Saturday, January 23, 2016

Agave hunting #5: You can get shot for that

In the borderlands of New Mexico and Texas, Agaves stud the grasslands.  It's a magnificent comparison of the artistic appeal of life forms. Grass is this dynamic, opportunistic, fast-growing and breeze-dancing thing, almost liquid waves, whose success echoes all over the earth in numbers no other vascular plant can claim, while Agaves are this strange biker-gang of alien weaponized artichokes, which do no bend in the breeze but slowly, steadily march into larger and larger heads, (grasses coming and going nervously around them) for many years until finally mysteriously squeezing all of their accumulated life force into a small tree of a flower stalk, and die.

There is something seductively nihilistic about Agaves.

I really try to be ethical about plant watching and plant collecting. I try hard.  the problem is that plants don't honor political boundaries, and I will confess, the lure of getting close to a plant overcomes mature reasoning at least once a year for me.  I can count twice in my life that I've had dogs come running to visit me on such occasions.

I totally understand those whackos you read about occasionally in the paper who climb over bars and tall fences at the zoo to be inexplicably close to some charismatic giant cat or another before they are somehow surprised by being eaten alive.

Agaves , too, have teeth and they were also on the other side of the fence.  I couldn't help myself. Anyhow, regrets are just there to let you know you are capable of good judgement should you decide to go back to using it one day.  I, on the other hand, sat next to the biggest Agave parryi ssp. neomexicana I've ever seen.  I measured it at 4 feet wide.  There were closer observations I would not have been able to make from the highway side of the fence, like the interaction with Agave x gracilipes.

Agave (parryi ssp) neomexicana is growing alongside, but not gene-mixing with Agave x gracilipes, which is said to be a natural hybrid between them and Agave lechuguilla.  ("gracilipes" means graceful foot. I don't get the foot bit, but they are indeed graceful in narrow leaf.) Note how they have spike-like, rather than open, tree-branch-like paniculate) flowers stalks of neomexicana. This skinniness is lent from that  Agave lechuguilla ancenstry.

The graceful-foot. A. nemexicana flower stem in the background.

You may wonder "Is it really legal to shoot a person trespassing in Texas?" and the answer is no.  The second, perhaps more important question is, "Will they do it anyway?"

Friday, January 22, 2016

A few notes from near and afield.

Winter is a contemplative time for Gardeners.  Or a time for madness.  No, that's actually my house.  No, I don't live in a museum, it just takes me a while to update my word processing equipment.
Christmas is a nice time to decorate and over-eat.  
 (Trichocereus pringlei; someone will ask. He's 20 years old, his name is Fernando and I adopted him recently)

Outdoors, the sun makes the snow dance in and out of places.  It betrays the microclimate of the KAFM  Native Garden's crevice garden.   The first snow has never melted from the North face.

Opuntia 'Dark Knight' is the purplest of them all, wearing his winter cloak through most of summer as well. Treat yourself to one at

On Main Street in downtown Grand Junction, I just noticed this lovely placard in one of the better of the flower beds.  I though native plant people were just forgotten. No sir, I've heard this man's name reverently spoken of among native plant gurus.  I bet there are living things here he is responsible for which I take for granted.  

My friend Greg and I inspect the "prototype" unirrigated greenroof.  (Fence pickets stapled together and lined with roof lino)  No one has stolen it off of the roof. That's like calling a beer can a prototype for the apollo missions.  Hey, but this eagle's been flying for over a year now and all the plants are alive.  The best thing about experiments which require forgetting about them for a year is the forgetting.  You can have lots of experiments going at once.

The fluorescent light shelves are full of agave seedlings from my hunting trip to Arizona.  These are so fast and easy to grow from seed, they'd make a great windowsill slow-motion circus for the cabin-fevered gardener.  Their little seed hulls stick to them and do not encumber them at all, unlike if this happened to a tomato, say, or pepper.

if I have failed to wax poetic on the blog about these miniature sea-lavender or Statice, I am a fool.
Limonium gougetianum (from Harlequin's Gardens in Boulder, CO) but ultimately from Spain or North Africa, perhaps?  Anyhow, it's great.  Grows beautifully in the dry clay semi-shade rock garden.  7 out of 10 plants die there. It turns Christmas-light colours in winter.  Oh yes, it does have pale purple, long-lasting wee flowers in a little spray above it in summer.

It's sister species, perhaps a neater, smaller plant is Limonium minutum, which can grow into excellent cushions of tight, ever-shrinking rosettes and foliage. In years of harsher winter weather (this el Niño doesn't count as harsh at all) it wears much bolder reds and purples. If you have a rock garden and live in Colorado, Utah, or New Mexico, you mustn't suffer another year of life without this plant.  Please don't do that.

No one said Asperula gussonii (form the Denver Botanic Gardens spring sale) turned cabernet-sauvignon in winter.  I'm sure glad it does. 

Allen, left, who is a talented up-and-coming propagator came over for the world's briefest bonfire. We lit my week's cardboard recycling to simulate a forest fire on top of a pot of sown Greenleaf Manzanita seeds.  it's been said you can wake them up this way.  I did it accidentally last winter, without fire, and grew this little nugget, who doesn't blink at the weather. (Arctostaphylos patula) Oh, the accident?  An overnight soak in Hydrogen peroxide, a few weeks wet and warm in soil indoors, then out for the remaining three months of winter, germinating in the late spring.  Allen predicts the seeds around the edge of the pot will germinate.

I made a new year's resolution: If two options presented themselves as 
1. known, comfortable or 2. New, unknown, scary then pick the latter at least half the time.  This happened over tea again, and my friend, passing through town, led us canyoneering in the Monument. Rappeling off of frozen waterfalls was not scary after all, even using all of the 300 foot of rope.  A beautiful foggy day.

Here is what you'll find in this very place in the spring and summer.
Hyla versicolor, canyon treefrog.  Isn't she sweet? 
Don't you wonder where she goes for the winter?

Friday, January 1, 2016

A few more APEX plant pictures for Susan

Eriogonum pulchrum

Junellia succulentifolia

Arctotis adpressa

Lepidium nanum

All on October 15, 2015 at the APEX "Community Heroes" Crevice Garden in Arvada, CO, USA