Thursday, December 18, 2014

Paradise regained! Laporte Avenue Nursery Redux

Lewisia tweedyi at Laporte Avenue nursery

I have blogged about Laporte Avenue Nursery before...and I suspect I shall do so many more times in the future...Kirk Fieseler and Karen Lehrer who co-own this nursery are not just dear friends of mine, they're two of the leading lights in my favorite realm of alpine gardening--and they've not gotten their due in my opinion. I just visited their nursery last week--and was enchanted with what they are up to. but I found a lot of pictures I took last year of their nursery (and there are a lot more) at peak bloom time, which is something to behold. Rare plant nurseries are wonderful at all times, but in April and May they're beyond wonderful!

Silver saxifrages in bloom (for sale)
 They grow everything well--from rare dwarf conifers to all manner of alpines. They're the go-to place if you want a good assortment of saxifrages--essential rock garden plants that have likewise not had their due in recent years. What a range of colors!

Karen Lehrer and Iris tenuis
Here is the propagator extraordinaire! It is said Karen can put roothairs on matchsticks and toothpicks: she has a way with plants that is enviable. She is one of the wisest, kindest and loveliest people I've ever known: a visit with Karen is like a breath of spring air!

Kirk Fieseler: the Master
 Laporte Avenue Nursery is situated on Kirk's home property: I imagine having a wholesale, mail-order and sometimes retail (they open up for sales to friends and visitors once a year) must be a hassle for Kirk and his family--but I've never heard a complaint about it from him. The setting is so enchanting, so beautifully laid out and so inspiring: one wonderful garden after another, impeccable greenhouses, planting fields lined out, vegetable gardens, perennial gardens: even a hen house with a green roof! Kirk is an uncannily savvy plantsman who loves trees as well as alpines, and has done a great deal to popularize Jerry Morris's dwarf conifer selections.
Erythronium grandiflorum
 You will not find glacier lilies in many gardens, but Kirk grew this patch from seed that's in one of their wonderful display rock gardens that blooms reliably every spring. I love their fragrance!

Opuntia debreczyi 'Potato'
 They even grow a few cacti!


There are wondeful trough gardens here and there throughout the nursery--all filled with treasures!

Delosperma luckhofii 'Beaufort West Strain'



Iris pumila
 The Laporte team shares my love of miniature irises, including this lusty mass in the display garden...

Primula x pubescens 'Bewerly White'
 Their display gardens now only show off the plants beautifully, but serve as backups for their propagation needs...very clever.

Phlox bifida
Laporte is the only nursery I know of any more that offers the superb Sand Phlox of the Midwest--which I have grown since I was a very young child, purchased from Lounsberry Gardens--we're taking half centuries here!

Chrysanthemum hosmariense
I'm quite sure this has been put in at least another half dozen genera since I first learned it with this name: this looks to be an especially compact form!

More treasures: Primula elatior and more phlox and pasqueflowers...

Sand phlox above, Gray's phlox below
What a treat it is to see the more unusual native phloxes offered for sale instead of just Phlox subulata. Although they grow lots of those too!

Pulsatilla regeliana?
Not sure which pasqueflower this is. And notice the Raoulia in front of it!

And they do troughs! Lots of troughs..


Sempervivum cvs.
There's an old saying that we all begin and end our gardening careers growing Sempervivum--as children because they're so easy to grow and as old gardeners--for the same reason! In between, some disdain these fabulous plants. But when they are grown like this, you can see why they should be treasured!

I love the dark colors in many of the succulents--I think the lower right is actually Delosperma seanii-hoganii--surely the most ungainly Latin name honoring the most delightful of people. I'll save that for another rant.


Watching the rare plant mats arrayed like this is so gratifying: I make a pilgrimage to Laporte a couple times of years to see what treasures they've accrued, and mostly to worship their wonderfully grown flats and flats and flats of alpine treasure.


It's mesmerizing to look through their many greenhouses...

Here two Primula species--P. hirsuta on the left and P. elatior again on the right: both are wonderful garden plants.


Each Laporte greenhouse is like a little Cathedral of rock garden treasure. Even if you're not an alpine fanatic (like me) you will find choice woodlanders and some unusual perennials or xeric plants to grace your garden. Do click on their website * and drool over their myriad offerings: and make sure you put your order in early for spring: I'm determined that they sell out by mid-summer this year!

*If you clicked on the link, you will be directed to their Website: their Logo and a few gew-gaws are missing (software malfunction) but more importantly, the links to the plants are there, and many more pictures. That works just fine! I suspect their fix the cosmetic stuff before springtime, but Karen and Kirk's priorities are always the plants: they grow the best and they grow them like no one else--I don't know what I'd do without this flagship nursery of the Rockies and far beyond!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Time Capsule: Boreas Pass August 26, 2009

Gentiana parryi
Late summer may not have the masses of color that spring and early summer boast in the Rockies, but they have their compensations--gentians being high on the list. How fun it is to finally get into some old files of pix and relive old hikes--especially after the rather traumatic onset of this winter!
Jan, Jesse and I had a lovely hike on one of the numerous passes that you can reach from the many roads fanning out from Denver into the high country: Boreas Pass is less than two hours away, and one of the gentlest and most rewarding drives.
Son checking out a cliff
Kids always find the perches...

Fireweed hiding in a trunk
It would have been fun to come back and see how the fireweed fared in its deep, wild pot of a tree trunk..

Cirsium scopulorum
Hooker's thistle--however frightening--is almost impossible to cultivate. It was still in fresh bloom at the end of summer: hard frosts were imminent...

Mystery Cirsium (mutant?)
Among the typical Hooker's we found this--a hybrid? An unfamiliar species (none key out?)...Colorado is full of anomalies like this...

Meadow at treeline
Warm, luminous summer days in the high country are one of the great delights of life. Aaaaah!

Salix nivalis
The creeping willows were starting to catch autumnalf fire...most of these can be grown in rock gardens--one never sees enough of them in gardens though.
Salix along a fell field
Here you can see how the willow carpets the whole edge of the fell field.
Krummholz Picea engelmannnii
I am always curious if the spruce would stay prostrate if rooted: I don't know of a low form of engelmanii--must try it some time!
Gentianopsis thermalis
I can never have enough of gentians--and there are wonderful patches of fringed gentian here and there--wherever it's wet enough.

Haplopappus macronema
One of the strangest dwarf shrubs of the alpine: I actually grew this for a few years in a trough--but it grew to rangy. I'd like to try it again.

Haplopappus macronema

Juniperus communis at almost 12,000'
Seeing these low mounds of common juniper (which I've seen in central Asia as well) reminds me that prostrate junipers are really underused in our gardens: I have a few spots in my largish garden where I could use just this sort of mass--which would be a lovely green now that our landscapes have turned tawny and gray for several months. Just a few weeks and I shall be back in the summertime--only in South Africa this time!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Time capsule: A perfect day on Pawnee Pass...September 2009

Erigeron pinnatisectus


I am not sure if I believe that "daisy" comes from "day's eyes", but it may partly explain my fondness for asters, fleabanes and all the little composites others demean and complain about. I'm not sure I've ever gotten a better picture of this endemic of the Southern Rockies--one of the loveliest of alpine day's eyes! Unlike the cutleaf daisy (Erigeron compositus) which is much commoner and more widespread, this one has more ferny leaves that are pinnate (hence the name) rather than simply palmate like compositus. It generally grows in more turfy sites than crevices--so I was lucky to find it!


The long and winding road...

I had returned in mid-July from a luminous trip I'd taken to Central Asia--and my garden was in such arrears that I hadn't gotten up to the mountains much subsequently, although the incredibly cold, wet spring delayed things so much then when we finally did there was lots in bloom--even in September, when I took these pix.
Aquilegia caerulea
I can still recall my surprise and delight when I found a colony of our State Flower in full bloom--so very late in the season! Such are the blessings of living in high mountainous territories. I have enjoyed Pasqueflowers, for instance, opening their first flowers in my garden in February in a warm microclimate--and then I can follow them in bloom for the next six months: I've walked through throngs of pasqueflowers blooming in July on Medicine Bow Pass. I think columbines may actually beat this record: we can have blue columbines opening their first flowers in late April--and here is fresh bloom a few dozen miles away nearly seven months later!
Aquilegia caerulea
As a native born Coloradoan I am required to linger a few moments, and show this second closeup...

Spring freshet in September!
And the streams were still full in the autumn--you can tell it had been a snowy spring and a rainy summer!
Angelica ampla and Mertensia paniculata
Here is a combination that would grace any perennial border: in fact, I'm astonished that we haven't tried it at Denver Botanic Gardens. We grew Mertensia paniculata superbly for years in our Romantic Gardens (although I realize that it is no longer there, I believe). I was even worried for a while it could be weedy: it would grow almost five feet tall and bloomed all summer. I have never seen our native giant Angelica ever cultivated anywhere--although we've grown many exotic species including the classic herb. Amazing what is remaining to be done in horticulture (we've missed the proverbial boat, like James Fenimore Cooper's incredibly inept Indians: you must read Mark Twain's masterful review if you haven't hitherto: it's surely finest dressing down in American literature)...


Alpine lady fern (Athyrium distentifolium var. americanum)
I shall never forget the first time I found this hillside a short distance above treeline on the Pass--with dozens if giant clumps of alpine lady fern. I have only encountered this fabulous native fern a few times since--once near Gothic, where a small valley was filled with thousands of clumps!--but this remains my personal locus classicus, I have returned to this pass again and again since I first climbed it, and this is one of my main goals!

Alpine lady fern (Athyrium distentifolium var. americanum)
A closer look at this graceful sprite of a native--what a witty fern, to grow only above treeline!

Alpine lady fern (Athyrium distentifolium var. americanum)
And one last lingering glimpse.

Heuchera bracteata
The lime green endemic alumroot of our mountains still had fresh flowers!

Rhodiola rhodantha
A rich meadow filled with Queen's crown in various strages of flowering: and barely two months earlier I'd enjoyed its pale cousin, Rhodiola semenowii, growing in thick masses in the Tien Shan above Almaty. I realize that I have published precious few of the pix I took on my two fabulous trips to Central Asia in this blog--too many plants too little time. Perhaps I should time capsule a few of them too?
Dryas octopetala in seed
My son's hand picking a few seedpods of mountain dryad, which I'd also enjoyed in the Altai mountains not long before.

Jesse near the summit: the red is Geum rossii
As we neared the top of the pass, the vast meadows spread out in tawny glory--the red color almost entirely Geum rossii--one of our alpine glories which paints the mountains yellow in early summer and then red in the fall.
Gentiana algida
And the harbinger of winter, alpine gentian, thrust up everywhere among the geum, making a wonderful contrast. I'd seen this budded up in Central Asia not long before, and found it in bloom there exactly a year later. I am a lucky botanist indeed!
Gentiana algida
Now if we could only grow this in our gardens! This is a rather difficult plant in hot summer climates...
Erigeron leiomerus
We have such a wealth of fleabanes, I'm not entirely sure which species from this picture--but love the way it grows along with the pussytoes.


Here it is in a crevice...plants always look so poised coming out of rocks--no wonder I love rock gardening so much!


I can never have enough of daisies...especially since they love our gardens so: I grow a dozen or more fleabanes in various parts of my gardens and troughs. Maybe more species than that. And it's not nearly enough! And above, the day's eye was beginning to lower on the horizon.

Westering sun...
There was really plenty of time to get back to the car, even though it seemed the sun was setting--the late summer nights are still quite dilatory, as I have been in this bit of a time capsule.

How fortunate that we can have these images tucked away on our hard drives, on various thumb drives. We lose track of them, and then they reappear, and the very day seem to resurrect. I had experienced one of the most tumultuously exciting summers of my life--my first trip to the heart of Central Asia! I came back to a horribly overgrown garden and a mountain of responsibilities: I managed a few quick trips, but this was my last long trip into the high country--which due to the incredibly late summer still had spring flowers persisting--a great compensation. I had not climbed this pass in a very long time--perhaps two decades. And I have not climbed it since.

I try not to wallow in sentimentality excessively in this blog--but occasionally some of my personal life peeks through: I avoided showing the many pictures I took of my 17 year old son, with whom I climbed the pass that day: I don't think I have been a reprehensible parent. But I realize in retrospect I had not gone on nearly enough hikes with either of my children. It's true, we've hiked almost every Western state at one point or another, but that is not enough: the exigencies of a working life. The slow recovery from a painful separation. The neglectful habits of late middle age. So somehow revisiting and capturing a bit of the magic of one hike, one day--forever receding in the past--remembering the wonderful time I shared that day with a my sun, my son: this is a gift to myself, Thank you for your indulgence.