Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Extemporaneous ballets...Evening star

Mentzelia nuda (Evening Star) in Denver
 I wonder how many of these still linger inside Denver City limits? There was once a time when evening stars blazed by the million in the metro area--now far outnumbered by Starbucks and I suspect there may even be more DeLoreans in town than this, one of America's most glorious and little known gems. It begins to bloom in June and lasts (in a good year like this one) for months and months. The flowers opened early today--it was overcast. It is decidedly crepuscular--blooming an hour or two either side of sunset. It's not quite so fetching in the heat of the day...but then, who is?

Same plant, a few minutes later
 When the sun set. These flowers are mighty big--at least 4" across--and the plants can be well over a meter across. In my home garden, with a little more shade and protection, they can get four or more feet tall, and tend to flop. They look best out there on the flat, blasted by wind and drought.

Closeup of flower
 The flowers are really fetching. They remind me of night blooming cereus--albeit not QUITE so big!

Did I mention the insects love them? The field was a buzz with ecstatic bees...

This is really the extemporaneous ballet: the annual Eriogonum annuum.
 Mixed in one part of the meadow were quite a bevy of this impossibly elegant buckwheat. Did I mention this is the vacant lot just to the West of me. I've lived here 20 years and never have I seen so much of this buckwheat. I've been desperate to get it growing in my xeriscape and wondered where to get seed....now I know!
It reminds me a bit of Filipendula ulmaria, or suchlike.

Same meadow, looking West.
 Astonishing how different the same meadow at the same time looks from a different angle. I have just noticed all these plants are pale, whitish, ghostly: truly tenebrous creatures. A little out of step with the rambunctious demand for color we have in our gardens. But in the West, these neutral colors are the norm, and happy Westerners learn to love them. There is an elegant austerity in the tan tones, in the grays and buffs and auburns of our native landscape most of the year. We unfortunate that we have never had a poet to sing the paeans to this sort of colorscape. So we gardeners must do so ourselves...

Look carefully!
 The other day I sent a memo to a half dozen colleagues alerting them to this amazing Sphaeralcea. None of them seem too impressed, so I think I may fetch it for myself soon. Sitting in the bin of Water Garden soil, this mallow is perched on a tall column of clay.

Another spontaneous ballet
Doesn't it remind you a bit of a dancer--splaying this way and that? It would be tacky to dig up a favorite quote from Lolita--the death of Quilty--but it does remind me of the Diaghelev pose...

As I gazed at this with one of my favorite colleagues (who shall remain unnamed) he confessed he was unimpressed. But for me, this pale pink color--pale apricot or peach--is dreamy.

Don't be surprised if you see this in my garden before long, dancing away!

"How much more elegant are these
Extemporaneous ballets
File upon file of birch with trembling knees
The white oaks sterner panoplies..."

The poem goes on, and so must I! Good night sweet reader.


  1. Save me some seed of that pale dancer, Sphaeralcea, will you? I'd like to see if she can twirl and pirouette in these environs ... What a beauty! Good clay here in my spot in the Pacific Northwest ;>]]

  2. Panayoti, Some bee species can be very specific to one species of flower. It would be interesting to know what species of bee is on the flower and if it was rare.



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