Monday, August 1, 2011

Wild and Neglected Gardens

I spent a few days away the past week, visiting my son in Colorado, but thanks to automatic posting, probably the only readers who knew I was gone were the commenting readers to the last few posts, to whom I was slower than usual responding.  The time away was good family time, and it gave me a chance to explore some landscapes that were not my own familar, rapidly-dehydrating garden.  Let's just say that every time I looked at a weather report for Manhattan, Kansas last week, I watered the Colorado wildflowers with my tears.

Castilleja integra (left) and Penstemon whippleanus (right)
Certainly, I couldn't have gotten much farther away as a contrast from my parched Kansas landscape than the Rocky Mountain National Park, where I captured the pictures on this page of what I think I have correctly identified as Aster alpinus (Alpine Aster) pictured above, and Castilleja integra (Orange Paintbrush) and Penstemon whippleanus (Dusky Beardtongue) both of which are pictured to the left.  They were all growing at about the 10,000 feet elevation in the Park, and seemingly out of solid rock.  I'm going to have to look for seed for that Dusky Beardtongue, also known as Whipple's Beardtongue, because I love the color.  I'm pretty concerned, however, about the exact meaning and root of the species name of Dusky Beardtongue. Talk about your awkward Latin (sorry, but I just couldn't leave that one hanging out there).

Erysimum asperum (at the left)
The wildflowers were everywhere, and, in fact, so prevalent that I didn't even notice some of them until I was reviewing the pictures at home.  The Western Wallflower (Erysimum asperum) in the picture at the right was a simple bystander to the little ground squirrel/rodent/rat that I was photographing and I didn't notice it when the picture was taken.  For help with the identification of Colorado wildflowers, by the way, I'd like to give a big shout-out to a fellow veterinarian, Dr. Mary L Dubler, who has a great website called Wildflowers of Colorado, filled with lots of fabulous pictures. I think my identifications here are correct and I owe them to Dr. Dubler's website.

Another interesting aspect to our trip was the contrast of the wildflowers in the Rocky Mountain National Park with the back yard at the new house my son just purchased in Littleton.  I was envious because his entire new back yard is providing him with the opportunity for a fabulous archaeologic plant dig.  It was neglected by the previous owner, but somewhere in the past, a "real" gardener had terraced and landscaped the back yard.  Amidst the weedy grasses, thistles, and bindweed are peonies, clematis, honeysuckles, irises, various flowering shrubs including a lilac and forsythia, a grapevine arbor, an herb garden where I could identify basil, oregano, spearmint and rosemary, and many other formerly-cultivated plants.  There were evergreens, and a flowering dogwood, and crabapple trees. There was even a small stagnant pond over to one side, a feature that Mrs. ProfessorRoush (who has been forever wanting me to place a pond or fountain in our garden) was sure to point out to me.  I believe that all that my son has to do is pull the weeds and apply some water to have a fantastic garden start. 

I just wish I had a week to spend with him and help him clear it all out.  But alas, I'm back to the Great Grass Desert of Kansas, watching my own garden suffer in the heat and sun.  

1 comment:

  1. Glad you had such a good vacation, both literally and figuratively! I hope your garden is doing better than mine.

    The summer has been brutal here, following a pretty bad winter. Today is forecast to be 112-113, real temperature. (I assume that you're not that different, up your way.) We've had less than an inch of rain during the entire month of July, and it came in such small increments that it evaporated almost as soon as it hit the ground. I'm trying to put on my "scientist hat" and think of it as an experiment in which plants do best surviving the heat and drought, but it's hard.


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