Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A Floral Oasis in the Desert

26 March 2019

Richard's brother and sister-in-law visited us for a bit, so we played tourist and went to all kinds of places we haven't visited yet.  And of course had a good time catching up on all the news and family updates.

So there will be three new posts, but I'll try to do one per day so they get a bit spread out.  

Our first major trip was to the Tucson Botanical Gardens.  Website:  tucsonbotanical.org/

Spring has come to Tucson, so we had a beautiful sunny day for our visit, and the flowers were blooming.  The cacti haven't bloomed yet, but there are plenty of local flowers that are opening up and changing the color of the landscape from greyish green and beige to colorful!  Don't you just love springtime??

The metal grates all had leaf designs - I always appreciate small details like this, and the fact that the designers planned for this kind of visual continuity.

There were various flowers like tulips, daffodils, the usual early spring flowers.  Unexpected in the desert so even more beautiful!

And there were all kinds of desert flowers, most of which were unknown to us.  The fuzzy red-pink pompom is called a French pompom, although it definitely is similar to something we saw in New Zealand, the pohutukawa flower.  (Could be the same thing for all we know.)

Of course, there was a huge saguaro cactus or two, and an organ pipe cactus.  Both grow quite tall, and have the accordian-pleated texture so that the cactus can expand as they absorb water.  But the saguaro is the one with arms like they are reaching out to give you a hug; the organ pipe cactus has multiple tall trunks (and no arms), so they vaguely look like the pipes of an organ, thus the name.

We all really enjoyed the butterfly house, and this probably was most people's favorite spot in the whole garden.  There's something so soothing about being surrounded by orchids, other tropical flowers, and colorful butterflies flitting through the air, or landing on your hat or shoulder.  These were particularly friendly butterflies - our sister-in-law had a blue morpho who sat on her hat as she walked through, and you can see a few flying blue morphos in the lower right corner of the photo.  In fact, the blue morphos seemed to delight in sideswiping us, surprising everyone with just a light breeze and brush of wing as they flew by!

I had a butterfly on my shoulder, but it didn't stay long enough for a photo.  Other people had longer-term visitors, but there are staff members and volunteers to check that no butterfly hitchhikers leave the garden.  

Some butterflies sat on flowers, but others gathered at the windows, hoping for freedom.  Some of these seemed to be older butterflies with somewhat worn and tattered wings, looking rather sad and forlorn.  I always feel a bit badly for the butterflies who realize they are trapped - most of the butterflies seem like their usual happy and carefree selves as they flit from flower to flower to fruit.  But these few butterflies at the window always look like they long to be set free, even though most of them are not native to this environment, and can only survive inside the butterfly house.

We had lunch at the garden cafĂ©, which features wonderful plant-based meals made with greens, fruit, vegs, and beans grown locally.  Lovely, delicious, and relaxing!

Then a little more time in the butterfly house.  Because you can never have too many butterflies.

One of the things I really liked about the botanical gardens was the incorporation of ceramic arts throughout the garden.  There were abstract sculptures that were also planters, but I preferred the various ceramic mosaic benches all over.  Some showed local animals like the javelina (the wild boar) and quails.  Others featured butterflies, flowers, and planets.  All were delightful pops of unexpected color and whimsy.

I'll end with two quotations from the mosaic benches, both about the importance of gardens and flowers in our lives:

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.  But though an old man, I am a young gardener." 

- Thomas Jefferson


"Perhaps this is one reason many of us garden, to create our own tradition by stepping into the flow of a larger one.  We root ourselves in our gardens.  In nurturing seeds and plants we embody enduring values."

- J.E. Bowers


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