Monday, December 11, 2017

Genghis Bone: Steppe Meister!

[A quick little apology: I keep trying new templates for my blog. I rather like this one, but I too am irritated with the stupid flag that keeps asking you the sign up and won't go away--I'm trying to see if I can get them to fix that. I may have to switch to yet another format if we can't change that. Anyway: I'm aware it's there and how annoying it is. My sincere apology. Hang in there--and I'll get it fixed one way or another!]

Michael Bone in Bayan Olgii, Mongolia...
Plants plants plants, I've heard a few people complain. All you ever show is PLANTS! Don't you EVER show PEOPLE? Well, doh! I AM a plant nerd, not a people nerd...but it just so happens I DO like some people. Everyone in my far flung, fantastic family for instance--every last one of them I adore. And believe me, I have a big family. I work with hundreds of people at a wonderful public garden, and I have deep affection and respect for them as well, not to mention the thousands of volunteers, tens of thousands of members and millions of people in the seven county Denver area who pay my salary: I cannot say enough good things about them...and then there's this fellow!

Mike is rapidly closing his second decade working at Denver Botanic Gardens: he has been a stalwart friend during that whole period and as thoughtful and professional a colleague as one could desire. Alas, I have only been on a handful of expeditions with him--and can honestly say that there is no one I'd rather travel with: he's supremely organized, always positive, enthusiastic and savvy with people, places and politics. He may well have even saved my life on this trip when I sank waist deep into a snowbank, and might still be there (a latter day ice man) if he hadn't pulled me out!

Mike's enthusiasm for landscape and plants is second to none: it's no accident I took quite a few pictures of him--he was always nearby (probably a tad worried about the "old man") and always near the coolest plant!  I will only subject you to the pictures I took of him in Mongolia! There were far more in Kazakhstan--and as photogenic as he may be, this IS a blog about plants... I'm just making a special exception for our latter day Khan here...and to bring some balance to all the Mongolian plant pix (there are more to come, believe me!)...

The other character who shows up in these pictures, with the Pharoah like cap--is Vladimir Kolbintsev, our interpreter and intrepid guide--well worth his own gallery of shots.

Mike will often show up on top of mountains--he's pretty energetic!

I may have posted this already, but it deserves to be revisited: he knows how to relax as well!

Enjoying the river of rose color...primula? vetch? lousewort? I forget.

The little dot in the middle of this picture (I should insert an arrow) is Bone--who decided he wanted to touch a glacier. The glacier is actually a few hours away: it's a big honker. The only time in the trip I was annoyed with him (I had to wait till he got back to return to camp many miles away)..

Here he is admiring the wares the local Tuva people were offering to sell us at bargain prices!

About to pick something out no doubt!

His "tough guy" image belies his delicacy at the tea table, obviously!

That's Rhodiola quadrifida below. Watch out! Plants are sneaking in...

Trollius altaicus below...

A fabulous meadow with Dracocephalum grandiflorum...

I believe that's Primula xanthobasis (or P. nivalis) he's photographing

A closeup

The photobomb pony closer up...

I'd like to think that this trip to Central Asia helped inspire Mike to have helped develop the Steppe Garden, which was installed in 2016 and had it's first full year this year. Most everyone who's seen it has been enchanted: I know that many people including our CEO (Brian Vogt), Sarada Krishnan who is Director of Horticulture and Global Initiatives and especially the Landscape Architecture firm of Didier Design in Fort Collins (principal: Emmanuel Didier) conceived and advanced the concept, and ultimately built the garden---but as Curator of Steppe Collections, Mike Bone and his staff were the ones who came up with the specific plant choices and combinations that created a spectacle of beauty and interest the very first year.

Early in the first year--the ice plants are just starting to peak in May--most plants are still sparse in the South African section on the right...

The Irano-Turanian section (Turkey, Western and Central Asia) in mid summer....totally distinct in effect...

 Michauxia campanuloides and the hollyhock made a wonderful combination!

An Allium of the A. senescens complex in late summer.

Tulipa fosteriana in April...

Tulipa sylvestris...

The next sequence will show the South African steppe sections..

And finally the Steppe Meister planting a trough with Anita Cox's help...

So you see, I do show more than "just plants" in my blogs!

Thanks, Mike, for your personal and professional friendship over the years: you've enriched my life enormously and we have had great fun! Keep up the momentum!


  1. I've been lurking for quite a while, enjoying your wonderful posts. I visited the DBG just before the eclipse this year, I have to say that the Steppe Garden was so lovely that it eclipsed everything else at the Gardens.

    1. Thanks, Carol, for coming out of the woods! I was AT the Gardens for the eclipse--and the Steppe Garden was stunning. I'm excited to watch its transformations in the coming years...

  2. Thanks Panayoti. I have spent my career learning from you and trying to take them many lessons and turn them into the tangible. One of the most important is to not only cultivate the best plants but the best people as well. The staff and volunteers that are involved in "Steppe'n up" are the life blood of my little movement.

  3. This is a wonderful article! I was honored to get to know both you and Michael, and the Steppe Gardens at DBG this summer when the PPA had their annual symposium in Denver. Thank you both for all that your did for the PPA, People are still talking about the fantastic time that they had and everything that they learned!


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