Sunday, July 24, 2016

Heat Barrens

Weather: Some rain fell last night and a little fell earlier in the week. Yesterday the bare ground near the chollas crumbled when I walked on it. Today, when I watered, the water didn’t sink in. I can’t believe we had that much rain last night. There must be a dry layer below the surface that is slowing absorption, even in areas that get watered every other day.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, bird of paradise, buddleia, fernbush, Russian sage, trumpet creeper, silver lace vine, rose of Sharon, hollyhock, purple garden phlox, zinnia.

Beyond the walls and fences: Trees of heaven, buffalo gourd, velvetweed, scarlet bee blossom, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, yellow purslane, white sweet clover, alfalfa, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, wild lettuce, horseweed, golden hairy asters, brome grass.

In my yard: Garlic chives, large leafed soapwort, larkspur, golden spur columbine, sea lavender, blue flax, ladybells, catmints, perennial four o’clock, David phlox, sidalcea, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, tomatillo, white spurge, Mönch asters, purple coneflower, Mexican hats, chocolate flowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, anthemis, chrysanthemum.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, French marigolds, gazania.

Inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Two rabbits, hummingbirds and other small birds, geckoes, butterflies, bumble and small bees, hornets, ants, grasshoppers.

Weekly update: We’ve now had nearly three weeks of afternoon temperatures in the 90s. Before the solstice, humidity levels in Santa Fé fell below 5%, and morning temperatures fell to the low 60s. Since the Fourth the humidity has stayed above 10%. Morning lows this past week were in the mid-60s.

Molasses may run better when it’s warm, but I slow down. It’s harder to sleep. I wake wondering how soon I can take a nap. Only, I can’t because I have to run water. I can’t both sleep in the few cool hours of the day, and water plants in them. It’s too hot even then to do any more useful work. Whatever is trapped in the air makes my eyelids itch and me sneeze. I get the nap, but it begins just as the air is warming. I stumble from fatigue. Everything’s a typo.

I become a slave to my hobby. I have a friend in Santa Fé who says he waters half the yard every day with a hose every morning and can’t keep up. He’s given up on doing anything more than keeping things alive for next year.

The weeds of summer take advantage. Wild lettuce, horse weed and white sweet clover produce seeds to perpetuate themselves.

Other plants continue to retreat. Purple garden phlox that came into bloom last week at one house down the road was going out of bloom this week. It normally produces flowers all summer. Likewise, bouncing Bess, which normally produces pale florets all summer, was closing production.

This year I started noticing apples on trees at the end of June at places where they’re left to their own devices. Around July 5 I saw fruit in the well-tended orchards. I thought at the time that that was early, but I told myself we have had so little fruit the past few years I may have forgotten when it becomes visible. Today, I checked my notes. Last year I noted fruit for the first time on this date, July 24. Then it was beginning to show some color.

The reason I read my notes is I saw something strange Thursday: trees covered with apples and few leaves.

I had noticed some of my own shrubs seemed more barren. I already was wondering was it grasshoppers or leaf dropping or were the leaves just smaller? I went out to my crab apples where I suspect I had been breeding the insects. Leaves on two of the trees were damaged or gone. Only empty stems remained.

I checked two of my sandcherries. The fruit on one was still buried in leaves,

but was exposed on the other.

I’m assuming the leaves were eaten, but the deformation of some suggests other insects had attacked. On the roses of Sharon, which are one of the last shrubs to leaf, I suspect I see so much of the infrastructure because the leaves stopped developing.

1. Wild lettuce, Lactuca sativa, in the afternoon, after the flowers are gone, 24 July 2016.

2. Horseweed, Conyza candensis, in the afternoon, after the flowers are gone, 24 July 2016.

3. White sweet clover, Melilotus alba, along the fence, 24 July 2016.

4. Apples on tree with few leaves, Santa Cruz, 21 July 2016.

5. Crab apple with bare stems and nibbled leaves, 22 July 2016. White flowers are Queen Anne’s lace, Daucus carpta.

6. Sandcherry, Prunus besseyi, with leaves shielding fruit, 22 July 2016.

7. Sandcherry with exposed fruit, nibbled or deformed leaves, 22 July 2016.

8. Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus, stems visible through the leaves, 22 July 2016.

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