Tuesday, May 18, 2021

What a trip! A mad dash to Durango...

Kicked the trip off by picking up my fellow driver, Ken Ray, from his home in Arvada: A quick walk around his garden revealed a number of gems, including this mind boggling Lesquerella (refuse to call these Physaria...yet): He has got to save seed on this!
And he has an albino Amsonia jonesii: I hope these come from cuttings!
What a perfectly grown Penstemon uintahensis!
A compact Aquilegia: canadensis? skinneri?
Well on our way now: I love the early spring growth on Bluestem willow (Salix irrorata)--this is near Buena Vista
Ken's Agave neomexicana refuses to practice birth control...He pots up dozens for our NARGS Rocky Mountain Chapter meetings, and still has plenty left!
We arrived late in the afternoon at Jeff Wagner's: this brilliant white birch caught my eye: utilis? jacquemontii? No--turns out to be B. papyrifera v. occidentalis from near Boulder! That's a clone that needs to be propagated!

Molly the Witch (Paeonia mlokosewitchii) glowed in the late afternoon sun.

Ken's burrito put my taco and chile relleno to shame!

The gardener at Bank of the San Juans have mastered crevice garden technique obviously: there were several snapdragons tucked in chinks!

Better yet, the crevice garden in a concrete planter outside the OTHER branch of the same bank was growing plants impressively! Check out that Lewisia upper right center! Handiwork of the gentleman in the next picture.

Perhaps he's just V.P. of his bank, but moonlights obviously as their gardener: pretty snazzy window boxes! Never seen a bank that can hold a candle to this! That's Mike Smedley--major player in the upcoming Durango NARGS conference.

The next few pics are out of sync: this is a closeup of Antennaria 'McClintock' in Mike's home garden: meant to show you the outside first...Blogspot has new software that's driving me nuts!

Mike has all manner of gardens, from shady, moist to this steppe corner with Packera mancosana--a rare daisy endemic to the mancos shale not far from Durango.

Scutellaria orientalis ssp. pinnatifida: a perfect specimen of a too rarely seen classic.

Amy Wendland and Mike Smedley: I doubt I have ever met a more energetic, dynamic couple anywhere. If you come to our conference you will have the privilege of meeting them too!

Mike's "hell" strip is pretty Heavenly in my opinion!

What on earth could this humongous tree with such crazy bark be?

Turns out it was a black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). This eastern states native is regarded as a weed in Europe and its native range. I think it may be a truly important street tree for us however: mark my words! We took turns hugging it!

One of innumerable treasures at Durango Botanic Garden: Helichrysum praecurrens grown to perfection: the best specimen this side of Lesotho! 

Chrysanthemum atlanticum just past bloom: best one ever...begged their volunteers to save seed!

An overview of the OTHER D.B.G.'s crevice garden, originally created by the indefatigable, redoubtable and delightful Kenton Seth.

That son of a gun has a way with rocks!

This is the extension of the same garden on the other side of the path.

From D.B.G. we went up onto the Mesa to Fort Lewis College, where this August's conference will be held. We toured conference facilities--but plants kept getting in the way...

From a distance we guessed Philadelphus, Amelanchier? Wrong wrong wrong. It was the mother of all Boulder raspberries (Rubus deliciosus)

I've never seen such a massive, happy specimen in nature or a garden!

Another shocker was this large Trident Maple (Acer buegerianum) surely the state champion!

I love the peely bark on this tree. Jeff Wagner believes it may have been planted by George Kelly, one of Colorado's early great horticulturists.

Another shot of Molly the next day: never have enough of her!

Phlox sp. (I think it's P. grayi but Mike believes it's a local species--but not P. caryophylla). In Jeff's vast garden, which we returned to for a wonderful dinner. Hic.

 On Sunday we took off for home but had to stop at Montrose Botanic Garden, a remarkable garden designed, built and maintained by volunteers: here's one of Kenton's earlier crevice gardens (we're talking five or so years ago--he's a youngster!). I've only seen about half his dozens of gardens--it's a full time job to keep up with him! Each has treasures in them.

Fun to see my "Copper Spinner" (a slightly more orange shade than 'Fire Spinner'--its sib) Check out that Eriogonum ovalifolium!

Off again: we stopped on McClure Pass to find Viola sheltonii, one of a few dozen show plants I had yet to see in reality. Thanks to Dan Johnson's meticulous directions we walked right to it.

This is utterly unlike the plant of the same name I've grown from California (which I've also seen at Goteborg Botanic Garden),

Next stop: Betty Ford Alpine Garden--had to show this fantastic Phlox hoodii in one of their fantastic troughs on display outside their alpine house.

Phacelia sericea competing with San Juan bank's snapdragon for cranny nester!

There had to be a dozen specimens of Vitaliana primuliflora here and there all over the Betty Ford garden--this one happened to be in a trough of European alpines. That garden had so many treasures, it more than deserves a blog or two of its own (which I've done in the past). But we were in a hurry to get home!

I couldn't scamper out of Vail without showing these three husky clumps of Iris orchioides--a fantastic Juno iris I've always yearned to grow! And they have THREE husky clumps (one about to collide with a Regelia--surely it could be divided and shared with worthy souls?) [hint hint hint]

But we had to get home, and I even was able to wander a bit before dark and enjoy my OWN garden, which was at its height of Daphne glory right now: D. juliae lower left, and two monster D. x susannae 'Anton Fahndrich' up top which are busy swallowing up the rock garden. One could have worse things happen I suppose...

Alas, I showed no pictures of snow peaks on the nine mountains passes we drove over in three days, none of the glorious lunches and dinners with friends, and so much else left unphotographed...but not unappreciated. Long weekends like this make life pretty dang fun!


  1. I love reading your blog, PK. Thank you for the journey!

  2. Panayoti,
    With all the weirdo's putting together - who know's what in the current vaccines - it's SO REFRESHING to see MEN hugging trees more of this and
    less financial gangsters parading as the WHO coeur de la mer, maggie

  3. What a great trip. So many gorgeous plants in their full glory. Hopefully will be able to attend the NARGS conference in person. Get your vaccine everyone.


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