GBFD Phoenix Botanic Garden

This sight welcomed us to the garden!

Something a bit different for GBFD this month.  The foliage in my garden hasn’t really changed significantly since December; maybe the foliage of some of the roses is a little redder, but that is all, so I thought I would write something about my trip to the US that I promised to do in an earlier post.

I was very fortunate to spend 3 weeks travelling from San Francisco to the North California Coast and then via the Sonoma Valley to Reno; then a flight to Phoenix and a New Year’s Day visit to Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer house and the Botanic Garden in Phoenix before continuing to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Chico.  A lot of travelling but it was all wonderful, I’ve never visited the States before and after this first experience I really hope to be able to visit again.

I will write about some of my impressions of Native plants in a future post but I think Cactus is a good subject for foliage day.  Firstly I should admit that cactus and succulents are not my favourite plants, I’m not someone who has a cactus sitting on their kitchen windowsill and to be honest I don’t really understand how anyone can love them!

However, the plantings in the Botanic Garden were fantastic.  For more than 70 years, the Desert Botanical Garden has been teaching and inspiring visitors from the local community and around the world, providing research, exhibits designed to help us understand, protect and preserve the desert’s natural beauty.

The Garden consists of the following areas Ottosen Entry Garden, Desert Discovery Loop Trail, Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail, Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail, Center for Desert Living Trail, Steele Herb Garden, Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail, Sybil B. Harrington Cactus & Succulent Galleries and Berlin Agave Yucca Forest.

We visited all of the areas except for the Desert Wildflower loop as it was the wrong time of year for there to be any flowers.  Each loop showed with naturalistic plantings the different types of desert landscapes.  The day was very warm, I hadn’t realised it would be so hot and had to borrow a cotton top.

The textures, forms and colours above are every bit as satisfying as any garden I know.

The whole garden was brilliantly designed; there were glass cactus at the entrance giving an interesting welcome to the garden.

Glass Cactus

I found it fascinating that for almost every plant group that I am familiar with in my Mediterranean climate there was a desert plant or cactus that was similar.  The plant world is truly a miracle, plants to fill every niche and environment.

Tall, like trees, Organ Pipe Cactus

I was surprised by some of the colours, I had thought cactus were all more or less the same green, but not at all!

I really liked the purple colour of these

This cactus looks as good back lit as any grass!

The garden was open into the evening and because it was the Christmas season some of the plants were decorated with lights.  All the other lighting was well designed to throw light down where it was needed but not cause light pollution.

Some fun Artwork was placed around the garden.  These took the form of giant insects which amused the many children and adult visitors alike.

For me this garden proved “Right plant – right place” really works.  All the plants were healthy growing in the conditions they needed and because of this they were beautiful!  Also plants needing the same conditions usually look good together.  I believe that sometimes when I’m dissatisfied with a planting combination it is because the plants are from different climates or environments; even Mediterranean climate plants from different continents don’t actually always work well together.

Agave macroacantha


I have an area of my garden (separated from the rest of the garden) on very thin soil exposed to the South; I have been wondering what I could do with space.  Not too tender cactus might work and I do appreciate Agaves but maybe I am learning some new things and what I should do is plant Things from the dryer parts of the Mediterranean.

I do hope you will join Garden Bloggers Foliage Day and share what foliage is looking at its best in your garden or foliage you’ve seen and enjoyed elsewhere.  Please just leave a comment with the link to your post.  I know that Alberto at Altroverde has some lovely photos of hoar frost which I’m almost envious of, but I am actually quite happy that it isn’t quite that cold here.




22 thoughts on “GBFD Phoenix Botanic Garden

  1. I cannot warm to cactus with its prickles and spines, but I do love our succulents. South Africa has Karoo succulents, which sulk and rot in mediterranean rain (Kirstenbosch keeps theirs under glass). Then the Little Karoo, just over our mountains, has mediterranean succulents. Including the March lily, which is absolutely not in any way to be confused with a cactus, but survives our summer!

  2. The shapes and textures of desert foliage are always interesting. I am particularly drawn to the texture and color of the agave…beautiful. I have often thought about visiting a botanical garden at the holidays or in winter just to see the difference compared to the warmer months. It’s on the list.

    Our foliage options are few in winter, however I was surprised how much I did find. Thank you for hosting!

    Wintertide Foliage

    • I agree about visiting gardens in different seasons including winter when maybe we don’t want to stir from the fireside! Although the desert garden was hot, probably in summer would have been unbearable to me, it was strangly magical being there on 1st January, I couldn’t quite believe it. Your ice storm images look like the glass cactus, amazing! Christina.

  3. Sounds like you had a great time…glad the States didn’t disappoint 🙂 I agree with you…I think cacti are quite beautiful in the right situation…but they aren’t anything I’m rushing to add to my own garden 😉 I have not-so-fond memories of picking leaves out of the Prickly Pear Cactus in my parents’ garden in spring…horrid!

    • We have a prickly pear (it’s called fig of India here for no good reasonas it comes from Mexico I think); I like the fruit but have to wait for the NG to pick them, he’s quite expert and manages to rid the fruit of all the pickles before he serves them. Christina

  4. I won’t be able to post this time for GBFD, but your trip seems amazing…I went to school in the Phoenix area and have family there..I love the Botanic Garden. If you ever get back to Arizona don’t miss the Sonoran Living Desert Museum S of Phoenix and closer to Tucson. An amazing garden, habitat and live zoo of sorts…lots to see in AZ…Grand Canyon one of my top places to visit on the Earth..oh and don’t forget to visit Sedona as well sometime N of Phoenix…can’t wait to see more of your visit and glad you enjoyed your first visit to the States…

    • Thanks for the recommendations for visits. The States are so large I’m not sure if we’ll get back to the same cities or even States on a second visit, but you never know and I’ll keep these places in mind. Christina

  5. Nothing is happening in my garden foliage or otherwise. A co-worker has suggested to me that I start a cactus garden because I live in the high dessert. I love seeing the blooms, but I’m not sold on the idea. It looks like you had a great trip!

  6. I think cactus are fascinating plants in their own environment. What a wonderful designed garden it looks so natural. Looks as though you enjoyed your break. There isn’t a lot of foliage in our garden at the moment that hasn’t been posted before, I’m afraid. Maybe next month…

    • Thanks for your comment, I think foliage interest is at least two fold; changing, as in colour etc. and the structural back-bone of the garden, I look forward to hearing about other things in your garden, Christina

  7. Pingback: About Gardening » Blog Archive » Wintertide Foliage – GBFD

  8. Hello again Christina, thanks for sharing your garden tour. Great images and to see plantings to a scale like this and with a blue sky above them is great. I’m not a huge fan either but am always fascinated by them at Botanical Gardens here (under glass).

    I can easily see why you liked the textures and contrasts here. I do too. I also followed your link to Alberto’s blog – fantastic images there too. I do love to see frosted grasses 🙂

  9. It is amazing the variety of cactus. I suppose here in the UK we just see the small barrell type ones people have on windowsills and even at shows they never get very big. I really liked the glass cactus so different. Thank you for sharing

  10. I never liked cacti either until I saw them growing wild in the US. Later I got to know the Phoenix area a little, though I’ve never made it to the gardens – or the Frank Lloyd Wright house. Your photos are wonderful, transporting me back there. That purple cactus is one of my favorites too, Bill grew a lot of it in his garden. Your trip sounds wonderful, and yes, you really must go back, so much to see, such vast and varied landscapes, I miss my trips to the US very much.

  11. Dear Christina, my post was early and now I am late, sorry, I needed a couple of days off to buy some new plants 🙂
    The trip you’ve made looks amazing, and even if I am not a succulents lover the ones in your pics are fantastic (probably because they’re on their natural place!). Anyway I am a big fan of agaves 🙂

  12. I visited this same garden a couple years ago and was equally impressed. The desert is a very different world from my own, and I had no idea how beautiful it is.The glass cactus by Dale Chihuly is astonishing. I visited in the afternoon and stayed several hours, despite the 104 degree temp!

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