Southwest trip day 5: Tucson, AZ
This morning we got up early and were at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum shortly after they opened at 7:30am. We wanted to get most of our outdoor exploring done before the heat of the day, reserving indoor activity for late morning. As it turned out, we spent six hours there in the morning and then another two in the evening (in the summer they stay open until 10pm on Saturday).
|Sonora desert trio: ocotillo, saguaro and prickly pear|
This was my fourth visit to the Desert Museum, and I loved it just as much as before. If you’re ever in Tucson, this is a must-see destination. The Desert Museum masterfully combines a zoo, museum and botanical garden.
While my wife and kids went to see the many animal exhibits, I focused on the plant life. Since it was overcast until mid-morning, the lighting was soft and even, allowing me to get some fantastic photos of agaves, yuccas and cacti. It’ll take me a while to go through the 400+ photos I took, and I plan on doing separate posts on the plants I encountered. Here is a sneak preview.
|Teddy bear cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) and Agave zebra|
|Huachuca agave (Agave parryi var. huachucensis)|
|Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoria-reginae)|
|Prickly pear and barrel cactus|
|Demonstration garden showcasing xeric plants for Tucson homes|
|Ocotillo, prickly pear and organ pipe cactus|
|Planting outside the bookstore and gift shop|
|Planting near the restaurants|
|View from inside the Warden Oasis Theater|
|Outside Phoebe’s Coffee Bar|
|Small boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) in a shallow bowl|
In the afternoon, I dropped my wife and kids off at our motel and then headed out to B&B Cactus Farm, which had been recommended by fellow garden blogger Loree of Danger Garden. It was quite a drive from our motel, but I’m so glad I went. This is was the largest and most impressive cactus and succulent nursery I’ve ever been to. Seeing the selection, I felt like a kid in a candy store.
|B&B Cactus Farm|
In addition to the sales and growing areas, B&B also has two display gardens with many mature specimens. Walking through them is a bit like visiting a miniature botanical garden.
|Demonstration garden at B & B Cactus Farm|
But the biggest draw for me were the thousands of plants for sale. Our car is already packed to the brim with luggage but I had wisely brought a plastic tub specifically for plant purchases. As tempted as I was by many agaves and cacti, I ended up being a good boy—I only bought five plants, which leaves some room in case I visit another nursery later on during our trip.
|Just a few of the many plants for sale|
I took 165 photos at B&B—certainly enough for a separate post or two. Here are a just a couple to whet your appetite.
|Agave parryi var. neomexicana ‘Sunspot’|
|6 ft. tall beaked yuccas (Yucca rostrata) were very impressive—and priced accordingly|
There was a thunderstorm while I was a B&B, and most of the customers cleared out quickly (it was almost closing time anyway). On my way to the nursery, it had been 95°F. On my way back to the motel, 90 minutes later, it was 78°F. Amazing how quickly the temperature dropped as the sky opened up. Just as amazing was the rapid rise in humidity. When we returned to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum at 5:30pm, the humidity must have been 90%. I had never been to Tucson during what the locals call “the monsoon season,” so this was quite an experience for us.
Tomorrow we’ll leave Tucson and Arizona behind and head to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.