Taos Splendor–September

It all comes together now as we approach the fall season. Everyone’s gardens have been nurtured by the monsoon rains and the temperatures moderated by the clouds most days. The fruits of nature are bursting forth, be they coming from orchards, wild bushes, home garden plots or local vegetable farms. I love this photo from the farm market last Saturday, illustrating the originality of nature when it comes to tomato varieties.

These necklaces of marigolds look at home decorating a special place or shrine and will  show up again for Day of the Dead altars and memorials in early November. Whatever your vision this way of using marigolds for sacred decoration feels so right here in Taos. The photo shows the booth of Cosmos Farm run by Barbara and Larry in Dixon. They are newcomers to the Saturday market, but seem to be ahead of the crowd when it comes to success with lots of marigolds. I did pretty well last year and did some marigold stringing of my own. We’ll see what comes of this year’s plants. They are definitely blooming now, but I’m not sure about quantity.

One plant that has exceeded my expectations is lemon cucumber. I planted a couple of seedlings from the nursery and they have produced copiously for my salads.

This is Chris, both a new, and a noticeably young, farmer at the market this summer. As you can see from his sign, he’s also farming in Talpa, the area when I live. He says he learned what he knows about growing here from Jeff at Talpa Farms, who lives up the road from his place. Both of these farm locations have access to acequia water, which is remarkable for its purity and adds something special to their produce.

I want to help spread the word about the new art supply store in Taos. If you haven’t already done so stop in and introduce yourself to the owners, a nice couple. They have a handy location along Ranchitos on your right just past the Harwood (if you’re coming from the south end). Sculptures from Melissa Serfling’s Red Cat Antiques, across the street on Dona Luz, add to the artful ambience of the location.

About this time of year I have plenty of Cosmos and branching sunflowers around my place. At this point (their third summer) they’re pretty good at seeding themselves. Seems they like everything about the Taos climate and I favor them for their wild and casual look.  I’m also am fond of zinnias and marigolds. They seem to demand a bit more intention on my part, but are good for cutting whereas Cosmos are not.

I recently painted 6 new small (8X8″) flower paintings for the Gallerie Corazon in Santa Fe. I notice I’m enjoying working with the flowers on the small size panel. The owner of the gallery had a vision about 6 months ago of having a display of a grid of 16 of the 8X8- size flowers. I think I might be getting closer to that number, which originally seemed high.

I’ll end with a photo of my favorite, a white poppy.

Corn, Tomatoes and Dahlias

The dahlias on view at the farm market just get bigger and more spectacular this time of year. Just as other plants and flowers begin to wane in September others find their time in the spotlight. I overheard someone say the other day that in Taos our first frost could come anytime after the middle of September. I wanted to argue that point but realized it was just my own desire speaking–to see my tomatoes, pole beans, cucumbers and corn have time to really peak.

These rain-sparkled heavenly blue morning glories will gladly continue to grow and bloom til freezing temperatures come. That same guy who was reminding his listeners that a cold night could come soon also added that last fall’s good gardening weather continued longer than average. Since last year was my first in Taos I guess I made the optimistic mistake of thinking that long growing season was normal here. Guess only time will tell? But speaking of weather we have had strikingly cooler temps the past several days along with rainy skies. I have turned on my radiant floor and finally this morning could feel its slight warmth as I hopped out of bed. Nice.

This is a shot of my own corn patch now doing what corn plants are programmed to do and I have so enjoyed the close-up view this year. Living here in New Mexico you can tangibly feel the story of corn as an essential and sacred plant.  I once visited Mesa Verde (in Colorado in the Four Corners area) and saw how the Anasazi lived communally on a treeless mesa because they understood how to grow corn and other plants. Here in the Taos Pueblo there are many ceremonies between May and October that revolve around corn as a symbol of life sustenance. It’s ironic that in modern times corn has been tweeked and manipulated by science into something we have to fear and avoid, as in “fructose corn syrup.”

Another sign of the times in September is an abundance of flowering marigolds. Not sure when I put it together but there’s something special about stringing marigolds together like this photo illustrates. It likely can mean different things in different cultures but it always feels sacred and special. I like to use them on an altar. It takes a lot of marigolds to produce a string of them the size of the one in this photo so growing them around here can become more like a crop than a few plants in the flower garden. In this spirit I have grown more marigolds this summer than ever before in my life and I’m enjoying the “fruits” of my efforts in a way that is hard to explain. Perhaps they symbolize a kind of blessing in their abundance?

This is a seeding fennel plant, one of many photos I’ve taken this month in preparation for a collage I’m doing for the upcoming (October 8 opening) SEED3 show at the Stables Gallery. I use it here to show that for many plants this is an end-time in their cycle. I have a parsley plant in a similar stage of maturity, one that had overwintered and thus matured sooner than those planted from seed. The beautiful pea plants I grew earlier I removed entirely and replaced them with morning glories, which seem to grow fast here and are enjoying the same stick tipi supports that the peas had.

This Zinnia painting can be viewed on my website.