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Travelogue Part 1 – Tucson

You may have noticed a slight absence of yours truly from the IMA blog line-up of late. Thankfully, Patty wrote a great review of her home garden to give some content to the Horticulture blog. And the reason for my absence? Well, if you must pry into my life and know every little detail of my existence then I guess I will tell you so you can get on with your life. I’ve been out of state, even out of country (And you all thought I was just out of my mind). I’ve been leaving on a jet plane.

In mid-October, I attended the Garden Writers Association annual symposium in Tucson. I had never been to the Southwest. It looked terribly dry and brown from the plane. It looked terribly dry and brown and gray once on the ground.

Over time, I grew more appreciative of the landscape.

And began to see the potential in the gardens. I of course wanted to plant things up a bit more heavily than the average garden appeared to be. And I was surprised at how often I observed irrigation being used in gardens. And appalled when I saw large areas of turf grass on life support. At least in the gardens individual drips were placed at the base of each plant to minimize waste. But I must say, I also saw many examples of water harvesting to take advantage of the rare water from the sky. I just think there should be more water harvesting and less turf grass.
There were of course great sessions every day, topics included sustainability for consumers and the green industry, global gardening trends, community gardening, improving photography and video skills, finding your sense of place when writing. I am a gardener first however. I wanted to see the plants. Bring on the tours. What gorgeous plants survive there, from the incredible expanses of saguaro cactus to the well designed private gardens, great plants were everywhere.
As I mentioned, after a bit I began to appreciate the landscape whether natural or created. The saguaros were everywhere. It takes around seven decades for these giants to grow that first arm. 70 -75 years!

A very simple form of water harvesting, planting beds in this community garden are lower than the surrounding soil so rainfall runs into the beds to water the vegetables (and a few flowers).

Container gardening works in about any environment.

Always nice to have some art in the garden.

And a place to lounge in the garden is delightful.

I didn’t know Opuntias could grow into trees.

I saw a roadrunner. Beep. Beep.

I love Opuntia ‘Santa Rosita’.

Saw a lot of Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage), a great fall bloomer here.

I can’t remember the name of this flowering vine right now but it was beautiful.

Incredible sunsets.

This is what I mean about a garden looking full.

A very nice planting at the hotel.

A visit to Native Seeds/SEARCH was revealing. They are doing amazing things with and for seed-grown plants that survive in the Arizona desert. Here’s the ancestor of modern day corn. First an out of focus shot of the tassel.

Then a shot of the silk that is now a huge mane of fiber at the end of the ear.

And here is a shot of their ‘Glass Gem’ corn. A total glamour shot of this corn went viral. This is not a glamour shot. The glamour shot looks like the corn kernels really could be glass.

Though I grew to appreciate the landscape and plants that survive the harsh environment, when I thought about gardening there I still wanted to plant heavily. Even using tough plants that design would require more water (but much less than turf, is that really an argument to use?). It would be a way of satisfying the desire for familiar landscapes while being more aware of the reality of living and gardening in the Arizona desert. It’s just food for thought. I’ve no intention of living there. The weather was lovely in October. I can hardly fathom July and August. Yes, I know, it’s a dry heat. But as someone said, so is an oven.
Next time, Travelogue Part 2 – Vancouver. There was an earthquake.

Filed under: Horticulture

3 Responses to “Travelogue Part 1 – Tucson”

  • avatar
    Anonymous Says:

    Can’t imagine a world without plants, rain, Carole King or Mary Travers.

  • avatar
    irvin Says:

    I agree.

  • avatar
    Patty Says:

    Wow. That sunset is AMAZING! Like something out of Nat’l Geographic. And I’m now intrigued by the gem corn…maybe I’ll have to save some room in the garden next year for a couple plants. Thanks for including the link to the history on it; cool stuff.

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