Monday, February 22, 2016
Of course, the ultimate garden art is the plant itself: and fortunate are gardeners like those in coastal California who can grow staghorn ferns on their walls. Our hosts the last few days have a garden brimming with beautiful plants, grown to perfection. Robin owns an extensive nursery with five hundred species and thousands of taxa of Geraniaceae: to try and capture all that in a blog is daunting. But I have admired the various pieces of garden art (mostly mounted on the walls of their spacious home) and realized that these tell a tale: I suspect all of our gardens do this as well. The plans and the symbolic tokens we choose to accompany them...
Seeing this you might not be surprised to learn that the Master of the house is an enthusiastic birder who's traveled the ends of the earth to enjoy birds in their wild habitats...
Both occupants of this home come from that "Sunburned country"--so the omnipresent, ubiquitous solar effigies are no accident...
I have always admired the artistry of the local sculptor who does these leering creatures...or in this case, solar effigies!
Not too obvious: a door knocker in the shape of a trowel. Of course, the Mistress of he house belongs to the order of the spade...
I won't swear to it, but I suspect this could be an Echinoderm: another Australian totem!
Australia abounds in lizards! (But so does the Southwest..I know)...
But only one country has the Platypus!
This bell may not be altogether decorative--so deeper meaning is not necessary!
What gardener is oblivious to the phases of the moon?
This looks suspiciously like a Eucalypt!
And the largest flower on earth grows between Australia and the Northern hemisphere...Rafflesia! With a magnolia tepal...
A tree of life from Mexico--perhaps to distract us?
And a jaunty little demon: we all need jaunty little demons in our life. We get them whether we need them or not, of course! Better they be art than real!
And who doesn't need a basket to gather blessings?
The Parers may love their ancestral home, and keep totems around to remind them of its beauty, but they are proud Californians and Americans par excellence!
Perhaps it's not fair to read subtexts into such wonderful garden art, but I believe that we are all constantly surrounding ourselves with the regalia of our souls. Creative artists like the Parers express themselves in everything they do and touch--life, science, art spiral around them and
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Everyone needs a hero: I happen to have two! I was attracted to horticulture due to my obsession with plants, but people keep finding their way to me and into my heart: in the last two years this extraordinary couple have become two of my dearest friends and professional colleagues. Lynn (on the left) is a keen gardener and her husband Don Ireland (on the right) is a powerhouse "doer": he makes things happen. They live in a condominium complex of over 250 units: Don became president of their homeowner's board, and has helped them save unbelievable quantities of water (and money) by bringing state of the art conservation indoors and out--we're talking MILLIONS of gallons a year. In the process these two have replaced the tired, "clean and green" landscapes of overgrown junipers and threadbare bluegrass with literally acres of spectacular water-wise plantings.
This rather bleak expanse shows one of the "showier" flower beds that the Irelands inherited...Lynn transformed that very space into THIS (see blow):
The Irelands' work has garnered enormous praise, awards and now Don is taking his message on the road: if you have a Garden Club or Nursery in the Denver area where you could use an inspiring speaker, Don is your man: I have included the prospectus he's put together. His work is being underwritten by a local foundation--so you can have him for free (for now anyway). Get to know Don and he will show you how to transform a dull, water-wasting landscape into a stunning habitat not just for birds and other creatures, but for YOU!
“The Journey to Your Own Habitat Hero Haven”
Led by your Destination Guide, Don Ireland
We’ve all dreamed about living on our own private refuge somewhere out there. Why not build your own little beautiful getaway right here at home? One that will provide more than your own satisfaction – it will help establish a welcoming sanctuary in our urban desert of asphalt and concrete. A place where birds, butterflies and hummingbirds can find a haven of natural food and shelter you’ve created for them. A place that gives you a smile, a mental and stress-reducing getaway in nature’s beauty, along with the rewards of lower water bills and the satisfaction of knowing you have helped create a Habitat Hero island for many to see and enjoy. Travel with us to this Habitat Hero haven: we’ll show you how as we take this journey together.
Purpose: To spread the news of the Habitat Hero program throughout the Audubon Rockies region, the Front Range and beyond. The discussion and presentation will include:
• The need to improve or change landscaping, especially in urban areas (by increasing the use of native and Plant Select-recommended species) to attract more birds, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators that benefit all creatures.
• Conserving water, an especially scarce natural resource in the Colorado River Basin.
• Improving natural beauty and habitat diversity through Wildscaping.
• Offering insight and potential resources to home owners, HOAs and owners of commercial-industrial properties so they can save money through more appropriate use of outdoor areas.
Class guide: Don Ireland is the volunteer president of Cherry Creek 3 HOA in southeast Denver and a former professional public speaker from Pittsburgh. Under his leadership, Don helped his Association reduce its annual water consumption by 15 million gallons annually, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years. The water savings, coupled with a xeriscape and native plants retrofit, has put the HOA in the statewide spotlight the past two years. In 2014, Cherry Creek 3 became the first HOA named a Habitat Hero in the state. In 2015, Don and Cherry Creek 3 were the recipients of the Colorado WaterWise Conservation Award, marking the first time a non-water professional organization received the honor.
Contact Don: Habheroguide@gmail.com http://rockies.audubon.org/conservation/habitat-hero-program
Friday, February 5, 2016
For years I would drive on the "Boulder Denver Turnpike" (as we called it back then--and old timers still do: it's Highway 36 to most folk now). Come to think of it, really old timers called it the Denver Boulder Toll Road (prophetic words those). Anyway, I commuted weekly on this for decades, and year in year out there would be these extraordinary billow mounds on one side of the road. I'd crane my neck as I whisked by at 65 m.p.h., and wonder...
One year I couldn't stand it any more and had to pull off to the side of the road (illegal and just a tad dangerous): when I got closer I was even more amazed with the brilliance of the form and color of this crazy annual weed. Once common on buffalo wallows here and there across the Great Plains, most of its habitat is now wheat field or burgeoning suburb. You still see them here and there--usually just a few stems in the shortgrass. But these were amazing!
You'd have to be a card-carrying member of the church of Tony Avent ("Friends don't let friends plant annuals") to not want this monstrous mound of delicious white and green striped wonderfulness in your garden! Notice that it's growing on the side of a freeway, on hard packed clay. Don't try this at home! Year after year I've sowed seed of these in my xeriscapes, and miserable plants result that never look like this. Put this in rich soil, water it and you can get plants like the first image, taken at Denver Botanic Gardens years ago...
I feel somehow guilty that I've not yet managed to produce one of these lolapaloozas in my home garden. I must remember to look in my files for old seed--or break down and order some this spring!
I wonder how many Coloradoans even know that this--one of the hoariest of cottage garden annuals, cherished in gardens around the world is our very own native weed?
I end with a picture of how this usually looks in nature--not nearly as compact as the big beach ball shown up above...
By the way, that stretch of highway I enjoyed these along for so many years was bulldozed, expanded and I haven't seen one of these anywhere nearby any longer. I have watched wildflower fields disappear like that year after year: really, folks. It's time we made preserving natural areas a bigger priority all around--although I don't think it's shown up on the planks of either party's platforms in the upcoming elections! But, this election cycle is so wacky and out of control, anything is possible, right? Here's for the Euphorbia party! Long may it rule!
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
|Mt. Sopris from Tom Alexander's garden|
|Tiny corner of Tom Alexander's garden|
|Crow sculpture at Tom Alexander's garden|
I may come back and drone on about the plants: but I don't want to delay these images from you: check back in a week and you can hear me comment on them individually: we start in the Flattops (just south of the range to be exact: Steamboat where the NARGS AGM takes place is just to the north...) and we move southward across the Elk Mountains to Kebler Pass, ending up in South Park and finally Pikes Peak. A whirwind tour over the 4th of July in 2011: Colorado in June is just about as close to Heaven as you will find. Better join us!
|Wyethia amplexicaule and Eriogonum umbellatum ssp. aureum|
|Dwarf Amelanchier alnifolia and Phlox multiflora ssp. depressa|
I feel so sorry for those dolts who drive across America and hate the "empty" spaces in New Mexico, Utah, or Nevada (or Colorado!). The sagebrush "wastes' of the West have some of the highest endemism of any ecosystem. This is where the lion's share of penstemons, buckwheats and fleabanes are concentrated. Next time someone complains about our sagebrush steppe--just kick them for me.
|Artemisia tridentata bonsai|
|Delphinium nuttallii meadow|
|Delphinium nuttallii pale form|
|Penstemon comarrhenus and Oxytropis lambertii|
|Montane `sagebrush steppe in Garfield County|
|Steppe in bloom|
|Phlox multiflora ssp. depressa|
|Ratzeputz gang on the Flattops|
|Frasera speciosa (Swertia radiata) and Allen Bush|
How can a plant that thrives from the Great Plains to the Intermountain steppe up to tundra in the Rockies be so challenging in the garden?
|Wyethia amplexicaule and Delphinium nuttallii|
|Trollius albiflorus, Caltha leptosepala and Erythronium grandiflorum|
|Corydalis caseana ssp.brandegei|
|Corydalis caseana ssp.brandegei|
|Erythronium grandiflorum and Claytonia lanceolata|
|Salix cf. glauca|
|Crested butte with lupines|
|Mountain elf on Cumberland Pass|
|Cumberland pass with Rydbergia grandiflora (a.k.a. Tetraneuris something or other)|
|Aster (Machaeranthera) coloradoensis Albino|
|Aster (Machaeranthera) coloradoensis|
|Aster (Machaeranthera) coloradoensis|
|Penstemon virgatus ssp. asa-grayi|
|Devil's backbone, Pikes Peak|
|Androsace chamaejasme ssp. carinata|
|Androsace chamaejasme ssp. carinata|
|Hymenoxys caespitosa (Tatraneuris somethign or other)|
|Pinus aristata and Kurt Bluemel (not in that order)|
The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...