Yellopig Is Free

Or, Recreating A Life From Scratch

Not-So-Wild Flowers from March

I live in what we call a “semi-rural” neighborhood. The roads are all dirt, and it’s very hilly, and cellphone service is still pretty iffy. But we do have our standards, y’know, and most of the houses here have at least some area around them that has been graded flat(-ish) and xeriscaped. Well, OK, my house had a little patch of grass in the backyard, but that’s all over now. The Google satellite photographs don’t show much lawn-type grass for miles around.

The “cultivated” plantings around the house also bloomed in March, and I thought I’d show those too.

I have two or three Paloverde trees that were probably planted on purpose near the house. There may be one or two more in the wilder part of the yard, but they’re less tree-like and more resemble loose, scruffy shrubs.


This is Blue Paloverde (Parkinsonia florida), and in wetter years, the whole tree is covered with these wonderful yellow flowers. This year the flowers were plentiful, but bloomed in patches over the tree, so I couldn’t get a picture of the full blazing ball of yellow all at once. Paloverde is the official State Tree of Arizona, and there are two species native locally. Arizona is not specific about which Paloverde species is the State Tree though, since fussing over species might seem all science-y, and our state legislature likes to avoid the appearance of “knowledge” & stuff.

Oops, I seem to have drifted off-topic.

You can’t tell from the picture, but Paloverde flowers have one petal that is longer than the others and flipped up, like a tag. The Blue Paloverde has a yellow tag petal, which is why it’s hard to see here; the Yellow Paloverde (Parkinsonia microphylla) has a white tag petal (of course?), and a related species, Jerusalem Thorn (Parkinsonia aculeata), has an orange tag petal. I had a Jerusalem Thorn tree at my house in Florida years ago, which I lost to Hurricane Erin. (I mean I lost the tree, the house came through mostly intact.) I prefer the Jerusalem Thorn because it’s slightly more colorful, more graceful-looking and not as scruffy as the Paloverdes. On the other hand, the Paloverdes are maintenance-free, so I think I’ll keep them. 😉

There are mesquite trees in the front yard: two Chilean mesquites and one (probably) velvet mesquite. None of those trees has ever bloomed, and one of the Chilean mesquites is actually dead. I think it was a bark-beetle infestation, and yes, someday I should take that out of there, but I have more pressing tree issues at the moment.

Below the Velvet mesquite is an unfortunate sage bush which is leaning far to the north, as if trying desperately to get away from the mesquite tree. That sounds anthropomorphic, but I have another example: directly at the base of each mesquite is a ring of stones that both serves as edging for a small basin to hold water (should any ever fall from the sky) and as a container for some small salvias, which also bloomed in March.


This is a messy plant, and the mesquites above them are messy trees. I believe this is Red Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), or it might be a penstemon? And March isn’t autumn, so I’m just not sure about this. It does look pretty, though.


This plant mostly dies back and then sprouts up again several times a year, which is why it always looks like it’s surrounded by dead sticks. The odd thing about these is that in the process of dying and re-sprouting, they have jumped the rock border of the basin and are slowly creeping across the yard, away from the mesquites. Which is the second indication that nobody likes growing near the mesquites.

The back yard also has some ornamental plants, among the stones that surrounded the erstwhile grass. This little plant is very pretty, but needs more water than it is getting:


This is Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera). This little plant has been there for at least 12 years, never getting any bigger than this. It has been getting more water this year than usual, and so this is the most blooms I’ve ever seen on it. It seems to bloom for most of the year; even in winter it still has one or two bright orange fingers showing.

And look who made a return appearance, but the Cryptantha pterocarya, the “Winged-nut Forget-me-not” at the lower left. I got a better picture of it this time, so you can compare to the other Cryptantha, “Popcorn flower”:


That leaves my big show-off flowers — the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). They are such weird plants. When they bloom, it might happen to be a time when they have leaves, or it might not. Either way, the inflorescences form as weird pennants at the end of long sticks. It looks like this:


You can see a second Ocotillo blooming in the background, lower left. These pennants grow at all angles, sometimes two or more per stick. Here are some, close up:


The best thing about these is that the hummingbirds love them!

And one last thing: do you see that sky? That’s one of the reasons I moved to Arizona. The sky will look just like that every single day until the first week of July, and then the thunderstorms of the monsoon will just make it even more amazing. And I surely wish I could show you how awesome it looks at night!

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