Monday, March 29, 2010

Desert in Bloom

It's spring in the desert. On a good year (read: "when rain falls in winter"), flowers bloom in the parched sand and trees put on their party dresses for a few weeks. Apparently, this was a very good year--more than five whole inches of rain! (above normal, I'm told.) To anyone who lives in an area that is not desert, these purple and yellow flowers might look like scraggly weeds. But what they really are is a miracle. Imagine an area of practically no rain, only sand to grow in, and temperatures in the summer that can reach 120. Then try to imagine something--anything--growing there without irrigation. OK, you don't have to imagine; here's a picture.

Imagine several acres of these as seen from the road--a magical purple mist softening the harsh desertscape. Can you see it? My iPhone camera was not up to the task; I hope your imagination has a bigger lense!

I went in search of wildflowers yesterday because the naturalist who writes for the Desert Sun newspaper said this would be the weekend. In true American Idol/Dancing with the Stars tradition, he gave this year's showing a rating. "It's about a B+," he said. That was good enough for me. I do have to admit that was mystified as I drove about five miles down one country road looking for what he called "a good showing of desert dandelions." I drove and drove, wondering when I would see them. Then it dawned on me that the mounds of dusty green leaves with fat yellow flowers that lined the road were them. I'm not fully acclimated to the desert yet. My Seattle filter is still set to ignore all dusty green mounds with yellow flowers because weeds of that description are ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest and not worthy of notice. I imagine that will be corrected after my first full summer here, when I expect my eyes will be hungry for the sight of living flowers.
This mesquite tree bloomed overnight, I swear it did. Oliver and I discovered it on our morning stroller walk around the green. The word "mesquite" conjures up visions of cowboys on the range with a mesquite fire, cookin' and strummin' guitars. I've never before come-face-to-branch with an actual living, blooming mesquite tree. Most impressive. This one is on our green, so it gets irrigation, but its cousins out on wild desert do not. They still manage to grow and bloom.
I'm waiting for the Palo Verde tree in my front yard to burst into bloom. A few small yellow blossoms are just beginning to open. My great Aunt Laura used to say the Palo Verde trees bloomed especially for her birthday, which fell on April 15. Some of the Palo Verde trees my the neighborhood were killed by bungling handymen pretending to be gardeners. The trees must be thinned so the wind will blow through their branches without uprooting them. I nurtured mine carefully and solicited the pruning talents of a landscaper who did a beautiful job on a tree in my neighbor's yard. I think I'm about to be rewarded by a full complement of gorgeous yellow flowers. And maybe some bumble bees.
I love bumble bees. I saw some big black ones busily exploring the few early blossoms of the Palo Verde trees in front of Trader Joe's today. Maybe they'll come visit my tree in a couple of weeks.
Try to imagine a nondescript little tree with green bark, its branches covered with glorious yellow blossoms. What? You're tired of this game? OK, I'll get you a picture. On Aunt Laura's birthday.


Bemused Boomer said...

Sorry about the messed-up paragraphs; it's late at night here and Blogger is giving me big problems. Maybe I'll fix them in the futures
--and maybe I won't. It all depends on my frustration level at the time.

Anonymous said... show your P.Springs neighbors what they're missing, you should show them pictures from Buchart Gardens or the Skagit Valley Tulip festival. On second thought, nah, that'd be too mean. Perhaps on your annual trek north to escapt the worst of the P.S. summers, make a stop at Buchart Gardens to satiate that part of your brain that needs to see green, blooming plants....
-CP in Seattle

Anonymous said...

My family and I drove through Joshua Tree National Park yesterday to look at the wild flowers. All the yellow flowers were blooming, but we say many purple lupine, coral mallow, and the palo verde trees are indeed gorgeous. We also saw some little blue flowers I did not recognize as well as those crazy little purple spikey things that grow on individual stalks along the road. What are those? Does anyone know?

Bemused Boomer said...

Hahaha--most of my Palm Springs neighbors are FROM Seattle or B.C.! They know what green growing things look like! (and a lot of them got back to visit their little green friends each year...)

I MUST get out my GPS and head for Joshua Tree (as soon as the major winds sent to us by my friends in Seattle die down). My Palo Verde tree just has a few little blooms. I'm pretty sure that number will be reduced to about zero after tonight's wind.

Little spiky purple flowers? Is that what's in my picture? Or are those lupine--or neither. (Note to self, get book of local wildflowers...)