Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pickleball meets Crevice Gardens: Announcing the APEX Project

The un-posted educaitonal blogs have been collecting dust because I have been preparing for this, which is something worth posting about in itself.

(Concept sketch)

The Kendrick Lake Park's Xeric Garden is getting a red-haired cousin in Arvada.

(Birds-eye and profile design sketch)

The vision of Mike Miles of APEX (Arvada, Colorado's Parks and Recreation District), we will be building a large, xeric public crevice garden in September.  This is a dream come true for me, to demonstrate and promote crevice gardening in a large, dramatic, public institution, at the same time as making it a laboratory wider than myself for experiments in xeric and wild plants in the context of a crevice garden.   We are exploring the possibility of using this garden to promote Denver's Rock Garden Club as well.


The Project in Numbers:

11706 W 82nd Ave, Arvada, CO, in between the APEX offices and the Pickleball Courts.
4-5 September 2014, heavy earthwork
8 Sept to circa 19 Sept (or later) for rock placement
2015 Spring planting
1000+ plants in the initial planting
1000 square feet of actual crevices, not including paths in-between
5 or so separate "mounds" divided by paths.
35-42 tons of stone
10 tons of sand
13+ tons of gravel
7+ tons of soil reclaimed from Denver Botanic Garden's extinct Anna's Overlook garden.
2 full-time rockery-building aides to me
2+ adjunct crevice-builders
1 visiting expert in Crevice Gardening (Paul Spriggs from Victoria, BC)
1 watering per week initial irrigation regime (which may change)

The Project in Pictures:

The stone  ("Ooooo, baby")

The biggest stones  ("Come to daddy")

The site (Whoah)



Two vignettes from the rock garden club vice prez, Linda Meyer's garden which best express the general effect of the concept.  Just picture it much. much. bigger.


A Private Crevice Garden in Fort collins, CO, under construction by Paintbrush Gardens, using a similar stone.  ("Yee-haw")


And what does this have to do with Pickleball?  This new site is where national tournaments of the exponentially-popular game pickleball will be hosted, and is already a buzzing venue for players on the existing courts.

Well friends, that's what I'll be doing for a while.
Enjoy the monsoons.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Flowery Tonics

…for reading during schizophnreic summer days: we in Colorado are experiencing temperatures in the 90s and 100s F in the sun, (32 to 38C) with occasional storms, passing over like bombers- we never know if they will hit.  Most pass to crash into the mountains, while some drop a splash of hot rain, or worse, around Denver- hail.

A quick refreshing splash of spring as an appetizer to some meaty rock-gardeny entreé-articles which are in the works:

Gentiana acaulis in full early-June glory, trumpeting the blue gospel that a rock garden reigns supreme in providing habitat for such wondrous gems.





Stephanie Ferguson stands rain-soaked in her massive Crevice Garden in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, which spans her entire property and dramatically frames a great fenced-off-hole in the ground where her home used to be.  (Stay tuned about that).  I was fortunate enough to spend many hours with her, gleaning her secrets in this, perhaps the greatest Mecca of all Crevice Gardening.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Now for the infrequent plantless post: Travel: The Cynic's Survey #1


I'm tired of being nice, today.
The habit of being friendly to everyone does backfire.
_ _ _ _

Max Ehmann, in the Desiderata, writes "and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story", but ever complete, he writes: "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."  Someone older and wiser will have to explain the difference to me, for:

Riddle me this: why do I attract you: The philosophical and friendly gentlemen armed with a massive bowel of constipated soapboxing? It's always at cafes when I am reading, every single time.  Do I have a birthmark on my forehead which is accidentally Chinese for "I will listen to your eloquent and well-developed self-aggrandising thesis; please feel free to talk my ear off for literally 45 minutes, telling me my race is underdeveloped, working as a soapboxer will, with literally one or two facts about me personally, and assuming, I assume, the rest." Were these two facts the undoing of the social boundary you flooded over? Last time, sir, you were Mr. The-Beatles-Said-it-All-&-Reality-is-Only-Perception-for-one-point-five-hours, because you saw the cactus book I was reading.  Yesterday, you were David, refusing my request of your Chinese name because I, a dumb American, surely couldn't handle it: "No, no, no, too hard for you, " you said, conversationally.

Now, clearly, if you are intelligent enough to prepare such a lecture, you should be intelligent enough to know when you are rude and respectless to your fellow human beings.  I notice you are always a man; is your ego blooming in the warm greenhouse of a society which is less apt to put you in check when you are stepping on other's toes?

Next time, Captain Soapbox, I'll be ready; armed with my own small but nails-outward soapbox wrapped up all beatifully, all tiramisu, and just for you.

_ _ _ _

It has been my sin to allow the aggressive a free round of punches against humanity, in the safe environ of coffeeshop talk.
I am tired of being nice.  





Thursday, June 5, 2014

Setting the Record Strait: Moltkia caerulea

I've just recently realised that I've deeply failed, and for years, to publicly publish these picture.  A plant who, at the time four years ago, was not photographically documented on the internet!  Others have beat me to it in the interim, but still, that is the mission of this blog. To document the undocumented.



Moltkia caerulea in the middle of the Republic of Georgia, April 2010






Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Vancouver Island : Clubs new and old, plants wild and domestic.





Congratulations to the formal formation of a new rock-garden club based around Nanaimo, BC:
The Alpine Gardeners of Central Vancouver Island.  Above is the rock garden they maintain.

I must extend my personal thanks to their very active Valerie Melanson, who even grew Paintbrush (C. miniata) to raffle off at their club's meeting and spearheads the international-quality newsletter of their healthy young interest group.  If you can't get enough of Crevice Garden literature, subscribe to "The Crevice" through the above link.


Anthyllis montana var. rubra.  
I will forever be a defenseless sucker for true red and orange 
on mini-plants. Growing in the AGCVI's Crevice garden, 
which is Paul Sprigg's handywork.




Sempervivum 'Cafe' in my friend Gord's Hobby Nursery, 'Alba Plants.'


He's built a lovely new glass-roofed structure since I was here last.

Huh.  It feels strange to see folks in what feels like a wet climate doing so much to traip rainwater compared to my homestate, but the wild reality is that Victoria, BC, being rain shadowed by the island's mountains, recieves only 24 inches (600mm) of yearly annual precip, which is not much higher than Denver.    {However, there is more winter cloudcover, cooler summers, and a bit more humidity, and these are what really separate the Coastal BC and Colorado Climates.}  They are a classic "Mediterranian" climate being dry and warm in the summer.  


Beekeeping is Gord's most current obsession.


 The Crevice Garden at the windswept Beacon Hill Park in Victoria is growing well,

Thanks to Niel, of the VIRAGS (Victoria Rock Alpine Garden Society) who tends it religiously, and has done for years. He's generous and educatoinal to passersby.  This sort of dedication is the heart and success of plants in our public culture.  We mustn't take folks like him for granted.


Paul Sprigg's Home Crevice Garden.
I had to make a botanical pilgrimmage to the very crevice garden which, upon seeing it four years ago, galvanised me like a thiunderbolt and sent me off in a wild direction; my life's not been the same since!  The plants are chowing down on the space; the rocks are barely visible. This brings up the aesthetic question; what per cent of your stone do you want covered by plants?  They'll take it all if you let them!  

Paul opines lately that five years is what it takes for a crevice garden, with its slow-growing and small palnts, to be "mature."

He took me and his friend, Ty, up to a bog in the Island's Mountains.  This is the first time I've seen carnivourous plants in nature.  Note the wet, in-curved light-green basal leaves of Pinguicula aff. vulgaris.  Isn't it suprising?- Carnivourous plants tend to have ridiculously showy flowers.

 Erythronium montanum was having a good year in the moutains.  Rare on the island, but common in mainland BC.   Not a small Glacier/Dog-tooth lily.



Amanda Carruther's Garden is another pilgrimmage, for me; she inheirited it from her late mum Joyce, who was Zdeněk Zvolánek's sweetheart and rock-gardening buddy.  I understand he built this end of her rockery recently, after her passing.  It's a big, sweeping mass of stones around the back yard, and full of jewels...

Like Moltkia petrea.  Another first for me; I have never seen it in bloom.
It's more electric that the pictures allow. Seriously.  Don't you want it now?
Borages tend to have a long blooming time based on their successive flowers.  Now you want it, eh?

My interest in Moltkias was zapped into me when I saw one in bloom in the Caucasus.  It's only gotten worse now, having seen this.  I told Paul is was his duty to collect seeds from these plants.

Daphne giraldii.
Speaking of collecting seed.  This plant bloomed for the first time for my friend at Alba Plants when I was visiting; it was grown from Jim Archibald seed, and has a consuming yet perfect fragrance.


I do not tire of living in the culture of loving plants. 
Thanks for reading.
















(Paul Spriggs crevice detail)

Saltspring Island: Eggs, Rhubarb, and Trust



(Ganges Harbour, Saltspring Island)

Gardening continues to make life interesting.  
I met more than a dozen people in two days not just on Saltspring Island, (located between Vancouver Island and the mainland British Columbia)  but also on the ferries to and fro. And each one of them was an incredibly fascinating human being.   (Here, I must rudely and honestly say that not everybody one meets on earth is interesting.  It's Ok, and it's true.)

I went to speak to a garden club. I imagined a paper plate with four cookies on a card-table surrounded by three gung-ho gardeners in a dark room on a Wednesday night. But the Saltspring Island Garden Club was massive.  They are  surely going to have to have an embassy and their own standing army soon.
I've never met a larger group of fiesty gals (and a few gents), and they were incredibly accomodating and hospitable.

This year is their 60th anniversary, which they will mark with a fancy garden soiree.  My kind of folks.

Mouat "park."  I wish the "park" across the street from my apartment looked like this.

And yes, it's on an island.  You take a ferry from Vancouver island.  Some 30 thousand folks live there, half of whom are generally retired from other Canadian Provinces and who snowbird somewhere warmer yet than this zone 8 place.  (like Mexico)  The other fifteen thousand folks are year-round residents.

Eat local. Buy local. Graffiti local.

 Marcia, my hostess (Ambassador, I should call her) from the Saltspring Island Garden Club had the most effortlessly artistic garden I've ever seen. That is, the plants have design in mind without fussiness.





My hostess took me to some botanical highlights of the island- one being the garden of Ted Baker, (Baker's Gardens) the local Iris guru.  

In his absence, we had a feline tourguide that showed us the entire garden.





Ted Baker's Bearded Iris Beds


 Iris 'So Van Gogh'


'Crackling Caldera' Tall Bearded Iris.



A small Botanical Pilrimmage for me was visiting Fraser's Thimble Farms.  They are a rare-plant mail-order renowned for their offering of (outdoor) ground-orchids and Hellebores.  2013 was the last printed catalogue, but their selection continues to be available online.


How many nurseries do you know who sell Cypripediums?  And dozens of species?  Yes, they ship to the US.

Their nursery had tables and tables of dizzying woodland Orchids.  Had I been closer to home and with one less border to cross, I'd have been taking out a loan to buy a truckload.





Here's one of the things which made me a little bitter at my American culture, and warmed my heart.  Like a nice rhubarb pie.
Any little item made or grown in the farmlets along the road on Saltspring had a small wooden kiosk where road-borne passers-by could self-serve: grabbing a dozen eggs, say, and leaving the money in a tin can.  Eggs & Rhubarb happen to be the seasonal crops at present.  Now, my American friends, some of you are already aware that this is totally normal in parts of of the western world, but not in the states.  We are all thinking, of cource, "Wouldn't someone steal the cash?"

How would we know when we don't trust eachother enough to even try?

There are just a few things I'm not homesick for.  A society-wide distrust complex being one.


Until then, I'll be distracting myself with flowers.



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Meanwhile back at the ranch...

Never to waste a brilliant time to be thinking of what is happening elsewhere, I am sure that things continue to rock on back home in Colorado.  This is what was having opening acts when I left:
Penstemon bicolor, from Blue Diamond, NV, collected by the brilliant young Jackson Burkholder of the Denver Cactus club.  This is a smashing nice form, and despite being from a mild place, its evergreen holly-like leaves overwintered immaculately through the nasty last winter. (2013/14 in Grand Junction saw -16F/-27C in places)

Verbascum oreophillum.

The delightfully hairy Mullien. (not to be confused with Colorado's weedy V. thapsus.)
I love how the wool is so thick it gathers itself in places.  I've just read that this plant is Turkish.  Well, welcome to Colorado, buddy! (Hoş geldiniz!)



And out in the desert, a gem of gems, our very own endemic Spiny Desert Milkwort.  She protects herself with the skeleton of prior year's growth.  American-West-desert-plantafficianados all want to get a chance to have seed for, or even just see, this elusive princess. Oh, if I were there, I would be!  Thanks to last summer's generous monsoon rains, and the winter's above-average snow,  she was beginning to bloom as I left, a tip from my more desert-abreast friends.