The Last Snow

We had fresh snow up on the mountain this week. Now it lingers in the crevices and shaded alcoves. It will be gone from my sight next week but I’m sure patches will linger at the top. They say the Eskimos have 100 names to describe snow. Where I was born and raised and lived for sixty-five years we had about four names for winter precipitation. We had snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain. Here in the desert there are a few new forms that I don’t have simple names for. My language fails me when I try to describe it. We have an odd type of falling ice pellets the size of rice grains that bounce and roll around on the ground or ping off your windshield. It is dry, not wet like sleet. I got caught in what was essentially a slush blizzard this past week. Not snow flakes and not sleet but coagulated gobs of slush falling and covering the roadway. Cars were sliding off the pavement and we had over an inch accumulated in just a few minutes. It was blowing and sticking on hillsides and vertical objects. Tumbleweeds were draped in the stuff. That is what produced the snow on the mountain. The most amazing thing is an early morning ice crystal display…not like a dense fog but millions of shining ice crystals suspended in the air reflecting the sunlight. Usually the sky is a clear blue and calm and full of winking, glinting ice crystals floating suspended in the air.  This is desert and the sun and dryness will end it after a short while so you have to get up early to see it. There are probably names for these wintery things but I think naming sometimes takes away the mystery and wonder.

Today is the first day of April and spring is taking control in the valley. My Bleeding Hearts are blooming and the Lilacs are about the burst open. I took a walk through Albuquerque’s Botanical Garden this week and the place was an explosion of spring color. Some plants are slow to wake up but others are going crazy.

Rosemary, the herb, grows like a shrub here and some people have rosemary hedges in their yards. I always thought it was something that people nursed in a pot on the window sill until I moved here. It is not uncommon the see it escaped and growing along the roadside in places out in the desert. I was surprised to see that it has a delicate blue flower in the spring. I have a few modest plants growing in pots but they are not happy being confined and seldom survive the winter. I guess I need to set them free.

Our native cactus varieties won’t be blooming for a while but there were several exotic (to us) varieties blooming at the garden. We live in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert at a high elevation…5,000 feet or more. The lower Sonoran Desert varieties will bloom earlier than ours. To me, cactus flowers look incongruous with the plant. They are often showy and brightly colored while the plant itself is grumpy looking  and thorn covered. Our twisted Cholla cactus varieties will have large, hibiscus-like flowers later in the year and the Prickly Pears will bloom and produce fruit that people use for jelly.

The Japanese Garden has a way to go  before it is in full bloom but there are splashes of color mixed with the bare branches and evergreens. Azaleas are blooming in places…mostly a bold orange color. White lilacs and redbuds are blooming. One of my favorites is the Blue Atlas Cedar — an evergreen conifer but of a pale blue color.

I do a lot of container gardening so I like to see what they put together in their  ceramic and stone pots. It is different by the season. Now, in the early spring, they have kale, pansies and snapdragons. I’m not a fan of kale but this pale variety looked good mixed in with the other  plants in the blue container. I like azaleas but my rabbits would probably like them better and they would be hard to grow up on the mesa top where I live. The intense sun is my nemesis more than the heat and low humidity.


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