Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Big, Fat Czech Crevice

"Crevice garden? It never ceases to sound dirty," my best friend says.  Constantly.
And it is.
Deleriously dirty.

Here is a post to simply put more Crevice Garden pictures on the internet.

Mike Kintgen's recent crevice feature in the Mordecai Children's Garden at Denver Botanic.  This makes my heart flutter; his best work yet, I think. The plants are literally eating it up.

 Then, I hazard to follow that up with my main dry sandstone crevice garden, in full-frontal, unflattering view, car bumper, vinyl fence, and all.

Last summer, I built one at my apartment.  All you really have to do is group a few similar stones closely together. (Well, there is more: stuff the cracks with something drainy like sand or sandy-loam, or sand and gravel mixed. Then top it off with some gravel/chips/small stones to completely cover the soil)

I already regret it.  Eh, it's just tolerable.
{It could be much, much better}

Perhaps a better garden, and definitely a better gardener, Lee Ann Huntington has done such nice things with plants in-between the rocks I set.  Checking in during the summer with this garden since its birth in spring, we see she has every right to be proud of that Lewisia tweedyi!

And Anita Cox's garden wins the award for filling-in and looking mature within the first year.  She has some kind of magic touch.

And then the news. The new News.
Stephanie Ferguson, Crevice-gardener extraordinaire of Calgary, AB, Canada, came to give a talk to Denver's Rock Garden Society last fall. We were blown away. I clung to her every word. But Linda- oh, poor Linda: She was closest to ground zero by hosting Stephanie at her home, and Linda's own desire for a larger crevice garden exploded under the intense pressure, and with all that perfect autumn weather we had last fall, we built her very own four-ton smart-car-sized Plant-growing machine:

Nearly done...

First plants are going in before the gravel topdressing.

The backside of the crevice garden becomes a slope of open soil to accomodate dwarf conifers and bigger herbaceous perennials.

From the front.  These 3-D things really don't photograph, admittedly.  I'll keep trying.  

(Photo courtesy of Linda Meyer) 

She had a bit of fun planting.

(Another photo courtesy of Linda Meyer) 

OK, a lot of fun.

(Yep, three pictures from our girl)  

No, she went wild!  And it looks great.  Lastly, it has received a grey gravel topdressing, (not shown here) which should be noted as an essential ingredient to this whole Crevice-Garden thing.

But wait, there's more!
Three Crevice Troughs/Pots.
An impeccablely artistic trough by Tony Stireman in Salt Lake City, UT.
Note the extreme topography he has achieved- soaring high over the rim of the pot. And the very happy plants.

My cheap imitation which, despite being of 100% trashcan-sourced materials, and thereby escaping the category of "cheap" with its actual negative material value, excels at growing things that I can't grow anywhere else.

An bonsai-referencing mini-crevice pan by my friend.

(Pediocactus simpsonii in the CSU extension garden, Grand Junction, CO, USA)

I'm telling you.  
They (plants) love it.

So, truly lastly, a self-help-flavoured effort to blackmail myself to expedite the process: the blank canvas at my parent's home which promises to become, this spring, a quite large grey-granite crevice garden.
Here's the spots(s).

Here's the stone.

Happy early-early-early spring, my friends.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More. Tree. Types: Tree Diversity Conference 2014

Are you interested in biodiversity in our city trees?
Well, the well-reported emerald ash-borer threatens our cooling urban canopy.
But what can be done?

I love when "biodiversity" is the answer.

A quick announcement and plug for a tree conference. It's a Friday full of lectures from people who know more about it that perhaps anyone else.  These folks are really the creme de la creme of  tree fanatics in America.
It's going to be a smallish thing, so $60 is a steal to learn from these unmatchable individuals and rub shoulders with them.

Click for details:
Tree Diversity Conference 2014, at the University of Denver 

Hey- I'm going for the food.

Beware of Existential-crisis-bearing Passionvines.

Passiflora x 'Sunburst' 

A tiny mail-ordered Passionvine arrived last winter carrying more than a plant tag and a packing slip.  I'll not mention the company's name, since they did, in fact, send a live bug with this vine, which is practically wrong, but turned out to be novel fun.  Or potentially philosophically depressing.

Quickly, about the vine: It is a hybrid of two tiny tropical species of passionvine. It bears inch-wide turpentine-fragranced flowers over wildly-shaped purple-backed spotted leaves. It's a windowsill novelty for people who suffer chrinic novelty-osis.

The bug: a green larvae.  Since it was on a passionvine, I imagined it might become a Longwing Butterfly.  We'd see.  Larvae consume a great deal of leafy material to grow up, and that twig of a baby vine would not be enough- on top of which, that would be twenty-five dollars and ninety-five cents worth of insufficient bug food instead of pretty flowers.  

But, as luck would have it, I had a fat mason-jar full of Passiflora x 'Clear Sky' cuttings on my kitchen table from my parent's garden. (This is a hardy German hybrid- it can be grown outdoors in a fertile, watered, climber-friendly warm position.)  These leaves were plentiful and gastronomically compatible.

(The monster flowers of the tropical-looking Passiflora x 'Clear Sky' bred by one Roland Fischer, on a fence in my Parent's Garden)

Anyhow, while I was out of town, the little bugger ate its fill of Passionvine cuttings, undocumented by my camera, and promptly pupated; attaching its butt to a Stapelia plant in the windowsill.

Do you see it? It's brown.  How fun the chrystalis/pupa curves the same way as the Stapelia sticula branches. And it sat. Changing quietly.  Or wiggling wildy when budged. Butterfly pupae do this.

'Ere she came, one fine morning, when, of course, I was headed out of town again.  It was also the middle of November; no time for a butterfly, who really barely belongs in Colorado at all.  

But we enjoyed this creature immensely and the few weeks it lived in the kitchen.
Gulf Fritillary, or Agraulis vanillae.

The spots on the undersides are somewhere in between reflective and opalescent.  This bug was fortunate, at least, I suppose, to have two plants in bloom from which to feed in the kitchen. (I never saw it actually consume anything.) -The only place it would ever be as an adult. 

I'll let you think about the point of life when, like the butterfly's,  was full of destiny (hey- I dind't squish it and I happened to have the exact exotic plant to feed it) is ideal (lacking predators), is more celebrated and observed than most others of its kind (you are participating in this truth) , but lonely, contained, and never procreating…

I'd like to think it's not so bad.

Pan's Gardens: Boulder Garden-scaper Rockstars

Our dashing GQ cover-boys, looking very sultry.

Meet Ryan Durfee and Paul Montgomery of Pan's Gardens, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
Last October I took an opportunity to work for a week for these fellas to see just how they do business, taking those lessons home to my nacent new business.  Or maybe I worked for them to assimilate thier swagger.  There's a good chance of that.

I need some rockin' door stickers like theirs.

Pan's is an organic company.  You've read about solarizing lawns to kill them (as opposed to hosing them with poison), now you can see it in action.  Paul and Ryan offer some incredibly efficient, tidy, and detail-oriented and mainenence service, as well as earth-conciouse installations.  The above has become a "Peasant's Garden," utilising native shrubs, if I'm not mistaken.

Pan's Gardens is bravely going places that so many are only talking about- here is a meadow-style strip recently established.  Look out for Meadows in cutting-edge progressive landscapes in future.  Folks like Ryan and Paul are bearing the weight of inventing the wheel we'll all be riding and taking for granted in future.  Read about thier philosophy and drink in their work: their website is weird inasmuch that it is not painfully commercial, but fun to peruse.

Ryan shows me his recent xeric installation, featuring maximum biodiversity in a small space, which means there are a dozen things in bloom, even among young plants, in October.

 It wasn't all work and drinking espresso- we cruised gardens and looked for green trouble on the streets of fair Boulder.  We even found a greenroof, and upon knocking on the front door of the house on which it grew, we found that I had consulted these folks and sold them the first plants for their roof some years ago. What fun to see how my suggestions did or didn't work.   The owner let us waddle around and have a malenky bit of a look-see.
This is us on the roof: note the refleciton of the second-storey-neighbour!

Private greenroof in Boulder, CO, excecuted by its enterprising owners. (Not to mention a frugging fantastic rock garden!)

I'll take this line to thank Paul and Ryan, as well as Ryan's family, for tolerating and kindly accomodating me.  

They do look after some beautiful places.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Year of the Lecture

(Nasella tenuissima,  Mexican Feather Grass, frames my friend's garden in Denver, CO)

2014 has become the year of the touring botanical lecture for me; I'm lucky enough to be all over North America giving talks.  A nice way to avoid doing actual work.  

Here's a moment to shamelessly announce them if you happen to be in the area.

18 January  Seed Exchange Logistics: Rocky Mountain Chapter of NARGS (at Denver Botanic)
21 January   Lesser-known Hardy Succulents: Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society  (at Denver Botanic)

15 March: Piedmont Chapter of NARGS, Raleigh, NC: (Plant Hunting in the Caucasus)
22 March: Southern Appalachian Chapter of NARGS, Asheville, NC: (Crevice Gardening)

12 June Calgary Rock & Alpine Garden Society (or, I love this: CRAGS!) Calgary, AB

Unexpected Autumn Colours, 2013 edition. In winter.

Owed to the fervent effort of avoiding winter blues and sitting-down activities, a fall colour blog just before Christmas.

Mirabilis multiflora doesn't always do wild things like this.  These are calyxes. (the leafy wrapper of the flower)

Winterfat, Krascheninnikovia lanata lets its old leaves go pink while recent ones, blue-white, will remain for winter.
Krascheninnikovia/ Eurotia/Ceratoides lanata's ("Winterfat" gets to be an appealing name!) fall color is more apparent with the aid of Catalpa leaves...

Ginkgo biloba and Euonymous elata

Ampelopsis brevipundunculata, or Porcelainberry vine to us mere mortals.

Enjoy your winter. 
Or survive it to enjoy the spring, at least.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two for the Bugs

"Knowing the insects doubles one's gardening pleasure..."

from my friend John, for whom a love of bugs runs in the family.

A honeybee redeems a Goathead/Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) by visiting it.
See, there is a purpose for even the most hated of weeds.
Well, -almost redeems it. We can look at this as lemonade from lemons...

Phiddipus aff. cardinalis.

Aphids on Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosus)

I had read the warning in drip-system books about bugs crawling into things and didn't really think much about it. But I was reminded when these four tragic gals turned out to be the clog in the wand-end rose; these crickets entered from the other end of the tube at the spigot (which I'd taken off and drained as a freeze precaution.) Nice. I must remember to clean out all the nursery's tubes before I turn them on next spring! Lesson: find some sort of cap to put on open hose/tubes.

Leafcutter Bee activity on leaves of Amelanchier alnifolia. Rose leaves are among the more common thin-textured leaves which are used. The philosopher in me really enjoys the fact that there is no real solution to this problem (no sprays, OK?) short of covering your entire shrub/tree with a fine veil of some sort pre-emptively in spring. I've never heard of anyone troubling themselves so much- Gardening should be fun.

And it's fun to look at bugs.