New Mexico's outdoor galleries of beauty, Pt 1

International Flower Spy in the mountains near Bandelier Nat'l Park, NM

Vacations are the best. If you are lucky, they can change you by bringing out your true character, relaxing your soul, and affecting your creative vision--for the positive. As a proud member of the HSP society (Highly Sensitive Persons), I am affected by a place almost instantly, usually always before others. The nuances, vibes and energy can all be detected quickly, making my stay either intensely enjoyable or one of feeling trapped on an island, which can be disastrous.

On bridge over Rio Grande, NM

I was fortunate to avoid the later of these when a friend suggested New Mexico as a vacation destination. After battling an illness for many years, I was finally in healing mode and Santa Fe seemed like the perfect place to regenerate my physical and spiritual energy fields.

Desert and mountains, NM

A long plane ride and drive from Albuquerque later, we arrived in Santa Fe late at night, missing the view I had longed to see. The next day, we drove out of town to Ojo Caliente, for some mineral spring therapy, and that's when it happened. The first stretch of 285 north was enough to distract us from driving. The immediate colors, textures and images were just I like I had heard about but so much more, or just, well, different than anything I had seen. The view was so utterly beautiful and expansive; it almost made us forget where we were. It felt alien, like we were on another planet, and if you are unaccustomed to the southwest like we were, the initial impact is overwhelming.

Holey mountain rock, Batman!, NM

Espanola, NM

The mountains looked as if a knife cut right through them, exposing all the earth’s layers you learned about in middle school science. The sky was endless and a shade of blue that is both electric and reassuring. There was a stillness to the desert and mountains that made me want to get out of my car and investigate immediately. But we continued without stopping to Ojo Caliente. A travelers tip: bathing suits are hard to come by in August in Santa Fe, so make sure to pack one if you plan to go the mineral springs.

Cactus blooms out of rock, Bandelier, NM

After a spiritual cleansing in soda, arsenic, and iron waters, we returned to Santa Fe for one of the best night’s sleep I have had for months. Looking up at the stars while soaking in warm, mineral rich water is an experience I will always savor.

Early blooming turpentine bush, the desert in Espanola, NM

The next day was back to the desert for more sight-seeing. This time we took the time to stop on the side of the road, one of my favorite things in the world to do.

Wild helianthus grows in mountains, NM

While the mountains are indisputably the highlight of the southwest, I was about to discover there was more growing behind the scenes. When we drove out to Espanola, we found the world I was hoping to find—one that lurked in between and underneath the cragged rocks and boulders lining the landscape. I was admiring a touching roadside grave marker/display when I found my first wildflower field.

Close up of roadside flowers, NM

Adjust your gaze downward if you want to be a flower-spy. I discovered flowers and plants I never knew existed in both the desert and the mountains. What I find I love most about the southwest is that it seems to go on forever; just when I thought I had seen my last turpentine bush, another meadow would pop up down the road. Unexpected life grows on and on. My camera was overflowing with images.

A beautiful roadside tribute to family that died, Espanola, NM

Sign on way to Bandelier National Park, NM

A trip to Taos provided even more unanticipated flower finds. After a delicious Tex-Mex fusion meal in town, we walked until our feet stopped us. I located some great late blooming beauties, such as these wisteria pods, pansies and phlox. The city of Taos is sleepy and quaint, with the requisite ‘townie’ gunning a motorcycle engine, just to annoy the tourists. Otherwise, it’s like Santa Fe with all the prolific art galleries and jewelry shops. The people are nice, but not as groovy as those Santa Fe, though.

Sunflowers that looked like a painting against adobe in Taos, NM

Surprising pansies in bloom, Taos, NM

Phlox field in Taos, NM

The ride back from Taos to Santa Fe is about 2 hours and it is monotonous at night. The speed limit varies, and often you are the only car on the road. It makes speeding tempting, but here's an unusual fact, the residents of New Mexico don't really speed, certainly not like they do in my home state of Maryland. As a matter of fact, we discovered the drivers to be some of the most relaxed, courteous people we have ever encountered. It was a welcome break from the daily road-rage that awaited us back home.

Cosmos in sidewalk, Taos, NM

Even though it was dark, I was hoping to spot some wildlife (my companion was not as enthusiastic over this prospect...), but all we encountered on the drive was a tiny coyote and a really fat bunny (hare?). Sorry, no pictures of fauna this trip.

Wisteria pods in Taos, NM

We toured Santa Fe for 3 days. There is a building height restriction, which seems odd at first but makes plenty of sense once you look up at the mountains. The view is panoramic and a high rise would just kill that perspective if it were to be built.

Building covered in dead vine, Santa Fe, NM

As far as altitude adjustments, our primary complaint was lack of sleep and dry skin. This is a state that you must moisturize frequently and drink plenty of water. Otherwise we didn’t suffer like many east coasters do. Besides, the lack of sleep gave us more time to flower spy. Santa Fe has such a diverse selection of flora it's hard to stop taking pictures. In particular, the wisteria trees, not bushes, were all over the place with a few remaining blooms. There were also Oregon grape holly bushes everywhere. The sunflowers were in bloom, including on sidewalks and parking lots. As far as other trees, the pods were in full display especially in the honey locust and golden raintrees, both of which have beautiful pods.

Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata), Santa Fe, NM

While these are but a few examples of flowers and plants spied out in New Mexico, there is so much more to discover. It was August when we went, one can only imagine the beautiful finds that spring and fall bring.

A lone wisteria tree blooms in August, Santa Fe, NM

In terms of my overall experience with New Mexico, aside from flower spying, I can say without hesitation, that this is one of the most exquisite and spectacular states I have ever visited. I went to the southwest for healing and peace, and returned inspired and very happy. This is a very spiritual place that is as big as a Georgia O’Keefe painting. Even the smallest blooming finds can seem monumental. New Mexico truly is a gallery of nature and beauty.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides creeps out of Santa Fe sidewalk, NM

Cowskull, Santa Fe, NM

New Mexico Facts:

State Flower: The Yucca
State Bird: The Roadrunner (In Spanish: Correcaminos)
State Capital: Santa Fe, which is the highest capital city in the United States at 7,000 feet above sea level.
Old Building: The Palace of Governors in Santa Fe, built in 1610, is one of the oldest public buildings in America.
History: Native Americans have been living in New Mexico for some twenty thousand years. The Pueblo, Apache, Comanche, Navajo, and Ute peoples were in the New Mexico region when Spanish settlers arrived in the 1600s.
Origin of the Name - Named by the Spanish, in reference to Mexico
State Nickname - Land of Enchantment


Double click on images for full effect.

Ristra in Santa Fe, NM

Verdent Vermont goes techni-color

A majestic view of Lake Champlain from Union St.

Vermont is a very cool place, especially Burlington. Besides producing famed recording stoner-band, Phish, and providing the munchies to accompany the tunes, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, it's got a lot of groovy places to discover. While it can be one of the coldest states in America (last visit in March barely yielded temps above 7 degrees during the day), this time of year it's as green as its license plates and organically grown food. As a matter of fact, it's technicolored, with prolific blooming flowers and gardens all over town.

Black eyed Susan's grow everywhere here...even in sidewalks

I went for a weekend jaunt to visit some friends and came back with a full stomach and camera. I ate my way through town, and on the way, I found the most amazing gardens and sites.

Phlox peeps out of picket fence

The neighborhoods are as quaint as can be with Victorian homes painted in a variety of intense hues that make you realize there are a lot of artists living here. The nicest part is most homes have a garden in some capacity, from container pots to hanging baskets to well manicured perennial beds. It's an explosion of color against the austere backdrop of the Green Mountains. For a flower lover, it's practically paradise.

Burlington garden

The weather in Burlington in August is perfect; it's sunny for the most part and in the mid 70's. After a brief respite hanging out on the piers of Lake Champlain, my friend and I poked around town and got down to some garden spying. I lucked out with the summer season, all gardens are full and brimming with perennials. One type in particular surprised me to see it in such magnitude--Maryland's black eyed Susan. The flower seemed to somehow follow me up north, it was popping up in garden beds all over the place. It seems that black eyed Susan's love Vermont just as much as much as I was starting to.

Winter King Hawthorn trees were all over neighborhoods in town

And Vermont loves flowers. So much that they that planted a Wildflower Farm right outside Burlington in Charlotte, right on Rt. 7. It's open to visitors and flower lovers alike, and has a 1/4 mile wildflower path bursting with color. Part of it is shaded, so you can find all sorts of woodland ferns and trees there too. If you want to start your own wildflower garden, they have plenty of seeds and bulbs in their gift shop, as well as huge assortment of funky garden decor.


We spied on a ton of flowers, there was: Queene Annes lace, wild lupine, carninal flower, coreopsis, ageratum, liatris, phlox, echinops, Asiatic lilies, oriental lilies, snapdragons, roses, cornflower, cosmos, purple loose strife, sunflowers, echinacea, cleomes, wild poppies, sedums, thistles, dahlias, heliotrope, larkspur, zinneas... and phew!... so many more. All were in full bloom-- my timing couldn't have been better.

Bee digging on some echinacea

Vermont Wildflowers in bloom

Tree tags help identify arbols at the Vermont Wildflower Farm

If you visit the Wildflower Farm, you must go down the road a bit further, where you will find the Charlotte Berry Farm (it's pronounced Char-lot). It's blueberry season now and there were bushes in all varieties-- ranging from tart to sweet. Added bonus, you pick blueberries to music; they had speakers all around the barn, which was a beautiful thing.

The Magic Blueberry Farm

Our soundtrack: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Picking berries to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is hard to describe, but it was pretty magical, as you may imagine.

We scored almost 5 pounds for nine bucks

Although my focus was in the fields and gardens, the color I encountered was not only limited to flowers. We found this guy circling on his bike in Burlington's outdoor shopping square, sporting a bizarre message: Stop Shopping. Wait, aren't we in a recession? The other side of his sign read: Good Germans. We have no idea what all this meant but it doesn't matter...his acid trippy signage and wacky energy forced us to avoid his path and take his picture instead. Right on Good German, man.

Weekly messenger of doom or international public relations savant?

So, if you're lucky to be up north this time of year and find yourself in Vermont, make sure you stop off in Burlington. It's a way colorful town with a beat of its own. And amidst those endlessly green mountains, be sure and spy out some of the front yards and city plantings. Don't forget to stop by the Co-op, the food selection is endless and healthy (surprise), and the outside garden has at least 20 varieties of perennial, wild and annual flowers. In all, Burlington is pretty darn green, I mean technicolored green.


All pictures taken by the International Flower Spy.

Black-eyed Susan's and echinacea

For optimal effect: view while eating Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia, and listen to "Bouncing Around the Room" by Phish. As always, double click on images for acid-trip colors to download.

Maidenhair ferns in the woods at Vermont Wildflower Farm

Vermont Facts:

State Flower: Red Clover
State Bird: Hermit Thrush
Home of celebrities (well kinda): Fred Pabst (as in Pabst Blue Ribbbon), Rudy Vallee and Orson Bean.
Weird Law (but good law): There is no McDonalds in the state capital of Montpelier.
Just plain Weird Law: It is illegal for women to wear false teeth without first obtaining permission from their husbands.
Name Origin: From the French, vert mont (green mountains)

Lake Champlain on a very sunny day

Flower Spy Music

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