Fall Colors and Critters at the Xeriscape Gardens

Fall colors at the xeriscape gardens.

The heat of summer turns the otherwise vibrant xeriscape gardens I frequent for photo ops to a dull brown. Things get dried up and it looks quite blah. However, come fall the gardens spring back into life once again with another colorful outburst. It’s Fall Colors at the Gardens!

Truth be told, I have no idea what the names are of the many flowers that come to life at this time. And one could spend time just staring at their phone trying to figure out what everything is. But I’m not there to stare at a phone screen. I’m there to look around and take in all the colors AND the wonderful smells too!

New Blooms and Transitional Evolution

Late September, against a blue fall sky makes for such a beautiful backdrop in the gardens. They are full of bright yellows, reds and purple flowers. It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks prior the gardens were so dry and drab.

Wandering around, it’s definitely eye candy for a photographer. It’s also an opportunity to play with other lenses – and lord knows I need the practice! I’ll be the first to admit that some of the shots captured all less than stellar. But it’s still good fun and worthy of sharing via a blog post.

Purple and yellow alpine daisies.
Purple and yellow alpine daisies.

The Alpine Daisies with their purple flower petals and bright yellow centers are hard to miss. They look quite happy for sure and it’s the only flower who’s name I actually figured out – besides Chamisa and little Chocolate Daisies.

While fall flowers and wildflowers are in the midst of their bloom, there are other specimens which are transitioning and bearing fruit. Not something you would expect in a xeriscape garden.

Prickly Pear cactus are onto their next phase of evolution with the bright red buds which are the fruit after the flower. These red fruits are actually edible and can be used to make juices, syrups, jellies, margaritas and more!

Red prickly pear cactus fruits.
Prickly pear cactus with their bright red edible fruit buds.

Blue Sky, Waning Moon and a Vibrant Maple Tree

Maple tree in fall with waning moon.
Vibrant maple tree with waning moon.

While looking down and around you there is much to see. Fall colors in the gardens are everywhere. However, one must not forget to look up as well.

On this particular fall day I was blessed with a clear blue sky. The full harvest moon had passed a few days before. Coming around the corner I was met with this vibrant Maple tree. Its bright orange and red leaves were gorgeous. Even better was its colors against the clear blue sky.

Initially I was focused on the colors of the leaves. However as I stepped back further for a better view I noticed the waning moon in the blue sky above. The contrast of all these elements put together was a visual feast for the eyes.

It may not be the best photo but who’s to say if I’ll ever capture a moment like that again?

Unexpected Nature Encounters

If one is lucky enough as I was on this particular morning, you’d find yourself in the midst of a unique Nature encounter…

Wandering around the gardens I was having a peaceful morning with my camera. The last thing I expected was to walk right into a huge and gorgeous hawk that had just made a rabbit kill. Caught off guard, I stopped a few feet away from this regal bird. Gauging by the rabbit fur on the ground it appears I missed the actual kill by mere minutes. I nicked named the encounter “Breakfast Interruptus”. No doubt we had both startled each other!

Hawk by cactus in xeriscape gardens.
Hawk having just made a rabbit kill in the xeriscape gardens.

Stooping down slowly I was able to capture several photos. I couldn’t have been more grateful for having my regular lens vs. the art photography lens on my camera! The hawk and I observed each other for about 5 minutes. I was in awe of the moment. I guess he figured it was time to continue his meal so he attempted a take-off. It took a few attempts to get airborne with the weight of the rabbit. Eventually he flew off with his breakfast firmly in his grasp. It’s an encounter I will not soon forget!

Busy Bees Amidst the Fall Colors

Of course one cannot leave out the bees. They too are busy on all the colorful fall flowers. Honey bees with their orange pollen sacks descend on the vibrant yellow Chamisa flowers (also known as Rabbitbrush). They are buzzing around busily going from flower to flower. A last hurrah of pollen gathering I suppose. 

Bee gathering pollen on Chamisa flowers.
Honey bee gathering pollen on yellow Chamisa flowers.
Bee fly on little chocolate daisy.
A little bee fly on a chocolate daisy.

There are also bee flies which are so unusual looking. A hybrid of fly and bee? Their wings are positioned differently and they have more of a fly-like body.

On this particular morning they seemed very focused on the bright, little chocolate daisies that were in full bloom.

Moving differently from regular bees, they are fascinating to watch. They hover over flowers and move quite quickly. I’m surprised I was even able to capture a decent photo of this one!

Besides bees you may even need to watch your step. In this case as a brown spotted butterfly warming its wings on the rocks below preparing for flight on a cool fall morning.

Brown spotted butterfly on rocks.
Brown spotted butterfly warming its wings on the rocks on a cool fall morning.

Taking it all in – the fall colors and its critters are a reminder of how being out in Nature just nourishes the soul 🙂

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