Thursday, March 26, 2020

A bee-line through the "B's"

Babiana truncata
 From a scanned photograph I took back in the 1990's on top of the Roggeveld Plateau in the West Cape province...usually thought of as tender bulbs, there were several Babiana growing at a altitude where hard frost occurs for many months and temperatures drop near 0F. Surely one day we will have a suite of hardy bulbs from the Karoo for cold temperate gardens?

Glen Guetenberg and Balsamorhiza sagittata
Glen (past president of our local rock garden chapter, iris groups and photographer extraordinaire) among the Balsamroot: a widespread and common plant over much of the West. And yet how often have you seen this in a garden? Alas, it's not in mine!

Wyethia alba
Since it's highly unlikely I'll continue this theme all the way through the alphabet, I'll sneak in one of my favorite Westerners I only discovered a few years ago at Yellowstone: like a giant flowered white Balsamroot! I need this desperately!

Ballota acetabulosa
 An outstanding, easy and tough Mediterranean foliage plant I rarely even seen it in the gardens. Here at Denver Botanic Gardens...I have some interesting stories to tell about this. Another time!

Beesia deltoides
 I was so thrilled to have this crazy crucifer that looks like a wild ginger. It lasted a year or two, and a crazy winter killed it. I assumed it was tender, from low altitudes in China...

Beesia deltoides
And then last year I found it growing very high in northernmost Yunnan, at Lake Tianqi! Surely there must be hardier forms! Or perhaps my plant was just in the wrong spot. Time to try it again!

T
Begonia evansiana
 I've grown many selections of the "hardy begonia" which do come back (weakly) and have yet to perenniate. But when I travel around the East Coast, in very cold areas of New England or the Midwest I see huge patches Obviously I do something wrong. Probably not enough water?

Berberis mitifolia
 Proof I'm not obsessed with just little things: we planted a massive screen of this Berberis between the Rock Alpine Garden and the neighboring garden (South African Plaza--then the Hildreth garden) decades ago: I admire the long chains of flowers every year: I'm beginning to think I need this in my home garden!

Bergenia ciliata
I've blogged at length about it before: although it's deciduous, this may be my favorite Bergenia--the enormous hairy foliage in summer is almost as pleasing as the apple blossom flowers in spring. There seem to be quite a few different forms of this going around: I think I need them all!
Bergenia stracheyi
I take it back: THIS is my favorite Bergenia--the first I'd seen in nature--here photographed at 13,000' in Pakistan in September 2001. Although most alpines had been eaten to their crowns, this and Polygonum affine were untouched by the sheep and goats.

Bergenia stracheyi
A picture I took when the planting of this species was at its apogee in the Rock Alpine Garden. What a fine plant! First obtained as a single rosette brought from Britain by my dear late friend Eric Hilton from his garden in Bristol where I'd admired it. Still hasn't gotten widely dispersed, alas.

Bergeranthus jamesii

I remember collecting seed of this in 2016 with Jim Archibald on high, bald rocky outcrops near Tarkastad in the East Cape. It's been one of the most reliable, long lived and long-blooming Mesembs for me.

Bergeranthus jamesii (albino)
A
nd, better yet! There's a white form!
Bergerlandiera lyrata
I would like to put on record here that I was the one who strong-armed Plant Select into putting this in the program: I'd admired the plant enormously on my many field trips to Southeastern Colorado in the 1970's and 80's where it has its Northernmost range extension--and brought seed back we grew at Denver Botanic Gardens. It thrived here--and thrived through the extreme drought years of 1999-2003 as if they were normal--blooming prodigally. It's wonderful chocolate fragrance in the morning (between 10AM and 1:00PM) now wafts through gardens all over the world. It blooms pretty much nonstop, and the decorative seedpods mean you don't have to deadhead. Plant it in the hottest, driest spot and it won't flop--even in wet climates. You can see why I'm proud of this one!

Bessera elegans
A tender bulb for me--and I eventually lost it in the back and forth transference of tenderosities--but I have a LOT on order this year again from Brent and Becky's where it usually sells out before I get my order in. Not THIS year!

Beta trigyna
My colleague Rich Bishop gave this to me a long time ago and I put it in the wrong spot (very front of my woodland garden) where it towers to five feet and glows with white flowers for weeks in the summer months. I notice some seedlings here and there around it...do I move them, or try moving the whole clump now in early spring? Dan Hinkley collected this in China and lost it subsequently: I think it's a must have! Surely, if you look at it you agree it can't be beet.

Betula utilis (dwarf)
I may have lost the database (left on a computer that has been replaced two or three times) when I recorded the seed collector who gathered this: I believe it was a Czech and that it comes from China. A dwarf form of B. utilis (a name that covers way too wide a spectrum of plants in my opinion) it creates a spectacle every autumn for a week. Unfortunately, Japanese beetles dote on it.

Betula x andrewsii and Nick Daniel
That handsome devil manages Denver Botanic Gardens' succulent collections and several dryland gardens: he's also just about the best public speaker I've ever heard (along with Annie Barrow, another of my amazing colleagues)--and has encyclopaedic knowledge of succulents and more is humbling. Here he is on a field trip where we looked for and found the rare hybrids between Betula papyrifera and B. occidentalis that occur on a few canyons around Green Mountain near Boulder. I once found one with a bright pink trunk I'd love to find again.) Now that I look at this picture, maybe this one was it?

Biarum marmarisense
Photographed 11 years ago at Denver Botanic Gardens, where Mike Kintgen assured me it's persisted, I am thrilled that I obtained one last fall from Ilhahe Bulbs in Oregon--and mine bloomed (but I didn't get a picture) and miraculously came through last winter: the sort of thing that thrills the heart of plant nerds and causes family to doubt your sanity.

Biarum tenuifolium ssp. zelebori
You know you've got a problem when you start collecting Biarum: I kept ordering them and have various what I suspect are B. tenuifolium all over my rock garden where they seem very happy.This was the first to bloom this past year--which gave me a thrill. I posted it on Facebook and it was identified  no less than Peter Boyce (author of The Genus Arum, published by Kew which you can buy from Amazon from quite a few sellers for around $700 if you like--the book, not the plant)


Botrychium virginianum
I grew this for years as a young man: I'm astonished that the grape ferns seem to establish relatively easily in cultivation. This one had its only known Colorado native population growing not far from where I grew up: I looked for it but never found it. Yes, I'm nuts about ferns too!

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'
Discovered by David Salman, when it was adopted by Plant Select I was a tad dubious. Many years later, this has been far and away the most successful of all plants in the program. It may one day threaten and even surpass 'Karl Foerster' grass as the darling of parking lots and strip malls: which will thrill me no end (it's prettier, native and drought tolerant for three things). A much glorified variation on our blue gramma grass, which predominates sandy areas of the Great Plains (and likely the dominant plant on my property before it was "developed".

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
I have always had a fondness for Siberian forget-me-not---which has much nicer foliage than Myosotis for one thing. This cultivar seems less rambunctious than the common form (see below)

Brunnera macrophylla
Here is what Brunnera can do in an unwatered garden in Boulder! Obviously, not for a choice spot--but what a fantastic groundcover. I was startled to find this not far from the Black Sea near Batumi in the Caucasus in 2018 growing with its cousin Trachystemon. It's obviously not confined to Siberia!

Buchloe dactyloides
The dominant grass of the short grass prairie that nurtured millions of bison, elk and pronghorns in its day. Here the male flowers make a subtle show--a wonderful turf grass that should replace as many square miles of Kentucky bluegrass as possible in the Great Plains region and beyond!


Buchloe with bulbs
My talented colleague Mike Kintgen has an impeccable buffalograss lawn in his front yard filled with thousands of miniature bubs that create a kaleidoscopic carnival of color all late winter and spring.
Buddleia alternifolia 'Incana'
No Buddleia seems to seed much in Colorado. But of all the genus, this prodigious weeper is my favorite. Can't quite figure out where to shoehorn one into my garden...

Bukiniczia cabulica
First introduced by the Swedish expedition to Pakistan, Dan Johnson located some in seed on our trip to Pakistan near Skardu in 2001 when we were airlifted thence, cutting our trip short (remember 9-11?). Little did we realize we were flying so near to Osama-bin-Laden those days when Al Qaeda were words nobody recognized!
Bulbine abyssinica
I've obtained this from David Salman and Tony Avent and eventually lost both--but grew it for many years. A plant I yearn to try again in a better spot.

Bulbine abyssinica at Sentinel
Here it is growing at 9000' or so on the trail up to Mount-aux-Sources--one of the most magical placs I've ever been. And I've been to a lot of cool places!

Bulbocodium vernum
Delighted to have this settle in quite a few spots in my garden. I think it's sensibly been placed in Colchicum recently, but we'll ignore that (I have too many "C's" anyway!)

Bupleurum cf. aureum
I photographed this in Kazakhstan ten years ago...Obviously not the plant that goes around with this name in cultivation...my colleague Mike Bone managed to germinate and grows this in his garden. But I have yet to get it in mine!

Bupleurum spinosum
Rather different--one of the finest shrubs for a rock garden. This one is in bud, or seed--in bloom it's more yellow (photographed in the Rock Alpine Garden). Mine do just as well at home. I admired this on the Sierra Nevada in 2001 and yearn to go back to the spot it grows with a half dozen other acanthamnoid shrubs (Erinacea pungens, Vella spinosa, Ptilotrichum spinosum to name three of them). What fun it would be to create a garden with all the spiny Spanish shrubs growing together as they do in nature: not many humans or critters with molest it!

Buxus sempervirens
Boxwoods deserve at least one (or ten) blogs all of their own: when I began my career they were thought to be too tender for Colorado: now you see them everywhere (often looking miserable and sun or winterburned). But no one ever mentions their flowers--which I find rather cute!

There! A lot more "B's" than you reckoned on, don't you agree?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A few A-listers to look out for! (plant faves beginning with "A")


Abelia monacensis
I've always been mystified that so many of my favorite plants cluster around a few letters: "A" is defiitely well represented, but so is "C"  "D", "M" and especially "P" and "S"...I don't know how far down the alphabet we'll get (a lot depends on how long COVID-19 sticks around and how many snows keep coming)...but let's begin with a shrub with heavenly fragrance, nice habit and tremendous range of tolerance for garden conditions. Only problem is--it's not sold many places!

Abies koreana 'Horstmann's Silberlocke'
I can't promise that all 'Horstmann's Silberlocke' will have Red Admirals hanging about on them: for years I thought my yard high specimen had to be the best in Denver until walking in my neighborhood I spied one 15' tall, thick and bushy on the SOUTH side of a house--which still dumbfounds me. And sporting Vanessa atalanta to boot! Harrumph!

Abronia fragrans
Fragrant is a bit of an exaggeration!  I find the smell to be borderline offensive--strong and somewhat musky: I had this self sowing vigorously in my Xeriscape several years, and then Poof! I lost it. I now miss its smell and the masses of white flowers all summer. Annoyingly, it's common on road verges in Colorado Springs and even a few vacant lots in Aurora.

Acantholimon litwinowii
All spikethrifts are wonderful in my book: this one is a steely blue color in winter, with steely pink flowers in summer: it tolerates more moisture than most and yet can take heat and drought. In other words--it's a winner. I suspect all plants in cultivation came from the one in the picture that grew at my Eudora house at least a decade before the next owners mucked up the back yard with an expansion.

Acanthus syriacus
Mislabelled for years (As Acanthus dioscurides var. perringii--which it is not: I must tell Kelly and Sue to correct it on their website where alas, it's out of stock). It is much less aggressive than other Acanthus in our experience--here growing in part shade.

Acanthus syriacus
As you can see from the PREVIOUS picture, it's handsome in foliage--but the flowers are stunning. This specimen is in hot full sun.

Acer grandidentatum (genetic dwarf forms)
For years my brother-in-law Allan Taylor would rogue the runts out of the rows of Acer grandidentatum seedlings at Fort Collins Nursery Wholesale, pot them up and share them I can't swear that's where these fantastic specimens I photographed one late September at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden came from. But I can't wait till my two seedlings get that big!

Aconitum lycoctonum
Every summer for years and years I've admired this pale yellow Wolfbane blooming in the Shady Lane at Denver Botanic Gardens. I grew the similar Aconitum anthora for years--but eventually lost it. Now that wolves have apparently self-introduced themselves to Colorado, I hesitate to grow either--just kidding: I know no wolf is stupid enough to eat these. I really have to get a better picture this year: it really is a stunning plant.

Adlumia fungosa
I'm pretty sure this is a lineal descendent of the plants I admired decades ago (probably at least three) draping a fence at Vera Peck's home. Vera was the impetus behind the Vancouver rock garden Club's seed exchange when she lived--packaging and sharing thousands of seeds every year. That lovable Czech-Canadian gardener gave me a packet of fresh seed of this that still drapes yards down every summer at Denver Botanic Gardens' parking structure (and drapes up on my lath house). I think of her whenever I see it in its full glory. One of America's greatest vines. (Biennial: be warned)

Adonis aesivalis
I think we finally lost it--for years this self-sowed in the Rock Alpine Garden--just this side of weedy. I hope we get it again (I've also admired it in Greece and all over the Caucasus!)

Aesculus carnea
Surely one of the most magnificent American shrub/small trees. I gasp every time I see it in full bloom at Denver Botanic Gardens. This year I have to get one for my home--it's very reliable and tough and should be seen more often!

Aethionema capitatum
There are no end of stunning Persian Candytufts--this is one of the best that Bill Adams sold for years (this is his parent plant growing in his fabulous garden)

Aethionema subulatum
Possibly even nicer, this is one I got from Zdenek's Turkish collections--here growing in the Rock Alpine Garden (but also at my home for years).

Allium altaicum
You can tell a Colorado plant connoisseur: almost every one I know here had a clump of this fantastic onion. Plant Select missed the boat by not including this in their lineup: their bad!

Allium akaka
I have had this come back year after year. And never seed around, dangnabbit! I suppose I'll have to encourage it.
Allium carolinianum
I believe I photographed this in Kazakhstan. But it does the same thing every year in my home garden and also in Jan's hell-strip with no supplemental water. And now the Dutch are selling it cheaply--one of the very best ornamental onions--you should seek it out (easy and fast from seed, by the way, and never weedy). I always contribute seed to NARGS--which you should join if you haven't.

Anthericum undulatum
Like Anthericum ramosum only blooming two months earlier, this grows reliably and comes back better every year. From Spain, I think. Unfortunately, no one sells it--but I donate seed to NARGS where you can get it.

Alyssoides graeca
It's only fault is that it is so easy to grow almost anywhere. And it blooms yellow--alas. But gorgeous mounds of foliage and showy seedheads. And tough as nails. Don't know why you rarely see it: easy and fast from seed (remember NARGS?)

Aquilegia canadensis 'Nana'
I may have lost this. I must get it back--it's cuter than the proverbial mouse's ear!

Aloinanthus hybrids
Taken at Bill Adams' greenhouse: he invented these dang hybrids, although John Stireman and David Salman are cranking them out as well: they bloom in February in his greenhouse, but in a sunny crevice garden they bloom in April in Denver. A very good reason to build crevice gardens (the only way these will persist in our Zone 5). Except for cool greenhouses of course.

Arctotis adpressa
I well remember seeing this in foliage my first trip to South Africa (on top of Hantam Mountain near Calvinia). It took another three or four trips, but I eventually got viable seed and since then Bill Adams has been propagating and selling it. Alas, it doesn't seem to set viable seed in cultivation. Some clever hybridizer should cross it with the tender Arctotis and produce an everblooming, gorgeous foliaged perennial line for cold climate gardens--but I dream.

Amsonia jonesii
I've grown nearly a dozen Amsonias over the years--all very useful, tough and handsome critters: this is unquestionably the toughest of the lot and has the deepest sapphire  colored flowers in its best forms. I've seen it growing wild in the driest corners of the Uinta Basin, on the sandy desert of the San Rafael Swell and on vacant lots in Grand Junction where 10" of rain is a good year. The original plants at Denver Botanic Gardens were planted 35 years ago and they're still there! It has been adopted by Plant Select--a very good choice I would think!

Androsace sarmentosa
Why this Himalayan grows so vigorously on plain loam I'll never know when so many of its congeners are fussy. The fluffy ball like rosettes on strawberry runners are delightful in their own right--but as you can see the flowering is prodigious! Should be in every garden.

Aquilegia fragrans
I have I need grown this twice for a few years each time. I need to get it again--one of the most elegant and beautiful columbines, from the Himalaya to boot! And it's fragrant! What else do you need to know? Except seed doesn't always produce plants this good.

Aristolochia clematitis
I should warn you, it spreads at the root. Quite a bit. So give it room and don't plant it with delicacies. But I find the little pipevine blossoms charming and the outlandish swollen seedpods delightful.

Arenaria alfacarensis
Photographed at a public park in Lakewood--this Spanish sandwort is among the easiest (to grow) and hardest (cushions) for a rock garden. People find it irresistible to touch.

Arum dioscurides
If you're a sucker for Aroids (pity the few who aren't) this should be high on your list. I'm amazed that it's been hardy for the better part of a decade. The first blossom (shown above) on the day of a garden tour in my garden and was the star of the day (it had a lot of competition in early May)...

Athyrium filix-femina 'Minutissima'
I recently found this for sale at a Box Store. There's a spot for a miniature lady fern in any garden! This one is easily divided and grows gangbusters--no need for it to be rare!

Aubrieta gracilis
I love any and all Aubrieta. This one (which I have admired on its native home on Mt. Olympus) is the smallest and densest and almost always has this smoky lavender color. Can't imagine being without it!

The poor "B's" are pretty paltry by comparison...so let's stick with straight "A's" for now!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Happy Spring! The good side of sequestering! (a little recap of late winter)

Pulsatilla halleri
 Those poor souls who don't have gardens full of treasures and big libraries are probably watching television and eating junk food right now...but gardeners in general (and rock gardeners in particular) are reveling in a chance to spend more time with our minions and finally read that stack of books that's been glowering at us for months...(that pasqueflower, by the way, was photographed a week ato in the Rock Alpine Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens--which are regrettably locked up in response to the Covid-19 virus)...

Acanttholimon spp and co.
 While others are sitting on their buns, rock gardeners are busy admiring their own! but not in such narcissistic fashion...here again pictured at DBG where they look marvelous year 'round.

Iris x histrioides 'George'
 I have yet to figure out which of my clever colleagues planted hundreds of reticulate irises out front of Denver Botanic Gardens--but they love it there, have clumped up enormously and have made a spectacle for weeks...
A small part of the aforesaid planting...I love it!

My amazing colleague Mike Kintgen has the most astonishing bulb planting in his buffalo grass
 Sandy Snyder invented the growing of bulbs in buffalo grass nearly 35 years ago: her lawn is now solid bulbs. Don't you love the daffodil in front? (Mike will have to give me the name: I believe it's Narcissus hispanicus: check back to be sure)...


Bulbocodium vernum
I believe this has been sunk into the vast Colchicum genus, but at my age we're allowed to be fuddy duddies...

Cyclamen coum

Crocus sieberi 'Bowles' White'
 I have half a dozen white crocus blooming right now (C. biflorus, C. malyi, C. chrysanthus forms and more) but this is my favorite!


I just missed the Adonis when they first emerge and are all flowers when I was in Pennsylvania--but have enjoyed them since!

Narcissus romieuxii 'Julia Jane'
 I am tickled pink that this wonderful hoop petticoat has settled in and is clumping up--for its own sake and because it was found and named by Jim Archibald, one of my dearest friends and heros.

Colchicum szovitsii
 The picture is so misleading: this is a tiny mite: I've seen pictures taken in the Caucasus and Iran where this grows by the million...

Scilla mitschenkoana
 I love this genus--and this is a good species... but there are some I dream of!

Chyrsospleniun macrophyllum
 I was afraid this wouldn't be hardy...but I was thrilled to find my first year clump decided to bloom: this can be almost weedy in maritime climates. I shall be delighted should it prove thuggish!

Iris x reticulata 'Eye Catcher'
And now for the Iridictyon irises! I have always loved these, and thanks to Alan Bradshaw (whom I've known for a very long time) this group has taken center stage in the early spring gardeb. I don't think they need much commentary!

Iris reticulata 'Sea breeze'

Iris reticulata 'Spot on'
 Mine are up, but can't compare with the clumps in the Rock Alpine Gaden, see below...

Iris reticulata 'Spot On'


Iris reticulata 'Natasha'
This one turned out less white than I imagined--but still very elegant.

Iris reticulata 'Palm Springs'

Iris reticulata 'Painted Lady'
This one has been especially adaptable...

Iris reticulata (MYSTERY)
For the sake of me I can't trace this in anything I purchased the last two years: surely the most amazing enormous reticulata of them all: help anyone?

Iris x histrioides 'Katharine Hodgkin'
I have blogged about this one before: the strange flowers are upstaged by many others--but it remains a favorite.

Iris x histrioides 'Katharine's Gold'
Supposedly a sport on the latter, this stunning iris is in its own class of beauty. Possibly my favorite--and a vigorous grower!

Iris x reticulata 'Sunshine'
Brightest of the yellow hybrids..

Iris x reticulata 'Mars Landing'
Too weird for words! Couldn't get a decenpt photo of it this year--but last year I managed lots!


Iris x reticulata 'North Star'
One of the first and loveliest...

Iris x reticulata 'Scent Sational'
I keep forgetting to stoop and smell this one..

Iris x reticulata 'Blue Note'
Another toughie...

Galanthus nivalis 'Hippolyta'
A surprise for me: planted last fall, this came up vigorously and all the bulbs bloomed on tall stems--much better than the other double snowdrops! Looking forward to having these bulk up!

Galanthus Mystery
And unnamed gift from a friend in Maryland: anyone have a suggestion of what it might be?

Erythronium caucasicum
I was thrilled this came back strong a second year--a plant I found abundant (in seed) in the Imereti region of the Caucasus two years ago this spring.. By far the earliest fawn lily to bloom (a half dozen other species and hybrids are just poking up)...

It's snowing like crazy outside as I type this on the "first dag of spring"...ohwell.

Hang in there friends! Be glad we have our gardens, our friends and the internet to help while away the time. And hope we emerge before very long from this new strange challenge athwart our paths.

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