Monday, June 21, 2021

Lovely larkspurs and a rustic rest stop

Wouldn't you know, a Facebook friend (Rich Guggenheim) captured the Delphinium geyeri at Denver Botanic Gardens last Saturday far better than my several dozen attempts on two or three different days.


This planting in our terrific recreation of the Great Plains ("Laura Porter Smith Plains Garden) was my favorite of several hundred floral spectacles that graced DBG in the past week or so: never have we had such a spendiferous and florally awesome spring and early summer before (and perhaps never again) thanks to unprecedented precipitation the first half of the year).

The combination of our local dryland delphinium (that's blazing by the tens of thousands on the Dakota hogback just west of town) with Sphaeracea coccinea and orange prickly pear is vintage Dan Johnson curator of native plants and Associate Director of Horticulture and our resident magician.

The species is basically a Wyoming endemic--common along the east base of the Front Range of Colorado with a few outliers in Montana, Utah (and possibly New Mexico and even Nebraska!). The finest displays I've ever seen are near Denver, Fort Collins and at a wonderful spot called "Split Rock" smack dab in the very center of Wyoming--a place I have visited perennially for more decades than I care to admit to!

Early on Sunday morning I took several dozen pictures trying to capture the beauty of this delightful plant--I should have taken a hundred more!

Split rock is an intriguing must visit one day if you haven't!

The gnarly limber pines are intriguing even in skeletonized form!

Fun to find Oregon woodsia in a shady crack (Woodsia oregana)

Heuchera parvifolia

Cryptantha flava--which is so abundant in the Colorado Plateau, makes one of its most northeasterly appearances at Split Rock--just going past bloom, unfortunately.

Another fern growing on a shady bank, and going dormant since there hasn't been rain in a while (Cystopteris fragilis)

The ubiquitous Achillea lanata (our version of millefolium)

Only one bitterroot still almost blooming: most were almost in seed.

None of the Calochortus gunnisonii were open--too early in the morning!

But Lygodesmia grandiflora was in full glory--one of the least appreciated and showiest composites of the west.

If you've made it this far I have a treat for you! Surely one of our loveliest modern folk songs, Bill Staines' Wyoming lullaby tugs on my heart strings whenever I hear it: I hope it will for you too as well: it's sure good to be back home!

It's sure good to be back home!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Foxtail Botanic Garden

On Saturday I had the great pleasure of re-visiting the Gardens on Spring Creek, Fort Collin's gem of a botanical garden: there was a lot to see there which would take a half dozen blog posts to share--but I couldn't resist starting with some of their remarkable plantings of Eremurus: several species and many hybrids. I have loved this genus for longer than I care to admit: it gave me enormous pleasure to see these in so many spots around Spring Creek--in their prime early bloom!
These looked like straight E. stenophyllus
More E. stenophyllus
These were at the very entrance to Spring Creek.

Of course, we don't do so bad with Eremurus at Denver Botanic Gardens either--photographed a few days ago in the "grass" display garden--there are grasses in there!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Colorado Native Plant Society tour, June 5, 2021

 This is intended as a bit of a "crib" for those who came on the Colorado Native Plant Society tour of Quince Street garden yesterday! Wish you'd come today--it's a lot cooler!

Petunia patagonica

With over 150 members of the Colorado Native Plant Society visiting yesterday, I regretted I couldn't show each of you some of the treasures tucked away: although hardly a Colorado native, this tiny, hardy petunia was growing in a crevice on the back side of the rock garden: I regret most of you didn't see it--but here is the picture I took late yesterday afternoon: there are far showier specimens in the Steppe Garden at DBG I suggest you visit soon! This is a petunia we can all appreciate!

Eriogonum umbellatum 'Kannah Creek'

But of course, it's the Colorado Natives you cane to see--and they were alas scattered all over the garden. Not far from the greeter's table, this mat of sulfur flower was in early bloom yesterday: a Plant Select introduction first collected nearly four decades ago by Dermod Downs on Kannah Creek near Grand Junction. It is a superb xeric groundcover that turns wine red in winter, and blooms for a long time in early summer.

Heuchera americana

Although not a Colorado native, Heuchera americana does get to eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, and grows well for us in dry shade, although the greenish flowers only show up well when backlit. A friend of mine, Dan Heims, almost singlehandedly raised this genus to star status by breeding bright red, orange and yellow foliaged forms that are now sold in nurseries worldwide. The genus is one of the most Universal in America: one species or another is found in practically every county of the continental United States. Truly, a stellar native plant altogether!

A diploid hybrid of Iris variegata

Everyone in Denver has remarked that the heavy rainfall this late winter and spring has wrought miraculous bloom on tulips and irises all over town: feeble colonies that limped along other years are exploding with flowers. Right now Denver is one big iris showcase--and my garden is no exception!

Iris x germanica hybrid

In addition to the flashier hybrid Tall bearded, I love the species and old fashioned hybrids like this one that have such vigor!

Some of you may have missed this, in a trough near our front door: not in the main loop around the garden, there were many alpine natives tucked in the troughs there including this endemic of the Front Range.

One of a  series of dryland troughs featuring native cacti

Here are forms of pink Escobaria vivipara lower left and upper right, and red Echinocereus coccineus in between.

More Echinocereus coccineus here

A slightly different form of Escobaria vivipara, and red Echinocereus coccineus
Escobaria missouriensis with straw yellow-brown flowers--a rare native cactus from the hogbacks near Denver.

Penstemon pseudospectabilis 

Silene acaulis

I was pleased that our native, alpine Moss Campion sported a few flowers for the native plant lovers,

Heuchera hallii

This Colorado endemic only had two flower stems this year.

Dictamnus albus 

Gas plants are a large feature of the garden right now--mostly the pink form with beautiful striping. But there's a small colony of pure white ones near the southwest corner of the house which many may have missed.

You can see the white gas plants on the upper right, but this is to show my largest manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula 'Chieftan', with fresh green growth. The spiky bloom in front is Eremurus fuscus, a brownish yellow flowered monocot from Central Asia.

Clematis integrifolia 'Mongolian Bells'

Introduced from Inner Mongolia by Harlan Hamernik, this compact herbaceous clematis thrives even without irrigation. It also comes in white and pink.

Aquilegia coerulea

Of course, with the Native Plant Society touring, one is obligated to have a few Colorado Columbines!

Iris sibirica

Heuchera bracteata

The troughs on the east side of the house include this fine specimen of our local alumroot you can find it iin the Front Range from the foothills to treeline.


A trough with Aquilegia saximontana, our local endemic miniature columbine.

I've collected a lot of local fleabanes--not sure which one this is...

This is Aster pattersonii, a rare alpine aster from Grays peak and Mount Evans.

This must be a hybrid of Aquilegia saximontana--twice the size of the wild form and very vigorous.

Dianthus tymphresteus

One of my favorite new plants--a pink from Greece named for Mt. Tymphristos. Not blooming, alas, when I was there--I wish I'd known about it. There might have been seed!

Recently re-designed bed t showcase succulents

This spring I renovated a large bed to feature miniature succulents and dryland natives: It looks a bit raw right now, but I expect it to fill out by fall.

Lithops lesliei (one of ten living stones I've planted out in the new garden). This is the only species of Lithops I've seen in the wild, and purportedly the hardiest...we shall see!

On "West Ridge" featuring almost exclusively western American plants (ignore the ubiquitous horned poppy please!). The white dots above are the closed flowers of the running fleabane (Erigeron flagellaris) which would like to run over the whole garden!

Amorpha nana

I was disappointed this rare legume from Boulder and a very few other spots in Colorado hadn't opened its flower yet...

A striking form of Opuntia polyacantha

Even the buds on this prickly pear are attractive! Collected as a pad from near Lamar, this produces a stunning purple rose flower.

Yucca elata vying with the flagpole in height!

I don't remember planting this Gaura (which botanists are now lumping with Oenothera (groan)/

Amsonia illustris

     By far the most vigorous star flower for us is this rather local plant from Missouri, like A. tabernaemontana on steroids!  It self sows gently and seems almost as tough as our native A. jonesii, which is long past bloom at this point.             


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