Sunday, April 19, 2020

A tree book you should own!

To paraphrase Hamlet "What's Fort Collins to you or you to Fort Collins?"-- unless of course you LIVE there. Why should anyone care about a book about the trees of Fort Collins?

Trust me, this is relevant far beyond Larimer County. Not only is this handsome and very reasonably priced book full of good information, it reveals the culture of a city that cares about trees: how many cities can say that?

 I think you will be as surprised as I was to see such a diversity of trees represented in the volume--over 200 kinds. The author (Renée Galeano-Popp) sticks to species, which I find refreshing: so many budded trrees and cultivars and more and more hybrids are starting to fill our streets, I'm glad she stuck to the real thing instead of test tube clones and clowns.

As the press release (which I shall reprint at the end of my blog) says there are over 400 pictures: which I didn't count, but I don't doubt, since most every tree has a closeup of foliage and often the bark. There are concise bullet points on the nomenclature, the often a bit of ethnobotany or history and some verbal delineations on how each taxon can be distinguished from closely related taxa.

The pictures are crisp and clear and the text is lucid and interesting. Of course, there are scads of tree books out there, but this one seems to me to have special value for the useful identifications and especially because Renée has made an effort at completeness: J don't think many Fort Collins tree taxa slipped through her net.

I've had the privilege of touring Fort Collins to look at trees with both Scott Skogerboe and Tim Buchanan--these two and Dr. James Klett at C.S.U. are responsible for much of the surprising diversity of trees covered by the book. I thought I'd seen most all of Fort Collins' rarities: I was wrong. Just take oaks for an example--Tim had shown me the enormous Sequiodendrons, and Scott toured me through the cemetery, where I admired the giant larch...but somehow I missed the Chisos red (Graves), the Faber's, the Gray, the Hungarian, the Korean, the Manchurian, the Mohr, the Mongolian, the Persian, Post, Sawtooth, Valley and Water Oaks. I DID, however, see the Escarpment Live Oaks (Quercus fusiformis) that Tim has planted here and there around the Fort--which Renée inexplicably overlooked (the only omission I found thus far).

There were likewise a number of conifers I didn't know grew in Colorado, and rare nuggets throughout: who knew there was a Deodar Cedar in Fort Collins? Or Mongolian Linden?

For a tree hugger like me, it's all about these unusual trees (most of which are on public property, and Renée indicates where they are so you can look them up).

The real subtext of the book is that there is a remarkable community of extraordinary people who've planted these trees: you would perhaps expect this in a town with a Land Grant University--but this richness is thanks to a dynamic and ambitious City Forestry program (epitomized by recently retired Tim Buchanan) who have planted large numbers of unusual trees (few of the trees in the book are singletons), and especially to Fort Collins Nursery Wholesale, where Past owner Gary Epstein and the long time and still current propagator, Scott Skogerboe have worked with CSU and Plant Select to propagate and distribute no end of fantastic woody plants.

Renée generously acknowledges Dr. James Klett--who's taught several generations of students woody plants and created an arboretum on the CSU campus where many of the rarest trees reside. Dr. Klett is threatening to truly retire: CSU would need to hire a half dozen professors to truly replace him.

I know of no other city in the Rocky Mountain Region that has achieved so much with trees--in a climate that seems determined to have grassland in our gardens instead.

Those in Fort Collins should contact Renée directly (see below). Outside that city, I suggest purchasing your book through the Colorado Native Plant Society bookstore. which you can find discounted at this website

I think you will find it very useful!

Renée Galeano-Popp
Livermore, Colorado
Discover Fort Collins’ tree treasures (while social distancing) with this new urban tree guide
Fort Collins CO. April 14, 2020 Renée Galeano-Popp’s new book, Trees of Fort Collins – A Field Guide, has come out just in time to celebrate Arbor Day (Friday, April 24). What a perfect time to get outdoors, visit some of the city’s community parks and Colorado State University campus, and discover the beauty and diversity of trees that Fort Collins has to offer.
This new urban field guide includes descriptions and photographs of over 200 species that can be viewed at the CSU Heritage Arboretum (just west of the Canvas Stadium), City Park, and the streets and parks of town. (Many trees can also be viewed at the Gardens on Spring Creek once it reopens.) Shade and evergreen trees are both included, and each species is illustrated with photos of leaves, bark, fruit, and/or flowers. Listed and indexed by both common and botanic names, the nativity (where it’s native), a physical description, horticultural tips, and special notes are included in each entry, along with the general locations they can be found within the city.
Here’s what others are saying about Trees of Fort Collins:
As new pests and diseases attack our city trees, we’re fortunate that our regional urban foresters have embraced “Tree Diversity”—and Renée Galeano-Popp appears to have written our guidebook! Page after page of this book contains not just the tried and true, but dozens of taxa which have flourished in Fort Collins but are otherwise unknown along the Front Range. The photography is excellent, and the production value of this book is first rate…The book is a great tribute to the horticulture scene in Fort Collins—especially Tim Buchanan (former City Forester) who practically turned Fort Collins into one giant arboretum. Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery and Colorado State’s arboretum have also been key to so many species and the excitement of this outstanding book. Anyone who loves trees (and who doesn’t?) needs this book. I plan to buy several to share with my tree nerd friends. Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator and Director of Outreach, Denver Botanic Gardens
As a professional botanist, I have lots of books and keys on plants but none of them are specifically focused on the trees of Fort Collins and no guides have both the native and horticultural species together…This book is user-friendly and good for all ages. What a great activity for families. It makes being outside even more fun. Pam Smith, Botanist, Colorado Natural Heritage Program
Sometimes a book comes along that under normal circumstances we would truly appreciate. But when a new book launches at a time when we have had so many activities canceled due to an unprecedented pandemic, a good book takes on a whole new meaning… Here in Fort Collins Spring has sprung and trees in our locality are about to strut their stuff. It’s the perfect time to pick up the new field guide to trees all around Fort Collins by local retired botanist and forest ecologist, Renée Galeano-Popp. Blaine Howerton, North Forty News
Trees of Fort Collins can be purchased directly from the author by email or phone, through the Colorado Native Plant Society website (, or or pick-up at Larimer County Forestry, 2649 E. Mulberry, Suite 6, Fort Collins. 970-498-5765
$25, softcover, 266 pages, full color with over 400 photographs. Re-sellers’ rates may also be available.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Georgia (Caucasus) and Denver trees: two virtual booklets for you!

Paeonia tenuifolia in my garden in 2018

 Certain plants in all of our gardens are the "chocolate chips" that add that extra zip--and fernleaf peonies are certainly a perfect example. Although I have grown and loved this plant forever, now as I see it emerging through snow (again!) and surging up to bloom, it can't help but waft me back to Georgia--not the one with Atlanta! the one with Tbilisi!--where I spent a fantastic three weeks two Aprils ago. Finding this peony by the thousand in the wild was a high point of the trip (and of my lifetime of flower hunting!)

Flowers, scenery and travel with boon companions are recorded and celebrated in the publication below--which you can not only READ and enjoy (now that we're all on lockdown mode--it could be handier than at other times!). Just click the yellow caption below the cover of that issue (which is my picture--as are all the pictures illustrating the article, incidentally--most of which I've not shared on this blog.)
November issue of International Rock Gardener*

The full account of the Plant Collections Consortium expedition can be downloaded as a .pdf if you click on that link. Thanks again not just to P.C.C. and especially to Boyce Tankersley and Peter Zale, but to Denver Botanic Gardens for supporting my participation and granting me the time for that fantastic trip! Boyce and Peter were both veterans of traveling the Caucasus--and though I wrote the bulk of the text, they redacted it (rather severely!) and have written a vast quantity of notes I drew from that are published in another appendix, which alas, is not readily available on the web. Sorry!

Salvia compar

Although this same picture is in the publication, I can't resist showing it again: this has to be one of the most spectacular salvias I've ever seen--and of course it's not in cultivation. A year later I saw another half dozen stunning salvias in Tibet that are as beautiful as any in gardens--all likewise not in cultivation. This crazy world of ours is far from being explored.

 *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  
 The second publication you may wish to peruse, if not put on your virtual bookshelf is a .pdf of a report that was the focus of a good deal of my time and energy (along with that of dozens of others!)--namely a report about trees in Denver: I don't want to repeat the whole story, since it's told much better in the report, just click again on the yellow caption below the book illustrated by the maple leaf below:

Rollinger Collection publication
As a matter of fact, if you download the .pdf--you will only have half the publication: you can obtain the all important data from the whole research program if you access Denver Botanic Gardens' website about the project, which has the second half (Appendix B) embedded in it (or just click the second of the two yellow links in the previous sentence to get that too!).

Although I was the instigator of this project, I have to give the real credit to Al Rollinger above all--a dear friend and one of Denver's premier Landscape Designers. My associate, Ann Frazier, did the heavy lifting on the project: corralling the dozens--nearly HUNDREDS of participants and arranging for the relentless field trips to find and measure the trees--and she (with staff from Denver Forestry) are responsible for the enormous data sets--of which Appendix B is just the tip of the iceberg...

And you thought I spent all my time writing blog posts, silly!

*My profound gratitude to Margaret Young, Editor of the International Rock Gardener, for taking the text of our original Caucasus report adding MANY more pictures and publishing it in a format that makes it so easily and conveniently shared. Maggi and her husband Ian have made inestimable contributions to the art of rock gardening.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Killer Mail Order Nurseries

Some Great North American Mail Order Nurseries

Disclaimer: The United States and Canada have more than their share of great mail order nurseries--these are a drop in the bucket...but they're ones that have confirmed my orders for this spring (or even delivered them!) If you think I'll list a nursery before I get what I want confirmed you have another thing coming! I will give a little spiel on each one to let you know why I think it's so awesome. If the other nurseries I'm WAITING to respond do so in time, I may include a few more. I'd love it if you added some at the end YOU love particularly...I may need to get just a FEW more plants this year (Ha! Don't tell Jan, by the way). Click on the name of the nursery underneath each webpage listed and you'll get transported to that webpage. In reverse alphabetical order (by and large)--for the heck of it.

1 Wrightman Alpines Nursery
Arguably the finest source for a variety of classic miniature rock garden plants and true alpines, you can count on healthy and unique plants from this New Brunswick specialty nursery that ships throughout North America. Right now they're offering 10% discount for orders before months end--which pretty much pays for the Phytosanitary Certificate and some of the postage if you order right away (I took advantage of this!)

2. Sunscapes Rare plant nursery

I should come clean and let you know this is one of my very best friends. I never order plants from him mail order because I can get them direct! But I know legions of gardeners who rely on Bill--much of what he offers is not sold anywhere else. He has an especially rich assortment of steppe-climate miniatures for crevice gardens and troughs.

Bill Adams, prioprietor of Sunscapes with an Ariocarpus in bloom
Bill can be credited for having practically invented the now rich arena of hybrids between Aloinopsis spathulata and various Nananthus and other mesembs which he calls xAloinanthus. Now several breeders are producing dozens more of these, which are now coming into bloom in Denver.

A picture of stock plants of these in Bill's greenhouse taken a few years ago. Who knows how many there are now?

3. Singing Tree Gardens Nursery
This is a new one for me: the "plants are in the mail"--friends have assured me that the plants are of a magnificent size and the prices are not bad. This could be a problem for my budget!

4. Quackin Grass
This one wins the prize for the quirkiest name...Don't click on their URL: you will regret it. I found a dozen plants here I've been yearning for.

And the service is quick and thoughtful.

5. Plants of the wild
I found about this one just a few weeks ago when a friend on Facebook told me I could find Balsamroot sold here: she didn't say that I'd find Synthyris missurica and a ton of other things I needed...the prices are very fair and the shipment was wonderful.

6. Plant Delights Nursery
If you don't know about Tony Avent and Plant Delights nursery, I suggest you come out from under that rock of yours and bask in the humor of one (any) of his catalogs. Any nursery that posts their complaint letters on their website has to be awesome. I consider Tony (along with Dan Hinkley, Sean Hogan and a very few others) to be the Dean of American gardeners.

Can't wait till I get this year's order: they're always beautifully packed, husky and the best!

7. Odyssey Bulbs
Along with Telos bulbs (which I don't list--I order there in the fall) this is the premier source of rare and unusual bulbs. Click on this at your risk (and at the risk of your pocketbook!)

8. Missouri wildflowers Nursery

Where else can you find Cunila origanoides for sale at all, let alone at that price? Or Nemastylis geminiflora. Many southern Great Plains specialties at bargain basement prices...I almost hate to share this with anyone.

9. Mail-Order Natives
Not sure when they'll ship this year--but another native plant nursery with treasures you can't find anywhere else and prices that are, well, don't tell them, but they're much too low!

10. Ethical Desert
Another Colorado business that I should recuse myself from promoting. But what they hey, following the example of our Nation's Capitol--anything goes! All ludicrousness aside, the Barnett's are THE source for some of the rarest hardy yuccas, agaves and more with data--and their plants are superbly grown. I got my order a month ago and have a hard time not drooling on them!

Collaborative book (father and son) available through their website
The book above was produced by the extraordinary team who have also created the most exquisite cactus garden in America (in my opinion) although Obie Oberhausen gives them a good run for their money. OK, there's the Huntington, I know--it's OK.

11. Digging Dog Nursery
ALL the classic perennials are here, and groundcovers galore--all at a decent price (with husky starts). But also many NOT so classic forms. If you ever go to Mendocino, make sure you contact them: their private gardens are stunning. I can't let a year go by without ordering.

12. Far Reaches Farm
Not far from the old Heronswood nursery, Sue and Kelly carried on the glorious tradition, adding their own twist and if anything a WIDER spectrum of plants, including bulbs (check out their Sisyrinchium (Olsynium) douglasii selections!) My wish list always goes into the four figures before sanity strikes and I pare it down. One of the greatest nurseries anywhere!

13. Edelweiss Perennials

 Many of the choicest alpine plants (edelweiss, obviously, but also gentians, primulas and more)--but also long lists of classic perennials like Dierama, Alstroemeria--and on and on. All superbly grown and packaged and at really good prices. Can't let this go by Spring or Fall!

 Edelweiss nursery gentians sold by Nick's Nursery in Aurora, Colorado this past week.

14. Cold Hardy Cactus

Again, I should recuse myself. Kelly Grummons who started this nursery is one of my best friends and professional colleagues. His business partner, Jorge Lopez, is a Guatemalan/Canadian/American whose energy is exceeded only by his capacity for work and making things happen. Together they are propelling this into a realm where xerophytic succulents will become Universal in gardens everywhere.
This picture showing some of their selections may help support my assertion!

15. Brent and Becky's
I have ordered spring and fall since...since...since the Daffodil Mart days! You will not find better bulbs at a decent price. Just got my box of spring planted bulbs (Bessera! hurray!). A year ago exactly I spent a magical few days with Brent and blew my mind!

Brent with his namesake 'Brent'
This is one of many magical moments when Brent let me take a picture alongside the bulb that his father named for him: the history and depth of this nursery is legendary! Spring won't come unless you order quickly!

16. Brent and Becky's
Few nurseries are more inaptly named: Annie of course is fine (she's my fellow Greek-American after all!) but ANNUALS? Yes, she is the ONLY source for many rare and choice annuals. But the nursery offers so much more! I have blogged about it repeatedly, and no trip to the Bay area is complete without a visit. Thank Heavens Southwest Air has the best schedule there (and lets you have two bags fly for FREE--one full of treasures from Annie's). Ask me how I know?

I have a few more nurseries that are on my list of favorites--but my orders to them aren't in yet...

I've only gotten five of my orders so far from these: for gardeners, Christmas comes year around--but especially when the boxes from any one of these nurseries arrive! Just make sure you keep them secret from your sequestered housemate.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Why garden? Here's a good reason...troutlily ballet

Erythronium umbilicatum
 Of course, growing wonderful plants like trout lilies is an excellent reason to garden--but the point I'd REALLY like to make is that every plant we grow is not an inert thing--like an idealized painting on a wall. It's something that morphs and changes constantly. These four pictures were taken over the course of a day or two--notice how utterly different the same plant is in different lights, and how it changes!

Still..Erythronium umbilicatum
I hasten to acknowledge Tim Alderton--the amazing horticulturist at the J.C. Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina state: he sent me the bulbs of this species I'm growing (and white forms too, which did not come back, sadly)...(hint, hint Tim...). This picture is a tad out of focus..sorry. But then sometimes we're all a bit out of focus.

Erythronium umbilicatum in sleepy early morming mode
 This is the way they look when visitors come late in the day or in cloudy weather.

Erythronium umbilicatum
 And here, a bit bleached out by our searing steppe sun. It never ceases to amaze me that a wildflower native to the milder Southeastern United states is adapting and clumping up in Colorado, while our native glacier lily (which it resembles) is fussy and hard to grow.

Nature is inconsistent, infinitely variable and doesn't care about performing to our expectations or demands. And we better like it!

I do wish that after a week of summery weather, the early fruit trees in perfect bloom (apricots, almonds, some cherries and plums and Callery pears--which are planted everywhere in Denver and I've never seen a seedling crop up anywhere, incidentally), I dread  next week (starting tonight) with nights dipping into the mid teens and day temperatures not above freezing on some days.

I better go pluck some hyacinths and daffodils for bouquets.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Finally! [glimpse into the workings of a plant nerd's mind]

Golden Saxifage Chrysosplenium alternifolium at Quince
Not terribly showy, perhaps--but when this came into bloom a week or so ago, I jumped for joy. This reminds some of an umbel, like Bupleurum or Hacquetia--but Chrysosplenium is in the Saxifrage Family: with dozens of species found throughout the North Temperate zone--mostly in alpine habitats or the arctic. I obtained this one from Far Reaches Farm--who are about the only nursery purveying the Genus. I first saw this species thirty or so years ago my first visit to Jacques and Andrea Thompson's fantastic garden: I was so dazzled by that garden on that visit I neglected to ask for a piece of this little saxifrage: a year later when I got around to it, Jacques apologized "I got rid of it--it was spreading too fast!" This is the commonest European species, spreading across the Caucasus to Central Asia. But there are other reasons the genus tugs on my heart and on my mind...

Chysosplenium tetrandum (wild in Colorado)  Photo: Frank Morrey
This strange creature is the Colorado manifestation of the genus--found most abundantly in the Front Range of Colorado--which I admire almost every day from my property (except when it's cloudy). There are dozens of records of this species you can research yourself on Seinet--mostly from Alaska and the Canadian subarctic where it's widespread and abundant. I have an abiding interest in the Saxifrage family, and have found every species in the family in Colorado EXCEPT this little munchkin--photographed here by my friend and enthusiastic alpinist, Frank Morrey.

Chysosplenium tetrandum (wild in Colorado)  Photo: Frank Morrey
I have searched for this at several of the classic locations where it's been collected: since traveling abroad will be difficult this year--perhaps I can finally find my native Golden Saxifrage. It's ironic that although I've not seen it in my own back yard, I've found it around the world in the Caucasus, the Altai Mountains and a wide swath of southeastern China.

Chrysosplenium nudicaule (Kazakhstan Altai)
Here's my only shot I took ten years ago last summer above the Romanovskij spa region of Kazakhstan's National Park in the Altai Mountains. This is the prevailing species found there...I regret I didn't get closer for a closeup.

Chrysosplenium cf. alternifolium (Kasbegi, Georgia)
We drove a short ways north of the town Kasbegi towards the namesake peak when we found a large colony of what appears to be the widespread Chysosplenium alternifolium (C. dubium is also recorded from Georgia--but it has greener flowers). There is only one record for a Chrysosplenium from Georgia recorded on I-Naturalist (and amazing website that has millions of photographs of all manner of wild animals and plants)--and ironically it seems to be from the same locality as my picture (or very near!)
Chrysosplenium carnosum (Hongshan, Yunnan)
The real center of distribution for the genus (as with so many alpine plants is China) and sure enough I encountered quite a few Golden saxifrages on my trips in 2018 and 2019. In an obscure valley on a gravel road leading from Zhongdian (Shangrila) to Sichuan we found several golden saxifrages. Although not quite as bright as others, this has a succulent, foliage and chartreuse cups...

Chrysosplenium carnosum (Hongshan, Yunnan)
A closer look...

Chrysosplenium davidianum .(Hongshan, Yunnan)
In a somewhat more exposed spot on the mountain we saw this glorious species carpeting the ground in gold.
Chrysosplenium davidianum (Hongshan, Yunnan)
Even brighter, perhaps, than alternifolium--I must add this to my order from Kelly and Sue! Can't believe they have this! Stragenly enough, I-Naturalist only has one sighting for this species--from much further south on the Yulongshan. I must add this locality to their database!

Chrysosplenium davdianum (Hongshan, Yunnan)
The plant seemed to demand a few more pictures!
Chrysosplenium sp. (Shika Shan, Yunnan)
And what on earth is this weirdy? Maybe an uppity C. griffithii?

Chrysosplenium giffithii (Hongshan, Yunnan)

And yet one MORE species of the genus on the same mountain (I think it makes four on one mountain). This appears to be close to the one we saw at Shika Shan a few days (and long ways) further on the trip.

                                             Chrysosplenium giffithii (Shika Shan, Yunnan)

Almost invisible from far away, I'm glad I learned over to examine this one more carefully...

Chrysosplenium giffithii. (Shika Shan, Yunnan)
I've enlarged the shot from the last picture to show how distinct the foliage and flower are on this strange taxon. The Flora of China lists 35 species as growing there, twenty of which are endemic:

Chrysosplenium carnosum (Shika Shan)
And on Shika Shan (quite far from the Hong Shan populations) we also found the same species again in a similar shady habitat we had seen before. I only just noticed the strange (and homely) Androsace I accidentally got in the picture right above the golden saxifrage! It's useful to reexamine old pictures!

Chrysosplenium so, (Goteborg B.G., Gothenburg, Sweden)
You are not apt to see many Chrysospleniums in many botanic gardens--although if it's rare and choice you can expect to find it at Gothenburg: here is one of several enormous spreads of Chysosplenium--this one was photographed in the late summer--so the flowers weren't there to help name it.

After all these chartreuse, greeny and gold Chrysosplenium species, there is at least one MORE that breaks the mold:

Chrysosplenium macrophyllum
Blooming several weeks before the yellow one nearby, this is the first year that the purplish C. macrophyllum bloomed for me. This is found far to the East and North of the areas I have explored. I have tried growing it before--and failed (I thought it might be too cold in Colorado for it). But after this extremely protracted, extremely cold winter, who should pop up but this outlier in the genus. I've been warned it can spread (I'm hoping our steppe conditions will help keep it in check). Do Google this species and you will see why I was so pleased! Thank you James Dronenburg and Daniel Weil for doubling my collection of Chrysosplenium.

Now if only I can find our local species growing in the wild!

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