Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer purple

Last week it was purple time here in the valley. Springtime in Vegas is primarily yellow, most of the desert trees and shrubs bloom with bright yellow flowers, and lots of yellow pollen. It is a nice prelude to the bright sunshiny summer to come, but my nose can do without all of the pollen floating around - the area by our front door just collects it, and it’s almost like walking through yellow snow (no, not that kind Zappa fans) to get to the door.

The other desert color we see is purple, which comes from all of the sage brush. We’ve got a couple of dozen sage planted in our yard, a few different kinds that bloom in shades varying from pink to deep purple. Haven’t figured out the bloom cycle, supposedly they are driven by the humidity, but whatever it is last week was purple time in the Las Vegas valley. The first ones to bloom in our yard was a variety called Texas Ranger.

We weren’t sure that our plants would have any flowers on them. Things started blooming out around the area and ours were still just green. We have a row right outside the kitchen window, and we would see these little bitty sparrows bouncing around inside the bushes, and it took a while to see that they weren’t eating bugs but eating the flower buds before they had a chance to open; I guess the flowers taste good to them. I’d stand at the sink looking out and see a dozen or more of these grey brown birds, about the size of canaries, hopping inside the bushes and just chirping at each other and pecking and eating away. We thought they might have chomped down on all the buds, but then last week the purple did appear.

Most of the sages planted by businesses have been trimmed into round balls or other unusual shapes; when these bloom you end up with a big purple ball with most of the green leaves covered up by the flowers. We let ours grow however they want to, and this past winter we followed some local advice and just cut off a few older branches down at the base. As a result some of our plants look rather unusual. After five years in the ground most of the sage bushes are about four or five feet high and the same across, with one or two strange branches sticking out. The plant behind this one was a big yellow mass a few months ago.

Out front we planted a row just behind the wall along the street. The ones right under the big palm are not very large, stunted either by the shade or the lack of water from the palm sucking it all up. Our last grass out front was the semi-circle under the palm, but we covered that up last winter, pulled the sprinklers out and put in a soaker hose for the palm under a layer of crushed rock. Our neighbor across the street liked the green surrounded by his circular driveway so rather than convert to rock he got some artificial turf that stays green all the time. Doesn’t take much water, and it does provide a nice lead in to his purple sage.

Here is that row from the other end.

The tall palms across the street were just trimmed the weekend before, and look kind of empty. I need to have ours out by the pool trimmed back. That big palm in front of our house doesn’t get skinned like those, I cut off the bottom row of fronds when they drop down and touch the ground. You can see that we don’t have curbs and sidewalks in this area, or street lights. The lots are all half acre minimum, with horses and other animals permitted. We liked this section of town because of that, it seemed more rural while still being close to things. The guy right next door used to have chickens, and raised some turkeys for last Thanksgiving. One of the houses behind those across from us does have a corral and several horses, as do others around. We see them riding past the house some mornings, but it seems to me that there isn’t really enough room here to go for nice rides, but just a few minutes trailering up to Red Rock there are lots of horse trails up into the mountains.

Around the side of our house is the strip of bushes under our kitchen window. These are the ones that are always full of birds. You can also see a pile of lumber to the left: that was my Father’s Day work.

Here is that row from the other side, from where our outside dining table is. The sage blossoms have a very slight sweet smell, B really likes it. The rest of the year the plants have the typical sage smell, especially when you brush up against them.

Driving home from work on Tuesday I noticed something:

(you will notice I did wait until I stopped at our house before taking the picture) It seems summer has finally arrived. June was rather cool, I think this is the first time it has gotten up to triple digits in June, even though it got up to 103 in May. Yes, I did have the windows up and the air conditioning on, though again this was the first time I did that. I like it when it’s hot, and when driving alone usually just roll down the windows, but when B is in the car windows are up and air is on. The forecast in today’s paper showed 102 followed by triple digit days for the upcoming week. Hopefully we don’t go over 110 until mid July, but who knows?

The sage blossoms don’t last for very long, the Texas Rangers have all dropped their blossoms and some lighter pinks of a different variety are blooming out front now. As a result we end up with this view of the flowers

And under the mesquite tree that was a big yellow ball a few months ago we have the remainders of it’s blooming.

Most of the desert plants have fine leaves, and the flowers are very small, so you can’t rake up what falls, especially with the bare dirt and rocks underneath, it just has to stay and be blown away by the wind. We do get some tremendous winds here, but depending on the direction and the layout of your yard you might end up with more stuff deposited than blown away.

Oh, and that pile of lumber before? B finished painting it, and I had the pleasure of installing out front on top of that metal framework I installed in December.

So now our front patio looks like this.

The wisteria on the ironwork is green, there were a lot of blooms on that this spring, and it will be trained up over the boards to provide summer shade and let us enjoy the spring flowers hanging down. We have a solid covering out back; B wanted a little sunlight here out front. It went up just in time for the full heat, now I just have to get up some misters and replace the front window with some big French doors. The front of our house faces east; if those trees weren’t there you’d be looking down on the Strip in the above shot. We can’t see much because of the houses, but the guy across the street with the two story house has a balcony out back off his bedroom that has marvelous views. He gets to see all of the Strip fireworks shows on the fourth of July and New Year’s Day. Our back patio is on the west side, so on summer evenings when the sun is down a little and shining onto the patio around the cover we plan on coming out here where it will be shady. Yes, it will probably be 110f but hopefully with the shade and misters we can enjoy our margaritas and suck on the ice and just chill out; as much as you can chill out when it’s 110. (That’s about 44c for you guys that think metric).

No comments: