{ Posts Tagged ‘cacti’ }

My alien succulents–find your own at a succulent and cacti show this weekend!

This past spring at Canada Blooms, I attended one of Marjorie Mason's seminars where she spoke about xeriscaping. It was inspiring to hear how some of Marjorie's land was originally very sandy and through continuous mulching she was able to feed her soil and make things grow. Part of the magic is also knowing which plants will thrive in drier conditions. That's where xeriscaping comes in — choosing plants that can adapt to a dry environment and finding native varieties that have already adapted to the growing conditions in your particular area. This was a really helpful seminar for me as the soil tends to be very sandy in front of my house and I came away with some great ideas.

hensandchicksSucculents, such as hens and chicks, do very well in dry conditions as they retain water in their leaves, stems and roots. Last year I planted some hens and chicks out front in an area that gets a lot of sun and that can become rather dry. I've included a photo to show how they've spread and spawned (I say `spawned` because these sweet alien-looking flowers sprouted out of my little cluster and ‘spawn’ seems to be an appropriate description).

You can look for your own interesting succulents and cacti this weekend at the annual Ontario Cactus & Succulent Society (OCSS) Show at Sherway Gardens. Hundreds of rare, unusual and expertly grown cacti and succulents will be on display and there will be experts available to give you more information about xeriscaping and to provide valuable growing tips. Maybe you, too, will be able to find that perfect succulent for a dry spot in your garden.

Majestic landscapes, amazing plants

img_2737Located some 50 miles east of Phoenix off Highway 60 (and much of it a spectacular drive), the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a worthy stop for plant lovers who are visiting Arizona. (I do think the name is a bit of a misnomer, as this place felt more like a botanical garden than an arboretum, which I associate with being mostly about trees.)

img_27491Literature about the arboretum says its chief attraction is its system of more than two miles of nature trails that weave through various garden areas.

These areas offer a diverse palette of plants–some 3,200 different types belonging to 306 genera in 76 families–on a 320-acre site. And it’s a butterfly magnet and bird-lovers’ delight, attracting hundreds of species.

img_26932The day I was there, wildflowers and spring blooms abounded in the demonstration garden (one view shown here), proving the desert landscape isn’t just all cacti and offering plenty of colourful inspiration to Arizona homeowners for their own gardens.

img_2697Hummingbirds flitted around the penstemon and Mexican redbud (above). Elsewhere, Lady Banks’ rose literally smothered several arbours with its dainty yellow, though unscented, flowers. Magic.

I spent several happy hours hiking the main loop trail that took me up and down through hill and dale and several microclimates.

High up was true desert mesa (the elevation in the garden is 2,400 feet) with sweeping vistas and plants that tolerate extreme drought, while lower down I saw lush stands of various trees, including olive and pomegranate (flower shown here), along the more temperate edge of Queen Creek.img_27521

The main trail is fine to tackle if you’re reasonably fit, though there are easier, shorter trails, too–some are wheelchair-accessible. A bottle of water, sunscreen, sturdy walking shoes and a broad-brimmed hat are musts–the sun is fierce!

The arboretum is open every day except Christmas. To find out more, visit www.ag.arizona.edu/bta

Below are more photographs from my visit. Next up: the magic of spring.

Chilean palo verde (Geoffrea decorticans)

Chilean palo verde (Geoffrea decorticans)

An allee of river red gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)

An allee of river red gum trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)

Boojum (Idrium columnaris)

Boojum (Idrium columnaris)

Easter lily cactus bloom (Echinopsis spp.)

Easter lily cactus bloom (Echinopsis spp.)

Monstrose totem pole (front)  (Lophocereus spp.)

Monstrose totem pole (front) (Lophocereus spp.)

Holy jumpin’ cholla!

img_2669I’m sorry I’ve been offline for so long. My trip to Arizona was abruptly aborted when I had to rush to my mother’s hospital bedside in California. She’s now stable and I’m finally home in Toronto, and in the right frame of mind to bring you up to date on my travels.

In the next little while, I’ll post a few pages on the stunning topography and plants of Arizona. Although my trip was cut short, I did manage to visit an interesting arboretum east of Phoenix, take several walks in the desert and see the Chiricahua National Monument with its fantastic rock formations.

img_2671img_2672My friends Karen and Michael made me very welcome in their home in northern Scottsdale. Some of the barrel and prickly pear cactuses surrounding their property were just starting to bloom, although I was a week or two too early for the full-on spring bloom of the desert.

img_26731Their garden has a pretty pool and a spa (main photo, above), and right outside its walls is the open desert landscape, with its wonderful plants, including majestic old Saguaro cactuses (left), but also rattlesnakes, coyotes and javelinas, or collared peccaries. These nearsighted, smelly, sometimes aggressive omnivores look a bit like a wild boar, but aren’t really a member of the pig family. Although I didn’t come across one, it’s always a good idea to carry a long, stout walking stick just in case.

On one of our morning walks, Karen cautioned me not to get too close to the jumping chollas (pronounced CHOY-yuh). Legend has it this spiny group of cacti can sense your body heat and launch themselves at you, sinking into your skin with long, barbed, painful spines and tenaciously hanging on. Ouch. While this isn’t strictly true, they do propagate by attaching plantlets to anything–animal or human–that even lightly brushes against them.

img_2674The photograph I’ve posted here (left) is of the teddy bear cholla (Opuntia bigelovii). If you look closely, you can see a few plantlets around its base that are taking root.

The best defence against chollas is to give them a wide berth. If you do get one stuck on you, it’s recommended that you use a comb to catch and flick it away. As for me, I got some stuck in my walking shoe and had to use stout pliers to pull out the spines. Michael had a cholla attach itself to his calf while playing golf–at first he thought he’d been bitten by a rattlesnake.

You’ve been warned.

Next: Majestic landscapes, amazing plants