Saturday, March 16, 2019

Petals in the snow...

Eranthus hyemalis
  Of course it's cheating just a tad, since most of these flowers were blooming before the last "bomb cyclone" (as the slow news cycle called it--anything to keep people glued to the tube!). Certainly these winter aconites were out, but even a dab of snow in the bacvkground enhances the impact of delicate yellow petal in a cruel world!

Crocus sieberi
 I have to say, however, that I don't remember a single crocus blooming in this spot before aforesaid "cyclone bomb" dropped about 8" of wet snow on us...I think they may have actually come up through the snow!

Galanthus nivalis 'Viidapice'
 But snowdrops have been blooming since January. 30" of snow in February slowed them down, and they're still going strong!

I divided my biggest clump of Christmas rose last year, and re-established the pieces in pots planted out in the fall. I'm thrilled that every piece not only established but each clump (like this one) has produced a few flowers to boot!

Adonis amurensis
 The queen of the winter garden, however, is Adonis amurensis, which was also in full bloom in January...and looks particularly fetching coming up through the snow. I had a single clump I've been dividing, and the divisions even manage to bloom pretty well.

This is my biggest clump, that will also likely come under the knife this year--gotta keep those babies coming alone!

I end with my most pristine clump freshly emerged from snow. Those delicate petals coming through 14F the night before last and not much warmer last night: how do they do it? They're the bomb, that's how!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

First flowers

Adonis amurensis
 The adonis really was ther first flower this year. It opened in late January...

Adonis amurensis
Well over 30" of snow has ensued since it first opened its flwoers--and it  waited patiently: today, all my clumps are blooming. If one is good, surely ten are better?

Galanthus elwesii *Don Hackenberry form'
 There were a few snowdrops in January as well--but this is probably their peak season this week. All are fresh and most are blooming.

Galanthus nivalis 'Viridapice'
 The British and a few Americans swoon and collect every one they can. I'm waiting till they have enough to share.

Iris x reticulata 'Blue Note
 What I can't resist are Alan Mcmurrie's amazing irises. I can't get enough of them!

Iris x 'Northern Sun'
 Although I grow this, mine can't begin to compare with this wonderful climp in the gem of a rock garden at Chatfield Farms: Denver's ex-urban station....or more accurately put: our FUTURE!!!

Crocus ancyrensis
 None of my crocuses compare to the giant clumps in Mike Kintgen's buffalo grass: drove by today--glad he tolerates my snooping!

Crocus sieberi 'Bowle's White'

But I AM growing the loveliest white one!

Eranthis hyemalis
Another naturalizing bulb one can never have enough of...Well, that's it for now. I have a hunch these will be joined with a dozen more species each few days henceforward for months!

Monday, February 11, 2019

The glory that is Greece in the Springtime

Zeus of Artemision
A fascinating discussion of this can be heard on Youtube video. Some things speak for themselves

Ophrys apifera

Hundreds if not thousands of orchid lovers descend on Greece to find these little gems in the springtime..

The vistas vie with the fantastic diversity of flowers...both win!

And then there is the history, the archaeology and the art: here, a frieze from Delphi. I don't envy the soldier!

I was amazed how many animals I came close to in Greece: here these red deer were within view of Athens on Mt. Parnitha!

Even on the Parthenon a persistent weed has sprouted: I fear probably Perilla!

And we finish with the Charioteer at Delphi (my favorite of the ancient sites)...there's still time to join a cozy group of us this April as we visit a wonderful assortment of sites, islands and glory in what is expected to be an especially floriferous spring!

Click here for more info!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Jumpin' for Junipers

Juniperus osteosperma at Irish Canyon, NW Colorado

One of my blog posts has had a quarter million views thanks to Pinterest (and human's fixation with human things--namely a rain chain in this instance). I can't believe that's what the public has fixated upon among the thousands of images I've generated on this blog. But YOU, my wise reader, know that there are things far more lovely than even the greatest human efforts. They're called trees. I hated Junipers as a kid (the giant Pfitzers in our front "foundation" planting that were smothering the house had something to do with this). I've spent the last umpteen decades recanting. I have come to realize that junipers are the most remarkable, ubiquitous and fantastic trees on the planet--at least in the steppe portions (the most poetic portions that is to say!). I'm now literally jumpin' for junipers! Just take a gander at that gnarly bonsai: there are literally millions of these in the West, where "progress" hasn't bulldozed them for strip malls or Eurasian grasses.
Juniperus osteosperma near Glenwood, Colorado
 Of course, not all are bonsai forms: just your generic Utah Juniper is wonderful to some of our eyes. This could be many hundreds of years old, and the fragrance! For those of us fond of gin-and-tonic, it's pretty  dang good.
Juniperus scopulorum at Cherokee Ranch
 But not just the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau's J. osteosperma has elegance of form. Here you have our common Rocky Mt. Juniper forming ancient gnarly specimens at Cherokee Ranch where I lead field trips half a dozen times a year--better come check it out!

Juniperus scopulorum near Cody
 This was in a garden not far from Heart Mountain in Northern Wyoming: sumptuously thick...

Juniperus scopulorum at DMNS Juniperetum
 One of the original sites of Denver Botanic Gardens was around the present DMNS (Denver Museum of Nature and Science). The Juniperetum planted there over half a century ago--OK, probalby more like 70 years ago!--has persisted, although recently "improved" by the City stuffing it with giant pines that will one day ruin these gnarly junipers. Gotta speak to them! But look at how elegant they are: dozens, and each utterly different from the next!

Juniperus scopulorum at DMNS Juniperetum
 Here's a weeper: it will weep more when shaded out by a misguided and truly ignorant planting of stupid pines! Have I made myself clear enough? Move those damn pines before I get ruder!

Juniperus virginica & J. scopulorum at DMNS Juniperetum
 Midwinter shot showing the fantastic range of color these Junipers can have... This whole rant was inspired by my drive today: everywhere I looked there were magnificent Junipers...every other garden seemed to have one--either scopulorum or virginiana, or sometimes even sinensis...all elegant of form and utterly xeric. Now we need to add a dozen others to them!
Juniperus communis 'Taurifera' at Denver Botanic Gardens rock garden
 And let's not forget the most Universal of Junipers--which in Europe is almost always upright (although not as condensed as this cultivar perhaps)...

Juniperus communis on Boreas Pass
 But in the Rockies it makes a lustrous green mat--rarely seen in gardens. Hopefully Plant Select will fix that!

Juniperus horizontalis in a Boulder Table Mesa Garden

But the real pancake of the genus is the "horizontal" Juniper that spreads from the Northern Great Plains across much of Canada and Northeastern USA. Dozens of cultivars selected--but mostly from wetter regions! Surely many areas with struggling lawns would be so much better served with these!

Prostrate Juniperus species on the Altai of far western Mongolia
Of course, America hardly has a monopoly on prostrate junipers: look at the variation here in Mongolia! There were two or three species of creepers here!

Juniperus excelsa at treeline, Pakistan Himalayas
 And the American West hardly has a monopoly on gnarled, bonsaied Junipers: as you can see, despite being at tree-line over 13,000 this specimen had been already hacked as so many trees were in Pakistan. But a wizened branch is trying to grow nevertheless.
Juniperus excelsa at treeline, Pakistan Himalayas
 Another severed Juniper high on a ridge overlooking the Himalayas. It doesn't get more magical than this!

Juniperus turkestanica at treeline, Pakistan Himalayas
And yet a different species on another cliff.

Overlooked, taken for granted, hacked at felled, and yet the world is still graced with innumerable beautiful junipers. It's time we gave them their due!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

From my hotel window in Boise...

I see a greenhouse in the distance. If we were in Victorian times, it would be full of flowers. I blew up the image and peered and peered: no flowers did I see. For all I know, they're empty...check the next picture...

See them there, tucked away left center? They were quite a ways maybe there were flowers in them. Or maybe they're for some other kind of research. I'd like to have some greenhouses like that all to myself. I guess I have a whole Botanic Garden--musn't be greedy!

 I look a little over to the right--and there are two of the towers of Boise: both banks. Banks have an awful lot of money in order to build monuments like this. I guess, you get what you pay for (and we apparently pay for big banks). We're not paying government workers right now--something I hate to think about.

I can't begin to explain how big this roof is: YUGE!  I think we're approaching acreage up on top of this really nice Hotel. The rooms are more spacious than usual, and nicely appointed. Hate to think what the Trade Show pays for them. There was a pool and a gym on the fourth floor. The restaurant and bar downstairs were better than average. But if they had turned that roof into a green roof, I would have been really impressed: such a vast waste of space! And all the runoff!

I peer to the right of the banks--there are the Boise Hills: I would like to hike those in late March when the distinctive Pacific Northwest flora is burgeoning. I imagine there would be Fritillaria pudica there, and I'm told there's Primula cusickiana....and who knows what other treasures? I saw pictures in the lobby of hills covered with Balsamroot.  I'm sure it's there...For all the grandeur of cities--I really prefer the wild hills.

Most lecture tours to clubs I'm hosted in homes which I prefer. Hotels are really much of a muchness, no matter how fancy. Except for rustic, colorful old hotels. Chains invariably suck, no matter how expensive.

I sometimes wonder what I would have done if I'd actually been picked to work here fifteen or so years ago. I have quite a few friends, and like the people I've met here. I don't think I have the skill sets that would have allowed m to succeed at the job I applied for. Instead, I stayed in Denver, have traveled to a dozen magical places I would not likely have seen otherwise, and helped with a number of books I'm very proud of, and learned so much from colleagues and from a boss such as I've never imagined could exist

And looking out my window this morning, I look at this wonderful Western town I've come to love and realize all has worked out for the best.

Just wish they had some Pelargoniums in the greenhouses!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Wondering about weeds

Cardamine quinquefolia, Corydalis marschalliana and Alliaria petiolata in a forest at Sabaduri, Georgia
 It's Georgia the country, not the state, incidentally! I was reviewing and labeling some images today when I noticed that the white crucifer growing alongside the Corydalis and Cardamine was in fact Garlic Mustard, the undeniably pernicious weed that's been smothering woodlands across much of the United States. I had assumed Colorado would be safe from its ravages,,,
Alliaria petiolata along Cherry Creek in Denver
Until I found a huge patch midway between my house and work, smack dab next to Cherry Creek shopping center. But look! How gentle and harmless it looks alongside the other spring ephemerals in its native habitat...

Cardaria draba at Sabaduri, Georgia
 Around here this is known as "white top" and it does make a striking groundcover (that will smother anything in its path) you often see in Colorado along highways or in the homes of inattentive gardeners (usually rental homes, or poorer neighborhoods of course). I've not been cursed with this in any space I've tended, but I'm told it's well nigh ineradicable, but look how innocent (almost lonely) it looks in a meadow in its native habitat...

An image of Cardaria draba from the web
I'm surprised looking through MY archives not to have found a single image of White-top anywhere in my files. But I think this picture pretty well depicts how the species spreads and looks on countless acres across the West.
Euphorbia cf esula, near Red Bridge, Georgia
I will not SWEAR this species is Euphorbia esula--but it sure looks like it! I have seen the true species in Central Asia where it was likewise growing rather modestly, but in Colorado it has smothered countless acres.
Euphorbia esula in a planter bed in Aurora
 No, Virginia: the Euphorbia wasn't planted here. I've seen this here and there all over Metro Denver--but it's really in the foothills and on the Great Plains where literally acres can be smothered by this toxic and really invidious pest. This is an undeniable noxious and toxic plant...but look how harmless it looks in nature in the photo further up... I find it slightly amusing that Metro area cities have gone on an extremely aggressive witch-hunt to eliminate Euphorbia myrsinites from regional gardens...
Euphorbia myrsinites

You have to admit it's pretty alluring! I secretly still love this plant and plan to sneak a bit into my non-city garden (where the Gestapo won't arrest me for growing it)--what kills me is that tons of money is spent propagandizing against myrtle spurge (which occupies a tiny FRACTION of our native habitats compared to Euphorbia esula) while the homelier spurge ramps on

One of a dozens of pieces produced by various local agencies on the witchhunt for myrtle spurge (they're after Cypress spurge too--but not so often). Meanwhile the far more noxious spurge ramps on in municipal garden beds!!!

 Meanwhile, I've found myrtle spurge treasured in gardens elsewhere...

A lonely Euphorbia myrsinites at an arboretum in Kentucky
I've seen it planted proudly in an arboretum in Kentucky...Not the best specimen, I'll voucher..

Euphorbia myrsinites in the alpine house at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Am I condoning weeds? Of course not...what amazes me is that our "weeds" are often harmless in their natural settings or even choice in an alpine house at Kew...

The problem isn't the plant--but its context. In the wild there are obviously ecological factors (insects, pathogens, biochemical factors) that prevent the "weed" from rampaging...

But first we have to distinguish which are the real invasive weeds, like Euphorbia esula, and target them instead of far less invasive and merely attractive (and therefore more easily identified) taxa like Myrtle Spurge.

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