Friday, September 14, 2012

A Prop to the Maligned.

Perhaps the most solid plant for dry and unwatered gardens in the West is Greasewood, but Sarcobatus vermiculatus is very rare for purchase. (Mail-order: Great Basin Natives in UT)  It grows in low, salty, dry clay areas of the west.  Potentially car-sized, it is ignored most of the time.  But alas, in a garden, with a bit of pruning, it will offer rich succulent greenness entirely without water.  It ought to be used more where we don't want to water and weed.  Stiff, pointed stem-tips would make it an awesome security screen.

All this so I can post a shot of the underappreciated pink inflorescences.

Sarcobatus vermiculatus.  Greasewood.

{This picture was added later}
At the North End of Unaweep Canyon, Whitewater, CO.}

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Public Service #3: Defining Terms

Echinocereus x lloydii at the Chinle Cactus Club's Garden at Grand Junction, CO's CSU extenson gardens.

I find myself getting caked in the pasty makeup that is the jargon and lingo of plant nerdery, and often find myself being painfully not understandable while I rattle on to the innocent bystander.  This nasty disease is terminal and too late for me, I suppose, but here is a quick immunization injection to help the reader survive botanical abbriviation used lightly in this blog, but relied upon heavily in plant literature.

They aren't all that bad; go kiss a botanical term today.

germplasm   =refering to a plant as its genetic makeup, its personal entourage of DNA.  Often, we talk about a particular garden plant being of germplasm from a certain place.

ssp.   =subspecies.  A subspecies is simply a separation between living things that is smaller than species.  For instance, Wolves are all called "Canis lupus."  But the Arctic Wolf is "Canis lupus ssp. arctos," usually written"Canis lupus" arctos, or abbreviated "C. lupus arctos"

spp.    =species, in plural.  Multiple species.  "There are more Astragalus spp. than Penstemon spp."

cult.    = cultivation.  Scientifically refering to an organism in domestication.

aff.     =affinity.  This is what we tag a name with when something looks like a thing we know, but we cannot prove it. Example: Campanula aff. betulifolia.  It is definately a Campanula, and it just looks strongly like the Birch-leaf species.  

sp.   =species.  The "sapien" in Homo sapien, the "biloba" in Ginkgo biloba. 

var.   =variety.  When a plant is different enough to notice but not different enough to be its own species.

ex.     =from   (latin).  For instance, seed packets may have written "ex cult," meaning "from a garden"

x    =hybrid, or cross of two or more species.  Some folks read this as "cross," others say "x." You'll love this exaple; it gets me rolling.  Two fan palms, Washingtonia filifera,  and Washingotnia robusta, can be hybridised.  Their bastard kiddo is called either "Washingtonia filifera x robusta" or, (are you ready for this?)  "Washingtonia x filibusta."  Gosh, it couldn't have worked out better if planned.

(Please mail/comment if there are others that deserve inclusion)

Prickly Thrifts and Colorado

An e-mail with a friend led me to write this concise treatise on my limited experience with these extra-special gems hailing from the middle and dry old-world.

An Acantholimon, or Prickly Thrift, upper left, next to Yucca harrimaniae and Ephedra minima, all grown with finesse to exquisite perfection, by Rock Garden giant, Lee Curtis. (Lakewood, (Denver) Colorado, USA)

Acantholimons are irregularly available (and totally worth buying whenever possible- drainage is essential essential essential) and perhaps all ten-dozen species are pink-flowered.  I got to pitch my tent next to them in Turkey.  Freaking amazing.   Even more amazing, we have a couple (species unknown) growing at the nursery I work for.  They are difficult, I hear, to grow from seed, and only a few experts seem to succeed with cuttings.  They are extra special and are one of those plants who, it seems, grown in a crevice, or nearly on top of a rock, seem a guaranteed success whereas container culture may be too wet for their liking.  

They are considered a very choice plant, and a dead plant (looking all like an extraordinary hybrid between a pin-cushion belonging to a seamtstress who uses each needle but once, and a deflating Basketball) is best removed by fire.Yeah!

A. caryophyllacea embraces a rock at DBG's rock alpine garden.  This exhibit is rich, just rich with them.

Acantholimons have been grown (albeit less lush) in Denver without irrigation.*  They get the same precip in ther native middle-east and asian-steppes, but there, with more millenia of overgrazing to promote thier prickly lifestyle.

*No, really, they have.  Quick note that the Capital city of Colorado (Denver: 15.4in) and the Capital city of Turkey (the country- and it's Ankara, with 14.3inches) recieve close to the same amount of precipitation, and both cities see the most rain in May, not long before abovementioned plants bloom.  Really!

 Successful plants are often found living pretty intimately with large rocks.  These geniously arranged stones are at Ft. Collins Wholesale Nursery Offices, Ft. Collins, Colorado, USA.
Perhaps it is because they are found in such places in nature.  Here, nestled cozily in Gümüşhane province, Türkiye.

There are lowland species who pretty much take the place in the flora that Cactus do in the new world, and there are alpine species, growing on painfully windy treeless mountain slopes.

Acantholimon is also the "screen name" of blogger and general world-stomping Denver Botanic Plantsman Panayoti Kelaidis, his blog:

So, grow a Prickly Thrift.

Sources: Wrightman Alpines: