Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cool Weather

What’s blooming in the area: Yucca, cholla, datura, milkweed, bindweed, buffalo gourd, golden hairy aster, tumble mustard, wooly plantain, sweet pea, roses, daylilies, bouncing Bess, Russian sage, trumpet creeper, silverlace vine, grama grass, rice grass, three-awn grass. Someone down the road has yuccas at least 5' tall with flowers that bend from their weight; corn in one garden is 24" high with 6" tomato plants in front.

What’s blooming in my garden, looking north: Blanket flower, golden spur columbine, lance-leaf coreopsis, chocolate flowers, perky Sue, Hartweg evening primrose, fern-leaf yarrow, Mexican hat, miniature roses (Sunrise).

Looking east: California poppy, hollyhock, winecup, coral bells, cheddar pink, rock rose, coral beardtongue.

Look south: Climbing rose (Blaze), rugosa, rugosa hybrid (Elisio).

Look west: Oriental lily, perennial four o’clock, white spurge, catmint, blue flax, purple ice plant.

Bedding plants: Dalhburg daisies, marigolds, sweet alyssum, snapdragons, petunias, profusion zinnias, supersweet 100 tomato.

Animal sightings: Power line birds, small green hummingbird, quail appear to be testing the Russian sage for a new home, geckoes, orange Tiffany butterfly, ants, grasshoppers, bees, including bumble bee, crickets; someone down the road has brought in 3 ewes and a lamb to crop the vegetation; gopher attacked one of two hollyhocks that survived last summer, killed one stalk.

Weather: Hot days, warmer nights, mild afternoon winds with area storms that leave no trace; 16 days since last rain.

Weekly update: The solstice has come and gone, and the house is warming up so much during the day it no longer cools off completely in the early morning.

We had a long run of cool nights. It got warm early, but afternoons only turned hot in June. This followed a long fall that saw no killing frost until after Thanksgiving.

Despite the drought, trees and shrubs down the road are haloed in bright leaves. Some trees have branches of brilliant chartreuse among the dark green of old growth. As near as I can tell from the road, most are cottonwoods, some globe willows, and apples.

One yard in town is graveled with a half dozen or so wide yuccas. In one corner there’s a wisteria, that bloomed this year for the first time in several. As long as I remember, it draped sparingly over an arch trellis. Now it’s a large round mound of dense foliage at least as wide as the trellis in every direction.

My woody perennials still have lots of bare stems, but there are also new shoots and growing branches with leaves filling in bare areas. Some, like the Siberian pea trees, look normal. The roses of Sharon look the way they did two years ago. The lilacs, beauty bush and cherries have new growth, while the peach, forsythia and locust have branches blocking walkways. Only the weigela and roses remain diminished.

While some may water or have irrigation rights, I can’t believe every sprouting tree is getting attention. These must be plants more sensitive to temperature for growth than daylight or water. They probably are also established plants with roots deep enough to reach water stored last summer. Young or weak plants of the same species are not thriving. My globe willow and new cherry are only stable, staying alive and prey to grasshoppers.

Nature is indifferent. Lilacs should have had a wonderful, cool spring; and, there was one plant in town that had suckered into a 10' long copse covered with light lavender flowers. But the blooming period was unusually short, and most plants had few panicles. Someone down the road lost his lilac hedge, and in the village there are shrubs like my weigela with few green branches amidst much dead wood.

Nature may provide ways for plants to recover from the hard summer of drought and grasshoppers and the harder winter of drought and cold temperatures, but they are not panaceas. Darwinian selection rules.

Grasshopper watch: First grasshoppers were brown. Then came the green ones, which are dominant now. I’ve seen some with orange and black stripes, and some that had black and brown stripes. Also, there are insects that look like grasshoppers until they spread their wings and fly.

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