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Enjoyed your article, Kelli! It's fun to read about another climate that has challenges with less-than-traditional growing seasons. We face some of the same issues here in the Sonoran Desert, and see a lot of the plants use the same strategies you mention above to survive. I didn't know the fuzzy leaves were drought adaptations, though!
Here in northeastern Oregon we have many plants that use the summer dormancy trick to survive. Lupine is one of them. Four to six weeks ago the plants were lush, and blooming profusely. Two weeks ago I had to hunt for plants to collect seed pods. The leaves were dead, or already on the ground, the stems were dry sticks, and most of the pods had dried, curled and expelled their seeds. Finding a few intact pods, or sometimes a partial pod with only one or two seeds was a challenge.
Another adaptation is narrow leaves. It is just the opposite of tropical where everything is big and green. Most of the year one would never know some of the plants are here at all, they spring up when moisture is available, bloom, set seed and die or go into summer dormancy. Some of them are very tiny, with blooms little bigger than this o, but if a person gets right down near ground level to look, they have delicate little petals. The seeds they make are so small the birds and mice don't see them. But next spring they will grow and make a miniature display of color, very briefly, sometimes for only a day.
That is interesting. I wasn't aware that NE Oregon had a summer dormant season. You have a relatively cold winter, too, don't you? Lupines are great. We've got a bunch of different kinds down here, too. Most of them are annuals. The arroyo lupine is the only native plant to show up on it's own in our yard.
Kelli, where I live we get less than 10 inches of annual precipitation. The part of Oregon that most people know, is much different. The Cascade Mountain range stops most of the moisture. Central and eastern Oregon have desert climates with the exception of the far NE corner, an area effected by more mountains. It's about 40 miles from me as the crow flies, but 93 miles by road. Often they get 1 or 2 inches of rain and we don't get any, or just a light shower. My friend who lives there calls me and asked how much rain we got. I say "rain? when? we didn't have any rain".
We do have cold winters, sometimes with almost no snow cover to protect plants. Last year was about 3 winters rolled into one. We plowed a lot of snow and still were completely snowbound for a week. My horses walked out of their pastures on snowdrifts that buried the fences. All that snow did protect the plants, and they had plenty of moisture in the ground for spring growth once the snow went away.
Wonderful informative article Kelli! thank you! I am in northern Colorado where we have somewhat the same hot dry summer climate, although we do get some summer rainstorms. I am new to the area and have to keep reminding myself NOT to water some things too much! In fact, we have just had several days with good rain, and I have noticed a few of the early spring perennials seem to be making a second comeback for the year. This is my first full gardening season, so maybe I am going to be blessed with 2 bloom periods! (We have a ranch in the higher elevations of the foothills of the Front Range, and no supplemental irrigation, so what comes from the sky is what we get-except right around the house) And of course we do have those very cold winters.
I am struggling with plants that can tolerate the wind-our summer wind, although light (yes- 20 mph is light when the wind can blow 100 mph many times of the year here) is dessicating to my plants. I have Columbines on the north side of the house, and the wind! They are doing ok, but so many shade/part sun plants can't handle that wind. (I tried a 6-pack of impatiens in a protected bed on the north early this spring- HA! Never again. We had some wind overnight, and the next morning it looked like someone had taken a blowtorch to those plants.)
MaryE- sounds like you and I live in a similar climate (save for the elevation - we are at 6200 ft)
It looks familiar. Your winters are colder, and wind is stronger, but the overall picture is quite similiar. What is in the enclosure? All I think I see are rocks. Have you put up any windbreaks? They help a lot. I learned from my mistakes, and also did a lot of reading. I'm sure we could trade a lot of stories.