Thursday, December 31, 2015

Arizona 2015—Tucson teaser 2

Day 2 in Tucson. It was a long day. Those who say vacations are for relaxing clearly aren’t doing it right :-)

After another wonderful breakfast at Beyond Bread—a big shoutout for what has got to be the best bread and baked goods in Arizona—I visited Tohono Chul Park. As you can see, they took precautions against the chilly temperatures we had last night (29°F when I headed out this morning at 7:15 a.m.):

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Horse by Kioko Mwitiki

After a leisurely stroll through Tohono Chul Park, I did some shopping at their excellent nursery. The selection of desert natives is impressive, and the prices are very reasonable.

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Plant purchases at Tohono Chul nursery

Stop #2 was at Ted deGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun. I had wanted to visit for years but it never worked out—until now. Ted de Grazia’s paintings have as many detractors as they have fans, but no matter where you stand on that matter, there’s little disagreement that his adobe compound—built by himself with help from Indian friends—is a landmark. I spent over two hours taking photos.

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Mission, completed in 1952

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Inside the mission

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Gallery in the Sun, completed in 1962

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Courtyard filled to the brim with succulents

Stop #3 was at Mesquite Valley Growers, Tucson’s largest full-service nursery. They have a huge selection of plants in every conceivable category. This incudes succulents, of course. And not just small plants, but everything up to 24” boxes.

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Parking lot plantings at Mesquite Valley Growers

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Lots of cholla skeletons at great prices. I’m bringing one home!

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Succulent perfection

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Santa hats on cactus

Santa hats on cactus is apparently a Tucson thing to do. I saw more santa hats in the Civano neighborhood:

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My final stop of the day was at the Eastern Unit of Saguaro National Park. I managed to get some fairly iconic photos:

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Tomorrow I’m heading north to Phoenix and then back to California.

RELATED POSTS:

December 2015 Desert Trip index

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Arizona 2015—Tucson teaser 1

This morning I drove from Phoenix (Scottsdale, to be precise) to Tucson. The drive is usually under two hours but I stopped a bunch of times to take photos of the dramatic clouds.

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Picacho Peak between Casa Grande and Tucson near Interstate 10

When I got to Tucson, I briefly stopped at Cathedral of Saint Augustine. What a stunning building, especially against a blue sky!

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Cathedral of Saint Augustine, Tucson

Continuing in my effort to see places I’ve not visited before, I spent almost two hours leisurely strolling through Barrio Santa Rosa, one of Tucson’s oldest neighborhoods. It is known for its Sonoran row houses which abut the street and hence have no front yard (and just a tiny backyard). In recent decades, many of these adobe structures have been restored and painted vibrant colors.

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Barrio Rosa, Tucson. The trees on the left are palo blanco (Mariosousa willardiana), my most recent tree crush.

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Barrio Rosa, Tucson

I’ve been to Tucson enough times now to lose count, but there is one place I visit on every trip: Mission San Xavier del Bac, just south of the city. It’s one of my favorite spots in the entire world. I’m not Catholic (or religious) but the mission, built between 1783 and 1797, is one of the most beautiful structures I’ve ever seen. Plus, it has lots of cacti and other succulents.

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Mission San Xavier del Bac south of Tucson

Next stop: Greg Starr’s house on the west side of Tucson. It’s been two years since my first visit, and although I’ve seen Greg twice in between, it was a real treat to revisit his home turf. Special post to follow!

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Greg Starr with one of his many Agave ovatifolia

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One of many tables laden with goodies at Greg Starr’s nursery

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Greg Starr’s driveway

Although I had originally planned to swing by the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, I was too tired so I made beeline for my home-away-from-home for the next two nights: the Lodge on the Desert. I don’t know how I found this place when I was planning my trip, but I’m so glad I picked it. Check out the grounds!

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Lodge on the Desert

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Lodge on the Desert, rooms/casitas

It’s definitely not the cheapest place to stay in Tucson, but if this were, say, Palm Springs, it would cost at least twice as much! In fact, the Motel 6 (!) I stayed in during the Succulent Extravaganza in Castroville, CA at the end of September was 30% more expensive than the Lodge on the Desert!

YOLO :-)

RELATED POSTS:

December 2015 Desert Trip index

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Arizona 2015—Phoenix teaser 1

It’s that time of year again: I’m on my yearly road trip to Arizona. I arrived in Phoenix at 1 p.m. and spent the rest of the day at the Desert Botanical garden (with a 90 minute break). My self-imposed schedule is so crazy this year that I won’t be able to blog from the road like I usually do. But I’ll make up for it when I get back home.

To whet your appetite, here are a few photos from the Desert Botanical Garden. The best photos are yet to come!

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Desert Towers by Dale Chihuly

The big attraction at the Desert Botanical Garden right now is Sonoran Light, an exhibition of eight large-scale light installations by British artist Bruce Monro. They are pure magic—no exaggeration. More photos in a later post.

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On to Tucson tomorrow.

RELATED POSTS:

December 2015 Desert Trip index

Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz navidad from Mexico

A friend just shared this photo from Fiesta Americana Condesa Resort in Cancún, Mexico where they are spending Christmas.

I love the giant red balls in front of the steel blue agaves. The agaves look like Agave tequilana to me.

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Photo © 2015 Linda Lindert. All rights reserved.

¡Feliz navidad!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

White Christmas 2015

A month ago we had a white Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s place in Mount Shasta. That was a wonderful surprise, considering it doesn’t often snow that early any more.

Fast-forward four weeks. We’re back in Mount Shasta for Christmas, and look what Mother Nature has given us:

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A white Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the rest

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Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, may it be magical and filled with joy and love.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday Madness: salad dressing colored car

Not gardening- or plant-related but curious anyway, at least to me: Considering the number of paint colors to choose from when you buy a car, why would anybody choose this color?

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What is it anyway? Thousand Island Dressing Gone Bad? Essence of Flamingo? Or a new experimental Pepto Bismol flavor—maybe Saucy Shrimp?

And why would auto makers even offer this color?

I’m all for personal expression, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that stuff, but this is seriously painful.

I’m secretly hoping the owner of this car won it in a contest or contest—i.e. didn’t pay for it with their own money.

Friday, December 18, 2015

In Decembers past…

I can’t remember a December when work has been so busy; I’ve barely had time to go outside. The weather has been nice enough, with just a few nights near or a tad below freezing, and the occasional rain shower to keep things hydrated. I continue to keep my fingers crossed for a mild winter with enough rain (and snow in the mountains) to make a dent in the huge water deficit that has accrued because of the drought.

I like to keep track of how the garden—and the world around me—develops year over year, so here’s a look back at what was going on in December in the last five years since I started this blog:

2014:

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This photo might give you the impression that it rained a lot in December 2014. Far from it. December was very dry. But the few times it did rain, it came down so hard that the storm drains couldn’t keep up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Breakfast at Ursula's

On Sunday we had breakfast with our friend Ursula who lives in downtown Davis. (We live in South Davis, which is separated from downtown by Interstate 80.) The fastest way to get to Ursula's house is through the historic Richards Blvd underpass. I've driven through that underpass hundreds, maybe thousands, of times in the almost twenty years I've lived in Davis, but I've never experienced this:


We had a brief but violent rain storm on Sunday morning that dumped about ⅓" of rain in a short period of time, overwhelming the capacity of drainage pipes and sewers. Crossing this unexpected river in our small Honda Civic was the most excitement I've had all month!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bamboo thinning makes front yard look good for the holidays

A few weeks ago I gave the Asian lemon bamboo (Bambusa eutuldoides ‘Viridivittata’) in the front yard a radical trim. I was so happy with the result that yesterday I decided to tackle two more bamboos: the Baby Blue (Bambusa chungii 'Barbellata') and Alphonse Karr (Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr'). 

I didn't thin these clumps as much as I did the Asian lemon but the difference is still noticeable--and very pleasing, I think.

Take a look at the before and after:

BEFORE: Baby Blue (Bambusa chungii 'Barbellata') on the right
(ignore the Bambusa oldhamii on the left; I didn't touch it)

AFTER: Baby Blue (Bambusa chungii 'Barbellata')

Friday, December 11, 2015

UC Davis early December aloe check

The other day I showed you how the winter-blooming aloes in my front yard are doing. Some should be in flower at or shortly after Christmas, depending on how many warm days we get between now and then.

I also took a quick trip to the UC Davis campus on Sunday to check on the progress of their aloes. They have some very nice plantings (see here).

Read on to see what I found. 

Yellow-flowering Aloe arborescens outside the Botanical Conservatory greenhouses on Kleiber Hall Drive

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: ginkgo yellow

Move over, mellow yellow. Ginkgo yellow is the new kid in town. At least for a few more days.

How we see color, and respond to it, is highly subjective. For me, the yellow of ginkgo leaves at their autumn peak is one of the cheeriest colors I know. I see pure yellow leaning ever so slightly towards orange. (In this chart, I’d say ginkgo yellow corresponds to #14, the most popular choice of “healthy” people, i.e. folks neither anxious nor depressed. Interpret this as you wish.)

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All the photos in this vignette were taken last Sunday on the UC Davis campus, less than ten minutes from my house. I was checking on their aloes (post to come) and came across these ginkgos that were just screaming to be photographed.

Monday, December 7, 2015

’Tis the season: aloes about to bloom in my garden

Leaves are falling from the trees and many plants are getting ready for a long winter’s nap. Many aloes, on the other hand, are doing the opposite: They’re gearing up to bloom. Here’s a quick look at the aloes in my garden that are sending up flower spikes.

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Aloe ‘Erik the Red’. This is a complex hybrid from South African breeder Leo Thamm (Sunbird Aloes). A month ago the leaves were mostly green; the recent cold has really brought out the red.

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Aloe ‘Erik the Red’ with two flower stalks emerging. I’m hoping for even more

Saturday, December 5, 2015

@%$& mealybugs on barrel cactus

I’m fond of this barrel cactus. I brought it home from Mariscal Cactus & Succulents in Desert Hot Springs on our February 2011 trip to the Southern California desert. The guy at the nursery said it was a “fishhook cactus,” which I took to mean Ferocactus wislizeni. However, when Greg Starr was here in the spring, he thought it was Ferocactus herrareae, which some taxonomists consider a subspecies of Ferocactus wislizeni. Whatever it may be, exactly, I’m emotionally attached to it, nasty spines and all.

Take a look at the photo below. From a distance it looks good, doesn’t it?

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Arizona dreamin’

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray
I've been for a walk on a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in Tucson today
Arizona dreamin' on such a winter's day

With apologies to The Mamas & The Papas (John Phillips, Michelle Phillips)

We spent Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s place in Mount Shasta where we had snow and temperatures as low as 10°F. Even though—or possibly because—everything looked like a winter wonderland, my mind was elsewhere: in Arizona.

In a month, I’ll be there, soaking up the rays of the winter sun and exploring the best Phoenix and Tucson have to offer.

This will be the third year in a row I’ve gone on a solo trip in December. While I’ll be focusing on places I haven’t been, I must admit I’ve spent quite a bit of time going over photos from previous trips to tide myself until December 27.

Here are some of my favorites. All photos were taken during the month of December.

From 2013:

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Tucson Mountain Park; the road goes to the Western Unit of Saguaro National Park and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Friday, November 27, 2015

More Thanksgiving winter magic

We spent Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s place in Mount Shasta in the mountains of far northern California. On Wednesday, we had a nice dusting of snow—about an inch—but Thanksgiving day proper gave us brilliant blue skies, crisp air, and plenty of sunshine.

After breakfast I did some exploring, braving the 20°F temperature. I hope the photos will give you an idea of how beautiful this part of California is.

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This is the same barn I showed you in this week’s Wednesday Vignette

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It looks quite different in the sun

Thursday, November 26, 2015

White Thanksgiving in Mount Shasta, CA

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that it was trying to snow as we were arriving at my mother-in-law’s house in Mount Shasta in the mountains of far northern California. As I went to bed last night, I was hoping to find a winter wonderland in the morning.

And to my delight I did. In fact, it was still snowing at 8 a.m. this morning. I quickly grabbed my camera and took some photos on my mother-in-law’s two-acre property. Get ready for some picture-postcard loveliness!

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Barn in the backyard framed by Western redcedars (Thuja plicata)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: en route to Thanksgiving

Like many of you, we’re traveling to spend Thanksgiving with family. Today, while my wife was driving, I took pictures of the clouds that seemed to be following us. My favorite was this cloud that looked like a very large bird:

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Look, a bird cloud!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fall color around town

Our part of California isn’t exactly known for stunning fall color. Most of the trees native to the Sacramento Valley simply turn a non-descript brown. Fortunately, there are plenty of non-native trees planted all over Davis that do provide pops of color. Many of them are at their peak, as you will see below, but some are just starting:

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College Park

This means that there’ll be good color for another few weeks, provided we don’t get a lot of wind that would knock the leaves off the trees.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Front yard bamboo transformation

California is in year 4 of the drought. and the state is subject to mandatory water conservation. This summer I switched to a once-a-week watering regime. I knew the succulents and perennials would be able to handle it, but I wasn’t sure about the bamboos. While the running bamboos in the stock tanks in the backyard did suffer, the clumpers in the ground didn’t miss a beat. In fact, they produced more new culms this year than in previous years! As a result, the clumps have gotten quite congested—to the point where they need a good thinning out.

I tackled the most urgent case today: the Asian lemon bamboo (Bambusa eutuldoides ‘Viridivittata’—say that three times fast!) next to the front porch. As you can see, it’s gotten huge and has been casting too much shade on everything around it. This is not the look and feel I want.

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Can you see the large sago palm (Cycas revoluta) at the base of the bamboo? Look closely, it’s there.

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