Thursday, February 8, 2018

Now is the dawning of the age of the succulent...(disclaimer attached)

(For more information and a link to buy this book click here)

Disclaimer #1: I wrote the Foreword
Disclaimer #2: I am inordinately fond of both Authors, as well as Celia Barnett (wife of Don, mother of Donnie and lovely lady!)
Disclaimer #3: I am not getting any kickbacks for promoting this book. Not even a toaster (my toaster still works for one thing), although under duress I will confess I got a free copy of the book for writing the Foreword.

Whew! That's done. Now to the matter at hand. Almost a year ago the Barnett family produced the first edition of their thorough updating of Charles Hercules Boissevain's Colorado Cacti: An Illustrated Guide. The two books are fun to compare side by side: Boissevain's slim, dark volume with black and white pictures. The Barnett's enormous tome dwarfs it, as does the data included inside. Much has been learned about the cactus family since Charles Hercules tromped around the state.

And much of that learning has taken place in Pueblo where a number of outstanding field workers, nurserymen and hobbyists have made the place the Cactus Capital of the Rockies. You will simply have to buy the book to read all the flattering things I say about Don and Donnie--bottom line: they have expanded our knowledge and understanding of our native succulent flora dramatically. In addition to adding the first bona fide Mammillaria to our flora (they found M. heyderi in Southeastern Colorado for the first time), they describe two new species in this book, which was peer reviewed, and in my estimation they not only constitute valid new taxa, but two spectacular new plants to add to our Xeriscape palettes. The book contains all the apparatus you'd expect in serious monograph (keys, detailed morphological descriptions, synonymy and appendices, glossary and index galore, but also thorough habitat descriptions, range, elevation--whole chapters on biogeography of Colorado, ethnobotanical uses, biological controls and more. There is a much too short section (but still generous!) showing far too few pictures of the Barnett Garden. In addition to being researchers and accomplished field botanists and monographers, the Barnetts are gardeners second to none in artistry and plantsmanship.

You can buy the book on Amazon, (see link at top below the picture of their book). I shall try to make up for their LACK of pictures of their garden now: I have taken dozens (maybe hundreds) of pictures of Casa Barnett and garden over the years--these are a smattering at different times.They've hosted our Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society tours and tours from Denver Botanic Gardens repeatedly--try to get on one of these: a visit to their garden is a delight!

Over the years, I've visited the Barnett garden at all times of the year: no matter when, it seems to always be orderly--and it has fantastic appeal in all seasons. Some wet springs there's so much color that you almost need sunglasses!

This has been a labor of love for the whole family: field trips all over the West were planned to study and photograph cacti. But  they developed a love for other groups of western wildflowers. Here you can see prickly poppy and a pale yellow penstemon, P. bicolor--essentially non existent in cultivation except here.

Some years the spring rains are more sparse--but cacti always come through!

A lovely form of Opuntia fragilis (possibly of the O. debreczyi persuasion)--one doesnt often see this bloom well in gardens.

Mammilaria heyderi
The first time I saw this bloom in a Colorado garden was at the Barnett's--ten or more years ago. Since then they found it growing inside Colorado's borderline!

Opuntia chlorotica
One of the many marginal plants that seem to thrive in the Barnett microclimae and nowhere else in Colorado! This striking Opuntia is generally not considered hardy in colder than Zone 7.

A photograph taken in a drier year again--the garden still blazing with color. And yes, the Barnett's have the Cow skull motif (a subtle tribute to Georgia O'Keefe?). I'm always amused to see that REAL Colorado xeriscapes always have to have at least one animal skull: I am pretty sure that Pat and Joel Hayward (whose garden I've featured) have TWO.

On a wetter year the penstemons just blaze!

Many choice larger prickly pears, this one of the O. macrocentra group I believe (Donnie will correct me if I'm wrong I'm sure!)

Penstemon pseudospectabilis
Possibly my favorite xeriscape penstemon: this lives for a long time, blooms its fool head off for months and what a color!

Don Barnett (elder of the two Dons) on the right

Try as I may, I can't seem to find a picture of the younger Don: I so admire how this family has formed a team to explore, research and share their knowledge of our Southwestern flora.

Don and Celia have been gracious hosts to many groups that come through. Donnie has come home in recent years and expanded the Barnett operation into a respectable propagation, nursery and research operation! He has worked closely over the years with Jeff Ottersberg--the premier wholesale producer of native cacti and other succulents as well. Thanks to their efforts, an enormous range of unusual and special native cacti have been made widely available in our region at very reasonable prices.

Donnie spent much of the last decade in Las Vegas where he developed a deep knowledge of the Mojave flora and did important field work researching plant distribution and threatened habitats. He worked as propagator and a manager at the Springs Preserve there--where I visited him and was impressed at his range of accomplishment and scope.

He's come back home and is pursuing graduate studies, tackling the enormous complexities of some of our Southwestern Opuntia: a prickly task at best! The conversations that we've had have convinced me that he is the star not just of our Colorado cactus and xeriscape realm, but his research in the field and now in the realm of nursery production will have far reaching and exciting discovery!

Buy the book--it's already a classic, and I have a hunch more is coming down the pike soon! I am one who believes in hitching your wagon to a star: when it comes to the Barnetts, we have a veritable constellation! Hitch, I say!

Thank you, Don, Donnie and Celia, for all you've done to educate, propagate and celebrate our glorious natural bounty!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Featured Post

A garden near lake Tekapo

The crevice garden of Michael Midgley Just a few years old, this crevice garden was designed and built by Michael Midgley, a delightful ...

Blog Archive