Sunday, September 30, 2018

Looking back 2018: Projects New and Old

It's nice to look back at places you've worked hard on and watch that sweat equity spring from the earth.  A buffalo grass dog-meadow with wildflowers in late summer.

I did an unplanned, bonus crevice garden with concrete from a patio which was removed when the back yard orchard went in.  It's fun to work with that stuff, no intention of looking "natural," just using a free material to grow plants better.  Each horse trough (also a re-use situation...) has different soil.  

An unirrigated front yard, a few years old.  This is how I check up- drive by plant peeping.  I am that creepy guy with a camera driving by, slowly.  The kid-safe rounded basalt idea is thanks in part to Susan in the Pink Hat, who has totally killer rock garden photography on her blog this season, if you've not seen it yet.  (Click the link on her name, yeah, leave this one.  Worth it.)

The Cheyenne Crevice garden begged me to find some previously ungrown plants- and I was lucky to stumble into Heterotheca (Chrysopsis, now) aff. pumila  while camping near a different job.  I got seed; we'll give it a shot.

My buddy Scott handed the reigns of a designed meadow he did in Telluride; the vigour of the plants left something to be desired and a soil test revealed my suspicions- compost with too much woodchip was tying up the nitrogen.

But the rock fell slope there is coming in well, Scott filled it with rock garden and mountain plants oversown with California poppies, which, of course, steal the show and have a field day in mountain climates.

Then, to really finish my by out for the year, was the joint creative, collaborative hands- on project with Lauren Springer Ogden within her much anticipated living version in Gardens on Spring Creek of the "Undaunted Garden," named after perhaps one of the finest books about gardening in Colorado which has enjoyed a deserved recent reprint.

The "Garden of Eat'n"  vegetable demonstration garden there just blew me away, totally amazing.  
Go if you haven't.

There were garter snakes in our 8.5 ton Rhyolite rock heap, and after we scattered the stone, it became full of toads overnight, all of which were all the size of half-dollars, except for Kingdaddy here:
Bufo woodhousii, guessing.

I've never arranged rock like this before,  and it was a perfect joint bouncing-ideas-between-us collaboration with Lauren, who felt that these amazing stones would be best set as though they flaked off of the stones above, as though they fell from a cliff, shattered, and were making their way down the slope in geologic time.  It meant leaning some on one another, not burying each one in half, and having some laying across the top of others.   In preparation, I studied rocks on slopes in nature for this.  Lauren made some arrangements which were so gorgeous- wherein it was easy to imagine them clunking int one another like a slow log jam.    It was a total hoot.  And both of our backs were wrecked afterwords.  
Laid out, but faces unchosen and not bedded.

These are the backbone of the cactus section of her Undaunted Garden.  Imagine them interspersed with armies ("flash mobs") of mounding cacti like Echinocereus.

I particularly love this bit.  I learned from her to use the nicest face of each rock, something that admittedly I don't do in crevice situations- where form reigns supreme in order to get them all to knit together. But here, each stone has room to breathe.  And it is sort of a relief, artistically, after so many crevice gardens.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A little more applause for Stud Puppy

Stipa scribneri was sold back in the day at erstwhile Timberline Gardens as "Muhlenbergia 'Stud Puppy," a selection brought down from the mountains by TX/CO garden designer Tom Peace.  I took it to the books and found it to be what we must currently correctly call "Acnatherum scribneri," or Scribner's Needlegrass.  I'll stick with 'Stud Puppy, ' because it is. It really is, a real stud.

 Chelsea nursery humored me and grew on some propagules I gave them.   
Pretty cute in their #1 pots!
I could not help myself; I think I bought them back.

What's so great about it?
1. Most clumpgrasses are short-lived. It is not.
2. Most grasses prefer or require sun.  It tolerates bright shade quite nicely.
3. It grows dry, but not unirrigated in Western Colorado, hailing from 8000 feet or so in our mountains, so needing just a tad, weekly or monthly water, if grown down low.
4.  Left un-pruned, so that last year's yellow foliage stays- it still looks good. I think most warm season grasses look ratty if you don't clean them up.
5. It's firework-ball-arching habit makes it a lovely light-catching candidate for Meadow-style gardens, alongside the things like the real Muhlies,  Giant Sacaton grass, and Atlas Fescue.
6.  Grows in any soil.

Part of your classy Halloween yard display.

What are the downsides?
1. It reseeds. A little. So if you are a control freak, I'm sad for you.
2. It is slow-ish to establish.   This helps with #1 above.  But it grows as slow as a Switchgrass in the nursery, for me, and not at light-speed like Grama grasses and others.
3. Its thin substance leaves it casting little shadow, and therefore leaving room at its feet for smaller plants like groundcovers, bulbs, short cacti, and rock garden plants.  It works fine in a medium to large crevice garden.  Oh wait, this was supposed to be a list of downsides.

I've been growing it from three different sources- including my own collection from next to the fire department, I think it was, in Buena Vista.    It all looked close enough I've accidentally mixed them up.

I'll be growing it in the nursery in future years, so keep it in mind should you go to the April rock garden sale at Denver Botanic.

The APEX Crevice Garden: A Big Update after 3 years

Touching base in spring 2018.  Apex grows.

So coy, those Manzanitas.  This is Allan Taylor's "Red."

Unk buckwheat.

Mini forms of Hymenoxys acaulis are going to mix with tall ones and argentea.

I am never there to see the flowers on Petunia patagonica.   Huff.

Never enough Moltkia petrea, I've planted a few more.  Thanks Bill.
It really does behave like a blue daphne.

In a strike of the first theft in the garden, this Eriogonum kennedyi was dug up.  Such things are absolutely guaranteed to die when moved.  That's what a thief deserves. Just a couple other silver buns were taken.  

Phlox nana 'Perfect Pink' from David Salmon is like a pink version of the reblooming-dry-loving easy-grow flower-factory Zinnia grandiflora.

Hedysarum dshambulicum.

Monardella macrantha is a showstopper, but has not persisted.  

This aerial photo was taken as we were finishing; I think I know who the two figures are.

Stenotus acaulis

Tulipa linifolia does well at the base, near the true soil, and dislikes the top.

On "Mount Stireman", mound 3.

Agave toumeyana v bella is pupping. It likes the north exposures.
Rabeia albipuncta ex Molteno, a Stireman plant shining bright.

'Ochsenblut' Phlox courtesy of Mike Kintgen.
Still can't find a record for this Eriogonum. Any ideas, friends?

New Crevice Gardens Growing Up!

Turning a new leaf or two. Or thousands.

Stipa scribneri, formerly known from Tom Peace as "Stud Puppy."  
I'm going to get this plant out in more gardens or die trying.

This summer marks two big changes around here- I have essentially closed the landscape part of my company, Paintbrush (in favor of Garden Design and the Micronursery; I'll still make exceptions for very special native landscapes)  and we've moved house from a downtown Grand Junction apartment to a little 60s house in Fruita, Colorado.

Clank clank clank, drill drill, buzz buzz, pound pound pound, riiiip.  

Getting rid of all kinds of metal enclosures...

Gentiana dahurica and xMangave 'Pineapple Express'

Turbinicarpus lophophoroides (tender)

Sabal minor 'McClintock Strain', the first prick-lings in the new PBG nursery.

Eremurus roots, or sea spiders. 

The view now.

The dream... (At Bob's)
Inspiration for what we'd rather be looking at-  Bob Nold's incredible dry-meadow back yard.

Found a nice kind of "brown" to keep around for composting.

Moving the compost bin, I learned that it produces 2000 pounds of finished compost each year with its two bays, a thousand pounds harvested each June 1 and November 1.  It took two trips with the truck and help from my neighbors to move it.

Only one rose survived the influx of Agave immigrants.

How to kill all this damn grass.

Experimental fertilizer.  

Pest control:  Western Screech Owls.