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24 • JUNE 2019

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TALKING HORSES

NATIVE ROOTS • PATRICIA HURLEY

continued from page 22 applying a leg aid or shifting weight from one seat bone to the other (I’m sure making some passengers wonder what I was up to!). I’d go in the arena and imagine I had my horse, picturing certain events and going through the movements of how I would react with my equipment and positioning. When I was with my horse, I’d try to break down each step of the task I wanted us both to learn, and I would strive to have both of competent at each step before we tried the whole thing. I looked for physical weaknesses in both of us and tried to improve those areas before asking for things neither one of us could do. If I was stiff with no fluidity posting a trot going to the right, how could I expect my horse to be comfortable and collected going in that direction. If my horse couldn’t reach under himself going to the left, how I could ask him to do lateral work in that direction? The rate at which I advanced in my horsemanship and the “feel” I developed years before I thought it would happen were a direct result of this early concentration on practicing all the basics rather than just going for a ride on my horse. But, like so many people with horses, over the years I stopped paying attention to a lot of the details and as a result I believe, as Clear suggests, that when I thought I was improving I was merely reinforcing habits. It took a new horse, one looking for leadership and a clear understanding of who I am and what I want in our partnership, to jolt me back to understanding just how big my responsibility is in this new journey. I can’t ask anything of this horse until I know I’m prepared physically and mentally to lead the way. It’ll never be a partnership if I’m not willing to do my part. For me, it’s back to horsemanship 101 and lots of deliberate practice. For my horse, it’s a promise that we’ll learn and progress at her rate, taking things step by step, and we won’t move ahead unless we’re both prepared to do so. Scott Thomson lives in Silver City and teaches natural horsemanship and foundation training. You can contact him at hsthomson@msn. com of 575-388-1830.

Spring to Summer Blooms Welcoming the change of season

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ur canyon penstemon welcomed early spring hummingbirds with its showy magenta spray of blooms along numerous tall flower stalks this April and May. It is one of my favorite penstemons for its beauty and toughness. Unlike many other penstemons it will grow in clay soil and in sun or shade. Most penstemons desire a high draining, sandy soil, or at least a hillside which provides some drainage. If overwatered they get leggy, root crowns tend to rot, and they begin to flop over. Canyon penstemon reseeds and naturalizes readily as well. Last year we had several growing side by side, and one evening we all clustered around them to see how close we could get to the 30-plus Sphinx moths buzzing in and out of the tubular flowers. Other noticeable spring bloomers include California and Mexican Gold poppy. The California poppies cheerfully welcome tourists to Downtown Silver City, they spread easily by seed and can be found growing throughout the older neighborhoods. The Mexican Gold poppies blanket our hillsides and the Gila River Valley. The pink Mexican Evening primrose are a pretty ground cover but be careful where you plant this one as it can be an aggressive spreader. The intense yellow of Damianita form a nice low growing shrub that is drought tolerant and sun-loving. The Fendler’s sundrops blanket the roadsides with their yellow flower closing into a soft marmalade in the heat of the day. One of my favorite native yellow daisies, chocolate flower, starts blooming in May as well. Yes, it really does smell like chocolate. It is also sun loving and drought tolerant, and a great bee plant. Many of our trees and shrubs were off to a slow start with the colder temperatures that marked this spring. I had to counsel a few folks not to worry about their desert willows and Aniscanthus (Wright’s desert honeysuckle), as they were concerned that they didn’t make it through the winter. These native plants have adapted to our late cold frosts and are slower to come out of dormancy. These patterns may be harder to predict

California poppy

Canyon penstemon

as climate change causes more erratic and fluctuating weather resulting in warmer spring temperatures than normal. Some of these showy blooms will be fading as the heat of June settles over the Southwest. Chocolate flower will continue until fall frost and will be joined by other summer blooming penstemons like Rocky Mountain, Palmer’s penstemon, and scarlet bugler (penstemon barbatus) all of which attract butterflies and native bees. Make sure your garden has a diversity of continuous native blooms from spring to fall in order to support pollinators. Studies have shown that native pollinators prefer native plants over most ornamentals and that many of the new cultivars or hybrids do not provide the same quality of nutritional benefits. As the cooler Spring temperatures fade, I think of our tougher plants that can withstand intense sun and heat. Arizona Rosewood is a multi-trunked evergreen tree that tolerates tough conditions. It provides a visual screen and is a wind barrier with its numerous branches and long linear, serrated leaves. Deer leave it alone and it has creamy white flowers in June that attract pollinators. Plant it with other drought tolerant shrubs like Apache plume, four-winged saltbush, and turpentine bush, which also provide good screening, as well as structural habitat for birds and pollinators. As we head into the heat of summer, group your plants together that share the same growing conditions, this will consolidate and minimize your watering efforts. Other tips for June planting include

mulching heavily to conserve water. Use gravel or decomposed granite around your heat loving plants and a good wood mulch around plants that don’t mind more dampness. Newly establishing plants often require daily watering with the hot dry winds of June. Our relentless sunshine can cause sunburn for new plants that we’re grown under shadecloth, so screening them for a few days could help as well. For your already established plants, remember to water infrequently, deeply and slowly; this will prevent runoff from hydrophobic soil. Overwatering is a frequent problem with native plants, make sure the soil has dried between watering. Keeping a plant constantly wet (true for new plants as well) will cause root rot and prevents the plant from forming the important fungal relationships, called mycorrhizae, necessary for plant longevity. June, with its brutal heat and low humidity, is the easiest time to convince people that tough and adapted natives are the appropriate choice. Tricia Hurley is co-owner with her husband, Mark Cantrell, of Lone Mountain Natives in Silver City. They have been growing, selling and learning about native plants for the past 13 years where they have a home nursery and sell at the local farmers market in downtown Silver City. Contact them at lonemtn@q. com or visit their website at www. lonemtnnatives.com.

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Walk-ins Welcome For Appointments Call (575) 538-2981

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Desert Exposure - June 2019  

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