Sunday, June 9, 2013

A tale of West Ridge: eleven years of transformation

Westridge this June 8, 2013
 All gardeners know that gardens aren't about just plants or vistas. They are about process. We all have a vision and a dream: we strive to achieve that ever receding goal--and in the interim, the  kaleidoscopic, prismatic patters of the garden achieve their own sort of perfection. Which we never note at the time, but if you take some pictures you might be surprised....I took the picture above yesterday--not long after dawn. The mottled light seemed to light up the various native wildflowers in a way I have seen them lit when traveling the wild. This year the fall and winter were dryish, but March through May were much wetter than they have been for years. It might be instructive to compare this year's exravaganza with the same slope on previous years going back to nearly its first year as a garden.

Westeridge June 2012
Last year was the year of the prairie daisy (Erigeron divergens): if it hadn't been for our ubiquitous native annual this garden would have been dull indeed. The penstemons hardy bloomed, although the buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum) always do their thing. Last year April and May were virtually snowless and we had only a few drizzles. Dryland plants obviously appreciate spring moisture.

Westridge June 2005
I have not checked the weather records from 2005--but I suspect that there must have been good spring moisture then. In fact--I'm really surprised at how similar the penstemons and buckwheats performed back then to this spring. I shall have to see if I can find a similarly bright, overcast day this June to try and replicate the picture...there are some significant differences that are not readily apparent: this garden is nowadays FULL of cacti--one of which you can make out if you look carefully in the first picture. They will become more and more conspicuous with time...

Westridge 2002
Two shots from the earliest years--not long after it was planted. The Penstemon pseudospecabilis has yet to hybridize with P. palmeri and produce the range of magenta shades it has today. These are the only penstemons that have persisted and even proliferated from the early years. The others have diminished and disappeared. Everything is discretely planted in distinct drifts, as opposed to the truly natural patterns nowadays (when plants have planted themselves)...

Westridge June 2002 (further away)
The early years were magical: we call them the honeymoon years of a garden when weeds have yet to proliferate and everything grows lustily. But there is a different sort of satisfaction when conifers gain size and heft and plants make themselves at home. That evolution is really what makes gardening unique in human endeavors.


  1. Your last statement on garden evolution is really something...important in choosing clients to work with, in my case.

  2. patience does have its virtues! Looks wonderful


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