Saturday, March 10, 2018

Winter waifs and springtime spirits

Iris x reticulata 'Mar's Landing'
 Sometimes catalogues show pictures and you say "yeah, right": which is how I reacted when I first saw pictures of this strange and alluring plant. For once the hype was exceeded by the wonderful performance--this went through minus 7 Farenheit, snow and has bloomed for weeks. I do love brass and bronze, and this seems almost as tough! Bravo Alan McMurtrie--and keep 'em coming!

Iris x reticulata 'Mar's Landing'

 That's Oxalis 'Ken Aslet' (pick any one of a half dozen scientific names) which blooms yellow in the fall under the iris.

Iris x reticulata 'Mar's Landing'

Iris x reticulata 'Mar's Landing'
Perhaps you can tell I'm tickled?

Bulbocodium vernum and Iris x reticulata 'Sunshine'

Iris x reticulata 'Sunshine'

Iris x reticulata 'Sunshine'

Iris x reticulata 'Palm Springs'

Iris histrioides v.Sophenensis
 Another gem I think I'll get more of this!

Iris x reticulata 'Orange Glow'

Iris x 'Finola''

Crocus vernus v. albiflorus

Iris x reticulata...lost track of this one!

Iris x reticulata 'Alida'
Draba hispanica
Not just irises are blooming!

Iris x reticulata 'Velvet Smile'
Not sure if I'm too crazy about the name, but the plant is certainly performing well..

Iris x histrioides 'George'

Iris danfordiae hybrid un-named (mistakenly labeled 'Happiness' last year)

Iris danfordiae (standard form) reblooming in blue gramma prairie

Iris x histrioides 'Sheila Ann Germaney'
It was interesting to compare the three best known crosses of Iris histrioides x winogradowii: each is subtly different.

Iris x histrioides 'Kanharine Hodgkin'

Iris x histrioides 'Frank Elder'

Iris x recitulataa 'Spot on'
Iris x reticulata' 'Darkness' just revving up!

Iris x reticulata  'Vivacious Beginnings'

Galanthus nivalis 'Viridapice'

Galanthus elwesii 'Hackenberry form'

Galanthus nivalis double: I too dislike it!

Bulbocodium vernum

Bulbocodium vernum

Crocus flavus

Colchicum hungaricum

Naturally I had to cast my shadow on my only picture of my biggest clump of Adonis amurensis...oh well--there's NEXT year we hope.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Silent Sentinels: Tree Diversity and you

"Take a look at my grave where I have become the berries on the juniper"
Chuang-Tzu (399 - 295 B.C.)

 You say "Denver Botanic Gardens" and people think of our York Street site. But we co-manage a remarkable garden at nearly 12,000' on the broad shoulders of Mt. Evans (a subsidiary peak called Mt. Goliath). I know garden implies the hand of man (and woman!), and at this point, I am not the only one to point out that there's not a square centimeter on this enormous sphere whose slender filmy crust we occupy that isn't impacted by humans. Nature is our garden. Alas.

I doubt that these dead bristlecones died because of us. But the very first scientific expedition to Colorado 198 years ago caused a fire on Pikes Peak that burned much of the treeline forest at that time, and there is still evidence of it. Trees that survive are here but for the good grace of humans not having mucked them up yet. If you have never read Chuang Tzu (or Zhuang zi in the proper Pin Yin), you will realize how much philosophy has been inspired by trees in Asia where so many of our street trees (and their pests) originate!

Acer triflorum at Denver Botanic Gardens

Not everyone likes baseball, or television or your favorite band. But everyone loves trees (if you don't you're a damn fool). They provide us oxygen that we breathe. They grow to cast refreshing shade that reduces our air-conditioning costs immeasurably in summer, not to mention providing a welcome haven to lie under.

Red admiral butterfly on Abies koreana 'Silberlock'
 They produce no end of food for the birds and the bugs the birds need to live on. And they provide us with delicious food as well, don't forget! Their severed bodies are the stuff civilization is built with, and this is just barely scratching the surface of the enormous benefits that trees provide. They help filter our filth we dump on the soil. They mitigate the rain that would flood much worse without them. They paint our cities pastel colors in spring, a vast range of greens in summer and fiery expressionistic hues in fall. But in the winter months when they stand naked and gaunt  while we muffle ourselves and scurry home to cocoon, then they reveal their sinewy majesty of form that shames the feeble structures that humankind dares erect in their stead.

Pinus tabuliformis at Denver Botanic Gardens

For all our talk about trees, we've not done as well by them as we could: we plant vast monocultures of American elms that succumb to a fungus, and we replace these with a vast monoculture of ash trees, which are now doomed to succumb to a beetle in the coming decade, costing hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars to remove just in Colorado. If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!

On Thursday, March 15 there will be a day to explore the subject of tree diversity in our cities: it will be the 5th of its kind that we've staged featuring many of America's premier tree experts. This year Andrew Bunting, assistant director and director of plant collections of Chicago Botanic Garden will speak to "Small Ornamental Trees: Versatile Plants for Difficult Locations".  Kristopher Stone, director of Boone County Arboretum in Kentucky, will provide "Observations of Trees, Climate Trends and Industry Support". David Temple now lives in Cortez, Colorado but grew up in Denver, a student of Earl Sinnamon (whose gift provided Chatfield with its fantastic visitor Center).  David managed a successful Tree care company for many decades before establishing a large nursery of the best adapted trees for our region: he speaks on "Ten Trees that should be used more in the Rocky Mountain region". Keith Wood, State Forester for Colorado, will report on a unique research project on "24 years of Tree Growth in Westminster, Colorado"...Click here to find out more....

Homeowners and landscape professionals can all gain great benefit from this celebration of trees.

I end with perhaps my very favorite tree poem ever (first in Spanish, then with my translation) by Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939).

VIII (from "Campos de Soria")

He vuelto a ver los álamos dorados,                      I have come back to see the golden cottonwoods,
álamos del camino en la ribera                              Cottonwoods along the road above the bank
del Duero, entre San Polo y San Saturio,              Of the Duero, between St. Polo and St. Saturio,
tras las murallas viejas                                           Across the ancient walls
de Soria barbacana                                                 Of graybeard Soria,
hacia Aragón, en castellana tierra.                         Towards Aragón in the land of Castile.

Estos chopos del río, que acompañan                    These poplars of the river, which accompany
con el sonido de sus hojas secas                            With the sound of their dry leaves
el son del agua, cuando el viento sopla,                The murmur of water when the wind stirs,
tienen en sus cortezas                                            They have, upon their trunks
grabadas iniciales que son nombres                       Engraved initials that are names
de enamorados, cifras que son fechas.                   Of lovers, numbers that are dates.

¡Álamos del amor que ayer tuvisteis                     Cottonwoods of love that yesterday had
de ruiseñores vuestras ramas llenas;                      Nightingales filling your branches!
álamos que seréis mañana liras                              Cottonwoods! That tomorrow will be lyres
del viento perfumado en primavera;                      Of the wind perfumed with springtime!
álamos del amor cerca del agua                             Cottonwoods of love nearby the water
que corre y pasa y sueña,                                       Which flows and goes and dreams.
álamos de las márgenes del Duero,                        Cottonwoods on the banks of the river Duero
conmigo vais, mi corazón os lleva!                       You'll come with me, my heart will take
                                                                                    you with me.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Old friends and tender memories. A reminiscence of Nova Scotia.

It's hard to believe that it's been four years this May since Jan and I went to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on a lecture tour organized by a friend I've known most of my life, Bob Howard. This is a view of his home garden from his house...

Picture by Bob Howard
After posting this blog, Bob was just a tad chagrined at how sparse some views looked--so he's sent me a few updates, to show that the garden really has transformed magnificently! Here's the same view as the last four years later!

Bob is an accomplished and successful Landscape designer and contractor who worked in the business in Colorado (where we first met as relative youngsters), but abruptly (or so it seemed to me at least) disappeared into the ether. Or more precisely, Nova Scotia. I reconnected with him a few times, and must have hinted broadly that I'd love to see him (and Nova Scotia). Bob gets these hints. He followed up with a plan and a proposal...and presto! There we were. I actually blogged about several  aspects of that trip way back when (I did) I blather on about me and my old buddy, you'll see glimpses of his garden four years ago--it was still young and raw comparatively speaking...

Picture by Bob Howard
.How's THIS for transformation--you can see it's the same angle...four years later of course.

Picture by Bob Howard

The same spot from a different angle--much more filled in last summer!

Geranium sanguineum 'Striatum'
I have never seen this pale pink Geranium sanguineum offered hereabouts: :I was sorely tempted to beg a piece..but the headline "Curator caught smuggling geranium" banner headline didn't appeal to my sensibilities.. Notice how much it's grown if you look in the last picture on the right...

Here is Bob talking to Jan on a landing of his wonderful flagstone steps leading to his home. Rock gardens on all sides---aaaah! My kind of friend!

A wonderful miniature broom blooming up a storm along the way. Don't try to say that ten times quickly...Cytisus decumbens perhaps?

A miniature poppy of the "miyabeanum/fauriei" persuasion no doubt... Love the placement.

Lithospermum diffusum--something Bob didn't grow back in Boulder I reckon!

Picture by Bob Howard
Bob sent this vignette from last year of Hydrangea 'Blue Deckle'

As I emailed him for permission to publish this piece about his garden, Bob emailed some reminiscences that brought back a flood of memories...strange thing this life is when we spend time with someone as we did (one of the few coevals of my youth who loved plants as much as I did) and then years slip by...and then we have this magic few weeks visiting day after day--and now we've been apart four years...Such a strange thing this little existence of us is.

The fellow grows a mean stand of Doronicum. The memories rise as thickly--the times Bob told me about his work with Alan Chadwick in Santa Cruz, and the remarkable gardens Bob did near my home....

I struggle with a few pots of Sensitive fern, and here it is filling a moist swale on his property. Facebook spell checked "Swale"--give me a break!

I love the blue and yellow combo,,,

A wonderful borage, like forget-me-not on steroids. Wish I'd asked him the name...Perhaps he'll tell us?

Underexposed lupions by the pond. I could remedy that with my new photoshop skills--perhaps I shall! Check back in a few days.

More ferns...Just love 'em--and the peony in front.

I envy him the pond--not far from the house...

Picture by Bob Howard
And here's the view looking down toward the pond more recently, with Salix 'Britzensis' turning yellow and a fiery Stewartia dead center.

I can only imagine how much this garden has evolved in the last few years...

Perhaps I'll find a way to get back. I'd love for him to come this way as well. And yet who doesn't have people they love far away they don't see enough?

Saxifrage and primrose--both loving Nova Scotia...

A mossy--a group I wouldn't ever want to be without.

Picture by Bob Howard
 Bob does love the blues--here's a picture he just sent me from last fall: the rock garden is filling with treasures!

Picture by Bob Howard
And another recent shot--Dianthus 'La Bourbille' in the foreground, Iris tectorum behind and Gentiana acaulis left center.

And a glorious yellow conifer.,,,Chamaecyparis pisifera f. filifera 'Golden Mop'

I was pleased to see Delosperma nubigenum--which Bob tells me doesn't perform as well as it did in Colorado.

An enchanting combo of a wonderfully blue "pink" and Lewisia,,,I have a hunch this garden is pretty awesome this spring...

Can't get enough of that Heavenly Blue...

A view not far away..

Another view from his home...

A wonderfulll clean and elegant home inside--as you would expect from Bob and Dessie--who combine so many admirable qualities I admire.

I end with this classic, almost Wyethian view... I'll conclude with an extract of Bob's response to my request:

             "Great to hear from you.  Hugs to Jan.  This is brief.  I’m just headed out in a few minutes.  A longer reply to follow.  If you need any pictures from me, please let me know.

I’d be honoured if you use pictures of my new gardening efforts and discuss our friendship and your visit to Nova Scotia.  I remember walking through the park next to your parent’s house and spying your low garden lying against the foundation.  I wandered down the driveway.  You came around the corner.  You gave me a tour of--what was it?, a 3’ by 40’ rock garden?  Anyway that tour included stories of garden luminaries and history, a journey through much of the world and a whole population of wonderful plants new to me—and it only took a couple of hours!

              "Snowdrops and witch hazel are blooming here now. I feel schizophrenic.  Very happy to be outside in this lovely weather, but at the same time depressed to imagine the ice melting north of here."

All friends are precious. Old friends are the best....

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