Sunday, May 27, 2012


Weather: Lucy Brown weather, with drying winds sent to punish every plant that dared grow or bloom after the winter’s snow; last rain 5/13/12; 14:21 hours of daylight today.

Friday smoke from the Gila Wilderness fires arrived with winds that were gusting to 30 miles an hour in Santa Fé. Humidity levels got down to 6% there. Yesterday the humidity levels were fractionally better, the winds much worse, up to 48 mph, and the smoke came in before sundown.

The weather bureau (NOAA) doesn’t report on Española, so you decide which information applies best by the direction of the winds - south it’s Santa Fé, west it’s Los Alamos.

What’s blooming in the area: Catalpas, wild pink, Persian yellow, Dr. Huey and other hybrid roses, Japanese honey suckle, silver lace vine, Spanish broom, bearded iris nearly gone, yuccas, red hot poker, datura, donkey tail spurge, sweet pea, alfalfa, purple clover, blue perennial salvia, yellow flowered yarrow, brome grass; buds on Virginia creeper, daylily.

Cherries available from roadside vendors.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, Russian olive, tamarix, sandbar willow, hedgehog cactus, four-wing saltbush, yuccas, fernleaf globemallow, cheese mallow, western stickseed, bractless cryptantha, alfilerillo, tumble mustard, purple mat flower, gypsum phacelia, stick leaf, tufted white evening primrose, scarlet bee blossom, blue gilia, white and pink bindweeds, nits and lice, oxalis, wild licorice, scurf and bush peas, loco, sweet sand verbena, English and woolly plantains, silver leaf nightshade, horse tail, flea bane, plain’s paper flower, goat’s beard, cream tips, strap leaf and golden hairy asters, native dandelion; needle, rice, June and three awn grasses; buds on prickly pear, showy milkweed.

In my yard, looking east: Peony, Bath pinks, snow-in-summer, small leaved soapwort, Jupiter’s beard, Maltese cross, sea pink, coral bells, pink evening primrose, oriental poppy, winecup mallow, Rose Queen salvia, purple clover; buds on hollyhock, baby’s breath.

Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, raspberries, beauty bush, Dutch clover.

Looking west: Chives, vinca, blue flax, Siberian and Seven Hills Giant catmints, baptisia, Johnson’s Blue geranium; buds on Husker and purple beardtongues, sea lavender, Rumanian sage.

Looking north: Black locust, privet, golden spur columbine, hartweig evening primrose, chocolate flower, coreopsis; buds on blanket flower, anthemis, Mexican hat.

Bedding plants: Pansies, sweet alyssum, petunia, nicotiana, moss rose, impatiens.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Gold finches, geckos, orange paisley butterfly, bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: The day of the hedgehog, the year of the yucca. The near desert plants took last summer’s monsoons and last winter’s snows as signs of grace. What’s happened since has just been one of those things they endure.

Thursday and Friday, two hedgehog cacti bloomed in my yard. The last time I saw them was July 19 of 2008 and before that June 27 of 2003. The volunteers may have bloomed other times, unseen, but they definitely are sporadic.

Yuccas are much more reliable, blooming roughly the same time every year, except of course for those times like last year’s drought when they pass. The one favored in yards is the broad leafed Yucca baccata associated with the bases of mountains and Santa Fé canyon. The leaves get thick and curve ever so slightly to make room for large stalks that rarely rise much above the leaves. It was blooming this year mid April.

The one just coming into bloom, Yucca recurvifolia, has softer leaves, more like an iris or red hot poker and florets on tiny stems that allow them to hang like bells. This is not native, but comes from the southeastern United States.

Everyone knows, but few grow the tall Yucca elata. The roots of the southern New Mexico native are large and hard to transplant, and so they tend to be grown in front of commercial establishments where backhoes are not intrusions. One woman told me they were called century plants because they bloomed so rarely.

Those that grow wild are more elusive. When they’re brought into town where they get more water, the members of the agave family get as large as the broad leafed cousins. They’ve been blooming for a few weeks now.

Out on the dry grass lands, the plants are smaller, the straight, narrow leaves more often a faded green with fewer of the loose fibers found on the broad leafed ones.

Like the others, Yucca glauca, is a tease. It sends up a narrow blooming stalk, then pauses a week before opening a few lower florets.

By the time the middle ones are open, the lower ones already are dying. Before the top has bloomed, the middle flowers are gone and fruits are appearing below.

If you want to see the individual, downward facing florets, you must get very close, something the sharp edged leaves discourage.

Well you may ask, is this all there is, after a year without blooming, after years of browned out leaves, a stalk that looks ratty before it’s done blooming, and leaves a dried gray carcass?

The woman who called the one a century plant was waiting for the narrow leafed native to burst on her daily commute to town from Velarde, for she knows they, like everything in New Mexico, do well more often than once a hundred years. You just have to wait.

The winds can’t last forever. Mañana will be better.

Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915, reprinted by J. Cramer, 1972.

1. Tall Yucca elata blooming outside the Santa Clara casino, 17 May 2012.

2. Hedgehog cactus blooming wild in my yard Thursday, 24 May 2012.

3. Broad leafed Yucca baccata blooming in a yard down the road, 19 April 2012.

4. Weeping Yucca recurvifolia blooming outside a commercial building in Española Thursday, 24 May 2012.

5. Close up of above Yucca recurvifolia flowers, 24 May 2012.

6. Narrow leafed Yucca glauca blooming near a ditch spillway on Santa Clara land, 9 May 2012.

7. Yucca glauca blooming in a yard in town, 10 May 2012, with one plant in full bloom and another with just the bud stalks.

8. Yucca glauca growing on dry Santa Clara land, 19 April 2012; only some of these bloomed.

9. Close up of Yucca glauca stalk in my garden, 17 May 2012; plant was purchased from a nursery.

10. Yucca glauca before it’s done blooming in my garden with good and bad florets this past Thursday, 24 May 2012

11. Close up of Yucca gluaca floret in my garden, 20 May 2012.

12. Another variety of tall yucca, being cared for in a garden near the village, 14 April 2012. Yucca schottii, a cross between elata and baccata, grows to the southwest in Hidalgo County and adjacent Arizona.

13. The same yuccas in bloom Thursday, 24 May 2012.

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