The Master

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I have been lucky in my long professional career to have come to know many of the greatest gardeners in the Alpine World: some by attending conferences together (so I can say I "met" Wilhelm Schacht, Jim Crosland, Jack Drake, Will Ingwersen, Roy Elliot because we brushed shoulders at meetings). But I have been blessed to have a much longer, much deeper relationship with several other masters of the field, and none is more remarkable or truly dazzling than Zdenek Zvolanek. His quaint Czech name proved such a challenge to foreigners that he's almost better known as "Zed Zed". I believe when all is said and done, Zdenek will loom as large and cast as long a shadow as Reginald Farrer, acknowledged as the most illustrious name in the field of Alpine Gardening. Zdenek is one of the originators of the Czech crevice gardening technique: that combined with his organizational flair helping design and stage the great Czech spring show, his wide international speaking activities and his out-sized personality and vision have helped expand our musty old art, making it exciting and relevant to the upcoming generation of Millennials--and bringing rock gardening into the mainstream of Garden Art once again.

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 Reggie and Zdenek share some notable traits: both are indefatigable plant explorers--Reginald concentrating on the Alps and Himalayas. Zdenek has cast a wide net as well--he has concentrated on the amazingly rich flora of the Balkans, Turkey--and spent quite a bit of time in Western North America as well. Both are prolific authors--Reginald wrote a bookshelf worth of tomes in his short life. Zdenek's lived decades longer than Farrer already, and looks fit to last many more--editing the Czech Rock Garden Society's Skalnicky, co-editing The International Rock Gardener (click on the name to see a sample) and authoring numerous articles in these, in other journals and the first ever book on Crevice Gardening.  I'm not sure which of the two has stronger opinions: I wouldn't want to be stuck in the crossfire.

 The contrasts between the two are even more striking--but it would take a book to elaborate on those! And it would be a book I'd love to write--but not, alas, on this blog!

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Enough chit chat! What I am going to do is rather odd: I took an enormous number of pictures at Karlik (the town where Zdenek's garden lies). So many that it took me months to get around to writing this piece. I wanted to dash it off right after the wonderful Czech International Conference last May where Zdenek and Vojtech Holubec had invited me to speak. This, then, is a sort of thank you, and a taste of what I saw in Zdenek's garden on a simply luminous spring day at the height of bloom. I had looked forward to seeing this garden for half a century (for that's how long Zdenek and I have corresponded). He'd made his way to Denver four times starting in 1983 (and is due to return next summer!): my visit his way was horribly, ignominiously and terribly overdue. I am ashamed I'd not gone before. I will go back!

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 These pictures really don't need commentary, and I will not inflict it. You will see pretty much what I saw--I've eliminated quite a few duplicates, and those that remain are there for a reason. I am not going to tag plant names on each image--it would take forever for me to do that, and frankly, Zdenek has featured many of these in the International Rock Gardener, which is on line, and free to look up: do a bit of homework if you're dying of curiosity--or post a question at the end citing the picture number (I've added them in the lower right) and I shall respond if I know the name, or I suspect Zdenek might: I have a hunch he'll enjoy reading this...and seeing his garden through my eyes!

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What will follow will be a mix of vignettes and vistas I photographed during a much too brief of tour of "the beauty slope" during the last International Czech rock garden conference on May 13 of this year.
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I can't resist pointing out Oron Peri (hands on hips near center) the great Israeli seedsman, author and tour leader. That's the sort of participant you meet at these conferences! The best!

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I love the paving on the patio and many of the subtle details throughout the home and garden.

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Eighty seven images later we end back down on the street. My smile is sincere: even among a busload of fellow rock gardeners I felt that Karlik was all mine that day. A great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction fills my heart having finally seen Zdenek's masterpiece. Next summer, I look forward to spending time with him and Zdena--and continuing our friendship of half a century!  I salute you, Master!

Comments

  1. A visit is on my wish list PK.Thanks for sharing. Cheers Dave T. from the southern hemisphere maritimes .....

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  2. This garden is awe inspiring. You are blessed to have this friendship and mentor/master in your life.

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  3. Every garden you show is more awe-inspiring than the last. Plus I love the horseshoe and amazing pieces of wood.

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