Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Copenhagen jewel box Rock Garden

I have been lucky enough in my career to have curated a major public rock garden for nearly a quarter century. I have been lucky enough to visit and revisit many of the great rock gardens of the world repeatedly: I've probably been to Edinburgh's "Botanics" in almost every month of the year--perhaps twenty times since my first visit in 1981. I've had two extended visits to Gothenburg's masterpiece, and finally got to visit many of the great German botanic gardens in 2013: Munich's Nymphenburg is a gem and Wurzburg's botanic gardens's rock garden quickly became a favorite.

I visited Copenhagen's botanic garden first on May 3, 2013 and returned this past summer and took these pictures on June 29 of 2015. Both times the garden was in fine fettle: I took hundreds of pictures and have whittled them down a tad. If you have the patience (and it will take patience) you will get a pretty good overview of one of the greatest rock gardens on Earth in peak late spring bloom on a very lucky day (the light was perfect for photography, and for once my camera cooperated!).

If you are a plant nerd (and most of the people who are responsible for the nearly half million hits on my blog probably fit the bill) you are in for an indulgent surprise: this garden ROCKS! (Plant Geek Certificates awarded to anyone who scrolls to the very end: just leave a comment and we'll know)...if this post doesn't elicit some sort of response I'll be surprised.

Dactylorhiza sp.
There were dactylorhizas throughout the garden--all in peak bloom in late June.

And yet another clump elsewhere in the garden...

Dactylorhiza maculata ssp. maculata
And even MORE Dactylorhiza--this one is D. maculata according to the label
Dactylorhiza sp. they're everywhere!
Psilostemon afer (thistle in the middle)
I had to include a picture of this thistle--possibly the spiniest of all--since I grow lots of it--and I saw it everywhere in Greece this past summer.

Athrotaxis selaginoides
I know this picture looks bland: but there is a rare Tasmanian conifer in the midst of the mystery white flower (the one labeled above)...

Rhododendron sp.
I believe this is R. viscosum. An American native.
Saxifraga oppositifolia
Even their cafe had cool plants!

Mystery legume
Forgot to photograph the label on this: all sorts of peculiar and wonderful plants were planted on the south side of the Counservatory where the microclimate favored subtropicals and oddball items.

Iris latifolia
A fabulous clump of the "English" iris--which is actually from the Pyrenees. I grew this once quite well--but in Colorado it needs coolness, rich compost and shade from midday sun (a challenging combo)..Irises are one of my favorite genera--a prejudice I apparently share with Copenhagen's staff!
Iris nertchinskya
Iris spuria var spuria with Arisaem consanguineum type of the left front.

Iris spuria var spuria closer view

Iris ensata var. spontanea
Iris sintenisii
Genista horrida
I won't swear to the name--but it looks just like our's. Love this plant!

Crinum sp.
This is probably C. bulbispermum, the hardiest of the genus, although I daresay they could grow many more in the mild Copenhagen climate.

Hebe rakaiensis
A truly enviable mass of this Newzealander that is new to me...we once had a mound of H. pinguifolia about this size. Time perhaps for another Hebe experimentation phase...
Dorystaechas hastata
I have an irrational yearning for this strange Turkish Salvia cousin with trivial flowers but awesome foliage. No accounting for whims.

 Dorystaechas hastata closer up
The Persian onion is a bona fide weed for us--perhaps one day we'll be weeding out the Lamiate?

 Dorystaechas hastata closest
I warned you I was obsessed...

Sisyrinchium [Phaiophleps] striatum
This is occasionally hardy for us: I must try it again in one of the protected pockets of my garden where I get away a bit of murder. A commonplace, I know, in Maritime climates. Just not fair.

Probably P. strictus 'Bandera'
A delight seeing this cliche plant of Denver (every serious gardener here has a big patch of it--although it's far from Universal: it really ought to be Plant Select, but most of that group THINKS it's commonplace--they obviously don't get around enough). Well it DOES grow in Denmark. I obtained seed shortly after it was introduced by the Los Lunas station and I'm sure Denver was the first public garden to grow it--and we don't have all that much (and I rarely see it outside Denver).

Astilbe japonica
I would dearly love to grow this Astilbe, which looks not to be too much of a water hog. I don't know of any American sources for it, however. Please let me know if you do!

Saxifraga cf rotundifolia
The garden is remarkably well labeled: this is one of the few wonderful clumps lacking a label. Just to make me feel better!

Olympisciadum caespitosum
And to be very wicked, there are a FEW mislabeled plants...this was a bitter pill because that little umbel which I grew for years eluded me this past summer. Or rather, it turned out it did not grow on the Thessalian Olympus, but instead on the Bithynian one, where we did see it, I believe, and where it was not terribly striking. They did justice to it (as you will see) in the Rock Garden proper...

Corydalis lutea
A commonplace, to be sure, but grown with style.

Labeled as merely "Anemone"
I believe this is the Himlayan A. rivularis, a rather weedy thing given a choice spot! Snicker snicker (entirely sour grapes I can assure you). I love this garden.

Jaborosa integrifolia
A plant I would love to grow.

Probably bulbispermum...must remember to photograph every label!

Acaena inermis
I love aceaenas--especially inermid ones! And there are many...

Sprekelia formossisima
Quite jealous they can grow this outdoors--although it is on the south wall of a large building (a great place for tender things in all climates)...Yes, I know: in the Southern Hemisphere it's the NORTH facing wall. Hmmmm. I have a south wall....

Awesome stuff in the Greenhouses
A number of greenhouses were filled with treasures--that's for another time...

North face of the Rock Garden
The extensive rock garden (which was an acre or two in extent) included a lovely woodland garden full of all manner of shade loving plants well grown.

What's this?

Cynanchum ascyrifolium
The most amazing clump of this obscure perennial I've ever seen. Makes my pitiful specimen with three stems look silly by comparison.

Arisaema japonicum
Jacks are "Snabelkalla" in Danish. A wonderful word for them...and this was a fine clump!

A different Snabelcalla
I neglected to photograph the label on this one: it has dark spathes hidden in the foliage--not for Walmart, but I still like it!

This was labeled Rhododendron viscosum--so not to sure about the first one I posted...

Closer view (with label tucked below)

Cyrtomium fortunei 'Clivicola'
A wonderful form of this fern--a genus that is marginal in Colorado at best. Maybe this cultivar would be hardier? That's one of the benefits of traveling--learning new possibilities!

This was an unfamiliar iris to me (label buried in there--I could expand it on my computer)...

Campanula fenetrellata var. istriaca

Late June is campanula season, and I was not disappointed: many rock garden bluebells were tucked here and there throughout. It is instructive to see related species growing nearby to compare.

Campanula fenestrellata var. fenestrellata

Campanula portenshlagiana
Growing very robustly: our's are much more petite....

Rhodiola dumulosa
There must be a village in the Himalayas where they hybridize and plant these out to fool botanists...

I believe the label said Ornithogalum arabicum, although it appears more like a form of O. magnum to me.

Labeled Sisyrinchium junceum--which it isn't (possibly sarmentosum)

Thalictrum pubescens ("from New Hampshire" the label says) A worthy Americam! And I had to go to Copenhagen to learn about it!

The gardedn is quite large, and varied--wonderful views throughout.

Gasplant standing sentinel in another view

Asplenium scolopendrium (once Scolopendrium vulgare)
We have never been able to build such robust clumps of Hart's tongue fern: and these were in nearly full sun. Harrumph!

Hieracium aff. villosum
I felt somewhat vindicated seeing this fine mass of hawkweed: I grow this in my home rock garden where it does self sow a tad more than I'd like--but it is quite elegant in its hawkweedish way...

Sideritis scordioides
This reminds me of the numerous times I had to place labels over plants that they dwarfed: most public gardeners come to regard labels as tombstones. By the time they're made and placed the plant is often dead or moribund...


Alas: lost the caption for this one!

Sideritis scardica
Sideritis clandestina
Of course, the reason we came to this botanic garden was because of its diversity of Greek collections--and this genus alone merited the trip! Look back and compare this to the others--amazing how diverse a group it is--and largely ignored by both herbalists and rock gardeners! But not Copenhagen and me!

Lilium regale
A wonderful stand of E.H. Wilson's pride and joy. I think of him (and the long train of mules passing over his broken leg) every time I see it. I wonder how many of these were drowned by the flooding of the Yangtze?

Sempervivum pittonii
I was suprised to see how well the sempervivums did bedded out on a scree--I find they do much better in crevices.

Allium deliculatum
This very much resembles what is grown as A. cyathophorum in the U.S.A.--perhaps there is a subtle difference?

Saxifraga stolonifera
Another plant that is impermanent for us--likely not winter hardy on the steppes...

Minuartia juniperina
The sandworts are an acquired taste, perhaps. I was charmed by this one.

Heuchera sp.
I should have noted the label: I think it may be H. sanguinea--but perhaps it isn't. Whatever species it is, it's beautifully staged.

Another vista

labeled Phedimus hybridus
It's still Sedum in my book: one of my favorites. This looks more like the species as I've seen it in nature. The form in cultivation the leaves are far more linear.

More views
I am really charmed by the wonderful pathways in so many European rock gardens: I imagine that these cobblestones are more easily and cheaply found than they would be here.

Geranium potentilloides
I was SURE it was Kenilworth ivy: but no--it's a New Zealand geranium...

Allium insubricum

Love those paths!

Tropaeolum polyphyllum
I am very envious of this wonderful patch of alpine Nasturtium...

Penstemon "heterophyllus"
This is mislabeled: it looks very much like a very good form of Penstemon x mexicali. Penstemon heterophyllus has a low mound of spatulate or rounded leaves and bright blue flowers on short stems--different sections of the genus altogether. But this is a stunner!

Eriophorum lanatum
Oregon sunshiine making the whole hillside glow!
Hastingsia alba
How stringe to discover a whole new genus of Western Americans! And they've been growing it since 1952!

Labeled Salvia canescens it is likely a synonym for S. daghestanica

A large mat of Potentilla alchemilloides in the center of a large scree.

Helictotrichon sulcatum
I've never heard of this grass before!

Stachys alopecurus
I grew this in the past: one of the few yellow stachys...must look for it again!

Reseda complicata
Perhaps only of interest to plant nerds, I love this complicated mignonette: have grown it for years, but not this well.
A stunning Onion
I neglected to photograph the label: can you help, reader?

A fantastic stand of Epipactis gigantea

It's a tad galling to see a Colorado native plant grown superbly in Denmark: I brought back divisions from the Grand Junction Extension garden (where it had seeded in and was unwelcom) and we propagated it for several years and sold it at our plant sales--but neither the Gardens nor I seem to have planted any out. Our bad.

Asplenium trichomanes
A robust clump of one of my favorite ferns: we've  had a tuft for decades at the Gardens--should check if it's still there in a shady crevice.

Hardly needs another label: you know you're a plant geek when you collect plantains..I know a few such geeks.

More rock work with tiny gems (and a large unidentified Yucca)
I suspect it's just Y. filamentosa.

Fabulous mat of Minuartia stellata from the Balkans

Sedum forsterianun
An especially striking sedum: one I don't grow yet! I need this one!

Verbascum leucophyllum
I'm gratified to see I'm not the only heretic who plants giant mulleins in my rock gardens.

Veronica spicata var. spicata
Much more graceful than plants with the same name in cultivation.

Satureja athoa
Not blooming yet--but lovely even in its cushion form.

Aha! one little tuft coaxed into precocious bloom!

And closer still: the miracle of digital pix!

Dianthus petraeus ssp. orbelicsus
Very different from ssp. noeanus that we grow: our's has a heavenly scent, and fringed flowers. Wonder of one of them is misnamed?

Anthemis marschalliana--looking very robust

Nearby is THIS miserable specimen: what gives?

Epipactis palustris
This is the European equivalent of our chatterbox orchid--spreading wildly from rhizomes in wet areas. It is amazing how many species this genus contains (including the only "invasive" orchid of North America--the lovely, but spready E. helleborine).

A lovely wooded slope

Viburnum farreri v. nanum
My nemesis: I have two tiny twigs of this growing in my rock garden: Sandy Snyder has three or four hunking specimens like this that bowl me over every spring with their fragrance. How long before mine form wonderful Shrek like mounds like this?

In the U.S.A. we call this Bolax glebaria. They're calling it Azorella trifurcata.
With either name this is a classic.

Chaenorhinum origanifolium
This is making a wonderful mat here--much more robust than what I've grown.

Onopordon bracteatum
It took some guts to give a thistle pride of place: I was piqued that I didn't know this one. Career rock gardeners come to love thistles, which do a great job of crowd control. But visiting Greece and Turkey this past summer in midsummer I was surprised how many species of thistles grew all the way to treeline and above. Turns out, we're REALISTS! Not just sadists.

Onopordon bracteatum
It would take a hard heart not to admire this architecture...can't wait to grow this!

Fine planting of Delosperma congestum, which may indeed be the correct name after all. Long boring story.

Anaphalis sp. ex Sikkim
I'm never going to finish this blog: so mostly just plant labels. You can drone your own commentary (although from time to time I'll have to chime in: can't control myself)

Paeonia tenuifolia in early seed

Rosa (Hultheimia) persica

Thistles, Salvia sclarea and Salvia daghestanica
What more can you want?

Sedum hispanicum--very compact

Yet another thistle--didn't find the label

Just a tad ostentatious, con't you think? A challenge for us to grow well in our forsaken steppe..
.Oh yes, Rodgersia, probably pinnata.

Another P. x Mexicali type: they love Europe as well as us.

Sedum spurium (why not Phedimus I pray?) in albino mode


Allium ledebourianum
Looks like a cousin to chives--lovely color.

Stachys chrysantha looking like a Sideritis
Oxyria digyna
Much larger than our Rocky Mountain alpine waif.

Geranium peloponesiacum

Delosperma cf. lavisiae

More views

Yet ANOTHER Dianthus petraeus: var. minutiflorus in this case.


Plantago media

Giant Stachys iva in the middle

Koeleria macrantha
Impossibly graceful grass!

Labeled Euphorbia barrelieri
I could do a whole little dissertation on the section of Euphorbia related to this one. but I restrain myself...

More views

Veronica pinnata: rather different from what I saw in Kazakhstan. Maybe it's climatic?

Saxifraga umbrosa in foreground, Codonopsis behind. Great combo!

More Codonopsis

Mountain stream-like vista

A small crevice garden addendum

Another very chives-like onion labeled Allium sewertzowii

Sedum trollii from the Himalayas--a wonderful spread

A rocky hillside with a yellow Spuria iris rising out of a mat of Asarum canadense
The iris and the ginger would not both grow well together in Colorado (the iris needing more sun and the ginger more shade)--microclimates vary so much between steppe and maritime climates.

Sempervivum nevadense from Spain

Calamintha grandiflora above it

Astilbe koreana from Mt. Taebek (interesting tidbit)

More vistas

The obligatory Gunnera
No self-respecting botanic garden in Europe is missing a patch of Gunnera: required by law I think.

A fallow patch with the inmistakable shoots of bindwiid..."even in Eden am I"...

A new species of ash to me--wonder if it's EAB resistant?

Bruckenthalia spiculifolia
This puts my tiny plant to shame. I was to see this growing abundantly in Turkey in a week or so later in the wild!

Another tree that I did not think was hardy--I loved it bark

And the flowers aren't bad either

Alchemilla conjuncta a  good dwarf one

Rhododendron yakushimanum

Euonymus turkestanica v. nana

Closer view of Euonymus turkestanica v. nana

Kalmia angustifolia in front of yet more Dactylorhiza

Opuntia cymochila 'Ogallalae' (Not aware of this subspecies...)
The cacti looked a tad worse for wear...it was instructive to see that they had survived, but this time of year should have shown them at their best.

Opuntia pottsii

Opuntia phaeacantha v. camanchica

Opuntia cymochila from Colorado

Silene mollissima (from Mallorca)--very cool!

Chiastophyllum oppositifolium from the Caucasus
I am mystified that this grows so much better in Europe: I keep it for several years and it melts away...more shade perhaps?

Thalictrum from Mt. Ventoux
I'm surprised that they've not keyed this one out: are there so many species there?

Delphinium suave

Yet another patch of Epipactis palustris: surely they could spare a start?

Lovely views again everywhere you look.

Gillenia trifoliata behind the Corydalis ochroleuca
Fabulous mound of Rhododendron (probably williamsianum)

Gentiana lutea

An army of Rodgersias: watch out!

Erysimum linifolium
Now THIS is more like what I think of as Erysimum linifolium!

Geranium dalmaticum
Triostemon pinnatifidum

A wonderful combo of Triostemon, Marrubium, Erigeron and yellow crucifer.

Erigeron glaucus

The vista surmounting the LAST combo a few images past--only rock gardens can do this sort of vertical madness

Polemonium pauciflorum

Another vuiew of Dalmation geranium--love the contrasting path

Arisaema flavum
Timorously labeled "Sedum": looks like S. sexangulare to me.

A superb specimen of Geranium endressii
It's never looked this good for ME!

Aster yunnanensis

Arisaema sp.

More vistas--with Iris in the middle...

Closer view of Iris xiphium

And even closer view of Iris xiphium

Acaena glabra

Blechnum penna-marina

Carex montana

One of my favorites in dead middle: Olympisciadum caespitosum

Fantastic patch of Saxifraga x primuloides in a golden leaved form.

Thymus pulegioides

Stachys alopecurioides wonderfully displayed

Allium komarowii
Looks an awful lot like my Allium altaicum!

Dianthus petraeus ssp. integer
I should have ganged this with the other D. petraeus...

Plantago subulata again...in a better spot.

An unidentified Hebe
I'm glad we're not the botanic garden with mystery plants...

Phedimus (Sedum) aizoon
A much finer form of this species than what we grow...

Athamanta cretensis
This has shot to the top of my "must have" list...(yes, I'm in my Umbelliferous phase)...

Speaking of which..here's that Grail plant up close--Olympisciadum caespitosum growing in tufa

Melanthium virginicum growing in a little prairie (Not the Liatris b.t.w.)

Here's the Melanthium from further away. It merits TWO labels--still only in bud.

Mukdenia rossii in late June
The same plant of Mukenia rossii in early May of 2013
I couldn't resist going back into my files and finding this picture of the same patch of this terrific East Asian perennial--quite a difference two months make.

A wonderful form of Sempervivum montanum (bright red) with interloping Sonchus...sorry. "Even in Paradise am I"..

Enchanting views

Orobanche hederae
One of a dozen very similar broomrapes: you can buy the monograph if you must know (just $50 or so)
Cornus florida in a graceful form.

Muhlenbeckia axillaris, one of the few indestructible Austrolasian plants.

Paeonia cambessedessii

Phedimus [Sedum] spurius 'Splendens'

Sedum camtchaticum and Hypericum olympicum

View of the grand conservatory from the top of the rock garden: a good way to end, perhaps?


  1. Great post. Hopefully I will get to see this the next time I'm overseas.

  2. Thanks very much! It is great to look at your pictures! Cheers :-)
    Johnny from the Rock garden in Copenhagen

  3. I made it to the end yesterday, but I was too exhausted to comment. You are a rock gardening and blog writing demi-god. Just looking at the pictures wore me out, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    1. Aha! I hoped you'd slog through it, James. Now you must go through again and double click: you can really get details that way! Just imagine: I have pictures like this of dozens of gardens in Europe and the USA I've never posted because they exhaust even me to do. But had to do Copenhagen's gem.

  4. What a wonderful review! Thank you for sharing such an informative and beautiful tour! And you deserve a complement of your photographical talent.

    On your questin of Onion - I think it is 'Allium neapolitanum'.
    Check in this site: http://www.hollandbulbfarms.com/mmHBF50/Images/productViews/81125/19847E.jpg


    With kind regards,


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