Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hanging Gardens of Zion

"Hanging Gardens" is a technical term.  Really.  It's in Stanley L. Welsh's "A Utah Flora."
And Zion National Park in Utah, USA has them.  This early November....

The autumn colours were fine.  
(Acer grandidentatum, Wasatch/Bigtooth Maple lends the reds among Utah Juniper, Juniperus osteosperma/utahensis; Pi├▒on, Pinus edulis; Doug Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii; Singleleaf Ash, Fraxinus anomala;  Silktassel, Garrya flavescens, and probably other fun things )

While the big guys awed, the little guys intrigued. So much diversity grows in the cracks and fissures (this is a natural crevice garden...) of diverse sandstones in Zion.  Despite being unremarkable this time of year, I kept being attracted to the night-blooming phloxes called Leptodactylon. (unpictured)
In spring, Zion boasts its namesake flavour of the Shooting Star,  Dodecatheon pulchellum var. zionense, quite growable and availabel for gardens (look it up if you don't know it; it is worth it!) which is celebrated in the park's signage and easily seen up-close on the Emerald Pools walk.

Zion is a good place for plant inspiration for dry gardens, as the area gets about 20 inches (50cm) of rain per year, which is weighed against a hot summer more reminiscent of a furnace than one in Denver, say.  Great massive sandstone features channel, divert, and trap a certain amount of this water- a complex situation that favours a delightfully variable hanging-crevice garden flora:

Linanthastrum nuttallii, a new and charming plant to me. It had a confectionary odour that I can't name.

   In drier crevices copious Petrophyton caespitosum, or Rock Spirea, (A member of the rose family, no joke, at half an inch tall, and up to a foot wide, well- but plastered to a rock) showed some autumn colour as well as proved often to host:
...the ember-hot and supermodel-sexy dwarf "Rough Paintbrush," who tops my hitlist next year to try growing: Castilleja scabrida var. scabrida.  In botany, it was once called "Castilleja zionensis."

 A Heuchera literally hangs out in the shadier places. Generally, one tends to find these lot on North sides, which protects thier evergreen sensibilities from winter sun-burn.

 Zauschneria latifolia var. garrettii was the shocker- my first time seeing the "humminbird trumpet" in nature. We rely on this babe to produce traffic-cone orange  flowers all summer long in our gardens, but this wild one shocked my pants off with brilliant fall hues; I feel that as literaly half the plants in the area were like this, it must be a glorious response to the drought.  This special plant was largely popularised by the soon-to-be-much-grieved and recently-closed High Country Gardens in Santa Fe, NM.

Zion is the only place where I've seen Shepherda rotundifolia hang and cascade downwards with its mirror-glittery leaves.  It is a  much-sought-after-in-gardens evergreen shrub.

This year in gardening seems to have been rough for everyone.  Despite drought and a long, hot summer, nature still clips along, even beautifully.  The plants at Zion don't care that Colorado's Reservoirs are quite down right now, and that a favourite and progressive gardening mail-order nursery has closed, or that my home squash crop was a bust.  It's rather comforting, somehow.

 May we emulate the levity and steadfastness of nature.


Acantholimon said...

I am dazzled by the foliage on the Zauschneria--which I suspect is var. arizonica and not garrettii that far south. I suspect the Heuchera is rubescens (the picture sure looks like rubescens) and my last quibble is Linanthus: I believe it is L. watsonii and not nuttallii--L. watsonii is the chasmophyte of canyonlands. L. nuttallii is more of a montane thingy.

I envy your trip: it must be a great time to visit there--I usually seem to go in March to June or maybe September. Canyonlands rock (so to speak)...

Great seeing you the other day!

ineedacupoftea said...

I'm using Welsh's names for these plants. (Where he refers to Linanthus watsonii as Leptodactylon watsonii, which, indeed, is growing there too {where I was much in love with its dried out skeletons) in Zion, too, but not in bloom. He separates Linanthastrum from Linanthus on account of sub-shrubbyness.

I hope the Heuchera is rubescens- because I mean to hunt that one in Unaweep Canyon less than an hour away!

David Cristiani said...

I must visit there soon, in case I move further away in the future! The Sheperdia rotundifolia is stunning for sure - I've seen it in a couple low elevation areas between Page and Kanab, too. I must go back, but this time spend a day in Zion.

Furnace...sounds like St George or even Las Vegas!

kintgen said...

I have seen Linanthus nuttalli growing on the dry shale hills by the Steamboat Airport. You photo look more like Linanthus as you have it labeled, than Leptodactylon watsonii which also grows at Gates of Lodore in far NW Colorado.