Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is bursting with desert blossoms this year due to late spring rain. These prickly pears produce fruit that will feed and water wildlife this summer.
Depending on rain patterns, prickly poppy is either very common or scarce. This June it’s blossoming abundantly, with copious seed pods ensuring its proliferation during the next rainy spring.
In coastal California, we call this plant Beach Morning Glory. It grows in bare sand. In Colorado, it’s called Creeping Jenny or Bindweed, and considered a landscape pest—except in the wild lands.
On the very same day in Denver Botanic Garden, a Daylily benefits from shade and frequent watering. Though hardy and easy to grow in gardens, you’d never see it in the Denver wildscape.
A botanic garden poppy has no need for the prickly leaves and seed pods of its desert cousin. Instead it maximizes its fertilized seed output by exuding a sweet hypnotic fragrance that is irresistible to bees.
Hollyhocks are another easy-to-grow garden plant that relies on the Botanic Garden for water. Though somewhat drought tolerant when mature, seedlings need substantial water to grow to this size.
In contrast, thistles will grow just about anywhere, thriving in the desert wild and invading domestic landscapes. This blossom will open to six or more times its current size and release thousands of seeds.
Google ‘Giant Dandelion’, and you get War on Weeds, Real Life Dr. Seuss plants, and Western Salsify. Indeed this 6-inch fuzzy, AKA Goat’s Beard, is most appreciated when growing well away from cultivated gardens.
Black-eyed Susan is a familiar wildflower throughout the US. Native to Central and Eastern North America, they’ve also naturalized into the West. A cheery companion on summer hikes and drives most anywhere.
Meanwhile, my favorite lily brightens up a shady nook in the Botanic Gardens. Tiger lilies will emerge every year in rainy climates, but in Denver they require staff. Thus ends our tour of wild and un-wild June flowers.