On the Cactus Trail

While the Perseid meteor shower was a bust, I’ve seen it a few times before and from darker locations. And the pre-dawn weather was refreshingly cool at that wide spot in the road shoulder, at 2,500 foot elevation outside Carefree.

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A lone Carnegia gigantea might be the quintessential cactus.

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That stop was followed by a walk around nearby El Pedregal*, the once-busy shopping and activity hub adjacent to the Boulders Resort.

*the stony place, for the area’s huge granite boulders 

The Sonoran sun cast it’s first glow into the cool, still air.

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Some maintenance and upkeep is evident; bold colors in the southwestern sun fade without help.

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Some maintenance is lacking with most tenant businesses gone, like my once-favorite out-of-the-way cafe. I read that special events are held here, so maybe that triggers partial upkeep?

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Meanwhile, the Phoenix dactylifera all had too many fronds removed. Oddly some date clusters were left, which will litter and stain the paving.

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Some of the palm fronds should have been retained, for a more full and lush appearance, plus shading the crowns where tender new growth originates and maximizing photosynthesis to grow stronger roots.

I know – “pruning, blah blah blah, Dave.”

But it’s truth. My hope is that even a few property owners seeing this learn and help raise the bar on horticulture, to help maintain their investments.

See also:
http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/pruning/pruning-palms.html
https://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/ho/2004/sp0416.pdf

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Of course I didn’t liberate any of the dead agaves’ bulbils. I did wonder where cameras are placed to watch every move on their property.

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There was interesting hardscape work, including blending canterra stone bands with simple, economical colored concrete.

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The control joint pattern provides a lesson for your next design, in how concrete tends to crack when the joints depart too far from 90 degree angles. And that’s in a dry and near-freeze-free location; it gets worse when moisture with freezing are common.

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This area held up well, though. The concrete and stone surfaces only need some cleaning.

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Perforations here often have colorful paint, to add visual interest and set apart from a real danger: beige stucco overload!

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The weathered wood latillas on the ramada entry to a possible tenant store is in contrast to the blue paint used in that garden wall’s perforations. Both are complimentary, as is the rustic metal brace connecting the viga to a post.

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There’s no end to the visuals; it’s native Parkinsonia florida and near-native Dasylirion wheeleri, accenting even a bridge with perforations.

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The skies might have a say in the desert’s elegance.

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African sculpture blends in nicely with the desert context. 

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Was it still a failed trip only leaving me a mostly-abandoned shopping center, without a cafe to enjoy coffee and croissant, and without enough sleep?

Of course not – it was just another stop on the Cactus Trail!

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That vintage short film came on TCM after watching a movie, though I couldn’t find it online to watch again. Not on IMDb, the film’s narrator even noted some cholla cacti and (I think) hedgehog cacti. In his 1940’s era voice, of course.

The film’s promotional tone welcomed soon-to-arrive, post WWII visitor, who would probably stay in the latest motor courts or fine hotels. Those would have air conditioning to make travel or even living along the Cactus Trail more possible.

Yet, we know the Cactus Trail is longer than Riverside to Phoenix.

There are side trails to points south, even north and west but ending in summer-dry places where most cacti were planted. That, as the main trail extends its way up, down, and around the greater southwest, then into the Big Bend and deep into the epicenter of cacti, Mexico.

This particular section of the Cactus Trail didn’t even exist when that short film was made, so there’s also the time factor.

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Though, I’m sure the grandparents of this Opuntia engelmannii and other plants were here then, as stars of the old westerns rode by, camera crews in place.

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O. engelmannii is an icon in Arizona’s and New Mexico’s milder winter locales, where it thrives especially in foothill locations and among granite boulders!

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See – we can each add our own drives and detours to make the Cactus Trail more complete and more our own.

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Apple Store – Old Town Scottsdale

Walking into Scottsdale Fashion Square, a look to the side revealed their Apple Store, with a see-through view to the Camelback Road streetscape.

Of course, upon entering, I covertly snapped some pictures to help inspire or at least provide another look at minimalist planting design in the Sonoran Desert. Perhaps you can adapt something to your own space and ecoregion?

Or refine and enhance it, taking it higher! (i.e. my design bias here)

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The approach is a long planter of faux cacti. A tie-in with what’s on the outside of the store, but faux is still faux.

How about sculpture feature placed in a minimal fashion, related to the living sculpture outside? That would be similar to the relationship of the interior benches to forms inside.

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Outside it’s massings of fencepost cacti and aloes under date palms and ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde. With their low walls, this common plant treatment here provides a good start or even finish.

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The building’s perforated shade canopy is the star here, with a very pleasing pattern cast onto the paving from the laser-beam sun.

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Agave parryi var. truncata is used in a similar rhythm or spacing as the perforations.

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Inside their roomy store’s lounge, downstairs from the main sales area up top, where one can plug in and hang out, or get assistance with their device.

No coffee or water. But a refreshing lack of being bothered by Apple staff, while taking a rest from the mall or the desert’s generous sun and warmth.

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In the evening, stairs leading up and out from that lounge area come alive. Same similarly massed plantings as on the upper area facing Camelback…

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The perforated canopy reveals further dimension with dusk.

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The canopy reminds me of the Mac keyboards I once owned.

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And those lit stairs and sitting terraces!

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It seems there should be some complimentary containers and plantings, specified for the architecture and desert conditions.

Currently, the space needs to be “activated”, the buzzword-du-jour of some designers. Plants are needed, but I do not mean annuals or flower color.

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A reader of my Instagram feed a few nights ago, seeing this pop up on his #marfa search, joked about a Marfa Apple store like the nearby Prada Marfa!

The stair lighting does remind me of Flavin’s interior lighting at Chinati.

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No matter, it will have to be cooler, even compared to the temperatures at home, to enjoy such things in the evening. Let alone anytime soon in Scottsdale!

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Do aspects of minimalism and contemporary art and architecture leave you wanting? Do you think those can be finished better or made more human, too?

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7/13/19 weather:
110F / 91F / T or 43c / 33c / T (yes, that’s the low!)

More Garden Visits

We went to the Desert Botanical Garden 2 times in a week, and more since. Here’s what I saw, mostly unlabeled…

The 6/9/18 visit was toasty, but the paved path up to the ramada and views over the valley were impressive, though any breeze was a no-show.

But near the start of walking, this jewel:

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Curry Plant / Helichrysum angustifolium, an early xeriscape mainstay in ABQ, which I had no idea would grow in the low desert…

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This is about my favorite spot and combo at the garden…

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Yerba mansa / Anemopsis californica below an agave; minty, medicinal, waxy, fresh

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One can’t get enough shots of Camelback Mountain.

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That green swath of Gulf Muhly / Muhlenbergia capillaris makes this area.

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The 6/15/18 visit was cooler, though still 7F warmer than Scottsdale, but the breeze was delicious. Phoenicians showed up more than previous visits so far this summer, with many parking spaces filled. Previous visits this summer resembled a ghost town.

Nothing like spring visits, where it’s a major Canada and Midwest fest!

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Natives Western Cottonwood / Populus fremontii, sitting boulders, and some scattered Deergrass / Muhlenbergia rigens…simple, gracious, relaxed. I’ve seen some nice regional plantings probably inspired by this spot.

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O’Odham shelter and garden shelter…

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Desert Grassland, the blending of Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts at their extremes…

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Foothills chaparral, again where Sonoran and chaparral meet

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Jojoba / Simmondsia chinensis

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Tall guy…

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Two / too serious women…

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Who wouldn’t enjoy walking to parking spaces under a gentle shade canopy of Parkinsonia?

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Even Saturday evening, on the 6/22/19 flashlight tour. At 8 pm it was 98F with no comfort, while at 8 am it was 84F.

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A Parry Penstemon / Penstemon parryi that had to flower 3 months late…

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Cardon / Pachycereus pringlei

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Last Sunday’s visit on 6/29/18 though hot early (91F at 7 am), had some amazing light and a few moments of breeze. We just wandered the central loop walkway, without going off to the side much.

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Bunny Ears Prickly Pear / Opuntia microdasys used as a groundcover, and massing instead of random chaos…all uniquely bueno!

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Did I say light? Let there be a flood of warm light, before it becomes a Sonoran laser beam sun.

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Barrels imitating pots, and vice-versa

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I have no clue how many firms have designed sections of the Desert Botanical Garden, but it seems more than other gardens I’ve visited. Even the Denver Botanic Gardens, which has hired some different designers and horticulturists for specific areas.

It was time for a light breakfast and a cup of good joe, to reward myself from trying but failing to capture a covey of Gambel’s Quail earlier. And AC!

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6/30/19 weather:
109F / 83F / 0.00 or 43c / 28c / .00