Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Garden of a golden afternoon

I doubt that anyone who bothers to read Prairiebreak could not relate with my afternoon at Savill Gardens: it was in April of 1981--in the late afternoon. There were hardly any visitors there. I remember taking a lot of pictures, only a few of which I've been able to put my hands on: the sun was angled, and as I wandered from one vale to the next, I marveled at the enormous quantity of daffodils--each vale with its own subspecies or species of N. bulbocodium or N. cantabricus, arrayed by the tens of thousads...nay! Millions!

My mentor, Paul Maslin, had told me "don't miss Savill Gardens": it was my first trip to England, and we got there fairly early in the trip. The visit was so haunting I've never been back. The temperature was balmy, everything was in perfect bloom! I don't seem to have a picture of the Magnolia campbellii, there were many throughout the parks, and their enormous flowers were shedding the occasional petal that floated down, swinging back and forth a tad as they drifted to the ground.

There were streamsides lined with the white East Asian cousin of our glorious native Aroid. There were drifts of this and that everywhere. I never even got to the great scree--I was so transfixed with the meadows and naturalized bulbs. Wordsworth's hackneyed poem springs to mind...only I wasn't lonely here, and hovered more like an eagle or a hawk, devouring the scene which is branded in my brain. 

There were acres like this...

Ironically, I have never seen the fabulous bulb-fields of Spain in the spring (on my depressingly long Bucket List), but in late September of 2001--you can perhaps deduce I remember that date--I found Narcissus serotinus in bloom along a roadside not far from Sevilla in Southern Spain...once again, in grass...

Narcissus albidus v. foliosus
 Forgetting the way I saw the daffodils growing at Savill, I was on a quest! I had to grow these dazzling bulbs in my garden. I planted them on my rock garden: they were fetching there a year or two before they disappeared...

Narcissus albidus v. foliosus
 Perhaps in another climate they'd persist on a rock garden--but these hoop petticoats did not.

Narcissus cantabricus
 Maybe Narcissus cantabricus would do better here? It lasted three years before disappearing.

Narcissus asturiensis
 But I remembered that my friend Sandy Snyder had planted a daffodil in her buffalo grass lawn many years ago (in the mid 1980's!).. When I visited I was amazed how many clumps had sown here and there!

Narcissus asturiensis
 Here you can see it mingling with crocuses...
Narcissus asturiensis
 You might have thought I'd take a lesson from my dear friend...

Narcissus 'Julia Jane' and friends in Mike Kintgen's garden last year...

I didn't figure things out yet, but little is lost on my clever colleague Mike Kintgen: his fantastic buffalograss lawn in front of his house is a riot of bulbs in spring, including a hoop petticoat!


Another angle...

I did remember one year to plant Iris danfordiae, hoping it might be more perennial in grass: it has responded enthusiastically: I took this picture yesterday. I put a hundred in my meadow several years ago and they've come back stronger every year, clumping up nicely!

Next year, perhaps, I can have some daffodils join in the mix?

Here is Mike's Narcissus starting to bloom again a few days ago: it's looking very happy here.

A last glimpse of Mike's wonderful grass as it looks right now--the purple Tommies and red tulips have yet to show...


I must revisit Savill Gardens this year: what might 36 years have wrought there? I may know in a few months and let you know too!

I must plant many more bulbs in my blue gramma meadow--especially Narcissi!

Funny--I've done hundreds of blogs--but this is only just the first time I've shared one of the most wonderful visits I've ever had in a garden...and one of the most exciting ways to grow plants ever: in native western grasses! (I guess I've not scraped the barrel quite yet...).

Friday, February 17, 2017

Crush tree Monoculture! PuhLEASE!

I realize the print on this is ridiculously small: if you email me at (put TREE BROCHURE in your subject line) I'll send you a .pdf of this file you can blow up much bigger! But you get the drift--we keep planting crappy trees and they keep dying (in most of our cities anyway). We need to plant a much bigger variety for many reasons--warding off major pests is certainly one of them!
The speakers are stellar: I regret to say I've only heard ONE of them--but we have had rave reviews of the rest--it is sure to be inspiring and information packed...

Everyone SAYS they love trees, but in the final analysis, most people would rather watch NFL football or go shopping than spend a day with people like this. Not me...

I've been part of this symposium from its first year: every year we've had fantastic talents (we've had Guy Sternberg TWICE--and will have him again)--the subject of trees in Urban landscapes impacts the quality of our lives so very much.

Of the many initiatives I've helped nudge along: rock gardening in public gardens, appreciation of Western Landscape ethic, Xeriscape, South African cold hardy plants, the birth of dozens of public gardens in the Plains and Rocky Mountain states, the appreciation of species irises, hardy succulents, crevice gardening (although I don't have one myself...)...have I mentioned Steppe awareness and Plant Select? Of all these endeavors I've joined in on--the Tree Diversity initiative may be the most lasting and valuable.. but you'd have to come to this conference to "get it"!

Hope to see you March 10!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Michigan wild

Viola pedata
In May of 2015 the Great Lakes Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society hosted the annual meeting. We visited spectacular gardens (some of which I've featured in five or six of my previous blogs). There were also fantastic field trips to natural areas in Michigan...the following pictures were all taken in one of these hikes. I will return to the fabulous birdsfoot violet at the very end--I've seen this in several states east of the Mississippi--but never so many nor so variable of forms. Surely this is one of the choicest native wildflowers! And I'm glad to say, I have it in my garden (thanks to a lime tolerant race from Kentucky)...

Arisaema triphyllum
If you don't look a bit carefully you may miss quite a few jack in the pulpits that were not quite in full bloom yet in this picture...and the first Trillium...

Mitella ? nuda
Alas, I didn't try and take a closeup of this beautiful miniature--so I can't be sure of which of the two possible species it might be...

Trillium grandiflorum
One of the glories of the upper Midwest, the grandest of trilliums was everywhere--you'll see lots more soon. But look at all the other gems it's growing with!

Geranium maculatum
One of the loveliest of our native geraniums was already in bloom in early May!

Trillium grandiflorum
Had these aged pink--or is this one of those mythical forms that opens pink? I can't say for sure...

Poldophyllum peltatum
Masses of May Apple: forgot to peek under the leaves to see if they were blooming...

Viola ? sororia
There were several violets in bloom including this variable blue one...

Trillium grandiflorum
Just a few trilliums...

Dirca palustris
I was thrilled to run across this cousin to the daphnes--we have so few in the family in North America growing wild!
And more trilliums!

And more trilliums!

And more trilliums!

Trillium grandiflorum galore!


Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

Trillium grandiflorum and Anemonella thalictroides

I think I will make this my Facebook header!

Panax trifolia
Who knew there was a tiny Ginseng relative that made wonderful colonies in the wild? I didn't until I attended a North American Rock Garden Society Annual Meeting in Ann Arbor two years ago!

Here is an overiew--and yes, that's May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum) above it.

And I didn't know that Golden Smoke (our wonderful annual fumewort of the West) also grew in Michigan...

Viola pedata
Did I mention there was a lot of Viola pedata?

Look at the variation in form and color!

And more...

They filled the woods

You can probably tell that my dear friend Marcia Tatroe is smiling her head off!

This was sheer bliss for me...

Enough comments for now! The plants speak for themselves!

I'm not sure if this is a plum or a cherry--I suspect Tony Reznicek will straighten us out! He was the chairman of this fabulous meeting...

Jack in the pulpits again...

This year the North American Rock Garden Society will hold its Study Weekend in Madison, Wisconsin--the wonderful capital of that state. There will be some spectacular gardens there...and in November we will meet in North Carolina for our Annual Meeting: Montrose--Nancy Goodwin's fantastic garden--will be featured (with its millions of fall blooming snowdrops--click to see my blog about it at the same time of year as the meeting)...and oh yes, J. C. Raulston Arboretum--and Juniper Level Botanic Garden with Plant Delights--that endless source of fabulous plants! Time to join up (just email NARGS Secretary  ("Bobby J. Ward" and he'll fix you up!)