Thursday, January 7, 2016

12/28/15: Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ (part 1)

Index     ↔     Part 2

The Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) in Phoenix is one of those magical places that I will never get tired of visiting. Every year there’s something new to discover—not just new exhibits (like Bruce Munro’s Sonoran Light this winter)—but new beds, new plantings, and even entirely new pieces of infrastructure.

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What you see from the parking lot; the entrance is beyond that red sign post

The DBG is huge: 140 acres, with 55 acres under cultivation, featuring 50,000+ plants. It has 107 regular staff members and an astonishing 821 volunteers (all according to their web site). No wonder the place looks pristine, and there are always people around to answer questions.

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Plantings near the entrance

The DBG opened in 1939 after years of efforts by local citizens to preserve the fragile desert environment and with the generous support of benefactor Gertrude Brewster. Her name is forever linked with the DBG: The Webster Auditorium, built in 1939, is one of the oldest structures in the garden, and Gertrude’s is a fine-dining restaurant at the entrance to the garden.

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The people you see in the background are sitting in the courtyard of Gertrude’s Restaurant near the entrance

Speaking of the entrance: I like how understated it is, at least as you approach from the parking lot and cross the footbridge.

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Then the drama kicks up a notch as you spot Dale Chihuly’s yellow glass sculptures, the Desert Towers, in between the tree yuccas.

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My heart begins to beat faster everytime I see this view.

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Public holiday decorations are often an exercise in gaudiness. Not so here. The pointsettias at the entrance provided a few pops of red, which I thought looked very nice.

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Now we are inside the entrance, facing the open plaza. To the left are the restrooms, off to the right are the gift shop and Gertrude’s Restaurant. Here is a useful map to help you get your bearings.

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Two potted succulent arrangements near the entrance

I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum and let the photos speak for themselves.

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To the right are the gift shop and Gertrude’s Restaurant

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These grasses (Muhlenbergia capillaris) are a great foil to the masses of opuntias

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Opuntia macrocentra

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As you can see, the Ottosen Entry Garden features a large selection of prickly pears (Opuntia sp.), chollas (Cylindropuntia sp.) and columnar cacti. They are particularly spectacular when backlit.

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The backlit cactus in the front are teddy bear cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii)

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Octopus cactus (Stenocereus alamosensis)

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The green prickly bear in the foreground is Opuntia microdasys

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My current tree crush, Mariosousa willardiana, aka palo blanco…

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…underplanted here with Agave parryi

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Isn’t their bark just beautiful? Not to mention the overall form: whispy and ethereal.

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Palo blanco with senita (Pachycereus schottii)

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Agave parryi var. parryi in front of Stenocereus alamosensis

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Agave salmiana

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Red teddy bear cholla (Cylindropuntia × campii)

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Red teddy bear cholla (Cylindropuntia × campii)

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Cow horn agave (Agave bovicornuta) with emerging flower stalk

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Variegated Agave sisalana

We’re now approaching the Desert Terrace Garden. That’s where we’ll continue in part 2.

 

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8 comments:

  1. So pretty! One of the thing I love about DBG is how they shoe both natural and more formal plantings of desert plants. Your pictures do so much justice to this beautiful garden.

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    1. I agree completely! There are "wild" areas, which are impressive on their own, but my favorite spots are the planted areas. I find it very inspirational to look at the hardscape (their stacked rock planting beds are awesome) and the plant selections. Not to mention the real demonstration gardens.

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  2. I'm so impressed by that red teddy bear cholla. Too bad it's just to spiky for my garden.

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    1. Same here. I think you need a true desert garden for a cholla like that to shine.

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  3. I've been fairly outspoken about my dislike of all things Chihuly...however I do love those sculptures at the entry. They were fairly new the last time we visited and I loved them from the moment I first saw them.

    There appear to be A LOT of people at the garden. I've never seen so many. Was it the weekend?

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    1. Maybe you love the Desert Towers because they are such a simple, yet iconic design? (They are dead ringers for those yuccas!)

      I was there on the Monday after Christmas. Yes, quite a few people in the afternoon and even more in the evening. The evening event (Luminarias and Bruce Monro's Sonoran Light) was sold out.

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  4. Since I've seen other posts about this magical place before, I thought I'd be "bored" with this post... but your photos make it seem like it's my first view! LOVE the photo of the Chihuly sculptures with the swirly clouds, and the image under the caption "Octopus cactus (Stenocereus alamosensis)" makes me want to be there NOW!

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    1. Whenever I go back to a place I've visited a bunch of times before, I'm always afraid I might be bored with it. Not so at the DBG--they're constantly making changes.

      Yes, I loved that octopus cactus, too. Someday I want to live in the desert and have a cactus garden.

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