Wednesday, January 3, 2018

China: mother of gardens. An invitation au voyage!


I first went to China in the late 1990's as part of a Sister City's trip to Kunming (Denver's Sister City). The Chinese staged an unbelievable Floral Exposition there that occupied well over 100 acres and our ostensible purpose of the trip was to pay official homage. They made a huge deal out of our visit (not many Europeans or non-East Asian attended this amazing exposition which attracted over 20 million visitors during its duration of a year)...I understand the site was transformed into a permanent horticultural park--I plan on checking it out before or after this tour to be sure. It was a pretty fantastic sight and I ran out of film on my trip to it... I returned to China a few years later and was due to visit many new sites in the mountains--but my two days in the Yulongshan on my first trip was my only taste of the Chinese was NOT ENOUGH!

Anemone demissa on the Yulongshan foothills
 Of course, all my pictures were transparencies, only a few of which (and not necessarily the best) have been scanned in the interim. I decided to dig some of these up--with one or two interpolations of Chinese plants I've grown in the Rock Alpine Garden that leaped out at me (in the scanned slide folder)...These should provide a taste of what one can encounter on a brief trip to these unbelievable mountains...

Arisaema aff. yunnanense growing on rocky scree, Yulongshan
 We saw quite a few species of Arisaema--I especially recall A. consanguineum EVERYWHERE...which for some reason or another I've never had scanned).  Unless that's the foliage on the far left? I was astounded to see these growing in full sun in rock scree!

Arisaema utile,in subalpine forest of Yulongshan

This is the one we saw the most of--filling the subalpine woods. I am sure it's been cultivated in gardens, although I don't recall seeing it in any I've visited. It was quite abundant...

Arisaema utile
HONEST: I didn't dig it up. It was on a boardwalk through the woods...and stayed there!

Adiantum venustum on Yulongshan
 It is always a thrill to see a plant you grow in nature for us plant nerds. This is one of the best ferns in my garden--staying evergreen and tolerating quite a bit of abuse. I've seen it in Pakistan and then in China! In Pakistan it was epiphytic on Deodar Cedars at tree line!

Cypripedium macranthum on Yulongshan
I noticed the ladyslippers out of the corner of my eye when we travelled with a crowd up to a ski area. The next day we rented a car and driver and returned to where I'd thought I'd noticed these....

Cypripedium macranthum on Yulongshan (C flavum in the background)

To my amazement we found TWO species here. Later we also found Cypripedium plectrochilum--which I apparently never scanned (dangnabbit!), a fabulous little gem.

Gentiana melandriifolium photographed by Ed Conners in Cangshan above Dali
This picture was taken on my second tour: my mother suffered a stroke and I flew home before the rest of the travelers went to the mountains. Ed gave me a few images and this was one to let me see what I'd missed...

Iris forrestii in the Rock Alpine Garden 1986 or so
I don't believe we'll be in the range of THIS species on my trip--but wish we were! I've never grown this so well since the time I took this picture...

Iris delavayi in the Rock Alpine Garden ca, 1997

Another "siberian" from Western China: this one was dazzling for several years and produced buckets of seed, which of course I neglected to bank...

Iris delavayi in the Rock Alpine Garden

Primula pulverulenta on the Yulongshan
 There were untodl primulas, rhododendrons, androsaces and anemones on this trip.

Primula beesiana on the Yulongshan

Quercus dentata on Yulongshan (see Jim Henrich for height comparison!)
There were not too many oaks of this size. It has to be over 120' high.

Stellera chamaejasme on Yulongshan with Iris decora photobombing....

I end with a twofer! This Stellera was quite abundant, as were some dazzling daphnes, including the golden ones...

Click HERE if you want more info on the trip. The trip is one that Harry Jans, the dedoubtable Dutch plantsman has led many times and passed along to us. Do check his amazing website and you can see images he's taken on this very trip (from Lijiang to Shangrila) on several occasions. Or maybe you shouldn't: he has so many great pictures if you get on his Smugmug photogallery you may not need to take a trip ever again!

Thus far, we have ten pretty special people signed up for this trip. There will be a lavish spread about it in the upcoming Rock Garden Quarterly that expect will fill it up--but I thought that my Blog readers deserved a chance to sign up before I start a bigger campaign to be sure we get to Yunnan this summer, OR BUST!

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