When I was in Arcata this spring to do some bird photography, I drove down to Humboldt Bay and stumbled upon the lovely Humboldt Botanical Garden. The Humboldt Botanical Gardens are at the southern edge of Eureka, California. The Gardens are near the South Bay portion of Humboldt Bay on the north side of College of the Redwoods. The Garden was organized by a small group of volunteers in 1991. The goal was to create an educational botanical garden in for the Northern California region. The garden opened in 2006, with more development completed by 2008. Its Lost Coast Brewery Native Plant Garden has an emphasis on the Humboldt region, but includes plants in the geographic area from the Rogue River to the north shore of San Francisco Bay, and inland to a north-south line running from Vacaville through Williams, Redding, Yreka, Medford, and along the Rogue River to its mouth. The Gardens are particularly interested in maintaining complete native conifer, Iris and Lilium occidentale (western lily) collections. They had a beautiful display of spring flowers which I thought I would share.
I like to celebrate the return of spring each year by writing about the beautiful flowers I find around me in Las Vegas. It might be surprising to some to know that Las Vegas and the surrounding desert are full of life, flowers and beauty, especially in spring. The wet El Niño winter this year has brought above average amounts of rain to California and Southern Nevada mostly in February. This has resulted in super blooms of poppies in California, a rare wildflower super-bloom in Joshua Tree National Forest and an unusual simultaneous blooming of Joshua trees and Mohave Yucca around Las Vegas. Joshua trees do not bloom every year. Like most desert plants, their blooming depends on rainfall at the proper time. They also need a winter freeze before they bloom and it was cold last winter with a little snow. The blooming cycle of the Joshua Tree is totally dependant on climatic conditions. Depending on the timing and intensity of winter rains, blossoming can occur any time from March to May, and can vary from very sparse to a rare abundance of blossoms in relative wet years as we see this year.
Each year I write on the spring flowers in my home city, Las Vegas. This year I have decided to focus on plants used in public landscapes. Every city and town has a certain ambiance or sense of place. Often the ambiance is due to the people, sometimes the food, music or architecture but frequently it is the mix of plants and landscapes in the particular location. Although the plantings may reflect the surrounding area, sometimes plants are imported from elsewhere and over time become considered as a a native part of the environment. Even if two places are nearby, the landscapes can be completely different, based on water availability, affluence and even history. Las Vegas is not that far from Los Angeles yet the landscapes could not be more different. Not long ago I wrote about the succulents that are recently wildly popular in Los Angeles in part because of the mild climate. Las Vegas suffers from the same water shortages but it's landscapes are distinctly different, reflecting the deserts in the surrounding areas. This is not a complete list, but it will give you a sense of landscaping in Las Vegas and you will get to see some beautiful flowers.
I decided to take another trip to Death Valley to document the smaller flowers of the super bloom. The bloom changes over time, different species claim their place in the hierarchy. Although the photographs show many of the same plants at the same size, some are quite small. This year (2016) is an amazing year for Death Valley flowers since a super bloom is in progress. As a result, I am planning multiple visits to Death Valley to photograph the bloom in progress. The bloom is definitely moving north and higher in altitude. Although there are still expansive fields of Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) along the Badwater Road, as well as carpets of Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa) from Mile Marker 42 to the end of the road, many of the other flowers in this area are past their peak. Blooms will migrate up canyons and climb mountains as the air rapidly warms through spring. “When I first came to work here in the early 1990s, I kept hearing the old timers talk about super blooms as a near mythical thing,” says National Park Service employee Alan Van Valkenburg. “I saw several impressive displays of wildflowers over the years and always wondered how anything could beat them, until I saw my first super bloom in 1998. Then I understood.”
A little reference to one of my favorite French poets, Arthur Rimbaud and his greatest work, Après Le Déluge (see my post). If you have not heard, Northern Europe had a major snowstorm a couple of days ago. On Tuesday the Eurostar trains had to be suspended as severe weather in Northern France and Belgium forced operators to close sections of the railway. The snow caused major disruption in Paris, with authorities urging the seven million daily public transport users to stay at home. Several major roads around the capital remained shut. We got in Monday and I thought it would be fun to show some pictures.
Spring comes early in Las Vegas and it comes suddenly, usually with bursts of wind. We had a few days of warm weather and everything started blooming. These are ornamental plum trees which lose their purple leaves in the winter and bloom in the spring. Because of its dark foliage and contrasting colorful flowers, the ornamental plum (Prunus cerisifera) is one of the most popular trees used in landscaping in Las Vegas. The deep purple leaves add an accent to predominantly green landscapes and catch the eye all over town.