Showing posts with label Alpine Plants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alpine Plants. Show all posts

May 3, 2011

A visit with NARGS member Peter George and his amazing rock garden

Adonis vernalis in bloom in a tufa bed in the rock garden of Peter George, a collector of rare alpine plants who gardens in the quaint New England village of Petersham. ( I know, I usually show my Adonis vernalis, since Peter and I bought out plants together, but mine disappeared this year).

Members of the New England Primula Society tour the Petersham, MA garden of Peter George, an esteemed member of the North American Rock Garden Society. It was a perfect spring day here in New England, with a brilliant blue sky, and warm temperatures. Oriole's, tweeting migrating Warbler's, chirping Robins and Wrens sang while clouds of black flies swarmed around us.

Saxifrages come in many sizes and forms, and I knew that Peter George had many, after all, we fought over many plants at the Oregon NARGS meeting two years ago. I would venture to say that Peter has ten times as many Saxifrages as I do.

A birds eye Primrose, or a farinose primula sits in a sunbeam safe between giant rocks.
Anemonella thalictroides 'Schoaf's Double', a precious woodland Anemone that lasts only a few days in a New England spring garden making it one of our most lovely spring ephemerals.

A lone Saxifrage nestled safely between boulders.
A pine? Nope. This is a peony. Paeonia tenuifolia, a highly treasured rock garden peony that makes a stunning specimen plant once established.

This yellow dwarf Iris is no taller than 8 inches, it blooms in front of Peters Barn which was built in the 1800's.

One of Peter's passions is Eriogonum, or the flowering Buckwheats. I have yet to try them, but after seeing his collection of the alpine plants, I now think that I might try some. Perfect for a dry location in full sun.

March 28, 2011

Sax in the City part 2

Saxifrages, the high alpine encrusted ones found on the worlds highest mountain peaks are addictive, and I love to grow many that are planted in limestone rock and tufa rock, and all in alpine troughs that are planted all over our garden. The silver Saxifrage is a noble alpine plant, a true alpine that is one of those plants known as a 'bun'. The hard, dense, limestone encrusted rosettes that can survive the roughest mountain goat hoove and glacier like snow. This past winter had our troughs under a glacier of thier own ( see pics from January), and now that the snow has melted, they are none for the worse. Soon, they will bloom and be covered in bright delicate blossoms.

 There are many named selections of Silver Sax's as well as many species but they are not easy to find. One must either mail order them from a handful of alpine plant nurseries ( mine are from Wrightman Alpines) or, one can start them from cuttings that you can take from a friends' plant. I plant my cutting in holes that are drilled into Tufa rock, a limestone rock which is porous, and also hard to find, but worth searching for at alpine nurseries, for it is the only rock that these planted will grow in. You might try these alpined in soil or a gravelly mix, but between you and me, there is really only one way to grow the giant specimens like these, and that is to root your own plants directly into Tufa rock. Once established, they are rather care free.
A silver saxifraga growing in a trough. I still need to clean up the troughs, use tweezers to remove pine and spruce needles, and then spread a new layer of granite chips, but beyond that, there is little care.

These tiny rosettes are smaller than a blueberry, but en masse, they form an dense bun that will be covered in flowers in a few weeks. The Saxifrages sold by Harvey Wrightman are all grown in little tufa rocks, so even if you can't find some, he can sell you one via the mail, that you can pop right into a trough. Even better, try one of his alpine rocks, where three or more plants are planted in a much larger rock.

Not a saxifrage, this is tight bun that also grows at high elevations. Arenaria tetraquetra ssp. granatensis is another 'bun' plant that is a bit more challenging to grow but one that is easier when grown in rocky troughs or in crevice gardens. It looked completely dead a few weeks ago, and I almost yanked it, but upon closer inspection, you can see it starting to green up. Yay.
(For a good laugh, check out this video of a kid planting his own trough at 6 years old, after watching J. Halda plant one) here.

Speaking of alpine meadows, this Pulsatilla or Pasque Flower is a favorite floral image often seen on alpine plant calendars and placemats at pancake houses. Since it is nearly Easter, I thought that I should share what it looks like as it emerges - like a baby chick, all fuzzy and safe in its 'nest' of old foliage from last year. If you don't know this plant, you will once you see it in bloom, but sometimes it nice to see what it looks like before the money shot. If you are going to try alpines, start with this one, they are easy, and they become larger every year, just like a Hellebore does. This is a plant where the seed pod is a nice as the flower is, but even the emerging bud is interesting.

February 28, 2011

Rhodohypoxis- the Lemming of the Plant World

What this on your deck or terrace? Follow these directions on how to grow one of the least known and most showy of South African bulbs.

Rodohypoxis baurii corms ( the extras) are planted out in flats for new containers to place around the garden. Most are being potted up in fiberglass ornamental window boxes, so that I can use them to edge the deck, or place on railings while they are in bloom.

You may not me familiar with Rhodohypoxis, but this is perhaps the most asked about plant in my collection, for whenever anyone visits in the spring, they are bowled over by the display factor that these plants have. I find them very easy to grow, for they spread like crazy with one corm dividing into dozens within a year. They are not hardy in Zone 5, so I simply bring the pots into the greenhouse for the winter, where they go dry and dormant, and kept cold. You could easily bring your pots into a cellar, or cool garage for the winter. They are about the easiest South African Bulb to grow, and the easily put on a spectacular show ( which is something I can say about few rare bulbs).
Rhodohypoxis corms are planted in window boxes that I bought at Target. Every year I repot them, and now I gave 6 boxes full. They also grow well in large bonsai pots. These plants will emerge shortly, with foliage that looks fuzzy grass, and indeed, the foliage looks like a neat lawn, growing thick and lush, and no taller than 5 inches. Flowers emerge a few weeks later in such abundance that they practically hide this grassy foliage, staying in bloom for about a month. After that, the boxes will just look like Rye grass, but with a neat, lush look, growing so thick that They will look like those stylish boxes of ornamental grass one sees at boutique hotels ( the more contemporary the container, the better! - A box maybe?)

I spent the early part of this weekend dividing the many flats and containers I have of Rhodohypoxis baurii, an easy-to-grow tiny South African Bulb ( corm)  which blooms in the late spring, but which remains in growth all summer long, going dormant in the autumn where the pots all spend the winter cold and rather dry, under a bench in the cold greenhouse. In a few weeks, they will start blooming and the show will begin once again.

Theya re hard to find, but I did see that McClure and Zimmerman has some this year, and remember, all you need is one, since they will spread!

If you don't believe me, when I say these bulbs are worth tracking down ( they are hard to find!), check out these photos from my garden last year.