Thursday, August 14, 2014

Celebrating Marpa! Forty great years.


 Marpa Landscaping celebrated 40 years of creating beautiful gardens across America last Saturday. We were privileged to join that celebration--here we are entering the magic garden that was virtually wiped out in last year's floods, and has been nourished back better than ever in time for this party!

Late afternoon light filtering through Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra')
Many years ago I thought there were "Japanese" gardens, focused entirely on the scene where plants were nothing but paints to create a Zen-like state of contemplation. And then there were flower gardens, which are all about color and interest. Then I came to know Marpa Landscaping, and Martin Mosko, its principal. I remember watching the trucks with Marpa logos driving around Boulder when I was a relative youngster (not to give away my age)--little knowing that Martin, his wife Alxe and their company would become one of the touchstones of my professional life, and dear friends. Marpa has perfected the contemplative garden (in fact they wrote a book about it!--click on the link and see!), but filled those gardens with intimate, colorful details that would grace a cottage garden. Their wonderful home garden (virtually destroyed last September) illustrates this remarkable fusion of Oriental and Western views.

From a distance the various forms are calming and harmonious--but look at the dramatic color contrasts in shrubs, groundcovers and dwarf trees--that offer lively interest in winter as well!

A large pond filled with Koi and various water plants adds drama and appeal to any landscape and Marpa is no exception!

There were huge deposits of debris and much of the garden was washed away less than a year ago: it's amazing to see how quickly the new plants are filling in--and there is something charming about the dotted plantings of groundcovers that will only too quickly blend into one.

Martin is a master of contrast--the subtle contrasts in textures everywhere, the contrast of gnarly shrubs and trees and soft groundcovers, with rocks and a wonderful range of greens...

More glimpses of trees and vistas.

There are numerous handsome specimens, like this Chinese Table Pine (Pinus tabuliformis)

Japanese maples thrive in Boulder's cooler climate--and more neutral soils.

I believe this is a California strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) which I haven't seen used elsewhere in Colorado at all. A wonderful, lustrous dark green. I must remember to ask for some divisions!

Late afternoon is restful and evocative in any garden: at Marpa it's sublime!

Jan and I felt lucky to be included with the many dozens of old friends, associates and customers that the Moskos included in the list: despite the crowd, the garden swallowed us up! It felt intimate and welcoming.

Another view of the Japanese grass and the contrasting view...Just realized I don't have any blood grass! I must find a spot to do this on a modest scale!

The mass of waterlilies are wonderful, but it's the reflective empty space of the water that makes it work: as Lao-tzu observes, it's not the bowl, but the hole in the bowl that is useful"...

The occasional splash of color, like this lily in the ice plant, makes the calm green spaces all the more eloquent.

I will enjoy watching these new perennial groundcover beds develop: Martin has developed an obsession with Sempervivum: yay!

A reader of the blog has saved me the effort of looking up the Kanji I was unsure of: Mason Brown informs us that the characters transliterate as "Haku bai ji", which translates as "White plum temple".

The host with guests

And here Martin is pointing out something very interesting...wish I knew what it was!

Yes...that is one of the desert tables on the left...if you know me, you know I couldn't resist. Not only was there good company, good food--but a magical evening of poetry and music. Marpa has always done things in style...

Another glimpse of the festivities: the food was delicious!

Chairs and views beckoned in every direction...

The waterlilies were amazing!

I'm a sucker for backlighting through grasses...but then, who isn't?

I can only imagine what these Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola') will look like in a year or more ribboning through the purple Heuchera.

It is worth doing a bit of sleuthing if you're not a Buddhist scholar to learn about the mythic figure, Marpa Lotsawa, who inspired this Landscaping firm. Hovering beyond the haunting landscapes they create there is a whole other world deeply rooted in spirituality, a world we could sense almost tangibly last Saturday. Happy Birthday, Marpa!

*I here re-enter the link to Marpa Landscaping I started this blog posting with--knowing that you may have glossed over it. Do browse their website and sample the work the Martin, Luke Sanzone, Alxe and their remarkable cohorts have done: perhaps the most lavish and wonderful gardens I've seen not just in Colorado, but in the World. You should know their work.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A glimpse of the Denver Zoo's gardens...

Flamingos at Denver Zoo
 The sky was mostly overcast (and it did begin to rain--hence the paucity of pix in this blog)...but a random sunbeam did come out in time to create this stunning tableaux: someone was thinking when they designed the flamingo exhibit!

Weigela florida

Of course, Zoos are all about animals. But their full name is "Zoological GARDENS"--and the animals wouldn't last long without the plants. And without a thoughtful and attractive setting, who would want to visit what might come perilously close to looking like a prison? Yes, plants at zoos matter a lot! And Denver's Zoo has been acknowledged as having some outstanding exhibits. Over the years a large number of Botanic Gardens' staff have migrated to work at the Zoo--most recently John Murgel, who spared some of his very busy schedule to show me around yesterday. I kick off a look at just a few of the vigettes there with this late blooming Weigela florida, which shown with almost tropical lustre!

Nasella tenuissima, Hesperaloe parviflora and Agastache rupestris
It was drizzling during most of the visit--so we were a tad rushed: I was impressed at how many special plants and plantings I saw in places I'd not visited in years. Here, for example, is a xeric garden featuring Agastache rupestris and Mexican hair grass next to the Zoo animal clinic. Visitors never see this--all the more impressive that they've come up with something unusual and lovely there.
Berkheya and Phygelius x recta
I was especially dazzled by a very large bed with a bright cultivar of Phygelius (Either 'Cherry Ripe' or 'Red Alert'--both of which have proved tough here) mixed with the pale pink Berkheya of the East Cape: what a wonderful mass planting!
Closeup of Berkheya purpurea with guest
The Berkheya rewards a closer look: it has a color unlike any other...seeing this wafted me up to the heights above Rhodes where I've admired the plant in the wild.
Elephants trampling on Phygelius
The Phygelius contrasts nicely with the statuary....

Berhkeya purpurea and Phygelius x recta
I really liked this planting--you are being subjected to more pix!

Diascia integerrima 'Coral Canyon' and Phygelius x recta
Here the Phygelius makes a good pairing with the alpine twinspur--which grows alongside both Phygelius and Berkeya purpurea in the wild as well!
Robust Berkheya clumps: next year these will dazzle!
I am really dazzled by the size of these Berkheyas!

Bed with African natives
An overview of the whole bed: imagine what it will look like as both plants continue to spread and proliferate.
Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy'
The Eucomis have come back a second year--I'll come visit these in September when they're in bloom!

Throughout the zoo, tropical plants have been bedded out for the summer, where they grow much larger than they would in the greenhouse: here bromeliads are brightening up a large patch of groundcover.

Impatiens namchabarwensis

I've saved the best for last: I've known about the blue impatiens of Tibet for several years, and yearned to grow it. You can imagine how thrilled I was when John took me to a special perch where this has been tucked (to evade the eyes of herbivores and strangers too): the color was even more refulgent than I imagine. I don't believe this is growing anywhere in Colorado--what a treat to see the very first specimen of this unusual and beautiful plant!
John Murgel with Erodium absinthoides (tissue cultured)
 A picture of John with a flat containing the loveliest Erodium, which he has managed to grow in tissue culture while he worked at DBG: although he's now a few blocks north of the Gardens (overseeing an area five acres BIGGER than DBG) I feel we have gained a Zoo rather than having lost a fine horticulturist!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bellevue Emporium: a landscape architect's garden

Raspberry patch (Photo by Herb Schaal)
 Not just any Landscape Architect, this is the garden of Herb and Cindy Schaal--and Herb is one of the most honored and respected men in the profession. He also happens to be the fellow to whom I owe much of my "break" into Horticulture: he was the Principal of the local office of EDAW which oversaw the development of DBG's masterplan in the early decades--and Herb designed and built the Rock Alpine Garden. He decided I was the one to take care of it, and persuaded the Management to hire me (despite my meagre resume at the time). Things worked out well enough that we've maintained a warm mutual regard (in my case bordering on idolatry) which is whipped into white hot enthusiasm every time I visit Herb and Cindy's enchanting garden.

The garden this spring (Photo by Herb Schaal)
 Last Friday, Herb and Cindy had Jan and me over once again for an enchanting dinner: I snapped no end of pictures and asked casually if I might not "do" their garden for my blog. Herb (in his inimitable way) responded "sure" but I could see the cogs turning: I'm sure he had confidence in my photography--but JUST IN CASE--Herb emailed me ten stunning images (averaging 5 mgs each!)...and I lead this blog with his gorgeous pix. You will then be subjected to untold dozens of mine--the garden was so stunning even I could photograph it pretty well!
Many of these opening shots are of the veggie gardens (Photo by Herb Schaal)
 Ironically, much of the garden is "hands off" for Herb: Cindy is the vegetable gardener who allows him to weed and occasionally to pick a tomato or two! Cindy is originally from Indiana, and she obviously has Midwestern vegetable genes--this is one of the largest, most productive and beautiful vegetable gardens in Colorado--that I am sure of!

Massive cottonwood trunk (Photo by Herb Schaal)
 Last time I visited they still had the massive Cottonwood on the West side of their house--looming over it like a Leviathan. They had it cut down recently--but left the base which must be 8' across! In vintage Schaal style, it's become a platform for fun, functionality and beauty.

Spring glimpses (Photo by Herb Schaal)
 I'm so pleased to have Herb's pictures to properly "round out" the view of the garden at its floriferous peak in spring, but as you will see, there's still lots blooming in August! The aspen glade is wonderful all times of year, of course, including winter.

(Photo by Herb Schaal)
 There is something incredibly festive about orange and blue. I love this combination...come to think of it, I better replicate it!

(Photo by Herb Schaal)
 We will see the dancing scarecrows again--they're pretty irresistible...

(Photo by Herb Schaal)
 This isn't Oenothera caespitosa...I'm not sure it isn't one of our annual species that sowed in from the surrounding fields. You don't see these nearly enough in gardens.
(Photo by Herb Schaal)
 What an enchanting Potager--and the dancers express the way one feels there!

(Photo by Herb Schaal)
(Photo by me)
The last pictures are taken by me: not as dazzling as Herb's of course, but not bad for a few minutes of snapping before we sat down to a delicious repast. This was the view from my chair, by the way. McDonald's happy meal would have tasted scrumptious in that atmosphere!

(Photo by me)
 A wonderful patch of buffalo grass by the garage--not a weed in it. In fact, no weeds anywhere! They're fanatics...and this is a very large garden.

(Photo by me)
 Needless to say, I was enchanted to see a trough with some alpines--I did mention he did the DBG Rock Alpine Garden?
(Photo by me)
 A closeup of Scrophularia macrantha: Herb was surprised to hear I introduced this to horticulture.

(Photo by me)
 A shot from further away...this is one monster plant I tell you!
(Photo by me)
 The garden cottage: This was also in Herb's first picture. I stupidly forgot to take pictures of their wonderful hen house and chicken yard beyond the cottage (you can barely catch a glimpse)--made you almost jealous of the birds it was so quaint and pleasant!
(Photo by me)
 My shot in the gloaming of the best raspberry patch in Colorado (they used plywood beneath the path to keep the Rubus at bay--clever gardeners!)
(Photo by me)
 Acrobatic tomatoes--very entertaining...

Cindy's pots (Photo by me)
 Cindy does the containers--and they are everywhere, and everywhere they're lovely.
(Photo by me)
 The Johnny jump ups still blooming lustily--you can tell it's been a cool, moist summer.

(Photo by me)
 A glimpse of where we dined later--in a delightful room looking onto the garden.

(Photo by me)
 The place is crawling with wildlife--so many of the veggies are caged.

(Photo by me)
 They harvest large numbers of strawberries out of these rows.

(Photo by me)
 Gorgeous rhubarb!

(Photo by me)
 More veggies!

(Photo by me)
 And a gorgeous statuesque stone...
(Photo by me)
 Here's where we had hors-d'oeuvres...are you jealous?
(Photo by me)
 More flowers!
(Photo by me)
 Wonderful borders with groundcovers...

(Photo by me)
 From further back...
(Photo by me)
 Part of one border. We were a few days too early for their main planting of Oriental lilies--with dozens of flowers on stalks eight feet tall--woooo hoooo!

(Photo by me)
 Herb's fond of heliopsis, as I am. They had several cultivars.

(Photo by me)
 Managed to get one glancing shot of the man himself: looks pretty much the way he did when we first met almost forty years ago. This friendship goes way back!

(Photo by me)
 those dancing scarecrows in the late light are just as fun...

(Photo by me)
 Cindy couldn't resist pulling the last weed!

(Photo by me)
 A wonderful double Heliopsis. I need this one! They bloom forever and make great cuts!

(Photo by me)
 There are no end of charming gates, and great places to hang out and sit. You can tell a landscape architect designed this garden! But it's been planted and nurtured by two great gardeners--a triage combo you shall not find very often!

(Photo by me)
 Is this charming or what?
(Photo by me)
I was bowled over by this splendid tower of Sweet Peas--not something you see around hot Denver very often--they're near the mouth of a canyon, and there must be cool air drainage that keeps them so fresh.

That's it for pix: I have more, but they aren't as worthy. And besides, if you haven't been convinced that Herb and Cindy live in Paradise, nothing will do it. I have been blessed with several great gurus who have nudged me along my path. Herb is has been one of the greatest and most steadfast! Live long and prosper, both of you! We are so grateful to have you both in our life.