Above: Opuntia and euphorbia garden, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix - ANDREW HARPER EDITOR

Indelible Memory: The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

When staying at a lavish Phoenix resort, it can require an effort of will to venture out. But the city offers numerous attractions, among them the wonderful Desert Botanical Garden. We arose early one morning so that we could explore before the heat of the day set in, arriving shortly after the 7 a.m. opening time. At this hour, we shared the gardens with just a handful of others, and the city, though just 10 minutes away, seemed to have evaporated into the clear desert air.

The map looks a bit daunting, with five major trails, but we completed all of them within about two hours. None of the trails is long or steep, and water fountains at regular intervals ensure that one can wander in comfort.

We strolled past countless majestic saguaro cacti, often topped with flowers and white-winged doves. Many of the saguaro are well over half a century old (they grow arms only after 50 years as a single column). Shimmering, leafy ocotillos and Seussian boojum trees stretched to impressive heights. Below, clusters of purple prickly pear and yellow-spined barrel cactus shared ground space with smaller species, such as pincushions and creeping devils, some of which were also in bloom.

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