Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Spring Wildflowers

As I 've explained previously, I do two kinds of gardening on my Prescott hillside. For bright, colorful annuals and a few perennials that want Real Soil, it's pots. For plantings in the ground, local wildflowers, many of which are quite spectacular.

For example, the most prolific Indian paint brush I've ever seen! Pictured above, the plant on April 18, just beginning to flower. This is the end of May; it is still adding more blossoms, and this without a host plant (paint brush are semi-parasites.) I'm sure the secret to my wonderous paint brush is that it gets regular watering.

The bright reds of this plant are not actual blossoms, but, rather, modified leaves surrounding the working parts.

Pink. Fuschia. Red. Purple. Almost blue. And, I've heard, an occasional yellow. Those are the colors of upland Arizona penstemons. I've counted eight species that grow in the greater Prescott area, but perhaps the most outstanding is Palmer's penstemon. In a good year (meaning early spring rains), this pink beauty grows flower stalks up to 6 feet tall. Do peer into the throat of a blossom. See the guide lines for insects and that cool yellow beard?

The leaves give evidence that this is a plant for arid country. Not only are they somewhat waxy, but they are arranged down the stem to deliver what little water falls directly to the roots. Look for Palmer's penstemon out the Iron Springs Road, beside the road to Granite Basin or along the White Spar through the Prietas.

This penstemon is a spectabilis, I believe. Not a Prescott plant, but found higher up in the mountains. Doubtless a purchase from Flagstaff Native Plant/Seed.

The last of my earliest penstemon -- psuedospectabilis or Arizona penstemon, another plant for arid country. The best local site for this plant is way out the Dosie Pit Road. These samples surely explain why British plant breeders adapted the penstemon into a really smashing cultivated garden favorite here and abroad!

Too bad that the desert four o'clock opens so late in the day, as it is another very attractive plant. I came in close on the flowers to show the bracts from which a daily blossom emerges. Only one seed per flower, but many blossoms -- and, given enough water, most of the seeds will sprout. This plant was grown from a neighborhood seed, BTW.

Coral bells were a perennial staple of my gardens back in Chicago; it turns out that they are also Arizona mountain natives! Though I paid good money to Watters for this plant, I did discover a small clump of white coral bells in a shaded rock outcropping along Mint Wash below the Granite Basin dam.

This is one of my own New Mexico locusts. Pretty flowers, but nasty thorns. New shrubs keep coming up from very long underground runners. However, I have a problem with a myriad of nasty juice-sucking critters that attach to the stems and kill them. Maybe the city is simply the wrong location for this locust!

Pretty little claret cup cactuses are mountain plants, adapted to elevations as high as 7000 ft. This means that, unlike most cactus, they are tough little guys who can survive winter snows, as can prickly pears.

Here is my great disappointment. A fine specimen of bear grass -- but instead of a proper, tall flower stalk, my plant grew a crooked stem that hugged the ground. I've no idea why this is so!

And another admission of incompetence: I am totally unable to grow a sacred datura from seed. I have tried in pots. I have tried in the ground. Up the hill. Down by the road. No success. Bought this seedling at, you guessed it, Flagstaff Native Plants. Should have bought several. More garden wildflowers later, as they bloom.

14 comments:

Avus said...

I love wild flower gardens and yours is truly beautiful. What a colourful and interesting selection you have. Harsh, dry soils often seem to compensate by producing the most colourful plants.

Lucy said...

Lovely bright ones!
The penstemons look better than the cultivated ones herein Europe somehow, juicier.

sheoflittlebrain said...

Wow! What lovely results for all your hard work over the years. That's the most beautiful clump of Paintbrush I've ever seen. Gotta tell you-Eeyore is green with envy.

Granny J said...

Now that you mention it, Mr. Avus, I do recall that the most spectacular Illinois wild flowers were the large milkweeds -- not nearly as many bright reds or deep purples.

Thank you, Miss Lucy. I find that the cultivated penstemons 1) want too much water and 2) are somewhat blowsy.

Hi, Brain. Aren't they fabulous? I will have plenty of seeds for the taking!

BTW, I see I was all pinks and R.E.D.s this post and I
am reminded of the yellow columbine that I posted the other day. Tho I have it filling a pot, it's definitely a local wild creature. Look for them near perennial creeks, seeps and such damper places.

Steve G said...

Your plants look great, but your pictures of them are exceptional. I can see that you are doing well with the new camera.

Granny J said...

I'm working on it, Steve -- but it's real work! There are simply too dang many bells and whistles for my old grey head!

k said...

That Indian Paintbrush is STUNNING. I have never ever seen one act like that. Ever. That is amazing.

You sure did something right with it!

Your pictures are just extraordinary. I was telling Livey how the new camera has a stabilizer that lets you take pix out of the window of a moving car - and they're perfect.

This, while she was giggling at my blurs I took from my camera, blind, driving through Wisconsin on my way to her place.

Bells and whistles. Boy oh boy, that's exactly why I
have trouble with new cameras!

Walter got me all my digitals, by way of his Truck Stop Shopping. He's a fabulous shopper, him, and often at truck stops, this happens:

Trucker plays the video poker machine. Establishment, licensed only for *merchandise* rewards instead of cash winnings, *give* said trucker $800 in vouchers. They're good for all nmerchandise there - the TV's and truck accessories, so forth, so popular with over-the-roaders and such.

But the trucker's been trucking a while, and has all the Stuff he could hope for - or fit in his truck! - and wants Cash.

He spies Walter and says, --Can I get something and sell it to you for cheap? I want the cash not the stuff.

Walter says, --They got digital cameras here? (or flashlights or other things near and dear to k's heart).

Off they go to shop and confer.

And here comes Walter on home leave...bearing wondrous gifts.

Including a fine digital camera that scares this poor technophobe half to death.

So I keep on using my lame one, with the washed-out white problem, held together with a rubberband.

Literally.

Granny J said...

k-- I'm trying to figure out how to reward that paint brush! More water, of course. I suppose passing out seed far & wide is a appropriate reward for such a performance. As for the camera biz-- keep using the fancy one. Learn one new trick, practice and finally it's time for new trick #2. If I ever finish the Data Base from Hell, I plan to spend a lot of time with my new camera.

Lori Witzel said...

Datura is pretty finicky. I've seen some folks who've gotten great big plants going, but not me.

And as for your Paintbrush -- WOW. It's a real head-turner!

Lovely and fun wandering through your garden, makes me miss the high desert.

Granny J said...

Lori-- Now that the datura is in the ground, it seems to be happy. After another month, I'm going to start weaning it from all the water it's getting.

smilnsigh said...

Awwww I love Indian Paint Brush, especially the red ones. Used to be more yellow than red, when I was growing up. {Which was back at the beginning of time, I might add. -grin-}

Now, how did I happen to pop in here? Well, I had gone to "Catalyst's" blog, from somewhere else. And from his, to yours. I love bouncing from blog comments to new blogs. :-)

Mari-Nanci

Granny J said...

You're always welcome here, Smilnsigh! I'm totally captivated by my super-paintbrush!
Believe it or not,I've heard of yellow paint brush -- but never seen it.

k said...

Granny J, that's excellent advice.

I believe I'll give that a try.

Granny J said...

Good luck, k-- I'm sure you'll get it under control one of these days soon. I'm still having a problem with my close-ups & the new camera, BTW -- it's easier with the older box!

 
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