Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Revisiting Kentucky 3 years later in the spring...part 3


A rather portentous visit to one of America's great National Parks--Mammoth Caves. Biggest cave system in the world (300 miles and counting). I was disappointed to find the verges of the path crowded with garlic mustard: with the thousands of daily visitors, surely they could hire a few weeders? The last blog was written at the end of April, but the season was so advanced then that this time we encountered a whole different palette of plants. Part three, you say? The other parts may or may not be forthcoming...it was a fabulous trip that could produce another six blog entries, but the season marches on!

Saxifraga virginiensis
This trim saxifrage was on every shady slope. Hundreds of them around the cave--maybe thousands. We found these in several nearby spots--on moist, shady cliffs and slopes.

Saxifraga viginiensis duking it out with Bignonia capreolata

Saxifraga above, Sedum ternatum below.

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
These looked as though they'd just come up!

Phlox divaricata
Blue phlox is so variable!
Julian Campbell alongside escaped Pyrus calleryana
Bradford pear has escaped into the wild--here are two husky specimens in an abandoned field alongside our guide--the amazing field botanist Julian Campbell who lives in Lexington and travelled with us the last time we visited.

Gleditsia triacanthos
Now THOSE are thorns--I wonder if they slowed down the mammoths at all?

Viola pedata
We were so fortunate to have Julian, who'd scouted things out. He knows Kentucky like the back of his hand! I've never seen birdsfoot violets looking so perfect before--dozens on the hard, limy clay alongside a road: I always thought they demanded acid soil!


I took this picture to show the variability: two very different seedlings growing next to one another--a giant on the right!



And here was an albino...I was tempted to dig it...


And my favorite of the lot...you can tell I was crazy about these!



Violets growing with pussytoes: the pussytoes are dead easy--why do the violets have to be such a challenge?

Prunus munsoniana

One of four wild plums that grow in Kentucky!

Julian raising cane!
Several species of native bamboo have been delineated in recent years--this is
Arundinaria gigantea,which grow near streams and can get nearly 20' tall. It burned badly this past cold winter.

Lithospermum caroliniense
Another fabulous native: puccoon--which grows all the way to Colorado.

Prunus americana
The American plum in Kentucky was more upright and less wicked than our scrubby little things. I love the fragrance on this plant!

Cercis canadensis
The redbuds were glorious everywhere in Tennessee and Kentucky: we returned to Denver at the peak of redbud season, and they're glorious for us too. In the East, however, I noticed that they tend to be smaller than ours, and more delicate:


Bonanza: a hillside practically smothered with Trillium flexipes var. walpolei (most forms of this species are white flowered.

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Dutchmen's briches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Why does this plant leap over the Rockies and grow in the Columbia River valley in the Palouse prairie of all places. A truely annoying geobotanical riddle, that!

Isopyrum thalictroides
This rue-anemone look alike grew in vast mats everywhere in Kentucky as far as I could tell (in moist forests that is). Not many nurseries sell this.

Jeffesronia diphylla and Stylophorum diphyllum
These diphylloid endemics of the Midwest are garden classics: but to see them abounding in nature is one of the great pleasures of traveling for me. A plant in wild is worth two in the garden, to maim a cliche.

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei
More flexipes. Sorry....I was smitten!
More Isophyrum

Mertensia virginica
The bluebells/chiming bells/languid ladies were everywhere. I love this thang (the local twang is getting to me!)
MORE Mertensia

More isopyrum duking it out with Hydrophyllum

Phlox divaricata and Polystichum acrostichoides unfurling at right.
Another wonderful clump of phlox growing with a bevy of cool plants.

And more Trillium flexipes var. walpolei
The dang flexipes was everywhere...here with a choice woodland Cerastium which makes a great contrast!
Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Dicentra canadensis
I was surprised to see squirrel corn growing right next to Dutchman's britches (who says "breeches"?). They look so superficially similar in leaf--but the flowers and co
Proof I was there! Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Our guide, Julian and Trillium flexipes var. walpolei

Julian and a cliff...
Julian not only LOOKS like a sprite, he prances around like a woodland spirit: I've met few keener botanists in my day.
Asplenium (Camptosorus) rhizophyllum
And I finish with one of my favorite plants: the walking fern (which refuses to walk for me)...

Thank you, Kentucky, for a fabulous week of plants, generous people and fun. Now back to work (grunt, groan, moan)...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

First flush of flowers...

Adonis amurensis
Spring is a long-drawn out affair in the Steppe. Or rather, we don't really ever get a "real" spring (except for 2008-2012 when we had four blissful years of English-like springs when the forsythias bloomed for months and apricots and almonds fruited almost every year--but they were the exception) Most years winter and summer simply alternate from Christmas to Memorial Day and beyond). The Adonis was in full bloom (and had been blooming for weeks) when I returned from Africa at the end of January! It can tolerate subzero cold in flower!

Helleborus niger
The Christmas rose also had flowers in January--and does most years. It's already threatening to drop seed in early April!
Galanthus elwesii Giant Form
 This too has fat seed-pods this time of year. My favorite snowdrop towers over the nearby nivalis.                                    

Crocus vernus v. albiflorus
I recall seeing masses of this on the pass near St. Moritz in the Engadine in late June in white and purple...so my little tuft is pretty modest by comparison--but evocative nonetheless. I love to grow plants I've seen in the wild: they bring back whiffs of memory of the glorious Alps and other mountains I've been blessed to tread.

Cyclamen coum
I struggled to grow this for years--maybe decades. Everywhere I planted it it would languish. Then one day it appeared in a spot I would never have planted it and it loves it--self sowing even already!

Fritillaria raddeana
I grew this for many years: the devastating April frost of 2013 killed it and many more plants in my garden. Here it is at DBG...where no doubt they will succeed with it!

Iris 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'
I suspect this is an Iris histrioides cross--and a damn nice one. Maybe even pure histrioides? Not sure who the Lady was--but she was lucky indeed to have such a stunner named for her. Here it's growing in the Plant Select garden at DBG: you can bet your patooty I'll be buying this to plant at home this autumn! I presume, perhaps, that you HAVE a patooty?

Eranthis pinnatifida
I know it's been lumped with hyemalis--but it does look different to my eyes...and the cross is sterile.

Iris 'Katharine Hodkin'
I lost a dozen plants of this in the great April freeze two years ago, but they survived everywhere at the Gardens: was it the distinct culture where they were growing there? Or was it a tad milder?

Paeonia kavachensis
Some peonies are showier when they emerge than when they bloom!

Galanthus nivalis
I remember planting these several decades ago--and now they carpet a corner of the Rock Alpine Garden...

Thlaspi (Noccaea) aff. caerulescens
The many springtime pennycresses are never planted as often as they should be. This one ramps all over several corners of the Rock Alpine Garden, just as N. fendleri did in the old Wildflower Treasures (one of my favorite, now preterite gardens at DBG--,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but I'm not bitter)...
Iris reticulata 'J.S. Dijt'
Pronounced "Deet" like the insecticide. I cringe when people mispronounce this. Like when they try and say "Guizhou"--a cultivar name for Artemisia. That

Iris chrysantha cv.

Iris histrioides 'Major'

Iris 'George'


Iris tomasinianus

Colchicum filifolium

Iris reticulata 'J.S. Dijt' and Chionophila

Primula abschasica

Colchicum malkensis

Iris aucheri and Draba hispanica

Eremurus robustus

Arctostaphylos patula

Draba polytricha

Narcissus nanus

Tulipa humilis 'alba coerulea oculata'

Fritrillaria michaelovskyi

Saxifraga x apiculata 'alba'

Narcissus 'Jack Snipe'

Phlox kelseyi 'Lemhi Purple'

Physaria sp. and Escobaria vivipara

Fritillaria albertii

Iris sp. (Juno)
Must check my records on this one...

Helleborus x hybridus (white)

Primula elatior

Anemone ranunculoides

Coluteocarpus vesicarius

Narcissus lobularis

Erythronium 'Pagoda\'

Primula veris and Anchusa

Corydalis sp. (forgot name!)

Trachystemon asiaticum

Bulbocodium vernum

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'