Winter getaway – Dobrogea I

Well, the trip interruption was a bit longer that I would have wished, but here we are on the road again (see first part of the trip here). In order to beat the polar vortex that descended upon us we need sun & flowers!

As I said, the drive from Southeastern Carpathians to Dobrogea region is not very long, depending on the destination it can take 4-5 hours. The Dobrogea region (with Dobrogea Plateau) in Romania is surrounded to the north and west by the Danube River and to the east by the Danube Delta and the Black Sea. Most visitors are aiming for the Black Sea sand beaches, bird watching and/or fishing in the Danube Delta, and very few aim to enjoy the particular flora of the region.

Given its position, the climate is slightly warmer and more arid than in the rest of Romania, winters are cold but with less snow and the flora is very specific with a combination of endemic plants and various species at their geographical limits. It is a special ‘meeting’ place for species of Mediterranean, Eurasian and even Caucasian origin!

Even if in late July it is very hot and dry and many species are at the end of flowering, there is still a lot to explore. I will start with a few Caryophyllaceae to keep the continuity and then show various other species.

Dianthus nardiformis is an endemic of this region and luckily being a late flowering species it was still very showy; photographed on the dry, exposed, rocky hills of Enisala fortress and everywhere else. Striking especially when dispayed against the lichens laden rocks.
Cultivated for a long time, this Dianthus makes for a good garden plant, although not as tidy (foliage speaking) as other species, but extremely floriferous, hardy and long lived. There is an impressive specimen at Montreal Botanical Garden to testify it.

Dianthus nardiformis

On the same dry, rocky hills surrounding Enisala fortress, it was a nice surprise to find Paronychia cephalotes. I have a young plant grown from seeds of Crimean accession in the rockery, and I look forward to see it flowering. However, seeing a species ‘perform’ in the wild is always much better!
It is a mat forming species with white, papery bracts posing as ‘flowers’. It is hard to think it belongs to Caryophyllaceae at a superficial look.

Paronychia cephalotes and Thymus zygioides, Dobrogea July 2017

From the neglected genus Minuartia, I will note Minuartia adenotricha, a species that you will also found on the other side of the Black Sea, on the Crimean mountains.

Minuartia adenotricha, Dobrogea 2017

Gypsophila pallasii is a similar species with G. glomerata offered in the seeds shop (as well of Crimean origin); doing very well on the dry, rocky substrate in the company of Echinops, Artemisia, Xeranthemum, Astragalus, Allium ssp. and many others.

Gypsophila pallasii at Capul Dolosman, Dobrogea 2017

A must have stop for plant lovers in Dobrogea are the Macin Mountains located in Tulcea County. These are among the oldest mountains in Europe, formed during the Hercynian orogeny with the predominant rock – granite, but also sandstone limestone. Their specific look is given by the eroded granite formations.
Although a very, very long time ago these mountains were taller than the Carpathians; today the highest point is Ţuţuiatu/Greci Peak with an elevation of 467 m above sea level.

Macin Mts., Dobrogea, Romania

In the quite dry-looking landscape of late July, Silene compacta stood apart with its rich magenta inflorescences. It is not difficult to assume that full sun locations and super good drainage would be mandatory for its successful cultivation. 

Silene compacta in Macin Mts.

Many other interesting species grow in the particular habitats of the Dobrogean plateau – I will follow with more pictures.



Paronychia cephalotes’ secret

I am wondering why this interesting, cold hardy, beautiful and excellent rockery plant is absolutely ignored. Is there a secret?

Paronychia cephalotes (Fam. Caryophyllaceae) in wild habitat – Dolomite hills to the south of Öskü, Hungary – photo courtesy Stefan Lefnaer

Last year I easily germinated seeds and grew the seedlings into a fine clump by the end of the season (the seedlings pot was planted in the rockery as a whole in May). I am confident it will make it well over the winter, and maybe even produce a few flowers. Meanwhile, someone else already knows why is it such a ‘secret’ species please?

Paronychia cephalotes – end of August 2016 (a group of seedlings were planted together in May);name=Paronychia%20cephalotes

My petit inventory

Fall has officially arrived and I thought it would be wise to start doing what I call my ‘petit inventory’ :) Lots of seeds have been sown this year and many have germinated. As usual, some seedlings have perished, while others have grown well; a few have been planted in the ground, and some are even flowering! (see Iris dichotoma and Scabiosa caucasica).

An inventory always helps me remember what I’ve grown during the year and it adds to the experience. In most cases, the inventory entails only 2-3 plants, or worse, 1 – truly ‘petit’! I will show a few from the alpine section for now.

Few Caucasian species are my joy and pride: Potentilla divina, Astragalus levieri and Eremogone lichnidea.


Potentilla divina a bit difficult to grow, I hope to get it through the winter


Astragalus levieri – a high altitude species, easy to germinate but usually hard to establish; the young seedling was planted in the ground in May


Eremogone lichnidea – another new species, I left them as they were in the seeding pot (some alpines react well to this treatment)

As well other species, like Silene jailensis and Paronychia cephalotes, have exceeded my expectations. I also have good hope to finally see the alpine thistle – Carlina acaulis, established in the rockery (seen in the Silene background).


Silene jailensis (a Crimean collection) – seedling planted early outside


Paronychia cephalotes – another new one, the seedlings were looking so nice that I was afraid to prick them out and planted the whole seedlings pot in the ground.

As you notice, I have continued my experiment of planting asap very young seedlings in the ground, and it has proven again to be the better way to go, at least for me. They can have the roots going deep down fast and establish well throughout the season, while the ones left in pots are more difficult to manage water-wise, plus that the pots are not deep enough for their liking.

In the feature image: Artemisia umbelliformis (Alpine wormwood), another little alpine gem I’m happy to see doing well.

Next to come – the Chinese Podophyllum babies from the shady section!

Spring photo-shoot 2016

Lately we’ve been ‘polar-vortexed’ (that’s a new expression); another term that went around was ‘winter in the spring’…all not too happy words, at least for gardeners. But relief is in sight – temperatures in double digits are expected by the end of the week!

So, it is time for the annual spring photo-shoot. Soon, the more advanced youngsters from the germinatrix will go outside (they have become impatient and a bit pale from lack of sun). Just one image from the many I took yesterday.

Come close together – Say cheese!

Spring photo-shoot 2016

As always, a mix of everything; it’s called ‘butterflying’; seeds that I collected myself, gifted seeds, traded seeds…all welcome :)

From the very early germinated and already grown up Capnoides sempervirens, Iris dichotoma, A. pachypoda fo. rubrocarpa and Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama Blue’, to young babies like Podophyllum delavayi and P. pleianthum.

Podophyllum delavayi and P. pleianthum seedlings

Podophyllum delavayi, P. pleianthum and hybrids young seedlings

Among the very new and exciting, Paronychia cephalotes and Silene jailensis, are looking well;  good hope for nice grown plants by the summer!

And so many more…(hover over the images for the species names)