27 August 2012

Phoenix (Thermostat) Rising

I spent a few days in Phoenix earlier this summer, and although it wasn't my first time to visit, I was amazed by all of the amazing (and drought-tolerant!) landscaping to be found. I'm no fan of 100-degree-plus weather, but I dare say the beauty made up for the heat. In addition to the cacti and agaves, the town was all abloom with oleander, Pride of Barbados, and even bougainvillea.

These pictures were all taken in the neighborhood where I stayed, which I recognize may not be 100% characteristic of Phoenix, but landscaping like this was all around town. And it was mostly all sun, all the time, but when the clouds rolled in, everything took on an ominous glow.

The oleanders especially surprised me, not only because I didn't expect to see them in Phoenix, but also because they're used as hedges everywhere, in a way you just don't see in Austin. Sometimes that works out pretty well...

...but in other places, they end up in spaces that are too narrow to accommodate them, and they get cut so far back that they're not much to look at...

...but in most places I saw, they looked like normal hedges (but lacked the characteristic oleander blooms):

I was also surprised by all the bunnies -- of both the fauna and flora varieties. First, the one with the white tail (one of several I saw), right in the center of this picture, facing away from the camera:

Then there was this cinnamon bunny ears cactus:

The Green House already has a regular bunny ears cactus (as mentioned here), but the cinnamon variety (named for the reddish-brown shade of the spine clusters) is less common and really special. Because cacti can sprout from a single fallen paddle, and some fallen paddles may have made it into my carry-on, cinnamon bunny ears may be making an appearance in my garden, too.

I had no idea that Phoenix would be such a showcase of drought-tolerant landscaping, but I took comfort in knowing that, even if our drought continues and Austin's trend toward desert-inspired yards continues, we won't have to totally forgo color.

By the way, Phoenix in the summer isn't ideal for a run -- I didn't even bring my shoes -- but I did manage to get a swim in, in one of the most amazing settings I've ever seen:

I still haven't mentioned why I was in Phoenix. That's coming.

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