Sunday, May 12, 2019

Spring Garden Flowers

primrose, Primula
common primrose, Primula vulgaris, early spring wildflower of Europe
This is a blog post of flowers. If March is the beginning of spring, then it has been a long cold spring, because we have had snowstorm after snowstorm here in northern Colorado. We ushered in May with days of snow and cold rain alternating with sunny days. Consequently, I find myself unusually drawn to all the plants now blooming.
snow May 9, 2019
Snow May 9, 2019; the picture does not show that it snowed all night nor how cold the low was.
So please, enjoy garden flowers with me.

Top: the common primrose, Primula vulgaris (primrose family, Primulaceae). Found all over Europe, it is one of the first spring wildflowers in meadows and pastures there. It is not particularly happy in Colorado (too hot, too dry) but doing ok in the shade in my wettest spot. ("Vulgaris" simply means "common" in Latin but you can see how its English form, "vulgar" could have evolved.)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Plant Story--Glorious Purple Poppy Mallow, Callirhoƫ involucrata

purple poppy mallow, Callirhoe involucrata
wine cups, purple poppy mallow, Callirhoe involucrata
I call them wine cups, because it is an easy name to remember. They are also called purple poppy mallow, crimson-flowered poppy mallow, buffalo rose, and prairie poppy mallow. Purple poppy mallow seems to be the preferred common name, so I'll use it here.

There are nine species of CallirhoĆ«, poppy mallows, all native to North America (all in the United States, one species with a Mexican variety), making them North American endemics. Looking at the USDA's map (link), most are found in the south central U.S. Purple poppy mallows can be found in states from the east coast (Florida, Virginia) to west coast (Oregon) but probably because they were cultivated and escaped.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Visiting Taiwan--Sculpture Garden of the Juming Museum

Juming Museum, New Taipei City, Taiwan

North of Taipei, Taiwan, nearly to the north coast of the island, is the Juming Museum. Sculptor Ju Ming created the museum and it is a piece of art itself.

Initially a woodcarver, Ju Ming (see biography at art net) works in media from styrofoam to ceramics to stainless steel.

I visited recently with San Francisco's Society for Asian Art.

Whenever I visit outdoor art installations I ask both "Does the location enhance the art?" but also "does the art enhance the location?"  For Ju Ming's art, often the answer to both was "yes!"

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Visiting Colorado--Devil's Backbone, Loveland, Colorado in June

Devil's Backbone, Loveland Colorado from the northeast

Devil's Backbone is a distinctive rock outcrop on the western side of Loveland, Colorado. 

Devil's Backbone, Loveland Colorado from the north

Along the northern side, the land has been preserved as Devil's Backbone Open Space (link). The hiking trails lead west and north through Rocky Mountain Front Range grasslands. It is a favorite hike of mine.

Here is what you might see in June.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Plant Story-- Grape Hyacinths, Muscari

grape hyacinth, Muscari

Grape hyacinths are pretty blue spring flowers, in my yard aggresively seeding in everywhere. Lets call them "easy to grow."

My grape hyacinths are in the genus Muscari but that common name is also used for plants in the closely-related genera Leopoldia and Pseudomuscari. None of them are especially closely related to garden hyacinths (genus Hyacinthus) although all of them are in the asparagus plant family (Asparagaceae). Originally botanists lumped grape hyacinths into Hyacinthus but in 1754 the grape hyacinths were split out of Hyacinthus and in 1970 Leopodia and Pseudomuscari were recognized as separate from Muscari. Muscari means "musk" in Greek, relating to its scent. Leopoldia is for Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany. Pseudomuscari is "imitation muscari", that is very like Muscari but not the same.

Native to the Middle East, they have been popular garden flowers in Europe since the 1500s. All three genera are widely grown in Europe but only Muscari is widely grown in North America.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Familiar, the Introduced and the Native

lilacs, Syringia
Lilacs always remind me of my childhood in New York and Ohio,
but they are not native to North America
Each of us spends only a few years as a child and wherever we happened to be often is learned as "home." Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) were on the property where I grew up. I had no idea they came from Asia in the 1800s.

Rarely do we consider what "home" was like fifty years or two hundred years before we grew up there.

And yet, for North America, likely you wouldn't recognize home if you went back very far in time.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Plant Story--Hyacinth, Beautiful and Memorable

common hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis
garden hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis
Hyacinth is the name of a particular plant, the three species of the genus Hyacinthus (asparagus family, Asparagaceae), Hyacinthus litwinowii, H. orientalis and H. transcaspicus, but it is easy to discover other "hyacinths": grape hyacinth (Mascari, Leopoldia and Pseudomuscari species), water hyacinth (Eichornia species), hyacinth bean (Lablab species), summer hyacinth (Ornithogalum species)... These others are quite different plants: grape hyacinth and summer hyacinth are in the asparagus family with common hyacinth but water hyacinth is in the aquatic plant family Pontideriaceae and hyacinth bean is indeed in the bean family (Fabaceae). Apparently hyacinths were so well-known that other plants were named based on reminding people of hyacinths.

Who then is this much-imitated plant?