Monday, March 23, 2009

Cacti and More at Boyce Thompson

Previous Post: The Single Best Thing at the Zoo
I linger over breakfast with my folks, so the sun is already far above the horizon when my Dad and I reach Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

I am hoping to find lots of wildflowers in bloom, but I can see that I haven’t timed my trip well for that, yet it appears there will be plenty of other things to see.

I’m marveling at the tiny hummingbirds buzzing around the flowers, so don’t notice the tiny hummer sitting on a nest hidden in the brush until a local birdwatcher points it out to me.

I’m quicker to spot the butterflies that flit about, but they are even harder to capture in a photograph than the hummingbirds were!

I REALLY like cactus blossoms and am delighted to discover an amazing one practically at my feet.

The whole plant isn’t even two feet tall, making the size of this blossom even more incredible. I flag down a maintenance worker who explains that this isn’t a native plant, but agrees that it is gorgeous.

Further along in the garden, the morning sunlight on the cactus gardens is gorgeous.

Dad and I spend a lot of time here, admiring the large variety of spiky plants on display. The textures are so interesting and intriguing.

From the cactus garden we wander along Ayers Lake and then up to a look-out with sweeping views.

Here we enter the area I remember most clearly from a previous visit – a steep canyon with walls adorned with cacti and other hardy plants.

A small river runs along the bottom of the canyon and a bouncy bridge across it provides great views of Picketpost House, the home of William Boyce Thompson, the founder of this amazingly landscaped place and its collection of exotic plants.

As we continue to walk along the river, an unidentifiable buzzing noise becomes increasingly loud. It sounds like a piece of electrical equipment running, but what?

I don’t recognize the sound for what it is until I’m standing under the golden canopy of a grove of South American trees in full bloom –

– and then I don’t need to look up to realize those blossoms are hosting what sounds like a million bees! The air itself seems alive and throbbing.

It’s also a gorgeous spot, the bright yellow trees framed by steep canyon walls studded with cacti.

I linger as long as seems prudent, given the fact that we have been here for hours now and I know my father (who has been very patient) is ready for a lunch break.

So am I actually, so we work our way past the historic farmstead with its magnificent climbing rose, around the eucalyptus forest and its Australian homestead, and through the rose garden toward the visitors’ center and the end of our visit. The arboretum, however, has one more visual delight in store for me: a magnificent display of brilliant orange and yellow flowers.

And I was afraid there wouldn’t be much to see this time!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Single Best Thing at the Zoo

Previous Post: The Biltmore

Every time a turtle tries to get on or off, the whole log rocks from side-to-side, leaving the remaining turtles hanging on by their toe nails. You can almost see the effort going into just staying put. (So much for a lazy nap in the sun!)

It is endlessly entertaining.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Biltmore

Previous Post: A Peek into the Ancient Past

The friends I am staying with live right along the canal, which is a perfect place for walking late in the day.

I love being able to see into the backyards of the more modest houses alongside the canal on her side, but I have to admit that the glimpse of the really expensive houses located across the canal in Paradise Valley is really intriguing.

Had we turned the other way when we reached the canal, we would have ended up in a lively commercial area with at least one great restaurant. Instead, we turned the other direction, which takes us to the Arizona Biltmore.

Designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Biltmore has served as a temporary home for celebrities and presidents since its opening in 1929. I’m not a luxury resort sort of person, but it is a beauty.

While I’ll probably never stay here, I definitely will be back for a drink someday.