Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fall Arrives

Weather: Temperatures falling to low-30s; last rain 10/10/2013; 11:21 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Silver lace vine, Russian sage, Maximilian sunflowers, Sensation cosmos.

Beyond the walls and fences: Chamisa, snakeweed, Hopi tea, Tahoka daisy, gumweed, broom senecio, native sunflowers, áñil del muerto, golden hairy, heath and purple asters.

In my yard: Fern bush, winecup mallow, catmint, calamintha, bachelor buttons, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, anthemis, chrysanthemums, black-eyed Susan, Mexican hats.

Bedding plants: Snapdragons, sweet alyssum.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Large and small black ants.

Weekly update: Fall arrive this week - not following the calendar and not after some great temperature drop. Morning temperatures simply fell in the low thirties, day after day.

Not enough cold to shock. Just enough to slowly destroy flowers. My zinnias are gone, but they continue blooming near the village where moisture from the river traps heat. My cosmos are desiccated, but flowers persist at the bases of plants were leaves and the ground provide some warmth.

Trees are reacting to changes in air temperature, sun angles and drying soils. The decline in photosynthesis rates shows in leaves slowly losing their green. The catalpas are yellowing.

Others are quietly sealing the junctions between leaves and stems. Nothing overt changes. Trees simply get barer each day.

A storm blew through Thursday from the west. Winds reached 55 miles an hour in Los Alamos around 1 pm. They were in the low forties in Santa Fé where I was holed up in a windowless shop watching someone look for viruses on my computer.

When I got home, I saw winds had passed. The gravel under the Siberian pea was littered with small leaves.

When I rounded the curve, I saw grasses in the parking area near the house had trapped peach leaves, not yet yellow, but sealed enough to fall.

The thing that puzzles me every year is the difference in hardwood cycles here and in the north where I was raised. People there used to plan vacation trips to see the maples and oaks turn color. They knew they had at least one weekend, and maybe two.

Here, the leaves that change color, like the peach, drop immediately. The color is on the ground, not in the stands.

The most brilliant color comes from Virginia creeper, which has crept west from the Mississippi valley. The changes begin early, when stems holding the berries turn red. Now, the leaves light up otherwise drab trees.

In the mountains, the aspens that colonize areas of pines destroyed by fires and lumbering turn yellow. Down here, their cousins, the cottonwoods are being drained. From a distance, the leaves look like gold. Up close, they’re splotched with brown.

If you want fall color here, it’s best to plant trees that have red leaves all year. They don’t change much with the season, but they standout when everything else fades.

Photographs: All taken yesterday, 12 October 2013.

1. Skunk bush leaves in the sun; the ones in the shade are simply liver-spotted as they lose color.

2. Tithonia, an annual that was too slow to grow. It hadn’t produced its first flower when the cold killed the leaves.

3. Purity cosmos flowers desiccated by cold, either eaten by grasshoppers or battered by Thursday’s winds.

4. Catalpa leaves losing color with slower photosynthesis.

5. Stella cherry with most leaves gone; the remaining ones are showing colors that coexisted with the chlorophyll.

6. Siberian pea leaves, on the shrub and on the ground.

7. Elberta peach leaves blown into low annual grasses in the drive.

8. Virginia creeper scampering through trees growing on the banks of the main irrigation ditch for the village.

9. Cottonwoods growing along a lateral irrigation ditch; the low red shrub is closer to the main ditch.

10. Purple leaved plum leaves; tamarix in back.

11. Daylily leaves.

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