Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nature’s Wonders

Weather: Sun, wind, smoke from fires around Santa Fé and Cochití with last rain 5/13/12; 14:32 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Dr. Huey and other hybrid roses, Japanese honey suckle, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, Spanish broom, red hot poker, daylily, hollyhock, datura, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, blue perennial salvia, scabiosa, larkspur, yellow flowered yarrow, brome grass.

Farmers making their first hay cuts.

Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, tangerine yellow flowered prickly pear and cholla cacti, showy and whorled milkweeds, leatherleaf globemallow, alfilerillo, tumble mustard peaked, purple mat flower peaked, gypsum phacelia, stick leaf, tufted and prairie white evening primroses, scarlet bee blossom, velvetweed, pale blue trumpets, blue gilia, white and pink bindweeds, oxalis, wild licorice, scurf peas, loco, silver leaf nightshade, buffalo gourd, horse tail, plain’s paper flower, goat’s beard, cream tips, strap leaf and golden hairy asters, native dandelion, needle grass; buds on Virginia creeper.

Early dry heat, on top of little spring rain, is hastening the transition to seed production for plants like purple mat flower and woolly plantain that might have bloomed longer. So far, the wild prickly pear are producing few flowers, though they’d prepared for a great season with lots of buds.

In my yard, looking east: Bath pinks, snow-in-summer, small leaved soapwort peaked, Maltese cross, bouncing Bess, baby’s breath, sea pink, coral bells peaked, coral beardtongue, pink evening primrose, winecup mallow, Rose Queen salvia, first California and Shirley poppies, Saint John’s wort; buds on sidalcea.

Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, Dutch clover, tomatillo.

Looking west: Blue flax, Siberian and Seven Hills Giant catmints, Rumanian sage, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Husker and purple beardtongues, white spurge; buds on lilies, sea lavender; pods forming on baptisia.

Looking north: Catalpa, golden spur columbine, hartweig evening primrose, chocolate flower, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis; buds on butterfly weed, Mexican hat; sour cherries turning red; berries forming on privet.

Bedding plants: Petunia, nicotiana, moss rose.

Those plants that prefer cool weather or shade - pansies, sweet alyssum, impatiens, snapdragons - going or gone out of bloom.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Hummingbirds, other small brown birds, geckos, cabbage, sulphur and paisley butterflies, bumble bees and other small bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants. Noisy, but invisible insects.

Some kind of cottony insect webs on plants along the shoulders. Doesn’t seem to matter if the plant is active or passed its prime, so long as there’s a bare stem.

Weekly update: You always know what the label says on a plant and what you intend. What you get is sometimes another matter. Only someone with a strong legalistic bent would try to fix a point of accountability that explains what blooms and consider suing for breach of promise.

I ordered a bare root climbing Iceberg rose from Wayside Gardens in 1998. Every year it’s gotten about three feet tall and never bloomed, probably because it’s never gotten enough water. Last year, I replaced a nearby weak spirea that hadn’t made it through the winter of 2009-2010. With the drought, I moved a hose to ensure more water in the area.

This year the Iceberg finally produced a number of semi-double, pale pink flowers. Not what I expected with the name Iceberg. Botanica describes it as a pure white floribunda introduced in 1968 as a sport of a 1958 Kordes rose. It admits there may be “occasional pinkish flushes in the bud stage, especially in the early spring and autumn when the nights are cold and damp.” It even suggests that if dew hits a petal, the morning sunshine may bring out the pink.

Temperatures are now in the high 80's and damp is a fantasy. I’m amazed the rose actually survived all these years and didn’t revert to rootstock. Why should I be surprised that when it’s finally bloomed, the environment has altered the color of the flowers in unforeseen ways?

After all, one lives with unexpected variations. For years I tried to start hollyhocks with seeds and plants, and some combination has naturalized. They’re never pure red or pure white, but hues in between. Most of the Althcea rosea are light pink

but a few are a deeper rose.

When one dies, another takes it place somewhere. They don’t seem to be that different from sweet peas, except the Lathyrus latifolia that grow around here are almost always rose colored.

Rose is probably dominant and, through natural selection, all that exists in the local gene pool. The only place I know I can see the range of Mendelian colors and quantities is where the village ditch makes a ninety degree turn and dumps water that has been running in a concrete bed into a dirt one. Soon after, the ditch angles into a narrower conduit to pass under the road, then continues, after another turn, on the other side in an open bed.

Everything downstream is the usual rose. The only place you can see light pink

or white flowers is the short stretch where transitions in bed, direction and flow rates have apparently trapped seeds coming from who knows where. The water ultimately comes from the Santa Cruz dam in Chimayó and flows miles through an open channel.

While one grows used to nature’s variations, there are also flowers that are reliably the same color year after year. I planted a number of itinerant perennials in a bed where they can go to seed. Their location and number changes from year to year, but not the color. To get variation, I had to use different species - coreopsis, anthemis, chocolate flowers, black-eyed Susans and golden spur columbines. There’s some variation in the blanket flowers, but nothing else changes.

That is, until last year, when a columbine showed up beyond the edge of the border with red sepals.

I have a friend in Santa Fé who grows the red Canadian and blue Colorado columbines along with the native Aquilegia chrysantha, and he says he sometimes gets unexpected colors. But, I know my gene pool is a pure as one can be. I bought two plants in August of 1997 from Santa Fe Greenhouse. When they didn’t do well, I ordered a few more from Weiss Brothers the next year. However, there’s was already a seedling. From that small parentage, plants have filled a bed 40' by 6' and every one has always been the same color - no mutations, no recessed characteristics ever.

The unusual plant survived the winter and has been blooming again in its isolated location. A few weeks ago, I thought I saw a very light colored columbine at the other end of the bed, upwind from the bicolor. When I looked closer, I saw it was growing with another plant with red sepals.

I could blame the effects of drought or I could consider the profligate ways of moths which may have found another species growing somewhere in the village. Or, I can just watch and wonder what will happen next year while lawyers try to sue someone for causing the Colorado Peak fire near their expensive homes in Santa Fé.

Notes: Botanica. Botanica’s Roses, 2000.

1. Last year’s golden spur columbine with red sepals, 27 May 2011.

2. Climbing iceberg rose, 6 June 2012.

3. Pink flowered hollyhock growing where it planted itself in needle grass, 9 June 2012.

4. Rose colored hollyhock, 6 June 2012.

5. Rose colored sweet pea which has climbed into a red leafed plum, 4 June 2012.

6. Light pink flowered sweet peas growing along a village ditch, 5 June 2012.

7. White and rose sweet peas growing along the same section of shaded ditch, 5 June 2012.

8. Migrating perennials, including golden spur columbine, coreopsis and blanket flowers, 5 June 2012.

9. Golden spur columbine with a bicolor and an albino in their darting fish phase at the west end of the bed, 24 may 2012.

10. Golden spur columbine plant with red sepals that’s come back this year at the east end of the bed, 13 May 2012.

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