Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gadding about Globe thistles...



Echinops ritro in the wild, near Troy
I doubt many people would be globe thistles too high on their favorite lists: more is the pity. I love the thistle-like foliage and wonderfully prickly flowers. I have admired these over the years in the wild--from all around the Mediterranean to the Altai Mountains in Central Asia--everywhere they stand out in the landscape and provide wonderful closeup images, often bristling with insects. And they are endlessly variable, as this picture I took a year ago shows.


And they are much more diverse than first meets the eye: here is a tiny monocarp from Kazakhstan. We collected this on steep screes in the Altai. It bloomed, but we didn't get viable seed in the garden--so alas, it's a memory!



A closer view of the unknown species from Kazakhstan.

Echinops ritro 'Veitch’s Blue'
An especially vibrant sapphire colored form growing in the El Pomar Waterway at Denver Botanic Gardens--planted only a year ago!

Echinops ritro 'Veitch’s Blue'
 A closer shot of the same...


And from further away: I find this planting to be utterly delightful! Credit goes to Mike Holloway--one of DBG's incredible horticulturists. A fabulous eye for design and raucous sense of humor to boot.

Echinops ruthenicus
Here is one of the giants of the genus, towering in the Perennial Border at DBG...


Echinops sp. ign. Kazakhstan
Alas, we never got seed of this stately beauty!

I love the contrast of white stem and blue flowers on this one...


And here is Echinops sphaerocephalus growing in my garden--a paler, but still very striking plant.





And here is Echinops sphaerocephalus growing in the Watersmart garden at D.B.G. Dan (in charge) assures me this is from our 2001 expedition to southern Spain.




I have an excessive fondness for Echinops (as do the bumblebees)
We finish with closeups of some giant echinops in the Birds and Bees garden at D.B.G...what other plant is so imposing from a distance and so intricate close up? (Rhetorical question--I can't think of any!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Aquilegia alphabetarium


It's been a banner year for many plants, Aquilegia among them: since one of the loveliest columbines is our state flower, most Colorado gardeners have a thing about the genus--and I'm no exception. Beginning with this picture (scanned from a slide) taken decades ago in the Rock Alpine Garden: Aquilegia alpina? A compact vulgaris? You tell me...


I saw this growing at the Reykjavik Botanical Garden last summer--and Mike Kintgen had planted it in Denver--when I find it I shall add the Icelandic version of this Balkan anomaly.


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: almost 200 people looked at this Aquilegia post before I was able to get my hands on this image taken at the Reykjavik Botanical gardenon the  27 of June, 2015: I did have to search through several vast hard disk to find it (my organizational skills are...complicated). But I found it and was able to blow it up even a bit....it is so amazing that a plant from the Balkans has evolved to resemble so much the yellow columbines of the American Madrean province...

Enough said. I am dumbfounded by technology.



This seems to match up to Aquilegia bertollonii--one of the loveliest miniatures from Europe.


The amazing spurless variant of our native columbine: Aquilegia caerulea v. daileyae

Aquilegia caerulea v. daileyae
This apparently is a mutation on the typical form (shown next) with an extra chromosome. I grew over half a century ago as a young man from seed I purchased from Drakes in Scotland: I can only wonder where Jack Drake got it!

Aquilegia caerulea

A corner of my wonderful patch of our state flower in my woodland garden. Still the best! The lavender fragrance is haunting.

Aquilegia caerulea


While I was uploading pix of A. aurea from the Reykjavik Botanical garden, why not upload their perfect specimen of A. caerulea--blooming in Iceland much as it blooms on thousands of mountains in the Colorado Rockies...Ain't our modern era grand? If you take Icelandic air--by all means take their wonderful option to lay over a while and visit their fabulous public gardens!

Aquilegia canadensis 'Corbet'
The wonderful dwarf, albino form of the eastern columbine: almost looks more like our native red one! This was taken in Allen Bush's amazing garden (chockablock full of columbines)...

 Aquilegia canadensis 'Corbet' with Globularia cordifolia at Allen's

Aquilegia cazorlensis
I only got one picture (back in the bad old days of film) of this resplendent beauty that I grew in a trough...I hope one day I might hike the hills of Cazorla and find this (and some other elusive treasures) myself!

Aquilegia hinkleyi
Not named for the redoubtable Pacific Northwestern Plantsman--although perhaps after one of his uncles? This hauntingly beautiful form of chrysantha is from Texas, with incredibly long spurs. A must have! Growing in the Childrens Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens.


Our 'Denver Gold' strain of Aquilegia chrysantha--ten times more vigorous than any other columbine. This threatens to swamp all woodland gardens in Colorado given half a chance. Since the flowers are the size of small Eastern states, fragrant and since it blooms non-stop for four or five months, who cares?

Aquilegia elegantula
Our petite and aptly named miniature red columbine of Western Colorado, photographed here on Kebler Pass on an unforgettable trip as guide to the Ratzeputz gang.



My only stone trough, featuring Aquilegia flabellata 'Nana'

Aquilegia flabellata 'Nana'
This was growing in one of our local botanical gardens--not sure which: you need to label where slides were photographed, Panayoti! Remember that!

Aquilegia flabellata 'Nana' closeup--in my garden this spring

Aquilegia fragrans
In my garden last year or the year before. Love this Himalayan--and it is fragrant indeed!

Aquilegia glandulosa
The "other" best lbigger columbine. Photographed in the Kazakhstan Altai in 2009.

Aquilegia glandulosa taken a year and several months later on a different pass in Kazakhstan.

Aquilegia jonesii
Queen of the dwarfs. Taken in the Bighorns two years ago. I got even better pictures this year but they're on another computer. Sorry!

Aquilegia laramiensis
Probably our rarest columbine--at least in the Rockies. And an especially nice one that blooms a long time and usually breeds true from seed--even with other columbines around. Introduced to cultivation by a Mathematics Professor from Ithaca New York some 70 years ago, it died out of cultivation and Jim and Jenny Archibald (and independently Gwen and myself) re-collected it in 1987: it has remained in cultivation ever since. A mountain lion walked around our tent the night before we collected the seed--our three month old daughter slept through it, but I heard the breathing and found the tracks the next morning...

Aquilegia ottonis ssp. amaliae being photographed by Lefteri (Liberto) Dariotis (Dario) on the Thessalian Olympus
There are some days you want preserved forever in a glass ball or indelible print. In my case it's a few weeks...

Aquilegia ottonis ssp. amaliae

What Lefteri was photographing: thank Heavens for telephoto lenses!

Aquilegia ottonis ssp. amaliae
One last shot

Aquilegia saximontana on Pikes Peak
Another picture taken on the trip with the Ratzeputz gang...


Aquilegia scopulorum at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail

Aquilegia scopulorum in my garden many years ago.

Aquilegia sibirica
Taken in June, 2009 on the Austrian Road, Kazakhstan Altai.

Aquilegia sibirica

Aquilegia hybrids
The Bush garden in Louisville, Kentucky was full of wonderful hybrid columbines--the hybrids are often well worth growing, longer lived and just as lovely as the species...


Another Bush garden columbine--love this near white...

Aquilegia saximontana x flabellata
And my own little hybrid to end the show: alas, it died weeks after it finished blooming. But it lives again in cyberspace!