Sunday, April 19, 2009

Scenes from Arizona

New daffodils are opening up, and every day a new tulip surprises me. The redbuds and flowering crabs are sure to put on a show any day now.

But before my garden bursts into bloom completely, I wanted to share some sights from our Arizona vacation two weeks ago. I've finally sorted through the 400-plus photos to pick out just a few . . . and I promise not to be my usual chatty self, so you can just enjoy the photos:)

The main reason we waited until March to visit my daughter rather than leave in the colder months of February or January was to be able to take in a couple baseball games. The Chicago Cubs, along with many other MLB teams, hold their spring training games in sunny Arizona. We managed to arrive just in time for the last two games, including one at the Cubs' home stadium for the Cactus League at Hohokam Park in Mesa. Spring training is so much more laid back than during the regular season. Tickets are inexpensive, and the parks are much smaller so that you can sit close to the action. At our first game we sat just a few rows behind the Cubs' dugout (this photo was taken from the mezzanine, not our seats), and at the home game we sat on the grass behind the outfield. Ah, this is the way a baseball game should be--with no offense to the tradition of Wrigley Field. A lazy afternoon, soaking up the sunshine on a blanket, seeing the players close-up, no pressure or yelling at the umpires, no thoughts of another World Series disappointment . . .

But baseball was just a small part of our trip. Our main purpose, of course, was to visit Daughter and her family. Luckily, she had several days off, so one day we drove down to Tucson. Just outside of the city, located on the Tolono O'odham Indian Reservation, is Mission San Xavier Del Bac. Founded by the Jesuits before 1700, the mission building was constructed in 1783-97 by the Fransciscans.

Called the "White Dove of the Desert," the AAA travel guide describes the structure as "an impressive example of Spanish mission architecture" complete with "domes, carvings, arches, and flying buttresses." You can see the Spanish influence in the nearby courtyard with the typical fountain of this style.

The grounds were landscaped with native plants, including cacti in bloom and this unusual plant, which I don't know the name of.

After visiting the mission we drove a few miles to the Sonoran Desert Museum. Signs at the entrance and along the trails warned visitors not to go near any wildlife that might be seen, including javelinas and coyotes. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, we were hot, tired, and very hungry, so we didn't walk any of the trails. Instead we spent most of our time in cooler areas, including the reptile exhibit, a cave, and an aviary with hummingbirds (more on that on Wednesday). There is also a raptor display that I really wanted to see, but we didn't--check out Shady Gardener's latest post for some photos of this.

Although we didn't walk too far on the trails, we still saw some interesting sights, including this strange cactus called a senita.

I believe this senita was one I saw later at the Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. I'm sure I had seen them before, but I don't remember their hairy-like appearance. Perhaps these are their March "blooms"?

Another strange sight was this tree also spotted at the DBG in Phoenix. I could not find a tag, so I have no idea what it was.

Here's a closer look at its unusual branches.

Of course, I was interested throughout our stay in seeing the different plant life. Springtime comes to Arizona, too, as all kinds of plants begin to bloom, even the cacti. The green-trunked palo verde tree was beginning to bloom everywhere. I didn't realize that these yellow blossoms later open up into lovely flowers--you can see just how they look today by checking out Nature Girl's most recent post.

But I didn't have to go far to see plants in bloom. A walk around Daughter's nicely landscaped apartment complex revealed these blooming trees and . . .

. . . the ubiquitous, but beautiful nevertheless, bougainvillea, here surrounding a palm tree.

The grounds include several fountains; this one was bordered by a door (leading where, I have no idea) covered in a yellow-flowering vine.

Veg Plotting has been writing a series of posts for the past month about public plantings. I couldn't help but notice this office building just down the street from Daughter's apartment.

It was such an eye-catching landscaping that I purposely walked down the street one morning to take some photos. Unfortunately, the sun was already so bright that I was disappointed in the resulting pictures. Lots of bougainvillea and oleander, of course, but with additional plants that made it stand out from the ordinary.

Here's one example of a small part of the curbside planting.

Again, I don't know what this is, but I liked it!

Back at the apartment complex, here's proof that you don't need an acre of ground to be a gardener.

Naturally, I couldn't leave Phoenix without a visit to one of my favorite places, the Desert Botanical Gardens.

The works of Chihuly looked somewhat different surrounded by blossoming flowers.

I first saw the Chihuly Exhibit in December, shortly after it opened, so I didn't spend as much time looking at all the artwork or photographing it as I did then. If you'd like to see more of this exhibit, you can check out this earlier post. However, to my surprise I did see a piece I missed the first time around, this "Orange Hornet and Eelgrass Chandelier." From the first time I saw this exhibit, I wondered how all of these pieces were transported and put in place without breaking any of it. What I hadn't thought about was how it was kept clean . . .

. . . Now I know: a little window cleaner and a duster are all that's needed:)

There is so much to see at the DBG! This time I wanted to focus on parts I had missed on two previous trips--the butterfly exhibit and the blooming plants, both of which can only be seen for a few short months of the spring. The bee garden is open year-round, but this time I was thinking of Cheryl as I hunted for our friendly pollinators.

I didn't have to wait long--notice the bee coming in for a landing at the top of the photo.

I bet you never thought of planting a cactus to attract bees!

Apparently, though, these guys like cactus blossoms as well as my coneflowers and salvias.

Blooms were abundant throughout the gardens from annuals to cacti to native perennials. Unfortunately, some of photos of the more spectacular displays didn't turn out so well--the sun was very bright, and the camerawoman kept fiddling with the settings without the benefit of her reading glasses.

But photographs or not, seeing a prickly pear actually blooming was a sight I won't soon forget. I enjoyed the sights of Arizona, but you know, a daffodil or tulip blooming in Illinois looks just as good to me right now!


  1. Wow, wow, wow!! I'm always amazed at how truly different the vegetation is in the Southwest! Great photos, Rose!

  2. I had to laugh about your predicament with the camera settings. I've had the same thing happen just when the perfect shot of a bird or butterfly presents itself. Oh, that beautiful desert! That prickly pear cactus bloom is pretty special. I've seen them growing in Southern Illinois and here in FL as well, but I've never been lucky enough to see a bloom on one.

  3. Rose, What a wonderful post you've created!! Thank you for linking to me. I noticed you linked to a couple of others, as well... so I can visit their posts, too. :-)

    We'd thought of a baseball game and visiting the Mission, but just didn't have time. I've enjoyed the fact that we saw many of the same things at both the Sanora Desert Museum and the Desert Botanical Gardens! It sounds like you had a great trip, too. I hope you remember the Organ Stop Pizza place the next time you're out there. :-)

  4. What a nice post bringing us all the sights and fun and heat (yes even that too) of Arizona. I've never been though hubby has and says he'd love to visit it one time. This is the best time of year? March so you can take in some baseball, though I think my team winter trains in Florida. Okay, so the Cubs have to be a close second:) These blooms are very nice, and very different from the tulips and daffodils we are so used to here, but still very much appreciated.

  5. Your photos certainly captured the wonderful sights you saw in AZ. It has been fun reading and seeing all about your trip. Don't you just love Chihuly? You managed to post some pictures of his work that I haven't seen before. Not that I have seen it all I am just saying you posted some things that others haven't posted. Great!

  6. Dear Rose, You really were an excellent saw many delightful sites! I loved both the museum and the Mission...but totally missed the botanical garden when we visited! I have wanted to schedule a trip to see the Kitt Observatory...we couldn't get in when we were there...but we drove out to the dessert and sat on top of the car and looked at the MIlky Way! It was wonderful. Have you been? gail

  7. Nice pictures Rose! When I visited my Aunt the winter after I graduated college we also went down to Tuscan- but we went to Old Tuscan to see where some movies have been filmed. We saw the church from The Three Amigos and an area was roped off because they were in the process of filming Young Guns 2.

    I'm going to have to get back there some day to visit the places you mentioned!

  8. Where to start? Your pics are amazing! What different plants they have in Az. Of course, their climate is quite different.
    Sounds like you had a marvelous time, not only visiting family but taking in the history of Az as well.
    Thanks for taking us along.

  9. Wow! You must of had a wonderful time from looking at the pictures. Glad you got to see some baseball.

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I had a great time!

  10. Joyce, It is completely different than Illinois! It's fascinating, and I love visiting, but I'll take green grass and leafy trees everywhere any day:)

    W2W, The worst thing I've done was trying to take photos of my daughter-in-law's graduation last year; I accidentally had the camera set to video instead:) I had never seen cacti in bloom before either; pretty amazing.

    Shady Gardener, It's been so interesting comparing notes with your posts. Nature Girl has been in Scottsdale for a couple months now, so she had some familiar photos, too. You've both given me ideas of places to visit next time, including the pizza restaurant. Daughter just got a new job--in Tempe, so I'll probably go back next winter.

    Tina, Hmmm, a Cardinals or a Reds fan? Actually I prefer going in the winter because it's such a relief from the cold here. Plus it's starting to get pretty hot in AZ now. But March is a great time to see the cacti in bloom, and it's a great time for baseball fans.

    Lisa, I had never heard of Chihuly before I visited the DBG in December, but now I'm a big fan. I'm still wondering how they placed all that glass in the Gardens. I'm sure he must have planned it out very carefully for the best effect.

    Gail, No, I've never been to the Kitt Observatory--one more place to add to my list! As I told SG, Daughter has a new job in Tempe, so hopefully I'll be going back a few more times to Phoenix. She eventually wants to move to...Tennessee!

    Laura, Old Tucson was one of the places we had planned to visit that day--my husband is a big fan of westerns. He's the one who decided it was getting late and to skip it, but now I wish we'd gone there, too.

    Wendy, Arizona certainly is different...especially in the winter when we're fighting icy roads and frigid temperatures, and they think it's "cold" when it's 60 degrees! I did have a good time, especially spending time with my daughter. This was my husband's first trip there, and I know she was so happy he came along.

    Susie, We're baseball fans, so this was a real treat. I could spend a lot more time traveling if I could afford it:)

  11. I love your Arizona trip posts and especially those wonderful cacti! Thank you for that brief but amazing trip of the garden. BTW, what's that little blue-colored flowers in the Window Planters?

  12. Just beautiful Rose - all those blooming plants, and the architecture of the Jesuit mission. I didn't realize AZ could be so lush! I've only been there in the summer before. Spring looks like a wonderful time to visit.

  13. Rose girl ! You must have had headaches and neck aches from trying to take everything "in" on your visit.
    It is so beautiful .. the glass sculptures .. the buildings ... the gardens and plants .. perfectly awesome : )
    We don't have anything like this in Canada .. even though I have been lucky to leave from one coast to the other .. no desert type area .. although hubby said Kelowna and surrounding area are sort of that way ? go figure .. I bet you are still tired from all the excitement of that trip ; )
    Great pictures girl !!

  14. What a great trip you had and I love the architecture. It makes me think of old cowboy films!

    And lovely blooms too.

    Oh and Younger Son had been using my camera and had changed my settings - a fact I discovered when i was out without my glasses too! Although I think my photos might even have been improved by it!

  15. Love the sundial and the Chihuly pieces. Wouldn't want the job of dusting them;)

    Here I am complaining about a few rose thorns and look at the spines on those cactus;)

  16. Oh Rose, I think the photos are great! They still show brilliant splashes of color in a sunny landscape. We all know that the real thing is better than any photos anyway. How fun to go to the laid back version of a Cubs game too. I do know the one plant in from of the office building, hesperaloe, red false yucca. We can grow that one here. The glass art is my favorite, wish I could dream something up to mimic that here too. :-)

  17. Love love love all those photos. I really need to make it to AZ one day... the Desert Museum is also on my list. And, interesting, the tigers train in FL not AZ. Finally, that's a red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)--I was enamored of them in Denver and ordered two, both of which I think have died over the winter here. (I think they would have been OK had our snow cover held longer.)

  18. Hi Rose.....what a wonderful good to see the local area as well as the plants that grow there.....

    I like some of the plants to but like you, I am not familiar with them....I like the structure, especially the one where the blooms are waving around.....

    I loved seeing the bee in the cactus soon as I saw BEE GARDEN I felt excited......

    I must say I do not understand baseball......but it does sound such fun.

    I can see Rose you had a wonderful trip.....

  19. Pam/Digging says:

    Man, oh man. I wouldn't have passed up a second visit to see the Chihuly Exhibit either. Lucky you!

    Your other readers correctly identified the red yucca. I think your other unknown with the tall, thorny stems and red-orange flowers on top is ocotillo.

  20. I love the native plants that were planted around the public buildings and your daughter's apartment complex.

  21. Chandramouli, Glad you enjoy the cacti. The striking blue flower is a lobelia; aren't they a gorgeous accent in containers?

    Garden Girl, I've never been to AZ in the summer--too hot for me! Early spring is a good time to see everything blooming there.

    Joy, The desert is fascinating, though not a place I'd like to live in full-time. My camera sure got a workout while I was there.

    Liz, Lots of cowboy movies and TV shows were filmed in this area; I half expected Geronimo to appear on top of a cliff at times. Thank goodness for digital cameras or I'd never have any decent photos:)

    Marnie, Yes, I don't think I'd want a garden full of cactus spikes. Toby the cat knocked over my agave yesterday after trying to rub against it. I don't think he'll make that mistake again:)

  22. Frances, thanks for the i.d. on the false yucca! I don't know what it looks like the rest of the year, but I really liked those red spikes.

    Monica, Do you think the yucca would survive here in Illinois? Yes, you should put Arizona on your trip list; too bad the Tigers don't spring train here:)

    Cheryl, There were many more bees than what I was able to photograph. What was surprising to me was that they liked the cacti; but, of course, I don't usually think of cacti blooming.

    Pam, The Chihuly exhibit was simply awesome; certainly worth a second visit. Thanks for the id on the ocotillo--can you grow these in Texas as well?

    PG, I did, too; the office building caught my eye everytime we went down this street.

  23. Hi Rose, I love the blooms on your tree (the color is gorgeous!). And the blooms around your daughters apartment are just beautiful. You've taken some lovely photos of your Arizona visit, too! You're back on my sidebar and in my followers list. I'm getting it back together finally;-) I hope you are having a wonderful day, Rose:-) Jan

  24. How can anyone be sad when faced with so much colour! That was a lovely post, thanks for sharing. I particularly like the Chihuly exhibits. Are they made of glass? The bluish leaf one is very beautiful :)

  25. Wow. I love your pictures. It was so fun to 'visit' with you!

  26. rose,
    thanks for sharing your trip with us. so many things to do and see. i am glad you had time with your daughter. love the botanical gardens.

  27. Jan, The redbud is showing more and more color; I can't wait for it to be in full bloom. Glad you were able to get your list back.

    Suburbia, You may remember I did a post on this glass exhibit early in January. I'm not that knowledgable about art, but these pieces are fantastic!

    Life with Kaishon, Thanks, glad you enjoyed the trip with me!

    Marmee, Seeing my daughter is of course the best part of the trip. But the Botanical Gardens are at the top of my places to visit in Phoenix:)

  28. Rose I am enjoying this review of what I experience while I was in Scottsdale recently.Many of what you show I did see and post but I am noticing particulary at the DBG how many of the palnts have grown..for intance the clock shot...they had just been planted when I was there..the orange Aloe plant blossoms are so big and full! LOve seeing the Chihulys too. I did NOT get to the gardens to view the butterflies this year nor did I get ther at night to see the light dispaly! Those cacti with the orange flame at top are Ocotillo..a marvel in how it stores its water for survival..I did a post on it..all listed in my
    "vacation Arizona" labels
    We did not get around to a day trip to Tuscon seeing our trip was cut short.
    Thank you rose for linking me to this post!! We were blessed to see Az in the Sring..some don't. hugs


Thanks for stopping by. I love to hear from you, so please leave a comment. I'll try to reply here, but I'll definitely return the visit.