Happy autumn, everyone! What a summer we’ve had. A couple of hurricanes tried to drown Hawaii (I sheepishly admit, when I first heard about Hurricane Lane, I thought they were talking about something akin to Tornado Alley). The west coast burned while Wisconsin flooded. Florida’s waters turned toxic. Hurricane Florence slammed the Carolinas. Whew. Let’s rewind, shall we, to a gentler season—last April, when Eric and I spent a week in Arizona. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve had such an abrupt switch of seasons that I’m glad to think about sun again.
After a few days in Phoenix, Eric and I set off for our ultimate destination of Tucson. Still excited about what we’d just seen at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, we couldn’t resist a quick stop at Bryce Thompson Arboretum State Park, near Superior, AZ (“the largest and oldest botanical garden in Arizona”). Quick only because we’d arrived an hour before closing time, and we didn’t have time to explore the entire trail system, which is extensive.
You might be thinking, “You’ve already seen every single plant the desert has to offer. Why go to yet another botanical garden?” True, each garden features many of the same plants, but each garden is different in scope, design, terrain, and just the feel of the place. Boyce Thompson was a very different experience than the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. For one thing, we were nearly the only people there so late in the afternoon, which was wonderful.
Got your sunscreen on? Walk this way …
At 323 acres, Boyce Thompson Arboretum was large enough to make me feel like we were actually setting out into the open desert. While these plant vignettes were certainly deliberately planted, they looked so natural, it was easy to think they just “happened” that way.
We passed the Smith Building (1925), constructed of native rhyolite, mined just across the highway. Originally the visitors center, it’s now the interpretive center. Attached greenhouses hold collections of succulents from around the world. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open late in the day.
Occasional ramadas such as this one provide shade for hikers.
We walked the trail to Ayer Lake, which stores water from Queen Creek.
Cute little lizards ran all over. This one looks like an Elegant Earless Lizard.
Loved this sign for “Boojum Cove.” And sure enough, boojum trees appeared!
Beautiful blue agaves … probably a variant of A. americana.
A little bunny let us get right up next to her to take photos.
We came upon a grove (not sure that cacti come in groves, but …) of golden barrel cactus. I would have loved to grab one of those pups to take home, but TSA would not appreciate finding it in my suitcase. Golden barrels are endangered in the wild, but later I found one of my very own at Lowe’s (go figure).
We returned to the parking lot where they were having a plant sale. Why, oh why didn’t I buy some of these Astrophytum myriostigma? Only $5.00!
Look how cool they are!Guess what–I’m still not done with the Arizona desert! I have one more post in this series, in which I come to a realization about desert gardening and residential design. I hope you don’t have to wait for it as long as you did for this one. The days are getting cooler and shorter, so I’m spending more time indoors … which may help my blog production. And of course, I have more stories about our recent house projects, so stick around!
You almost make me want to visit the desert in spring. You were spot on, the heat this past summer has been more than I can handle. I’m ready to move up your way to get away from some of the incessant heat!
I hope all is well in your neck of the woods.
Hey, Karen! Good to hear from you! Well, we had the driest May-Sept on record, and higher temps than normal, so I’m afraid the PNW might not give you the relief you’re seeking! But move on up, anyway, so we can meet and be friends! 🙂
I won’t get tired of these posts. The desert is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Jessica … hope all’s going well for your family! At least one more desert post coming up, plus we’re going back down there again after the first of the year.
What a fascinating and beautiful place. I enjoyed the tour.
Beautiful photos, D’Arcy. Love those cacti that look like fat starfish. Parts of South Africa look quite a lot like Arizona, it seems.
Thanks, Jacqui! We’ll make it a point to explore some botanical gardens when we come to SA!
wow i’ve never heard or seen of a Boojum tree! how cool! so weird. love your photos. what a beautiful place. i bet you and eric could have spent your whole vacation just there! or at least an entire day. i giggled picturing you emptying your whole suitcase and filling it with cacti 😀
Haha! Spines in the clothing would NOT be good!!