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Late Summer Garden

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As I have mentioned before, I like volunteers in the garden.  A case of nature doing its thing.  But sometimes they get out of hand.  Last year I saw some grass leaves coming up, but wasn’t sure what grass it was.  This year, only its second, it looked like this:

P1000979It’s the child of the largest grass plant I have, shown here in the background, and much too big for the space.  I had to pay someone to take it out.  But I didn’t waste the plumes.

P1000980An elegant, filmy, look.  They lasted several days.  I also had some  desert globemallow getting out of bounds, so I brought some branches of that in too.

P1000982This bouquet was more short-lived, but pleasing while it lasted (I am partial to orange).  The globemallow is a short-lived perennial, but it seeds avidly.  I have quite a spread of it, third and fourth generation, I think.  One of the volunteers decided to lean toward my study window, giving me a bit of bloom to enjoy from my desk.

P1000983It is different every day as the individual flowers fade and new ones open.  I like it when a little of my garden can come inside for a bit – or at least “lean in.”

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Playing with the Camera

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The son who gave me my new camera last Christmas was back this year and gave me some lessons in more things I can do.  One was about focusing close-ups.  Here are some of my attempts: P1000328And another: P1000329My son, in demonstrating, had the good artistic sense to focus on a green leaf among the red ones.

Photo by Jack Young

Photo by Jack Young

Here is my effort.  P1000338A few days later I gathered some leaves from the tall ornamental grass in my yard, and did some more practicing. P1000342The plant outside is much browner now because we had a snowfall the day after New Year’s.  I’m enjoying this color while it lasts.

A Few May Flowers

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Each week there are different plants in bloom.  Some last a while, others change so quickly I can’t catch them on film.  I’d do better if I took my camera out with me on every walk.  I can’t seem to make it a habit.  Some of these pictures are plants I’ve run out to the backyard to photograph.  Others belong to my neighbors.

One of the plants in my yard which I classify as a wildflower, but I suspect many call a weed, is wire lettuce.  It is named for the fact that its leaves look like stems.  It has a very small white flower tinged with pink.  Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to capture that pink edge on film.

Wie Lettuce

Wire Lettuce

Another plant in my garden is blooming for the first time this year.  It was a volunteer; its seed must have come some distance since I haven’t seen this in any of my neighbors’ yards.  It is an acacia, and, yes, those round yellow balls are the flower, not the fruit.

Volunteer Acacia

Volunteer Acacia

I have two small desert willow plants in my yard.    They’ve only put out one or two flowers so far this year – one last year.  So I admire the mature trees in my neighbors’ yards.  On this one, you can see many blossoms, along with last year’s seed pods.   I think I have quite a few years to wait for this kind of display.

Desert Willow

Desert Willow

One plant I’ve been wanting for my yard and haven’t found a place for is cholla.  It is much better behaved and less weedy than prickly pear, so I may yet find a spot.  I love the way the flowers appear among the pods from last year.  At some point in my youth I was part of a class in colors, for clothes, in which we were told not to mix purple and yellow.  Nature missed this suggestion.  I see yellow and purple flowers together every all, and here, the purple flowers among yellow seed pods.

Cholla

Cholla

 

 

Another Turn in the Wheel of the Year

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I spent a large part of May Day cleaning a nasty piece of malware called “Get Savin’” out of my computer. It could be considered a very modern form of spring cleaning, I suppose. Thank goodness there are helpful websites out there and people who can tell us which ones are good. After all that work I decided to “lie low” for a couple of days. I didn’t want to chance discovering that the “cure” hadn’t been successful.

In the materials I’ve been reading about this cross-quarter day, the mid-point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, I have been even more struck than usual by the climate specific nature of the Celtic beliefs on which current ideas about Beltane (May Day) and Samhain (Halloween) are based. If you live in northern Europe – or New England – you are likely to be excited about the spring flowers, and you can find dew on the grass on May Day morning. (Apparently there is an ancient tradition that washing your face in that May Day dew will bring you beauty and good fortune.)

Here in the desert, however, the weather is getting hot – this really is the turn into summer, which will last until the fall equinox. the way I measure the temperatures. No waiting for Memorial Day to open the swimming pools around here.

People like Lisa Michaels, whose posts on the seasons and the astrological signs I read regularly, are well aware that they are using language that only fits the northern hemisphere. Christianity too is a northern hemisphere religion, with its light in the darkness themes of Christmas and Epiphany. Christianity has done best when it absorbs aspects of a local religious viewpoint into its ritual and imagery. Where we live, and the images and ideas we draw from our surroundings, make a difference in our world view. Place – the specific place in which we live – matters.

(You can find Lisa’s recommendations on celebrating the seasons at http://www.lisa-michaels.com)

Another Stage of Spring

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The little mesquite tree in my backyard is leafing out.  I’ve been told this tree knows when frost is no longer an issue.  it is safe to plant out those tender plants now.  P1000064 Of course I am not ready.  The plants I started from seed two months ago are no where near large enough to transplant.P1000072 This mesquite tree is one of the triumphs of my uneven gardening career.  I bought it eight years ago in a seven inch pot.  I can no longer reach the top.P1000068Near the base of this tree I discovered a volunteer pansy.  Very small – it had sprouted with almost no water.  I was not expecting it there at all.  Most of the seeds from plants blow across the yard in the opposite direction. pansy volunteerNow I need to make it feel welcome – even though it is in the middle of a patch of sand.

Hong Kong Flora

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More or less across the street from Hong Kong Park is the Botanical Garden and Zoo.  The gibbons and lemurs in the zoo provided some entertainment, but my camera wasn’t up to catching them in the distance and the shade, so here I focus on the flora rather than the fauna.  I enjoyed the color but didn’t try to learn the names.  After all, none of these will grow where I live, 10 degrees latitude north and 4000 feet higher above sea level.

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An interesting aspect of Hong Kong is the way they cope with the steep slopes.  Here is an example of one such area, concrete holding the dirt in place except for small circles for plants to grow out of.  These slopes are identified by a numbering system so that problems can be tracked and corrected.slope garden

In another part of the garden, this tree seemed almost to have posed for me:

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The botanical garden has many different sections, one of which is a bamboo garden.

bamboo

Here are a few more flowers from another park in the city.

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Questions of Scale

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Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa, a member of the rose family) has been in bloom in our area recently.  I first learned about Apache Plume in a nature guide at Dripping Springs, a BLM recreation area in the Organ Mountains.  Nothing was in bloom at the time; I could not guess which plant beside the trail the guide referred to.

Reading that the plant was named for the seed plumes, which look like Apache war bonnets, I pictured something grand.  It was at first a disappointment to discover that the five-petalled white flowers are about 1 ½ inches across.  The seed heads are pink plumes of about the same size.  The pink soon turns brown and the seeds are blown away by the wind.  The plant is beautiful in bloom, in the seed stage or, as here, at half and half.  The season is short: for most of the year all one sees are the small clustered leaves on an often straggly plant.

Who first saw a war bonnet in this small, delicate shape?  Was it someone for whom raids by Native tribes were a real and present danger?  Was it someone who recalled such raids as recent and treasured history?

To see the large in the small requires a certain kind of creativity, a talent for comparison across difference.  To see the small in the large may be an even rarer gift―or perhaps it simply is not mine.  The ability to see similarities in things of different scale is the way of metaphor, an important tool for poets and others who seek to see things in fresh ways.