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.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Public Service #7: A plant-list for Aspen

You well know those lectures where the speaker talks fast and slides stream by fast enough that by the time you've fallen in love with a plant and wiped the drool from your chin, you've not had time to take the name down.  Well, it happens to me all the time at least.  That is what this post is for- a list of the plant names, most important notes, and sources to acquire them.

This is a plant-list for attendees of the most recent lecture as of this morning:  Must-Have Xeric plants for the Roaring Fork Valley, (Which is Aspen, Basalt, and friends) hosted by the Center for Resource Conservation and the City of Aspen. (Thanks, ladies)

Thanks to all who attended, you were a riotous crowd.  I'm suprised they didn't kick us out of the library.

Pediocactus simpsonii,  the Mountain-Ball Cactus

Bristlecone pine: Pinus aristata
Wasatch/Bigtooth Maple: Acer grandidentatum

Golden Clove Currant: Ribes Aureum  {Sun/Shade. dry/moist}
Manzanitas!: Arctostaphylos x coloradoensis (example: "Panchito.") and A. patula {part sun/part dry}
Mahonia repens: CO native Oregon-grape  {Dry dry shade or sun.}
Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany: Cercocarpus ledifolius  {snow-tough}
Mormon-tea: Ephedra viridis (Native green), Ephedra equisetina (Chinese blue), Ephedra  minima (Mini Tibetan)

Pasque-Flowers: Pulsatilla vulgaris of Europe of P. patens of Colorado (example: Minturn, Boulder…)
Sufur-flower: Eriogonum umbellatum
Erigeron: All the Flea-banes...
Sun-daisy, Perky-Sue: Hymenoxys scaposa or H. caespitosa.  {Sun, med-dry} tireless bloom
Creeping Penstemons:  P. caespitosa, procumbens {of Crested Butte}, and P. crandallii.
Penstemons for Shade:  P. proceras and especially P. virens.
Viola corsica (Corsican Violet) {Shade. sun, moist-med-dryish, edible flowers}
Spurges: Euphorbia sp.  Elk and deerproof, but poisonous...
Artemisia sp.  Animal resistant, naitves are generally very dry.  
Lamb's ear: Stachys byzantina.  Sun/part-shade, animal resistant.
Humminbird trumpets:  Zauschneria sp.  {reblooming, SUN}
Globe-Mallow or Cowboy's delight:  Sphaeralcea coccinea. {Spreads, very dry.  Sun} S. monroana is bigger, not-spreading, and does rebloom.

Echium sp.  "Red Feathers."  Butterfly magnets, long-bloomers.
Thermopsis: Native or not: Golden-banners.  Tough, clumping, the native is aggressive.
Bukiniczia cabulica: A bienniel; order seed; It comes from either Mars or a Pakistani glacier!
Paintbrushes… Castilleja integra is easiest to establish.  Sow seed on disturbed, new soils and say a prayer.

Bulbs (Xeric by means of sleeping through summer)[available from Brent & Becky's Bulbs]
Wee blue things: Scilla/Chionodoxa/Puschkinia
Fritillaria: oftenlbs]
The heavenly snowdrops: Galanthus sp.  Why the heck does everyoen grow these!!!
"Species" or "Botanical" Tulips.  T. sylvestris, T. linifolia, T. tarda, T. dasystemon.

Blue gramma: Boutelous gracilis.  Toothbrushy eyelashes.  Dry dry.
Lil'Bluestem: Schizachyrium scoparium.  Joseph's-technicolor-nothing compared to this.  Sun.

Sempervivums and Sedums- collect them all & try new flavors!
Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' is a classic, psychedellic "gateway succulent"
Flameflower: Talinum calycinum and friends.
Snowball Cactus: Escobaria sneedii/leei
Mountain-Ball cactus. Native basketball-sized.
Fragile Prickly-Pear or Potato Cactus.

Timberline Gardens: Arvada, CO
Planted Earth: Carbondale, CO
Brent and Becky's Bulbs (VA mailorder/internet)
Chelsea Nursery, Clifton (Grand Junction), CO
LaPorte Ave. Nursery: Ft. Collins (Online or wholesale)
Sunscapes Rare Plant Nursery: Pueblo, CO (Online or wholelsale)
Alplains (Online or paper catalogue of seeds)
Western Native Seed (Online)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Spring's a-rockin' along...

Those of us in the "green industry" are really too busy to be online.  Too few daylight hours exist as it is.  And out there in the real world, this spring brings new fun developments in everyone's gardens.  Like some respectable growth on more architectural oddities like Shepherdia rotundifolia, Frankenia jamesii.

Castilleja integra flowers loudly echo the new spines of Agave utahensis var. kaibabensis.

And, a first for me, blooms on Castiellja sessiliflora, bought from Sunscapes rare plant nursery last year.

Here's what I've been busy with.  A 5.5 ton "granite" (Amphibolite) rockery for my friend Jan in Ft. Collins.  My envy is as heavy as the stone.  It was fun to make, but I am totalyl deprived the most fun part:  planting.

Jan will execute that herself with stunning artisticality, I am sure.  When they are new, a crevice garden looks like a bare sore on the landscape, just calling, howling to have plants in it.  I feel the void that nature must ache from until the gardener breaks out the dandelion-digger (now rockery-planter) and flats of rock-garden plants.

That's it.  It's gone too far.  I can't even count sheep when I'm in bed
(or walking through Timberline Gardens) without seeing crevice gardens.  

March saw the building of what I am trying to name "Mt. Shinn."  
Both Jan's and the above Carol & Randy Shinn's rock gardens will be in the RMC-NARGS rock garden tour this year.  you'll just have to go yourself to see the rest of their glorious gardens, the older and established and more colourful bits.

Carol has done some exquisitely tight planting already in the crevices.  

I finally got to visit Ft. Collins' Gardens at Sping Creek and their hidden-jewel of a rock garden.  The designer of this garden, too, will have her home garden on tour with RMC-NARGS.  Just a black-and-white photo I saw of it was irrepressably beautiful.  I was impressed with their blooming Helichrysum mats and some large specimens of Petunia patagonica. Those are some world-class Kew-botanic-level species.  At least, I don't do very well with them...

 A small crevice garden is underway at Timberline in Arvada outside their schoolhouse, where they hold classes, which have been so popular this year that the classes have been filling up to capacity.  Maybe a rough winter left us all completely mad to scratch that green itch?

Lastly:  Sand.

In more techincal notes, the "X" section at the end of the paper, if you will: the most recent crevice gardens have been using sand as their main media component.  This is a swing back to the traditional Czech approach.  Generally, these crevice gardens have been built on top of a clay-based Colorado soil, which, underneath this rock-paved mound of sand,  must remain significatly moist and cool.  Think of the garden as a very convoluted multi-layer mulch/topdressing if you will.  The surface absorbs the water incredibly rapidly, but the the deeper layer may never even dry out. This leaves the plants with options as to where they want their roots…

Sand has meant several things.
1. It is easy to work with during construction.
2. It absolutely must be top-dressed and hidden with gravel to prevent it from washing away during rain or irrigating.
3. It settles quite significantly. My hero, Zdeněk Zvolánek, writes about carefully packing, tamping, and teasing the sand under and in-between the stones during construction.  I've found that impossible- perhaps from my youthful lack of attention span or my frenetic buidling process- to execute to the point that the sand doesn't settle afterwords. (Or maybe its the kind of sand?)  It seems that within a month or two the majority of settling happens, and I am guessing that after one full year it is practically done settling, but time will tell.  Those particularly novel and artsy-farsty crevices can settle immensely and require back-filling after a month or two.  I think the patience is worth it to wait, then refill that crevice with sand and gravel, topdress with gravel, and jam a plant on it for what must be seen as a posh high-rise dwelling for beloved plants.

On recommendation of our friend Stephanie Ferguson in Calgary, occasionally I've mixed the sand with equal parts sharp (as opposed to round/ peagravel)  gravel.  It may stabilize the sand in precarious positions.

Sand-beds are not unheard of in rock garden circles around the world.  Many plants love ot grow in it, lacking traditional organic sources of nutrition, but supplying subtle mineral nutrition. This rock garden is essentially a sandbed whose gravel topdressing is mega-sized into 800-pound stones.

Are you wondering how well it works?
So am I.
Stay tuned.