Desert Botanical Garden, December 2016 (part 3 of 3)

Part 1     ↔     Part 2     ↔     Part 3 

On December 27, 2016 I visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ—my fourth visit in as many years. This is the final installment of my trip report; click the links above to go to part 1 and part 2.

What you see in the first photo below is the south side of Webster Center

The large tree in the upper left is a Texas ebony (Ebenopsis ebano)

The wall low wall encloses Eliot Patio. That's where the next 10+ photos were taken. 

My favorite tree: palo blanco (Mariosousa willardiana), an acacia from the Mexican state of Sonora

More palo blanco goodness from Eliot Patio:

Palo blanco behind a majestic saguaro

The pale blue agave on the right is Agave titanota

This is "my" DBG Christmas tree (the "official" Christmas tree is on the other side of Webster Center; you'll see it later)

The tree consists of hundreds of individual potted poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in a Christmas tree frame

Pereskia bahiensis, a primitive cactus with permanent non-succulent leaves and woody stems. It's believed that the common ancestors of all cactus resembled what today is the genus Pereskia.

Saguaro stem (Carnegiea gigantea)

Agave macroacantha

Eliot Patio connects with Ullman Terrace. This wonderful space dotted with palo verde trees is often used for personal and public events and features a stage for live entertainment. On a normal day, you can hang out here at your leisure and enjoy the goodies from the Patio Café.

Agave franzosinii

Cholla and dead barrel cactus

The "official" Christmas tree from two sides

One of the newest features at the DBG is the Fine Family Contemplation Garden.It "provides a quiet refuge where Garden guests may pause for reflection. The space is surrounded by columnar cacti and includes a labyrinth and reflective water feature to inspire meditation" (source). Unfortunately, the light was very contrasty so I didn't get the kinds of photos I would have wanted, but at least you'll get the idea.

The north side of the Webster Center is one of my favorite spots:

These cardons (Pachycereus pringlei), sometimes called the saguaros of Baja California, are among the garden's oldest plantings. They're majestic against the blue sky.

The other signature plant of Baja California, the boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris)

This newly built space, Cardon Plaza, contains the Founders Wall, a series of connected glass circles honoring major donors to the garden. I've seen many similar features in public gardens—walls, walkways, benches, etc.—but this one is the most attractive.

Adolescent Yucca rostrata

More poinsettias

Steel gate to the Heritage Garden (the area we just saw). I love the liberal use of steel throughout the garden.
Sign explaining Howard Gentry's agave research. Even now, 35 years after publication, his groundbreaking work Agaves of Continental North America is still the authoritative work on agaves. I was glad to see Gentry honored in such a public fashion.

Now we're at the entrance to the Center for Desert Living Trail. It connects a series of outdoor spaces demonstrating how homeowners can live in harmony with the desert that surrounds them. This includes not only functional spaces but also an edible garden and an herb garden (I didn't photograph them because they weren't at their most attractive in the dead of winter).

Bonsai'd Eremophila maculata

Agave colorata in a bed of santolina and rosemary

Trio of Agave ovatifolia

Ornamental kale and Dioon edule, a Mexican cycad

Patio next to Archer House

Menorah in front of Archer House

Steel trellises with espaliered Black Mission fig trees (Ficus carica 'Black Mission')—attractive and functional

Variegated bougainvillea

Patio behind Archer House

  • Nopalea cochenillifera, a prickly pear from Mexico where it is cultivated for its pads (both for food and fodder. The pads and the fruits are said to have medicinal properties.

Agave salmiana, one of the largest agave species

I almost missed this small hidden patio with its curved concrete wall and bench

Cactus sundial. It was 100% accurate on the day I was there.

Beautiful interplay of colors between the bougainvillea flowers and the magenta wall

The last couple of photos were taken on the way back to the exit. They're not special per se, but they show how even the "lesser" parts of the garden capture the beauty of the desert.



  1. I have to get me a boojum tree one of these days. However, the nearest decent cacti place I know of is about forty miles away and I don't think they sell them.

    1. I bought a small boojum last year in Arizona. They're difficult to find, even in California.

  2. The Arizona sun probably feels very good in winter, especially in this rainy winter. Great to see Howard Gentry being honored, as well as seeing so many beautiful Agaves. Thank you for sharing your visit.

    1. All day I've been dreaming of the Arizona sun. Rainy and blustery here all day. We need it, I know that, I'm still longing for sun.

  3. Both the Ullman Terrace and the Patio Café were closed the day of my visit, I was bummed. I loved the Fine Family Contemplation Garden and hung out far too long hoping to get a photo at least as good as yours. It was not to be though as many families were drawn to the space and it was never empty. I guess that's a good thing.


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