The Dead of Winter

February 19, 2011

The Plant Guy tells us not to cut back out dead-looking plants yet; wait until the middle of March, the day of the last possible frost.  But it is hard to keep my shears from the brown shrubs.

Plus the yard is inundated in dead leaves from the acacias and mesquites, which normally hold on to their leaves through our winter.  The hard frosts have done them in.  (Photo of willow acacia leaves.)

The hedge of feathery cassia, however, is ready to bloom.  The first tiny yellow flower has appeared.

In Phoenix Thursday, babysitting for the grandkids, I noticed how many plants there have succumbed to the frost, which I hadn’t seen before.

Last year I had a tree service cut a large branch from the neighbor’s mesquite to restore the view north from my kitchen window.  It had grown back, but today I had the view again, as the mesquite has lost all of its leaves.


This morning, in the shower, I espied a sleek coyote loping along my fence towards the wash.  It could be the same one I saw Wednesday morning at the end of my driveway as I was making breakfast.  But from the nightly group howls (seemingly in the wash just beyond my backyard), there are many of them about.

Morning Song

Yesterday’s overcast sky, with clouds from California, kept the temperatures down to the low 70’s and left a bit of moisture in the air, but no rain.  This morning is awash in birdsong over the hum of cars on the interstate (a sound that can be heard when the humidity rises).

A light breeze ruffles bare tree branches and the yellow-green leafed branches of the creosotes.  A couple of tiny orange butterflies (Orange-Barred Sulphur?) dance between my blue rosemary flowers and the purple blossoms of the native verbena volunteers.

A starling is singing his heart out, perched next to my saguaro.  A starling’s song is not melodious, but it endears him to me, as my voice isn’t either.

The sun is rising and it’s only 58° at 8am, but the clear sky clicks my brain to the memory of summer heat.  These lovely springs, albeit from February through April, give up too soon to the oven’s blast of summer.  Persephone must have like the fires of Hades, and recreated those singeing temperatures for her six months a year in Tucson!

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4 Responses to “The Dead of Winter”

  1. Lynn Shore Says:

    It’s been beautiful and warm the last few days here in SC. Gene is already looking for his “Jonquils”. They are peaking their heads out all over the yard. He bought me two blueberry bushes this week. We look forward to the blueberries-we just have to keep the birds from eating them all. We have three bird feeders – six bird houses, and I don’t know if we can do that! We love our bluebirds, and look forward to watching them raise their babies. And the hummingbirds chasing each other around the yard.

  2. notesfromthewest Says:

    Any photos of the bluebirds?

  3. Jim Says:

    You bring to memory that lovely time of the year in Tucson, when I much enjoyed long solitary hikes in the desert.

    That bird seems like a starling – an pernicious invasive European species which competes with native species for the scarce nesting cavities in the Sahuaros.

    Here in Livermore, with a Mediterranean climate, we have had 7 days of drizzling rain and one day of light snow – Northwest weather. Only the shoot-star wild flowers are in bloom. The humming birds are feasting on the nectar of the aloes. The starving migratory birds are everywhere, and have eaten all of pyracantha berries. The redtail hawks and golden eagles are doing their acrobatic aerial courtship displays. The newts are breeding in the pond. The tree frogs and red-legged frogs are loudly courting in the ponds. And, the gophers are devouring the roots of the aleppo pine, and the fig, citrus, mulberry, and plum trees – and the grape vines. The invasive annual grasses and weeds are in a race to dominate. In general, all is normal, in this accelerating eternal struggle for survival.

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