Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Himalayan gem: Bergenia stracheyi

If I had to pick one bergenia, this lofty Himalayan would be it. Of course, it helps that I saw it by the mile throughout the Pakistan Himalayan on my fateful visit (we flew into Pakistan on 9-11-2001). This and Polygonum (or is it Persicaria?) affine were the only two plants that seemed to thrive above treeline: both making immense carpets of colorful foliage in autumn. The grazing pressure was unbelievable, and I suspect these two plants were unpalatable to the myriad goats and sheep.

It would have been fun to see these in bloom--probably in May or June: something I am not apt to do in nature, I'm afraid...but that's why we have gardens!

Speaking of gardens,here Bergenia stracheyi is coloring up nicely in my own rock garden at home.

And here is a particularly robust individual at Denver Botanic Gardens. I admired this in Eric Hilton's Bristol garden in 1981, and when he visited a few years later he brought a rosette with him as a present--which mas much proliferated over the decades! He grew a white form...

Here is the clump in Eric's garden (I scanned the transparency I took 34 years ago)...This clone is half the size or less of most garden Bergenia: much better in rock gardens because of this!

And here's the clump in my home garden--the flowers take on a pink blush as they age.

I took this picture at the wonderful scree garden at Savill gardens, also in 1981- undoubtedly the same clone.

For years it grew with uncommon vigor in the Rock Alpine Garden in Denver--it's slowed down a bit perhaps since I took this picture some twenty years ago...which is why we take pictures after all!

The same colony a few weeks later, as the flowers take on blush tints. Just looking at this gives me a great nostalgia for high spring, for the Himalaya, for the wonderful way that plants and rocks combine in rock gardens! The first real snowstorm of the winter is predicted tonight--but this could nevertheless be poking up its first flowers in four months! A small eternity of winter when there's time to dream and reminisce!

Friday, November 6, 2015

The deciduous pigsqueak: Bergenia ciliata

Bergenia ciliata in the Rock Alpine Garden
 I'm not sure that these little piggies would squeak: the ones responsible for the common name are the glossy East Asian sorts like cordifolia, delavayi, crassifolia--which are much more commonly grown in gardens than this furry little waif. Rub their leaves and you'll see why they got the dreadful name. Tonight the temperature in Denver is expected to drop to 23F--so I expect the foliage of the plantings we have of this species will be black and gray in the next day or two. We peel the wizened leaves off over the course of the winter--and at Chionodoxa time (vide above) what could be more enchanting than these wonderful nosegays?

Here's a closer look at the one from Denver...

And a look at the colony from another angle. It's amazing that Bergenia--so widely grown throughout Western Europe and the coastal areas of the US--has never gotten a better common name than

 Here's a picture when the colony was especially lush and happy one spring...I was pretty smug about it and thought we'd achieved something pretty cool.

 Here are the fabulous leaves, touched with the first frost (the black smudge on the leaves)...it would be nice if it were evergreen, of course. But it's not. The gigantic fuzzy leaves are worth it nevertheless.

 And then we visited the Copenhagen botanic garden in early May of 2013: it had been a very late season, and the Bergenia was at its peak--here closeup (rather like our's)...

Here you can see the enormous trunks it formed over the decades--almost like a prostrate tree...

The magnificent extent of the colony was breathtaking! A real spectacle on the steep slope around the side of the Conservatory near the entrance: I can imagine the thousands of people who are dazzled by this every year! I couldn't believe this is what our measly little clumps would do one day!

Here is the same slope photographed late last June when I was lucky enough to spend four days in Copenhagen at the botanic garden and the Herbarium doing research for my trip to Greece and Turkey. The plush leaves were unbelievably big and lusty! Yeee HAW!

View of the same patch from another angle...

Closer view of the clump--0with withered remains of flower stems

I remember the first time I saw the plant was at Hidcote Manor in Gloustershire in England--growing along a path: I think this is a different form with much glossier leaves. Scan of a transparency taken in 1981--nearly 35 years ago! This is a passion that's persisted!

Another shot of the Hidcote plant--quite fetching. It would be fun to see this growing alongside the form we grow and the one from Copenhagen for comparison....

 And here is another slightly different form from RBG Kew likewise taken in 1981.

The species comes from the foothills of the Himalaya--and not at the highest elevations at that. Which may explain the deciduous habit? I wonder how many times it's been collected there, and what other sort of variation might exist in gardens today. All I know that deciduous or note, it's a plant I would not to be without!

I wonder if I'll ever be lucky enough to ever go to its wild haunts: I would love to append some pictures of it in nature...instead, my next blog will feature a fabulous Bergenia I HAVE seen and photographed above treeline in the Himalaya--possibly the hardiest and most vigorous of all...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The roses of Denmark

I know these aren't roses: encouintered on the WAY to the rose garden

Before I showed the perennial garden--this is the rose garden portion of the King's Garden

Once again, I think the garden speaks for itself: not many comments from me are needed.

Rosa 'Fellowship' (Floribunda) Harkness 1992

Rosa 'Ashram' (Hybrid Tea) 1998

Another small border

The Castle near the rose garden

Fabulous rose-draped gazebo: don't you love the petals on the ground?

I love seeing the gardener's carts...

There were wonderful climbing roses all over Copenhagen--here are just a taste..