Saturday, February 9, 2008

Jewels of the Desert

During a recent visit to Phoenix, Arizona, I saw so many plants that we grow here in deep south Texas. Purple sage, oleander, yucca, and palms of all sorts were abundant in residential and commercial landscapes. It was a good reminder of what I need to be focussed on for the dry areas of my garden - not getting more water to them, but planting things that love those conditions. Most fun for me were seeing those plants that I can't grow. Unfortunately, my poor photography skills combined with the bright Arizona sun left me with just a few pictures worthy of sharing.

My favorite desert plant, this Saguaro cactus Carnegiea gigantea can grow to 50 feet tall. It thrives in the dry desert air - thus making it difficult to grow in deep south Texas - but I do know two people who are growing them in Harlingen. A large five armed Saguaro would be estimated to be 200 years old. I've never seen one flowering (May and June). It's a night-bloomer, opening in the cool nighttime air and closing again by the following noon.

Ocotillo, Fouquieria splenden, sure stands out against the blue Arizona Sky! When I moved in to get a closer look, I was surprised to see all the little leaves along this branch. I think the thorny branches are often completely bare but Arizona has had abundant rainfall this year so everything is lush. In the spring, Ocotillo produces a bright red tubular blossom at the ends of it's branches.

Don't you just want to cuddle up with this Teddybear Cholla, Opuntia bigelovii? This fuzzy looking plant is actually covered with sharp, barbed spines. I hear they are very painful to remove - but we were sure to keep our distance!

I don't know if Huisache (Weesatche), Acacia smallii, is native to Arizona but it's one of my favorite Texas natives! It's one of our first spring bloomers and the fragrance is incredible! One difference I saw was that our huisache are completely bare when they bloom - so they are awash with golden pom-poms.


Unknown said...

I can only dream of seeing such marvelous plants in their natural settings one day...they don't do so well in snow and ice. :-)

Mary Beth said...

They don't do too great in my area either - unless I remember to forget about them when it comes to water! Can't tell you how many I've turned to mush with too much H2O.
Mary Beth