Sunday, September 20, 2015


Weather: It’s been a dry monsoon season, with the last attempt at rain on 9/4. Relative humidity was down to 7% in Santa Fé a week ago Sunday.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, buddleia, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, datura, morning glories, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, Sensation cosmos, African marigolds, coreopsis, zinnias.

Beyond the walls and fences: Goat’s head, bindweed, green-leaf five-eyes, yellow evening primrose, leather leaf globe mallow, green amaranth, pigweed, native sunflower, gumweed, goldenrod, áñil del muerto, Tahoka daisy, golden hairy, purple and heath asters.

In my yard: Yellow potentilla, garlic chives, calamintha, lead wort plant, larkspur, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Maximilian sunflowers, Mexican hat, chocolate flower, blanket flower, yellow cosmos.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, snapdragon, marigold, gazania.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds, geckos, cabbage butterflies, bees, grasshoppers, ants.

Insect webs appearing everywhere, especially high in the cottonwoods. When I kick those nearer the ground, they contract into denser webs protecting the eggs.

Weekly update: The wet weather early in the season appeared too late in the life cycle of perennials to increase the number of flowers this year. Right now, the peaches are forming next year’s buds. As a result, as I mentioned in the post for June 18, stems just got longer.

Now its time for the late summer annuals that germinated in the wet period and matured when the rains stopped. Most aren’t noticeably more floriferous or taller.

Native sunflowers are the exception. They apparently need water in the air as well as in the soil. Unlike many years, we’ve only had a few days when the relative humidity in Santa Fé was below 10%: August 6, August 20, and September 13.

They are taller, and the branches on the lateral stems don’t seem to be spaced more than usual. That means there also are more flowers.

The only way one judge height is by comparison. They usually get about five or six feet high. This year I see them nodding above six foot walls. I’ve even seen them towering above corn stalks that themselves were unusually tall.

Maximilian sunflowers are a different matter. For one thing, they’re perennials. Mine always bloom earlier than others. I bought them from a nursery in Santa Fé, so they aren’t the local ecotype.

Because they flower earlier, they must do most of their growth earlier. They are decidedly taller than the ones just coming in to bloom.

Not only are different strains of sunflowers different, but different species also behave differently. When the seeds of the native Helianthus annuus are ripe, they heads bend a little, but the stalks remain erect. When the farmer’s single flowered varieties mature, theie entire heads droop from the weight of the oil.

When Helianthus maximiliani are ripe, the whole stalk bends. When they’re in a clump, the middle ones push down the ones to their side, and the ones on their far side push them down until they cascade. It’s bad enough when six foot stalks collapse over the path. When they’re eight foot long, they bury everything. Fortunately, most of mine are across from some foot high tansy that doesn’t seem to mind.

I’m more worried about my cottonwood. A few years ago, it died back in the drought and one branch broke off.

This year the tree has flourished with the added water in the soil. It has added a good six feet. The old dead wood is barely visible.

I fear when the next dry year comes, it will die back again, and I’ll have problems with dead branches. They’re way above my ability to do any anticipatory pruning.

1. Native sunflowers growing down the road, 10 September 2015. The higher part of the wall is 6'.

2. Maximilian sunflowers in my yard, 5 September 2015. The fence is 6'.

3. Native sunflowers growing on the flood plain of the Río Grande. The tall corn is to the left.

4. Maximilian sunflowers two weeks after #2, 20 September 2015. The stems have leaned over.

5. Cottonwood with dead branches two years ago, 8 November 2013.

6. The dead wood has been engulfed with new growth; it’s only visible when the wind blows like yesterday, 19 September 2015.

7. You can just see the dead branch in the indentation on the right in the wind; everything above is new growth, 19 September 2015.

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