I love the rhythm of tall grasses, bending in the meadow.
Gardeners could take a lot of tips from the way nature has arranged this meadow. There’s not a clunky note in there, unless you count the power lines.
I’m a bit ashamed to say that I can’t identify this flower, which I spent so much time photographing. So I’m going to quickly move to emphasizing what a beautiful job this natural planting does, of providing interest close up
at a short distance
and in the broad sweep.
Pink and pink-purple colors are repeated in this late-summer landscape. Perennial sweet pea*, Lathyrus latifolius, glows against the green and gold of the grasses. It grows in my area, too. But here in the higher altitudes, it takes on a delicate character absent where I live. It probably dies back in the snow, and doesn’t have the chance to become the tangle of lianas that wild sweet peas become in the foothills. (I once saw a puppy play tug-of-war with the lathyrus in our area: the lathyrus won.**)
The same situation applies to this Sierra thistle, Cirsium californicum, which provides a nice feeding place for bees but doesn’t seem to be taking over the meadow, the way thistles in my own area would.
These fetching little vetches, lower than my ankle, are making a tiny landscape of their own, interwtined with the grasses. At least I think they’re vetches; I haven’t been able to properly identify them. (It might be meadow hosackia, Lotus torreyi, but the typical coloring of meadow hosackia is lighter.) In this plant, the typical pea-family flowers start yellow, then deepen into tinges of red as they age.
Wetland meadows are probably not the first thing you think about when you hear “high Sierras”. And there’s a reason for that: most of the Sierras are seasonally dry; the vegetation runs from chapparal to sagebrush to red fir communities – and when you get to the timberline, the vegetation runs to rock and very small plants.
Most of the Sierra wetlands I’ve seen have been little pockets, tucked in among the dry clay and granite landscapes that are our usual summer fair. I’ve seen little fens on the side of a long, dusty road; tiny oases by the side of a lake; and this more unusual wetland meadow, where, as you can see, dry sagebrushy land is not far off.
There’s an important lesson in this for gardeners as well as naturalists: take advantage of your microclimates and – I just made this up – microtopography. Gardeners can get ideas from landscapes like these. If you have a wet spot in your garden, what about making your own little pocket meadow, using wild plants from your own area?
* Perennial sweet peas (or at least L. latifolia) aren’t actually sweet; they don’t have fragrance.
**Granted, it was a very small puppy. But still.