Cholla Cactus

My dog, Aster, usually has cabin fever by the time I get home from work. I've taught her not to be a hyper girl so she will greet me excitedly when I get home. Then sit and wait on the chaise lounge until I give her attention. She has a dog door, but she's a social animal and prefers the company of other dogs to me. I wasn't sure if tonight would be a dog park evening or a walk around the neighborhood evening.

I heard raindrops starting after I entered my house. The air was pungent with the smell of moisture intermingled with smoke. There is a fire in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The Las Conchas fire has burned nearly 93,000 acres. I stood under my shade sails wondering how long the rain would last and if any of it would reach Los Alamos. The rain was a welcome relief to the air being imbued with smoke from other fires for what seemed like the last month.

The rain came in drifts. But it was fleeting so driving to dog park seemed easier than having Aster pulling me along on her leash. She could blithely ignore me and run around with some of her favorite dogs while I took photos of the sun setting and cholla cactus in various stages of bloom.
Low resolution photos of cacti from my camera phone. It was almost dusk and sun had started setting.
Donations for the care and feeding of animals displaced by the fire can be made to the Espanola Valley Humane Society.


Morning Light

I'm more of a night person than a morning person. Some evenings I suffer from fits of insomnia. After falling soundly asleep last Thursday, I woke up Friday morning around 4:00 am. I was wide awake and couldn't return to a restful dream state. I washed a load of clothes. Probably looked at some gardening blogs. Hmm, I can't recall much more.

At 7:00 am, I decided to go see how the flowers were doing. I put on a hoodie and hoped that none of my neighbors would observe me taking photos of the plants in my pajamas.
As I sat outside, peering at the blooms, the sun made its way overhead. Lighting larger and larger swaths of the flowerbed.
The light is so concentrated that the two ultraviolet salvias that I planted last summer were aglow. They replaced two Spanish lavenders that started to take over the small flower bed in my front yard. In less than a year they've grown to their full height. It's a hybrid that was introduced by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden. I'm not sure if I love them, but they attract pollinators.
Some people find Mexican evening primroses invasive, but since I put in a drip system a few years ago, they don't seem to have spread so much. I enjoy the cascade of pink that doesn't require much attention.
I went to check out what was happening in the backyard. Some of the firecracker penstemon were translucent.  
I couldn't help taking more photos of the Missouri evening primroses. They seem more delicate in the morning. Alas, I had to get ready to go work.


El Dorado School Community Garden

As gardeners, we might have a few more blissful moments in our lives. It could be the connection to the earth. An appreciation for the aesthetic beauty of plants or the endorphins released from digging. Who knows? I visited the El Dorado School Community Garden a few weeks ago and walking through the garden was a blissful experience.
Eldorado is a community of artists, located 12 miles southeast of Santa Fe. My tour guide for the El Dorado School Community Garden was George M. Henke, one of the founders and the director of the garden. The garden started as an embroynic idea of George’s that was inspired by Michael Pollan's, a Letter to the Farmer in Chief and was established in 2009.

The garden is a partnership between the El Dorado School and the community of Eldorado. It is 1.5 acres and adjacent to the school. The garden serves dual capacities as an outdoor classroom and a community garden. The hexagonal beds are demonstration beds for student gardening. The honeycomb pattern made me smile and think of busy bees buzzing away.

The garden is shaped in a mandala pattern. Walking around the curvilinear beds evokes the meditative quality of the garden. There is a communal garden and individual beds for growing fruits and vegetables. But if that's not for you, there is a cactus garden, perennial area, and a labyrinth. Yes, labyrinth!

The students of the school painted the murals. There is also a video link below of how the garden is integrated into the classroom and its sister garden in South Africa.

The garden has a labyrinth if you're in a contemplative mood and the triangular beds are for the students.

I was at the Santa Fe Master Garden show in April sometime. The common denominator I noticed in the attendees, besides an interest in gardening, was a sense of bliss. Radiance from within exuded from the people I saw. Peoples eyes sparkled when they made eye contact. After visiting the garden, I felt blissed-out. It's a special place that integrates form and function.

This post was inspired after seeing the video, Community Garden and Sister Garden in Acornhoek, South Africa that my friend Teresa, George's wife shared. It's a 10 minute video that is worthwhile to watch.
Random community garden photos of chives and onions??? The sun was directly overhead so all of the photos in the post tend to be washed out.
Some easy, do-it yourself garden cloches. Transparent tubs with holes for air and a rock placed on top of them to prevent wind from blowing them away.


Cactus Anyone?

Eldorado is a community about a stone's throw from Santa Fe, New Mexico and the cactus garden at the Eldorado Community Garden, is literally a stone's throw in length. Its beds are separated by a gravel path.
I've been intending to do a longer post of the community garden, but lately haven't had much time. Alas, sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. 


Penstemon and Primroses

This post was inspired by Stacy's post called Mezzo Piano at Microcosm. I read the post a while back, but it still resonates with me.
Infrequently, my garden feels like a symphony. With the Oriental poppies raising the conductor's baton to start the bloom season. And the flowers blooming in succession. One plant taking the cue from another. This year the garden feels more like a chorus with a bunch of soloists shining momentarily in the spotlight. Now I have a duet moving to the front of the spotlight, the Rocky Mountain penstemon (penstemon strictus) and the Missouri evening primrose (oenethera macrocarpa). 

The penstemon reseeded itself in the front of the perennial bed in my backyard. To call it a perennial border would be an overstatement. Unfortunately, the wind scattered the penstemon seed directly in front of the Missouri evening primrose (oenothera macrocarpa).  In more temperant years, I would have found the penstemon homes with friends. However, the intermittent freezes and warm weather have made it inconvenient to transplant them. 

All the stages of blooming are intermingled together in the photo below. I love to watch them in the early evening and again the next morning.
Both the penstemon and primroses are so vivid in the undiffused sunlight of Santa Fe. The penstemon seem ultraviolet and the primroses fluorescent. I will enjoying seeing the interplay of this duet for a few more weeks.


Ribs, Ribs, Ribs and Cake

I have a friend who generously takes me out to dinner for my birthday. This year because she's a great cook, I requested a home cooked meal instead. I suggested burgers. But my friend, Patria, who is as obsessed with cooking as I am with gardening gave me an inspired feast instead. She had recently watched an episode of Anne Burrell's show Secret's of a Restaurant Chef and made Dry Rubbed Ribs with Vinegar BBQ Sauce.
There are regional variations of ribs. The most common are Kansas City, Memphis, St. Louis, Carolina, and Texas. However, I’ve had deliciously smoked ribs outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Some people prefer wet BBQ sauce to a dry rub. I'm not sure if I've had dry rubbed ribs before. I'm not a sophisticated eater, just a hungry one.
Hurray for inspiration, great friends, lots of leftovers and cake!


Do Not Attempt This At Home

Locust trees have a mixed reputation. They are considered invasive in some parts of the country, depending on the cultivar. I remember when I was looking for a New Mexico locust at a now defunct nursery in Albuquerque, a patron remarked that locusts were throwaway trees where he was from. New Mexico locusts have a light pink - almost a peach color robe. I would see them in stands at the dog park. Alas, my attempt to plant one failed. So I settled for second best, a purple robe locust. It was more of a "like to have" than a "must have" and remained an inchoate thought planted in the back of my mind for four or more years.   

Two years ago, I popped into K-Mart while running errands one Saturday. It's a place where I find unexpected botanical treasures. There wasn't anything remarkable about the perennials, but the trees were 75% off. The 20 gallon purple robe locust was roughly $15. It was a bargain I couldn't pass up. However, I drive a station wagon and was at loss about how to get it home. I bought it anyway.

I couldn't put it in a cart so two store employees helped me to get it to the cashier then load it in my car. Did I mention that I drive a station wagon? Fortunately, the back seat is collapsible and so is the front passenger seat. One of the employees pushed it as far as possible on the passenger side front seat. I tied it up with some rope.  However, the tree protruded a few feet from the back of my car. I wasn't sure about the how secure it was and the hatchback wouldn't close.

I live seven minutes from the store so I took a deep breath and pulled away from the curb. I drove with one hand and held onto to the tree for dear life with the other. Every time I looked at the rear mirror I noticed that the other drivers kept their distance. I didn't wonder why. I made it home and backed into my driveway and was uncertain about how to get the tree into the back yard. 

But I needed to do something because the hatch was sitting open. I was too embarrassed to call any of my friends who are stronger than me so I went and fetched the wheelbarrow. After some maneuvering, I managed to push the tree to the collapsed back seat and pull it into the wheelbarrow. I no longer regard my purple robe locust as second best.  

Seriously, this was my one and only time I've driven with one hand. I pull over to use my cell phone or let it ring. 

Not a great photo, but you can see the tree in its environment. The wind has been blustery and not conducive to photography or to black landscape staying in place. 
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