Posts Tagged With: flowers

Wild Ones and Volunteers

African Daisies still going bonkers in a few spots.

African Daisies still going bonkers in a few spots.

My wildflowers reach the end of their life cycle this month. MSH keeps insisting I just need to water them. To appease him, I have drenched the poor worn out plants with copious amounts of the precious resource, to no avail. Well, that’s not exactly true. The weeds appreciate the extra moisture and show their appreciation by growing a foot in a day, or at least it seems they do.

No, sad to say, my wildflowers have simply reached the stage in their life cycle where they produce seeds and then let the winds scatter their progeny willy-nilly. By time a healthy seed head appears, the plant itself has given its all, nearly five months from peeking out of the ground to now.

This seed head looks promising.

This seed head looks promising.

Now’s the part of the wildflower process where the hard work kicks in. If I want to share any of the seeds, which I like to, then I gather the puffs of seed heads into a bucket and distribute them into Ziploc bags. These little guys, African Daisies, will grow in almost any climate, even in a regular garden bed during late spring and summer, as long as they get the full sun.

It’s a little trickier gathering the California Poppy seeds. They form in long pods after the flower bloom ends. The seeds aren’t much bigger than a grain of sand. I gather the pods before they open and let them dry out in a container. When the seeds are ready the pod splits open on its own and releases the seeds where they fall to the bottom of the container.

The other much harder part of wildflowering in my rock covered desert landscape is that every plant must be plucked from the ground and disposed of. Usually I pull a few plants a day as they slowly die off, which isn’t too difficult. But this year, there are more plants than ever and we had a really hot patch of weather last week that sped up the process of end of life.

So I’m faced today with the task of cleaning up the dead and dying. It’s a little sad. The yard starts to look bare and desert-ish again. My flowerpots in the shade of the front porch provide my only color fix out there.

Yet in this undertaking (excuse the pun) I have hope, because hundreds or probably more like thousands, of seeds have fallen among the rocks and next years bloom looks promising.

I suppose what I love about wildflowers lies in their self-propagating properties. They voluntarily show up, without any work on my part.

If you aren’t familiar with gardening terms:

“a volunteer is a plant that grows on its own, rather than being deliberately planted by a farmer or a gardener.” ~ Wikipedia

I once had a tree seed blow in and grow in the middle of a series of garden beds. Turns out it was a Brazilian Pepper Tree that grew very quickly. In a matter of three years I had a tall, full tree that provided shade for a south-facing kitchen window. Another time, in the middle of a compost pile, I had a cantaloupe vine grow that gave out the sweetest fruit I’d ever tasted.

Unplanned, yet perfect, colors in my garden.

Unplanned color in my garden.

All winter I had meant to plant vegetable seeds in the open spaces of my back yard flower bed; combine utility with beauty for a perfect combination. I set in a few tomato plants, but that’s all. The deliberate planting never happened. Life and death and illness took hold for a while and got in the way of my good intentions.

And yet, almost miraculously, my back yard flowerbed overflows with nearly all volunteers this spring. Some flowers simply survived the very mild winter, with only one night of below freezing temperatures covered by a sheet. The red Penstemon apparently throw out seeds because they’re spreading and blooming proficiently. A few Sunflower seeds planted themselves from last years batch and have made themselves comfy among the Romaine lettuce and Petunias. Marigolds reseeded themselves as well and threaten a yellow takeover once they start blooming. And Cosmos, with their feathery stalks have already flowered in neon pink, the children of last years few seeds I tried for the first time.

Looking out the back window provides a view of this unplanned but stunning flowerbed at all times of the day.

Not being in too much of a gardening disposition this past winter, I’ve been lucky to have so many plants volunteer to brighten my life. Sometimes, in spite of lack of attention, or maybe because of it, nature sends surprises to delight and lift and cheer.

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Categories: Gardening, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Bit of Compensation

The heat is on.

Tomorrow is June. We’re set here in Phoenix to bust past the triple digits after a month of nineties that merely flirted with the hundreds. We were spoiled by that. But that little dalliance of sweet summertime romance is over. Reality is about to set in. Unrelenting, pounding, incessant, oppressive desert heat is about to clamp its fiery grip around our throats and lives.

Sounds melodramatic? Overdone? Silly? I invite you to visit for a week or two. Drive around with the AC in the car not working. Attempt a brisk morning walk with the sun peaking over the horizon, grill a few burgers in the blaze of the sunset, sweat a bit at midnight.

Oh, I know it’s not like Iraq, where my brother worked on an army base in an undisclosed location and the average daytime temperature was 124. No, it’s not that bad. But it’s not all that good either.

I wonder often why someone would settle in the desert. Of course there’s evidence all over the place in the desert southwest of native Americans settlements, canals, living spaces, communities, long before Columbus hit the coast of North America. When they had a choice of the entire landscape why here? Flat, hot, arid. I suppose it’s tough to have your enemy sneak up on you when there’s nothing but flat for a hundred miles in every direction.

I often wonder what we’re doing here. So does MSH.

Money brought us here. Family and friends keep us here.

But that’s not where I was going with this.

I meant to talk about my sunflowers.

Yes.

Sunflowers.

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Look at these babies! The cinderblock wall they’re planted next to is six feet tall. And they’ve rocketed into giant growing fortresses of greenery. The stems are bigger around than my hand can reach! They’re more like trees than flowers.

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And these! Happy yellow faces of bright sunshine on a stalk, all lined up and waving at me every time I glance out the back window.

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It’s like sunshine, compacted into a flower. Instead of the burning, gaseous orb of hydrogen and helium, with its eye-squinting, brow beating heat and light, it’s condensed itself into these massive, delicate, powerful bursts of golden petals.

An ironic gift, held out to somehow compensate for the meanness of the hundred plus temperatures and earth parching relentlessness of the next four months.

I’ll take it. I’ll take whatever relief and wonder I can get when it’s this hot.

It’s like being on the receiving end of a repeating phone message to a busy office where instead of music you hear, “Please enjoy the flowers while you wait.”

Fine.

I will.

Categories: Gardening, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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