Heat and dust.

I went to India again. In August. In monsoon season. Not surprisingly the heat and humidity was a wall.

I started in Delhi where I met old friends and went to visit Delhi’s new Central Park, the former Sunder Nursery.

Sundar Nursery is flanked by the World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb (Above) on the South and the historic Purana Qila on the North and aligned to the historic Grand Trunk Road on the West. It was originally established in the early 20th century when the Imperial Delhi complex was being planned and constructed. It was used as a place for propagating trees and other plants to be used in the new capital city, and also for testing species brought from other parts of India and from overseas, to pick those which successfully thrive in Delhi’s harsh climate. A large number of these trees, some of which are only occasionally seen in the city, are still flourishing here. A few others, perhaps those found unsuitable and not used at all, are only to be found within the nursery, as rare specimens.
The nursery is in fact an archaeological site – there are scattered remains of Mughal period structures including three nationally protected monuments, together with pavilions, tombs, grave platforms, wells, and a mosque platform.

Bauhinia tomentosa. Widely planted in the former nursery.
Alstonia scholaris. A common tree of India.

From Delhi to Rishikesh, the home of gurus, ashrams,yoga training, and many lurid and wonderful idols.

And people.

Every evening, as dusk descends, the Ganga Aarti is performed. An aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. It’s usually made in the form of a lit lamp, and in the case of the Ganges River, a small diya with a candle and flowers that’s floated down the river. The offering is made to the Goddess Ganga, also affectionately referred to as Maa Ganga, goddess of the holiest river in India.

The next day, the journey to the Valley of Flowers began. That’s another story.

Beargrass

I moved to a suburb of Portland, Oregon just over a month ago. Two hours from where I live is Coffin Mountain. Recently, I drove to the trailhead and hiked to the summit.

“The trail is steep, but the effort is worth it. This hike is especially rewarding from approximately mid-June to mid-July when the wildflowers are blooming.

The trail climbs steeply up an old rocky Jeep track for the first 0.1 mile, then watch for the trail heading off to your left. The trail climbs through forest and meadows with intermittent views of Three Fingered Jack to your right. Wildflowers include paintbrush, larkspur, and pentsemon.

After 0.6 miles you will emerge into a huge expansive beargrass meadow. Beargrass blooms in cycles, so some years the meadow is full of blooms and other years there are just a few. Even if it’s not a banner year for beargrass the views from this meadow are spectacular. On clear days you can see Mt. Jefferson peeking up behind Bachelor Mountain to the east, a view which improves with every step up the trail. You can also see Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, and the Three Sisters. “

https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Coffin_Mountain_Hike

A little way up the trail is an area of exposed rock -scree. Growing on it are a number of plants including : Castilleja miniata, Delphinium menziesii, Helianthella uniflora, and a couple of Eriogonum species.

Castilleja miniata, giant red paintbrush
Helianthella uniflora
Eriogonum compositum (?)
Eriogonum umbellatum

A little further up and in the shade, the yellowleaf Iris.

Iris chrysophylla

Higher up, the beargrass, Xerophyllum tenax, begins to grow in extraordinary profusion. BOOM !

This extraordinary flowering happens once every three or four years.
My traveling companions.

How fortunate we are to have these wild places.

Below is a plant list compiled by Tanya Harvey.

Coffin Mountain Plant List

observed by Tanya Harvey as of 7/12/16

westerncascades.com                                                                                                               * Non-native

botanical name common name family
Abies amabilis Pacific silver fir Pinaceae
Abies lasiocarpa subalpine fir Pinaceae
Abies procera noble fir Pinaceae
Achillea millefolium yarrow Asteraceae
Achlys triphylla vanilla leaf Berberidaceae
Agoseris aurantiaca orange agoseris Asteraceae
Agoseris grandiflora large-flowered agoseris Asteraceae
Allium crenulatum Olympic onion Amaryllidaceae
Amelanchier alnifolia Western serviceberry, saskatoon Rosaceae
Anaphalis margaritacea pearly everlasting Asteraceae
Anemone deltoidea western white anemone, Columbia windflower Ranunculaceae
Anemone oregana Oregon anemone Ranunculaceae
Antennaria racemosa raceme pussytoes Asteraceae
Antennaria rosea rosy pussytoes Asteraceae
Aquilegia formosa western columbine Ranunculaceae
Arctostaphylos nevadensis pinemat manzanita Ericaceae
Arnica latifolia mountain arnica Asteraceae
Asarum caudatum wild ginger Aristolochiaceae
Berberis aquifolium shining Oregon grape Berberidaceae
Berberis nervosa Cascade Oregon grape Berberidaceae
Boechera howellii flatseed rockcress Brassicaceae
Boechera retrofracta Holboell’s rockcress Brassicaceae
Cacaliopsis nardosmia silvercrown luina Asteraceae
Callitropsis nootkatensis Alaska-cedar, Alaska yellowcedar Cupressaceae
Calochortus subalpinus mountain cat’s ear Liliaceae
Calystegia atriplicifolia ssp. atriplicifolia night-blooming morning glory Convolvulaceae
Campanula scouleri Scouler’s harebell Campanulaceae
Carex sp. sedge Cyperaceae
Castilleja hispida harsh paintbrush Orobanchaceae
Castilleja miniata scarlet paintbrush Orobanchaceae
Castilleja rupicola cliff paintbrush Orobanchaceae
Ceanothus velutinus snowbrush Rhamnaceae
Chamerion angustifolium fireweed Onagraceae
Chimaphila menziesii little prince’s-pine/pipsissewa Ericaceae
Chimaphila umbellata prince’s pine/pipsissewa Ericaceae
Chrysolepis chrysophylla golden chinquapin Fagaceae
Cirsium remotifolium fewleaf mountain thistle Asteraceae
Claytonia lanceolata western springbeauty Montiaceae
Claytonia sibirica candyflower Montiaceae
Clintonia uniflora queen’s cup, bead lily Liliaceae
Collinsia parviflora small-flowered blue-eyed Mary Plantaginaceae
Comandra umbellata var. californica bastard toad-flax Santalaceae
Cryptogramma acrostichoides parsley fern Pteridaceae
Delphinium menziesii Menzies’ larkspur Ranunculaceae
Dicentra formosa western bleeding heart Papaveraceae
Dicentra uniflora steer’s head Papaveraceae
Douglasia laevigata smooth douglasia Primulaceae
Drymocallis glandulosa sticky cinquefoil Rosaceae
Epilobium lactiflorum white-flowered willowherb Onagraceae
Eremogone capillaris slender mountain sandwort Caryophyllaceae
Erigeron aliceae Eastwood’s daisy, Alice’s fleabane Asteraceae
Erigeron foliosus var. confinis leafy fleabane Asteraceae
Eriogonum compositum arrowleaf buckwheat Polygonaceae
Eriogonum nudum bare-stemmed buckwheat Polygonaceae
Eriogonum umbellatum sulphur buckwheat Polygonaceae
Eriophyllum lanatum Oregon sunshine, woolly sunflower Asteraceae
Eucephalus gormanii Gorman’s aster Asteraceae
Eucephalus ledophyllus Cascade aster Asteraceae
Eurybia radulina rough-leaved aster Asteraceae
Fragaria vesca woods strawberry Rosaceae
Fragaria virginiana wild strawberry Rosaceae
Galium oreganum Oregon bedstraw Rubiaceae
Gayophytum diffusum spreading groundsmoke Onagraceae
Gayophytum humile dwarf groundsmoke Onagraceae
Gilia capitata bluefield gilia Polemoniaceae
Hackelia micrantha blue stickseed Boraginaceae
Helianthella uniflora Rocky Mountain helianthella Asteraceae
Heuchera micrantha small-flowered alumroot Saxifragaceae
Hieracium albiflorum white-flowered hawkweed Asteraceae
Hieracium gracile alpine hawkweed Asteraceae
Hieracium scouleri woolly-weed, Scouler’s hawkweed Asteraceae
Holodiscus discolor oceanspray Rosaceae
Hydrophyllum occidentale western waterleaf Hydrophyllaceae
Ipomopsis aggregata skyrocket, scarlet gilia Polemoniaceae
Iris chrysophylla slender-tubed iris Iridaceae
Juniperus communis common juniper Cupressaceae
Lathyrus nevadensis Sierra pea Fabaceae
Lathyrus polyphyllus leafy pea Fabaceae
Lilium washingtonianum Cascade lily, Washington lily Liliaceae
Lomatium martindalei Cascade desert-parsley, few-fruited lomatium Apiaceae
Lupinus albicaulis sickle-keeled lupine Fabaceae
Lupinus latifolius broadleaf lupine Fabaceae
Luzula sp. woodrush Juncaceae
Maianthemum stellatum starry false Solomon’s seal Asparagaceae
Mertensia paniculata tall bluebells/tall lungwort Boraginaceae
Micranthes rufidula rustyhair saxifrage Saxifragaceae
Microsteris gracilis annual phlox Polemoniaceae
Mimulus breweri Brewer’s monkeyflower Phrymaceae
Mimulus moschatus musk monkeyflower Phrymaceae
Mitella breweri Brewer’s mitrewort Saxifragaceae
Mitella pentandra five-point, alpine mitrewort Saxifragaceae
Mitella trifida three-toothed mitrewort Saxifragaceae
Moehringia macrophylla bigleaf sandwort Caryophyllaceae
Nothochelone nemorosa woodland beard-tongue Plantaginaceae
Orogenia fusiformis turkey-peas Apiaceae
Orthocarpus imbricatus pink owl-clover Orobanchaceae
Osmorhiza berteroi mountain sweet-cicely Apiaceae
Paxistima myrsinites Oregon boxwood Celastraceae
Pedicularis racemosa sickletop lousewort, parrot’s beak Orobanchaceae
Penstemon procerus var. brachyanthus small-flowered penstemon Plantaginaceae
Penstemon rupicola cliff penstemon Plantaginaceae
Penstemon serrulatus Cascade penstemon Plantaginaceae
Phacelia mutabilis changeable phacelia Hydrophyllaceae
Phacelia nemoralis woodland phacelia Hydrophyllaceae
Phlox diffusa spreading phlox Polemoniaceae
Pinus contorta var. latifolia lodgepole pine Pinaceae
Pinus monticola western white pine Pinaceae
*Plantago lanceolata English plantain Plantaginaceae
Polemonium carneum great polemonium Polemoniaceae
Polygonum douglasii Douglas’ knotweed Polygonaceae
Polygonum minimum least knotweed Polygonaceae
Polypodium sp. polypody Polypodiaceae
Prunus emarginata bitter cherry Rosaceae
Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas-fir Pinaceae
Pteridium aquilinum bracken fern Dennstaedtiaceae
Pyrola picta white-veined wintergreen, pyrola Ericaceae
Rainiera stricta tongue-leaf luina Asteraceae
Ribes lacustre swamp gooseberry Grossulariaceae
Ribes sanguineum red-flowering currant Grossulariaceae
Ribes viscosissimum sticky currant Grossulariaceae
Rosa gymnocarpa bald-hip rose Rosaceae
Rubus lasiococcus dwarf bramble Rosaceae
Rubus parviflorus thimbleberry Rosaceae
Rubus ursinus Pacific blackberry, dewberry Rosaceae
Rudbeckia occidentalis western coneflower Asteraceae
*Rumex acetosella sheep-sorrel Polygonaceae
Salix scouleriana Scouler willow Salicaceae
Sambucus racemosa red elderberry Adoxaceae
Sanicula graveolens Sierra snake-root, sanicle Apiaceae
Saxifraga bronchialis ssp. vespertina spotted, matted saxifrage Saxifragaceae
Sedum divergens spreading stonecrop Crassulaceae
Sedum oregonense creamy stonecrop Crassulaceae
Selaginella wallacei Wallace’s spikemoss Selaginellaceae
Senecio integerrimus western groundsel Asteraceae
Silene douglasii Douglas’ catchfly or campion Caryophyllaceae
Sisyrinchium idahoense var. idahoense Idaho blue-eyed grass Iridaceae
Solidago canadensis meadow goldenrod Asteraceae
Sorbus scopulina western mountain ash Rosaceae
Sorbus sitchensis Sitka mountain ash Rosaceae
Stachys rigida rigid hedge nettle Lamiaceae
Symphoricarpos albus common snowberry Caprifoliaceae
Symphoricarpos mollis creeping snowberry Caprifoliaceae
Taxus brevifolia Pacific yew Taxaceae
Trillium ovatum western trillium Melanthiaceae
Tsuga mertensiana mountain hemlock Pinaceae
Vaccinium cespitosum dwarf huckleberry Ericaceae
Vaccinium membranaceum thin-leaved huckleberry Ericaceae
Vaccinium myrtillus dwarf bilberry Ericaceae
Vaccinium parvifolium red huckleberry Ericaceae
Vaccinium scoparium grouseberry Ericaceae
Valeriana sitchensis Sitka valerian Valerianaceae
Veratrum sp. false hellebore Melanthiaceae
Viola adunca early blue violet, long-spurred Violaceae
Viola bakeri yellow prairie violet Violaceae
Viola glabella stream violet Violaceae
Viola orbiculata round-leaved violet Violaceae
Xerophyllum tenax beargrass Melanthiaceae

In which I move to a bordello

It has been a long time since I wrote anything on this site.

I have been busy. In April I traveled to Crete and the South of France. In between I have been giving talks about my book ,Gardenlust.

In May I moved from California to Washington State and then from Washington to Oregon and the bordello. To be accurate, the house is not a bordello now but was when it was built in 1884. It has seven entrances, handy for business at the time, and charming now. Home is where the heart is.

The house comes with a human and a dog.

This is the dog, Lady Gaga

I went to Crete and the South of France to look at wildflowers. After an unusually wet winter, Spring in the mountains was lush with flowering plants.

Asphodelus fistulosus

Ferula communis

Orchis italica
Gladiolus communis ssp.byzantinus

Phoenix theophrastii
Euphorbia acanthothamnos

Then to the Camargue, less rich in plants but full of horses and flamingo.

What next ?

Life at the bordello will continue and a big trip is coming. A trip around the world.

Resplendent Costa Rica

Howler monkeys begin their earthy growl just before dawn and, as the sun warms, their sound becomes louder and more urgent. Territory, territory.

Scarlet macaws soon appear, screaming through the sky. As the sun rises and temperature too, an electric buzz of thousands of insects, rubbing their wings and legs reaching a crescendo of sexual invitation.

Dawn at the Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.

It gets hot and humid quickly on the Osa Peninsula. Take a walk and you will see White-faced monkeys peering down at you and a Lesser Anteater, indifferent to you but not indifferent to a nest of ants. Breakfast.

I stayed at Luna Lodge , a lovely eco-resort on a steeply wooded slope in the forest. It is not inexpensive but if you get a chance to visit, do so. https://lunalodge.com/  

A few hours east and at the edge of the Talamanca Mountains, I stayed at the Wilson Botanical Gardens. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/costa-rica/san-vito/attractions/wilson-botanical-garden/a/poi-sig/1198175/358366

The Gardens are a jumping off point to the Talamanca Mountains, home to more species of trees than the United States, and home to the elusive bird, the resplendent quetzal. I joined an old friend, Alan Poole, an ornithologist who is writing a book about the Quetzal.

We spent many hours hiking the forest, seeing many species of plants and evidence but no sightings of the bird. As is not uncommon when birding, we were on the way back to our car when I walked up to a large fig tree with soft orange fruits. There were five quetzal flying from the fig to a small-fruited avocado.


We jumped up and down like young boys, excited by this beautiful bird.

It was as good a day as good days get.

Back at the garden there were more good days, and many good plants.

Aphelandra golfodulcensis
Heliconia ramonensis
Palicourea padifolia

Framed by a large Cecropia, a view of the Talamanca Mountains.

I have visited Costa Rica many times. I will visit again.

Travels in Oceania (part 2)

From New Caledonia to Australia. Then across Australia to Perth and a long drive to Fitzgerald River National Park.  https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/fitzgerald-river

With such an extraordinary flora from which to choose, here are a few highlights:

Anigozanthos manglesii

Hakea Victoria

Calothamnus quadrifidus

Banksia coccinea

From Australia to Fiji.

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

And finally, from Fiji to Samoa where breadfruit is a street tree,

and taro (Colocasia esculenta) is cultivated,

and where the left over rubber from flip-flops is used as shade cloth.

If fortune favors my boldness, there will be many other travels.

 

 

 

 

Travels in Oceania (part 1)

In November, I traveled to New Zealand, New Caledonia, Australia, Fiji and Samoa.

The following is a photographic record of some of the things I saw. It was a big trip in many ways and I am just beginning to digest my experiences. Please forgive the sparse text.  My mind is turgid from jet-lag. This trip and others to follow, are part of my research into a book I have just begun to write.

I flew from San Francisco to Auckland and then drove north-west to the Waipoua Forest, home to some of the largest trees on earth, the Kauri (Agathis australis).

The Waipoua Forest is a sanctuary full of understory trees, shrubs and ferns.

The underside of the silver fern ( Cyathea dealbata) is particularly beautiful.

From the North Island, I flew to Blenheim in the South Island and attended Garden Marlborough, a four-day garden festival. I was invited as the guest international speaker and gave two talks. They seemed to go well. I had the audience dancing.

My hosts, Rosa and Mike Davison, are the creators of Paripuma, a garden of New Zealand natives designed in formal European style.

While at the festival, I took a boat trip along  Queen Charlotte Sound to visit the spot where Captain Cook first landed in New Zealand – ship cove.

On another day, I was taken into the Kaikoura mountains to see tōtara ( Podocarpus totara).

From New Zealand, I flew to Noumea, New Caledonia. If current geological thinking stands up, New Caledonia is the northernmost tip of Zealandia, the eighth continent. https://www.livescience.com/60538-zealandia-eighth-continent-once-above-ocean.html

With only three days in New Caledonia, I explored the Parc Provincial de la Riviere Bleue  .

In the park is a thousand-year-old, forty-meter-tall  Agathis lanceolata.

and an exceedingly rare palm Pritchardiopsis jeanneneyi  (now named Saribus jeanneneyi ). Storckiella pancheri was in bloom.North and west of the parc, a stand of New Caledonian pine (Araucaria columnaris) grows from cliff to beach.


Along the shore, mangroves.

In the mountains, giant tree ferns.

From New Caledonia, I flew to Sydney. The streets were full of Jacaranda in bloom.  That’s another story –  in part 2.

 

 

 

A passionate gardener who cut his roots and wanders the world.

A review of Gardenlust by Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post.

The skills of the actor and musician are wholly portable. Sculptors may place their work around the world but are tied to their studios. Gardeners, working in the trickiest medium of them all — life — are by definition rooted to one place.

That doesn’t mean they can’t go to see other gardens; such visits are essential to keep the creative juices flowing. But to pour your soul into gardening, you need your own garden and you have to shepherd it over many years. You’re stuck. That is the price of paradise.

If you are passionate about gardens but have wanderlust, that seems like a curse of mythological proportion. This might turn you into a plant explorer, a landscape photographer or, if you are Christopher Woods, into a horticultural sojourner and writer.

 

It was not always thus. I first met him almost 20 years ago at Chanticleer, the garden in Wayne, Pa., where he was the founding director of an enchanting place. It was — and is — one of the sweetest gardens around, and Woods was by the time I met him already established as a nonconformist and a creative beacon to the team of gardeners he led. But I should have guessed he was seeking change, possibly a warmer place close to a beach. He greeted me wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a straw hat.

He left soon afterward, to run one garden on the West Coast and then another, and then I lost track of his wayfaring. “I am a restless man at heart,” he announces, by way of his latest creation, a book named “Gardenlust: A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens.”

Cerebral types (such as myself) have to be reminded that a garden, at base, is about attending to the senses, about creating an emotional response to aesthetic stimulation. Woods has always espoused this, as his book attests.

Over a span of three years, he visited approximately 50 gardens on six continents, viewing such landscapes as botanical gardens, parks, residential gardens, and commercial and civic landscapes. There is astonishing variety, such as the Naples Botanical Garden, whose creators are seeking to hold back the destructive forces of development in Florida; and the dramatic cliffside home and garden of Chilean architect Juan Grimm. There is the 568-acre Landschaftspark in Germany, where designed gardens grow amid the ruins of an abandoned ironworks in the Ruhr Valley. Here, a fern growing in a crease of rusted metal, Woods writes, “is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Until the next beautiful thing.”

All these places, though, have one thing in common: They were established since the beginning of the century, even if as part of existing landscapes. The imagination and effort that has gone into them must encourage anyone who thinks significant gardens are stuck in the past or, worse, fading from our distracted world.

At Alnwick Castle in England, the Duchess of Northumberland raised and spent millions to create un­or­tho­dox garden elements that left parts of the English horticultural establishment clutching their pearls. This included a $10 million treehouse and a grandiose water cascade. Woods likes its radicalism and the fact that many of the features are designed for people dealing with life in a depressed, postindustrial part of Britain.

 

I have no desire to see the Miracle Garden in Dubai, which seems to be the antithesis of contemporary garden sensibilities. It disregards its own desert environs and is a place groaning under 45 million exotic and thirsty petunias and geraniums. It seems as kitschy as it is environmentally unsustainable. Woods is a fan. However wrong this garden is to purists, it provides visitors a place to have fun, he points out, and to take children who have “such little access to truly green space.”

One place I’d like to see is a private, 990-acre sculpture garden on New Zealand’s North Island created by owner Alan Gibbs. Gibbs, an entrepreneur and serious art collector, shaped the land and created wide paths, using heavy equipment. “On occasion, he would blow things up,” writes Woods, “partly to remove them and partly for the fun of it.” 

I would like to follow in Woods’s footsteps to coastal Argentina, where Rolando Uria has created a display garden for his collection of salvias, a genus that is much richer than most gardeners realize. Would the ­
12-foot-high Salvia foveolata grow in a summer garden in Washington? It would be worth putting it to the test.

Woods, who resides near Berkeley, Calif., speaks of his early affinity for plants but, just as important, for kindred spirits who continue to define their own visions of a garden without being shackled to the past. The garden is a human artifice, he writes, but it connects to the rest of nature and stops us from thinking of other life-forms as being separate. 

“Gardens are to our hands what language is to our social structure: a constructed, artificial mechanism we’ve devised so we can explain things we see around us.”

Woods was on the other side of the world when I tried to reach him recently. He emailed me from New Zealand and a couple of days later from the South Pacific. “I am now on a beach in New Caledonia looking at Araucaria columnaris. A lot of it,” he wrote. That would be the New Caledonian pine.

 

In a subsequent email from Sydney, he addressed my question about garden sameness around the world. “While there is a great deal of homogenization, particularly in corporate and government landscapes, there is an abundance of individual creativity and even aesthetic eccentricity in contemporary garden design,” he responded. “The individual has not been consumed.”

He tells readers that he is at a point in life when “I have more or less replaced constant resettlement with near-constant travel. I continue to fall in love with this extraordinary world and its botanical marvels.” I wonder, is he running from his own mortality? Should we join him?

 

In the 18th century, the critic Horace Walpole spoke of the pastoral landscape movement transforming grand estates such as Alnwick. Of the landscape designer William Kent, Walpole wrote: “He leaped the fence and saw that all nature was a garden.” He might have been speaking of Chris Woods, a gardener who has always embraced the idiosyncratic world of avant-garde horticulture. “The only thing I really fear,” he told me, “is shopping malls.”