Sunday, July 17, 2016
Weather: Last rain 7/2; temperatures have been over 90 almost every day since 7/5. Humidity levels have often fallen between 5 and 10% in Santa Fé.
Plants are retreating. Oriental poppy leaves always turn brown in summer, but this past week daylily and golden spur columbine leaves have been turning yellow. Flowers on many shrubs toward the village are small and the leaves seem sparse, although they may also only be smaller than usual.
What’s blooming in the area: Desert willow, hybrid roses, bird of paradise, buddleia, fernbush, Russian sage, sweet peas, trumpet creeper, silver lace vine, red-tipped yuccas, daylilies, rose of Sharon, hollyhock, purple garden phlox, bouncing Bess, zinnia. Some corn has tassels and some is still germinating irregularly.
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, wild lettuce, horseweed, golden hairy asters, brome grass.
In my yard: Betty Prior rose, garlic chives, large leafed soapwort, larkspur, golden spur columbine, sea lavender, blue flax, ladybells, Saint John’s wort, annual blue salvia, 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.
Bedding plants: Wax begonias, snapdragons, nicotiana, moss roses, sweet alyssum, French marigolds, gazania.
Inside: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Two rabbits, small birds, geckoes, butterflies, hummingbird moths, bumble and small bees, hornets, ants, grasshoppers. The hummingbird has returned to the nest and laid two eggs.
Weekly update: You see the pictures in catalogs and home beautification publications - drifts of daffodils, fields of wildflowers. Then, if you’re the practical sort, you get out your calculator. If there’s a hundred daffodils in one patch, those bulbs cost $50. If there’s 50 perennials that’s more like $500. Then someone had be paid to dig a hundred holes, and no one ever places things randomly enough to resemble nature.
You wonder, however did it happen.
One landscape designer told a story some years ago about a wealthy client who saw those daffodils and told her he wanted that effect when he returned to his estate the coming weekend. When she tried to explain that it would take at least a year, he repeated "next weekend."
If there’s enough money, anything can happen.
I can’t find the article now, but I think she called all the shops in the country who suppled ready-to-bloom plants, and created his mass. I’m not ever sure now if she actually transplanted them, or just buried the pots like they do for flower-show displays. After all, he may have sold the place and moved into something grander, before the next spring would have exposed the slight-of-hand.
For those with less money, the only alternative is seeds. Unfortunately, the current suppliers only produce viable seed for varieties grown for florists and bedding plant growers. You can plant all the seed you like, but very little germinates, and it’s never in masses.
The other choice is patience. Some plants naturalize. Daylilies, tansy and Saint John’s wort send out underground roots. Sidalcea, hollyhocks, and winecup mallows all produce seeds that can out-shoulder any weed.
This summer, maybe because of the long cool spring, more varieties than usual have multiplied in my yard. The Mexican hats fill a grassy area where only a few daylilies and some trees were planted. Of course, trees need water, and where there’s water there are seeds. The prairie composites were planted across the drive, and made the move themselves. I’ve been trying to get the black-eyed Susans to follow, because they have the same habit of turning dreary by the late summer. However, this year few have come up anywhere.
The only downside to a field of flowers is bees. Despite all those warm, fuzzy extrapolations of nature as some great harmonic Gaia, those masses resulted from individual species serving their own selfish needs. The bees created that meadow effect so they would have a place to eat. Forget the commercials. It is not some place you run through in late morning.
Butterflies must have hatched somewhere this past week. Friday there were a dozen sulphurs around the golden hairy asters. Those are roadside plants whose seed blow into my yard, and the ones near the drive germinate. They yellow butterflies were joined by a few white cabbage butterflies, an occasional swallowtail, and more of those small things that were on the white sweet clover last week.
Yesterday I saw the first hummingbird or hawk moth. It was on the soapwort. This morning it was on the golden spur columbine. I only planted a couple of those yellow-flowered plants, but the moths and hummingbirds have created a mass of greedy tap-roots that invade everything I plant, because, if I plant it, it gets water.
1. Sidalcea malvaeflora ‘Party Girl." I planted some several times. The four in 2006 are the ones that naturalized.
2. Ladybells, Adenophora latifolia. I planted them at least twice, before the two in 2000 colonized. The hose is outside the bed so the ground squirrel won’t get it.
3. Goldenspur columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha. I planted four in 1997.
4. Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare crispum. I made the mistake of planting one of these in 1996. It spread everywhere, but never bloomed. I pulled them out, and put a few in an area where nothing else would grow.
5. Daylily, Hemerocallis. I bought tubers several times, before the ones in 2008 started to reproduce. The flowers are sterile, so they only expand underground. Mexican hats in front.
6. Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera. I planted four of the yellow species in 1996, and four of the red in 1997 with two more 1998. The coral beardtongue in front also planted itself.
7. Golden hairy aster, Chrysopsis villosa. I don’t plant these.