The Desert Is a Garden

Saturday, 20 December 2014 / Day 3
Phoenix has a great downtown farmer’s market—Jesse had taken me there when I spent Christmas in Phoenix a few years ago—and I wanted to go back. I’d purchased a spicy garlic paste back then and was hoping … ? No joy, but I did purchase a jar of a delicious fresh garlic / cilantro blend.

A beautiful day for the farmer’s market!

A beautiful day for the farmer’s market!

There’s also a great food truck culture at the market, so we had a leisurely lunch. I was still pinching myself over the fabulous mild weather.

And then we went to the Desert Botanical Garden. I’d never been.

Founded by the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society in 1937, the garden was established on this 140 acres in 1939. Phoenix is located in the northeastern portion of the Sonoran Desert, which truly has a spectacular beauty that must be seen to be appreciated. Wikipedia says:

The Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert (of which Phoenix is a part) has the most structurally diverse vegetation in the United States. It includes one of the most famous species of succulents, the giant saguaro cactus. Other important species are organpipe, ocotillo, barrel, prickly pear and cholla cacti, Palo Verde trees, various types of palm trees, agaves, foothill and blue paloverde, ironwood, mesquite and creosote bush.

The garden has more than 21,000 plants now, including 139 species that are rare, threatened, or endangered. It’s magnificent, really.

The Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden

A “living wall” at the entrance to the garden.

A “living wall” at the entrance to the garden. This would be fun to try at home.

An installation of Chihuly glass looks right at home here.

An installation of Chihuly glass looks right at home here.

It was a glorious day! Look at that sky! But mostly I had no idea what I was looking at. 🙂 For now, I’ll just present them just as Nature’s Art, and fill in where I can.

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An interesting tree. I thought the lacy white leaves were beautiful.

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Barrel cactus, recently in bloom.

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I believe this is a type of prickly pear.

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This is a cluster of what looks like lemon ball cactus (Parodia leninghausii).

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Barrel cactus.

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I was struck by the white-ish thing in the center. I think that might be ocotillo. Aloe vera in the foreground, ironwood tree (light bark) on the left, and a couple of yuccas.

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Some species just made me scratch my head. I mean, WHAT the heck is this? It doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen.

Here it is up close. Yes, it has thorns, just like everything else! That's a euphorbia on the right.

Here it is up close. Yes, it has thorns, just like everything else! That’s a euphorbia on the right.

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I believe this one is called a golden pincushion cactus (Mammillaria celsiana).

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This is a giant saguaro cactus; its blossom is the state wildflower of Arizona. They require 100 years and more to reach these heights. Harming a saguaro in any manner is illegal in Arizona.

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Those spikes could do some damage, now. Be careful!

Barrel cactus. Those spikes could do some damage, now. Be careful!

Again, this is one of those things that you just kinda wonder … was it a mistake? Did God mean to crumble the clay up and start over on this one but got distracted? This is a cactus only a mother cactus could love. :)

Again, this is one of those things that you just kinda wonder … was it a mistake? Did God mean to crumble the clay up and start over on this one but then got distracted? This is a cactus only a mother cactus could love. 🙂 (I think it might be what’s called a totem pole cactus: Lophocereus schottii).

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I took this scene because, well, it just looks sorta spooky to me. Kinda snaky.

These are, I believe, the “flowers” on this cactus, ultimately the seed pods.

These are, I believe, the “flowers” on this cactus, ultimately the seed pods.

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An agave. Look at the subtle color. Gorgeous.

I was continually fascinated by the delicacy of color and shape.

I was continually fascinated by the delicacy of color and shape. I think these might be agave of some sort.

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Prickly pear cactus.

Yes, there are trees in the desert!

Yes, there are trees in the desert!

Aloe vera in bloom.

Aloe vera in bloom.

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I’m at a complete loss for what this one might be.

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I’m not sure, but this might be an organpipe cactus.

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I believe this is a mixture of young saguaros and organpipe cacti.

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Tree with a saguaro in the background. Gosh, they’re magnificent.

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That’s Camelback Mountain (and Phoenix, at the base of it) in the distance.

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As you might guess, these saguaros are very, very old. I ran out of battery right here, so there’s no picture of me in this spot … but you can see, they are huge.

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I thought this was just magnificent in the late afternoon sunlight, with those dramatic shadows. Very little in the way of spines. It’s possible this is a Stenocereus marginatus. SOME kind of marginatus, anyway. Mexican fencepost?

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