Saturday, November 12, 2016

Flora of Albuquerque

We could all use some pretty plants to look at this week, so here's my collection of plant photos from our trip to New Mexico. Sorry it's taken a month to get up! And I still haven't found IDs for everything, but the relaxing thing about admiring the desert landscape is that I can't grow any of these plants myself so knowing exactly what they are is irrelevant, except for the must-label-now! part of me which I will suppress.

All of these photos were taken in the Sandia Heights neighborhood where we were staying. Here's the view from the deck of our lovely hosts' house:

Only small areas around the houses can be walled in and/or cultivated; the rest is pretty much wild, and the house colors blend in to the environment, so it really makes for a gorgeous landscape in which the human influence is minor. (Also you could see Balloon Fiesta flights from the deck with binoculars. I think some of those dots in the sky might be balloons. Or, you know, dust on the lens.)

Here's some of what we saw on walks around the neighborhood, starting with cactus plants:

Prickly pear fruiting
Different type of prickly pear
Chollas in landscape. Should be coded keys to solve something...

Cholla closeup
Albuquerque is high up and has a temperate climate; yes, there are cacti, but they get snowed on. (After all, we have prickly pears in the East too - I have one in my front yard.) Not all cactus types grow there; if you see something like this:

it's a birdfeeder. (The agaves are fake too.)

This is Cucurbita foetidissima, stinking gourd or buffalo gourd (many other names), which is an invasive pest:

I'm not sure what this plant is, though it looks nightshady:

Here are some more plants I saw on walks:

Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa)

Juniper, loaded with berries


A Datura of the sort O'Keeffe painted

Remains of towering agave bloom
And of course the chamisa (Ericameria nauseosa), and yes, it does resemble heather, though I don't think the smell is nauseating at all. In October it was the bright yellow that pulled the landscape together, as if it had been sown throughout in design.

Yes, I took the walk on purpose on a cloudy day for photographic purposes. I took a few other plant photos on our explorations of various Park Service sites, but they didn't turn out as well in the brilliant sunshine. But this is enough to be going on with. Nice memories! I'm not sure I'd love gardening in this region - the palette is beautiful but limited - but it's fascinating to visit.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Super-boom black walnuts

I will put together a post soon with the plants I saw on our trip to New Mexico, but for now here's a quick update on the Half Acre: black walnuts, OMG. A strong advocate for edible landscaping I may be, but I'd never advise anyone to plant a black walnut tree on purpose unless you have a large property and you stick it in an area where no one needs to walk. But our 112-year-old house came with such a tree right next to it; it's probably 100 feet tall and does cast shade, so we've put up with it. There's another one in the Way Back pretty much along the side property line. We gave up long ago on cracking and eating the nuts, delicious as they are, because of the mess and effort involved, and when they fall each year we dutifully clean them up so we can stroll safely in the yard, piling them somewhere out back to the delight of the resident squirrel population who enjoy shopping in supermarkets.

In ordinary years this takes one or two days of sustained effort in September or October. But this is not an ordinary year. Black walnut trees vary in nut production due to weather conditions and also, I think, just natural cycles; we usually get a heavy boom year followed by a light year. This year is a super-boom (in more ways than one - the sound of walnuts hitting a roof from a hundred feet up is... well, let's just say it's good no one here suffers from PTSD). I'd say (based on cleanup effort) that we easily have three times the usual boom-year number of nuts. Perhaps this is appropriate considering other aspects of 2016, but it is no fun. So here's what I've done THREE TIMES NOW:

Just some of the piles out there. My tools are landscape rake and flat-bladed shovel. In light years sometimes I'll get bending-over exercise picking them up by hand, but that wasn't an option this year. We need to reseed the lawn anyway...

Here's the growing pile out back:

I'd say it's currently two feet high and ten feet long, and will be added to when I trundle more back there today. And, since I neglected to photograph the pre-raked ground near the house, here's what I have to walk on to get to the pile out back, from the other tree:

Eventually I'll rake those too, but near the house is a higher priority, to avoid ankle mishaps. I should note that danger comes from above, too (though we're down to a couple dozen left in the tree); in all the years we've been here I've actually only been hit a few times (including yesterday, a graze to the arm) but I used to send the kids out in bike helmets when they were little.

Oh, and the new deck? We were really smart to choose brown. (Did I mention how much black walnuts stain?) This is after just two days of not sweeping:

I don't think we considered what a high percentage of the walnuts would land on the deck, or the porch roof (including the far side of the roof, which bounces the nuts down on the patio beyond, which is also where we hang out laundry). It's been push-broom territory out there. Like shoveling snow (brown dirty snow). And all the pots out there have been full of nuts all summer (heavy crop means a lot of early drops). Garden beds, too (need to clean those out by hand). Other plants have been damaged due to branches falling (many more than usual, and in calm conditions). We suspect walnut fall in a windshield crack on one of the cars; we've also lost less expensive things like the rain gauge.

But it'll all be done this week! Then on to the next chore...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

GBBD - is it fall yet? Please?

I've missed some Garden Bloggers' Bloom Days this summer due to travel and so forth, but I have had flowers! And still have them, though things in general are looking pretty tired what with the absurdly hot (and recently dry) weather. I hear we'll be having temps in the 90s into October - well, thrills.

As usual in the worst part of the summer the weeds took over, but I have noticed the results of my work earlier in the year clearing and planting new areas. Yes, knee-high grass and other undesirables snuck in when I wasn't looking, but it took very little time to clean up in the places I'd paid attention to earlier in the year. Next year: even more mulch, and getting the ground covers in. The filled-in areas have hardly any weeds at all except for the #^*@@!! morning glory.

I'll start back there in the Food Forest Thing, which also includes a lot of herbs, native plants, and whatever else I feel like growing. One goal next year is to put in a lot more milkweed. I did have seed for both tropical and swamp types this year, and the tropical was planted in a fairly timely fashion and has done well:

whereas I just put in the few surviving swamp milkweed plants a week or two ago. And apparently some monarch butterfly found them and laid eggs, because they are getting chomped.

Which I think is terrific, except that they've completely defoliated one of the plants and are likely to do the same to the next; I hope they've rooted enough to come back next year.

Some of the other plants currently blooming in my yard (the others didn't photograph well):

Orange cosmos


Blurry hardy begonia, but I like the light through the leaves

Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) is done blooming but had a great display
Black-eyed Susans

Bad photo, but this is balsam

One of many zinnias

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Mint, in the sea of mint
And the things that are not flowers:


Aralia racemosa, so glad I put this in this year
Also, this is a rather successful (if unfinished) pallet garden considering that I haven't watered it at all:

And I got a bottle tree (shrub?) for my birthday:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Chanticleer, mid-July

We were at Chanticleer on Friday (which was a good reason not to be posting about my own garden for GBBD). My third visit, and took my husband and son for their first. Just as lovely in July as other times, and we managed to hit a period that wasn't too hot - or at least it was less humid and with a nice breeze.

Mini-meadow behind the mansion

Help, I've fallen

...or am drowning...

The succulent craze finds the ruin

Framing (1)

Framing (2)

This oak has very odd acorns
Silver theme in the gravel garden

View of the Serpentine, which is corn this year

Mickey Mouse cactus!

Great combo of Russian sage and Verbena bonariensis

At the bottom of the hill the ruin is on top of



All the following from the Tennis Court Garden:

Nice idea for top of a wall (or banister)

And that's all the photos, though not everything we saw by far. Now back to the far less lovely and much more weedy garden at home...