Sunday, June 16, 2019

Magpies


Weather: We went from mornings that were cool with hot afternoons, to nights that didn’t cool and hotter days, to cold mornings again. The little rain we got last night was enough to relieve the stress of plants that couldn’t cope with the heat.

Last useful rain: 6/15. Week’s low: 42 degrees F. Week’s high: 94 degrees F in the shade. Smoke from Mexican fires continues to enter area.

What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey rootstock, hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, catalpa, silver lace vine, Japanese honeysuckle, red-tipped yucca, red hot poker, Spanish broom, sweet peas, purple salvia, blue flax, larkspur, snow-in-summer, Jupiter’s beard, golden spur columbine, yellow yarrow, coreopsis

The catalpas have been blooming from the bottom up. The smaller trees and branches nearer the warm ground bloomed first. Toward the end of the week, with warming night temperatures, the taller trees and higher branches started flowering. They have bloomed toward the end of May in the past.

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, showy milkweed, white tufted evening primrose, tumble mustard, buffalo gourd, bindweed, datura, green leaf five eyes, alfalfa, wild licorice, fleabane, plains paper flowers, strap leaf aster, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; rice, three awn, and brome grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Betty Prior, Dorothy Perkins, rugosa and miniature roses, Asiatic lilies, catmints, Johnson’s blue geranium, winecup mallow, smooth, foxglove, coral and purple beardtongues, Maltese cross, California poppy, Dutch clover, coral bells, pink evening primroses, Mexican hats, white yarrow, chocolate flower, blanket flower, anthemis; pansy and Rocket snapdragon that wintered over

Bedding Plants: Wax begonia, nicotiana, sweet alyssum, snap dragons

What’s reviving/coming up: The warm nights encouraged a few seeds to germinate, but so far nothing more than one of a kind came up before the mornings cooled again.

Tasks: I spent more time cutting winterfat and raking excess leaves from under the cottonwood. The rain Saturday evening did not penetrate the leaves and reach the ground under the tree. The ones near the river, before humans, must indeed have gotten their water from the rise in the river when it rained, rather than from the rain directly.

I cut more unripe peaches from the twenty-year-old tree to relieve the stress of so many fruits on the ends of branches. There often were clumps of four to six. As I cut them, I could see the branches lifting.

The hoses that spray started to fail this week with the afternoon heat. That meant trying to make them lie flatter so the water went into the bed and not into the weeds. It also mean experimenting with partially opening valves to see if lower pressures would force more water into the beds. It’s still trial and error with hoses that are questionable, but all that’s available.

Animal sightings: Chickadees, gecko, one sulfur and many cabbage butterflies, bumble and small bees, heard crickets, hornets, mosquitoes, small ants


Weekly update: Thursday and Friday afternoons a flock of magpies descended. The members of the crow family are noisy and leave large droppings. They also do not scare away easily. I felt like the abandoned stage characters who cry "Alas, why me?"

Why now isn’t any easier to answer. This is the southern end of the range of black-billed magpies. They evolved three to four million years ago in the Pliocine, [1] and spread when temperatures cooled in the Ice Age. [2] Today they are associated with riparian parts of cold-weather steppe vegetation. [3]

Pica hudsonia are not migratory, although they may move to lower elevations in winter. [4] They also "may erratically wander" after the young are self-sufficient. [5] In Santa Fé on 9 July 2014, Anne Schmauss said she had heard "more than the usual number of magpie reports right in town in the last week or two" but the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited could provide no explanation. [6]

Thomas Hall said congregations often are found around food sources. In the past that was bison and cattle herds. They fed off the insects in their hide hairs. Today it more likely is road-kill or "ripening fruit and nut orchards." [7]

Cherries have been ripening this past week. However, I don’t think there are any orchards in the immediate area, and the scattered large trees are at least a mile away. The quail got all my ripe ones, and left the unripe and half-eaten on both my sweet and sour trees.

The other possibility is some disturbance in their home range. The only local fire is about five acres in El Rito, which is 55 miles north. It has been burning slowly since started by lightening 7 June. [8]

There might be some construction project somewhere. People continue to move into empty land, especially west of the Río Grande.

The magpies landed in the trees around my house, and in the grasses in the back yard. When I chased them off, they didn’t fly toward the open land of the prairie, but circled looking for another place to roost.

They were most attractive when they were leaving. That’s when one could see the black, white, and blue stripes that turned into Vs when the wings were spread.


Notes on photographs: All taken 16 June 2019.
1. Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa); the low horizontal branch has more flowers than the upper one.

2. Clusters of unripe peaches (Prunus persica).

3. Smooth beardtongue (Penstemon laevigatu) that naturalized.

End notes:
1. Wikipedia. Black-billed Magpie."

2. Gang Song, Ruiying Zhang, Per Alström, Martin Irestedt, Tianlong Cai, Yanhua Qu, Per G. P. Ericson, Jon Fjeldså, and Fumin Lei. "Complete Taxon Sampling of the Avian Genus Pica (Magpies) Reveals Ancient Relictual Populations and Synchronous Late-pleistocene Demographic Expansion Across the Northern Hemisphere." Journal of Avian Biology. February 2018.

3. Charles H. Trost. "Black-billed Magpie." Cornell University website. 1 January 1999.

4. Thomas C. Hall. "Magpies." Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Edited by Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm and Gary E. Larson. Lincoln: Great Plains Agricultural Council. 1994.

5. Wikipedia.

6. Anne Schmauss. "Reports of the Fascinating Magpie Abound in Santa Fe." The [Santa Fé] New Mexican. 9 July 2014.

7. Hall.

8. cnfpio. "Carson National Forest Preparing for Firing Operations on Gurule Fire." New Mexico Fire Information website. 15 June 2019.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Cottonwood Maintenance


Weather: A week ago morning temperatures sometimes were down to the mid-30s. This week, they’ve been in the high 40s and afternoon temperatures have reached the high 80s. Still no seeds have germinated.

Last useful rain: 6/1. Week’s low: 45 degrees F. Week’s high: 95 degrees F in the shade. Smoke from Mexican fires continues to enter area.

What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey rootstock, wild pink and hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, catalpa, silver lace vine, Japanese honeysuckle, Arizona yucca, red hot poker, purple locust shrub, Spanish broom, sweet peas, purple salvia, peonies, blue flax, larkspur, snow-in-summer, Jupiter’s beard, golden spur columbine, oriental poppy, yellow yarrow, coreopsis

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, Russian olive, tamarix, narrow leaf yucca, showy milkweed, white tufted evening primrose, scarlet bee blossom, tumble mustard, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, fern leaf globe mallow, goat’s heads, alfalfa, fleabane, plains paper flowers, strap leaf aster, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; needle, rice, three awn, and brome grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Betty Prior, Dorothy Perkins, rugosa and miniature roses, raspberry, beauty bush, privet, Asiatic lilies, catmints, Johnson’s blue geranium, winecup mallow, smooth and purple beardtongues, Bath pinks, Maltese cross, Dutch clover, coral bells, pink evening primroses, white yarrow, chocolate flower, blanket flower; pansies that wintered over

Bedding Plants: Wax begonia, nicotiana, sweet alyssum, snap dragons

What’s reviving/coming up: Corn is up about 6" in one market garden field; yellow mullein leaves recognizable along one drive

Tasks: Most of the hay fields were cut this week

I made one of my Sisyphean attempts to kill ant hills, especially those of the harvester ants. It’ll last a while, then some queen eggs will hatch somewhere and the small ones will be back. Still I’ve made some progress. Last year I was dealing with more than a hundred hills in my gravel drive. This year, I only treated about fifty.

Animal sightings: Neighbor’s cat, chickadees, gecko, cabbage, sulfur and monarch butterflies, small bees, heard crickets, hornets, mosquitoes, small ants


Weekly update: I planted a cottonless cottonwood in 2004 in the path of a culvert that was fed water from the roof of my neighbor’s house. I hoped that would provide enough moisture.

But trees have a way of creating demands. They respond to water by getting larger, and thus need to have an increased water supply. When a branch broke off the tree in 2013, I assumed it was lack of water, and started running a sprinkler every couple weeks. I wanted to keep it alive, not encourage profligate growth.

Last year leaves turned yellow early on a number of low branches. It had been a hot summer, and I already had increased the watering times. Some of those branches have not come back this year, although most have lots of leaves at their junctures with the trunk.

In February I had man come cut the dead wood. When he was inspecting the tree, he noticed the cut off limb and wondered if I had borers. Cottonwood borers (Plectrodera scalator) are related to locust borers, but a different species of longhorn beetle.

Since he didn’t see any sawdust, he thought I was safe. But doubt was planted. I was told a systemic insecticide was the only thing that handled borers. Since I refuse to mix chemicals, I looked for a dry one that could be sprinkled around the base of the tree.

The insecticide I bought contained imidacloprid. It’s supposed to act like nicotine as a poison. The label said borers, but its inside instructions only mentioned aphids. When I went on-line, I saw the base chemical was good for caterpillars (which are related to butterflies and moths, not beetles). The only borers mentioned were for ashes and elms (of which the less the better). Still, it was the only option.

Rain was forecast for Wednesday, so Tuesday morning I raked all the leaves out from around the cottonwood and sprinkled the insecticide. I ran the sprinkler for about 10 minutes, just in case it didn’t rain. And, of course, the rains never appeared. I ran the sprinkler an hour on Thursday.

Now my problem was how many leaves should I rake back over the bare ground. I had never done much maintenance on the tree. Since the vertical board fence on two sides, a thick layer of leaves had accumulated.


It’s impossible to see the ideal natural environment of these members of the willow family. The various dams built to control flooding and flow have reduced the moisture in bosques. Cottonwoods, which no longer could reproduce, have been replaced by tamarix. Trees that sprouted along irrigation ditches, now have paved roads to channel water toward them. Heavy traffic blows the leaves away.

The cottonwoods that sprouted in an unregulated arroyo have nothing around them but bare sand. They don’t need anything to trap or hold water because water flows through the area whenever it rains.


As near as I can tell, the cottonwoods near the Río Grande grow in grasses that get about a foot high.


In a few places, where dead branches have fallen, leaves have collected. This resembles the condition under my tree where dead winterfat branches have created weirs.


Yesterday, I began cutting out the winterfat, and raking out the leaves, but leaving a thin layer. One thing I know is more leaves will fall in the autumn and the supply will be replenished.


Notes on photographs:
1. Cottonwood (Populus deltoides wislizeni) growing in bosque before Arroyo Seco enters the Río Grande, 23 December 2010. The bosque has responded to the reduced water flows of the river.

2. Cottonwoods growing near the Río Grande within the Española city limits, 14 February 2009. I assume the city removed any dead wood to prevent fires. Thus, the leaves blow away.

3. Leaves trapped by winterfat branches under my cottonwood, 8 June 2019.

4. Cottonwoods growing in an unregulated arroyo near my house, 25 October 2011.

5. Cottonwoods near the Río Grande in the area of Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), 13 February 2013.

6. Cottonwood branches and leaves near the Río Grande, 23 December 2010. This is the same as area as the first picture.

7. Leaves raked over the cottonwood roots, 8 June 2019. They gray is a winterfat that was not removed.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Smoke without Borders


Weather: Dry blizzard on Wednesday when we got very high winds and little moisture. Another bout of very high winds Saturday, with a little rain.

On Tuesday, things started blooming, especially area roses. The next day a gecko ventured out.

Last useful rain: 5/21. Week’s low: 32 degrees F. Week’s high: 89 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey rootstock, Austrian Copper, Persian yellow, wild pink, and hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, silver lace vine, Arizona yucca, Dutch iris, peonies, blue flax, snow-in-summer, Jupiter’s beard, golden spur columbine, oriental poppy, purple salvia, yellow yarrow

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, sand bar willow, narrow leaf yucca, white tufted evening primrose, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, fern leaf globe mallow, fleabane, plains paper flowers, strap leaf aster, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; June, needle, rice, three awn, and brome grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Betty Prior, Dorothy Perkins, bourbon, rugosa and miniature roses, cliff rose, raspberry, beauty bush, privet, chives, catmints, Johnson’s blue geranium, winecup mallow, baptisia, Bath pinks, Maltese cross, vinca, sweet peas, Dutch clover, coral bells, pink evening primroses, white yarrow, chocolate flower, blanket flower; pansies that wintered over

Bedding Plants: Wax begonia, nicotiana, sweet alyssum, snap dragons back in bloom

What’s reviving/coming up: Flax seedlings, áñil del muerto

Tasks: The wind broke a branch on Tuesday. I was able to find a balance point and move it to the burn area. The next day the high winds lifted it off the burn pile and dropped it 10 feet away. Yesterday, I ignited the burn pile. The branch was too long for the pile, but the thick end did get charred.

When the branches and other debris had burned, I used a long-bladed shovel to move the larger pieces together into a log fire.

The heat apparently dried the more remote branches of the green limb so I was able to break them off and feed them to the log fire. (Of course, I hadn't tried this before the fire, so I may be wrong about the effect of heat). The limb was reduced from a kite to a skeleton that shouldn't get wind borne again.

Animal sightings: Neighbor's cat, chickadees, gecko, cabbage and monarch butterflies, bees on beauty bush, crickets, hornets, mosquitos after rain, harvester and small ants


Weekly update: Last Sunday I started panting while walking along the driveway. I wondered if my lungs had really gotten that much worse. Then I thought to check the air quality forecast of the weather bureau website. As you can see from the above illustration, the area was covered with smoke coming from México. [1]

Apparently, all this moisture we 've been getting this spring is water that didn't go to México. The drought conditions along the border remained unchanged, but aridity increased to the south. [2] A Mexican website reported more than more than 4,400 fires this year. The worst were around Mexico City, but Chihuahua had 182 that burned 20,559 acres. [3]

Smoke, of course, does not stop at the border, and no wall, and no expeditionary force, is going to stop it from crossing over.

It may not actually be the smoke that causes my problems. When I was burning yesterday I took off my mask. I didn't want anything flammable near by skin. I didn't have any breathing problems, though I know inhaling smoke isn't good for me.

The smoke in my yard was a natural product: tree limbs and clipped weed stalks. The smoke from a forest fire is contaminated, first, by whatever chemicals are used to suppress the flames. Then, as it travels, I think it mixes with other pollutants like those from vehicle exhaust and whatever is emitting smoke along the way.

What was causing me problems was that environmental mix that gets trapped by clouds in the night and settles down into the valleys.


Notes on photographs:
1. Back yard with tamarix (Tamarix rubra) and purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera); branch of Dr. Huey rose in foreground. 1 June 2019.

2. Vertical smoke forecast for 1 June 2019 at 4:00 pm. Inset map from bottom of display.

3. Partially burned peach branch (Prunus persica), 3 June 2019. Dead rose wood cuttings have been placed under right end to feed the next firing.

End notes:
1. To find the Air Quality display, go to the National Weather Service forecast website and enter the town. In the right hand column, at the bottom, there's a "National Digital Forecast Database" heading. Click on the map marked "High Temperatures. At the top of the next display there's a tab for "Air Quality." Click on it, then click on the map for New Mexico. At the left, place your cursor over "1 Hr Vertical Smoke Integration." I'm not exactly sure what "vertical smoke" means except it coincides with my breathing problems.

2. National Interagency Fire Center. "North American Seasonal Fire Assessment and Outlook" for May, June and July 2019. Issued 10 May 2019.

3. "108 wildfires are burning in 17 states, most in central and southern regions." Mexico News Daily website. 14 May 2019.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Cheat Grass


Weather: We got rain on Monday and Tuesday morning, but temperatures stayed above freezing: indeed, they rose slightly in the night when it was raining. But since, morning temperatures have fallen to 32 or below for a short time between 5:15 am and 6:15 am.

The shrubs I transplanted that didn’t like the heat may be happier, but bedding plants aren’t ready for severe cold. So far they’ve all survived, but the wax begonias look a bit shrunken. I’m not sure how the warm soil seeds are doing that I planted last weekend, but the ones that like cold stratification may germinate.

Winds continue to develop in late morning as soon as temperatures begin to rise: the warmer the day, the sooner they form. The soil surface is dry a few hours after I water. I suspect the clouds I’ve seen are Monday’s rain being leached back into the atmosphere.

Last useful rain: 5/21. Week’s low: 30 degrees F. Week’s high: 82 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey rootstock, Austrian Copper, Persian yellow, wild pink, and hybrid roses, spirea peaked, yellow potentilla, pyracantha, snowball, silver lace vine, broad leaf yucca, Dutch iris, peonies, blue flax, snow-in-summer, Jupiter’s beard, golden spur columbine, purple salvia

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, sand willow, narrow leaf yucca, white tufted evening primrose, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, fern leaf globe mallow, fleabane, plains paper flowers, strap leaf aster, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; June, needle, feather, rice, three awn, brome, and cheat grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Wood and rugosa roses, cliff rose, beauty bush, skunk bush, chives, baptisia, Bath pinks, vinca, coral bells, pink evening primrose; pansies that wintered over

Bedding Plants: Wax begonia, nicotiana, sweet alyssum

What’s reviving/coming up: Datura, toothed spurge, goat’s heads

Tasks: Several men cut their hay. Onions are up in one market garden field.

Animal sightings: Chickadees, gecko, cabbage and monarch butterflies, heard crickets, harvester and small ants, earthworms


Weekly update: Grasses are flourishing this year: with the increased rain the stems have gotten taller and seed heads fuller. That’s all well and good on the prairie where the needle grass shimmers in the sun, but the Gramineae are less welcome in the garden.

Smooth brome grass has been a bane ever since some seeds blew in from some farmer’s hay field. Bromus inermis roots are tied to runners an inch or more below ground, that break when the tops are jerked too strongly. I’ve been using a spade to get under them.

It’s cheat grass cousin isn’t as hard to remove: Bromus tectorum roots are shallow stars that usually can be removed by inserting a chisel under them. The problem is the seeds drop and replant themselves in the disturbed soil even as I’m removing them.

Last summer I tried again to level the main flower bed by adding soil from elsewhere. Naturally, it had been broken up before I used it, so was fine grained. If it didn’t come with seeds, it collected them from the wind.

Cheat grass invaded every place I put down soil. It didn’t just settle in the open spaces between the daylilies I’d planted, but it cousined up to them, and rose between the leaves of the Hemerocallis. Sometimes all I can do is break off the stems and leave the roots, which is OK since it is an annual.

Brome grass is a perennial, and its seeds too were stopped by the daylily leaves. One can’t dig them out without disturbing the perennial. Sometimes the chisel will get between them and the desirable plant and remove some of the root. The runners, however, sometimes go under the existing plants to come up on the other side.

I have no hopes of removing the main brome grass patch that developed on the edge of the drive. All I can do is cut the flowering stems, and chop it down like the local farmers when it gets too high. If I managed to dig it out, I would disturb the soil so much cheat and other grasses would come back with vengeance.


Notes on photographs: Taken 23 May 2019.
1. Cheat grass (Bromus tectorum).
2. Needle grass (Stipa comata).
3. June grass (Koeleria cristata).

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Potting Soil


Weather: We must be in a cycle where the heat and winds are drawing up the water from last week’s rain, becoming clouds in the night that hold in the heat that in turn creates the next day’s winds as the lowering sun interacts with the heat.

First tropical disturbance of the week in the Pacific on Thursday.

Last useful rain: 5/12. Week’s low: 34 degrees F. Week’s high: 86 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey rootstock, Austrian Copper, Persian yellow and wild pink roses, spirea peaked, yellow potentilla, snowball, silver lace vine, broad leaf yucca, Dutch iris, peonies, blue flax, snow-in-summer, Jupiter’s beard, golden spur columbine, purple salvia

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, tamarix, sand willow, white tufted evening primrose, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, fern leaf globe mallow, fleabane, plains paper flowers, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; June, needle, feather, rice, three awn, brome, and cheat grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Wood and rugosa roses, beauty bush, skunk bush, daffodils, lilies of the valley, chives, golden spur columbine, Bath pinks, vinca, coral bells, pink evening primrose; pansy that wintered over

Bedding Plants: Wax begonia, nicotiana

What’s reviving/coming up: Perennial four o’clock, lamb’s quarter, last year’s African marigold seeds

Tasks: Something bright green is up in two market gardens; it might be lettuce that was planted in a horizontal band crossways to the irrigation furrows.

One man got his first alfalfa cut.

County road crew cut weeds on Thursday along the shoulder; mainly tumble mustard and goat’s beards were affected.

Animal sightings: Neighbor’s cat, chickadees, hummingbird, cabbage and sulfur butterflies, bumble bee on pink evening primrose, hornets, dragonfly, ladybugs on goat’s beards, baby grasshoppers on dandelion flowers, heard crickets, small ants, earthworms

The ground squirrel is back. On Monday I found a dead hollyhock in an area it has tunneled in the past. On Tuesday the hose near a cholla was destroyed. It is bent on killing that cactus. It already has killed the other native one. My neighbors’ dogs and cat are not earning their keep.

I planted seeds near the cottonwood. A couple hours later I saw birds flying up from the general area. I laid some of the mesh fencing over the bed, but it probably was too late to prevent depredations.


Weekly update: We live on two calendars: nature’s and man’s. In the church, the one was borrowed from pagans. The other, the cycle of Christ’s birth and death with the various saint’s days was synchronized with the agrarian one at important points.

In a garden, one’s annual work patterns also follow two calendars. A week ago, when it was raining, I transplanted. Then, when afternoon temperatures grew warm this week I planted seeds.

The manmade cycle comes from the industries that support domestic landscaping. In the early spring, when I need to prepare hoses for the summer, I complain about poor quality control and cost accountants who find ways to cheapen products that work until they fail.

This past week I have been having my annual problems with potting soil. "Soil" is a courtesy title, or perhaps like so many other things, has been so redefined it has lost its earlier meaning. I heard a commercial on radio telling listeners dirt is what you get under your nails while soil is that plants grow in. It then went on to list its products that eliminated the need to improve dirt.

The artificial media used for annual plants is worthless. It only needs to function for a few months, and it’s highly desirable that it weight as little as possible to lower transportation costs.

Its worst characteristic is that it remains alien in the soil. That means water does not seep from the dirt to it. If you don’t target the water for the root ball, it does not absorb water a centimeter away. Each year when I’m removing last year’s dead plants, the potting soil comes with them. Even when there’s no sign of the plant, the clod is obvious and comes out nearly in its entirety.

The industry has an answer. Build a raised bed; it will provide the materials. Fill it with potting soil like that used by the nursery industry; it will provide it by the bag full. Then, to keep it wet all day, it will provide a drip irrigation system with timers.

The alternative is to remove as much of the artificial substance as possible. The trick is doing it when it is so dry it flakes away, but not so dry it forms a solid mass. If the potting soil has any water, the roots break when you try to isolate them. Then, when you plant them, they need a long time to adjust.

If the weather remains cool, that will work. Unfortunately, temperatures went into the 80s this past week. Then the young plants go out of bloom as they struggle, and, if history is a guide, never become strong enough to produce more flowers.

The stuff nurseries use with shrubs is a little better, if for no other reason than it has to support life for more than a few months.

It usually is easy to remove the medium from the bottom roots, which are stronger than those of annuals. However, an impenetrable shield forms at the top that will not break away. One has to dig the hose nozzle through the plate to get water down through the roots.

When the temperatures soar as they did this past week, the shrubs die back and may take several years to recover.


Notes on photographs: All taken 18 May 2019.
1. The flowering crab apple started to produce fruit this week.

2. Pink evening primroses (Oenothera speciosa) have moved out of their bed into a path where they invade the grasses I’ve worked so long to nurture.

3. The fern leaf globe mallows (Sphaeralce digitata) are producing much taller bloom stems this year.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Fruit Formation


Weather: After another too hot Monday, rains started on Tuesday and continued through Saturday night.

Last useful rain: 5/11. Week’s low: 37 degrees F. Week’s high: 83 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Austrian Copper and Persian yellow roses, spirea, snowball, broad leaf yucca, Dutch iris, blue flax, snow-in-summer, purple salvia

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, white tufted evening primrose, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, hoary cress, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, western stickseed, fern leaf globe mallow, fleabane, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; June, needle, rice, three awn, brome, and cheat grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Wood rose, skunk bush, tulips, daffodils, lilies of the valley, grape hyacinths peaked, chives, Bath pinks, vinca, coral bells, pink evening primrose; pansy that wintered over; globe willow dropping catkins that have tiny white flowers.

Bedding Plants: Sweet alyssum, wax begonia, nicotiana

What’s reviving/coming up: Desert willow, trees of heaven, roses of Sharon, buffalo gourd, showy milkweed

Tasks: Men have been working in the market gardens.

I took advantage of the rainy, cool weather to plant some shrubs, oriental poppies, bedding plants, and seeds that like cold weather. Because such weather is so rare, I worked much longer than usual. When I finished, I changed into warm, dry clothes, and thought about men like George Washington and William Henry Harrison who were supposed to have died after they got chilled. Since I assume they had warm, dry clothes or blankets, I presume the problem for them was the lack of enough heat from fireplaces to warm the air in their houses. Only snobs sniff at having a furnace that ignites automatically, a supplemental electric space heater, and an electric blanket.

Animal sightings: Neighbor’s cat, chickadees, hummingbird, cabbage butterflies, small ants, earthworms


Weekly update: The mechanics of fruit production are one of those things I’ve known from books, but never seen in operation. Frosts kill the blossoms nearly every year. When fruit did form, it was high or in protected areas where I never saw the fruit until it was ripening.

This year the cold only affected the apricots. Other members of the rose family were beginning their fruit formation this week.

When the petals dry, they leave the ovaries and attached styles.


The ovaries begin to swell within their protective coverings.


Soon, the ovary takes on the form of the final fruit. The protective covering falls away.


The last thing to disappear is the style that had acted as the tube that guided the pollen into the ovary.


Over the next few weeks, the fruits will expand in size, and the peaches will become round. As they get larger, they also will become heavier, and limbs will begin to bend. Then, even before they are ripe, I may have to remove unripe fruit, especially from the peach, to protect the trees from the consequences of their fertility.

Notes on photographs: All taken in my yard on 11 May 2019.
1. One-seeded juniper (Juniperus monosperma).
2. Siberia pea pod (Caragana arborescens) with remains of its style.
3. Sweet cherry (Prunus avium) with remains of flowers
4. Crab apple ovary (Malus sylvestris) expanding in its protective covering.
5. Sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) emerging from its protective covering.
6. Peaches (Prunus persica) with and without the remains of their styles.

End notes: The female part of the flower is the pistil. It is composed of the ovary at the base, the stigma at the tip, and the style that connects the two.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Terracing



Weather: The rain late Monday afternoon was like a gully washer, though those usually come when the ground is dry in late summer. High winds, a little hail. The main thrust last half an hour, then it throughout the night and int the early morning hours on Tuesday.

With the early end of apple flowers, we’ve gone from early to late spring.

Last useful rain: 4/30. Week’s low: 32 degrees F. Week’s high: 82 degrees F in the shade.

What’s blooming in the area: Flowering quince, spirea, lilacs, Dutch iris, blue flax, donkey spurge, lavender moss phlox

What’s blooming beyond the walls and fences: White tufted evening primrose, alfilerillo, tansy and tumble mustards, hoary cress, bindweed, western stickseed, leather leaf globe mallow, fleabane, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions; June, needle, three awn, and cheat grasses

What’s blooming in my yard: Choke cherries peaked, skunk bush, snowball, tulips, daffodils, lilies of the valley, grape hyacinths, vinca, coral bells, pink evening primrose; pansy that wintered over

Bedding Plants: snapdragons

What’s reviving/coming up: Catalpa, caryopteris, Russian sage, buddleia, tomatillo, ostrich fern, black grama grass

Tasks: I’ve been cleaning under trees that were left wild because I couldn’t under the low branches that I had cut this winter.

When I removed cheat grass, I uncovered dandelions and leather leaf globe mallows. When those were removed, one area was thick with golden-spur columbine seedlings.

Animal sightings: Neighbor’s cat, chickadees, house finches, hummingbird, quail, small bees, cabbage butterflies, ladybug, small ants, earthworms


Weekly update: Gardening on a hillside remains a challenge. The slightest incline causes water to run away, taking with it any seeds or nutrients that have been added.

This year I’ve been adding backstops in some beds. They resemble what some called waffle beds when I done: series of small, walled squares. Native Americans created them in the southwest to create small reservoirs in the arid land.

Monday’s rain was an opportunity to see how well they worked. Most were flooded at the end of the torrent, but had drained within half an hour. As near as I could tell, the soil remained relatively level.


Notes on photographs:
1-2. Choke cherries (Prunus virginiana melanocarpa) have had a good year. Each of these flowers will turn into a small fruit that will disappear before I ever see them. 2 May 2019.

3. Retrofitted terraced bed with hostas and daylilies, 30 April 2019.