Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tucson GWA Symposium VI - Scott Calhoun's Tucson

Scott Calhoun plucked this image of a girl clad in a cactus swimsuit off the Internet for his presentation The Hot Garden: An Introduction to Southwest Horticulture. A 4th generation Arizonan, his family came to Tucson during the days of the Mormon Brigade. Eating roasted agave heads and watermelon at Christmas seemed good enough reasons to settle in Arizona. The raw natural beauty, a reason to stay.

Scott's presentation on the challenges of the bi-national dessert was full of love and good humor. As the owner of ZonaGardens, the desert infuses his soul with its spirit. Even though he wasn't on the same garden tour schedule as mine, his kindly voice seemed to whisper lessons about what I was seeing. Starting with the bigness of skies and openness of landscapes.  

There is a special beauty to plants that do not let the harshness of the climate be a death knell as witnessed by the magenta plumes of this Amaranth.  This plant has thrived since ancient times, sharing with us its special gifts of nourishing seeds and rich dye to color our garments.

Zinnias. Proof that simplicity can be as beautiful as the exotic. Clusters of flowers call in the pollinators.  

Yet, to be alone with a single bloom is just as enchanting. 

Its been a bit crazy since I got home- I need to send thank yous to the gracious gardeners who let us garden geeks traipse through their gardens. Above- the ingenuity in re-purposing discarded solar tubes to grow celery in the desert deserves a medal. 

A retired civil engineer and his artist wife opened their rather spectacular grounds to GWA. The rebar replica of a Saguaro cactus with a wren perched upon the arm, a charming ode to the landscape.  

Next to water, shade is a most valuable commodity. 

A birdhouse signals the homeowners are good neighbors. 

The snake is not real. The sense of humor is. 

The good natured frog tempted a kiss from a garden writer. 

Gardening in California, I grew up to be cautious about pots in the garden.  They tend to provide hiding places for snakes, scorpions and all sorts of not-so-fun gardening companions to play hide and seek with me. Seeing so many pots in Tucson- I needed Scott's lecture to lead me to a greater understanding of why their omnipresence in home gardens. 

The local soil varies between granite and caliche clay- nearly impenetrable compacted layers of soil and salt. To plant a 1 gallon plant in the soil in gardens he installs, Scott employs a jackhammer with a shovel- like attachment

The satisfied smile emerging from the garden shed seems a good place to end this post. 


  1. Good post. Interesting. Glad we don't have the snake population like other places, mostly in my pots on the porch are tree frogs and they symphonies in the early fall are such fun! xo

  2. Lydia,

    You are right. That picture in the cactus swim suit did turn my frown around for a second or two.

    Nice photos. I needed that this morning.

    XO Trisha

  3. Lydia,

    Once again, great photos! And what a wonderful conclusion to your travels through Tucson's gardens.

  4. "Ouch!" was my first thought when I saw the "swimsuit". I like that rebar saguaro very well. Those rugged lines are a perfect match. I like zinnias, too, and am hoping to plant more in the spring.


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