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'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!


  1. I like this Barbour garden. I'm so envious, I want to make one of a similar style. The photos are just fine and dandy if you click on them to enlarge. Two sizes. Gorgeous colors.

  2. Thank you, Jane! Appreciate the tip about the pix (I always forget to click on them)...Gave you credit.

  3. Cool garden. There have been quite a few names added to my list of things to grow.
    Also thanks for the juniper picture, I was feeling a little common and insecure about loving my own plant so much. Seeing it as part of a great garden gives me new hope!

  4. What a spectacular "hodgepodge." I only hope my much less thematically correct garden could compare someday. The Facebook commenter is absolutely correct that "the colors do not complement eachother." The colors contrast each other in a manner that makes you look around the landscape. This is something artists attempt to replicate in fine art. If the colors were all the same the garden would not shout at a viewer "look at me." At least the Facebook commenter had the description of "creative" correct.

    The hallmark of a garden is not where one has located the plants, the plants themselves often decide where they would be happiest. The hallmark of a garden is how superbly the plants have been grown. This garden has plants that are all grown superbly.


  5. What a great garden! Why is it that Denver has SO many awesome gardens? IT must be the weather. Oh, and that Blogger zoom-in thingy? I never knew of it either until you mentioned it. Im such a luddite.

  6. We trialed Cherry Ripe for production in 2007, loved it, and started offering it the next year. It never really caught on. Sales were passable, but declined and we finally dropped it after especially lousy sell through in 2012. I planted a few in the landscape several times but they never thrived and never overwintered even though it was a decently protected spot and we're reliably 7A. I was braced for the often mentioned spreading/suckering nature, but didn't experience that either. Maybe we're just too muggy in the summer. Are you aware of good clumps in the Mid Atlantic region (I live and grow in central VA)?


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