Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rocky Mountain High-Boreas Pass

Helianthella quinquenervis and Zigadenus elegans

Calochortus gunisonii with blue butterfy

Helianthella quinquenervis backed by Veratrum tenuipetalum

Delphinium barbeyi

Geranium richardsonii

Cirsium scariosum ssp coloradoense

Linium perenne and Potentilla sp

Pyrrocoma crocea

Calochortus gunisonii

Boreas Pass must be one of those exquisite places where heaven and earth meet.  I rarely have been in such a stunning field of flowers, at least in this country.  Marcia and Randy brought me here, and it was another major highlight of my trip--so many flowers filled this subalpine meadow.  The vegetation was very different from the alpine vegetation on Horseshoe, this was basically a vast field of flowers with forest elements not far away.  Calochortus gunisonii was in spendid abundance, protected from the native rodents by growing in thick grass thatch. which makes it harder for them to get at the bulbs.  It was the major reason for our visit, but there were so many other floral treasures to see too. Helianthella quinquenervis is a nodding sunflower cousin that also is abundant in this area, the nodding flowers probably shelter its pollen from rainstorms, or else must be some strange adaptation to enhance pollination in some way. Pyrrocoma crocea was another (of many) yellow daisy species,  but it bore masses of upfacing flowers from a rosettes of straplike foliage. The toxic Zigadenus elegans is abundant here too, with white spikes of small flowers poking up between more showy flowered plants.  Delphinium barbeyi is a fairly robust plant that forms noticible clumps here and there.  Its blue flowers can be mistaken for Aconitum columbianum from a distance, the latter occurs here too.  Geranium richardsonii has finely veined white flowers and is frequently found as single plants interspersed among the mosaic of other flowers and grasses. Cirsium scopularium ssp coloradoense appears here and there with white flowers on a plant that probably is a biennial or short lived perennial.  Bright blue flax flowers(Linium perenne) stud wispy branches that reach not far above the numerous anthills among the grasses--ants must be a major ecological factor in this area, there were so many of them. A particularly majestic stand of Veratrum tenuipetalum grew in a low damp area, when massed together they were quite striking.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rocky Mountain High-Loveland Pass

Loveland Pass View
Randy and Marcia Tatroe
Me at the sign

Penstemon whippleanus, purple and white forms

P. whippleanus and Castilleja minata
Sedum lanceolatum

Castilleja miniata and Juncus sp
Viola adunca
I had the pleasure of travelling for a day with Randy and Marcia Tatroe, very good friends of Panayoti who are likewise well known in horticultural circles in the Denver area.  They often go hiking in the mountains, and definitely knew the coolest places to go.  Marcia's book, Cutting Edge Gardening in the Intermountain West, is a great read.  I highly recommend it for anyone planning to garden in the region, especially for transplants used to gardening in gentler climates (Colorado IS different......).
One of our stops that day was Loveland Pass, where a well built road leads one right to the top of the pass.  While the flowers were generally not as in their prime as they were at Horseshoe, there were still many nice thing to see.  In this locality one can find different color forms of Penstemon whippleanus, perhaps best known in its darkish purple form, but here alba forms grow along with intermediate purples as well.   Castillejas were abundant, I am tentatively calling what I saw C. miniata, but the different species are hard to tell apart, and some hybridize.  At Loveland they came in various shades of pink and red, and were still looking quite nice.  Perhaps the best specimens of Sedum lanceolatum, a species found wherever I went in the local mountains, were to be seen here.  Its brillant yellow flowers make it quite noticible among other low growing vegetation.  Unlike Sedum acre, which it reminded me of, it clumps but does not run, so I imagine that it would be a far better behaved plant in suitable gardens. A sedge of some sort, perhaps a species of Juncus, is noticibly attractive with dark brown flower heads--it also is seen in various permutations throughout the Colorado mountains.  Finally we came across a colony of Viola adunca, which I have grown before in containers back east, though I no longer have it, I do recall it being easy to grow.