I can remember being a very small child taken several times to The Ware Collection of ‘Glass Flowers’ at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. These botanical models made quite an impression on me. There are thousands of life-like botanical specimens created by a father and son team of glass artists named Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka. If you are ever touring through Boston, set aside several hours for a memorable side trip to 26 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Maybe more so now, after taking plant biology in college, I enjoy examining plants up close and considering their forms, colors and patterns. Here in the high desert of New Mexico, our wildflowers and cacti start blooming cycles in mid-to-late April. Pushed by a few scant drops of precipitation, the flowering intensifies in May. Splashes of color appear in landscapes, both man-made, and natural. There is a saying that sticks in my mind: one man’s weed is another man’s flower growing in the wrong place.
Such is the case for Gaura parviflora, also called Velvetweed. These specimens were growing in the arroyo behind our house. The plant is common, but beautiful nonetheless.
I’m captivated by the luminous quality of flowers that come out of a cactus. The delicate forms that errupt out of those prickly plants are stunning with colors often as vivid as 1980s neon parachute pants. When I see these flowers, my spirits soar.
Claret Cup Cactus flowers are no larger than a quarter. While a mature plant produces dozens and dozens of these, many of which bloom simultaneously, I enjoyed going close-up to show the detail and color within a single bud.
Beavertail cactus flowers are hot pink and luminous. My husband liked this capture. He said it reminded him of hikers ascending and descending mountain trails. What does this composition remind you of?
While looking at that enormous cluster of Beavertail | Opuntia basilaris, I noticed an out-of-place cluster of three flowers. Pink Ladies AKA Showy Pink Mexican Evening Primrose |Oenothera speciosa ‘Rosea.’ Those girls sure get around. My friend Amanda and I marvel at how these fragrant flowers can fill enormous voids on gravel beds in early spring. Neither of us has had any luck growing them from seeds in our own xeriscapes. In gardner advice columns I have read of wholly ignorant HOAs in Arizona banning Mexican Evening Primrose; they consider them invasive, noxious weeds, rather than recognizing them as native plants.
Poppies seem to grow well in well-tended garden areas. I’ve seen orange varieties along a neighbor’s driveway. This one was alone in native grass on a sidewalk strip. I liked the contrast it gave: the shock of red against the soft greens. It’s my nod to Marimekko.
Finally, I give you my nature as an abstract artist, macro shot: The Ice Plant | Delosperma cooperi. This drought-tolerant ground cover originated in South Africa. It emigrated well to New Mexico. Sometimes this plant is called Pink Carpet. It is a succulent that produces small aster-like flowers with tiny hairs that reflect and refract light; the flowers seem to sparkle like ice crystals, hence the common name.