Friday, July 03, 2009

Living things from two "deserts"

Why grow cactus in Colorado?

Since Manuel Ramos (who assumedly will be back next week) left no protocols on what I should post in his usual Friday spot, I'm sharing photos of two deserts.

The first set is in my Denver front yard, although with the Portlandish monsoons of recent weeks, it appears more like selva than llano.

The set that follows is from my cousin Annette's yard in Phoenix. She's posted articles on La Bloga about our family and other topics, and may again(?).

Plants have obsessed me for more than the month I've spent weeding and pruning, apparently with no end in sight because it's supposed to rain heavily again over the weekend. Anyway . . .

I never been able to remember the names, neither scientific nor common, of all the varieties I've got. (If you're interested in such, use this site
to try identifying cacti.) I sometimes classify them in terms of color. It's also useful, and important, to remember their classification in terms of their espinas. This one doesn't have the nastiest spines, which means I don't cry for my mom when I get stuck by one. I just . . .

These are the first type I ever grew and are the rose-colored. Again, their spines don't draw that much blood. As for why I grow these, Denver is normally an arid state--pretty, but with little precipitation (excluding the next 2,000 years of global warming). Clay, instead of dirt, sits under our yards and isn't conducive to anything green that requires regular watering. Over time, like fifteen minutes, it compacts down into medium-grade concrete. But prairie grass, buffalo grass, yuccas and cacti thrive . . .

This is a type of fat barrel cactus that I only have one of. This is its actual pinkness: swear I didn't Photoshop it. Many of these flowers only last one day. The largest type that are a good foot high I decided not to put into this post for fear the cactus bandits might be enticed to pay a midnight visit to my desert . . .

This one likes to spread itself, traveling wherever I haven't put stones in its path. Its white espinas aren't just a pretty face. They're mean enough to make even a Denver cop put his baton away. And it's obviously known as the . . .

Lastly, come what are definitely chollas. It's difficult to distinguish, given their growth this year, but there's two on the sides from El Paso--part of my Uncle Jess's legacy--and one in the middle that is a Colorado cholla. I've also got another one that's six-foot tall, but its flowers pale in numbers compared to these smaller ones.

This year the chollas flowered much later than usual, which I also attribute to the extended cold and wet. Nor have they ever all bloomed together, at least not to this extent. You might recognize these from some of Ramos's photos of the same. I snuck into his yard late one night. . .

Global warming may eliminate homo and hetero sapiens from contention, but it appears that along with the cucarachas, cactus, at least cholla, may prevail.

Like selling cactus in the desert

Now we come to my cousin's front yard. Sure, hers are bigger, but how hard could it be to raise saguaros where daytime temps get to 110? This hovel is not her house, but the photo was taken nearby. As you can see, the neighbors aren't very good about watering their lawn. Reminds me of someone down the block. . .

There seemed to be a lot of animals around, birds too, usually moving too quickly for me to take a photo. These two are the best I could do. The javelinas I saw one morning across the street when I went out to get the morning paper didn't wait long enough for the camera. Take my word for it though, they were serious mero meros of the desert.

Two forms of wildlife posing in the inevitable tourist photo. I had to take one, no? This is of an Arizona cactus and one from Colorado. (In case you're wondering, yes, I did ask the barrel if he'd allow me to take his photo.) The taller one is my wife Carmen. If she doesn't look that tough, you try hugging a barrel cactus, even a willing one, and see if your sunglasses stay put.

This little beauty was anything but little. Would you believe I took this shot from fifty feet away and that the thing's got three climate zones? I didn't think so.

I've got about fifteen varieties of cacti throughout my front yard. I've got opuntia, I've got yucca, I've got echinocereus, but none can compare to the saguaro. How could they? The saguaro stand, hell, they thrust themselves, above the sand as if they know the javelinas don't amount to a pig in a poke. They may not have three climate zones, but they probably could if they wanted to. For some reason they've allowed people, including my cousin, to live amongst them. At least for now. If you get to Phoenix, stop to see the plant life, not at her place but at the Desert Botanical Gardens. Warning! Afterward, you too may tear out the water-hungry grass in your yard.


N.B.: Tomorrow's the last day to enter to win an Ebook copy of the Drollerie Press's latest anthology Needles & Bones that has a story of mine entitled Memorabilia. It's easy to win, but you do have to enter.


Daniel A. Olivas said...

Mil gracias for this beautiful set of photos and perfect prose. You made my day!

Pocho Joe said...

There once was a viejo seco
who grew plants in his yard
The pricks were wild
but the viejo was mild

Contest: End the limerick.