Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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If we were having coffee today in Tucson I would invite you to sit back and enjoy a cup of your favorite beverage while you tell me about your week. I am drinking iced roiboos tea and relaxing after attending our favorite food party of the year. The Tucson Botanical Garden is the venue for this culinary fiesta each February. Chefs, restaurants, caterers, distillers, brewers, and food providers of every kind set up stations to offer tastings to the guests. We pay $65 per person, then roam around the gardens eating and drinking, tasting our way though the wonderful options. The quality is outstanding since the purpose is to show off and find new customers. It works well for everyone. We always find a new place or product to try that we might not otherwise have discovered. This time we found an excellent Mexican restaurant we have not tried, and much to my surprise, there is a distillery making very tasty gin downtown Tucson. Who knew? The event lasts for 4 hours, but I believe I would burst if I stayed for the whole time. We lasted for about 2 hours before we called the Uber.
I am interested in your latest news about your writing projects. Some of you have inspired me to try my hand at writing fiction. I wrote another piece this week based on a photo prompt, and once again it was dark and disturbing. I surprise myself with these eerie, haunted stories. I plan to continue if only as a form of self analysis. I am discovering a part of my brain that makes up dark stories. I hope I will be able to make it create some brighter, funnier stuff. My fiction muse is stuck on horror.
I have started to write and mail correspondence daily. The International Correspondence Writing Month, #InCoWriMo, challenge involves people from around the world who send each other mail. It is much more fun that I thought it would be. Some old friends are sending mailing addresses, and I have collected some from the website. My most ambitious pen pal choice is a professional calligraphy artist in Florence, Italy. My handwriting is not that great, but I own an amazing collection of cards and stationary from around the world to send. I am using colored markers, and may start to do little drawings or write poems to the people I have never met. I am enjoying the process and think it is a good way to prime the creativity pump.
Tucson Botanical Gardens has been a favorite place close to home where I enjoy nature. A recent building project has enhanced the garden’s entrance and gift shop space significantly. Tomorrow a special exhibit will open called Nature Connects, Art with Lego Bricks. Sculptural designs made completely with Legos are on display in the gardens. The pieces came assembled and will stay in Tucson until Jan. 3. They depict animals and a flower.
To pay for the exhibit the plan is to charge all members $5 every time we visit during the nearly 4 months that the Legos are installed. We have maintained a couple’s membership for many years. If I decide to renew when my membership comes due in February I will only buy a single. I have in the past felt generous toward the gardens, but now that they are throwing the members out for almost a third of the year that feeling has passed. I have started to think about where I will go to take a walk in nature without any membership fees. I can think of plenty. Nature without Legos works best for me, so perhaps our taste in botany has simply diverged. In my opinion the plastic animals are tacky and belong elsewhere. Poetry in the Gardens has moved to the U of A arboretum this year, yet another reason to drop my membership. The garden is an asset to the neighborhood that I will miss…at least for the next four months. I think they could have thought of a more respectful way to treat loyal members.
Then Grow Down event is a competition held in the spring each year at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. This year the designers created spaces featuring native plants coordinated with metal, wood, stone, bamboo, brick, and glass. I liked all of them, but my favorite one was the most stark. The copper background wall sets off the large rain chain designed with metal bowls and colored glass sitting in the center of the garden. This installation won no prize, probably because there was no seating provided. The other two entries gave the visitor a feeling of private seating in an outdoor room. The winner has a wonderful water feature that circulates around the space creating a rushing liquid sound.
The third design used a theme of feng shui. The bamboo divider functions as a wind chime as well as a privacy veil. The seating is cozy around the artful floor with a stone compass made of rounded pebbles. This design felt the most personal to me. It won the people’s choice award.
These contests give gardeners ideas to try ourselves, and introduce us to local landscape designers we can hire when we want something special. The entries this year were less elaborate than in the past, but to my taste they were more artful. They all bring new ways to think about garden spaces that are easy to execute, and not too wildly expensive for a home gardener.
The second annual Grow Down competition was held over the weekend. Three designers had three days to complete an example of landscape design for our climate and region. Metal was the trending darling material, and chickens won the prize. I liked all of them very much, but the winner featured shade for the chickens in the coop, but none for the people. This year they added a feature I think is important to the viewing audience. Competitors are allowed to ask for donations from suppliers. The one who hustles up the most donations naturally wins. This happened last year as well. Now they make a note of the cost of materials only. The winner had a materials budget about 30% higher than the other two competitors. They all showed ingenuity and style. It is a wonderful way to check out new ideas to incorporate into our own gardens.
Each year the Tucson Botanical Gardens hosts an orchid, butterfly, and now tropical frog display for the public. It is popular with families and with me. I enjoy the humid tropical mist on my skin and the fun of watching the butterflies and people. Yesterday there was a lot of activity. Kids love to use the magnifying glass, no matter why they see in it. It is a small lesson in science, botany, biology, and ecology, adapted for all ages. Who doesn’t like butterflies?
Each year Tucson Botanical Gardens opens a special tropical exhibit of butterflies. The greenhouse is maintained all year, but in the summer it is too costly to keep at temperature, so they take a break. I love to spend time in the butterfly magic display and do so very frequently. I am pretty excited to announce that they now have tiny tree frogs joining the butterflies. The frogs hide a bit from the crowd because they are nocturnal. I managed to see three and get some shots. Since it was Veterans Day lots of kids were in the house. I also met a woman who has taken a course at the gardens in pocket sketching. She had a tiny set of water colors and was popping out some tiny great art. This is my favorite entertainment in town. Members can go as often as we like, so I am a frequent butterflyer.
This summer the dog membership at the Tucson Botanical Gardens has been a great benefit to our family. Each Tuesday we enjoy walking early in the morning with other member dogs and their owners in a shady oasis in the middle of town.
Today is the last Tuesday of the dog membership. It rained last night, which is magical here. The garden was lovely and very fragrant for our last visit of the summer. Artemisia has always liked to eat sunflowers, which is verboten in a botanical garden, of course. As a treat and a little rule breaking on her last dog day I let her munch a couple of leaves on the bottom of a sunflower. She didn’t eat very much. She hopes to return next summer as a member dog.
Artemisia, red bone coon hound, is a new canine member of the Tucson Botanical Gardens. On Tuesdays dog members and their families are welcome all day. This was a very special day because professional pet photographer, Vicky Stromee was set up to take pictures against a green backdrop. She and her assistant made the shoot quick and easy. We strolled through the shady paths for a few minutes, stopping for a drink at the cafe, which was closed. She smelled the door and wished it was open. Her shady and relatively cool experience today will be followed by her card and collar ring which will arrive in the mail. The dog membership is valid May through September. We have been family members for years, and now we are officially all part of the garden family. Artemisia recommends this reasonably priced membership to all Tucson dogs because of the shade. She liked it so much she sent an instagram.
The final installations for the Grow Down design contest are all very impressive. My favorite did not win the official competition, but I still love the water harvesting site built by Realm. Here are the ideas from the other installations not centered around water harvesting and growing food, which is my personal bias.
The three other designs were also innovative and showed new ways to use small spaces to create privacy and shade. The use of metal was popular with all four, but the winner constructed a full on room with a roof, couch and fireplace. The full size tree and the water feature at the entrance clinched the deal with the judges I am sure. The view from the comfy couch is really lovely, and would be great in cool weather with the modern gas fireplace. If you live in Tucson I recommend that you see the grow down installations to pick up some excellent ideas to use at home in your garden. I plan to try a few things I saw today. There are lots of ideas that can be executed on an even smaller scale.
In Tucson we keep a small power packed tropical jungle full of exotic butterflies. We live in a draught filled desert, so besides the regular showing of of our local flora, our Tucson Botanical Gardens provides a little slice of steamy tropical heaven for visitors.
I support the gardens and enjoy visiting at all times of year. The contribution to our botanical heritage is important. This oasis provides a luscious environment in the heart of the city for those who treasure gardens.
The collection of butterflies is seasonal. They arrive in the fall and stay until spring.
We do not mind hanging out for a while in the mist. They even play jungle sounds, Here I am with an antler fern coming out of my head.
The star attractions are born and die constantly. The butterfly tenders bring out new boxes of babies, born right next door in the nursery every day.
They are whimsical, friendly, and short lived. They are kind of like a living sand mandala. They brighten the world for a brief time. They invite you to come on down to their jungle for a break from everyday cares. They know the secrets to getting it while you can.