Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A heavenly Hell Strip

Probably taken early May: Aethionema grandiflorum in bloom at top, and gorgeous foliage on Salvia cyanescens below.

I believe Lauren Springer Ogden coined the term "hell strip" (it goes by many gentler synonyms like "parking strip", and she created a firestorm of controversy if I recall by writing about them in Horticulture several decades ago. Meanwhile, my life partner, Jan Fahs, purchased a home with the most hellish of hellstrips--nearly 200' of black plastic hell which she was modestly peeling back and gently planting until I came along. Then one day (which she continues to rue) I tore out the rest of the black plastic, and we began planting and sowing seed in earnest. These pictures don't really do it justice. There are two or three things to keep in mind: out of a million or more houses and buildings in Denver, this is one of the few that is deliberately unwatered. That is to say, only two or three that are GARDENS that are unwatered (lots of derelict lots with weeds of course). Item two: it is always changing through the year, from year to year. These are just two glimpses.

I am perpetually amazed at how well bearded iris do here--unwatered!

Here they are blooming with Penstemon eatonii...late May.

I have forgotten what the pale blue penstemon is: P. cyananthus perhaps? And yes, bachelor's buttons are almost weedy.

A better look at the penstemon. Lychnis coronaria budding up to bloom at left.

I rather like the mix of colors on the Centaurea cyanus.

Another view in May...

And yet another...

Probably just a form of Iris pallida...awfully delicate, however. This was THE year for iris.

This picture is more likely to be June, Verbascum have joined the irises (which seemed to go on forever this year...)

Another angle...

Mulleins look great with Penstemon eatonii--and I have to admit that the Dianthus deltoides is in part shade--it doesn't take the drought in full sun. Please ignore the bindweed (I did spray it later).

My favorite Turkish salvias are kicking in (the lavender in back--will detail them next)--but notice how happy the Onosma echioides is in the front (Lady's eardrops). Of course in Greece it has six months of drought!

Salvia cyanescens coming into bloom in front, Salvia recognita behind--two Anatolian salvias introduced by Jim and Jenny Archibald. I love these so much! Gorgeous foliage, wonderful aroma and good all year long. And boy! do they love this garden!

Slightly different angle--this one showing the Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' better...I should plant more of that! It looks good with the blues.

Salvia cyanescens with bachelor's buttons..

Salvia recognita (left) with a medley of meadow flowers...aaaaah!

Lallemantia canescens--another wonderful Anatolian mint introduced by Jim and Jenny Archibald. This is perennial when stressed, biennial or even annual on rich soils. Blooms on and off all summer depending on rains--one of the great plants (Plant Select ought to have noticed--oh well! They can't have all the good stuff!)...

Almost looks like a lupine!

A better view of Salvia recognita--a work horse if there ever was one--I have almost 70' of this planted on an unwatered strip in my Quince garden--and could use more!

Three wonderful Salvias: recognita on upper left, S. cyanescens front center, and S. x superba on the right.

One of a handful of Achillea in the garden--a taygetea type...and of course the Linum perenne--of which there are a million--has shed its petals for the day.

Somewhere I have a lot of pictures of the garden in late June when Dianthus giganteus takes over (here just starting to bloom), but you've had a taste!...I end with a shot I found on Google Maps--Jan's garden was photographed at peak bloom for salvias--I've never caught it in quite the right light at peak bloom: thank you Google! And thank you for reading to the bottom!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Orgasmic Orotundity: the allure of roundy moundies...

Instead of twin lions with limp wrists, more and more Denver homes seem to be decked with orotund Chrysanthemums this time of year in twin pots by the front door. What is it about a round plant that is so appealing? I remember driving by a house a mile or so from were I live and the two immensely fat owners with trimming the shrubs and herbs in their yard into similarly rounded forms: my camera sitting next to me was itching to be turned on...but the image is bright enough in words that you can summon it easily enough. And even so, I'm so tempted to go out and buy a few roundy moundy chrysanthemums myself...look here how my f colleagues were gawking at that pink giant on a field trip a few years ago...

Sophisticated gardeners may sneer a bit at such commonplaces...but what do they know?

Here two roundies are doing their thing at Kendrick Lake Park: Chrysothamnus is pretty reliable for making a rounded basket of gold every fall--at least for us in sunny, dry Denver.

Here's an even more perfect specimen at the same place. This form of rabbit brush, by the way, is the common wild form around Denver.

I took this picture almost exactly a year ago in Northern Arizona: it should grow wonderfully for us, but I've not managed it yet. Psathyrotes ramosissima if you're curious--a very strange little daisy indeed!

One of innumerable enchanting Acantholimon ulicinum I saw last summer in Greece. Virtually the entire genus of these prickly thrifts makes fantastic cushion plants: I've been in love with them since I obtained my first three species from Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery in 1980. Since then I've grown dozens of species and seen them in four countries so far (Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, Kazakhstan)...I'd love to see every species in the genus in the wild: since they grow in countries rather hostile to us (Iran, Iraq, Turkmenistan etc.etc. etc. ) I can pretty much guarantee that won't happen! Instead, I photographed every single vouchered specimen of Acantholimon in the Copenhagen University herbarium last year...no small feat.

Wyoming isn't quite Patagonia (where almost everything is pulvinate)--but this is not an uncommon sight there: here these Cryptantha caespitosa are mimicking aliens trying to conquer our world. Not far from Medicine Bow--gun country where the idea of a good time is shooting prairie dogs. I was subjected at the Bozeman airport two days ago to overhearing a very plain looking fellow boasting at length to his family about how that what he does in his spare time is to drive all over Montana and blast the little rodents to smithereens. I have a pretty good hunch I know who he's voting for in November as well. If gun toting aliens do ever land on earth, Karma predicts they shall land in a Red State--and perhaps these yahoos will get a taste of their own medicine...but I digress...(I hope you liked this paragraph: I think it was especially well crafted--with a little moral tucked in neatly).

HEAVENLY mounds of Eriogonum corymbosum are dotting the West by the million right now. I love 'em. This one at Kendrick again...although I have two starting to plump up in my Xeriscape. But not the yellow one, nor the gorgeous pink one I collected and grew for years at my Eudora garden...

It's even beautiful in bud--a picture I took halfway though the summer of the same plant: do click on this URL and scroll halfway down to see some of the best specimens in cultivation at our fabulous Western Slope nursery...

A chubby little Mongolian sedum (Hylotelephium tatarinowii) at Kendrick again (of course--we're a little behind the 8 Ball at Denver Botanic Gardens when it comes to moundy roundies I'm afraid)...

Buit my former colleague and good buddy Dare Bohlander has a whole pasture full of Acntholimons at his charming garden in Littleton...

The ultimate moundy--Arenaria alfacarensis from Southern Spain. I believe there's a pulvinate endemic sandwort on almost every mountain in Southern Spain: I believe when I retire (and I surely must one day) I shall take a month or two and go from one mountain top in Andalucia to another, admiring sandwort after sandwort, and reading Antonia Machado in between (and sipping wine and eating tapas on occasion as well). Life can be very sweet you know.

Here, once again at Kendrick, a whole herd of these little vegetable sheep were flowering a few years ago. They've even survived the little dark age of neglect after Greg left. The garden is starting to get some attention again (not quite enough--but it's hanging in there)...

My buddy Jim Tolstrup (the amazing fellow who's responsible for the fantastic new garden in Loveland I feautred a few blogs ago--the one with the miraculous Tulip Gentians) took this at the Pawnee Buttes on his I-Phone and said I could use it. Arenaria hookeri--our best vegetable basketball. And how can I better this last glimpse of our most glorious moundy roundy?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Meconopsis mystery

Meconopsis aff. horridula closeup

Few plants cause greater anxiety in sophisticated American gardener's hearts than the blue poppies:   they hate temperatures much above 70F and of course, most of the USA is quite steamy in the summer months. But there is one plant that not only seems to tolerate warmer conditions, it has proved perennial and self sows at Raven Ranch, the remarkable home and garden of Bob and Rebecca Skowron--keen rock gardeners who live near Denver.

Standing back a bit......

I put the feeble "affinity" in the middle of the Latin name because the REAL M. horridula is supposed to be monocarpic (blooms and dies). Rebecca assures me hers do not bloom and die, so I'm not sure what to call the plants. She has them planted under pondersa pines in a rather distant part of her garden where I know she can't hover over them and fuss. Douglas county (where they live) is almost 1500 ft. higher in elevation than Denver, and daytime temperatures are much cooler most of the time. But they can get 90F on occasion--and this meconopsis obviously doesn't mind.

This shows the setting where they grow and self-sow. I begged her to save seed so we can try this in Denver as well: it would be a great day if we had a true blue meconopsis that was perennial AND self sowed! One can dream can't one?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The progress of a sedum

Hylotelephium 'Cherry Tart'
This cultivar (one of the "Sun Sparkler" series), released a few years ago by Chris Hansen, of Holland, Michigan is one of the most striking container plants I've ever grown. I believe it will become a rock garden must have. At any given time it's lovely, but its transformation through the garden year is delightful to watch. For most of us it's "just a sedum"  (albeit it looks as though Hylotelephium constitutes a recognizable, taprooted spectrum of mostly deciduous perennials that appear to occupy the transition (morphoglogically and ecologically) between Phedimus and Rhodiola). My Facebook Friend and Crassula expert, Stephen Jankalski informs me that Hylotelephium are actually more closely allied to Orostachys and Kungia (the last one is new to me!)....

Like all gardeners, what appeals to us so much about the plants we grow is how they transform through the garden year, and how they look in different lights. This little "Sun Sparkler" exemplifies this process!

Here it is in bud--in oblique light (where it shows up better in photographs)--scrumptious don't you agree?

Just starting to open here...

These last two shots are the plant in full bloom in sunlight and oblique light...Doesn't this inspire you to go get one? I wouldn't mind having a half dozen more myself! Your local garden center can order plugs from Chris direct. Strangely, this cultivar is not on his current catalogue, but 'Wildfire', a variegated variation of it is: you can get that direct mail order from his nursery yourself and be one up on me!

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