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 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 center, they grow practically every twig themselves from seed or cutting.

Teucrium cossonii
It was this mpressive 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 in 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!

Friday, September 5, 2014

A rock garden in the Southeast



Yes, Virginia, they do rock garden in the South. Everyone knows you can have a gorgeous rock garden in the colder zones--USDA Zone five and warmer. But rock gtardens in the south? Surely not! Well...I was fortunate enough to visit one in Asheville, North Carolina in late August this year--hardly the peak season for bloom. but this garden epitomized the qualities we admire in rock gardens everywhere: harmonious rock work, lovely plantings and terrific views. Come stroll with me through a few pictures and see if you don't agree!


Plant choices obviously matter in the warmer areas: here they used lots of Delosperma--although I'm not sure which clones...still blooming in late summer.


The garden is quite young, so the cushions and buns are still compact--I expect they will grow quickly in the salubrious climate of Asheville.


I like the contrast of the foliagte against the mulch in these pictures--they've done a  good job of matching mulch to stone (not always easy)...

Allium senescens v. glaucum
This onion seems to thrive in almost anyh climate, and looks and stands out best on a rock garden


Tje designers did an especially good job of incorporating dwarf conifers: the contrast of foliage colors in this shot is especially pleasing: gold, blue and green...

Annie Higgins
Annie coordinated the construction of this project: part of the amazing team at B.B. Barns Landscaping (a wing of the premier local Garden Center--which I visited--worth its own Blog!). Annie was also one of the very helpful and friendly hosts of the conference--"Speaking of Gardening" the brought me to Asheville. Southern hospitality is alive and well: balm for a weathered traveler. Any project this team takes on is apt to succeed beyond expectation.

On the left, graccious owner Lana Burns. At right, Sieglinde Anderson, Landscape architect

Can you tell they were proud to show off their combined handiwork? Few things delight more than an imaginative Landscape Architect working alongside a committed and interested homeowner, producing something special. In addition to being an L.A., Sieglinde is a keen rock gardener--and was manifestly delighted to re-create a bit of her native Alps in North Carolina!


Unlike perennial borders, which tend to be rather two dimensional, rock gardens are holographic in their design: mind you this is a good sized rock garden, but just look how different it appears from different angles.


Everything: dwarf conifers, succulents, hostas--all seemed to be growing happily and looking good.


I wish I'd made note of this hosta--it's blooming its bloody head off. And probably one of Dan Heim's amazing Heucheras...these both adapt to many climates in North America.

Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra'
I'm glad they've not succumb to the hysteria over blood grass: we have never had issues with it in Colorado--and it looks pretty restrained here. And what other grass glows with that red fury: the white Hydrangea in the distance doesn't hurt as a contrast...


As I walked around, I caught a glimpse of the side yard--which looks delightful as well---with an especially fine wall...


Had to take a closer look! Love that Dryopteris luxuriating at front center.


A fine combo of happy woodlanders on the wall opposite. Plant choices throughout were unsual and all happily situated.


I love the way the Corydalis and violet are nestled against the rock, and notice the complement of rock mulch: the Japanese would consider this garden as possessing "shibui": simple, artful elegance.

Another wonderful glimpse of an Autumn fern--one of my favorites, unfortunately not always a good performer in our slightly colder, drier air.

It's hard to beat our native bleeding hearts for long bloom, and just plain excellence in flower and foliage over the long season.


It's always a treat to find one's Godchildren scattered here and about: I never dreamed when I collected the seed of 'Gold Nugget' in Lesotho twenty years ago that one day i'd find it in North Carolina!

There's an almost Japanese quality to this garden--very restful despite the variety of plants within it. This airy mint seems to thrive everywhere. I love the starry mint in the foreground (whose name I've forgotten, although I've grown it for decades: let's see if I have any sharp readers...)

Campanula betulifolia

Pleased to see one of my favorite campanulas. Come to think of it, almost everything in the genus is a favorite. Ev Whittemore, who lives not too far from this garden, claims Campanulas don't like the Asheville area (let's hope this plant didn't hear her).

Liatris microcephala

I doubt if our Great Plains Liatris punctata would like North Carolina--but they have their own Midwestern Liatris that is just as compact. There seems to be an ecotype for every garden.


A wonderful, late-blooming geranium. Forgot to see what the name was...(although I have a sneaking suspicion it could be the all-star 'Rozanne')...


A particularly nice use of this wonderful Oriental grass along the path...(yes, I know it's Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'...I may be from the steppes but I'm not a complete nimnut).


I was surprised to see the Spigelia still in flower: I love this plant (and finally seem to have it growing well)...[amazing what one can adapt to completely inappropriate places you must be thinking].



Closer view of our amazing native plant one never sees enough. I just remembered I first saw this in the wild in South Carolina--not far from Asheville in June of 1983 on a field trip with Fred Case during the NARGS 50th Anniversary meeting. Time flies when you're a rock gardener.


Seeing this picture reminded me that my own golden Aralia didn't survive this past winter. Oh well..I rather like the subtle sculpture. I fear that it's easy to have the sculpture overwhelm a garden--ask me how I know!



The garden is built on a hill with monumental white oaks (just about my favorite tree). There were a half dozen in the vicinity of the back yard. This one in the distance is in a neighbor's yard.


Here's a closer up view of another behemoth oak. What I would give to have a monster like this in one of MY neighbor's gardens (although perhaps not mine...)


A simple false stream bed at the bottom of the last yard runs its merry way down to her very own giant white oak (Lana's garden is big enough to accommodate it). Even this simple scene pleases.


Did I mention that the front garden faces a vast field full of Eupatorium, Vernonia, all manner of Solidago and asters (none of which I captured close up this time around--sorry! You'll just have to believe me), and oh yes, MOUNTAINS!


This towering white pine was in a neighbor's garden across the way--one hears of "'stolen vistas", but here I think she stole a whole tree: this reveals the power these gardens possess:  half vista, half vignette and a whole lot of variety and verve mixed in!