Michaux and Michauxia

Most keen botanist are familiar with the late French botanist, Andre’ Michaux (1746-1802). Michaux was a pioneer in botanizing North America, but how many people have actually grown the plant genus named in his honor. Michauxia is a genus of seven species, sister to campanulas, that hail from the Mediterranean though much of the Middle-East. We are fortunate to have his namesake, Michauxia campanuloides in flower this week for the first time, where it is thriving in the crevice garden.

A Rainbow of crazy cactus colors

Here are a couple more cactus hybrids flowering in the gardens of JLBG, both created by our volunteer cactus/succulent curator, Vince Schneider. The first is a Trichocereus cross, the parents of which were created by a former volunteer, Mike Papay. Vince crossed two of Mike’s selections to come up with the gem. My camera had trouble since I don’t think this color is supposed to exist in nature.

Trichocereus ‘Big Time’ x Irridescent Watermelon’

The second is Vince’s cross of Echinocereus dasycanthus x ctenoides…an amazing blend of colors. We can’t imagine anyone with a dry sun garden that isn’t growing these amazing plants.

Echinocereus [dasyacanthus Cornudas Mts, NM x ctenoides (SB1536 form)

Obscure and Ambiguous

To identify plants that are new to us, we start with the time-tested step of determining how close plants look to relatives we already know. This comes first, before we dive into floral dissection, etc. In most cases, we can get pretty close to a correct id, since we’ve grown and seen such a large number of plants. Two plants that threw us completely off the trail when we first saw them, are flowering now in the crevice garden here at JLBG.

The first, below, is Digitalis obscura, the Spanish Foxglove. I’d have lost big had I wagered on its identity when I first saw this, since I would have bet the farm that it was a penstemon, since the flowers and foliage share such an amazing resemblance to that genus. It’s taken us years to find a spot well-drained enough for this to survive in our rainy, humid, climate, but the wait was worth it.

Digitalis obscura

The second plant that doesn’t seem to fit its genus is also flowering now in the crevice garden…Penstemon ambiguous. This Southwest/Great Basin native, known as sand beardtongue, looks nothing like other members of the penstemon family, which are usually easily recognizable at first glance. Instead, it could easily be mistaken for a phlox. This is our third year for this gem, so perhaps this may appear in our nursery offerings one day.

Penstemon ambiguous

Little ledebouria

Most people are in too much of a hurry when they visit gardens and subsequently miss so many of the tiny gems in the garden. Here our clump of the South African native Ledebouria inquinata that was in full flower in the crevice garden during our recent spring open house. I wonder how many people actually walked slow enough to notice this tiny gem and its massive floral show. How about a “slow gardening” movement?

Hot as Ice

Here are more delospermas (ice plants) looking great at JLBG this week. The first two are the most moisture tolerant, Delosperma cooperi (purple), and Delosperma ‘Kelaidis’ (peach). At the bottom is Delosperma sutherlandii, which is a species that we’ve never been able to keep alive in our wet summers prior to building the crevice garden.

Delosperma cooperi (purple), Delosperma ‘Kelaidis’ (peach)
Delosperma sutherlandii

Rockin’ Rose

We’ve tried for years to grow Helianthemum, the European native rock rose, which is highly prized by rock gardeners. Over the last 35 years, we’ve failed miserably…until we built our crevice garden. Here, it is currently, thriving in our soil mix of 50% Permatill (popped slate).

Helianthemum ‘Belgravia Rose’

Staring at Ostara

Allium ‘Ostara’ is a new bulbous ornamental onion from a cross of the lovely, but difficult to grow (in the southeast US) Allium karataviense and Allium atropurpureum. We’re growing this in our crevice garden, which is working well…so far. We’re hoping the genes from Allium atropurpureum will make this more growable.

Allium ‘Ostara’

Ice Red

Looking truly superb this spring is the South African ice plant, Delosperma dyeri in the crevice garden. We can’t grow this in typical soil due to our high rainfall, but in our crevice garden where gravel is the main planting media, it performs like a champ.

Delosperma dyeri

Rock Garden Daphnes

While daphnes have a reputation for being tough to grow, many are actually quite easy if given proper siting. My life with daphnes changed significantly after my 2010 botanical expedition to Crete. I was shocked to find daphnes growing in full baking sun in bone dry regions among large rocks. Before then, I had obviously taken far too good care of my daphnes. Once we constructed the crevice gardens at JLBG, we replaced all the daphnes we’d killed in “better” garden locations. Here’s the Cretan native Daphne sericea in full flower.

And the pricks are off…

Yes, cactus flowering season has begun at JLBG with our two earliest specimens. Both Notocactus hasselbergii from Argentina and Pediocactus simpsonii from the Western US are the first two to bloom each season. We should have an incredible cactus flowering this year, which should still be in full swing for our spring Open Nursery and Garden days.

Notocactus hasselbergii