Most people who live in Southern New Mexico say that October is their favorite month. Blue skies, moderate temperatures, and almost no wind work together to bestow one beautiful day after another. I have begun adding violas to the pots of annuals that will die after the first hard frost. The violas should survive the winter. Even if we are lucky enough to get some snow, they will keep blooming.
The berries on my holly tree have turned orange. My summer watering paid off this year, so I didn’t lose the green berries during the hot weather as I did the previous year. Soon the berries will turn fiery red and remain on the branches until next spring.
In December and January it will be too cold to sit out in the courtyard. The lantanas and other deciduous plants will be dormant, but the color of the viola blossoms and holly berries will still cheer me when I look out from my library window or hurry through the courtyard with Emerson the Dog on the way to our morning walk.
Although not much is blooming at the moment, the shady side of the courtyard is looking rather nice.
The sunny side, where we recently created a new border, is looking bare. (See below.) The blossoms have fallen off the new Lantana plants, although some buds are forming. I am hoping the plants will put down good roots over the winter and spread out nicely next spring. In October, I will pot up some violas and kale plants to fill in the spaces over the winter.
The evergreen holly tree in the corner has only been in the ground for two seasons. It grows very slowly, but it is covered with green berries that will soon turn red and remain on the branches throughout the winter.
I am still experimenting with Pelargonium cuttings. In the summer heat, my cuttings from the Pelargonium graveolens (Rose Geranium) rooted well in moist soil. Even though they are related, all my efforts with Pelargonium citrosum (Citronella) utterly failed. Undaunted, I took some cuttings again this morning. Perhaps they will root in water during the cooler weather. The fragrance in my studio after I brought in the cuttings was intoxicating.
A few bright spots remain in the garden, such as the Marigolds and Ageratum pictured above, but most of the annuals and perennials have stopped flowering. A neighbor recently gave me a sweet potato plant (not sure of the official name). The lime green foliage provides a nice contrast to the dark green foliage of my other plants.
The Vinca (Periwinkle) cuttings that I took a few months ago have rooted nicely. They are temporarily sharing some pot space with two aging cacti. The parent Vinca is pictured on the left below. I love the periwinkle blossoms that appear in spring. Here in Southern New Mexico, the new plants should weather the winter nicely.
In the sunny corner of the courtyard, my husband took up some flagstones that butted against the walls so I could create a new border. I have planted it with Lantana and Evening Primrose. The latter is pictured below. Unlike the yellow Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) that only opens in the evening, the pink variety (Oenothera speciosa) blooms all day. I have great hopes for the Evening Primrose plants. They are native to the area, extremely drought tolerant, and can be invasive if left unchecked. Anything that will cover the ground and bloom profusely is OK with me. We’ll see.
This morning my husband mentioned that a dove was nesting in one of our Vitex trees. I hadn’t noticed. She had hidden herself and her nest so well that it was difficult to get a photo. I quietly moved between the low-hanging branches for the best shot. She didn’t move a muscle or bat an eye. I assured her that I meant no harm.
It seems late in the season for a new family, but perhaps new life is never out of season. No doubt the chicks will grow quickly. I hope they survive the winter to come.
Since the early 2000s, the Village of Ruidoso, New Mexico, has been on a campaign to eradicate every thistle plant that grows within village limits. In 2007, the Council passed an ordinance requiring property owners to remove these “noxious” weeds. Failure to comply can carry a $50 fine. The thistles are considered a nuisance because they don’t feed the wildlife, and they crowd out native plants. Volunteers tramp through the grasses along roadsides looking for signs of the offenders. They’ve done a good job of removing the thistles, but of course, this kind of battle is never completely won. I saw the criminal pictured above on a recent morning walk, appropriately behind bars. I won’t tell where I saw it.
I took a photo of the specimen below last year because I thought it was pretty — a redeeming quality to my mind. No living thing is all bad. Besides, the thistle has medicinal properties.
This morning a bull elk wandered through our yard along with his harem and a couple of calves. Breakfast was forgotten as I rushed to find my camera. I was so busy trying to get a good photo of the bull that I missed out on the harem as the ‘wives’ wandered out of view. Alas, the best picture included the trash bin, but I managed to get a photo of one of the calves, spotted just like a deer fawn.
In the mountains, the wildflowers are sprinkled sparingly here and there. On my morning walks over the past few days, the ones I have spotted have been mostly yellow. They remind me to pay attention and appreciate the little gifts in life that are easily overlooked.
A notable exception to the yellow was the blue beauty pictured below.