Saturday, September 28, 2013

Colorado Alpine Wildflowers -- Tiny yet Tenacious

Hiking through high mountain paths in Eagle and Summit  Counties in late summer is sublime. 

The clear blue Colorado sky overhead, brilliant sun and moderate temperatures are heavenly.

Gracing the edges of the trail,  droves of petite yet powerful wildflower blooms provide bursts of color sharpened by the clear air, bright gamma rays and cool night temps. 

The season is short but transcendent. 

Bill comments that one can only take so much beauty.  Soon we both run out of original descriptive superlatives and settle in for the climb.

It's the tiny growth contrasted against expansive views that makes one truly appreciate this awe-inspiring part of the world--and this country--for preserving these minute and vast  national treasures.

Many of the blossoms appear as garden perennials in other zones, but those which occur au naturelle in the alpine tundra are exceptional.

Mountain Aster

Take, for example, the mountain aster.  In the cultivated garden, Asters take a back seat to the showy mums.  But those "hardy" mums don't climb the mountain peaks.

In the wild the aster's delicate notched petals stand out softly along paths and bubbling streams.  They're everywhere underfoot, in shades of pale violet to yellow.

When hiking, pack in water--for the humans, not the plants.  Cellphones rarely work, except to photograph the vibrant spiky blooms of the fireweed (chamerenum augustifolium)    Not found in most cultivated yards, the fireweed is a hardy spreader that opens with a pyramid of pink blooms and closes with bristly red spikes. 

Fringed gentian (gentianopsis thermalis) and purple monkshood (aconitum columbianum) add deep blue violet hues to the landscape, reflecting the brilliant sky and standing out on the dusty trail.

Fringed Gentian


Western Paintbrush
The perennial favorite's the most diminutive--the tiny white star-shaped Edelweiss.  Barely visible underfoot, it's worth leaning down to take a look. Hum a few bars.

For a warmer tone, get nose to petal with the gentle yellow Western Paintbrush (Castilleja Occidentalis)

It takes a long spell for these miniatures to propagate and bloom. Extended winters, freezing temperatures and high winds make for a limited growing season. 

One bootprint can crush tiny petals, so stay the course.

Happy trails!

More Articles of Interest:

Rockery and Roll -- Xeriscape Gardening

Eat This Not That -- Toxic Plants for Dogs and Humans

Frogs on the Windowsill


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Begonias Are The New Impatiens

Impatiens blight disease toppled a mini garden cartel.

No one's king forever.  Brown is the new black--until it's replaced by navy.  Fifty is the new thirty.

Begonias are the best replacement for Impatiens in 2017
So they say . . .

Begonias are the new impatiens.

In 2013 most retail nurseries chose not to market impatiens for fear of spreading the infestation.

The great impatiens blight of 2013 sparked concern amongst gardeners like no predecessor crisis.  Impatiens, the top annual bedding plant sold in nearly every commercial nursery became plantate non grata in almost every yard due to the insidious disease known as downy mildew.

Infectious impatiens blight produces a powdery mold not detected on fresh blooms.  The blight wiped out droves of these hearty mainstays, then cheekily lingered in the soil through winter only to reinfect the next crop.

The wringing of garden gloves was accompanied by widespread worry that the shade garden, where vibrant impatiens thrived, would never be quite the colorful same.  Well, they were.

Begonias may be more limited in colors, favoring scarlets, reds, pinks and whites, but their sultry leaves make for interesting textural contrast to more familiar shade garden regulars such as hosta, astilbe,  hydrangea and cranesbill

Begonias in bygone times took a backseat to multi-hued impatiens, yet these natives of the southern hemisphere showed their mettle this year.  Granted, the atmospherics were favorable--lots of precipitation and mild temperatures. Begonia thrived filling out nicely, in rounded masses, mindful of perhaps?--impatiens? 

Everyone cheers when the underdog succeeds.

2013 was clearly the year of the begonia!


More articles of interest:

Bye Bye Bizzie Lizzies -- What to Plant Instead of Impatiens

Vintage Gardens -- Spider Plants and Fancy Pants