Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Peers of Place, Hipsters of Hort

I gave two presentations at a large landscape conference and expo in my former home, the Denver metro area. Even better, I finally met and visited outdoor spaces with fellow designer, tweep, and Garden Design Roundtable member - Susan Cohan, who also presented twice. I was able to introduce her to Panayoti K! Meeting yet another designer, tweep, and GDRT member Jocelyn Chilvers and her husband was so nice, though their schedules didn't allow them to slack off much with us touristas!

Could it get better?

A day after our presentations, a warming trend took Denver from below 0F at night to highs headed for 60F+ by week's end. That capricious Denver just-wait-a-minute weather. It made for seeing gardens through others' eyes even more pleasant. Photos from 1/16-18/2013.
Susan (L) and Panayoti (R) and the award-winning DBG rock garden. Conifers,
moundy gray groundcovers, and small yuccas like this Y. harrimannae - oh my!

Warm and dry - a lower elevation, high desert version of a rock garden in this part. 

As usual, I fell behind them, looking at shady plants I hardly ever see. Bamboos, Monkey Grass / Liriope spp., and so on. A concentrated oasis, even in semi-arid Denver requiring regular irrigation.

I use Liriope in shady exposures in Abq, especially a larger cultivar of the name I forget, but I don't get many of those.

And this pebble paving, set in a mortar base. An architect I know in Abq, a true Zen-ophile, has noted the benefits of walking on this pattern barefooted. And in Denver, within a week one can, it seems. And then not. And then again. And over and over.

The texture against the Liriope is so nice.


But the Black Mondo Grass / Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' - really exotic to me. Perfect for shady areas, sheltered from their 5000' elevation sun - and the concentrated, regular-irrigation oasis part of a landscape. I thought mondo was USDA 7? Maybe not or this species is tougher, since DBG is just inside USDA 6a.

[JUST READ THAT THIS SPECIES IS RATED TOLERANT TO USDA Z 5-10, SUN TO SHADE - here]

I've used typical Mondo Grass / Ophiopogon japonicus in deep shade in Abq, where it's a tiny space and the fine texture pulls off what coarser Liriope cannot.

I also saw some similar-looking mondo grasses in sunny areas, too. Maybe they are more versatile than I would guess?
Whether the spots are from birds, bugs, dirt, or part of the foliage, they add to the look.
PK and Susan note a small maple native to the Mediterranean Basin - Montpellier Maple / 
Acer monpessulanum
. Not much on fall color according to PK, but tough to alkalinity,
drought and heat. I'll need to check this one out in other seasons, to gain a better idea
of it's value.

It's great to share visiting a garden with plants people, who are enamored with the
design and the bounty of plant forms, general to details.

I'll be posting more on this and my late summer visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens.

20 comments:

  1. It's funny, whenever I go to a Public Garden display or any other botanical venue, I am not only intrigued and interested on someone else's use and success of plants I have never attempt, but I'm also distracted by the hardscape elements. Like that stone pathway which looks like a creekbed.

    The San Diego Safari Park (former wild animal park in Escondido) has an interesting pathway along the Acacia forest walk. When they originally constructed it, they of course gave the concrete some earth tone dye colouration. But they went further. After laying the fresh conrete, they made numerous bunch grasses and other leaf impressions on the fresh concrete to resemble some trail pattern out in the African Savanna bush. It was very kool.

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    1. I agree on the hardscape - and there's nothing that can't be done in San Diego, without bad freeze-thaw. The leaf imprints are nice where I see that - once in a while in Abq, too. But that Japanese pebble walk...serene.

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  2. How fun to meet in person others that you have only know through the web. And it must have been so much fun to have been able to visit a garden with them and talk plant (and design)! Love that pebble paving! I can't imagine how many hours it took to place each of those pebbles like that. Black mondo grass just made my wish list. What a beauty!

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    1. Yes, so funny...even recognizing people from the way they stand at a distance from their photo is great. The pebble paving sounded laborious, but PK explained it to a visitor. Your area can really do mondo grass!

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  3. What a treat to tour DBG with PK and Susan! Love all the elements. Look forward to more and to seeing your appearance on CTG this week.

    I have been seeking black mondo for a while, may need to travel to Austin or order it online. My front yard is just the spot for it.

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    1. Yes - designistas and plantistas in one place. I'll have to finish my post and e-mail on that CTG appearance - probably hide comments!

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  4. There was a time when I would not have recognized one name in the garden world but now I recognize most of whom you speak-including yours!
    I have only ever visited the DBG in the summer so it is nice to see in her winter coat. The pathway I don't remember-woner if it is new or I was just otto busy looking at plants to notice.

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    1. Yes...it's great to now connect with so many interesting folks, even from far away, thanks to the Internet. We're all famous, or at least infamous! I forget when the path was constructed...I'll ask PK.

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  5. David! I just finished watching CTG and your appearance was fabulous. You appeared just as you write. Same teacher.....to the core! Loved "abstraction" ...also what you said about gravel....like a carpet....an important part....useful....and you kept it positive. Balance! :) I also learned a tremendous amount and enjoyed your segment on water and how it moves on the property - and how we have more than one region on our property.... levels! Loved it all.....sooooooooo goooooooood!

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    1. Thanks so much...and I made a post on that CTG episode in a couple days! What energy there, I couldn't help but to be nicer and mellower than I really am... The staff there is really something - world-class. It is always about working with what you can, but grabbing possibilities.

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  6. CTG? What am I missing out on? What pair to tour the DBG with! Lucky you.

    I don't know what I would do without Black Mondo Grass...it really is an indispensable plant in my garden.

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    1. CTG - Central Texas Gardener...next post will bring it all together, and you'll not miss out! Actually, if you and some more spiky plant aficionados were there, it could have been even better. Black Mondo Grass - same as your's in the PNW?

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    2. Yep so far as I can tell it's the same!

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    3. Looked it up...what a versatile plant. When they say "full sun", something in me wants to see if that means sun in Abq, Santa Fe, El Paso. Though not so bold as to try sun in Phx or Tucson...

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  7. A nice, intelligent post, David. I liked the black pebbles - like a river-bed - a tough spot to build a garden.

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    1. Thanks - I try. Working near that walk is not too tough (like a sidewalk), though putting up with Denver's wild climate is tough!

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  8. Mondo grass in zone five with some protection, I kept losing it in S/E Michigan, the constant freeze/thaws were too much for it. If you get a nice constant blanket of snow? It'll be fine.

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    1. Interesting insight - I think that makes sense in the colder areas. Denver is wild, but stays sunny and warm often in winter.

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  9. I love the pebble paving - great texture! I used to use large cobbles set like this to deter pedestrians. Set in corners and on bends in paths they tend to deter people walking on the edge of the grass - at least that's the theory!

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    1. That's an interesting technique - we sometimes use them in parking islands, though some people will do anything for a short-cut!

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