Saturday, January 18, 2014

Now for Something Completely Different

The January thaw is over; it is snowing again; the temperature is below freezing. I think its time for something warming. It is time to recall my visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. My son and his family live in Arizona, so when we visited their beautiful home, my son (who knows his mother well) arranged a trip to the botanical gardens, so that I could get my 'flower fix.' Yes, it is very different from my English cottage garden, but majestically beautiful. From the 50 feet tall saguaro cactus (above) to the tiny desert marigold, the Desert Botanical Garden has more than 2,000 species of desert plants from around he world. Here are some of my favorites ...

Agave Plants in the Boulder Garden
Creosote Bush Larrea tridentata

The creosote bush is so named because the plant smells like creosote after the rain.

I wish the flowers on the pincushion cactus were in bloom during our visit. They have a very short bloom-time and we just missed it.

Pincushion Cactus Mammillaria‎ sp.

A gila woodpecker made a hole in the side of a saguaro cactus -- he moved too quickly to allow me to take his picture, but I love the shape of the hole ...

Gila Woodpecker's Nest

The Arizona ground squirrel appears much cuter than our gray squirrel, I think. They are called ground squirrels because they burrow in loose soil, often under mesquite trees and creosote bushes. To my amazement, they are extremely active even in very hot weather. (Rather like my youngest grandson - he is in the picture at the end.)

Round-Tailed Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tereticaudus)

We saw some very prettily-marked lizards, but I am unable to identify any of the species.

Lizard (species unknown)

The beautiful brittlebrush is an evergreen shrub that grows to 5 feet. It has daisy-like flowers that bloom throughout the year following rains. I was not aware that it rained before we arrived, but the brittlebrush blooms were joyous.

Brittlebrush Encelia Farinosa

The Garden includes plants from deserts all around the world. The baja fairy duster is a shrub that is a native of Mexico. The red stamens on its blossoms give it its name ...

Baja Fairy Duster Calliandra californica

We saw some magnificent organ pipe cacti. They grow to a height of 20 feet.

Organ Pipe Cactus Stenocereus thurberi

Unfortunately, I failed to record the names of all the plants we saw ...

Are these the blooms of the century plant?

As my friends know, I am very fond of English hedgehogs, so you can imagine I was fascinated by a plant called Engelmann's Hedgehog. It is named for the botanist and physician George Engelmann, and is indeed quite hedgehog-like. Again we missed its beautiful blooms.

Hedgehog Cactus Echinocereus engelmanni

I guess vegetable gardens look similar the world over. The fenced-in garden here, with its rectangular beds are a case in point. Unfortunately, I didn't get a close up picture that shows which vegetables were planted.

The Desert Botanical Garden has a butterfly garden and a bee garden. There were carpets of flowers in both, and we saw many pollinators.

Blackfoot daisies predominate on this carpet of flowers

Throughout the Garden are stunning sculptures that surprised us on the various Garden trails. They were created by artist Dale Chihuly who revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement. Yes, his exciting sculptures are made of glass! He is renowned for his ambitious architectural installations around the world.

Three Chihuly sculptures at the entrance to the Gardens.

On a recent visit to my home, my son was amazed to see that I grow prickly pear in my Pennsylvania garden. It reliably returns to life after the harshest of winters and blooms in the middle of June.

Prickly Pear Cactus Opuntia spp.

My prickly pear is located at the end of a cottage garden border. As you can see by the buds in the picture below, it can bear more than 50 blooms. It is one small connection to my Arizona family.

Recalling my visit to the Desert Botanical Garden has warmed me on this cold wintery day as much as a chunky sweater. I hope it warmed you, too.

Pamela x

My grandson making flour in the children's activity area

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! 
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. This is a warming post. It is snowing here too so it is much appreciated feeling the warmth off you visit to AZ. Those glass sculptures really got me, I thought they were a new cool plant.

  2. I have enjoyed this post very much. It is great to see something really different, especially cacti.
    I saw many of Chihuly's glass work in London during my internship at RBG Kew. Interesting.

  3. It's always fun to visit other gardens, and how nice that you had some time to spend with your family! With the drought in the west, our gardens here in California may soon be borrowing ideas from the Arizona landscapes!

  4. So many new and different things in this post. I love those glass sculptures and I've never heard of, never mind seen, an Arizona ground squirrel, so cute. The plants are amazing, you wouldn't find anything like that in our gardens here.

  5. I've always found it fascinating to see our relatively small "houseplants" in their native environments. It reminds me of their full potential in the wild, if given the chance. Nice pictures, Pam. -- Mary Anne

  6. Such a unique garden! The flowers are so different in shapes & textures than I've ever seen. Lovely photos. Thanks for the tour and for your sweet comment on my blog :)

  7. Pam, I really enjoyed my virtual tour of the garden. I needed some warmth about now, it's been cold here. Plants vary so much from climate to climate. I liked the heart shaped hole in that cactus, too.

    We have a small cactus that thrives here in Wisconsin, too. The only thing I don't like about it is the spines...ouch!

  8. Warmed the cockles of my heart Pam.

  9. I enjoyed this virtual tour of the botanical garden, The plants and animals are very beautiful and unique, especially the giant cacti, unusual looking squirrel and lizard! This tour certainly gave me a warm feeling....thank you!

  10. Really liked the tour. These plants are all so amazing to me, not like anything I've ever seen. Although for a second I was confused and thought there was a sunflower - nope it's the brittlebush. Could be twins :)

  11. So beautiful and unique! I do marvel at how different it is from our gardens. And it was nice to see a desert, and remember how warmth feels.

  12. This warmed me as well Pam...I love this garden and have visited it a couple of times while also visiting family in AZ....

  13. Thank you! That was marvellous. Looking forward to Spring and getting busy in the garden again soon.

  14. Hi Pam! I've been to Phoenix so many times, but never visited this garden. I see that I missed a lot! Thank you for this SUNNY post!