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The Xeric Zone > Foundations :: Landscape Notes, Cool Season 2001 - 2002

 

 

 

Landscape Notes, Cool Season 2001 - 2002

 

The dryness that began in 2001 has become more of the start of a long-term drought for the Great American Southwest, including the Albuquerque area and the Rio Grande valley.

 

Our cool season started late this year. In fact, the warm season (or growing season) lasted a record 245 days or so, finally ending a few days before Thanksgiving…at least above the valley bottom. Plants grew as if there was no tomorrow; many flowered until early December. That is, unless they got no irrigation: drought intensified.

 

*Albuquerque Cool Season Climate (Nov - Mar, 150-190 days)

 

(brief periods with nights below 10-15°F and longer periods of days over 60°F, with a few unsettled, stormy periods between much sunshine and near-average temperatures)

*Information source for long-term climate data: Western Regional Climate Center

 

Location

 

Average

Daily

High

(°F)

 

Average

Daily

Low

(°F)

 

Average

Extreme

Season High

(°F)

 

Average

Extreme

Season Low

(°F)

 

Average Number of Nights

< 32°F

 

Average Precipitation

During Period (inches)

 

Heights / Foothills

53

28

78

7

113

1.5-4"

(6-18" or 50% of that falls in the form of light snow)

West Mesa

58

28

80

11

109

Valley

55

23

79

1

150

 

This winter proved to be much better than 2000-2001 for landscapes featuring dryland plantings, since fall was more gradual and far less damp. The coldest nights of the season occurred in early March (13F at my home), which was right when plants were coming out of dormancy. In valley areas, I heard of many cacti that ended up as mush with their low right at or below 0F: they did not fare well. One client did not irrigate her newly installed landscape for months, and several dead trailing rosemary were the result…but somehow, an equally young escarpment live oak nearby looks great…go figure? Hopefully, you were not fooled into not watering this winter, because the cool air this winter was accompanied by the driest airmasses I have seen in the southwest, as a steady parade of cold fronts swept in from the northwest, wrung out of all moisture by the time they reached central New Mexico.

 

As life slowed down, I took some short seed collecting trips to help increase the availability of our own native plants. The longest trip, in early December, was to collect seed from soapberry trees in southeast Colorado, honey mesquite from near Kenton, Oklahoma, and other plants in remote places like Sabinoso, Ft Sumner, Mosquero, and Colonias. Another brief seed collecting trip was with colleagues Horst Kuenzler and Ted Hodoba that same month, culminating in many pounds of screwbean mesquite seed near Belen, with their corkscrew-shaped fruit. I figured it was a good idea to get seed from plants nearby before those hardy populations are gone, since careless "development" locally has destroyed many native plants' northernmost ranges. That was the recent fate of the screwbean mesquite once found south of Bernalillo. In the hands of a large grower, all of that collected seed will become available along with the oaks I collected from last summer.

 

As my friend from Colorado said on a visit last year: lets create landscapes as great as our unique architecture.

David Cristiani

Albuquerque, New Mexico

March 28, 2002

 

 

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