Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Pincushion, the Nazar: an unlikely encounter with Acantholimon

 A. venustum

Acantholimon, basically an angry asian carnation, is one of the great pillars of the continental rock garden.  I'm even more fond of them because of how brilliantly they are doing at APEX, wrapping around rocks in the sexiest ways, and also because despite my being incapable of nursery-growing lots of "easy" rockery plants, I seem to be able to propagate these guys fairly well.  I've got dreams of propagating the blazes out of them so that every fool who doesn't have one will.

Even just in bud-spike, they are elegant. (left- A. halophilum)  Mean to the touch, but elegant.  Some folks prefer the tiny, sessile ones like trojanum.  I like all of them, especially easy ones which make magnificent round buns.

Acantholimon trojanum, photo by Zdeněk Zvolánek.

But anyhow:

I spent Christmas 2014 in Istanbul.  It was fine. I forget I'm not a city guy, so I went on to Cappadocia (above)  to hike around for a week in the winter.  

It's weird how much like home it looks- their tuffaceous hills look like our shale hills of the bookcliffs.  

But mostly, rural/small-town culture is more my thing.  

Also, Colorado doesn't have roman and byzantine ruins just littered all over the countryside, just everywhere, and ancient dwellings carved into the stone. They are so commonplace, they are used as barns and sheds.
Frosty mornings were magical, especially when the famous balloon rides happened.  I stayed with a friend in Uçhisar, which overlooks the touristic town of Göreme.

All around the middle east, you'll see the nazar, sometimes called "the evil eye," a talisman to capture/defend/ward-off the malevolent.  

 In Turkey, theirs is the "nazar boncuğu," (literally "nazar bead")

Not uncommon over doorways, windows, thresholds, even clothing.  Someone you know who went to the middle east probably gave you one as a souvenir.

Most restaurants don't stay open for the off-season, but D'STİny was.  The name is wordplay, I think for Destiny/Friend("Dost").  They had Lahmacun, my favorite turkish food- it looks like a pizza, but you roll it around salad-like fixings and squeeze lemon juice on it. 

 And I noticed something totally weird hanging around the restaurant in all the places where I'd expect the nazar. 

Is that a dead Acantholimon!?

The owner came by,  Mr. Yaşar Doğan, (a surname which means falcon, I think)  and we visited. Recalling our chat, I marvel at how good my turkish was then.  I could hardy ask for a bathroom now.  

I asked about the plant hanging around.  And he told me a story.  He likes to garden and grow fruit at home, and propagate, apparently, for he was growing sapling fruit trees, I think he was keen to want to plant our more apple trees around his place, but as soon as he'd set out his precious baby trees, the rabbits would come by and eat them off.  Bummer.  

He said that he observed how when other plants grew through Acantholimon in nature ( I don't recall him using a name or word for them), the rabbits didn't bother them.    (It's widely believed that a lot of the phrygana/tragancanth vegetation- "spiny ball plants" for the rest of us- are as prevalent in Asia and the middle east because humans and grazing cattle have been a part of the ecosystem for so very long that they have become prevalent and actually prospered  there as a result)

Well, so he started collecting the dead cushions of Acantholimons he'd find out in the countryside.  (Their nasty exoskeletons do tend to linger- Bob says that in the garden, when one dies, the best way to clean up the dry, thorny thing is just to light it on fire.)  Yaşar would pile up the dead cushions as protection for this new trees, and sure enough it worked to fend off the evil rabbits.

So, to him, the Acantholimon was as good a protector as the nazar, which lead him to hang the plants around the doorways of his restaurant.  

Sure enough, after a few days wandering, I found the local Acantholimon.  

I have lots of regrets of things I didn't do.  
(That's Mt. Erciyes (Argaeus))

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?