A Little More Sax


For many years the only plants that interested me were species. In my naivety, I discounted the selection process that makes a great hybrid. During that great rock garden conference of Skalnicky at Beroun, my eyes were opened. First a visit to the garden of Oldrich Maixner gave me a wake up call. By the time I left, I wanted hybrid Porphyrion. Then came Karel Lang's greenhouses. My jaw dropped. He had created a whole race of Kabschia - the Karel_Langians as we call them. I started to drool, moving past want to positively obsessed. Luckily I am able to grow some of them here in the raised crevice beds. And this week was peak.  So out came the camera. But now come the caveats.

When I visited Ota Vlasek's stunning garden in the Czech Republic, I noticed he did not use labels in the garden. It was his preference, and his knowledge of plants encyclopedic, at any rate. Back home, I noticed the labels were as large as most of the saxes in the crevice bed. So I made a map and pulled out the white labels. This worked after a fashion for a couple of years. I would take the photo and look it up by location. Yes, there was some trepidation when something was not quite clear. But I was able to muddle through. However, this year the house is in "remodel" state. Files are not accessible. Only a few names come to mind. So what follows is just to give you a look at what is blooming. I promise I will return later to name them. Feast your eyes and open them wide.


Ok, so the first part of April was pretty bleak. There were a few nice weather days, but for the most part, every night the temperature went below the freezing mark. Saturday it snowed and blustered, and was a good day to pot inside. Easter Sunday, the snow was gone and the sun shone. We wore shirt sleeves outside! None of this is out of the ordinary for Goshen or New England. What is usually not found here at this time of year, however, is hot color out of doors. Before the pulsatilla fluff their heads, before the daffodils blow their trumpets, saxifragas are blooming out from the troughs to crevice gardens!  
Saxifraga sancta began the display with cadmium yellow that ran from the first part of April
 But maybe it was Saxifraga oppositifolia, screaming magenta.
S. Maria Louisa was next. Well, the tag read ML, but the scapes are quite stretched. And it was white, like snow, but sweet.
Then came the Czech hybrids.  Take for instance, Saxifraga 'Beatles'. What a stunner. This particular cross is  from Jan Bürgel.
A "good doer" from Karel Lang: Saxifraga 'Tromsø'
No matter where you look, there is lots of color and bloom in the Valley of the Sax. Yipee!



Saxifraga 'Henry Marshall'

Opening the Season

early March emergence
When the snow receded, a few short weeks ago, there was emergence of the usual suspects: galanthus, hellebores, and saxes. The last-of-winter flurries kept their rate of growth to nearly invisible to the naked eye. However, the camera could track them, as it did came the what-did-I-plant-here surprise. It wasn't until late March when I could wrest the tag from the frozen earth that my smile turned to a grin- Helleborus thibetanus made it through this winter. While I grew it at my old garden in a lower altitude, I had yet to have it settle in this one. But the old adage, try it in several different microclimes before you give up, is quite true. Last year, it did not flower, so imagine my delight.

By the first of April, it was standing with bells of color dancing in the wind.
Helleborus thibetanus
A week later, it stood in its glory. While not as lusty as nearby Helleborus niger or its crosses, its beauty is none the less diminished. It almost makes H. niger look like an overfed cabbage, it is so dainty and graceful. And its leaves are equal in aesthetics to the bells of bloom.
Helleborus niger

Nearby a cross of a different color (and genus), Hepatica transsilvanica X color contrasted the scene.
Hepatica transsilvanica x

In the meantime, a very successful meeting of the Berkshire Chapter NARGS ensued. The morning program with speaker Matt Mattus http://www.growingwithplants.com/  provided inspiration to grow plants from and/or travel to the Alps. Even though he claims, he is not a photographer, his photos are precise, true to life, and very professional. It did not hurt that many of the photos were of our favorite families - primulaceae and saxifragaceae. He and his partner Joe traveled there several times and managed to really capture the essence of the place and its flora.

Another meeting benefit was the announcement by one of our members of an open garden to see a collection of galanthus. To inspire us, she also dug a few for our plant auction. Need I say, it was a very successful donation on her part. And since I was traveling through her town the following week, I made arrangements to stop and see the collection. Originally a specialist compiled it in the UK, and was supposedly the best outside Kew. Then, when a new life was begun by him in the US, there was no place for the plants. The collector had to live in an apartment. So he stopped by the CT home of our member and left her a few presents. She has been moving them to her new homes along with other "essentials". What gardener could resist leaving these beauties behind if there was to be any kind of plot in which to park them!

Galanthus 'Lady Elphinstone'
Originally there were 14 different named plants. Now only the most distinct are recognizable. For me who had only experienced G. nivalis or maybe G. elwesii, this was still an eye opener. G. 'Lady Elphinstone', a nivalis variant, has been a standout since the 1890's. Its double yellow flounce is most charming and graceful. Following are just a few of the stands.

The X

Galanthus X
Back home I ran around looking over each stand to see the markings. No, there was not a clear X, more like a mustache. 

Galanthus mustache?
A different mustache?