Pretty in Pink…and Prickles

Jumping Cholla… (pronounced choya) prickly, poisonous, pains in the ass…or a pain anywhere you might come in contact with it! But, somehow, this time of year, you might say they are pretty? Late bloomers in the desert, they produce delicate, bright pink blossoms in the intense heat of June.

The flowers turn into fruits that form chains, thus, this fierce foliage is also known as ‘Chain-fruit’ cholla. The fruit is edible and was harvested, at one time,  by the native tribes who inhabited this area.

The flowers don’t seem like much from a distance, but up close, they are quite beautiful!

Like brilliant little bursts of fuchsia fireworks against a barbed background.

The cholla are intriguing plants that we have an eternal love/hate relationship with. Often, we find baby animals or birds, impaled on it’s deadly branches. There are actually stories of people dying when they have been alone in the desert, impaled, and unable to get off of one. The abundant spines are actually hooked barbs that hold on to anything that carelessly comes close! Even when you’re attached/attacked by a small piece, you have to cut the spines off with scissors, before you pull them out…I guess this releases some pressure and makes them easier to detach. But the affected area will swell and be very painful for a while!

So pics like this, always amaze us!…

The cholla are popular nesting nooks for the local birds- Thrashers and doves especially!  I guess they serve some useful purpose…plus you could eat them…and they can be pretty. So the lesson here?…

Don’t let cholla paranoia destroy ya!

Advertisements

Barking Up the Wrong Tree!

Humph… Things aren’t always what I imagine! I had always believed that Todd’s Backyard was an ancient cactus forest full of prehistoric plants holding the secrets of the distant past.

Perhaps this massive cholla helped sustain the Hohokum Indians that made their homes here.

Maybe this giant pencil cactus saw the Spanish Conquistadors and missionaries crossing the desert here hundred’s of years ago…. Or,  more recently, it could have been a movie prop in some of the old 4o’s Westerns that were filmed in this area (check out the ‘Westerner’ with Gary Cooper….or it could have been another actor, can’t recall off hand). It was filmed, possibly, right on these grounds!

Most of the cactus in Todd’s backyard are varieties of prickly pear, and cholla. They grow more like trees…with knarly, barky trunks- certainly, a sign of extreme age!

My bubble was burst last Friday, after talking to a botanist at the Desert Museum.

I learned that I AM OLDER than these barky, prickly,  scarred old plants! Ugh! Here I hoped I would have a fantastic tale of ancient history to weave into a great post….But I did get this out of it….

I may be old, knarly and prickly, and have a bit of my own ancient history. But like the cactus, I still have a little blooming left to do!

Just the Beginning

As I start my own new phase in life, Todd’s Backyard is lending me great inspiration in it’s incredible re-birth after a long rainy winter! The yard has never ‘lushed’ out  so soon in the season. It usually doesn’t look like this until July…

Now, this may not look like much to some folks, but the blossoming cactus are the star of the show….

And it’s just the beginning!

This is something we haven’t seen…two different colored flowers on the same plant!

The Buckhorn cholla, ready to burst with fiery fusha flowers!

And here it is…

The entire yard is ready to burst with color!  The possibility of  total dazzlement , is due to  all the rain that has  blessed the desert this winter. In the seven years we have lived here, this promises to be the most amazing seasonal event we have ever witnessed!

And this is going to be one of the most spectacular events….hopefully tomorrow night!

Can’t wait for all the incredible ‘blossombilities’!

I will keep you posted!

Jactus Fest 2010…Possibly the Most Awesome Blossom!

The Jactus popped last night…the first blossom of the season! We celebrated with our neighbors, George and Eileen and Todd’s mom Donna, as the gigantic cactus flower came to life!  The Jactus is an Argentinian Giant (night blooming cactus) that Todd bought in memory of his late father Jack. Three months after he planted it in a pot, it put on a flowery show that we had never expected. Last year, we only got 1 blossom. But last fall, Todd planted the Jactus in the ground… And it took off….

When Todd planted it, it was just 1 stalk about 20″ tall.  In one year, it has grown 4 arms and the main stalk is about 36″ tall!

It put out 14 fuzzy blossom buds. Here is a little example of how it grew in just the last 2 weeks!

The fragrance of the Jactus blossoms, smell just like an Easter Lily… We thought it was going to pop on Easter..But hey, 2 days later?…Just extends the  seasonal celebration!

“Jactus Fest 2010”

We felt we had to celebrate the moment, because the Jactus only blossoms at dusk, comes  full bloom at night,  and then, the  flower dies the next day.

And…..Amazingly, the awesome blossom lasted throughout the day to wait for it’s partner!

Now, we get to wait for the next 12 buds to come! Happy Jactus Fest!

The Jacktus

A little over 2 years ago, Todd’s dad Jack, passed away after a long painful bout with cancer. On the day that he died, Todd wanted to plant something in memory of Jack. There happened to be a cactus nursery, across the way, going out of business. At that point in the liquidation sale, there wasn’t much  left. Todd spotted the arm of some sort of cactus, just laying on the ground. It was about 25″ long. He got it for $25. When he brought it home, I thought that $25 may have been too much, but the nursery owner assured him it was well worth it!  So Todd cut the arm into 2 pieces, let the ends scab over and planted the top part of the arm in a pot. He left the other part laying down on it’s side in another pot. We called  it ‘The Jackuts”. Little did we know, that in about 4 months, it would put on a flowery show, more awesome than we could have imagined!

The reason we were somewhat stunned, was that the blossoms started out as little fuzzy balls.

The little fuzzles grew and grew….

Until one day, they just popped open, right at dusk!

The next morning, they shriveled up. It was just one night of glory!

We found out later that the Jacktus is an Argentinian Giant…A night blooming cactus.

The other part of the Jacktus remained laying down in another pot. Amazingly, it started to sprout cactus arms…not flowers. About 8 new little cactus grew off of that one. When they got to be about 5″ long, Todd cut them off, let them scab and replanted them. Now we have little Jacktus cactus all over!

The original Jacktus looks like this today…..2 years later….

It has 4 arms and, we counted 8 little fuzzies on it, that should blossom around June or July.

I know why the  Jacktus is so happy in Todd’s Backyard….Before Jack died, especially when he was so sick, he enjoyed sitting out on the porch and watching the wildlife and peaceful beauty. He loved Todd’s Backyard so much, and always reminded us how incredibly blessed that we were, to have such a wonderful yard! And then again, we were blessed to have such a wonderful Jack!

We miss you Jack….thank you!