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This week is a good reminder to be thankful if you are one of those lucky people who experience a rush when you see a great garden. Not everyone feels that way about plants, which seems like such a shame.

I remember as a kid, running into the living room on Christmas morning, scanning the fireplace mantle for bulging stockings: the sign that something magical had happened. A botanical garden is pretty much the same thing. Someone kind and generous and capable of miracles crept in quietly before you arrived, left behind things you love, and your whole job is to enjoy them.

This garden was one of those great surprises. I knew there was a garden at the Las Vegas area chocolate factory, but it was a bit of a gamble. Most of the photos I’d previewed were of the Christmas light display, making it hard to tell what kind of garden it would be. And how much nature could really sneak into a place like Las Vegas? Would there be neon lights and slot machines among the cacti? But no, just a serene space with over 400 plants, a couple lizards and rabbits, and a few other passers by.

Continuing last week’s tour of the garden at Ethel M’s Chocolates, let’s see what the gardener left for us to enjoy…

agrentine toothpick
Argentine Toothpick, aka Stetsonia coryne

My absolute favorite tree shape is meandering, like this Arizona Sophora.

arizona sophora
Labelled as Calia Arizonica, aka Sophora arizonica

Cacti have such crazy names, there’s a big long list of alternative names more often than other plants we research at plant lust. I’m not sure why that is, I’m sure there’s an explanation. I imagine there are so many variations that plants are named only to realize they’re the same as something that was already named. Just a theory, someone more studious about these matters can surely set me straight. At any rate, I really like the name Trichocereus terscheckii for this tall prickly. Terscheckii especially. Sounds like it’d be a character in a cop drama. “Detective Terscheckii, take a look at this Cardon Grande!”

cardon grande
Tricocereus terscheckii, aka Cardon Grande

Loree previously shared her obsession with Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) which miraculously lives in both our Portland gardens (probably, if you have a good hot, well drained, poor soil, low water spot) and in the desert garden here. It’s a little hard to really see in this photo, which is something I like to consider when planting finely textured plants like this. I think you really need to plant them with a backdrop that shows them off, either against a wall, an expanse of sky, or plants that are big and chunky. Texture on texture sort of disappears. Not that it wasn’t gorgeous, it’s just harder to see.

desert bird of paradise
Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii)

The shape of the fine textured trees against the sky behind this Ferocactus make me happy. Meandering and textured, fully showing off against the sky.

ferocactus hamatacanthus var hamatacanthus
Ferocactus hamatacanthus var hamatacanthus

The Mescal Bean (Sophora Secundiflora) was showing off its seed pods.

mescal bean 3
Mescal Bean, aka Sophora Secundiflora


mescal bean pods 2
Mescal Bean, aka Sophora Secundiflora

I find Ocotillos fascinating. When you travel, do you go check out the garden center of the Home Depot just to see what plant shoppers get in other climates? Ocotillos are sold as these bundled bare root dead looking pile of sticks sitting out in hot weather. And you see them planted in the ground looking dead. But they must spring to life. Surely nobody’s buying and planting dead plants. It just looks so improbable. Desert plants are miraculous like that.

Ocotillo, aka Fouquieria splendens

I know they do a big cactus light show around the holidays, but the cacti already look quite festive to me. Especially with the ones with the big red thorns.

red barrel cactus
Red Barrel Cactus, aka Ferocactus pilosus
opuntia lindeimeri var lindheimeri
Opuntia lindeimeri var lindheimeri sandwiched between what I think are Saguaros
opuntia lindheimeria var aciculata2
Opuntia lindheimeria var aciculata
Saguaro aka Carnegia gigantea about to bloom

There was a whole section of Mohave desert natives, although there were also South American and Australian plants. I didn’t organize quite well enough to remember which ones were the Mojave natives, but I’ll assume the ones with Mojave in the name qualify.

mojave yucca
Mohave Yucca, aka Yucca schidigera

Blooming time for the Mojave prickly pear.

mojave prickly pear 2
mojave prickly pear flower

Going with the Cholla theme, I must include the adorable Teddy Bear Cholla.

teddy bear cholla
Teddy Bear Cholla, aka Opuntia bigelovii

Wow they had a lot of plants packed into that smallish space. Yucca rigida is another one we can grow here in Portland. A crowd them gathers along the path at Ethel M’s Chocolates to say goodbye.

yucca rigida 2
Silver Yucca, aka Yucca rigida