How to grow Cactus from cuttings – propagating cactus – roots and planting

Propagating cacti is very easy.  First gather the cactus cuttings from the parent plants.    Make sure your knife is clean and sharp before cutting your cactus.  For paddle cacti a single pad makes a good cutting.

propagating cactus paddles grow cactus
items needed to cut and grow cactus

For branching cacti, be sure the cutting is taken from a joint on the mother plant. Cutting on a diagonal angle is beneficial to the mother cactus so water doesn’t pool on the healed cut.  Never handle a cactus with your hands.

grow your own cactus plants prickly pear
air drying your cactus cuttings

To grow a successful cactus you MUST let the fresh cutting callus over and heal.  Place them in a dry, warm place for up to 2 weeks.  The larger the cut surface is, the longer it needs to dry.  This may sound extreme but remember cactus are drought tolerant.  If you choose to use a rooting hormone make sure it is powder!  Do not let your cactus cuttings get moist or wet.

grow cacti and cactus plants
waiting for cacti cuttings to form a callus

It is easiest for your cactus cuttings to root during warm weather.  According to the University of Arizona, the best time to propagate your cacti is during August & September when the soil temperatures are warm and conducive to rooting.  Some shade is best for rooting and will prevent your cactus cuttings from sunburn.

grow cactus plants from cut
cactus plants form a callus over the cut

Pick a good container with drainage holes for your callused cactus cutting.

pipe cactus plants with roots
organ pipe cacti cuttings have healed and started roots

When planting your cactus use a well drained soil mixture designed specifically for cacti. Plant the cutting about 2 inches deep and pack the soil around the cactus.  I also use small rocks to help keep the cuttings from falling over.  Wait about 2 weeks to water; then soak the cactus well and let it dry out another 2 weeks.   The biggest problem for growing cactus is over-watering.   Too much water causes the roots to rot.

grow cactus plant from cut
Prickly Pear cactus plant from cutting

The photo above is a prickly pear cutting that I planted in well draining soil in southern Arizona.  I’m starting a cacti garden on a rocky hill using different species of cactus cuttings.

Cactus are dormant during winter.  Do not water a cactus during cold weather unless it looks shriveled.

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Honeysuckles made # 5 – in the top Ten Heat Resistant plants for Arizona

Honeysuckles love the Arizona heat and the hummingbirds love the honeysuckle.  Now that is a desert garden delight!

As long as I water this thirsty honeysuckle shrub it will produce abundant blooms most of the year.  The narrow, orange, tubular flowers give enthusiasm to the garden with their bright colors.

heat resistant honeysuckle
heat-resistant orange honeysuckle

Our orange honeysuckles are fast growing perennial plants that are low maintenance.  Care for your honeysuckle with regular watering and pruning to keep the growth under control. With 180 species of honeysuckles, genus Lonicera, you can pick from pink, yellow, white, orange, red, etc., flowers.  Honeysuckles belong to the Caprifoliacea family which includes all types of woody shrubs and fragrant vines.

When choosing a honeysuckle to grow, be sure to check the label as some varieties are hardier than others and can cope with frost.  Also, there exists a few species of honeysuckle that are considered invasive such as Japanese honeysuckle.

common honeysuckle
Japanese honeysuckle is considered invasive

Pruning tips for honeysuckle vines:  Prune your plant in later winter when it is dormant.  With pruning shears, remove dead blooms from your honeysuckle as soon as you see them.

honeysuckle
honeysuckle flower

Tree, fence, trellis or wall; honeysuckle vines will climb on anything to seek out the sun.

orange honeysuckle flower
orange honeysuckle flower

Our garden has become a very busy place.  It is October in the Arizona desert and our honeysuckles are still blooming.  What a joy to sit quietly and watch the butterflies and hummingbirds feast on the bright tubular flowers.

Honeysuckle bush
Arizona heat-resistant Honeysuckle plant
Honeysuckle and Salvia plants for hummingbirds
Honeysuckle and Salvia plants for hummingbirds, butterflies

These heat tolerant honeysuckle plants did well even in full desert sun as long as they received their daily water.

native arizona honeysuckle
Lonicera arizonica Arizona honeysuckle

In the photo above is Lonicera arizonica which is a native Arizona Honeysuckle.  It is a perennial vine or shrub that you find in the open at elevations of 6,000 – 9,000 feet.  According to Northern Arizona University, this native honeysuckle was used by Native Americans to cleanse the bowels.  Navajo tribes used the leaves of the Lonicera arizonica  to induce vomiting.  Can I eat the red berries from the Arizona honeysuckle?  Yes you can eat the berries but it will have a purgative effect.

Mourning Doves are building their nest

It is spring and the male mourning dove labors hard to set up his territory.   When this male bird is ready to mate, he circles in a courtship flight and chases other doves from the area he desires to nest.

To attract a female mourning dove, this determined handsome bird perches in an open area and sings a “passionate” coo sound that is louder than his usual call.

difference of male and female doves
Male Mourning Dove

The Coooo bird call is mostly voiced by the male mourning dove and not the female. Once he has charmed a mate, the doves pair for life.

To hear the dove’s coooOOO sound, click on the short YouTube video below:

Doves mate primarily from spring to fall but are able to mate year round and produce several clutches of young.  These love birds are tranquil and elegant. 
doves birds mate
Mourning Doves seem to be the true love birds
  **Unfortunately, the Mourning Dove Nest can hardly be called a “nest” – generally these beautiful birds just throw a few twigs somewhere and begin setting up their flimsy nest.
tan bird with spots
dove nest on our porch

The nest is constructed over the course of 2-4 days with the male and female mourning doves working together.

bird nest with 2 eggs
mourning dove nest with 2 white eggs

With a hanging basket on our porch, it didn’t take long before a couple of mourning doves took up residence.  AKA Turtle Doves have been known to reuse the same nest over and over. Commonly raising 2 – 3 broods per season.  Researchers found that the basics for constructing the bird nest are mainly instinctive, but birds can improve their skills with experience.

flimsy bird nest with twigs and white eggs
when do the 2 dove eggs hatch?

So, you spotted a dove’s nest with two milky white eggs.  When will the dove eggs hatch?  The incubation period for Mourning Dove eggs is 14-15 days. Then another 2 weeks for the squabs to leave the nest.

One white egg is laid in the evening, and the female dove lays the second egg in the morning.

dove bird nest two eggs
Mourning Dove’s Nest with 2 white eggs

The day shift is handled by the male dove and the female incubate during the night shift.  If you do not see the doves change shifts, it can seem that the same dove has been on the nest the entire time. 

***In our experience, we have seen the male and female doves change places around sunrise and sunset.

The dove chick, “hatchling”, squab pictured below is one day old.  Both eyes on the newborn bird are closed.

one day old baby bird
a newborn baby dove is called a squab
two baby birds in a nest
2 to 3 day old dove newborn

Males and female doves work together to feed their newborns crop milk or “pigeon milk” for the first few days of their life. The dove’s Crop Milk is rich in fat and protein.  Adult mourning doves secrete the milk and regurgitate it to their little ones.

The dove parent opens its mouth wide permitting the nestling to stick its head inside to feed on the nutritious food.

mourning dove in the nest
The Male dove daddy caring for his squab

How do you tell if the male or female dove is in the nest?

With a trained eye you will be able to tell the difference.  Male Mourning Doves have a bluish crown and nape, and a rose wash to the throat and breast.  The crown and nape of the female dove is grayish brown, and the throat and breast has a brown or tan wash.

dove nest with 3 birds
female mourning dove with her squabs
Mourning Dove Nestlings will fledge in about 12-14 days. The bird parents continue to care for the dove fledglings for about another 16-20 days.

**Please NOTE:   Doves are more flighty than other birds and may abandon the eggs or nest if you bother them too much.

Funnel Web Spiders are common in Arizona and the US

Funnel web spiders are known for their “tunnel looking, funnel shaped webs.   There are over 500 species of funnel web spiders belonging to the Agelenidae family.  This esoteric arachnid is very common in the United States and Canada.   These spiders are medium size with the females being larger than the males which is called sexual dimorphism.   Only the body length is measured when determining the size of a spider.

spider web that looks like a tunnel
Brown Funnel Web Spider

This distinctive tunnel shaped web is constructed close to the ground in the grass or low vegetation.  The web is not sticky; instead the strands slow down prey that walk on it and catches their feet as they fall through. The spider can walk on top of it and sprint out of her funnel to grab and bite.  Fun fact These arachnids are shy and come out at night to do repairs and work on their webs.  

funnel spider web
the web that looks like a tunnel

Funnel web spiders hide in their funnel.  The web is open at both ends, so this spider can run away if attacked.  We have several species of aloe plants which the funnel web spiders seem to keep occupied.  It is a fact that these arachnids prefer moist environments.  Once sexually mature, the males spend the rest of their life wandering in search of a mate.  Shortly after mating a few times, the male often dies.

Funnel Web Spider
Funnel Web Spider carrying a large egg sac

These female spiders build their tunnel shaped web and stay with it their entire life.  She spends most of her time capturing and eating prey; while building up her strength to mate and lay eggs.   This female arachnid does not search for mates, but rather, waits for the males to wander by and find her.

brown spiders in the garden grass
round egg sac attached to a female funnel web spider

Spiderlings that hatch out of eggs look like tiny adults.  They have to shed their skin (molt) in order to grow.  Spiders have exoskeletons on the outside of their body.

funnel web brown spider
spider web that looks like a tunnel

The broad funnel shaped web, looks like a tunnel ( see photo above ) and is made by the spider to connect to their burrow.  When an insect enters the web the spider feels the vibrations and rushes out from the narrow end to bite its prey and inject it with venom.

PLEASE NOTE:

The Arizona funnel web spiders are NOT the same as the deadly Australian Funnel-web spiders, Atrax robustus, and are NOT dangerous to humans.

If you were bitten by several funnel web spiders the venom could make you ill and you should see a doctor.

brown spider with long legs
Medium sized brown funnel web spider

Funnel web spiders have been mistaken for Wolf spiders.  When identifying a wolf spider remember wolf spiders DO NOT spin webs.  Wolf spiders are larger.

desert spiders long legs
large gray male wolf spider

I am not crazy about spiders and they make the hair on my arms stand up but spiders are very important to the ecosystem and health of our planet.

Fun description of a tenacious Bird of Prey…. the Cooper’s Hawk !!

Cooper’s Hawks are magnificent and ominous as they perch in a hidden location and watch for prey.  Occasionally, we see this raptor’s thick legs with large yellow talons clasped to a branch or fence.  The Cooper’s Hawk belongs to the genus Accipiter and is about the same size as a crow.

hawk with yellow eyes
Young Cooper’s Hawk with yellow eyes

In 1828, this hawk species was named after William Cooper, a New York scientist.  The scientific name for hawks is Falconidae.  All hawks are classified as birds of prey and commonly called raptors.  The term raptor means to take by force or to seize.

bird of prey hawk
Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk has yellow eyes

First year juvenile Cooper’s Hawks have yellow eyes and uniformly brown backs and brown vertical stripes on their breasts as pictured above.  These determined raptors are medium sized birds of prey that hunt by sudden dashes from a concealed perch.

hawk bird of prey
Adult Cooper’s Hawk with red eyes

Note the tail of the Cooper’s Hawk;  a rounded, long tail crossed by several dark lines with a distinct white band on the tip.

bird of prey mantling
bird of prey mantling

The above photo shows a juvenile Cooper’s mantling.  What is mantling?   Mantling is when birds of prey hunch their shoulders and spread their wings over a kill to keep it hidden from other predators.

hawk bird with red eyes
Cooper’s Hawk talons – claws

Check out those claws, talons!  There are four, sharp talons on each of the hawk’s feet.  How strong are Cooper’s Hawks talons?  The PSI (pounds per square inch) is 150-200 pounds.  An average healthy man has a PSI of 110.  According to the University of Michigan, the larger the bird the stronger the talons.  Raptor’s talons puncture their prey hard; usually stabbing a vital organ causing the animal’s rapid death.

The talons are opened by leg muscles and will automatically close when the hawk impacts an object; example…. animal or perch.  It is a reflex!

hawk bird with red eyes
Adult Cooper’s Hawk

This hawk eats mostly birds, but will also capture mammals including squirrels and rabbits.  The beak of a raptor bird is sharp and resembles the action of scissors.

birds with red eyes
red orange eyes of Adult Cooper’s Hawk

The older adult Cooper’s Hawks have tan barring on the breast, dark red-orange eyes and a dark cap on the head, like a flat top.

These raptors have excellent vision that contain 5 times the sensory cells per millimeter of the retina than us humans. How do these birds see?  Hawks refract certain wavelengths of light with the colored oils in their eyes.

bird of prey in arizona
Mature Cooper’s Hawk with Red eyes

Certain colors are intensified for the hawk at the expense of others.  The light filtration of the hawk’s eyes make the browns and grays of typical prey items stand out against the filtered greens.

Cooper’s Hawks build their nest in trees that average 25-50 feet high.  Southern Arizona contains several mountain ranges that host large areas of undisturbed forest which these raptors prefer.

 

World’s Largest Rose Bush right here in Arizona!

TOMBSTONE, AZ is famous for the gun fight at the OK Corral in 1881; but, did you know it is also famous for the World’s Largest Rose Bush?

travel in Arizona
Gunfight shows in Tombstone, AZ

In the Guinness Book of World Records you will see the largest living rose bush is a white Lady Banksia that is located in Tombstone, Arizona.

world's largest rosebush
Guinness Book shows largest Rosebush in Tombstone, AZ

The romantic story starts with a young bride,  Mary Gee, from Scotland who came to Tombstone in 1885 with her husband Henry.  Because she was so homesick, her family sent cuttings of the White Lady Banksia Rose from their Scotland rose garden.

oldest rose bush in arizona
World’s biggest rose bush
Guinness book rosebush over 100 years old
world’s biggest rosebush is in Tombstone, Arizona

It kept growing and growing…  Now, 129 years later, the cuttings that grew into a rose bush have grown into a 10-foot-tall rose tree that covers over 8,000 square feet and fills one square block!

Arizona's famous Rosebush
Tombstone, Arizona – Rose Bush

The rose bush has a massive, gnarled trunk that looks more like an oak tree. Beams support the high branches on this trellised roof of small white roses that grow in clusters. The Tombstone “townsfolk” stated the rose garden blooms in April and the fragrance smells amazing!

Rose bush in Arizona
Entangled Roots of the World’s Largest Rose Bush

When you travel to this famous Arizona mining camp be sure to take the trolley tour.   We learned so many facts about Tombstone that we didn’t know and that is how we came across this tenacious shrub.  The Rose Tree Museum tells the history of the “rose bush too tough to die.”  Contact the museum if you want to be one of the many couples that have taken their vows under the World’s Largest Rose Bush.

places to visit in Arizona
Tombstone, Arizona

Catch the Biggest Rose Garden in bloom during the month of April.

traveling in Arizona
Welcome To Tombstone, AZ

Visiting Tombstone before the hot summer months can make a more enjoyable experience.  Of course our favorite month is April because the Lady Banksia rose bush smells so gooood! 

 

What is the Mogollon Rim? – Northern Arizona’s Rim Country

The MOGOLLON RIM (pronounced “muggy-own”) marks the southern limit of the Colorado Plateau and is one of Arizona’s most striking features.  Rim visitors can stand 2,000 feet above the hot desert below and enjoy endless panoramic views from Mogollon’s rocky escarpment across mountainous abuttals.  Arizona’s Grand Canyon is among the top geological wonders of the world; but the Mogollon Rim is Arizona’s most staunch geological feature.

northern arizona place to visit travel
Mogollon Rim Escarpment View of AZ

The Rim’s average elevation is about 7,000 feet and it stretches across the Coconino National Forest.  Daily visitors arrive to see the expansive vistas above thousands of acres of the largest continuous stand of Ponderosa Pines in the world.  On a clear day you can see all the way to Mount Lemmon.

What formed the Mogollon Rim?  Geologists say this rock monster formed by catastrophic upturns and volcanism; followed by flooding and erosion during the Mesozoic Era.  This time period would be approximately 65 to 250 million years ago.  Important to note, Mesozoic Era started near the time of earth’s, well documented, mass extinction aka (the Great Dying) of non avian dinosaurs, most marine, insect and plant life.

travel Arizona sites to see Payson
Pine Trees along the Mogollon Rim

Along the rim, evidence of volcanic activity is prolific and commands the landscape.   Geographers have measured Mogollon’s volcanic, sedimentary rock bastion and found it to be over 200 miles long, reaching across Arizona’s Coconino National Forest.  The uppermost sandstone layer of the rim is called Coconino Sandstone and it forms breathtaking white cliffs.  This stratum of sandstone formed during the Permian Period, over 200 million years ago and is one of the thickest sandstones on earth.

Northern Arizona Mogollon Rim
Panoramic View from the Mogollon Rim

The existence of the Mogollon Rim explains various weather events, drainage and runoff patterns, alluvial soil types, Arizona floods, water recreation and irrigation.  When the warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico reaches the Mogollon Rim it rises up to meet the cold, drier Rim air where it condenses and falls.  Prehistoric cultures thrived and expanded due to the dependable water from the Mogollon Rim.

mogollon rim map chart trails
Map of the Mogollon Rim Forest Road 300 “Rim Road”

A popular scenic drive is along Forest Road 300, aka “Rim Road”.  It is labeled FR 300 on the Mogollon Rim map above and can be accessed from the east, near Show Low, or from the west, just north of Pine and Strawberry.  According to the National Forest Website, all forest roads are gravelled and suitable for passenger vehicles; but are closed in the winter.

arizona Rim Country

View Points and Vista Stops along Mogollon Rim

arizona mountain rim country
Cabin Loop Trail at Mogollon Rim

Forest Road 300 takes you along the rim’s edge with stops near historical cabins and trails, then winding turns through forest and highly populated wildlife areas.  Some travelers stand on Mogollon’s vistas and try to absorb its majesty;  while others spend a few days visiting local museums, learning the history and exploring the trails.  Either way, add the Mogollon Rim to your list of places to visit, it will leave you breathless!

Desert Monsoon weather, facts and details

What is Monsoon?  The word monsoon is derived from the Arabic word mausim, which means season. Traders fishing the waters off the Arabian and Indian coasts noted that dry northeast winds in the winter suddenly turn southwest during the summer, and bring heavy rains to Asia.

mexico arizona storm weather
summer Monsoon flow graph

We now know that these MONSOON, large wind shifts from dry desert areas to moist tropical areas, occur in other parts of the world including Arizona.  Strong yearly variations of temperature over land masses is a primary cause of MONSOON.

Tucson Phoenix Monsoon Season map
Monsoon Information weather chart

The monsoon weather in Arizona is not as intense as Monsoon season in Asia and India mainly because the Mexican Pleateau is not as high or as large as the Tibetan Plateau in Asia.  In Arizona, the monsoon process starts with the hot and dry weather of May and June.

Tucson, Phoenix, AZ Monsoon weather storm clouds
Monsoon dark clouds over Coronado Mountains

Most of Arizona’s humid air comes from the Sea of Cortez and the Gulf of Mexico. Our hot desert sun heats the moist air causing the familiar thunderstorm cumulonimbus clouds.

Monsoon weather Arizona storm clouds
Cumulus clouds, Monsoon thunderstorm

Cumulus clouds are a type of cloud with noticeable vertical development and clearly defined edges. Cumulus means “heap” or “pile” in Latin.  These clouds typically form when warm air rises and reaches a level of cool air, where the moisture in the air condenses.

If the top of the cumulus cloud reaches above the altitude where the temperature is at or below the freezing level, then precipitation from the cloud is possible. 

Arizona Monsoon Thunderstorm dark clouds
dark cumulus storm clouds Arizona

Usually by May or June,  our strong Arizona heat causes temperatures to soar over these desert land areas. The intense heat causes surface air pressure to fall, forming an area of low pressure known as a thermal low.

Eventually, the cooler and much more humid air over the ocean is drawn toward the hot, dry air over land. This moist air moving onto the hot land eventually becomes unstable and develops into thunderstorms.

Once this occurs and rain begins to fall, humidity levels increase over land, which only triggers more thunderstorms, now you have the Arizona Monsoon Season.

This cycle will continue until land areas begin to cool in the early fall and the monsoon gradually ends.

Dark Monsoon Storm Clouds Arizona
Thunderstorm cumulonimbus clouds

Until the late 1970s, there was serious debate about whether a monsoon truly existed in North America. However, considerable research, which culminated in the Southwest Arizona Monsoon Project (SWAMP) in 1990 and 1993, established the fact that a bonafide monsoon, characterized by large-scale wind and rainfall shifts in the summer, develops over much of Mexico and the intermountain region of the U.S.

Dark Thunderstorm Clouds Monsoon
Monsoon Clouds , Microburst cloud in desert

Rainfall during the monsoon varies with distinct “burst” periods of heavy rain and “break” periods with little or no rain. Monsoon precipitation accounts for a substantial portion of annual precipitation in northwest Mexico and the Southwest U.S.

Southwest Monsoon weather clouds
Monsoon Clouds Arizona

 

storm clouds Arizona desert
Sunset after a Storm

As the Monsoon storm ends the clouds change with red and orange shades on the horizon.

Pomegranate is One of the Healthiest Fruits On Our Planet

The health promoting attributes of Pomegranates put it in the category of “SUPER FOODS”. Pomegranate contains potent and unrivaled antioxidants called punicalagin and punicalin.  The juice of the Pomegranate has greater antioxidant activity than acai juice, green tea, cranberry juice or red wine.

healthiest juice to drink
Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate is one of the earliest cultivated fruits throughout history.  It appears in Egyptian tombs, Greek mythology and even in the Bible.  Pomegranate is a symbol of abundance and faith in many cultures.  Recorded history shows that over 2000 years ago Pomegranate was used to treat an assortment of illnesses.

Inside the fruit are hundreds of tiny seeds called arils; this is what we eat or make into juice.  The aril is delicious with a sweet, tart flavor that is high in vitamin C.  Pomegranates originated in Iran and are commonplace throughout the Middle East.  The unique flavor and exceptional health benefits are making it increasingly popular in the United States.

pulp and seeds of pomegranate
Pomegranate Seeds – Arils

Pomegranate Health Benefits:

  • Pomegranate has anti-inflammatory effects that help protect against cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Research showed patients with prominent carotid artery blockage showed a 30% reduction in atherosclerotic plaque after one year of drinking one ounce of Pomegranate juice per day.
  • Pomegranate is high in vitamin C and is a good source of fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin K and protein.
  • Studies conducted showed patients with memory issues that drank pomegranate juice every day performed better and exhibited increased brain activity on their MRI.
  • The antibacterial and antiviral properties of Pomegranate help reduce dental plaque.

Research and clinical studies continue to investigate pomegranates and their antioxidant effects. The experts state that drinking Pomegranate juice whole and unprocessed is the best way.

punica granatum red fruit
Fresh Ripe Pomegranate Fruit

The 2009 article “Pomegranate juice: a heart healthy fruit juice,” published in Nutrition Reviews states, “Observational studies and clinical trials investigating the cardiovascular health benefits of fruits and vegetables, attribute these effects to the combination of phytochemicals, fiber, and other nutrients in whole food intake, rather than the sole effects of an individual component.”

An easy way to eat the seeds, arils, of the Pomegranate is to slice the fruit in half.  Using a bowl of water, hold the half upside down and beat gently with a wooden spoon so the seeds drop down in the water.  The arils (seeds) are delicious alone, in cereals, or in your favorite dish.

seeds of pomegranate
Pomegranate fruit cut in half
cereal with Pomegranates
Pomegranate Seeds in Food Dishes

Before adding Pomegranates to your diet consult your physician.  The high vitamin K may counteract blood thinners.  It is always best to speak to your pharmacist or physician first.

Pomegranate is #1 in our TOP 10 Heat Resistant Plants!

The bountiful pomegranate tree is native to the Mediterranean region which has similar growing conditions as the Arizona Sonoran Desert.  Pomegranates thrive in the drier climates of California and Arizona.  As a matter of fact, in 2009 the first commercial pomegranate farm started in Arizona. This fruit tree seems satisfied with our alkaline soil and experiences no deficiencies!

punica granatum red fruit
Pomegranate tree

Although the pomegranate originated in Iran, ancient records show it is one of the oldest known cultivated fruits.  Biblical Archaeologists discovered fruit such as the pomegranate,  was much more than a food; it had symbolic significance for the Ancient Israelites.  The antiquated Greeks believed pomegranate juice was the “symbol of love”.  The botanical name for pomegranate is Punica granatum belonging to the family Lythraceae. P. granatum has more than 500 cultivars.  In 1769, the pomegranate was introduced into California by Spanish Settlers.

fruit of love pomegranate
Juicy pomegranate seeds

In the sizzling, sunniest area of our yard we now have five pomegranate trees, shrubs ranging from six months to six years old.  “Wonderful” is our cultivar and is also the most common cultivar for Arizona.  Recently,  we had record temperatures of 113 degrees F; with higher temps forecasted for next week.  There was some vexing over the younger plants, but it proved to be unnecessary.  We are delighted to report our Punica granatum flourished in the extreme desert heat!

leaves of the pomegranate
Pomegranate seedlings 3 months old

The adamant pomegranate is drought tolerant and does best with well-drained soil, semi-arid climates and plant hardiness zones 8 to 10.  The fruit is adversely affected in wetter climates along with the plant becoming prone to root decay.  Tolerant to frost down to 20 degrees F.  Easy to grow, this deciduous tree can mature to 30 feet; but it is more common to see pomegranates at 12 – 15 feet.

p granatum blossoms flower
bright red pomegranate flowers

The leaves of Punica granatum are glossy, narrow, lance-shaped and deer resistant.  The lavish flowers are bright orange-red with a fleshy tubular calyx.  Some cultivars are grown for their flowers alone and used as ornamental trees.

red seeds in pomegranate
white membrane inside of a pomegranate

Pomegranate fruit is a berry filled with seeds numbering 200 to 1,400.  The seeds are in a white, spongy, acidic membrane.  The outer skin is a tough , leathery texture.

red pomegranate
ripe pomegranate

HARVEST:

The fruit is ripe when it reaches its distinctive color and it makes a metallic sound when tapped.  Overripe fruit will begin to crack and the seeds will become harder.

pomegranate fruit
over-ripe pomegranate with cracks

EATING:

The easiest way to eat a p. granatum is to use a bowl of water to separate the seeds.  The seeds sink and the white membrane floats.

seeds of p granatum
sliced pomegranate fruit

Slice the fruit in half and then hold it upside down and beat gently with a wooden spoon so the seeds drop down in the water.

flowering desert shrubs red
Pomegranate is a heat resistant plant

Another reason Pomegranates ranked #1 on our list:

Blue Weber Agave is used to make the best tequila!

Texas is the third-largest market for tequila in America!  The tequila Blue Agave flourishes in volcanic soil in Guadalajara making Jalisco, Mexico the birthplace of Tequila. The volcanic soil surrounding Jalisco is perfectly suited for growing blue agave plants, AKA “Tequila Cactus”.  Over 300 million agave plants are harvested in Jalisco for tequila each year.

tequila blue agave plant
farming blue agave for tequila

Agave nectar and tequila are made from the sap of piñas, (the heart) of the plant. Although the agave shares a common habitat with different cactus it has a different life cycle and is not a species of cacti.  A mature agave has leaves 5-8 feet tall!  It has a lifespan of 10 -15 years, depending on the agave species, growing conditions, and climate.

agave cactus used for tequila
agave field for making tequila

Harvesting the agave is pretty simple:

  • The leaves are removed from the agave base.
  • The base is then taken to a facility where it is heated in a giant pressure cooker which gets the juices flowing.
  • This heating breaks down the complex starches of the agave into simple sugars.  (What is left of the baked piñas, agave base, can be used as compost or animal feed).
  • The extracted agave juice is then poured into either large wood or stainless steel vats for several days to ferment, resulting in a low alcohol content.
  • It is then distilled once to produce what is called “ordinario,” and then a second time to produce clear silver tequila.

There are many species of agave in Mexico, of which the blue agave – Agave tequilana weber azul – is the only one allowed for use in tequila production.  Blue agave is considered to be the finest agave in the world.

blue agave base
base of the agave used for tequila

The workers regularly trim the flowering stalks that grow in the center.  This trimming prevents the agave from dying early and allows it to fully ripen at the base. The jimadores, harvesters,  must be able to tell when each plant is ready to be harvested; and using a special knife, they carefully cut away the leaves from the piña (the succulent core of the plant).

If harvested too late or too early, the piñas, will not have the right amount of carbohydrates for fermentation.

agave for tequila
sexy harvester for tequila

Grown and nourished for 10 – 12 years in the red volcanic soils of Jalisco, Weber Blue Agave is harvested only at the peak of maturity to ensure sweet perfection!

Mexico has claimed the exclusive international right to the word “tequila”, threatening legal action against manufacturers of distilled blue agave spirits in other countries.

Although some tequilas have remained as family owned brands; most well-known tequila brands are owned by large multinational corporations.  Due to this, each bottle of tequila contains a serial number (NOM) depicting in which distillery the tequila was produced.

The NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) governs all processes and activities related to the supply of agave, production, bottling, marketing, information and business practices linked to the alcoholic beverage known as Tequila.

Tequila with a worm in the bottle is from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

worm in tequila
worm larva in cheap tequila

The worm is actually a larval from the agave plant and it indicates an INFESTATION and a product of lower quality.

The top 3 – Best Tequilas in the World are:

1. Casa Noble 100% Blue Agave Ultra Premium Tequila – is hard to get.

Casa Noble 100% Blue Agave
Casa Noble 100% Blue Agave

2. Don Eduardo Anejo or blanco Tequila

Patron Silver Tequila
Patron Silver Tequila

3. Patron silver Tequila – pricey but worth the quality

In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is straight without a lime or salt.  A large variety of drinks involve tequila; most famous being the MARGARITA.  This cocktail made tequila famous in the United States!

Here is the best Pomegranate Margarita Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice, store bought is fine
  • 1/3 cup Tequila  (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/8 cup Triple Sec  (about 1-ounce)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 ounces)
  • 12 ounces ice cubes
  • Margarita salt, optional

pom margarita

Directions

Combine all ingredients, except salt, in a blender and pulse until frothy and well combined. Rim glasses with lime juice using a lime wedge then dip in margarita salt, drop some fresh pomegranate seeds in the bottom of the glass and pour margarita mix over the top.

ENJOY!

 

Chevelon Canyon Lake and Ranch in Northern Arizona

When visiting Arizona consider a trip to Chevelon Canyon Lake.  This magnificent fishing lake is part of the Mogollon Rim and situated 15 miles west of Heber-Overgaard in north Arizona.

Chevelon Canyon lake
Chevelon Canyon Lake in Arizona

It is stocked with Rainbow Trout two times a year, in the spring and the fall.  Chevelon is a blue ribbon lake and well known for its trophy size fish.  Make sure you have your trout stamp on your fishing license and pack a variety of flies because live bait is prohibited at Chevelon Canyon Lake.

chevelon lake trout
Chevelon Lake trout

Chevelon Canyon Lake is in a very remote area in a deep canyon.  The drive is entirely on unpaved forest road that leads to a parking area.  After parking at Chevelon you have to carry your items; like a canoe, fishing or camping gear almost a mile down a steep road to get to the edge of the water.

Rest assured, Chevelon is one lake in Arizona that is never crowded. 🙂

chevelon canyon lake
Chevelon Canyon, Arizona Lakes

This lake sets at an elevation just over 6,300 feet.

Chevelon Canyon Creek
Chevelon Canyon Creek

Chevelon Creek flows into Chevelon Canyon Lake.  The surface area of this northern Arizona lake is 208 acres and average depth is just under 40 feet.  Some sections of the lake can reach 80 feet deep.

chevelon canyon
Chevelon Canyon in Arizona

During your visit to this gorgeous Chevelon Canyon area you may stumble upon some of the oldest ancient petroglyphs in the southwestern US.  So far there are over 4,000 rock drawings in Chevelon Canyon that have been studied and documented.

Chevelon Canyon Petroglyphs
Chevelon Canyon Petroglyphs

A large amount of the petroglyphs are unique to Chevelon Canyon only and date as far back as 3,000 B.C.

Growing Sunflowers in Pots – facts about sunflowers

The sunflower has a tall, thick stem crowned by what seems like a single giant flower. Interestingly, this flower is no flower at all;  but a constellation made up of hundreds of small flowers called the sunflower head!

sunflower in Arizona
sunflower in Arizona

Although the sunflower head resembles a huge flower with yellow petals and a brown center, it is actually the brown that is the constellation of flowers, with the yellow leaves acting more as a protectant to the sunflowers during the flowering and seed development phases.

happy sunflower field
common sunflower

The sunflower’s cheery facade plus its sheer height make it a wonderful plant that everybody will enjoy, either in the vegetable garden or at the back of a flower bed.

Sunflower in pots
Arizona Sunflower in a container

A sunflower can grow to become well over 10 feet (3 meters) tall and the head can become quite wide. Once open,  the sunflower head will start to follow the sun while it is moving across the sky.

species of sunflowers
Large Sunflower Head of “LEMON QUEEN” variety

The flowers in the center of the sunflower will then start to grow fruits, sunflower seeds, and after a while these seeds will loosen and scatter across the ground.

Once that is done, the life cycle is complete and it will eventually wilt and die so that the new seeds can grow to become sunflowers in the next growing season.

When growing sunflowers it is important to consider where you want to plant them because they will need full sun to mature successfully. Many people grow sunflowers close to walls since the sunflower can be quite sensitive to the wind;  but, planting close to a wall will unfortunately come at a loss.

sunflower with multiple buds, blooms

Sunflowers are sensitive to the amount of sunlight they obtain, and how much water required to optimize their growth.  Too much water may result in the soil loosening and becoming far too unstable to support the weight of the sunflower head as it sways in the wind.

wild sunflowers arizona
SONJA sunflower variety

Planting a larger grouping of sunflowers has the benefit of helping to stabilize the immediate area of soil and helps to create some barrier to wind damage. I put stakes into the ground close to the sunflower stem making sure it stands strong and stable on its own. Next, you can tie small pieces of thick string,  florist ties or velcro around the stake and the sunflower, thus helping them to support each other.

sunflower in container
sunflowers in pots

Currently we have several sunflowers growing in large pots.  Sunflowers do not do well if they sit in water so it is important that your pot or garden container drains well. You can use a layer of sand or rocks in your container. The garden soil you choose needs to be full of nutrients.

When placing your sunflower seeds in a pot, do not put them close together. Depending on the size of your container, space them at the minimum of 3 inches apart.

Typically, sunflowers, Helianthius annuus, require absolutely no pruning at all.

sunflower seeds to harvest
sunflower seeds to harvest

To enjoy the seeds of your sunflowers here are simple harvesting tips:

  • When the backside of the sunflower head turns yellow be sure to protect them from birds, squirrels and other animals that eat sunflower seeds!
  • Once the back of the sunflower head is brown it means time to harvest!  Cut the head off about 12 inches down the stem
  • Then rub the head using your hand and the sunflower seeds will fall off
seeds ready
sunflower seeds ready to harvest

extra tidbit:  If pressed, sunflower seeds will give you sunflower oil. This oil can be used for many purposes and ongoing research is mapping new and improved uses every day. First of all, sunflower oil is great in cooking and will give food a very mild but distinct taste, similar to mild olive oils. Sunflower oil can also be transformed into lubricants for engine parts and can even work as a fuel for engines.

Desert Bird of Paradise quick facts

Arizona’s well-known desert bird of paradise shrubs burgeon with vivid red flowers or delightful yellow blooms.  The red bird of paradise, Caesalpinia Pulcherrima, is our favorite and we have several constituting a border.

drought resistant shrubs with flowers
drought tolerant bushes with red flowers

This Red Bird of Paradise is a drought and heat tolerant shrub that relishes full sun with its lively red- orange flowers cultivating out of long, thin stalks.

drought tolerant shrubs
Desert Bird of Paradise with red flowers

All the Desert Bird of Paradise bushes are Perennial (only plant them once).  Pruning and trimming is standard since these desert plants are easy growers; reaching over 10 feet tall.  PRUNING your Desert Bird of Paradise

Looking for detailed information on the Mexican Bird of Paradise pictured below?

drought tolerant desert shrub
Mexican Desert Bird of Paradise with yellow flowers

Caring for your Desert Bird of Paradise:

  • Exposure: full sun,  gets leggy in shade and blooming is reduced
  • Water:  deep irrigation; twice a week while blooming; height & growth rate determined by water supply
  • Propagation: been pod seed, very easy; peat pots provide easy transplanting
  • Soil: very tolerant, needs good drainage
  • Hardiness: damaged at 32°F, with increasing damage as temperature decreases
  • Leaves: fern-like, normally bright green turning red in winter, sometimes leafless in winter
  • Range:  common throughout Arizona Sonora desert, Mexico and naturalized in Texas
  • Maintenance:   pruning every year; sometimes pruned to ground in winter, periodic trimming to keep it shaped
Texas yellow bird of paradise
Yellow Desert Bird of Paradise with long red stamen

More details for the Yellow Bird of Paradise shrub pictured below.

tucson texas bushes with yellow flowers
Yellow Bird of Paradise bush with red stamen

PROPAGATION:

Peat Pots are great and make growing and transplanting your Desert Bird of Paradise seedlings easy. Start your seeds indoors and when you are ready to plant simply put the entire pot in the ground. Roots will penetrate the peat pot and the pot disintegrates enriching the soil.

germinating seeds
dissolving pots for Bird of Paradise seeds

To germinate Bird of Paradise seeds,  soak the seeds from the bean pods (pods need to be brown) in water for 48-72 hours.  Next plant them in peat pots, barely cover the seeds.  You may prefer to use the paper towel method to germinate your seeds; if so, when a white shoot (root) appears, plant it with the white root DOWN. Cover the seeds lightly with damp soil.

germinating and planting seeds
planting the seeds from the bean pods

Bird of Paradise seeds need at least 8 hours of sun, but not direct sun; it will be too hot! You can start to give them a little more direct sun after the first leaves appear.

phoenix heat tolerant plant with flowers
Red Bird of Paradise shrubs with cactus

These resilient desert bushes THRIVE in intense heat and look stunning with cactus, succulents, Lantana, even Bougainvillea!

The best time to see the Saguaro cactus bloom

The saguaro, Carnegiea gigantea, is the largest cactus in the United States and native to Arizona. In 1931 the opulent white blossom of the Saguaro Cactus was designated as Arizona’s state flower. The best time of year to see these cactus bloom is April through June.

flower buds on desert cactus
large white flowers on the saguaro cactus

The Saguaro cacti mainly grow in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.  When a Saguaro cactus reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce blossoms.  Amassed near the ends of the branches, the green buds bloom into milky-white flowers. The Saguaro flower blooms after sunset and last only one day.

Arizona state flower
Saguaro Cactus Blossom

At the top of the flower tube is a compact group of yellow stamens. The saguaro cactus has more stamen on its flower than any other cactus.  If conditions have been favorable for the Saguaro you could see hundreds of blossoms on a cactus.

Arizona state flower
yellow stamen inside the Saguaro Cactus flower

Pollinators like birds, insects, and bats are attracted to the nectar that collects at the bottom of the flower’s 4 inch tube.  A Saguaro blossom can only be fertilized by cross-pollination.

Tucson Arizona saguaro blossom
yellow stamen inside the creamy white Saguaro flower

Only a few Saguaro flowers bloom each night and close by late morning; thus, giving a greater opportunity for pollination.

Arizona state flowers
white cactus flower attracts birds

This elegant desert pageant occurs for about 2 months. From living in this area, we have to say it is hard to decide the exact dates but end of April to mid June would be notable.

 Gila woodpecker inside the saguaro flower

bird pollinating the Saguaro cactus blossom

pollinated Saguaro Cactus red fruit
Red fruit of the Saguaro Cactus

Pollinated flowers form a vivid red fruit filled with thousands of black seeds.  The fruit is eaten and digested through which its dispersed throughout the desert.