Friday, January 5, 2018

In the depths of winter...a stroll through Denver Botanic Gardens' York Street gardens.

Galanthus elwesii
Let's get it over with: there IS a flower blooming (probably a few more if I'd scrounged)--a snowdrop in the Rock Alpine Garden. Those who know me (and I suspect there are quite a few) know that I'm not a lover of North Temperate Winter. I know no end of sensitive, wise and very artistic folk who've tried to make me love the dun season. And on warmish winter interludes (as we've had most of the so-called winter thus far), when I can almost wander without a sweater most days...I'm almost persuaded...

Finding this anthology of mushrooms in Woodland Mosaic garden at Denver Botanic Gardens
I don't deny that ice and architecture combine in fascinating ways...

Calceolaria arachnoidea
 And seeing sexy plants that are fabulous in summer looking pretty cool in winter too is interesting to be sure...
Verbascum wiedemannianum
 Some plants have the temerity to look just as good in winter as they do in summer. Almost.

 I love the little vygies that have popped up amind the mulleins!

Arctotis adpressa is looking pretty good thus far this winter...what will it look like in March all budded up?

 I wish I could find some history for this "Helichrysum thianshanicum" that's being sold all over the USA: it looks suspiciously like H. heldreichii to me--not anything like any curry plant I've seen in Asia...harrumph!

Araucaria araucana

 The monkey puzzles are looking pretty good still...but then we haven't had subzero weather...yet!

Acer griseum
 And there's the obligatory nod to "bark"

In the foreground is a broom--have you ever noticed how many brooms are not only very leafy, but evergreen?
Kerria japonica
 More bark. This time the delightful Rosaceous shrub from East Asia that is under appreciated in Denver.
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 Sculpture does show up well in the winter garden. This fellow needs some acne medicine I reckon.

Liriope spicata
 In much of the country Mondo grasses and Liriopes are horribly cliche. Not in Denver, where almost the only place you see them is Denver Botanic Gardens--although we have masses everywhere.

Here's a whole symphony of evergreenishness...

Rohdea japonica
 I find it hard to believe how tough this has proven. Thank you Bill Stufflebeam and Bobbie-Lively Diebold for filling Denver  Botanic Gardens with these! (I must tell the whole story some day about these...)

I grant you grasses can look mighty good in the winter months....

Epimedium colchicum
 And many epimediums look fresh as in the growing season: although this is really the time to cut them back so the flowers show up in a few months...ahem!

Liriope muscari 'Variegata'
 Hmmm. This is one I'm not growing yet...

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'
  My favorite of the whole clan--forming masses in Plantasia...and blooming and setting seed like crazy here.
Helleborus foetidus
 I love the brooding buds, like Snoopy pretending he's a vulture.

The ever expanding bamboo grove in Plantasia
 Otherwise known as Mark's legacy.

We did the bark, now the berries...

Dwarf conifers are renowned for their winter presence.

Scarlet Curls R Willow

The xeric crevice garden is pretty cool to look at in winter...

From different points of view...

For a little reality check...this is the same spot as the previous picture--at the opposite end of the seasonal spectrum.

 A miniature pinon pine (Pinus edulis).

A different clone of dwarf pinon (Pinus edulis)

Juniperus horizontalis 'Allanek' (a.k.a. 'Two Buttes')

Junipers often take on wine colored tints in winter.

Daphne 'Anton Fahdrich'

Plantago sempervirens

Acantholimon halophilum
 A monster spikethrift on the summit of the Rock Alpine Garden...

Kniphofia triangularis
 One forgets how many torch lilies are evergreen...

Pinus banksiana 'Schoodic'

Yucca pallida x rupicola

Fruiting Ivy

Evergreen barberry
 I am not sure which species--in the x mentorensis or juliana complex. It's gotten enormous! And reliably evergreen and probably drought tolerant...

Iris foetidissima
 The Gladwyne is surely one of the most underappreciated perennials...

Cephalotaxus harringtoniana
 I planted this a very long time ago--almost 40 years! I'm amazed how durable and tough it's been.

Acanthus balcanicus
 One forgets how attractive deciduous perennials can be if you don't cut them back!

Garrya flacescens
 We should put this poor thing out of its misery--NOT the best form of this for gardens--but it's been there forever.
Ephedra procera
 The color is much more bluegreen than this brownish-gray the pictures shows. An enormous Mormon Tea. Not many mormons where this grows...

Rubus cockburnianus
 The icy blue stems on this bramble are stand ins for the "branches" aspect of winter (you know, "berries, bark, branches and buds"...

Festuca scoparia 'Pic Carlit' 
 Almost as prickly as an Acantholimon, this fescue could serve a purpose--perhaps to dissuade pets from a lawn?
Sedum rupestre 'Apennine'

 Leave it to Mike Kintgen to find the perfect spot for this fantastic Sedum collected by Betty Ann Addison of Rice Creek Gardens in the mountains of Italy. A plant I would not want to be without!

Xeric gardens hold up well in winter.

Dasylirion texanum

Sporobolus wrightii

Rabbit brush

Physaria bellii
 I love the flannely texture of our local endemic bladderpod. Rare in nature, but easy in culture.

One of my favorite spots--always good looking Dryland Mesa

Arctostaphylus x coloradoensis
 Manzanitas always start blooming now in nature and gardens.

Garrya lindheimeri
 Thank you, Dan Hosage, for the gift of these. Ridiculous that it's not in cultivation elsewhere.

Arbutus texana
 Some also call it Arbutus xalapensis. I've been amazed how tough this has proven.

Wonderful vignettes everywhere...
 That's Pinus engelmanii on the right. 'Raydon's Weeping' Cupressus arizonica was a gift of Alan Tower, great nurseryman of Spokane: he drove two of these down as gifts to Denver Botanic Gardens. (Among a great many other goodies he's given us as well, including his namesake Delosperma!).

Potager at DBG
 The boxwoods look livelier in reality...

Calamagrostis brachytricha
 I always think of this as a shade loving grass--but it obviously likes son as well. Much better than its cousin, Karl.

Sporobolus wrightii
 I've been seeing this more and more around Denver. Still not as fraction the numbers of Miscanthus, alas.
Hard to imagine this full of cacti...

Another flashback!

Cotyledon orbiculata
 They came through LAST year OK...

Crassula peploides and Helichrysum flanaganii duking it out

So far, so good..
 Various Aloinopsis, Bergeranthus and Titanopsis calcarea...


Hydrangea 'Limelight' looking towards the Northeast

Hydrangea 'Limelight' looking towards the Southwest...
 Some may even prefer hydrangeas in their winter guise!

Themeda triandra (reddish) and Javaba (Stipa) ichu (yellowish)

Two killer grasses. Now can we have Spring?

P.S. for decades (almost four to be exact) winter has been such a slow season that we might as well have closed the gates. Hardly anyone would come...

As I wandered around taking these pictures today, I had a hard time NOT getting someone in the picture. There were a tremendous number of visitors wandering around the grounds. And that's like that every day (unless it's fiercely snowy or cold). People hereabouts have discovered Denver Botanic Gardens--and they even come in the winter months. Of course, there are some things to see--which is key, of course. It's also important to use enough interesting plants for winter effect--conifers, broadleaf evergreens, for sure, but anything with appealing form and color--not just bark, berries, branches and buds--and combining them in creative ways will lure you out to your garden more. And lure visitors too!


  1. Winter also shows off the many ways DBG uses rock to mark edges and create planting ledges. There's nothing I love better than garden shots from the same spot in different seasons; these were particularly dramatic.

    Is the Sedum rupestris 'Appennine' that same color in the warm season? What a stunner.

    How satisfying to experience the results of your efforts with the gardens being enjoyed year-round. Well done!

    1. Thank you, Nell: would love to take credit--but alas, have had very little input for decades. But I did set some things in motion!

      The sedum is only bright red in winter--but a good blue-green in summer with showy yellow flowers. And not weedy!

      I should do more "then and now" pix--I could do thousands!

  2. That Arbutus texana looks great! I need one of those.

  3. I can see some Prickly Pears cactus in the rockery. Yeah I do have some Prickly Pear cactus planted in my garden in England, too, about 50 cm tall. It has been there for 4 years now and quite tough, 8 years old but has never flowered, maybe it's because I started it as a seed.

  4. Arbutus is the Strawberry Tree, isn't it? The ones they sell in garden centres have very small fruits. The Arbutus fruits I saw at markets in China were very big about toe size - big dark red round fruits. They sell them by kilos, heaps and heaps of them. Very beautiful and quite sweet. They eat them raw, make fresh juice or fermented juice with sugar, make candied arbutus or... can them - yeah they have lots of these arbutus fruits for their canning factories to use! You can find canned/tinned Arbutus fruits in Chinese supermarkets in the West. Look at the label on the can - it has a picture of the red arbutus fruits which look like red Lychee fruits, but it costs cheaper than canned Lychee.

  5. Chinese arbutus ( is in a different family, although the flowers look like the true Arbutus. Names can be tricky! I must try these some day, thanks, Anonymous!

  6. Cool post. Great is this that you added a lot of photos ;)


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