Friday, March 1, 2013

Taking stock

I'm not exactly sure what year it was: possibly in the mid 1990's. Zdenek Zvolanek and Joyce Carruthers came back with some special seed from Ulu Dag they thought might have commercial value in Colorado. I don't know if they had the name "Matthiola montana" then or later...if you research this name you will see a plant that liooks a little bit like this native to Algeria, even Europe. Not this compact or showy, however!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             So we cannot be too sure of the name. The furry rosettes are lovely year around--and those fragrant, showy umbels last much of the early growing season, reblooming a bit some years.

Maybe you aren't as crazy about purple/lavender/mauve/lilac as I am. I also love the cute way the flowers cluster around the wavy leaved rosettes. This plant is not a Methusalah--usually only lasts three or four years. I am so fond of it I always collect the seed (insurance)--so I will never know if it has any propensity to self sow...

Here growing with a similar colored Aethionema in my home garden...

I like the more compact forms like this one that nestle over the rosettes.

There are so many very decorative stocks: I remember seeing Matthiola fruticolosa growing wildly on the rockwork at New York Botanic Gardens' rock garden. I've yearned to get a handful of seed and see if it would do the same for us. And then there is that wonderful miniature above--an annual, alas--which poppued up in my back yard and bloomed incessantly several summers (self sowing the whole time: I have grown complacent: sure hopes she comes back this year!)
I have grown a handful of other species, like the chocolate stock--something gnawing at me tells me that there are many more. Matthiola trojana is weird and wonderful--a bit like the mystery one at the top come to think of it...
Graham Stuart Thomas declared in his magnus opus on rock gardening that "all the best plants were already in cultivation" for rock gardens. I don't think Mr. Stuart Thomas had really taken stock!


  1. What a prescient post. I'm putting in an order with Sunscapes for M. montana. Thinking it will look nice growing by a dark Jovibarba.

  2. You won't regret it! You must get Muhlenbergia reverchonii on his list as well (the loveliest grass ever to come down the pike) and lots more--Bill is a treasure and my best buddy).

  3. Your Matthiola reminds me of my Parrya nudicaulis. I was able to grow two from an Alplains seed packet last year. I am hoping they bloom soon. I was not able to see this species when I visited its habitat. This may be my only chance to smell the lilac fragrance. Plants that have a fragrance are especially attractive to me.


    p.s. I liked the last post on Iris. I was hoping to know more about the plants in the fen. I thought I saw Potentilla anseriana in one of the pictures. Is Platanthera hyperborea present? We have that inconspicuous little orchid in fens locally.

  4. If you can grow Parrya nudicaulis, James, you're a better gardener than me! I have had poor luck with Parrya, although I once had some lusty Asian specimens from Mt. Tahoma and have admired the fabulous endemic P. rydbergii from Leidy Peak in Utah...

    You will probably find M. "montana" much easier to grow than Parrya. I stupidly have never stooped to sniff it: I to love lovely smells--and it probably has a scent. Most spring flowers seem to.

    You have sharp eyes to have distinguished anything in the South Park meadows except iris in my pix: those fields are unbelievably rich and diverse as you poke around--literally hundreds of yummy plants. I shall have to feature some anon.

  5. Panayoti,

    I just looked at the Flora of North America (FNA) website for Parrya. The plant I am growing is likely Parrya rydbergii. Alan listed it as Parrya nudicaulis from Wyoming. The problem is ... the FNA website says Parrya nudicaulis does not live in Wyoming. The only Parrya listed from Wyoming is Parrya rydbergii.

    I did not find it difficult to grow. I sowed seed with outside treatment in late winter. The seed was sown in a flat with regular Miracle Grow potting mix. After the seed germinated, I moved them to a gritty mix that I thought would better replicate the scree habitat Alan mentioned. They grew very poorly in this lean condition. So ... I transplanted them back into good ol' Miracle Grow potting mix. The plants grew much better.

    I tend to grow most of my high alpines in pots until I can determine how much heat they can withstand. If they appear to suffer in the heat then I move them to the North side of my house. On the North side of my house they receive only the less direct sun which occurs during the morning and evening. I water every morning if the temps are into the 90's. Ample water needs to be given because it evaporates and cools the soil through out the heat of the day.

    You would be surprised how many alpines can withstand full sun and heat, if given water each morning. Besides the Parrya, the other alpine I am currently growing that seems to suffer with heat is Oxytropis podocarpa. I will be trying a number of new high alpines this year.

    I may grow Matthiola at some point. I find something alluring about trying to grow plants that are generally deemed difficult. I have a long list of difficult plants to try growing before I get to the easier ones. This being said ... after reading your post I will likely pick up a Matthiola if I see it for sale at a local nursery. I always hate leaving a nursery without purchasing something.


  6. p.s. Thanks for the complement "If you can grow Parrya nudicaulis, James, you're a better gardener than me!" I know this statement is untrue. I do appreciate the pandering. Although, now I worry my ego might become larger than my garden can deliver.


  7. How annoying! I placed an order with Alplains a few weeks ago, and may not have ordered the Parrya rydbergii! Horrors! Thanks for the heads up..I must make amends immediately. It is a wonderful thing I can assure you. I'm jealous you'll see it so soon.


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