Do you ever find yourself on a family vacation, and you want to visit gardens while the rest of the gang has a different agenda? Nah. Probably never.

In May of 2012 I meet up with family in Las Vegas. They were on a multi-month rock climbing road trip. I’m not much of a climber, hiker, or camper but they were staying in nearby Red Rocks doing as much of all of that as possible. Sometimes they trick me into a desert hike with the promise of cool plants. I’ll admit it’s fun to see agaves and cactus blooming in the wild, but pretty quickly I miss air conditioning, running water, and rattlesnake-free walkways. But sometimes I trick them into visiting a chocolate factory with the promise of free candy, while I get to check out the adjoining botanical garden.

As far as family adventure compromises go, I thought this one turned out quite nicely. Ethel M Chocolates in Henderson is less than a half hour’s drive from Las Vegas. The property includes a small but lovely botanical garden that’s free for the public to wander about. Your non-gardening companions can take a chocolate factory tour if they’d rather, but the garden is the main attraction in my book.

Perhaps it was the 100+ degree day that kept other would be visitors away, but I had the garden nearly to myself, unless you count this pair of old men. Old Man of the Andes and Old Man of the Mountains (Oreocereus trollii and Oreocereus celsianus).

old man of the andes
old man of the mountains


I promised Cholla in the post title. Here we have Baja Cholla, opuntia molesta.
baja cholla


 
A blooming Cow Horn Agave (Agave bovicornuta) was besting the Saguaro (I think) for tallest plant in this section. Does anyone else think the stalk looks like a giant asparagus?
agave bovicornuta


 
Opposite trunk styles. Smooth and pet-able Coolibah Tree (Eucalyptus microtecha) on the left, and spiky-beskirted Dwarf Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia var. jaegriana) on the right.

coolibah tree
dwarf joshua tree

Jumping cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida var. fulgida
jumping cholla flower


jumping cholla


Diamond Cholla (Cylindropuntia ramosissima)
diamond cholla


 
A blooming Hesperaloe funifera on the left, and a stunning Weeping Pittosporum on the right.
hesperaloe funifera 2
unknown

A closer look at the Desert willow, aka Weeping Pittosporum (Pittosporum phillyreoides) has a lot going for it with that weeping form, satiny trunk, strappy leaves, and olive looking fruit.
desert willow


 
We actually can and should grow Banana yucca (Yucca baccata) here in Portland. A must have.
banana yucca


 
Compass Barrel (Ferocactus cylindraceus) cactus is called a compass cactus because it usually grows pointing south for sun protection. And then it tips itself over. Ha.
compass barrel


 
Cow’s Tongue Cacutus (Opuntia lindheimeri var. lunguiformis) in bloom.
cows tongue cactus


 
A sweet Crested Rabbit Ears Cactus (Opuntia microdasys var. undulata).
crested rabbit ears 2


 
Bonus real rabbit ears.
garden bunny


 
I am always so relieved when rustling in the gravel turns out to be a desert lizard and not a snake.
lizard 2


 
Since there were so many good plants in this dense little garden, I’ll be sharing more plants from this gem next week. If you find yourself in Las Vegas and need a nature break, this is a good spot to check out.