Monday, September 05, 2016

Show Places


Weather: Clouds have occasionally dropped a little water, but the last real rain was 8/27.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, buddleia, Russian sage, trumpet creeper, silver lace vine, rose of Sharon, bouncing Bess, sweet peas, datura, morning glories, Sensation cosmos, zinnia, pampas grass; red on Virginia creeper stems.

Buddleia and silver lace vine flowers are more noticeable. Both have tiny florets that only show in masses from a distance. Apparently the water and cooler temperatures encouraged the individual florets to grow larger.

Produce stands back are back along the roads. They disappeared in mid-July. A friend tells me tomatoes have produced leaves but been slow to set fruit this year. In my yard, the tomatillos have grown into long, dense vines, but fortunately few that I’ve broken off had pods.

Beyond the walls and fences: Scarlet bee blossom, yellow evening primroses, velvet weed, bindweed, green leaf five eyes, yellow purslane, goat’s heads, alfalfa, Queen Anne’s lace, leather leaf globe mallow, broom snakeweed, horseweed, goldenrod, native sunflower, áñil del muerto, Tahoka daisies, gum weed, golden and purple hairy asters.

Brome snakeweed is taking over the dry areas this year instead of Russian thistles.

In my yard: Garlic chives, large leafed soapwort, larkspur, catmints, calamintha, hollyhocks, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Mönch asters, cutleaf coneflower, Mexican hats, Maximilian sunflowers, chocolate flowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, white yarrow.

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

Bedding plant French marigolds are dying out, and been replaced by much stronger reseeds.

Inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds, geckoes, bumble and small bees, hornets, ants, grasshoppers.


Weekly update: A friend asked me this week if my yard was a show place. I said no, it always had weeds running loose.

I’ve since thought more about what characterizes the places in the area that would qualify for that label. Most have flood irrigation, and with it real lawns. One can snipe all ones likes about ecologically wasteful expanses of green, but they do keep down weeds. The dense roots of turfing grasses don’t provide harbors for most seeds. Dandelions, of course, are an exception. But, once you commit to a lawn, you don’t quibble at a few chemicals to maintain it.

Most of the nicer yards also have paved driveways. Weeds only colonize them when cracks appear. Weedeaters and lawn mowers can control whatever emerges in the run-off zone at their edges.

I suspect a great many also hire yard men, though I’ve seen people with lawns doing their own mowing and fertilizing. I don’t know who does the deadheading, but it has to be the owners unless they have daily or weekly gardeners.

What these wealthier gardeners buy isn’t labor. It’s time and energy. After all none of the work mentioned is arduous. But, unless you have money, you either spend hours a day maintaining a yard or you make choices.

In my drive, the car keeps its path clear by compressing the ground and running down things, but I still have to keep the crown clear of tall, woody stems. That’s a priority, but is it necessary to keep the edges clear as well?


Not all weeds are created equal. There are ones that must go like pigweed and goat’s heads, and then there are ones I’d rather not have like wild lettuce and horseweed. Only the one merits going out in the sun and stretching my hamstrings. The other isn’t worth the sore hand and leg muscles.

Then there are ones that are acceptable, so long as they keep their places and don’t attack. Tahoka daisies, sunflowers and áñil del muerto are not allowed in areas I water, but it’s not worth the effort to keep they away from the drive way edge.


After weeks of rain, everything needs attention at once. More decisions. Is it more important to keep the drainage ways clear or to fertilize? The question answers itself. I spent this week banging my knuckles on bricks that lined ditches, only incidentally tending the more desirable plants.

The friend who asked actually has a show place. But then he runs his business out of his home, and it has to be at least presentable. He’s in Santa Fé where lawns and water use are discouraged. The former owner installed black plastic and gravel to avoid maintenance. My friend hired people to break through the barriers in selected places and hauled in good dirt.

The display area is limited to the front between the concrete drives and the sidewalk, much like an expensive facing is confined to the first story on the front wall façade of a brick town house. It frames the entrance and defines boundaries that limit the width the eye associates with the building. Lawns and fences establish the same limits here. It doesn’t matter that the areas beyond have been degraded. All one sees are islands of beauty.


Without clean frames, one notices the weeds.

While I’ve known him, my friend has extended his attention to the side patches between the concrete drives. They were left to dirt and weeds, and he’s slowing reclaiming them. The back, he says, is unmentionable. There is only so much time.

When time is rationed, it’s the enemies that get attention and friends that get neglected.

Photographs: All taken, 3 September 2016.

1-2. Goldenrod. I had always wanted goldenrod, but it would never grow for me. Then, when I learned it was the preferred food for the locust borers that attack my tree every year, some came up. I thought about ripping them out, but remembered nothing I’d don’t to stop the insects from perpetuating themselves had worked. I thought why not let it grow? Things can’t get worse. The insect on the left is a hornet. I don’t know what the one on the right is, but it doesn’t look the photographs of borers.

3. Driveway with an áñil del muerto near the garage and some Tahoka daisies. The rest of the plants lining the drive path are horseweeds I’d rather weren’t there. But, it’s not worth the effort to remove them or the plants I’ve poisoned in the crown. That’s a task for winter, after they’ve done everything they can to perpetuate my problems. The drive is show place only in January.

4. Tahoka daisies have colonized the drive edge. You can just see the bricks edging the line were hoses carry water to the trees. They got unsightly during the summer heat, but revived with the rain.

5. So far I’ve only cleaned a few feet of the ditch that carries away water that empties from a down spout. I installed the side bricks when I established the garden. It was only after the winecup mallows took over the water course, that I put down the pavers. Of course they don’t fill the spaces the way they would in a show place.


6. I don’t let native sunflowers into my beds, but tolerate them along the drive. This one has chosen to spread outward rather than up. The only priority this week was clearing the space in front on an entrance that lies between it and some golden hairy asters. The low grasses in the crown and the dead stem will stay until I think to bend down sometime when I’m walking by.

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