Monday, March 20, 2017

Here and There

March 14, 2017:   
Wethersfield CT versus Santa Fe, NM


Here: one foot of snow.
 There: seventy degrees of sun.
 And we’re moving why?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

White-Out


White-Out

In a nor’easter

With snow covering the ground

You can see the wind.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

It Grows As It Goes



Mars and I have lived in "Ye Most Auncient Towne in Connecticut” for the past forty years, but our plan now is to relocate southwest to Santa Fe, New Mexico, established by Spanish colonists twenty-four years before the birth of Wethersfield – and the self-declared “City Different”.  

             
Even those totally unfamiliar with these two locales could probably identify many dissimilarities between them – Connecticut River Valley vs. high desert; English Colonial houses vs. Spanish adobe dwellings; lots of green vs., lots of tan; 59” annual rainfall vs. 14”; etcetera.  But they also resemble each other in many ways – at least as seen through the eyes of this amateur gardener and lay horticultural historian.

             

The official state motto of New Mexico is “Crescit eundo”.  I suspect that almost no one knows that – or its translation to “It grows as it goes”.   And even less people can explain what the phrase actually means. (It comes from the epic poem De Rerum Natura, “On the Nature of Things”, by the Latin poet Lucretius and refers to a thunderbolt increasing in strength as it moves across the sky – a symbol of dynamic progress.)

             
On the other hand just about every New Mexican can recite the Official State Question and Answer – and probably says it at least once a day.

             
Q. "Red OR Green?"

             
A: "Red AND Green” or “Christmas."

             
And every visitor quickly learns exactly what that means – just as we did twenty-five years ago.  On our first night in the Land of Enchantment we went for dinner at a local restaurant specializing in New Mexican food.  We explained to the waitress that we were new in town, unfamiliar with the food, and (coming from the moderately seasoned New England culinary tradition) pretty much spice-wimps.  After guiding us through some entrée selections she posed “the question.”  And told us how to answer it.

             

Most New Mexican food (including, as I discovered, Tuna Florentine) is served with chile – which in New Mexico means a sauce made from the pungent pods of either red or green chile peppers, not the concoction of spices, meat or beans known in other places as chili con carne.  Sometimes the red sauce is hotter – i.e. higher on the Scoville Scale of capsaicin sensitivity.  Sometimes it is the green.  So THE question with every meal is “red or green”.  And the most appropriate answer is “red and green” or simply “Christmas”.  Usually the sauce smothers the dish.  So, for those of us without asbestos covered taste buds, the waitress said to always ask for it “on the side”.  We did that night.  And a quarter of a century later we still do.  Leaving the sauce dishes 95% full at the end of the meal no longer embarrasses us.

             
Like the ubiquitous chiles in “The Land of Enchantment” the Red Onion is equally ever-present in Connecticut’s oldest village.  Wethersfield has no official question and answer.  But if we did it would probably not be “cash or credit card?” but rather “Can I pay for that with Onions?”  The answer to which would be, “Not since the 18th century.”

             

From 1730 until the mid-1830's the major agricultural activity in Wethersfield was the cultivation of a flat burgundy colored onion that came to be known as the “Wethersfield Red.” – earning the town renown throughout the world, as well as the sardonic sobriquet of “Oniontown.” 

             
Strung together in long “ropes,” (or “skeins”) the onions were shipped all around the world, most importantly to the West Indies where they were used to feed the slaves on the islands’ huge sugar plantations in exchange for sugar, salt, tea, coffee and spices – as well as molasses from which we New Englanders made our own rum.  In 1774, its biggest year, Wethersfield exported about one million of these knotted bundles. In the United States, even President Thomas Jefferson grew “Wethersfield Reds” at Monticello.  


In like manner the chile industry may be the only business in which New Mexico is ranked first nationally.  With a direct economic value of more than $57 million in 2009, plus the indirect benefits jobs and tourism, the economic impact of the spicy peppers could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  No wonder that strings of drying red chiles – called “ristras” – commonly decorate adobe houses throughout the “Land of Enchantment”.       

             

Back here in Wethersfield onions likewise were everywhere.  Ropes of red onions, looking like Christmas ornaments, adorned the rafters and doorways of houses and stores.

             
Onions were even used as medicine – as fictionalized in the children’s novel “Witch of Blackbird Pond”, set in Wethersfield.  And you could actually pay for just about anything with the famous flat, red onions.  In 1764 the town leaders levied taxes to build the First Church of Christ Congregational meetinghouse. Many residents paid their fee in the form of onions, causing the building to be known as “the church that onions built.”   To this day our local historical society symbolically pays its annual rent on an 18th-century warehouse not with money, but with Wethersfield Red Onions – and tee shirts, ties and coffee mugs proudly display the beloved burgundy bulb.

             
From whence the Wethersfield Red?  The first Pilgrims brought their own onion sets with them from England.  And the initial Wethersfield settlers who came down from Watertown, Massachusetts Bay Colony to live and farm likely carried with them some of their own pungent, edible bulbs.  Native Indians also harvested wild varieties. The deep, rich soil along the banks of the Connecticut River was an ideal place for agriculture and the “Wethersfield Red” was developed here by the local onion growers themselves.  Producers such as the Wells Brothers began raising them commercially in the 1780s in heavily fertilized beds that were never rotated – the same technique used in the cepinae of ancient Rome. 

             
The demise of the plantation system in the West Indies and a Civil War-era blight known as pinkroot brought the reign of the red onion to an end.  In New Mexico the end of the chile is a long ways away from being in sight.

             
But even after the decline of the onion trade local seed companies including Comstock Ferre & Co. (still in business here in town under the ownership of the Baker Creek Heritage Seed Company) sold red onion seeds across the country and Europe – but from what I have read not in the desert southwest.  The 1856 Comstock catalog said, "It is the kind mostly grown at Wethersfield. It grows to large size, deep red, thick, approaching to round shape, fine-grained, pleasant flavored, and very productive. It ripens in September, and keeps well."


Some accounts assert that cultivated chile peppers were introduced into the U.S. by Captain General Juan de Onate, the founder of Santa Fe, in 1609.  Other historians suggest that they came with the Antonio Espejo Expedition of 1582 – 1583.  In any event, after the Spanish settlement in 1598 the crop spread throughout New Mexico.  Even in New Mexico’s dry climate, distinct regional varieties or “land races” such as Chimayo and espanola peppers have been adapted to their particular environments – and many are still planted today in the same fields in which they were grown centuries ago    

             

Mars and I have never attempted to grow either our local onions or our someday-local chiles.  However when we finally do relocate to the desert southwest I think I would to keep in touch with my east coast roots by trying to cultivate some Wethersfield Reds.  I have instructions on how to grow the eponymous edible bulb in a pot.  And I’m already planning on using one of the large blue glazed containers from Jackalope Pottery in Santa Fe.  The heirloom Comstock Ferre seeds are still available – so I think I have a better than even chance of becoming the first successful New Mexico harvester of what will by then be my former home town’s most beloved symbol

             
After all, Connecticut’s own State Motto does tell us “Qui transtulit sustinet”  – "He who is transplanted still sustains".  It is time for Mars, me, and “Wethersfield Red” to test the New Mexican waters (or lack thereof) – to go, and hopefully to grow. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

My Subject Rather Chose Me.


I like to consider myself a gardener.
             
Now Mars and I are moving to the inhospitable growing climate of northern New Mexico.  I deeply enjoy working my shovel and my hands in the cool spring soil, placing plants into the earth, watering them into life, trimming them when they impinge upon each other, cutting them back when their growth season has ended, and raking off the leaves and discovering the first green buds of spring. Things that I'm almost certain are not going to happen in our new southwest home.  But I think what I will miss more than anything is the most mundane of all gardening activities – mowing the lawn. Grass grows in Santa Fe – but not in the quantity that merits the term “lawn”.  And even those small green areas are few and far between.
             
The yard that I now have takes about an hour and a quarter to cut.  My parents always rented and neither one had any interst interest in things horticultural.  So, other than some work I did one summer as a teenager for my hometown’s Parks Department, my yard is the only “lawn” that I have ever manicured.  And I have come to really enjoy the work.
             
But such was not always the case.  Mars and I took occupancy of our house in early spring of 1977 – just in time for everything floral, arboreal and vegetative on the property to begin their annual growing cycle.  And there were a lot of things – most of them unknown to me – but the one that even I could recognize was the lawn. 
             

A newly acquired mortgage, and a single, less-than-affluent income told me that paying someone else to do the job was not an option. So after a quick trip to Sears for a red Craftsman mower, I began what quickly became my Saturday morning mowing drudgery.  Inexperience, plus too many years of physical inactivity and forty-plus hours a week of demanding computer work left me ill-prepared me for this Sisyphean project.  Like the rock-pushing Greek King condemned by the Gods to an eternity of laborious and futile labor, I was doomed.
             
And then…    


As I have described in more detail elsewhere I was soon rescued from this fescue funk by the hired lawn-slinger who maintained the property of the older-couple diagonally across the street – and who had, at least in my semi-literate mind, a great physical resemblance to the American novelist Ernest Hemingway.  Inspired by “Ernest’s” energy (he was easily as old as, if not older than, his employers) – but mostly by his technique, flair, and fashion (when he was done the lawn was uniformly short and clean, like his hair and beard) –  I began what has become a life-long fusing of the literary and the down-to-earth. 
             
The mowing became less tedious and I realized more about how the work affected me, and the effect that I had on the lawn – as well as the effect that other gardening work could have on the rest of our yard, and myself. 
             
And I began writing about it.
             
The Men’s Garden Club that I joined a year or two after acquiring our house was kind enough to let me share my floricultural musings with its membership on a monthly basis.  Our local town newspaper occasionally published some of my other essays.   When I retired from my day job, our son and daughter-in-law presented me with an online blog into which I can pour any other such writings. And concurrently my interest in things horticultural continued to grow as I found that my labors in the loam provided more food for thoughts.
             
Mars likes to say ­– more in reference to my horticultural skills than to my artistic adroitness – that I am a writer who happens to garden, rather than the opposite.  That’s probably more true than not.  I’m not great at either – but I certainly wouldn’t be either without the other.  Fortunately one of the two pastimes is transferable to New Mexico where I will hopefully find plenty of new fodder on which to chew.
             
As the real Ernest once said, “I never had to choose a subject - my subject rather chose me.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ode to Lady Mondegreen


Lady Mondegreen is an imaginary person created by American writer Sylvia Wright when she was a young girl and misheard the words "...and laid him on the green" in a Scottish ballad as "...and Lady Mondegreen.    

In 1954 Wright coined the term a “mondegreen” meaning “a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning.”  It is the only word that I can think of that is in itself an example of its definition.  Some commonly cited examples of misheard lyrics are “Jose can you see..? from the U.S. National Anthem and “Gladly the cross-eyed bear” from the Protestant hymn with a similar sounding title.
             
One of my own mondegreens was, as a youth, loudly singing ‘an M, an H, and a P” instead of  “heaven and nature sing!” during the singing of the Christmas Carol "Joy to the World."  I guess I didn’t have the lyrics in front of me and wanted to be one of the gang.

Ode to Lady Mondegreen

Bald-headed woman –
'Scuse me while I kiss this guy.
I’m gonna leave her.



Bee Gees’ “More than a woman’
Jimi Hendricks “Purple Rain” (“Scuse me while I kiss the sky.”)
The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer”.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Living Color


It’s a classic New England winter picture – snow covered ground dotted with black bare-naked tree skeletons and a single red cardinal as the only spot of color.  Mars and I witnessed it from our family room window just the other day after a total of 18” of white stuff brought to us by storms “Chris” and “Diana”.  Other than the russet patch on the shoulders of some of our gray squirrels it is the only non-monochromatic hue in our front yard landscape. 
             
(These squirrels have their own feeding station – a corncob holder attached to one of our oak trees.  This provides a daily flash of yellow, which lasts about as long as the time it takes for one of the tree rodents to wake up and rediscover that their first meal of the day is back again.  They then move on to search for seeds that I may have scattered on the ground the night before.)
             
The male cardinal was visiting our sunflower feeder.  We presume it was half of a paired couple that we have seen periodically on our property – singing from the trees throughout the spring, summer, and early fall – rummaging for food during the winter, but only it seems during a snowfall.
             
Why?
             
According to wild-bird-watching.com it turns out that, in spite of their inclusion in the illustration on our bags of oily black sunflower seeds, cardinals really prefer to dine on insects, spiders, wild fruits, berries, and weed seeds. In the winter, they load up on seeds and berries since insects are much, much harder to come across.
             
This makes me feel much better about the periodic lack of birds, and particularly cardinals, at our feeders.  For one thing Mars and I, in fact, have several fruit bearing perennial plants in our gardens, which we do not cut them back during the cold weather, for the very purpose of nourishing the berry-eaters.  Moreover it takes away the guilt that the bird-feeder denial movement tries to induce with their allegations that providing store-bought sustenance to our avian friends makes them weak-willed and will lead to their death by starvation should this entitlement not be their some day.
             
We were actually considering adding a covenant to the deed to our house requiring any future owner to continue this long-standing charitable activity in order to forestall any type of ravenous avian insurrection.
             
It seems that “our” birds will do just fine on their own.
             
Now the squirrels on the other hand….
             
  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Altitude Adjustment


According to United States Geological Survey, our future home of Santa Fe, New Mexico sits at an altitude of 7,199 feet. The same source puts the elevation of Mars’ and my current hometown of Wethersfield, Connecticut at 45 feet.  It doesn’t say what parts of town the measurements were taken, but we already know that Santa Fe rises to an elevation of 10,350 ft. at its ski basin atop the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.   So our current house, which sits pretty much in the geographic center of Wethersfield, may actually be higher or lower than a mere 540 inches above sea level.  This could be important to us – more on that later.
             
Still 10K-feet or so is a huge difference as Mars and I found out on our first foray to “The Land of Enchantment” in 1992.  That lesson was principally provided to us by Chimney Rock in Abiquiu, NM, and by some Sangria at a restaurant just down the street from the motel at which we stayed in Santa Fe.
             
The El Rey Inn had been recommended to us by our Primary Care doctor, who had recently vacationed in that part of the southwest.  Among the amenities was a complimentary breakfast of warm, soft tacos and jam during which one morning we fell into conversation with another guest who it turned out was a frequent habitué of both Santa Fe and this motor lodge.            
I don’t remember the conversation exactly, but he probably asked why we decided to come to New Mexico.  We doubtless told him that it was to see the places, which inspired Georgia O’Keeffe to create her (what we thought were) abstract paintings.  (We had recently seen a retrospective of her work at MOMA in New York City.)  But I do recall that he said we should go to Ghost Ranch (“the ranch, not the nature center”) where O’Keeffe had lived and painted from the 1930s on.  It was once a dude ranch – the Billy Crystal movie “City Slickers” was filmed there – and was now a conference center run by the Presbyterian Church.           
Several hours later as we drove onto the property we got our first glimpse of what turned out to be “Chimney Rock” – a not uncommon epithet given to tall rock structures of a smokestack shape throughout the western past of this country.  I remember commenting, “it would be really neat if we could go up there”, with absolutely no thought that we would possibly be able to do such a thing. It turned out however that the hike to Chimney Rock is one of nine trails at the Education and Retreat Centerwhose website says  “This hike of 1 ½ – 2 hours has wonderful views as the trail climbs from 6,500 to 7,100 feet. (Round trip – 3 miles.)  From the top there is an excellent view of the Piedra Lumbre basin.”            
We had with us a couple bottles of apple juice and some rudimentary snacks, so we wouldn’t dehydrate or starve; it was a beautiful day; the person at the visitor desk was encouraging; we exercised regularly at home; our adrenaline was flowing – so why not?
             
Certainly not just because of the “Plague Warning” sign that greeted us as we walked through the gate that begins the trail.  Mars and I were too caught up in the idea of reaching the summit of the red rock stovepipe to be deterred by some unhealthy rodents. 
 Here’s why not – because we had not, in any way at all, acclimated to the loftiness.  Even though we were not doing “high-altitude” hiking (considered to be 8,000 feet or higher) – some people can be affected as low as 7000 feet, especially those who had just flown in from an elevation barely higher than what the average white basketball player can jump to.  Almost as soon as the terrain upon which we were treading tilted upwards we began breathing in what can most charitably be described as desperate gasps for air.  Fortunately we both were carrying cameras, and our surroundings were photogenic and new to us, so we ostensibly had a good reason to stop every 15 – 20 strides to ”take a picture”.  About 1-½ hours and 200 snapshots later we were reclining atop the Chimney, snacking and quaffing, and looking down in amazement at of the Piedra Lumbre basin.
             
Coming down was easier, but not easy.  Gravity does not provide any additional oxygen.  By the end of our second week after several similar hikes we were still panting but in a less desperate manner – and still taking too many pictures
             
Our second altitude wake-up call came from a small pitcher of Sangria, that Mars and I ordered to accompany our dinner at a local New Mexican eatery (fortunately) just up the street from our motel.  According to tripadvisore.com  “The effects of one drink are magnified 2 to 3 times over the effects the same drink would have at sea level."
             
Mars and I are normally one-glass-of-wine-with-dinner-once-a-week alcohol imbibers.  We each probably had 2 – 3 glasses that night.  You can do the math.  Fortunately we got back to our rooms and into our bed without a mishap.  Unlike hiking we did not attempt a repeat performance.  Nor have we replicated it back home at 45 feet above sea level.
             
So for the past twenty-five years we have returned pretty much annually to northern New Mexico to hike, dine, drink in moderation, and do other touristy things.  We were never there long enough to adapt to the altitude, but we adjusted our expectations and our pace to compensate.  Eleven years ago our son and daughter-in-law moved to Santa Fe.  Soon we also will be relocating to “The City Different”.
             
But now there is an elevation-related hitch back in the land of no-altitude.  Because of all the uninsured homes that were damaged by floods caused by hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was ordered to reassess the flood threat in localities across the United States with the goal of compelling homeowners in “flood zones” to purchase their own high water damage insurance rather than being bailed out by the Feds.          
 
Our neighborhood borders on an underground stream known as “Folly Brook”, created by a badly executed water-rerouting attempt in the 1700s.  Most people around here have never seen Folly Brook’s waters, but nonetheless our residence and several of our neighbors are now declared to be in imminent danger of inundation  – necessitating any mortgaged homeowners to acquire flood insurance.  This can be an impediment to selling.  However there is something called The FEMA Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) that states the property or building is actually outside the “Special Flood Hazard Area”, and as a result, the mandatory flood insurance requirement does not apply.  For this we need a survey of our property, which hopefully will show that our height above sea level (or in this case brook level) is sufficient to keep us dry should Folly Brook swell up and swamp its surrounding areas.  We await the surveyor’s report.
             
This is not a problem we are expecting to have when we move to New Mexico where the Santa Fe River (defined as an “intermittent stream”) winds its way through the downtown area.  The entire waterway, which is a tributary of the Rio Grande, is 46 miles long and was dammed in 1881 to provide water for the city.  Water only flows through the main part of town when it is released from the barriers – something that Mars and I have never personally witnessed.

With time we will eventually become accustomed to the lower level of oxygen in northern New Mexico. Real Wethersfield-ites know the history of Folly Brook.  Real Santa Feans are able to hike heavenward without wheezing and pausing to ”take pictures”. 

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Sometimes Its Good Not To Be Needed

No one wants to be 
a non-essential worker
'til the snowstorm hits.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Eine Kleine Nacht Garten


The more that I learn about the flora in Mars and my future home state of New Mexico, the more of them I find to like.
             
My latest discovery is the official state flower, the Yucca – something that I thought of more as a decorating cliché than as a “real” plant – the Ficus of front yards.  In Connecticut, where we now live, its sword-shaped leaves and tall clusters of white flowers incongruously attempt to provide a desert accent to the already-quite-green New England home landscape.  At the North Carolina shore where we vacation annually you can’t swing a dead sea gull without hitting a phalanx of these tropical looking plants standing guard along the sidewalk, trying to make it look as if a southern beach cottage was built in the wild wasteland rather than later backfilled by stock from a nearby nursery.
             
But my opinion of this member of the agave family is changing for the better as I learn more about what turns out to be New Mexico’s official state flower.
             
The desert plant has held that position since 1927 when the New Mexico Federation of Women’s Clubs recommended it, and the schoolchildren of the state selected it.  Although the legislation granting this status (House Bill No. 371 seems not to specify a particular variety – there are about fifty to chose from – the 2000-2001 New Mexico Blue Book and the New Mexico Legislature Handbook says: "Early inhabitants found that ground yucca roots were an excellent substitute for soap. Yucca has always been popular among New Mexicans for shampoo, and it is rapidly gaining commercial favor throughout the country." This leads to two possibilities “Yucca glauca” or “Yucca elata” both of which are sometimes called soaptree Yucca – but for our purposes here it is generic Yucca since Latin names and the species-ization of plants gives me a raging headache, and in this case it doesn’t really make any difference anyway.
             
Besides there is more to the Yucca than its laundry attributes and its fancy government title.
             
For example the leaves of the plant are also utilized in basket-making, and the leaf fibers can be turned into dental floss – which then let accumulates on bathroom vanity shelves and its creators lie to their dentists about how frequently they actually use it.
             
And it is said that early Spanish settlers, seeing the white flowers of these abundant perennials in the moonlight were moved to call them “lamparas de dios” or “lamps of the Lord” – kind of all-natural, farolitos, or luminarias depending upon what your Christmas tradition calls the votive-candles-in-a-bag that decorate the southwestern landscape during that winter holiday. 

Initiated by a former New Mexican our current central Connecticut hometown has for many years displayed what are called here (and in most of the world) luminarias.  Santa Fe, NM, to which we are re-locating, calls them farolitos – and Mars and I are big fans of them by either name – so I am sure will be just as impressed by the glow-in-the-dark Yucca lamps.
             
Yuccas also have a really neat self-propagation system known as “mutualistic pollination” wherein an insect called the Yucca moth intentionally transfers the pollen from the (male) stamens of one plant to the (female) stigma of another, while, at the same time laying an egg in the flower.  The resulting larval moth feeds on some of the developing Yucca seeds, leaving behind enough seed to perpetuate the species.  Any plant that has its own eponymous, dedicated, species survival support team is at the top of my personal floral coolness chart.
             
And perhaps most importantly of all – Mars and I probably saw it in Malta when we visited that Mediterranean island in 1997.  (The one there is known as Yucca glosiosa, aka Spanish Dagger or Adam's Needle and has been naturalized to that country over the past 500 years.)  As it was for St. Paul who ship-wrecked there around 60 A.D., I think that trip was life-changing for me in many ways – not the least of which was my realization of how comfortable I felt, with Mars, in that stark, brightly-lit, adobe-colored landscape adorned with outrageously beautiful flora.
             
Such as Datura, the night-blooming, herbaceous, short-lived perennial with trumpet shaped flowers with a long history of use for causing delirium and death, which also grows wild on the main archipelago and its companion isles.  Now that should be somebody’s state flower.  I mean, how could you not love a hallucinogenic and lethal government symbol?

             
Around six or seven years ago Mars and I came upon it again in coastal North Carolina while we were staying in a beachside condo on Emerald Isle – south of the Outer Banks (SOBX on your bumper sticker).
             
Every morning at around 7:30 a.m. we walked over to an adjacent convenience market to get the daily newspaper. The grounds of the condo are landscaped with a mixture of southern perennials and annuals along the pathways between the units, and a combination of prickly pear cactus and white trumpet-shaped flowers on squash-like vines along the sides of the driving area.
             
A few evenings into our getaway I noticed that the large white flowers were still wide open well after dark. Then, one day around 10:00 a.m. I noticed that they were closed up.  Mars, who had observed all of this strange plant behavior days before, opined that they looked to be a form of Datura. The Carolina species turned out to be a dusk to dawn version of the plant -- sort of a "Deadly Night Shift". 
             
Datura, it turns out, are a favorite of the "Night Gardening" movement -- the use of plants that either bloom exclusively at night, or are open during the day but do not release their scent until evening. I shared my discovery with the membership of my Men’s Garden Club, which decided, under the direction of one of our more knowledgeable members, to find a location and plant a nocturnal flowerbed somewhere in town. Which we did, with the cooperation of a local restaurateur who did not seem to find the presence of toxic blossoms showing the way to his eatery to be either ironic or threatening.
             
And since that time I have discovered that one of the nine species of Datura has an even earlier and more historic hometown connection.  Datura wrightii or sacred datura, is found in open land and along roadsides with well-drained sandy soils in northern Mexico and the adjoining southwestern states where it is also commonly planted as an ornamental, especially in xeriscapes. And its name commemorates the botanist Charles Wright from Wethersfield Connecticut who first identified this plant on his walking expeditions through the southwest in the early 1850s.  (Our town has also named a presumably less-lethal elementary school in his honor.)

            
 It makes me feel good to know that in New Mexico – even though the state’s official symbol is the Zia sun, there will still be the possibility of a little night garden.