Last of Fall in Winter

Early December is about when Winter starts its 6 week minimum visit in these parts. It stays that entire period “up north” in Albuquerque, as El Pasoans call it. Thankfully down here, it comes and goes several times during that period. “Winter” to me is mostly nightly hard freezes and daily highs under 55 or 60F.

Don’t laugh if you’re from a truly-cold winter climate; I have thin blood, and I didn’t come here for the snow-white winters!

Photos taken in central New Mexico, 12/3/2013 –

Quercus buckleyi at the peak of their fall color in ABQ Uptown…many others nearby already turned…

…their typically late color is a pay-ahead for holding brown leaves until spring…glad evergreen Yucca faxoniana was included…
…aficionados of Yankee horticulture do get thrown by our native foothills oaks, or some adapted ones like above…evergreen foliage without lobes…or even roses finishing their bloom in December…

Since I was born in Nebraska to immigrant parents who once settled in New York, it’s proof-positive that a Yankee can adapt to and embrace the horticulture – or cool season – of southerly places. It’s so much easier!

Quercus suber / Cork Oak in Belen…nice winter green…
…and that bark, used for…cork…surviving -10F on Belen’s west mesa…
Dasylirion wheeleri makes a difference for Santa from the dying elm grove in winter dormancy (now, about that steel edging!)…even another sotol at the far end of this drive, next to equally-blue Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’
the last, fading days for Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’, after the usual 2+ months of a pink haze
…hiding this purple Machaerantha species, volunteering within the grass
…fall color: not just bright leaves or lingering blooms…
…Opuntia ellisiana fruit is ripe for the taking: attention, squirrels or prickly pear lemonade / margarita fans

Though a caution on using that species in such a manner: the best cactus in central and southern New Mexico for the tunas (ripe fruits) is said to be our big kahuna, Opuntia engelmannii. But you never know!


5 Replies to “Last of Fall in Winter”

  1. Are you going to miss your ‘long’ winters up north?
    Love all these photos.
    Have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

    Not at all, just cold enough here. Thanks – you enjoy your Christmas & New Yr in AZ – adios, northern winters!


  2. I’m enjoying your El Paso blog. Glad to know you’re enjoying the new place. Some day we’ll come visit–I’ve never been to EP.

    Thanks, KS! I need to post more El Paso on it, but my pics in disarray. I hope so, but Denny might say no!


  3. That Opuntia ellisiana is a show stopper! A lot fruit formed on mine but never did turn the bright ripe pink/red…

    I know! In hotter summers, do you get more ripe fruit on older plants? Here, Sept-Nov is peak…


  4. As a native Texan I maintain our mild winters deserve no scoffing. We inevitably pay for those milder temperatures every spring and summer. I’m glad our colors and shapes and seasonal displays differ – how boring it would be to travel if everywhere we turned we saw more of the same!

    I’ll third the “metal edging can be used but ought not be seen” votes. And wow – that opuntia display is impressive! Is that typical of the variant or does it reflect well timed rains or a mild season of some sort?

    Definitely mild winters are to be envied…here, we pay by spring dust storms, then June…then it isn’t bad…though not for everyone! Seeing quite a few luminarias on homes here, now…

    Metal edging – exactly. Opuntia display – seems heavy, but so much July and early Sept rain w/ mild temps, probably had them frantically trying to reproduce after 3+ dry years?


  5. Another former Yankee here, who has most certainly adapted and embraced our southern “winters”!! Back to 60s and even 70 later this week they predict. My kind of December :-) Very interesting bark on the Cork Oak. Had not heard of that oak before. Beautiful tunas on the prickly pear!! Must have been a show stopper display of blooms! I’m with you on the metal edging. I don’t mind its use to serve a purpose (in stopping Bermuda), but I don’t want it to be visible so needs to go in low, and certainly seems unnecessary in this scene.

    This winter does seem milder here, too. Cork oak is fairly xeric, and it seems close to Q. virginiana in cold hardiness (though not as much as Q. fusiformis), but we don’t have a winter temperature roller coaster! You’re right on the cactus blooms, and I bet though late this year w/ drought, late July must have been amazing. I only like steel edging next to lawn, and how you said to install it…


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