Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cycling Through This Xeriscaped Dreamland

Wild yard w/date palms (Spring mode)

110F today, yay August in Phoenix! We're looking at about one more month of 100s before we start to see the cooler air at the end of the tunnel. Blooming Rock had a great post recently about Phoenix and xeriscaping, which is dry landscaping in the desert mode, and I commented that I seek out xeriscaped yards and other landscapes on my bicycle explorations around this hot city I love. In fact if you ask me what I love about this city, I would say: some of the carefully thought out cactus landscapes, spanning the spectrum from wild exuberant exultations of desert greenery like the one above, to the more arranged, structured, yet utterly characteristic, landscapes of this odd place, one of the hottest and wettest deserts on the planet.

Desert love

Desert Descartes

Imagine if the whole city or great swaths of it continued to develop these different approaches, a water-saving and glorious expression of local character. I still squirt the barrel cactus with my water bottle when I pass. I feel that they need it more than I do.

There are, as the Blooming Rock post points out, many green yards here, too, and I have to admit that some of the carefully groomed grass lawns of Arcadia do appeal to my midwestern roots. I can't help that. But the more decades I live here, the more my inner soul becomes xeriscaped, I think, and I am drawn to the plants of the Sonoran desert. My own yard is semi-green, with trees and citrus watered with flood irrigation from the Salt River Project (SRP) canals. I know we live in a desert where water is scarce, but as a result of the SRP, I actually get the water itself for free, but do pay a small delivery fee. If my calculations are close, I receive up to about 440,000 gallons a year to water my yard for free, based on the allocation listed on that site I linked. 

Intellectually, I feel that I would be more in harmony with the desert I live in if I didn't take the water. But I think emotionally I feel like the barrel cactus with the bike rider who goes by once in a while and squirts me with his water bottle: I'll accept every drop I can get. That's something I just have to work out. If you happen to see a cyclist having a tête-à-tête with a barrel cactus on one of the warmish August 110F afternoons I'm lovin, it's probably me talking it over with an expert.


  1. The first photo in this post is great! Lots of dynamic color moving about in it.

  2. The desert color palette is fascinating, and depends on scale, rain, and season--far away, dry, in summer, as from an airplane, it's brown, black, baked. Up close, in spring, or after rain, it looks like the first photo.


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