Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The summer party's over! First hard frost...(wintry festivities are next...)

Verbesina encelioides on the Ridges
This picture was taken just four days ago: today the flowers are crisped and the plants are magically all seedpods. Such is the power of frost. "Growing season" is silly, of course, since plants grow at all times, but hard frost ushers in a more cautious season where few plants are really in the mood to bloom, and suddenly texture takes precedence...

Back garden a week ago...
A week or so ago--today I'm pulling out the Verbesina lest they take over the Universe...the Pelargoniums are crisped, but the glorious golden leaved silver lace vine is hanging in there: what a difference a week makes!

Salvia uliginosa and Helianthus annuus in Fragrance Gardebn
I took this picture last Thursday: I went back yesterday and the blue had turned to gray/black and even the sunflowers had wilted--a much less appealing tableaux. Ten or more years ago someone designed pale sunflowers with the Argenitian sage--for several years they blazed together magnificently (I never dreamed Salvia uliginosa would thrive in a spot like this, but it has). One year, the sunflowers did not come back and an uninformed worker weeded out the salvia. I mentioned this to my long time colleague, Loddie Dolinski, who oversees this garden, and she magically re-created the combination this year: is it any wonder why I love the place I work so much?
closeup of same

A closeup of that wonderful combo--only this is a picture taken a decade ago (and recently scanned).

Medley of prickly pears in fruit

I finish with a fruitful cornucopia of Opuntia--a picture taken in the Watersmart Garden last week at Denver Botanic Gardens. One doesn't immediately think of cactus for their fruits, but there are a whole group of prickly pears that produce masses of sizeable fruit that can last for months and months--and creates a wonderful picture in the garden. There are three taxa in this picture--upper left are the enormous pads of O. engelmannii loaded with dark violet fruits (distance diminishes the effect, alas, but take it on trust: it's magnificent!)...the big showy grouping on the right is Opuntia phaeacantha, a very variable taxon that is widespread--some forms are quite massive as well--with especially bright fruit. And on the lower left is Opuntia macrorhiza--smaller, but just as vivid. My buddy, Kelly Grummons (a local nurseryman and great authority on hardy cactus) has revolutionized the world of hardy cactus by developing re-blooming prickly pears. He collects the fruit in the fall and presses them for juice: a tricky operation! The fruit is covered with glochids that make spines seem innocent by contrast--but with the proper tools (lots of tongs!), and strained through cheesecloth, the juice is safe to drink...and the process relatively painless...or so he tells me. I must sample the juice some day and see if I'm tempted to try it with my rapidly expanding cactus patch at home!


  1. Vibrant pre-frost color, too bad it can't last longer! So, your imagery of making cactus juice has me wondering, can the juice be made into wine? I know I know, I'm always thinking about wine :-)

    1. I don't know wine not! (hee hee)...I shall ask Kelly Grummons. He really does know all (and he bottles tons of the juice). I didn't know you were such a connoisseur: I just guzzle the stuff!

  2. It's funny how your stomping grounds are a hardiness zone warmer than mine, but my area has not yet sustained frost. I'm glad you are enjoying the last of your garden for the season. I've been too busy to enjoy mine much. My back hurts from being bent over planting out first year seedlings. I think fall is the best time to transplant. I just finished planting out Primula specuicola and Physaria alpina. I have more Erigeron linearis than I have places in the garden. I should have made my rock garden a lot bigger, or at least used a readily available type of stone so I could easily expand it.

    If my Primula suffrutescens blooms next year I will have to send Peter George a photo. He mentioned he was having trouble growing that one.


    1. If you bloom Primula suffrutescens you better send ME a picture as well...I think I told you about the acre wide patch of it I found above Lake Tahoe--still blows my mind to think of it.

      No reason you can't use more than one type of rock if you separate them a bit: I know places (Muddy Gap, Wyoming and the Grand Hogback along the Front range) where you can find ten or fifteen rock types in proximity! If nature does it, so can we! I too have been planting a lot. Although we had a frost (and many things were damaged) places around town look untouched: the ornamental yams are still yamming away at Cherry Creek shopping center outside, and most of my wax begonias (in shade or under eaves) came though fine, although the Impatiens bit it. We are apt to have weeks and weeks of summery weather still: the Japanese anemones and toad lilies did just fine and are making a show, and even the autumn sages are perking up...

  3. I'll have to look up Denver's temps, but I can see it in the light and the more crisp plant appearances! A glorious time...just like November back in Abq, or early Dec down here. "Growing season"...glad I also call it the "warm season" so not to shame myself; we tend to have 2-3 growing seasons and 2 dormant seasons, anyway.

    I can't imagine how many more Verbesina encelioides seeds there are now, from here to there, thanks to last month's deluge...

  4. I envy you the next few months in Madrean land--it is the best time of year there and I love it...I may have to trump up a trip to take in the gleaming ristras and steaming Hatch Chiles (although Federal Boulevard in Denver has its share)--and the Cottonwoods my ex-wife described as "Schoolbus Yellow"...aaaah


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