be a groundcover used all over Denver and our sister climates! Now to get its Moroccan cousin (click on that URL only if you're not faint of heart....make sure you click through all ten images...). I love the worldwide web.
One last fuzzy pic.
I believe that's Eriogonum umbellatum var. aureum 'Kannah Creek' on the left and Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum  'Shasta Sulphur' on the right: even the twilight fuzziness doesn't obscure their distinctiveness. I would hate to garden without a half dozen or more varieties of umbellatum at any given time.  Well.........that's all folks!

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