Today, Thom and Katie took us to Ohme Gardens, an alpine-style state park in Wenatchee. Here’s how the website description of the park begins.

In 1929, Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Among that acreage was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River valley.

Herman and his new bride, Ruth, loved to stand on that bluff and dream of flourishing alpine meadows, shimmering pools and shady evergreen pathways where the hot, relentless summer sun allowed only sage and scrub desert growth. They set their minds on achieving that dream.

www.ohmegardens.org

The alpine garden was intended to be a family retreat, but the interest of friends and community members prompted the Ohmes to open the park to the public. It was later sold to Washington State Parks to be preserved for future generations. We had a pleasant afternoon, walking through the gardens and enjoying Ruth and Herman’s dream.

We walked up and down pretty hillsides and beside peaceful pools.

On one hillside, there was a watchtower that Sefton liked. It was open on all four sides. This side of the watchtower provides a view of Wenatchee, the mountains, and the Columbia River valley. We could see the rock outcropping that lies just above Thom and Katie’s house, but it’s too far to the right to be visible in this photo.

All of us except Hadley spent a few minutes looking at this pool. Hadley didn’t see much of the park because she was sleeping. Being adorable all the time tires a girl out.

Throughout the gardens, there were hidden gnomes and fairies. A map of the gardens indicated the areas in which gnomes and fairies could be found and if a visitor (Sefton, for example) could find all of them, that visitor could check them off on his map, turn the map in to the attendant at the gift shop, and get a sticker. Sefton found all the gnomes and fairies and earned his sticker.

After we returned to the house, it was Hadley’s and my turn to watch a GBC (Great Ball Contraption) Lego video with Sefton. Hadley was tired again from being adorable, so she didn’t see much of the show. You can tell she’s asleep because she has her nose buried against my chest. As long as I could hear her breathing, I knew everything was good.

After watching the YouTube GBC Lego videos, Sefton had to show me the GBC he built. His GBC didn’t have moving parts (he gets a break here–he’s only four), so he held one of his GBC balls in his hand and took it over the contraption’s course as he explained to me what was happening at each point along the route. Notice all the Lego he has in the drawer under his bed.

Meanwhile, pursuing a different kind of intellectual activity, Ted and Thom went out to the back yard and finished installing an RHC (Ring and Hook Contraption) that provides a way to pass the time as well as a challenge. The ring is attached to a cord connected to the post. You pull the ring back, let it go, and hope it catches on the hook. I tried it a few times and knew immediately that we’d be waiting a lo-o-ong time for me to get the ring on the hook, so I went back to holding Hadley.

For dinner, Thom cooked wood-fired pizza in their portable wood-fired pizza oven. Because it’s portable, the family can take it along when they travel in their Sprinter van. The oven reaches approximately 750 degrees and a pizza can be cooked in about two minutes. Unfortunately, Thom was reaching for something and bumped the back of his elbow on the oven chimney. The result was a pretty bad burn. You can see the bandage on his arm. Aside from that, you can’t go wrong with pizza for dinner–especially wood-fired pizza.

We’re having such a good time with our family, we’re already looking forward to our next visit.

I’ve mentioned before how much I’m enjoying the little hibiscus tree I bought for the summer. It was worth every penny for the joy it brings with its daily blooms. The blooms only last one day, but it’s always covered with buds. They begin to open when the sun rises and they begin to close at dusk. The following day, they self-deadhead and drop to the ground. We usually have 4-6 blooms at a time but, one day, we had eight and today we set a record of nine blooms. I’m planning to buy another hibiscus tree next spring.

It’s been a cool, wet spring around here. Normal high temperatures should be in the 80s by now–and every now and then we actually get a day in the 80s. I’m such a sucker, I fall for it every time and say, “Spring is probably here for real now,” and then the temperatures drop into the upper 50s and lower 60s for highs, and the rains return. This will be one of those years that we go from winter to summer–suddenly it will be hot every day without the gradual warming of March, April, and May. The April 20 frost finished off all the spring-blooming trees, but the rain we’ve been getting has been good for the summer flowers. Our yard is looking flower-y cheerful these days.

The roses have been blooming for a few days, but I had to wait for the rain to stop to take pictures. The knockout roses are looking good.

The carpet roses are bushier than usual–maybe thanks to the rain.

This group of roses was gorgeous about five days ago but, again, I had to wait for the rain to stop to get a decent picture.

The poolside dahlias are becoming bushy.

The day lilies will bloom all summer, but the first blooming always has the most flowers at one time.

My favorites are the hibiscus tree and the marigolds. I love seeing these while I’m working at the kitchen sink.

The snapdragons will provide a variety of color in front of the hydrangea bush, which will bloom in two or three weeks.

Maybe it takes winter to make the spring and summer colors look so good. I’m loving it.

In 2018, an anonymous person planted some iris on the common ground area closest to our house. The flowers were a pleasant surprise when I took my daily walk and I’ve been looking forward to them every spring since 2018. At first, the iris looked like this photo. The arrow shows where the planting stopped–at the fourth rock.

Last year, I noticed some additional iris plants at the next two rocks. This year, the bed is expanding even more. The turquoise arrow shows one of the 2020 additional plants–a white iris. The green arrow shows a new 2021 iris (not blooming), and the orange arrow shows something different: a little shrub. The yellow arrow points to where the floral display now ends–at the eleventh rock. I wonder if the plan is to eventually plant something at every rock.

Here’s a closer look at the new shrub. I assume the gardener painted the top of the stake red so the grounds crew wouldn’t mow the little bush. It’s not blooming, but I hope it will be a blooming bush. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, the original purple iris at the first four rocks continue to thrive and I continue to enjoy them when I walk by.

Three years ago, we planted an arborvitae hedge. The trees on each end are doing very well, but the trees in the middle don’t want to grow. One tree died in the first year and was replaced under the warranty, but now we have four trees in the center area that are failing. The difference in size between the trees on the ends and those in the middle is obvious. You can’t see between the end trees, but there’s lots of space between the stubby center ones–just where we want the privacy. The trees were all planted at the same time except for the totally brown one, which was replaced after the first year. The replacement lasted about 18 months. That spot in the ground has now killed two trees in three years. When we ordered this round of replacements, the landscaper suggested having the crew overdig the holes and put in new soil.

The landscaper’s suggestion made us think a soil test might be a good idea. I thought we’d have to go through the county extension service, or at least a nursery, to get an expert to perform a soil test. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but when I searched online for someone to do a soil test, I discovered that soil test kits are available at–where else?–Wal-Mart.

This is the stuff included in the testing kit. As I set out the instructions, the soil samples, the test tubes, the chemistry tablets, the distilled water, and the color chart, I felt like Bill Nye the Science Guy. All I needed was safety goggles. It brought back memories of high school chemistry class when we did experiments on Fridays.

Soil testing isn’t hard, but it’s definitely time-consuming. It took me about four hours to test six soil samples. The results showed that our troubled center section of arborvitae trees could use some pH and a lot of nitrogen, and our magnolia trees could also benefit from some nitrogen. Ted bought some nitrogen and treated the magnolia trees. The landscaper’s plan to add new soil might solve the arborvitae problem, but I guess we’ll have to test the new soil to find out.

It’s time for the Dr. D Spring Award. One of the reasons I love spring in Missouri is because we have so many blooming trees. There’s beauty wherever you drive in the spring. This year, I had more than the usual number of contestants because not many trees were affected by the late frost.

I don’t know what kind of tree this is, but there are a lot of them in the area and they have very thick white flowers. You can see a redbud peeking over the white tree.

Here’s a flowering crabapple tree.

The white dogwoods are always pretty, especially when they are sprinkled throughout a wooded area.

Pink dogwoods are gorgeous. I’m not crazy about the setting, but this is a beautiful pink dogwood.

This is another flowering crabapple tree. The color is so vivid!

The judge’s (my) decision was really tough this year. I finally decided to include a new category and named this stunning star magnolia the first runner-up in this year’s spring show.

For the first time, the winner is a group of trees. It was a tough decision, but the color and scope these redbuds display to passers-by (and my love of redbuds) gave this group the edge to be named this year’s best display. Presenting . . . the Dr. D Spring Award.

As Ted and I were taking our walk one day, we noticed fossil imprints in the concrete. We identified them as leaf imprints from ancient oak and maple trees.

Ted and I estimated these fossil imprints to be at least 15-20 years old, dating back to the last time the street was repaired with new concrete.

Before–March 7.

After–March 14.

Ten consecutive days of warm, sunny weather have added signs of spring to Ted’s and my walking route: green-again grass, tulips and daffodils beginning to bud, one patch of daffodils in full bloom, magnolia trees budding and beginning to bloom, and red maples dropping their red blossoms on the streets where we walk.

Spring is the best!

Oh, happy day! It’s definitely spring. Temperatures are in the 60s and Ted and I saw tulips along our walking route.

Ted made a trip to the hardware store this afternoon and he also made an unscheduled stop to buy me his traditional spring gift. He knows how much I love spring. There are six yellow tulip buds in the pot and I’m looking forward to every one of them.

Is it any wonder I keep hanging out with this guy?

Last week, Ted and I decided to bike the Busch Greenway, which starts in the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area (recently re-populated with raccoons and opossums) and passes through the MO Research Park (where Ted used to work) before connecting with the Katy Trail. Although we’ve biked this trail before, we always see new things. This time is was wild turkey nests and an odd tree.

Our bike rides are always interesting.

We had above-average rainfall all year through September. To comfort us, the experts told us we’d have beautiful fall foliage as a result of all the rain. They were right. The fall colors this year are stunning! The reds are brilliant and the yellows are bright. It’s been a delight to see so much gorgeous color wherever we go.

From our back yard, we can admire these colors in the yards of the three neighbors behind us.

Biking through the neighboring subdivisions, we saw these.

And this red, red, red, display was in a nearby restaurant parking lot.

When we went to Pilates at the community college last week, we saw “Camelot trees.” One of the songs from Camelot includes the words:

Well, here’s how it looks when the leaves fall in neat little piles. They will probably blow away tonight.

P.S. When the redbuds were gloriously blooming one spring, I mentioned that I think nearly everyone in the metro area planted at least one redbud tree in their yard. With the burning bushes so obviously red this year, I’d like to add that I think everyone in the metro area planted at least one redbud tree and at least two burning bushes in their yard.

Ted and I saw this pretty maple tree on our bike ride today. There’s a Canadian goose standing on some wood in the lake and there was a blue heron doing the same thing just to the right of my photo, but he flew away while I was getting off my bike. I miss our maple tree.

Ted and I like having flowers around our patio–especially some marigolds to keep bugs away so we can sit outside and enjoy the summer weather.

We had our landscape mulch replaced with lava rocks and a heavy weed-resistant tarp. We didn’t want to move the rocks aside and cut holes in the tarp to plant flowers (and let the weeds through), so we looked for planters that would be low enough for the irrigation system to do the watering work for Ted. We had no luck, and decided to try storage boxes at the bargain price of two for $4.00 at Wal-Mart. We drilled some drainage holes in the bottoms, added potting soil and plants, and put the box covers underneath to catch excess water and escaping soil. The idea turned out very well. Now that we know it works, we’re going to build or buy more attractive frames next year and we might even drop the storage boxes into the frames.

The flowers are pretty enough that they attracted a butterfly that hovered over them for about 20 minutes while I watched it.

I am not a gardener. All the credit for flower care in our yard goes to Ted. The only thing I like about gardening is looking at the flowers.

For the 10 years we’ve had this plant, I thought it was a rhododendron. Thanks to Katie for educating me and pointing out the differences between rhododendrons and hydrangeas. Our hydrangea plant is especially pretty this year.

In 2018, I was excited to see anonymously planted irises on a common ground near our house; in 2019, I designated an unusual redbud tree as a special sign of spring. This year, the designated “Dr. D Spring Award” goes to the fullest, pink cherry tree I’ve ever seen. Beautiful!

Ted and I went out to lunch last week. At the doorway to the restaurant, we saw daffodils. Yes! The hard, cruel winter is nearly over. This is coming from someone who spent half of the winter season in a warm climate. Not to mention that NOAA reported we’ve just had the warmest winter on record. Still, daffodils. Spring is my favorite season.

The entire island of Komodo, Indonesia is a national park, and the main attraction of the park is its wildlife. The ground in the park is very dry and dusty, and the vegetation cannot be described as “verdant.” The island receives an average of four inches of rain per year. Given all this, how can it be so humid?

The picture below is a typical view in the park.

The solitary tree in the photo below (a type of palm) grows only once, meaning that it sprouts, matures, produces fruit, and dies. Its life cycle is about 35 years. This tree is in the fruit stage.

One kind of tree has thorns along one edge of its branches.

In this picture, you can see the stone-bordered path that we were required to stay on.

Komodo is an island, so there are beaches. One of today’s excursions was a visit to the pink coral beach, but Ted and I chose to go to the national park.

We saw a variety of the park’s famous wildlife. Beginning with the least dangerous and working up to the most dangerous, we saw a large beehive (the dark splotch on the tree trunk). The bees provide honey for the animals.

Look carefully in the shade of the trees just to the right of center in this picture and you’ll see a Timor deer lying on the sand. Komodo is in the Timor Sea.

The park rangers call this path the “animal highway.” It is a main route to the largest watering hole in the park. The dark object in the middle of the highway (left photo) is a sitting wild boar facing us. We stayed quiet, the boar got “boar-ed” (insert groan here), and you can see it walking away from us in the right photo.

The biggest wildlife attraction in the park is the Komodo dragon, which exists only on four Indonesian Islands, including Komodo. The dragons are a combination of snake and crocodile and are very dangerous. They can grow to 8-10 feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds. One of the large ones in the photos below is about 35 years old.

Komodo dragons can take down animals as large as a water buffalo and can move very quickly for short distances. Their teeth have the ability to re-grow if they are broken from hunting or eating. The saliva of the Komodo dragon contains fourteen kinds of poisonous bacteria, and they kill by attacking with their teeth, injecting their prey with saliva. It can take as long as two weeks for the bacteria to take down a large animal.

Because the dragons are so dangerous, a tour guide wasn’t enough; two experienced park rangers were with us to keep us safe from the wildlife. When the rangers spotted some dragons (they camouflage themselves very well and look like logs), one ranger took a stick and drew a circle around them about twenty feet from where they lay in the dirt. We were warned not to cross that line because the dragons have a keen sense of smell and would attack us if they felt threatened.

There are five dragons in this picture. They are arranged in a triangle (not deliberately, but for my descriptive purpose). Three are piled on each other (like puppies?) at the upper left of the triangle, one is on the left of the large center tree trunk, and one is at the front corner of the triangle. The long brown splotch to the right of the tree trunk is a tree root. From a distance, you can’t be sure: tree root or Komodo dragon?

There are also five dragons in this picture: two piled together in the front, one behind them beside the tree, and two more snuggled together off to the right.

Naturally, as we left the park, the path took us through the market, aka gift shop. The vendors are very aggressive as they try to sell their wares. I thought we were safe after getting through this tent, but the path zigzagged back twice more and we had to go through two more markets.

It was hot in Komodo. Eighty-eight degrees and 300% humidity (or so it seemed). We were in the shade throughout the park, but in our 45-minute walk through the park, Ted and I drank four bottles of water and didn’t have to pee. We were fortunate. One man collapsed from the heat and was carried out on a stretcher and immediately transported back to our ship. Two other people in our group left the park in wheelchairs because of heat exhaustion. I believe there were seven or eight groups of people who chose to participate in this excursion, and I assume people in other groups had some heat issues as well.

Waiting for the tender was worse. With only our umbrellas to provide shade, we stood in line on a concrete pier for about 30 minutes before we could board the tender to return to our ship. Some people farther ahead in the line waited nearly an hour as the blazing sun was reflected off the concrete and water. Everyone we’ve spoken with about this excursion enjoyed it, but everyone admits they’ve never been so hot and have never sweated so much in their lives. My suggestion: group us by tender-loads on shore in the shade of the trees. When the tender arrives, send us out onto the fiery pier a group at a time.

The day ended beautifully on our stateroom balcony. Ted thought the sunset was so pretty, he took a picture. Then it got better, so he took another one. We both think it’s the most beautiful sunset we’ve ever seen.

It’s fall, so once again, I’m enjoying some little traditions in the neighborhood.

Our sugar maple tree becomes a colorful lawn ornament.
Our neighbor’s maple tree does its three-stage process. First the top turns color. When the upper leaves begin to fall (they’re doing it now), the middle band turns color. When they fall, the lower third turns color (it’s still greenish at the bottom). When the bottom leaves fall, the tree is ready for winter.
Every fall, Kari and Ted wax her car together. They just finished, and the van’s paint is protected for the winter.

Ted bought me a bouquet of a dozen pink and white roses. The pink ones opened normally, but the white ones kept opening, and opening, and opening, . . . They were huge! Out of curiosity, I measured them with a ruler. The pink ones were a normal 2.5 inches, but the white ones were a little more than 5 inches in diameter. They are definitely the largest roses Ted has ever brought me. I guess his love for me is still growing.

Last spring, I noticed some anonymously planted iris along the road a short distance from our house. Since irises are very prolific, I looked forward to seeing even more purple blooms this year, and I was well rewarded.

Last year’s irises.
This year’s irises.

The rock barrier along the road borders a large common ground with a lake. In addition to these four iris-decorated rocks, I noticed that the next four rocks also have irises planted near them. They are not blooming, but I hope to see an extended floral display next spring. Thank you to whoever is sharing the joy of spring flowers in our subdivision.

What a beautiful spring we’re having–lots of rain, and no late frosts. Everything is blooming so well, and the blooms are lasting a long time. Our lilac tree is in full bloom now and it smells absolutely delicious!

Given the number of beautiful redbud trees in full bloom this week, I’ve concluded that nearly everyone in the St. Louis area planted at least one redbud tree in their yard. (We used to have three, but two died.)

I’ve always been fascinated by a certain redbud tree up the street from us. In all the years we’ve lived here, it continues to thrive in its own style. Most redbud trees have a “normal” tree shape with an upright trunk and spreading branches, but not this one. Today, I officially designated this nonconformist tree as the winner of my “Most Interesting Redbud Tree” award. (There is no cash prize.)

I love to see all the blooming trees in the spring. It makes every road I drive a pretty sight. It also makes our yard beautiful.

We have another magnolia like this beside the driveway. They bloom beautifully, but they’re as eager for spring as I am and usually get hit by one more frost. Thank goodness, this year was an exception, so we could enjoy the blooms longer.
The sand cherry bushes around the pool fence are in full bloom now.
This is our redbud tree in bloom and two of three of a different variety of magnolias in our back yard that are just beginning to bloom.
The front yard magnolia and this cherry tree are my favorites.

Spring. It’s my favorite season, and I’m loving it!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day today, so Ted brought me something green. I enjoy his tradition of bringing me a blooming spring plant just before spring actually arrives. It helps me believe that winter is really nearly over.

The burning bush and the sweet gum trees in our neighbors’ yards are gorgeous right now.

Jeff is taking some very nice pictures with his new camera and posting them on his blog.  His pictures are inspiring me to look for interesting things to photograph, so when I saw this purple flower in the sun, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to experiment with my skills.

 

In real life, the purple blossoms stood out in brilliant sunlight compared to the surrounding shaded marigolds, but my cell phone camera automatically adjusted the lighting.  Now I’m wondering if I need a better camera like Jeff’s so I can take better, more interesting pictures.  The down side is that Jeff said the camera cost more than his first car.  Granted, it was a well-used car that he bought in the mid-1990s, but the question is whether I really want to invest that much time and money in photography.  Food for thought . . . .

We have lots of red salvia in our back yard, and it attracts hummingbirds.  While I was sitting on the patio reading a book, a hummingbird spent almost two minutes darting its beak into individual pods on the salvia bloom.  I wished I had my camera with me to take a picture of the quick-moving tiny bird, but I knew if I moved, the bird would fly away.  I just enjoyed the moment and watched it work.

Imagine a hummingbird darting around these flowers.

Back in May, when I was taking a walk, I noticed that a good Samaritan had planted irises around the rocks that border one of the common grounds in our subdivision.  We have over 70 acres of common grounds in our subdivision, and I saw no other irises or other flowers in any other areas.  I therefore assume it was not the Beautification Committee, but someone who lives in the area, who planted these just for the love of springtime beauty.  Thank you!  I enjoyed seeing these flowers every day they bloomed.  Given the hardiness and the rapid proliferation of irises, there should be even more beauty next spring.

This guy has been visiting us regularly.  We haven’t seen him in the water yet, so maybe he’s only sunbathing or looking for girl ducks in swimsuits.

I’m not imagining it.  It’s true.  We’ve had so many cold, gray, and rainy days since February, that we’re a month behind on spring.  The normal high and low temperatures for today are 67 and 47 degrees, but we had a high of 43, with snow flurries and a freeze warning forecast for tonight.

After snow last Sunday, we had two days in the upper 70s last week.  That was just enough to convince our magnolia trees that they should open their long-ready buds–a month late.  The blooms, however, are proof that spring is late and that the weather has truly been as crummy and as cold as it seemed.

Normal spring

This is one of our magnolia trees on March 16, 2016.

 

2018 spring

This is the same magnolia tree today, April 15, 2018.  The outer petals of the buds froze several weeks ago.  By staying closed, the frozen outer petals protected the blooms, but the color suffered.  They’ll freeze completely tonight.  Note also the rain-wet streets–again.  (But the grass looks good.)

It seems that spring has forgotten Missouri.  We had a few hours of warm weather this morning (a high of 73 degrees), but the cold front moved in around 2:00 pm and the temperature is rapidly falling to a predicted low of 27.  Tomorrow’s high is forecast to be 40 degrees–and so goes the rest of the ten-day forecast.  Missouri and I are not the only ones disappointed by the absence of spring.  I found this news blurb back on March 22, but the weather hasn’t improved since then, so it’s still timely.

Thank you, National Weather Service, for observing meteorological seasons, making today the first day of spring.  I love spring!

Ted knows that winter is my least favorite season, and he also knows how much I look forward to spring.  He has established a tradition of bringing me budding bulbs each year as soon as they are available in the stores so that I have spring flowers before the weather is really ready for them.  This year, he brought me some powerful, magic tulips.

It was winter when I put the tulips in the window this morning . . .

. . . and by afternoon, the snow was gone.  Magic!

Look what I saw outside today.  “It must be spring!” said the woman who dislikes winter.  Pay no attention to that man on TV who forecast snow for later this week.

 

Today was Ted’s and my first day of what Utah tourism calls “the best week of your life.”  It’s a seven-day road trip that includes Utah’s “Mighty 5″® national parks–Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches.  Ted and I are including Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument in our itinerary.  The best week of our life includes driving the All-American Highway, Utah SH 12, which is so beautiful, it’s a destination in itself.  (Really.)  We’re looking forward to starting that tomorrow morning.

Today, we spent over five hours hiking in Zion National Park.  We started by following the Emerald Pools Trail to see three emerald pools-so named because at certain times of the year, the algae in the pools makes them look green.  As pools go, they weren’t very impressive, but in Zion NP, there is no such thing as a bad view, so we saw nothing but spectacular scenery during the entire time we hiked and rode the shuttle through the park from stop to stop (no private vehicles allowed from March 1-October 31).

The steep red cliffs in Zion are a result of the uplift associated with the creation of the Colorado plateaus that lifted the region 10,000 feet 13 million years ago.  The canyon itself was created by the Virgin River.  The stone cliffs are mostly sandstone, which erodes quite easily, so maybe that’s why the walls are so vertical and form a canyon far more narrow than that of the Grand Canyon.  The cliff walls rise 6,000 feet above the canyon floor and are breathtaking.  It’s probably impossible to take a bad picture in Zion, so scroll down and enjoy some of Ted’s and my favorite scenes from our hike today.

We gave our new hiking shoes and trekking poles a good workout.  It’s great to be our age and buying items like that!

 

There are no words to describe the grandeur and impressive size of the rocks in Zion NP.

 

Definition of a pool:  a small area of still water.  Here is a view of the first Emerald Pool from a higher point on the trail to the second pool.  All three pools definitely fit the “small” part, although they were larger than puddles.

 

The fall colors are at their peak in Zion.  I think some of these pictures are pretty enough to put on a calendar.

 

Ted and I thoroughly enjoyed the Grand Canyon, but we agree that it ranks second to Zion for grandeur, majesty, and just plain natural beauty.  Imagine our pleasure hiking through all of the above scenes today.  Mm-mm good!

Identifying plants

The Sonoran Desert surpasses all other North American deserts in lushness and in variety of life, even though it is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent.  The pictures below are some of the plants I’ve learned to recognize.

Here is a picture of one of the seven varieties of cholla (cho’-yah) cactus.  This one is the teddy bear type because it looks soft and cuddly.  Prickly pear are on each side, and the tall spire is a young saguaro cactus.

This is a close-up of a jumping cholla.  You can see how the dried stalk would break at a joint and “jump” onto you if your clothing brushed against it.

Here’s a barrel cactus with some drying blooms.

Look at that network of protective thorns the barrel cactus puts around itself!

This is an ocotillo (oh-koh-tee’-oh) cactus.

Here’s a close-up of the ocotillo’s vicious thorns.  The ocotilla sprouts leaves within days after a rainstorm, then drops them as the moisture disappears.

The bushes with the tiny green leaves on each side of the prickly pear are creosote.  Creosote can leave black marks on your pants legs if you brush against it.  I didn’t brush against any creosote, but I touched a prickly pear thorn very, very gently to test its sharpness, and it pierced the skin on my fingertip.  Yikes!  Those thorns are really sharp!

The large, multi-spired plant in the center is an organ pipe cactus.  The low, whitish one in the foreground is an agave.  Agave roots are used to make tequila.

The palo verde (green stick) tree looks very lacy, probably because of its tiny leaves.

The palo verde got its name because all of it is green–even its bark.

City gardens in the desert (this one is at a museum) don’t look at all like Midwestern gardens.

 

The saguaro cactus

Saguaro (sah-war’-oh) cacti grow only in the Sonoran Desert in California, Arizona, and Mexico.  Saguaros grow very slowly and might be only 1/4-inch tall after the first year.  At about 30 years, they begin to flower, and they might begin to sprout their first branches (arms) at about 75 years.  The saguaro bloom is the state flower of Arizona.  Saguaros can live 150-200 years, reaching 50 feet in height and weighing 8 tons.  They are the largest cacti in the United States.

Saguaros must begin their lives under the shelter and protection of a nurse tree in order to survive.  This center saguaro is as tall as its nurse tree.  The one on the left is just beginning to grow its first arm (above the tree), making it about 75 years old.

Saguaro cacti can grow in forests.

Here’s another saguaro forest.  The accordion-like pleats of the saguaro cover a spongy center.  The saguaro collects water with a network of roots that lie about three inches below the desert surface.  When it rains, the spongy center of the plant fills with water and the pleats expand and flatten as the stalk swells.  A saguaro can soak up as much as 200 gallons of water–enough to sustain it for a year.

 

The desert is a fascinating place, but I’m a hard-core Midwesterner.  It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here.

This morning, Dan and Vernie took Ted and me to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum–a definite “must see.”  It’s an outdoor museum with paths that took us through true desert.

A variety of cacti are visible in this photo. The center plant is an organ pipe cactus; the lower center is an agave cactus (they make tequila from these roots); and just above the agave is the stalk of a young saguaro cactus.  I don’t remember the names of the leafy one on the left or the bare-looking one on the right.

The short plants are cholla cacti, but Vernie said they are called “teddy bear cactus” because they look fluffy.  (They’re not.  They’re sharp!)

The cactus on the left is called a “jumping cholla” because if a branch dies, it will “jump” onto your clothing if you brush against it.  It doesn’t really jump; it breaks off of the plant and sticks to your clothing.  How do you get cactus out of your clothes?  Vernie said you use a comb.  In the center of the photo is a prickly pear cactus, and behind it is a saguaro that is probably over 100 years old, since they don’t sprout arms until they are about 75 years old.

Here are many young saguaro cacti (no arms), some prickly pear, a cholla on the right, and the mystery (to me) cactus that looks like a bush of sticks.

 

There is a hummingbird house on the museum grounds.  I didn’t know until today that hummingbirds are found only in the Western Hemisphere, and in the U.S., only west of the Mississippi River.  (The docent admitted that with climate change, there might be a few hummingbirds just east of the Mississippi.)  Arizona has 18 kinds of hummingbirds; Missouri has one, maybe two kinds.  There are about 300 species of hummingbirds.

The hummingbirds fly all over in the hummingbird house and are easy to spot, but getting a picture is harder.  They move very quickly and they are hard to see when they alight on the dense foliage.  I got a lucky shot of this one.

 

Finally, here’s a photo of the people with whom I had a wonderful desert museum experience.

Our two tulip trees are blooming.  The one in my pictures is Paul–Kari’s fourth grade Arbor Day tree that she named for her Grandpa Schroeder.  It’s the only one of the four Arbor Day trees the kids brought home that survived to maturity.

A close-up of some of the tulip-like blooms

A close-up of some of the tulip-like blooms

The walker I inadvertently caught in my picture is apparently admiring the tulip blooms, just as I am.

The walker I inadvertently caught in my picture is apparently admiring the tulip blooms, just as I am.