Along the mountain road

Along the mountain road
Somehow it tugs at my heart –
A wild violet.

A few highlights are warranted from our holiday. Were we could have been if not up the mountains, again? At high altitude, early July equals with a late May-June elsewhere and this made it for lots of flowers to be found. It was a good scouting expedition and lots to talk about during wintertime.

 Various violets were sprinkled everywhere from meadows to high altitude rock ledges.

Viola alpina

Viola alpina between Silene acaulis flowers

Alpine meadows were brimming with flowers; rainbows of colours marked by the towering yellow giant gentian: Gentiana lutea.

Gentiana lutea

Gentiana lutea

Groups of deep blue Gentiana verna acting like an eye-magnet from far away.

Gentiana verna

Gentiana verna

Geum reptans huge flowers scattered over the boulders.

Geum reptans

Geum reptans

A joyous riot of grasses that were intermingling with colourful perennials.


Veronica spicata between various grasses

Fiery red, fragrant mountain slopes covered with Rhododendron kotschyi (commonly called mountain peony) were a delight to all senses.

Rhododendron kotchyi

Rhododendron kotschyi

And last but not least, tiny, delicate, fringed bells of Soldanella pusilla. This says it all.

Soldanella pusilla

Soldanella pusilla

Now back to work, fruits are ripening and seeds are bursting out!


In praise of little plants I

Plants that did make sense to have in my small garden

A dwarf, big flowered blue columbine: Aquilegia discolor, most probably a cross (from Seedex as A. saximontana)

Aquilegia discolor (cross)

 Aquilegia discolor cross

True that if we would grow only ‘reasonable’ plants, our gardens would lack all spontaneity and wonder. But because I can now easily enjoy them in containers, and not worry about their relocation, I think a bit of praise is warranted.

On the other side of the container, a tiny hardy ginger: Roscoea tibetica (from Lost Horizons) – very precious, after the bad winter we had, who knows if I will get to see the other Roscoeas from the garden.

Roscoea tibetica

Roscoea tibetica

From another container, the most fragrant, fringed Dianthus I know: Dianthus petraeus (from wild collected seeds in the Carpathian Mts.) Too bad I cannot insert a ‘scratch patch’ with its perfume.

Dianthus petraeus

Dianthus petraeus

A rock jasmine: Androsace sarmentosa – a small piece I saved from an old plant, I hope it will thrive again (or set seeds, or better both).

Androsace sarmentosa

Androsace sarmentosa

and more are on their way to flower…

So, you are thinking about moving out…

What about us? –  (coming from) little voices, twirling and circling around the thyme carpets in the stoned patio.

That’s what I hear every day now, stepping out in our small patio garden. Recent events pushed us to think seriously about moving out. Small garden you say? – no problem. But (call me crazy) in the past 5 years I have been removing stones from our patio (think about the foundation too) to make space for plantings.

Pocket gardening makes sense for some. For others it surely doesn’t, as well as the piles of stones with small or ‘unfashionable’ plants peeking out between them. So, call me crazy again, but now I am working to put the patio stones back in. Don’t worry plants – most of you (or at least a piece of you) will make the move with us:

From the sunny side – Hymenoxys lapidicola (Stone rubberweed). A narrow endemic from the Blue Mountains, Utah at cca. 2500 m, with congested linear leaves topped with sessile, yellow flowers in the summer. For full sun, in dry, gravelly sites: crevices, trough gardens (from Wrightman Alpines).

From the shady side – Haberlea rhodopensis (Resurrection plant). A subalpine evergreen gesneriad, growing on eastern and northern rock walls in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria; if happy, it will produce in abundance light violet flowers during late spring. Very hardy and resilient – mind you, at some point it was sitting under 70 cm of packed snow (from Lost Horizons).

 I do expect to see very good behaviour from everyone involved: container culture, temporary homes and gifts, donations for spring-fall sales – we’ll all have to compromise a bit to make this work.

 What goes aroundpart of my donation, divisions and the extra seedlings for the ORGS Spring Sale

Plant donation for spring sale

Plant donation for spring sale

 I hope they’ll find good homes and come around back to me one day!

Note: Until now plants are at their best behaviour, but be prepared to hear more whining from me as I slowly demolish the ‘rock-pile garden’.

In the featured image: a baby rock gem – Edraianthus pumilio


Seeds of a New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

In keeping with a not too long tradition, on first of January, I’m writing about something that was the most special plant-wise for me, in the past year. And it seems that having up and running my indoor light stand won the honour!

From under the lights Under lights

For all of us gardeners and plant-alcoholics in the Northern hemisphere, the counter-attack to a long, harsh winter is without doubt having a growing light stand. With the seeds packages that start pouring in January, and the personal seeds collections, by mid February one can have a small growing operation! Of course that with the ‘seedling joy’ also comes frustration and sadness after loosing some, but that’s all part of the game, isn’t it?

Garden ready for 2014

Let’s all prepare to plant the seeds of a New Year! Try something new, approach differently what didn’t work last year, be creative, experiment, learn some more and watch your garden flourish.


May all your seeds germinate and all your plants and dreams come true in 2014!




Rock-plant surgery

Alpine Plants Weekend Study – part 1

Desperate to keep alive some seedlings from last year seed collection from the Carpathian Mts., yesterday I have performed something that I would call rock-plant surgery.  Inspired from the growing technique of the Saxifrages in small tufa pieces, seen at Wrightman Alpines, I drilled a few small tufa pieces, put my patients under anaesthesia and started the procedures.

Artemisia eriantha and surgery tools

Artemisia eriantha and surgery tools

Asperula capitata seedling

Sorry – Gypsophila petraea (it was given as Asperula capitata) seedling

Drilled tufa

Drilled tufa

And here they are later, in the recovery room. A bit pale but fingers crossed that a few will survive and thrive later in the rock garden!

In the recovery room

For more information on using tufa, please visit Wrightman Alpines website, where chief surgeon Harvey Wrightman gives more explanations about the procedures in a few videos.

While going over some images from the Carpathian Mts., this big boulder was chuckling at me: Try to reproduce this, if you can!

Granite boulder

Well, I like a good challenge anyway!

Alpine Golden Nuggets from Wrightman Alpines

The Plant Gold Rush continues with the most precious of finds: the alpine golden nuggets. We found them at Wrightman Alpines during their open house last Sunday. It had been a while since I was lucky to admire their Saxifrages in flower, so we made another trip that turned out into a photography extravaganza.  Many ‘golden nuggets’ were either in flower or at their best foliage; we took advantage of our most kind hosts, Irene and Harvey Wrightman, and poked around every corner of their wonderful rockery garden and nursery. Even for a plant connoisseur the richness of plant species they have can be a bit overwhelming to digest, so I’ll take it slow and there’ll be more to come…

Paeonia suffruticosa ssp. rockii

Paeonia suffruticosa ssp. rockii

At this time of the year, after admiring the most impressive clumps of Paeonia suffruticosa spp. rockii, the best would be to explore the rock gardens around the house before heading into the hoop houses (although being very detailed people we did the other way around).

 Enjoy a few images from Wrightman Alpines Nursery rock  gardens

Rock crevices with lots of  'plant golden nuggets'

Rock crevices with lots of ‘plant golden nuggets’

Rock crevice garden with an incorporated trough

Rock crevice garden with an incorporated trough

Chaenorrhinum glareosum

Chaenorrhinum glareosum – Nevada dwarf snapdragon (from Sierra Nevada, Spain)

A glorious Asperula suberosa

A glorious Asperula suberosa

Polygala major and Jurinella moschus var. moschus

Polygala major and right – Jurinella moschus var. moschus

Penstemon fruticosus var. serratus 'Holly'

Penstemon fruticosus var. serratus ‘Holly’

A small crevice dweller - Androsace globifera

A small crevice dweller – Androsace globifera

Asyneuma limonifolium ssp. limonifolium

Asyneuma limonifolium ssp. limonifolium

Irene was very happy about this cactuses growing in the alvar type rock

Irene was very happy about these cacti growing in the alvar type rock

Aquilegia scopulorum x A. coerulea

Aquilegia scopulorum x A. coerulea

Rarely seen Oncocyclus susiana (syn. Iris susiana)

Rarely seen Oncocyclus susiana (syn. Iris susiana)

Of course, we came home very grateful and with a few gifted golden nuggets; to show off just one of them:

Scutellaria orientalis ssp. pinnatifida

Scutellaria orientalis ssp. pinnatifida – a very floriferous and bright Scutellaria (from Turkey at 2500 m)

The wonderful day spent among the plethora of alpine species (native and non-natives) brought to my mind a few places we traveled to and I wrote about – see the Botanical Trailblazers page. Gold mines full of ‘golden nuggets’ await to be discovered almost everywhere – start exploring!