My Arizona haul: spikes, rocks, and metal Mariachi musicians

I just got back from my after-Christmas road trip Arizona. I drove 2,223 miles in seven days, visited six public and three private gardens, took 1,800 photos, and returned with a car full of goodies. My rental plantmobile was a Chevrolet Equinox, an small SUV with plenty of room, and yet I managed to fill it with my purchases and finds: a wild assortment of plants, rocks, and other stuff that somehow ended up in the car.

In case you're wondering what my favorite trophy is:

Two totem pole cactus sections (Lophocereus schottii f. monstrosus) I found on Phoenix Craigslist for $10. Yes, ten bucks. Considering a rooted two-foot specimen can be $50 or more in a nursery, this is the steal of the year. These two will take up residence in the bed next to the front door when I redo it in the spring.

The larger section—just a few inches shy of six feet—rode home on the passenger seat, leaning against my luggage and the head rest:

Good thing I bought some Italian terracotta bowls from B&B Cactus Nursery for extra height:

The second totem pole cactus was in the backseat, next to two Mexican metal Mariachi musicians (say that fast!) and a teddy-bear cholla skeleton I found at a roadside rest stop between Florence and Tucson. I couldn't just leave it there, could it?

The cargo area held the rocks I picked up (you can't see them in the photos below) and the bulk of my plant haul:

Three fouquierias to go with the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) and baby boojum tree (Fouquieria splendens) I already have:

Fouquieria purpusii and Fouquieria fasciculata from Greg Starr, and Fouquieria mcdougallii from Mesquite Valley Growers in Tucson

Agaves, barrel cactus, and terrestrial bromeliads:

Clockwise starting at 7:00: Agave utahensis var. eborispina, Agave temacapulinensis, Fouquieria fasciculata, Hechtia argentea, Agave pelona, Agave parrasana × potatorum. Ferrocactus pilosus

Clockwise starting at 7:00: Fouquieria purpusii, Hechtia argenteaFouquieria fasciculataAgave temacapulinensisHechtia argenteaAgave colorata

Hechtia argentea, the real deal grown by Greg Starr from seed collected at the type locality in central-western Mexico

My second Hechtia argentea, showing variation in coloration

Two small totem pole cactus (bought at B&B Cactus before I found the huge cuttings at Craigslist), Adenium arabicum (rescued from the clearance table at a Lowe's), and a Deuterocohnia bought at Boyce Thompson Arboretum (label says "Deuterocohnia species;" Andy Siekkinen would call it Deuterocohnia longipetala, pending future taxonomical changes)

Deuterocohnia longipetala (see above)
Agave zebra, Agave pelona (1 of 2)

This tiny guy in a 2-inch pot was a freebie from B&B Cactus. They ID'ed it as Echinopsis terscheckii, the Argentine saguaro (not related to the real saguaro)

Cactus haul: ① Thelocactus bicolor, ② Ferocactus rectispinus, ③ (included by mistake), ④ Ferocactus wislizeni, yellow-spined form, ⑤ Ferocactus pilosus, ⑥ Ferocactus pilosus, ⑦ Astrophytum ornatum

Ferocactus rectispinus

Thelocactus bicolor, going by the common name "pride of Texas"

Ferocactus pilosus, 1 of 3 I brought home. I'm trying to find a good form with lots of bristles. Eventually I'll only keep the "hairiest" one and will give the others away.

Two that need a little TLC: Agave wocomahi (needs to be treated for agave mite), and another Ferocactus pilosus (needs to be treated for mealybugs)

I stopped at several Lowe's specifically to find plants from Australian Outback Plants, a large wholesale grower of Australian natives located west of Phoenix. Australian Outback Plants supplies many Lowe's in Arizona and Southern California but I have yet to see their products in Northern California. Australian Outback Plants doesn't sell directly to the public, but they offer three-hour tours. Unfortunately, I didn't have time on this trip, but it's my #1 thing to do on my next trip. Here's what I found:

Knife acacia (Acacia cultriformis), Eremophila prostrata 'Outback Sunrise' (groundcover less than 12" high with yellow flowers), Eremophila glabra 'Fire and Ice'

Eremophila glabra 'Fire and Ice' flowers. The silver leaves and orange-red flowers are a great combination.

Casuarina glauca 'Cousin It' (not to be confused with Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'), a bizarre dwarf form of the Australian she oak that makes a great groundcover (only 4-8 inches in height) or even a small specimen plant. I've been looking for it for a long time.

Some of the rocks I picked up in the middle of nowhere:

And finally my two Mariachi musicians made of old metal pieces:

I don't exactly know why I like this kind of garden art, but after seeing similar statues in Lucinda Hutson's garden in Austin, TX I was on a quest to find my own. The trumpet player on the right came from the Chevron gas station in Wikieup (a great tip from Jan Emmings), the drummer from Happy Adobe in Florence (recommended by Loree 'Danger Garden' Bohl). I don't know where they'll go yet, so for now they'll move around a bit in the garden.


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  1. I assume most of this is all going into the back yard, since I can't visualize any open space in your front gardens?! The boojum tree especially has me laughing. Gerhard, you are going to need an intervention pretty soon- LOL Sue

    1. A lot of these plants are too small to put in the ground. They'll live in pots until they're larger (maybe 5-gal size). By then space will have opened up somewhere.

      My boojum tree has been in a pot on top of the front yard fence for 5 years. Considering it was just a small stick, it's grown considerably, but the trunk it still less than 3" in diameter.

  2. No wonder you're smiling ear to ear; that's a fantastic haul in many ways. Happy tending and planting!

  3. Nice haul! And I’m so glad that Happy Adobe came through! So... how did you happen to be reading Craigslist in Phoenix? We’re you specifically thinking you might find some amazing deals? Good job!

    1. Happy Adobe had a huge selection AND great prices. Definitely cheaper than Phoenix or Tucson. I also found some souvenirs for the girls.

      I usually poke around Craiglist when I'm in Phoenix and Tucson, more to see what plants people sell, not necessarily to buy anything. In fact, this was the first time I've ever bought anything off Craigslist.

  4. Wowser! Great plants! And I am happy you came to Arizona where I live south of Chandler (which is a suburb of Phoenix). Can't wait to see them planted. Love the Mariachis too!

  5. You look like a kid on Christmas Day with your post cacti! Only a true plant lover could be this happy. Look forward to some more of your great photos of your trip

    1. Plants are easy to love :-)

      More posts coming. I'm working on one as I write this.

  6. Good stuff Gerhard ! I LOVE the rocks-they will look beautiful with the color and texture of the rock in your front garden. And your totems will make a grand entry statement. All in all a productive trip.

    1. Very productive trip, and good use of all the space I had in the car.

      I would have hauled home more rocks but the nicest ones I saw were next to busy highways where I couldn't stop--isn't that how it always goes?

  7. Congratulations on such great finds, especially the totem poles! The last picture is so cool with the background. And the SUV -- my MINI Cooper has been stuffed with plants like that! Comical.

    1. Somehow I always manage to fill all the available space I have. If I'd had an even larger vehicle, I'm sure I would have filled it, too. Maybe more rocks!

  8. Those first two photos are priceless. That is one happy plant lover!

    1. Stupid maybe, but I was so happy to have found those totem pole cactus. They're in pots now, hopefully rooting. It's slow going at this time of year.

  9. Those pictures made me smile! My husband and I both saw our adventures in them.I would really like to know the details of getting those plants across the checkpoint at the CA border? I have long wanted to take a plant trip to the southwest but did not know how hard it would be to bring things back.Loved the pictures.


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