Wednesday, September 17, 2014

North Carolina Arboretum (Part one): Bonsai Garden



Gates open, come on in!
  • It's hard to believe it was less than a month ago I spent a few magical days in the Asheville area of North Carolina. I shared a visit to a private rock garden there with you a few posts ago, but there was much more of interest in the area. I first visited Asheville 30 years ago: the transformation of the region is almost shocking: fortunately, much of it is rather tastefully done (we can ignore the inevitable strip malls that mar so much of the American landscape)...

I knew there was a "North Carolina Arboretum" because one of my heroes and mentors, John Creech, retired in that area to help get it off its feet: when John died, I feared for the worst. Although it's apparent that the glory years of the beginning (when John was working alongside Richard Bir and Allen Bush) have perhaps passed, the staff there now is maintaining what was created with skill and a lot of effort: it's a huge site hundreds of acres in extent, (although much of it is kept as pristine woodland). The developed areas are nevertheless extensive and demanding.

None more so, of course, than the Bonsai. I was stunned at the quantity of bonsai, the drama of the garden setting. No cost was spared in building it. I know just enough to be dangerous. I took a spate of pictures, thinking of Larry Jackel, my colleague in charge of bonsai at Denver bonsai collection: then I thought, " who doesn't like bonsai?: We shall find out I fear.


The Bonsai garden is built on a hill, and consequently has many levels and niches for plantings of all kinds throughout: it makes it mysterious and intriguing to walk through.


Lots of wordy interpretation--the sort that bothers the generic marketeers (the ones who think everything should be aimed at mentally challenged two year olds with A.D.D.). I confess, I don't read everything, but glad it's there for those who do (like my girlfriend)...


You are kept a respectful distance from the gems. I love the gray backdrop.


Swiss Mountain pine on the left and a Mission Olive on the right (there are benefits to photographing with 10 mg resolution).


A closeup of the Swiss Mountain Pine.


This is a Trident Maple (Acer buegerianum)


A Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis)


A wonderful combo of Juniperus x Shimpaku and Rhododendron kiusianum: it would be wonderful to see this when the azalea was in bloom!



Delightful islands interrupt the pavement. There's way to much pavement on this planet.


A hydrangea lurking in the corner makes for a nice palette cleanser.


As I said, the garden is on a slope, with much architectural interest and variety.


More bonsai!


Another cloud-pruned Shimpaku juniper.


Miniature Japanese gardens are tucked here and there..


The variety of bonsai and the clever ways they are displayed was delightful.


One could spend a long time contemplating these gems.


Here is an amazing miniature elm.


A mass planting of Allen P. McDonnell Hosta also breaks the rhythm of just little trees.


And extravaganza with American Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), Rhododendron 'Chinzan' and a bluett underplanting (Hedyotis michauxii)


Another mini garden with groundcovering juniper.


And one last gallery of bonsai...

A closeup of the plaque in the first image I started with. Not everyone has the patience or talent to create bonsai, but I think it would take a very stingy or narrow minded person not to appreciate the enormous effort and vision it takes to create such perfect specimens. I applaud the artists who did, and the botanic garden that shows them off so beautifully.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chelsea: a Colorado Native Plant nursery



Tony Urschitz and Stacey Stecher: proud owners of Chelsea Nursery
Native plant nurseries are a dime a dozen in California, say, or in the Eastern United States: they are rare as hens' teeth in Colorado. Right now, the only retail/wholesale native plant nursery I can think of in my native state is Chelsea Nursery, in Clifton, Colorado. I have been fortunate to have known Tony Urschitz and Stacey Stecher for a very long time (I don't think they want to divulge the number of decades either). I doubt that you will find a nursery of any kind with a higher level of excellence when it comes to growing and maintaining their plants. Their prices (frankly) are on the very low side, but their unflagging enthusiasm, superb plantsmanship and meticulousness is off the charts. I visit Chelsea every time I'm in the Grand Valley--and you should too! It will lighten your pocket book, I can guarantee you, but it will enrich your garden and your life!


Not a bad backdrop for a native plant nursery! That's Mt. Garfield towering over them.


A picture I took two years ago when I visited: Cylindropuntia viridiflora (left) and C. whipplei (right) were in full bloom then!
I had to include a picture or two from a few years ago to show the many cacti they grow in bloom.


The nursery is really quite large--and unlike so many garden centers, they grow practically every twig themselves from seed or cutting.

Teucrium cossonii
It was this impressive to see a nice block of this fabulous and rarely seen endemic of the Balearic Islands of Spain. I don't know if you could find it for sale in all of Denver this year.

Grusonia clavata
Not just any old form of this wonderful white sheathed cactus--the GIANT form...ridiculously cheap.


A wonderful variety of plants--herbaceous, woody, succulent, shrubs and even trees!


The cacti are to DIE for...


You can probably tell that I'm a succulent fancier...


A nice block of Blonde Ambition blue gramma grass. They have a great assortment of Plant Select--particularly the native plants in that program.

Penstemon alamosensis
One of the rarest and most desirable penstemons...

Aloinopsis spathulata
One does not often see this Mesemb in nurseries, and never in such huge pots!

Psilostrophe bakeri

The wonderful endemic paperflower of the Grand Valley: this should be in Plant Select! (Did you hear that Pat?)

Silene petersonii
A rare endemic Catchfly from the Wasatch Range. One of these hitch-hiked home with me!

Chilopsis linearis
I was sorely tempted to buy one of these-.-NEXT spring

Eriogonum corymbosum
I never dreamed I'd see a hardy buckwheat  this size! They're the only nursery to sell these in gallons I know of (and only two nurseries I know if grow this at all).

Demonstration garden
They have a huge demo garden full of treasures.

Another view of the demonstration garden
The big yellow mounds are paper flower, and the white more buckwheat...


Can you tell I was smitten by the Eriogonum corymbosum.


Grusonia clavata
Get a load of the seedpods on this cactus!

Pediocactus simpsonii

Pediocactus simpsonii
Bear with me--these are champion Mountain ball cacti!
Pediocactus simpsonii
One bigger than the next...

Pediocactus simpsonii
Do contemplate this Leviathan for a moment: I was dumstruck (it's a foot across!)
Another glimpse of the demonstration garden

More sexy cacti

And of course no self-respecting Western garden can be without a skull
Or two.


The Grand Valley around Grand Junction is wonderful most any time of year. But in Peach season, it's the best. Drop on by and I'll share a good, slightly overripe Elberta with you!