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A Lakeland Alpine Diary - Holehird Gardens

This entry: July 2014 by Alan Oatway

Travel stopped me spending much time at Holehird in July, and when I was there, the weather was such that I decided it unwise to test the camera's water resistance. So I shall show a few pictures of my travels instead! Chris and I had decided to visit the Pacific North-West of the USA, where there seemed to be the right mix for us of accessible mountain walks and the prospect of attractive plants. As always, planning these trips in advance leaves the issue of timing open to chance - would the season be early or late? In this case, our first port of call, the Mount Rainier National Park, was definitely enjoying a late season, due to a very large snowfall in late March.

So to begin, a photograph of the much vaunted flower meadows at Paradise.

Even with the record temperatures that the area was experiencing, it was clearly going to be several weeks before these meadows were at their best. All was not lost, however, as the skyline at the right edge of the photo shows that some ridges were clear of snow, and on these there was plenty to see. There are many species of "Indian Paintbrush", not all easy to identify, but the dwarf Castilleja rupicola was very desirable.

We both love Pulsatillas, and the local white one was abundant almost everywhere we went in the state of Washington. On this first walk, the Western Anemone, Pulsatilla occidentalis, still referred to as Anemone in many texts out there, was in flower wherever the snow had recently departed, and we also saw a double form.

The other stars of the areas close by the melting snows were the Erythroniums. Both the Avalanche Lily, Erythronium montanum, and the Glacier Lily, Erythronium grandiflorum, were plentiful. The former is the purest white, adroned with a yellow throat, while the latter is yellow. Both seem to enjoy a reputation for being difficult to grow, but I have a feeling that I will have to try! Photos of both follow.

Moving east, we walked to the top of Burroughs Mountains (first and second), above the road end at Sunrise. This was mostly a very pleasant walk, although one part of the ascent was at the limit of what should be attempted with trekking poles rather than an ice axe. The tundra-like summit areas were very rewarding, with dwarf lupins, penstemons, polemoniums, anemones, and much more. In fact, timings on walks can go seriously wrong when faced with such bounty! Pictures follow fo Anemone drummondii and a delightful Polemonium species, either P.elegans or P.pulcherrimum, I cannot decide!

It would be wrong not to include at least one Penstemon in a report from this area. We left the better-known areas and enjoyed an "off-trail" route around the tops above Crystal Mountain Ski resort. We saw several species that would look great on the Rock Garden - indeed, we grow P. davidsonii well enough although more sun here would help it flower better I guess. It was certainly wonderful in many places in WA, as was the much pinker P. rupicola, shown below.

Not all treasures required as much effort to see. The woodland areas close by the road also hold many interesting plants, and the road-side verges themselves can be a distraction to the driver. Many is the time I found my eyes drawn to the tangerine Lilium columbianum! Oh dear, another plant on the wish-list. Following an image of the lily, I'll show just one woodlander, which was abundant in many areas we visitied - Linnaea boralis, the Twinflower.  

Moving north into the Cascades, we needed some research to identify a plant that "wowed" us on Slate Peak. It turned out to be Phacelia sericea, whose leaves and flowers contrasted so perfectly. We only found this plant in the one location, where it was plentiful.

As you can see, it enjoys a very well-drained scree environment - on a windy ridge. I shall skip on to the Olympic peninsula and finish with two endemic plants living in a similar habitat on Elk Mountain. The first, Allium crenulatum, is growing in a very unstable scree, whilst the second, Campanula piperi, has found itself a natural crevice garden to provide a little more security. In both cases, the photographer was struggling to find anywhere to steady himself. These plants are both summer flowerers, so that in the course of a three-week visit, the season had moved on, and although some areas were indeed late, others were normal or even early, and a wonderful range of plants had been enjoyed.

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