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.
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!
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!