Saturday, January 7, 2017

Iceland Redux: for alpine plant nerds.

A corner of the rock garden at Reykjavik botanical garden on June 27,2015

In December of 2015, I published a blog about that garden called "Icelandic treasure trove" (which you can check out if you wish through the magic of links). I thought at the time I had overindulged with 25 images. But I have come to realize that many of those who follow this blog are as nerdy as I am. I just read on the Internet (so it must be true), that nerdiness is now cool, so we can all indulge without guilt. So for you, my soul brothers and sisters, I am RE-visiting that garden, and showing a LOT more pictures I didn't think were worth it the first time around.

What I said on the first picture
Europe has hundreds of great cities, as you know. And almost every one of these has a botanic garden (or two or three), and virtually all the botanic gardens have rock gardens. And they're often good and in this case superb! What makes a botanic garden rock garden superb? Good design (as you can see, the rocks are nicely laid and the plants are nicely nestled--key ingredients): what makes Iceland's rock garden so amazing is that they grow TONS of plants I've never seen anywhere else, and they grow them superbly.

I start (and end) with some vistas--the garden is quite large: untold millions of people have been flying Icelandic air in recent years: most just change planes and fly on: but the clever Icelanders (who jailed their crooked bankers) are more than happy to let you lay over (as I did for 20 hours) for as long as you like and spend money in their country. NEXT time I'll lay over longer and visit Akureyri, which is supposed to have an even nicer rock garden--something I gotta see!

Acaena magellanica
I know it's just green. Green is a color, you know! It's also one of dozens of Antipodal plants thriving in Iceland--something I took special note of.

Adonis chrysocanthus
This blew my frickin' mind: I have never seen this Adonis anywhere else--and it's the size of a Volkswagen (almost). The seed was almost ripe. Stealing from botanic gardens is near the bottom of my personal Dantean inferno...but had the seed been ripe I would have been severely tempted.

Adonis sibirica ex Mongolia
Tis one still had a few flowers...another new one for me.

Adonis vernalis
And lots more flowers on this commoner species. Commoner--but still not in my garden.

Alchemilla semidivisa
A new to me  (and lovely) Lady's mantle. When you collect Alchemillas you know you are severely afflicted with Collectionitis.

Anemone rupicola
I had no idea this fantastic Himalayan was rhizomatous! Mine usually just peter out!

Anthyllius montana
I have grown this almost as well--a great consolation!

Aquilegia caerulea v. ochroleuca
The predominant color form in much of Utah--and superbly grown here.
Aquilegia scopulorum
They had several specimens (I show just two) of what may be my favorite columbine (so hard to choose). Both forms are paler than my favorite races from the Aquarius plateau: should I ever recollect these I shall send them some!

Aquilegia scopulorum

Aquilegia aurea
This sucker blew my mind. What a magnificently grown plant! We've grown this several times at DBG--but never this beautifully sited and so lush! This is the sort of thing that dazzles me. Notice everything is labeled (relatively inconspicuously): THAT is botanic gardening at its best. Designers may snigger, but a botanic garden really is more about information and the glory of the plant per se: the design is secondary. Sorry. That's the bitter purists may pull out your hankies and sniffle if you wish.

Aquilegia caerulea
A super grown specimen of our Colorado glory. The sign is a tad obnoxious in this one. Oh well..
Aquilegia ottonis
I should have cropped this--but then you'd miss that bozo up top who photobombed it.
Arenaria purpurascens 
In my previous blog on this garden I show other shots of this--they have masses of it. I was jealous--a wonderful and too rarely seen European gem.

Arnebia pulchra
This is just obnoxious. We've grown this for years in Denver, and I've had a few struggling specimens in my home garden. I've seen it in half a dozen countries or more--but never like this. Worth flying to Reykjavik just to prostrate yourself and bang your head in wonder. But only if your nerdy enough.

Astilboides tabularis
I've seen this splendid mega-herb in dozens if not hundreds of gardens--but rarely so happy.

Astragalus norvegicus
I've seen no end of astragali in Eurasia in the wild, and of course in the West where they are legion But not many that behave in a garden.

Astrantia pauciflora
Not yet in bloom, I know--but its the form and the habit of this that amazes me: utterly unlike any Astrantia I've grown (and I've grown a few). Nature never ceases to amaze me.

Bolax glebaria
I've grown this almost as big. But not quite. Sometimes size counts.

Brimeura amethystina
I think I feature a closeup of this on the other log--but thought it was worth showing anyway.

Callianthemum kernerianum
The graceful way the seedpods bend down is worth seeing don't you agree? I have a friend in Fort Collins (Mary Hegedus) who grows these like weeds. Harrumph.

Chrysoplenium alternifolium
One of my secret sore points. Jacques and Andrea Thompson--some of the finest gardeners on the globe--whose garden I have featured in Prairiebrfeak many times, had a mat of this bigger than this way back in the 1990's (or earlier?) when I visited them for the first time. I yearned for a piece and didn't dare ask. When I contacted him a year or two later about it he sheepishly said that he'd taken the plant out ("too spready"). There is a lesson buried in all this...

Chrysoplenium alternifolium
Clematis alpina
Doesn't show up too well--but if you squint you'll see lots of flowers...

Clematis alpina

Cordyline "WTF???"
What the HELL is this all about. I'm sure they were just bedded out for the summer. But I did see Cordylines growing quite large, quite high up in New Zealand. Anything is possible. But then, Aloe polyphylla ought to be hardy for us as well then following this same logic.

Cortusa caucasica
You know, I could blather on forever on the plants in this garden: there's a story for each one...this one included. But it looks as though I've only annoted a quarter or a third of this eternal array. And I doubt that too many people have suffered along THIS far, so I will quietly check out and let the captions speak for the plants. Iceland rocks: NEXT time I visit, I shall definitely book more time!

Cremanthodium sp.

Crocosmia Lucifer and tulips

Darmera peltatum (bottom left) and Astilboides tabuliformis


Delosperma 'Basuticum'
Finally, a plant that traces to me. I'm not only responsible for introducing this (OK, Sean Hogan found it first and told me where to look--but I was the one who got it around!). And I'm responsible for many of the incorrect epithets being bandied around. I am not responsible for the horrendous new name I will not mention!

Delphinium menziesii
Methinks it's something else...but very nice.

Delphinium nudicaule

Doronicum carpaticum

Douglasia laevigata

Elnmera racemosa

Erigeron compositus

Eryngium bourgatii

Euphorbia sp. (palustris?)

Filipendula camtschatica

Genista pilosa

Geranium orientalitibeticum
I once had a mat of this two meters across.

Geranium pyreneicum

Geum quellyon
I thought it was G. coccineum at first... Amazing that Chileans do so well here.

Horminum pyreneicum
Super color form!

Leptarhena pyroliflora
I know it looks miserable--but I've never seen this elsewhere--and I think it will green up.

Mised Ligularia and Astilboides
I envied the lush foliage so much: we don't do so well with these boggy things in Colorado.

Ligularia calthifolia

Ligularia persica

Ligularia sibirica

Ligularia spp.

Ligularia 'The Rocket'

Lonicera sp.

Lonicera sp.

Lonicera xylosteum

Malus prunifolia

Meconopsis betonicifolia

Mertensia lanceolata
This grows in dry prairie with cacti not far from my house. Amazing they can grow it too!

Narcissus bulbocodium
This isn't quite as impressive as the acres of these I saw one magical day at Savill Gardens--which I must blog about too...

Penstemon procerus

Penstsemon whippleanus
I know it looks scrawny: I should have cropped this. Sorry. But a great plant to see away from home.

Picea engelmannii
Love seeing my native gems away from home.

Potentilla alba

Potentilla alba closeup
Love the silvery leaf undersurface--must be a cousin of Alchemilla!

Potentilla neumanniana

Potentilla pamirica

Potentilla sp.

Primula involucrata
I was surprised there weren't more primulas--these were superb.

Primula latifolia
And this was mind boggling: worth going back in early June to see it at its peak!

Primula polyneura

Pulsatilla violacea

Ranunculus aconitifolius 'Flore Pleno'

Ranunculus aconitifolius 'Flore Pleno'

Ranunculus aconitifolius 'Flore Pleno'
I have grown this. But not like THIS!

Ranunculus alpestris

Weedy buttercup

Ranunculus sp.

Ranunculus parnassifolius
I wonder if Cliff Booker will make it this far?

Aronia? Some strange Sorbus? I couldn't find a label.

Paederota lutea
This boggled my mind. They have tons of this elsewhere too (see the other blog I did)...

Rheum collection: dozens!

Rheum palmatum
I love rhubarbs.

Rhodiola integrifolia

Rhodiola ishidae
And rhodiolas...

Rubes sanguineun
This was blooming last month in Portland, Oregon! Can't believe they grow it. Usually blooms in March in my experience.

Saxifraga sp. (can't read the label, alas)

Rosa furcata

Sambucus sp.

Saxifraga bronchialis

Saxifraga kotschyi

Saxifraga taygetea

Saxifraga oregana

Sedum middendorfianum
What a marvellous clump. The sedums are so neglected by "sophisticated" gardeners. I grow more and more.

Senecio leucophyllum
I need this.
Sibbaldiopsis tridentata
Still known as Potentilla tridentata in the USA and Canada. Dislikes Colorado's alkaline soils, alas.

Silphium ["terebinthinaceum"]
This is the only definite mistake I found on the hundreds of labeled plants: they really did an awesome job with labeling. This surely is more closely allied to S. perfoliatum than to the enormous leaved Prairie Dock with naked stems.

Synthyris missurica
Really great clumps: they had practically every species--I just show two (the other pix didn't cut it)
Synthyris stellata

Townsendia rothrockii

Trollius altissimus
Isn't this yummy?

Trollius acaulis

Tulipa !
Mind you, it's the end of June!

Valeriana montana

Viola biflora
This grows natively in Colorado (though very rare)--about half an hour's drive from Denver. Ours is pretty scrawny by comparison! Check the 25th picture on this OTHER blog to compare..
Waldsteinia ternata
We had even bigger mats of this once at DBG--they were removed when the lilac garden was renovated. We still have one nice mat at the Waring house.

Entrance to Woodland Garden
There were oodles of woodlanders: but I've bored you long enough...just a few more pix to wind down...

Not everything is alpiny: Crocosmia bedded with Primula denticulata, annuals and Paeonia anomala. Eclecticism comes to mind.

Rather intriguing sculpture near part of the rock garden (see beyond?)

And a whole new rocky garden area. Not sure what's planned here...

Lots of wide open spaces too...

If you've made it to then end, I can only say you are indeed a plant fanatic! And you're probably as mystified as I am with this last little display of peculiar bedding!

These pictures were taken en route to my wonderful Chanticleer sponsored study of the Mt. Olympuses in Greece and Turkey. I re-visited Copenhagen's superb rock garden en route--which I have featured in encapsulated form on this blog. But I have never done a proper display of the incredible rock gardens in Germany Jan and I visited in 2013. And my many trips to English (and especially Scottish) public gardens are poorly represented my blog--aside from Branklyn which I did pretty extensively.  most are sketchy...Oh well. I'll always have more in the larder. This is a start!


  1. It seems to me a hummingbird would have trouble keeping up with you.

    When I saw your mystery shrub, the leaves immediately reminded me of my Clethra alnifolia. However, the flower arrangement is an umbel instead of a spike. This reminds me more of a Hawthorn.

  2. Hawthorn...hadn't considered it. Might well be.

    I love being compared to a hummingbird!


Featured Post

A garden near lake Tekapo

The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...

Blog Archive