We just returned last week from a spectacular trip to Colorado that was focused on the North American Rock Garden Society‘s (NARGS) annual meeting. The theme was ‘A Higher State — Steppe to Alpine’ and it was in two locations, the Denver Botanic Garden and Steamboat Springs over 5 days. It had been a while since we had been to Colorado, so we met with friends and family in Boulder and Golden beforehand. I’ll try to give a brief overview of what was a wonderful and relaxing exploration of mountain wildflowers.
Hiking just outside of Boulder we encountered this lovely Calochortus.
The NARGS meeting began at the Denver Botanic Garden where we got a personalized tour of the rock gardens by Mike Kintgen who oversees the Alpine collection.
Their garden features a crevice garden which has been established for several years now (long enough to see several successful cushions)
They manage to grow the wonderful Devil’s Claw that we first saw in the Dolomites last year.
The Denver Botanic Gardens are not to be missed if you are in Denver. In this season they have a spectacular display of Foxtail Lilies.
On our way to Steamboat Springs we stopped at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail which has newly constructed tufa wall for optimum planting of tiny alpines.
And the outside part of the gardens is quite nice as well.
In Steamboat Springs we visited local gardens including the Yampa River Botanic Park which right along the Yampa River in a very pretty setting. They have built a stunning crevice garden there.
I fell in love with a little Stachys planted in one of the crevice locations.
We also took several hikes in the trails surrounding Steamboat Springs. We drove out through countryside that really summed up what steppes are all about.
Just along the side of the road we saw beautiful Lewisia and Shooting Stars.
One stop near a trailhead into the Zirkel Wilderness area produced a bevy of these very small Ladyslipper Orchids
We stayed a few days past the conference and on the last day of hiking we walked up a ridge near the Rabbit Ears pass area. The views were excellent, but it was remarkable how you had to pay close attention to see that the hillside was covered with wildflower treasures.
And a final sighting on this ridge was a very nice ground orchid.
All in all, a wonderful trip, with a suitcase full of tiny treasures brought back to Maryland from the plant sales at the conference. My thanks to Laporte Avenue Nursery and Sunscapes Rare Plant Nursery.
Also, I should mention that the Denver Botanic Garden has published a very nice book on this region of the world (and similar) entitled ‘Steppes: The Plants and Ecology of the World’s Semi-arid Regions‘. Check it out…
Ok, this is way late for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. No Excuses. Everyone has gardens to build, weed, water, and harvest. But what really slows me down in posting is when I find a lovely flower that I acquired years ago and can’t figure out what the name is. And that leads me to the internet and well, you know how that goes. One thing leads to another and pretty soon you are buying another few plants instead of posting about the ones you have.
Anyway here are some of the flowers that I should have been sharing. Lillies and Iris are foremost. The Spuria Iris are some of my favorites.
The Spuria are generally pretty tall, but Shelford Giant is especially high up before it flowers.
I used to focus on the bearded Iris but I’ve found that many of the other species Iris are more reliable and enjoyable. I’ve never had the Iris borers focus on the other species the way they can on the bearded hybrids. In particular the Japanese Iris have a way of making nice clumps in the perennial gardens.
A new Japanese Iris for us this year is this four-foot tall specimen from Plant Delights.
The Blackout Lillies are creating their normal smashing display of vibrant dark red.
And in anticipation of setting a new height record for us the Trumpet Hybrid Pink Perfection is now higher than the 8 foot piece of granite in our Monument Bed.
Our potted lily wanna-be from the Amazon is in full flower at the moment.
I need to single out the last of the Arisaemas now in fully display. Both A. fargesii and A. candidssum took until June 4th before they showed their first pointed tips coming out of the soil. I especially love the pink of the A. candidissums.
Just a few other shots from around the yard before I go…
And let me close with another gem from the greenhouse…
Ok, it’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for May and I’m already late (again). Everything is flowering (or so it seems). The peonies, iris, azaleas, rhododendrons, alliums, and so on. Let me share some of the main headliners and then get to some of the more unusual flowers.
Rhododendrons are represented by three of our standards. First the ultra-reliable R. chionoides which spends more and more of its time lying on the ground with various prostrate branches.
Then a scintillating pink that we have mixed into our camellia bed.
And I always have to share one of my favorites, R. ‘Viscosepala’, which has a magnificent fragrance.
This was the happy result of crossing R. molle and R. viscosum in 1844 at the famous Waterer nursery at Knaphill in England. I think it deserves more recognition. You can sit on the deck in the evening and smell this honeysuckle-like fragrance surrounding you.
The peonies always go through a progression of tree peonies to species to Itoh hyrids to herbaceous. The tree peonies and species types are just finishing now after serveral weeks of simply splendid flowers.
And the Itoh hybrids are lovely to look at right now.
The unopened bud of the Itoh hybrid ‘Sequestered Sunshine’ looks like a giant rose.
The first large bearded Iris are in bloom now and I just noticed a number of flowers on the Japanese Roof Iris yesterday.
Now let’s explore some of the less common flowers around the yard.
The Lamium orvala never fails to elicit comments when I point out the orchid-like flowers hidden under its leaves.
In one of the shade beds I see that one instance of the Rue Anemone has semi-double flowers that also seem to be bigger than its relatives.
In the front bed my planting of Dianthus spiculifolius in the large tufa rock seems to have taken hold.
Also in the front yard I had planted a Snow Poppy several years ago. It has spread but I had never seen it flower. Until this year.
The Snow Poppies are in a shady area near where the Woods Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) have long since taken over, and where the large Japanese Maple limits the sun and moisture in the summer time. I’m happy to have them spread at a reasonable pace.
At the GreenSprings Garden Plant Sale on Saturday I picked up a very nice little Calanthe hybrid orchid for the monument bed.
As we walk back to the Alpine garden I discovered a little ornithogalum growing with the little alpines and I couldn’t imagine how it got there until I reread my bulb order from last year. Ornitogalum exscapum is described as compact and flowering from the base and indeed that seems to be the case so far.
Nearby two of the Lewisia are in bloom.
And in the trough in front of the greenhouse one of my favorite campanula relatives is just coming into flower.
This makes a compact little cushion that is a wonderful example of why I like growing alpines. That’s a little Dianthus alpina that is showing nearby.
And in the Greenhouse I was delighted to discover last week that two of the three rare Scillas that I planted last January are starting to grow.
These are very beautiful plants and I’m hoping to see flowers before they go dormant for the summer.
Let me close with an Iris relative, Gelasine elongata, also growing in the greenhouse.
This flowers at the end of a 2 ft. long stalk. It is said to be marginally hardy here so I may give it a try outside.
I was pleased to see a bud coming out of my planting of Tulipa sprengeri this past week. But what emerged is very likely Zephyranthes dichromata. That’s pretty much par for the course on starting some of these unusual plants from seed. You can wait years for a seedling to emerge and then discover that it was either a mislabeled package or some friendly neighboring pot contributed some viable seed. It’s likely that the Zephyranthes jumped from a neighboring pot because they do seed freely. But then there are the successful outcomes like the big Paradisea that is just finishing in the greenhouse right now.
This is a beautiful lily-like plant more than 2 feet high that came from seed distributed by the Pacific Bulb Society in the spring of 2013. It grows wild in the mountains of Portugal and might be barely hardy here. Another successful seed sowing from the PBS in 2013 was Dichelostemma multiflorum which grows wild in California.
I’ve planted a lot of seeds over the past few years and managed to lose of lot of my seedlings last year when the water timer failed while we were on vacation. I’ve kept all those pots just in case, but decided last week to go through the hundreds of pots and reclaim the soil and pots.
I was delighted to find that some of those pots had seedlings just starting.
This all serves as a reminder that you have to patient to allow good things to happen. Another sort of patience comes with waiting for the first flowers. Four years ago I bought a tiny little seedling of Paeonia rockii from Wrightman Alpines. It has taken until this year to produce it’s first flowers. I think you will agree that it was worth the wait.
Another delightful species Peony that is flowering right now was obtained from Plant Delights
So returning to topic of planting seeds I should note that many of the seeds come up in abundance. They are often very cute as they so immediately resemble the plants that they will eventually become.
Altogether, looking at the three alpine seed exchanges that I participate in, the results are just short of 50% of the seeds successfully started so far. In other words, so far, so good.
The other part of the seed topic is collecting the ones that are appearing right now. Many of the spring ephemerals are putting out seeds in quantity now.
Often the spring emphemerals have elaiosomes on the seeds that make them attractive to ants. So there is a brief 3-5 day window when you can just knock off the seeds to collect them. Otherwise, if they fall, the ants will gather them up and take them home for planting.
And, of course, every seed is not only a potential new plant, but also acts as currency if you are involved in seed exchanges.
Let me close with a few more of the flowers that have bloomed over the past two weeks.
And lastly a beautiful new Allium from Odyssey Bulbs
Well for this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day there is no difficulty with finding things in flower. April is a fantastic time for a Maryland gardener. Just a few days ago we were assessing the damage from killing frosts (Toad lilies and the asian Disporum are surprisingly vulnerable), but right now we are relishing the blooms. Daffodils and Tulips headline the show. For example, there is this new addition to the woods.
And old favorites in the front bed.
A naturalized tulip for woodland areas.
And this new addition from Odyssey Bulbs last year.
But the various smaller plants always capture my attention.
Erythroniums are at their peak right now.
Close by is a new Scilla relative that we added this past year (also from Odyssey Bulbs).
Note the lovely blue anthers.
There are also the epimediums, seemingly delicate plants that are oh-so-hardy.
In this case the leaves are as special as the flowers.
An aquilegia that my eldest son grew from a Scottish Rock Garden Society seed distribution begs for attention right now (very dwarf).
And there is a Muscari that I got from Brent and becky last year that is growing in very difficult place between maple roots and an American Holly.
In the camellia bed we find a lovely little corydalis that has lasted for several season now (hard to do with the blue ones).
The name comes from the leaves, not the flowers.
Nearby is one of my favorite trilliums.
Also in the Camellia bed is one of the tiniest Hepaticas I have seen, the result of several seedlings I planted from Hillside Nursery.
The Alpine bed features a very nice Daphne, that has all the fragrance that you expect from a Daphne.
And in small trough #2, there is the most beautiful little phlox that is doing alll that you expect from a phlox.
And from the greenhouse there are a couple of plants that have come into the house recently.
This small Amaryllis-want-to-be is also called the Barbados Striped Lily though it is actually from Brazil and it is multiplying in it’s small pot like mad.
And a south african plant originally purchased from Annie’s Annuals.
This is at the tip of two-foot long stalks this year.
Finally, I should mention the various flowering trees. This is right now the peak of the crossover between the various fruit trees, crabapples and cherries, giving way to the dogwoods.
The apple trees in the orchard are in the midst of one of the finest bloom cycles I have seen.
These are the highlights on Ball Rd. What is growing in your garden?
In my last posting Jessica of Rusty Duck asked about the fragrance of a Freesia I had posted. The question made me check not only the fragrance of that flower (it had a hint of fragrance) but also to check the scent of a number of other flowers that are flowering right now. I realized that in many cases I had been presuming that I knew the fragrance of a flower merely because I had checked on the scent emanating from other flowers in that genus. I should have known better. I’ve been growing a number of Lachenalias. Partly because the seeds were readily available through the PBS bulb exchange and I love exploring with new plants. And then they multiplied like little horticultural rabbits. One of the biggest flowered of the Lachenalia that I have also has an amazing fragrance, which I had totally missed until now. Think baby powder. Very sweet smell. This particular Lachenalia got its species name from the red dots that ‘contaminate’ the stems. Actually it just makes them more interesting.
This is what the Lachenalia corner of the greenhouse looks like right now.
Here’s a closeup of of the Lachenalia splendida. No scent but quite pretty in its own right.
Also in flower right now is a a Geissorhiza which I don’t think I’ve shared until now. It has a number of pretty mauve flowers on each stem, much like a small Freesia.
And let me close, before returning to the garden to get some of those rapidly growing weeds, with another shot of the Spiloxene in the greenhouse.
It’s another South African native, also called the Peacock Flower for it’s colorfully marked star-like flowers.
It is way past the normal mid-months sharing of what’s in bloom for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. My only excuse is that I was in Florida taking pictures of all kinds of birds. Meanwhile Maryland had warm enough temperatures that many things accelerated right through their bloom cycle while I was gone. Today we are back to cold and intermittent snow, but I did get some pictures yesterday before the weather changed. Given the hour and lateness of the posting I will try to focus on just a few of the unusual flowers and you can assume that the daffodils, crocuses, Glory of the Snow, Leucojeum, Hellebores, etc. are all doing their spectacular thing.
One group of flowers that is really shining right now is the Corydalis solida.
Close by is the first of the Erythroniums
The Hepaticas are well into bloom now, though they seem to be staggered in time. Some are ready and others just poking through.
One of my favorite spring ephemerals are the Jeffersonia, both the Korean and American types.
We also have a new snowdrop with very exotic markings that came to us from Lithuania last year.
The same source, Augis Bulbs, also sent us a big flowered little tulip (i.e., big flower for a dwarf tulip)
I have to spend some time with the Adonis as they continue to fascinate me. For the first time we have Adonis vernalis (also from Augis Bulbs).
The foliage is quite different from the ferny foliage of the other Adonis that we have. Note how even when the flowers are gone the Adonis amurensis ‘Fukujukai’ makes a very pretty clump.
The Adonis amurensis ‘Sandanzaki’ continues to flower and to give a sense of it’s flowering habit let me share the picture of both the overall plant and then the individual flower which began opening almost a month ago.
We also have the last part of the flowering of another unusual Adonis that mostly flowered while I was in Florida.
There are a couple of nice Drabas flowering in the troughs right now.
Also in the small trough is the first bud for a pasque flower
Well, there is more on the outside but let me finish up with a few plants from the greenhouse. The Spiloxene is pretty special right now.
And there are a couple of other related South African plants flowering too.
And last but not least is the first Ferraria that inspired me to grow these ultra curled flowers.
My granddaughter raised a question in a video-chat dinnertime conversation the other night which was something along the lines of ‘what would you be doing when you are happiest?’ For me it is somewhere between lying on the grass in the warm sun contemplating the leaves overhead and the discovery of ‘new’ plants that are the result of what I planted last year and have completely forgotten about. The latter has been happening a lot lately. Either because I forget more than I used to or I was really busy planting last year. Day after day I am finding delightful new additions to our garden and it makes it really rewarding to explore the yard as though it were a new place each day. Last week it was Scolliopus biglovii (how’s that for a mouthful), a Christmas present from last year that I had quite forgotten about. Probably no flowering this year, but still a nice surprise.
And now this week the Eranthis pinnatifida.
I discovered this little gem in an issue of the International Rock Gardener that focused entirely on Eranthis. I hadn’t any idea there were so many variations of the Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) which we have grown for forty years. We imported the Eranthis pinnatifida from England last year. At the same time I ordered a creamy yellow cultivar of Eranthis hyemalis from Lithuania and that was visible for the first time this week as well.
Yet another new arrival this week was a rather unusual Fritillaria that we also obtained from Augis’ bulbs.
This promises to be a very interesting flower as it opens up.
The small species Iris are also showing up in the Monument bed just now.
And then there are the three yellow flavors of Adonis — plain, special, and extra-special.
In the greenhouse the Ferrarias are continuing to open up. Here are three flavors of Ferraria crispa.
The wonderful Scilla peruviana has flowered extravagantly and earned a spot inside the house.
Also in the house right now is a pot of Freesia.
And soon to be arriving is this Tulbaghia that is just opening up.
I was busy photographing the water droplets on the Aeonium in the greenhouse when a surprising visitor popped in front of my lens.
I’m just guessing at the species from web photos. There are a lot of spiders in the world. Anyway, that was another joyful moment…