Monday, March 5, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Arizona

Everyone I know seems to have gone on a vacation lately.  One good friend spent a week in Florida, while another friend, my Tai Chi/lunch buddy, spent last week lounging on the beach in the Bahamas.  And Daughter and her husband just came back from a week in paradise, i.e., Hawaii.  As for me, a couple of trips to the grocery store were the highlights of my week:)

Yes, I admit to being just a wee bit jealous.  Usually I get to travel somewhere between the end of January and mid-March, but not this year. Mr. P and I had tentatively planned to visit Daughter and Son-in-Law this March as we often do, taking in some Cubs' spring training games and soaking up some Arizona sun.  But it was not meant to be.  Just before Christmas, Daughter received a promotion and was being transferred. By mid-January they had packed their belongings and headed--with the two granddogs in the car--to Houston, Texas. Since the move, Daughter has been so busy settling in and traveling for her new job that a visit from us just didn't make sense this spring.

Looking back, I am so glad now that I made the decision to visit Daughter and Son-in-law back in November.  It gave me a  chance to spend some time with them, especially since I hadn't seen them since their wedding reception last June, and to meet my new granddog Eddie.

That's Ed trailing behind his big brother Bear after a hike through Papago Park on the southern edge of Phoenix.  Ed is a much livelier pug compared to the late Odie, who was more laid-back.   Both Ed and Bear have lived all their lives in Arizona, so they're used to the heat, but I'm not sure how they will adjust to Houston's much more humid climate.

A trip to Arizona is never complete, of course, without a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Having toured the garden on every visit to Daughter over the past four years, it's become a familiar place to me--I know where to find the Butterfly Pavilion, the Wildflower Trail, and, of course, the gift shop without any guidance.  I remember my first trip here: the desert flora seemed like alien life forms to me.  But my tours of the DBG have helped me to understand much more about the environment of the Sonoran Desert and to recognize many of the plants.

Thanks to the DBG, I can now distinguish between the iconic Saguaro . . .

. . .  and the equally huge Cardon cactus.

Nor do I need a tag to identify the lovely Baja Fairy Duster, which always seems to be in bloom no matter the time of year I visit.

Still, there is always something new to be learned; this time I was on a mission to find the name of some plants growing in Daughter's backyard.  It didn't take me long to find several specimens of the plant, an Ocotillo, a cactus indigenous to the Sonoran desert and commonly seen from California to western Texas. It's a deciduous cactus, so it wasn't particularly attractive during this November visit, but later research informed me that in spring it produces beautiful red blooms that are especially attractive to hummingbirds.

Plant specimens may be the main attraction at the Desert Botanical Garden, but they're not the only interesting things to see. I knew something was up when I walked in the entrance and saw this huge praying mantis standing guard. The Garden often hosts art exhibits, particularly sculptures on display throughout the garden.  My favorite from the past was "The Nature of Glass," an exhibit during the winter of  '08-09 which featured the works of  Dale Chihuly,  which you can read about here, if you wish.

This time the Garden was hosting the exhibit "Big Bugs," a collection of larger than life insects crafted from all natural materials. 

This lady beetle, for example, was made primarily from bent willow with black walnut used for its head and spots.  A mere 150 pounds, it wasn't quite as imposing as the mantis in the earlier photo which was 17 feet tall and weighed in at 1,200 pounds!

One of my favorite areas to visit within the garden is the Butterfly Pavilion.  Usually, it doesn't open until March, but I was lucky this time--a guide informed me that the Pavilion would be open because a shipment of Monarchs had just arrived.  The butterflies are flown in from a supplier in Florida, encased in waxed-paper-like envelopes kept at a cool temperature.  I arrived just in time to be handed a paper envelope, along with other eager participants.  We opened the envelopes carefully . . .

Once the butterflies felt the warm air, they revived and made their escape!

It was truly a breathtaking sight to see dozens of them flying about.

Eventually, they found plenty of bright blossoms to provide some nourishment after their long trip.

Cacti, art, butterflies--the Desert Botanical Garden is the perfect place to spend a delightful morning in Phoenix.  Little did I know at the time that this might very well have been my last visit there, so I'm glad I had the chance to see it again.  I'll miss visiting Arizona every year, but I'm sure Houston, Texas must have some interesting gardens as well--I'm already looking forward to discovering new places to see next fall!


  1. You are so lucky to have a daughter that moves around. That way you can have new places to explore. I hope your Granddogs are adjusting to their new home alright.

  2. Hi Rose,

    Such a delightful post. My eyes filled when the butterflies took flight. How wonderful to release them into the butterfly house.

    Having a daughter that moves around is wonderful. It gives you a chance to experience new places and of course, visit gardens etc.

    Granddogs are gorgeous....I could not imagine life without a dog:)

  3. I am sure you will have just as much fun exploring your daughter's new surroundings and you do have some lovely memories and photos, the cacti are amazing!!

    It must have been wonderful seeing the butterflies so closely although I did feel a little sorry for their rather undignified journey in an envelope albeit a special one. Monarchs really are beautiful, I do wish we had them here.

    I loved the 'Big Bug' collection, so imaginative.

  4. That fairy duster is awesome.

    I really love Chihuly's work, and it was fun to see your photos from your previous post --it must have been very cool to see that installation!

  5. That's wild, I never would have guessed that Monarchs were shipped in envelopes! Lol How delightful that you got yo see all of those butterflies!

  6. Those big bugs are fascinating sculptures, very inventive! And what a neat experience to participate in releasing Monarchs. This garden looks like a great place to visit.

  7. How splendid to be able to release monarchs! Your photos of the process are very nice. Good luck to your daughter in Houston!

  8. That's very sad Rose. I wish you were having a trip somewhere too and not having to wait so long. I am glad this country is not so big and that I can see my Mom often.

    Take care, and I do hope you get to visit Arizona again one day.


  9. Rose your photo's are stunning in every way. The story and photo's of the butterfly's

  10. Hi Rose, It's been 3 years (2009) since we were last in AZ and visited some of the same great places!! No humongous insects there, but we did see Dale Chihuly glasswork!! ;-)

  11. My goodness! Monarchs in envelopes. I can just imagine opening one and letting them go. Amazing!

    Too bad your trip didn't work out, but I hope Daughter settles in well in Texas. And then you can visit when the time is right.

    Love your pics. I haven't been to Arizona in years. Only went once and hope to go back one day.

  12. wow, What a trip. You are adding so many interesting plants to your knowledge base. I went to Vegas 7 years ago, the only time I have seen some of the plants you shared in this post.
    Love the insect sculptures...especially the mantis.
    What a treat to release Monarchs!

  13. It's too bad you won't have as much of an opportunity to visit Arizona, but if you're already down south in Houston, you may be able to extend the trip!

  14. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Darn! I wish you could get away! But it sounds like spring is settling in during the next few days--even up north here. So maybe that will help a bit? Thanks for sharing the great photos and description of your Arizona adventures!

  16. Rose girl I am sorry it has been a while since I have visited you !
    You have such beautiful pictures and memories of Arizona : ) It would have been one of my choices if I was still travelling .. to see .. I love the look of the desert (but not the heat .. although dry heat ? is easier to take than humid heat I imagine!)
    Love seeing the grand-dogs .. they are too cute "Mut & Jeff" type couple. Absolutely loved seeing the butterflies in their special packaging and then to be revived! Not that is special : )
    I'm sure you will find some beautiful garden related places to visit in Texas girl !
    Joy : )

  17. Those cacti are amazing. The biggest ones we ever see here are about 3" high in little pots!
    Those butterflies....... how wonderful to be able to release them like that.

    I'm sorry about the holiday. I cannot book a holiday either and am lucky to get a day trip away these days.
    Hope you get to Arizona again before too long. All these places sound exotic to me.

    Yes..... I met Suburbia today. I wrote about it on my blog.
    Had a good time with her.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  18. Glad that you got the chance to visit Arizona and sample its delights before your daughter moved Rose. Hope that you enjoy Houston come the autumn.
    P.S. I have been going to tai chi lessons and find it a great way to warm up before doing any vigorous gardening:)

  19. Dear Rose,
    I loved this reminded me of when I was in Arizona! Love the big cool and always love the butterflies. I have raised Monarchs in my house and released them so they could fly to Mexico!
    Texas has some amazing gardens...I love south Texas in January....

  20. Rose I went to graduate school in Tempe and my family slowly moved to AZ from NY. I of course moved back to NY (too hot for me in AZ), but I love visiting them and especially discovering the beauty all over the state...thx for the visit to the Botanical Gardens...I haven't been there for a while...we also were visiting family in PHX in Nov...

  21. Lisa, You're right--I am looking forward to exploring Houston. As for the poor granddogs, my daughter has been traveling for work so much that I'm sure they wish she would stay home! Maybe "grandma" should go spend some time with them:)

    Cheryl, I just love seeing the butterfly pavilion and seeing so many close up. But releasing them and seeing them wake up is such special experience--I'm glad I happened to be there at just the right time. You know I couldn't live without a dog either:)

    Songbird, I asked about the butterflies' travel one time. I do know they're put into a cool container so that they're in some state of hibernation during the trip. It does seem a bit harsh, but they don't seem to be any worse for wear when they emerge, and it's probably an easier trip than flying themselves from Canada to Mexico:) Monarchs are my favorite butterflies.

    Cassi Renee, I hadn't even heard of Chihuly when I visited the DBG and happened to see his exhibit there a few years ago. But, oh my, what gorgeous art! The most amazing thing about it to me was how he integrated the pieces into the existing landscape. I'd love to see another of his exhibits some day.

    Sweetbay, I asked once about their travel accomodations--they're shipped in a state of semi-hibernation in a cool container, but I have no idea how they get them into those envelopes!

    Laurrie, I forgot to mention that many of the bugs were made primarily from wood--the mantis was crafted from black locust, so it's no wonder he was so heavy.

    Tina, I have to thank the strangers also participating for being unwitting models for my photos of the Monarchs.

  22. Rose, there's at least one private garden you can visit when you come to Houston to stay with your daughter and SIL: mine! I'm on the far west side ... let me know where your daughter has settled!

  23. Suburbia, I am sad about Arizona, but as Daughter says I can always go back--I'll just have to pay for a hotel, though:) I have a trip planned in May to North Carolina, and I'm really looking forward to that.

    Marijke, Arizona is a beautiful place that I love to take lots of photos there; so very different from where I live.

    Shady, If you were there to see the Chihuly exhibit also, then you know what I'm talking about--wasn't it fantastic?

    Wendy, I'm sure we'll be headed to Houston one of these days. I just need to give Daughter some time to settle in. I don't think I'll be brave enough to go in the heat of mid-summer, though!

    Janet, I knew nothing at all about cacti before I went to Arizona the first time, and honestly didn't care for them that much. But I've learned so much on my trips there--such interesting and varied forms of plant life in the desert.

    Rose, I would love to take an extended vacation someday through Texas and into the Southwest. Maybe when my husband retires.

    Sally, Thanks for visiting, and I apologize again for not visiting you in awhile. I don't know what's kept me busy, but I haven't had as much time for blogging lately, it seems.

    Plant Postings, To be honest, I almost hate to leave when spring begins--I don't want to miss out on the first daffodils and tulips. January/February is my favorite time to get away, especially during a normal snowy winter.

  24. Joy, I've never travelled to Arizona between April and October--far too hot for me! It was actually rather cool when I went in November--in the 60's. Yes, I know I'll enjoy getting to know Houston and the surrounding area. My granddogs are a fun pair:)

    Maggie, Arizona is so very different from where I live--it's like going to a foreign country, and almost as far! I do have a big trip planned in May, so I'm looking forward to that. How fun to meet up with Suburbia!

    Anna, Thanks so much for stopping by! I love Tai Chi; I've been taking classes for over 4 years now, and find it helps in so many ways. Still, I think I need some other form of exercise, too, to get in shape for gardening season:)

    Sherry, You would have enjoyed the big bug sculpture--there were several more, but I didn't want to post them all. And I know you would have loved the Butterfly Paviolion--one of my favorite places to visit at the Garden.

    Donna, Such a small world. Daughter lived in Scottsdale, and we often made little trips to Tempe on my visits; in fact, I think she worked there for awhile. It's a great place to visit in the wintertime!

    Cindy, I've been meaning to mention this to you. Be careful--I might just very well pop in at your house sometime:) I really would love to see your garden, and maybe you could give me some tips on interesting places to visit in the area next fall. We'll have to chat in Asheville!

  25. What a wonderful visit! Your butterfly adventure reminded me of our wedding where we released is a magical experience. I love visiting gardens in other places especially when the flora is different than where I garden. When I visited Arizona years ago, I remember being struck by how different everything is compared to the east coast. It is beautiful, however, and somewhat unique.

  26. Wow, I didn't know you could ship butterflies in wax paper like pressed flowers! Congratulations to your daughter for her promotion but it must have been hard to bid goodbye to Arizona.

  27. Passei para uma visitinha.
    Suas fotos são maravilhosas.
    Bom fim de semana!

  28. That butterfly transportation system is incredible!

    The landscape is so different from anything we have and beautiful.

  29. How amazing that they can ship butterflies in an envelope! what will they think of next? I've never been that far south so all those plants are much as you describe the first time - like aliens to me. how wonderful you were able to visit a botanical garden and get to know them better

  30. Rose, I was amazed to learn that Monarchs are shipped this way and what a thrill for you to release one. So glad I didn't miss this post.

    The Baja Fairy Duster plant is gorgeous. Can't stop looking at it.

    Your granddogs look so happy and full of energy and fun. Hope you get to Houston soon, but not when it's too hot or too humid.

    It's warming up here but only daffs and hyacinths have made an appearance. A small appearance, inly one inch out of the ground, so far.

  31. How neat to be handed an envelope with a monarch resting inside! I could pass on the giant bugs, but it must have been fun to walk around in the Desert Botanical gardens.


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