Showing posts from December, 2022

December 2022 post-freeze damage assessment

I don’t like winter. It’s dark and it’s cold. OK, I’ll admit, it’s all relative, because what I consider “cold” may seem laughable to others. But it matters to me, because I routinely buy plants that are technically not hardy for my zone (USDA hardiness zone 9b). This December has been colder than usual, both in terms of nighttime lows and daytime highs. Above all, we had two nights, December 18 and 19, when the lows dropped to 27°F—a temperature I don’t recall seeing in 5+ years. For reasons I don’t have a scientific explanation for, many of the tender succulents I grow are perfectly fine at 28°F, but start showing leaf damage below that. This is exacerbated by surface and soil moisture, something we’ve had plenty in the second half December. Winter has just begun so any damage assessment is premature, but here’s a quick snapshot of what was damaged (and what wasn’t) in the wake of the cold spell a couple of weeks ago. Damaged ↷ Most of my mangaves are fine, but a few show leaf damag

Petroglyphs, agaves, and cacti at Agua Fria National Monument

Agua Fria National Monument is located about 40 miles north of downtown Phoenix. Established in 2000 under President Clinton, it encompasses 72,000 acres of semi-desert grassland and protects what is considered to be one of the most important system of prehistoric sites in the Southwest, spanning about 2000 years of human history. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Agua Fria is completely undeveloped and offers no visitor services. Agua Fria can be accessed from Interstate 17 via three dirt roads, all of which are unmaintained after a few miles. Even in a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, navigating the roads can be challenging. Expect a rough ride that will shake loose anything that isn’t bolted or tied down. I recently had the privilege of going to Agua Fria with Ron Parker, author of the book Chasing Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest (Sunbelt Publications, January 2019). In the early days of Ron’s explorations, he simply wanted to