Thursday, April 20, 2006

Converting the world to wildflowers

The Phoenix metropolitan area, now a shadow of its former self, has evolved from a desert wonder into a sea of rooftops. Thirty years ago, only the big houses along Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix had manicured lawns and topiary hedges. Where I lived in North Scottsdale, the yards were filled with desert plants - sometimes planted, sometimes wild.

Our high schools had three disctinct groups - freaks, jocks and cowboys. Real cowboys and cowgirls who practiced things like calf roping and barrel racing in the afternoons. And many of us who didn't wear boots, tight jeans and wide-buckle belts to school, still had our own horses.

In the evenings after school, my girlfriends and I headed straight home to saddle up, then strode past yards filled with spindly creosote bushes and palo verde trees atop our chestnut quarterhorses until there were no houses or streets or planes in the sky, and we galloped through the open desert to both rider and horse's content.

Or we'd ride into the center part of North Scottsdale through the Drinkwater's Liquor Store drive-through and buy ice-cold Cokes.

Afterwards, we ambled home in the gentle glow of the setting sun, the clear desert sky wide and silent around us.

My, how things have changed.

Now, we all live on tiny little lots that can barely support a dog, much less a horse. We drive on six-lane wide boulevards filled with SUVs that race through red lights at 60 mph and planes, both large and small, buzz constantly in the skies above us. The very idea of walking anyplace, much less riding a horse, sends shivers down our spine. Our once clear skies are filled with brown haze and regular pollution warnings keep both the asthmatic and healthy indoors.

And Drinkwater's Liquor is now Sportsmen's Liquor and sports the largest collection of fine wine in the area. Teenage girls atop chestnut quarterhorses can no longer buy ice-cold Cokes at the drivethrough, not that they would dare brave the roads to get there.

Arizona changed, but I didn't change with it. I am the neighbor that causes all the other neighbors to wring their hands in despair, "Will she ever trim those bushes? Will she EVER pull all those weeds?'

My yard is filled with desert shrubs including a mutant brittlebush. Brittlebushes usually grow about two feet tall, three feet at best. Mine shot up to six feet tall within two years of planting, and explodes with brilliant yellow blossoms from February through August. I rarely trim it, much to my neighbor's collective chagrin, lest I lose any of the blossoms; the flowers attract hoards of monarch butterflies during their migration.

I can hardly bear to go to work during the migrating season; I dream of sitting in a lawnchair in my driveway sipping iced tea and watching enormous orange and black butterflies dance around my bush for days on end.

Every year like clockwork I get a letter from the HOA saying the weeds in my yard have gotten out of hand.

And every year like clockwork I send a letter with copies of pages from Sunset's garden book explaining that these gentle little sprouts are not at all weeds, they are desert wildflowers and are SUPPOSED to randomly fill my yard until they grow and bloom into yellow desert marigolds or brilliant red penstemons or flood my yard with gentle pink mexican poppies.

And every year like clockwork someone from the HOA comes to visit. They don't believe me.

And every year like clockwork they end up speeding straight from my house to the garden store with pages from the Sunset garden book clutched fiercely in their hands to purchase their own desert wildflower garden.

My goal in life: to convert the world to wildflowers one HOA inspector at a time.


Mindy Tarquini said...

All my cactus are blooming.

Plantation said...

I love Sportsmen's. Great wine store.

Elizabeth Krecker said...

I've never seen a place with as many flowers as the Sonoran desert in the spring! And yes, Sportsmen's is great, isn't it!

Mindy Tarquini said...

But Sportman's is at 32nd and Camelback. Or is there another in North Scottsdale?

Elizabeth Krecker said...

Yes, they now have a store at Scottsdale and Shea! Great news, eh!

Georganna Hancock M.S. said...

I know your pain about the wildflowers in your yard. I've fought this battle for the last 25 years, from the midwest to San Diego. Last year my neighbor sent his daughter over to "help you by cleaning up your yard". It has taken me four years to get those li'l darlin's to bloom!

Jessie said...

Yes! I love it!

It's a sad story--but with a happy ending. Very nice writing.