Monday, December 31, 2018

Anno wunderbar! A year comes to a close...farewell 2018!

Many the wonderful years I've lived, but none have been quite so action-packed and rewarding. Come join me on a quick glimpse over the recent past.
Mt. Cook from my hotel window
 January: My idea of a perfect January is escaping to the Southern Hemisphere, and I was fortunate to have 3 weeks in New Zealand leading a tour for the American Horticultural Society. Fantastic gardens and companions along the way: I blogged pretty frequently about this trip ...but the memories (and slides) are legion, so you must settle with this sunset on the highest peak of this magic isle.

Iris x histrioides 'Katharine's Gold'
February: Home for the month.  I have been lucky to be able to purchase a wide variety of Iriodictyon section irises over the years--many of them Alan McMurtrie hybrids--which thankfully seem to like my garden.  This was the first year I bloomed 'Katharine's Gold' which lasted much of February--and warmed the cockles of my wintry heart. I don't think I shall ever have enough of these! They make February worth waiting for!

Paeonia tenuifolia in bud
 My home garden provides perennial (and annual and woody) delight throughout the year. I little suspected when my clumps of fernleaf peony bloomed the last day of March that less than a month later I'd see acres of them in the wild in easternmost Georgia (within sight of Azerbaijan, Russia and not far from Armenia! Hooboy!

Old town Tbilisi from the botanical garden
April and early May were a three week expedition on behalf of the Plant Collection Cooperative with Boyce Tankersley of Chicago Botanical Garden and Peter Zale of Longwood: one of the most productive, fun and fantastic experiences I shall ever have! I fell in love with this unique country and was thrilled to finally experience the Caucasus (both lesser and greater).

Quince in full bloom
 Coming home to your garden in full bloom only enhances the joy of travel when your a plant nut! My rock garden gives me endless delight every month of the year--but never more than in May.

Tony Hall by Mike Kintgen's "hell" strip
 June: A brief visit from Kew's brilliant horticulturist early in the month was a highlight in a year of highlights: Tony and I first met and went camping together 41 years ago: I have enjoyed his hospitality at Kew repeatedly over the decades and was finally able to lure him to Denver for a fantastic presentation on the Scorpiris--perhaps the single group of plants I yearn for and love more than any other...and that's saying a LOT!

Meconopsis and Incarvillea at Napahai

Once Tony left, June consisted mostly of just over 3 weeks in northern Yunnan with 13 intrepid North American Rock Garden Society members: I don't think I've had another more rollicking, fun, flower filled or rewarding trip (Okay, Georgia was pretty dang cool)...the Chinese mountains exceeded my fondest memories (I'd visited briefly 20 years earlier) and the weather was perfect!

Sarracenia purpurea near Hawk's Hill, Newfoundland

In July I attended the North American Rock Garden Society's annual meeting in St. Johns Newfoundland. I'd visited in May--which was wonderful. But the flowering of practically everything at once around the 4th of July in the Maritimes has to be experienced to be believed. Todd Boland--organizer of this meeting--is a Continental treasure. If you don't belong to NARGS you're missin' out!

Monardella macrantha 'Marian Sampson'
I may have taken this picture in May, June, July--but let's say August. It kept blooming until October--surely the longest blooming spectacle one can grow in a rock garden. But here the best specimen I've ever seen is growing in the Labyrinth at Chatfield Farms--Denver Botanic Gardens' amazing "satellite". I suspect one day it will be a satellite much as the Sun is to the earth--a lot bigger and pretty dang outstanding! Getting the know the fantastic gardeners there, and taking a field trip with them was another high point for me this year.

Westridge in August
I think I like my prickly pears in fruit almost as much as in bloom: the vast xeriscape that is Westridge at my home garden keeps morphing. Opuntia has become a centerpiece for me.
Zdenek and Zdena at Spring Creek with Bryan Fischer
Zdenek and I began corresponding nearly a half century ago, and he's been visiting Denver and sharing his great knowledge for nearly four decades (his first visit was in 1983). What a pleasure to have him tour ten regional botanic gardens, at each of which he saw spectacular crevice gardens in progress or on the planning boards: evidence of his huge influence so far from the Czech Republic. I could tell he was pleased, and his presentations were a huge success. Launch of a Rocky Mountain lecture series!

Butchart Gardens
I was deeply honored to be the annual speaker for the Elizabeth Miller Garden lecture series in Seattle later in September: Jan and I took over a week to visit Vancouver island and various friends around Puget Sound. Four powerhouses have had an enormous positive benefit to gardening in North America: Martha Stewart, Dale Chihuly, Longwood Gardens and Butchart Gardens. These four have inspired millions of people to leap into and revel in Public Gardens and gardening. "Sophisticated" gardeners are understandably a tad jealous (been there, done that) and returning to an ever more sophisticated Butcharts this past fall humbled me. The spectacle is astonishing and really superb. There, I said it. Until we fully acknowledge the debt owed to these four Gods of our art, we will always remain mean and thwarted. I hereby bow down, hell, I kowtow to all four! bang bang bang bang (that's my forehead hitting the ground).

Nonegenarian and her white pine in east Denver (she remembers it as a sapling: "I sure hope I die before it does"
Fifty years ago my friend and mentor, Alan Rollinger, began a survey of the street trees of the Denver metropolitan area. He identified and measured 1200 or so of the most unusual trees in the area. He published a booklet with his finds. I have been fortunate to work with Ann Frazier on our staff, partnering with Rob Davis and Denver city arborists and Master Gardeners and DBG volunteers to seek out and re-measure all the trees identified by Al. After several years of frequent field trips across the region, the final measurements were concluded in November and we're now working on a report--another highlight of this past year's work!

Ray Radebaugh's astonishing garden in Louisville
Nature and gardens are the focus of my work--but people create the latter and we have an increasingly complex relationship with the former (a stranglehold perhaps is a better way of describing our grasp of nature). Ray is another friend of half a century: both of us going through divorce and the distractions of time, we'd lost touch for nearly two decades. This past fall I finally had time to get to know his new wife and children, and visit his fantastic garden. These are the things that make life precious to me.

Alpenglow from my driveway, December 29, 2018

Now the year closes: for several months every morning it seems (or at least the bulk of them) I wake to a gorgeous dawn of Alpenglow igniting the Continental Divide--200 miles of which stretches within view of my living room windows. I have taken dozens, perhaps hundreds of pictures of the Front Range peaks which are sometimes pink like watermelon snow, other times Marmalade shades of orange and apricot, or the whole jelly case of fruit tints. Despite living less than ten miles from Downtown Denver (seen in this picture) and surrounded, really, by scores of miles of city in all directions, the half acre I'm blessed to live on--and our dispersed neighborhood give me the illusion of being somehow in nature. But its the Rocky Mountains that remind me of why I live here--so near and yet not so very far!

My blog usually dwells on plants, and this posting may lead you to think my life is a perpetual lark (and at times I'm almost persuaded myself)...but there are undertows in every life: this year I lost family members whom I have loved all my life, and who have had a great impact on me: my brother-in-law Earl Sampson, my first cousin Spiro Callas (on my father's side) and just two weeks ago my coeval first cousin on my mother's side, Eleni Nikolaou nee Kornaraki.

And I have experienced anger, depression and fury over the political direction of my very own country. I believe that treasonous collusion with a foreign power has polluted our political process and led to the installation of an illegitimate administration which is despoiling our environment--social, political, ecological and especially the airwaves with non-stop vulgarity, dishonesty and cupidity. The frightening contrast between the heinous world of national and international politics and the fantastic fulfillment of my work, my remarkably wise and good extended family and friends and the hundreds of honest, kind and thoughtful people I deal with from day to day is hard to jibe with so much violence in our country, our poor southern border and the world at large.

View of distant construction via the Romantic Garden promenade at Denver Botanic Gardens

Just noticed the last picture is out of focus: let's pretend it's "impressionistic" instead! The Blossoms of Light come to an end tomorrow night--and the crane looming over the Boetcher building presages the excitement of the Freyer-Newman Center that will expand our programs enormously and finally provide our Science, Exhibitions, Education and Library staff the Lebensraum they need to work even more powerfully.

I only wish there were a crane that would remove the demonic elements of our body politic and bury them deep in the compost heaps of history!

1 comment:

  1. It will certainly take a lot of time to overcome the detriment of our current political scene but we can focus on all the grateful parts of our lives which make up the most of our existence. I appreciate all your posts. Your enthusiasm for plants is contagious and I am grateful for this. I wish you a Happy Healthy New Year.


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