The annual conference of the American Public Garden Association in Phoenix, AZ was all the impetus I needed to head down to the southwest to explore the flora and public gardens in the area.  Although I was born in New Mexico, I have not spent much time down this way and much of the flora is a complete enigma to me. Since my flight arrived early and registration for the conference was not until later in the afternoon, I decided to swing by the Desert Botanical Garden which is situated between Phoenix and Scottsdale.  I wasn't terribly familiar with the garden so I wasn't sure what to expect but I was blown away by the displays and the collections.

The entry garden at Desert Botanical Garden with the borrowed view of a nearby butte.

Educational displays of native Sonoran cultures and the various eco-regions of this beautiful desert region seemed especially popular with the visitors.  Other folks were taking notes in the butterfly and wildlife gardens in an attempt to bring some of the incredible fauna to their own gardens.  Contrary to the impression I had coming in, this city garden was absolutely alive with wildlife.  I noted at least 4 different mammals including a jackrabbit.  The other 3 were new to me but I would assume all could be lumped into the varmint category.  Lizards abounded as did birds from cute quail families to hummingbirds and even a solitary road runner sprinted by.

Road runner in action - Wile E. Coyote not in pursuit

The real pleasure for me was the incredible plant collections especially the Agave, Aloe, and cacti collections.  These collections were concentrated on the southwestern US and northern Mexico species but were by no means confined to that area.  African aloes were especially interesting to me as they are completely beyond my knowledge.  It was fascinating studying the differences between the numerous species and while I am many years and much work away from really knowing them, I certainly have a much deeper appreciation for this lovely genera.

Aloe dhufarensis flower spike

Aloe dorotheae - a critically endangered species from Tanzania

Much like I have found in other good desert environment gardens, it is virtually impossible to take a picture that isn't stunning.  The strong forms of the woody lilies and the other-wordly shapes of the various cacti combine with the open, spiny shrubs and trees to creat drama around every corner.  Desert Botanical Garden's beauty is no accident of lucky plant placement though but instead a carefully constructed display destined to inspire and wow visitors.

The cacti collection is worth a trek to visit.

Incredible collections are combined with beautiful gardens for the best of both worlds.