Saturday, July 13, 2013

From the Tropics to Tahoe

My sojourn of family visits continues as, after a prolonged visit in tropical Florida I have traveled west and north, to the Sierra Nevadas and the Lake Tahoe region. I am enjoying mountain vistas and brisk morning walks in a new landscape that starkly contrasts to waxy, exotic effulgence of tropical horticulture (as seen in this post). Here, at an altitude of approximately 6,225 ft (1,897 m), the air is dry and so is the soil.

The climate of the Sierra Nevada varies from hot desert (similar to the Sahara) at its eastern base to an artic-alpine climate only a few miles away on the highest peaks. However, most of the Sierra Nevada is enjoys a Mediterranean (low temperature) climate that dominates the Sierra below about 6000-7000 ft. (where I am currently visiting). These climates are characterized by warm to hot dry summers and cool to cold wet winters.

As was true of my visit to Florida, I am unfamiliar with the standard flora of this region. Hailing from New England, the alpine/desert mix is fascinating, inspiring and confounding. I've included a few photos from my morning walks, gloriously illumined by morning haze, sunlight and dew. I have not, as yet, pinpointed the proper names of these simple yet generous prairie grasses.

Common grasses and shrubs that thrive here include:

  • Yellow Monkeyflowers, Orange Alpine Lilies, Yellow Arrow-leaved Butterweed
  • Purple Tower Delphinium and Yellow Buttercups
  • A strange red plant called a Snowplant
  • Low growing Evergreen Squaw Carpet
  • Mountain shrubs:  Deer Brush and Tobacco Brush
  • Mountain Mules’ Ears: large fuzzy leaves that look like donkey ears
  • Sagebrush and Bitterbrush 
  • Willows: common water loving shrubs that grow in meadows and along creeks
  • Cow Parsnips: flat-topped clusters of blossoms that form one point like an umbrella 

Other prairie grasses include:

  • Prairie Dropseed [Sporobolus heterolepis]
  • Little Bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium]
  • Switchgrass [Panicum virgatum]
  • Indiangrass [Sorghastrum nutans]

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Day at Leu Gardens

During my prolonged visit with family this summer, today I was exposed to the incredible diversity and extravagance of tropicals when my niece, nephew and I visited the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, FL. Leu Gardens showcases plants suitable for cultivation in USDA Zone 9b,  a zone I am completely unfamiliar with, hailing from northern climes.

Harry P. Leu, a successful businessman and his wife, Mary Jane, purchased the property in 1936. The Leus traveled extensively and brought back plants and seeds for their garden. The Leus deeded the house and the gardens to the city of Orlando in 1961.

I include below some photos I took as we meandered. We barely scratched the surface of all there is to see there because it is, after all, July in Central Florida and the heat became daunting. Tropicals are an altogether different adventure when it comes their species and sub-species. Wildly colorful, succulent and bizarre, they make their own statement.

I have not attempted to identify them for fear that I would become overwhelmed and then not post them. Enjoy the adventure!