Morning Anti-Rush Hour

In search of places to take morning walks before it gets too warm, or after dark, the Desert Botanical Garden is a good choice. Planning to go at least once weekly, I took advantage of my membership.

The light and shade were amazing, and as some of you know, that’s important to me.

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On my last visits, I missed this massing of lower Chihuahuan Desert native Candelilla / Euphorbia antisyphilitica (arid z 8a), with Bolivian native Caripari / Neoraimondia herzogiana Cardon / Pachycereus pringleii (arid z 9a). As usual in Phoenix these days, there’s Elephant Food / Portulacaria afra (dry z 9b) trailing over a wall.


Across the main walkway was this wall, which really uses graphics and embedded tiles well, providing grade retention and some sitting. Or at least a place to let your water bottle or camera bag to rest.

The agaves and Bunny Ears Cactus are “massed to great effect…”

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Speaking of massing, it’s Tamaulipan Shrubland native Queen victoria-reginae Agave victoria-reginae (z 8a). I must use that compact rosette plant like this, somewhere.



Onto their Herb Garden area, the colored walls pulled me in. More reason for plant massing of Mediterranean native Dusty Miller / Centaurea cineraria (annual or z9b) and Chihuahuan Desert native Spineless Prickly Pear / Opuntia ellisiana (z 8a) with some randomness of the Cereus cacti (z 9b).

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Inside the walls, more massing of gray Dusty Miller, green Trailing Rosemary / Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostrata’ (dry z 7b), and the purple buttons of Globe Amaranth / Gomphrena globosa ‘Firework‘ (z 8).

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That potted Aloe adds structure like the wall does; without them, this would be less powerful and settled into the space.

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Artichoke in bloom and dancing is almost as striking as spikiness…

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Finally, leaving after our walk, it’s southern Africa native Desert Rose / Adenium obesum (z 10a). It’s really a great container plant for the low desert, such as here in the Valley of the Sun.


The Desert Botanical Garden reveals so many more paths and planting areas, which I hope to explore during my months of living nearby.

Unlike some public gardens, the effective design of plant communities rules here. Also appealing is how most areas incorporate a variety of hardscape ideas with plantings from the Sonoran Desert, plus other arid and dry areas of the world that can survive in Phoenix.

That’s a plus among many other pluses.


6/6/19 weather:
101F / 77F / 0.00 or 38c / 25c / .00


FLW Found Objects

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Talliesen West, or at least the curator staff, makes use of found objects on the vast property in the right place. Maybe FLW did as a touch of whimsy, too.

Once you live in the desert, our own whimsy is kind of fun.

At least the non-venomous kind. But if that whimsy is placed outside, never, never bring it back inside. Never!


Perhaps it’s a southwestern desert thing, to embed rocks, keys, or jewels in poured concrete. But I like it.


This is what Loree might use in a spare dish on a layout table, if she were a teaching architect inviting her winter students into the layout room. Joints from the ever-vicious Cylindropuntia biglovii.


“This is going to hurt you more than it will hurt me, interns!”


A large Acoma pot behind the other pot. There was more than one Kachina doll around the house, which I had in my previous home’s decor by themselves.



Even a Mammilaria cactus growing out of a gritty wall gap, and it’s alive!


The docent was talking about it being an Ocotillo, so hopefully her FLW knowledge is tighter! Who knows?


Do you collect objects around your garden or wild areas, then incorporate them into your decor?

I must admit, I have some blue rocks from my area’s once-active volcano, but no ideas where to use them. Mostly no objects to salvage once I move back, just sand!


“When a landscape uses too many cactus and related plants, the effect is often lost and is usually harsh and uninviting.” – paraphrase, author / activist / plant gatekeeper


Or this:


I’m glad those with regional inspiration and design skill didn’t abide by such a mindset. Their desert eyes are on. Probably with SPF 50 on their exposed skin.

That scene at the Desert Botanical Garden is Sonoran, except the Yucca rostrata on the far right.


If you’re in the southwest desert, but a cooler zone, you can create much of that magic and drama. I already know what I would substitute to get that effect and the next bit of drama in Las Cruces or El Paso, Albuquerque, and even a bit outside that region, up in Santa Fe.

Such effects can be pulled off easily and adapted on the coasts, and even without most of the succulent forms in the central great plains or more northerly intermountain areas.


Just 1 aisle over, this came into view. I’ve not been here in late light to notice before, but after framing out the valley girls v. 2019, it’s serious green plant drama.

This amount of Opuntia still works, because of the linear and rectilinear forms.



In this garden, there’s scale. Many public botanical gardens have money and scale, anyway.

But it’s who does what with all that.

There’s intellect in design, which combines function and form, then layers in local biology, whimsy, order, repetition, scale, and all those other classic design principles. It’s really quite the arsenal to choose from.

“Be bold and great things will happen to you.” – yes!


4/30/19 weather:
84F / 59F / 0.04 or 29c / 15c / .10