AN AFTERNOON AT WESTERN COLORADO BOTANICAL GARDENS

FLOWERS, AND TORTOISE AND LIZARD.  OH MY!

We’re getting a new roof put on the house, so that’s always fun.  Right?  Nothing like 100-degree summer temps and 8 hours of hammering and general construction noise to run anyone out of their house for a couple of hours. I decided to head over to The Western Colorado Botanical Gardens here in Grand Junction for a quick respite.   

Lantana in Bloom at Western Botanical Gardens

It’s been just over 14 months since I was last there, and I have to say I think it looks better than it did the last time I went and I’m happier with my photos than I was last year.  Also, last year, they were still practicing Covid restrictions and parts of the garden were closed; specifically, the butterfly garden, the tropical garden area, and other enclosed areas.  This time they were open and looked the better for having been given a rest.  While the topical garden/butterfly area looked better than I remember it, it was hotter than the hobs of hell in there, and twice as humid.  I still felt in pretty good shape though, because this is where you BEGIN your tour of the garden.  I wasn’t tired out or as yet overcome by the heat.  Moisture dripped from petals and leaves and the water in the koi pond gurgled beneath me.  Drops of sweat dripped from my hair onto my shoulders. I was glowing for sure. 

Blooming Things at Western Botanical Gardens

The primary resident of this area is a large desert tortoise, which I don’t remember seeing during previous visits.  I don’t know if he/she is a relative newcomer, but other than me and one old man who entered the space briefly, he/she had the place to him or herself.  Sorry, I don’t know how to sex tortoises.  I usually tend to refer to such critters as “he” but I honestly have no idea.  In any case, he/she was checking me out.  I looked like a familiar creature, but I had an odd facial deformity. (The camera attached to my face). As the heat and humidity began to wear me down, I headed over to another enclosed area, that had more tropical plants and koi. 

Desert Tortoise in Monochrome
Desert Tortoise in Color

Since it’s a botanical garden, most, if not all, of the plants and flowers have signs saying what they are.  Most of the signs contain both the Latin names and the common names for the plants. I could have looked at these and photographed the signs with my cell phone to jog my memory, but I didn’t.  I just wandered through and appreciated the beauty.  The hibiscus flowers seem especially large and beautiful this year for some reason, not only in the enclosed and more humid tropical garden area, but throughout even the outside desert part of the gardens.  I’ve noticed them in town as well.  They’re as big as dinner plate dahlias!  The red and yellow ones I saw were particularly large and vibrant. 

Large, Red Hibiscus
Large, Yellow Hibiscus
Large, Red Hibiscus

I would describe the pink flower as a type of pink calla lily, but I’m not absolutely positive.  As far as some of the others go, I think of them as “house plants.” I think they sell smaller versions at local garden centers.  I thought they were beautiful and vibrant, and also looked good in black & white, to highlight their geometric patterns. 

PInk Calla Lily?
House Plant Monochrome
A Color Version

I couldn’t resist the heart shaped flowers.  I know that the redbud tree in my backyard has heart shaped flowers, but I’m not sure what variety these are. Perhaps some type of philodendron,  Interesting that the color for the heart chakra is also green and symbolizes our ability to give and receive love. 

In the Shape of a Heart

I’m thinking the picture below is a type of aloe vera plant.  It certainly has a distinct shape and pattern.  I might have been inclined to make this a black & white photo, but I liked the fallen, red leaf petals that are on it, and this wouldn’t be visible in black & white. 

Aloe Vera?

There are several different types of orchids blooming in this part of the garden as well, they’re all pretty, but I liked the ones that seem to have monkey faces the best. 

Monkey face Orchid in Black & White

Another interesting leaf I made up in black & white was in the tropical garden area as well.  The photo is dark, and could probably stand some lightening, but I was fascinated with how the veins and the small fringe around the edge of the leave glowed with this particular black & white edit.  It made me think of the book The Celestine Prophecy, where the protagonist begins to be able to see the glowing of the life force within plants.  He suggests that if you squint your eyes a little bit you can see it better.  That may be true, I love to pass by a field of corn or other growing things and notice how the plants glow under certain light conditions.  This is also a bit like photographing a leaf under a black light.

Glowing Leaf in Black & White

My daughter and her husband were married in San Diego in 2019, and while we were there we spent an afternoon at Cabrillo National Monument where they had a garden meant to mimic a garden that earlier residents of the area might have planted.  Within that garden were many agave plants.  Agave is used to make tequila of course, and it grows through the desert southwest including the U.S. and Mexico.  I believe the photo below is also a picture of an agave plant. 

Agave Plant Growing at Western Botanical Gardens

The Grand Valley in western Colorado is becoming known not only for it’s wonderful Palisade Peaches, but also as a wine and grape growing destination.  The annual Palisade Wine Festival takes place in mid-September, and the harvest begins around that time and continues through the first week or so of October.  I’m not sure what type of grapes these are, but there is one dark purple one.  If not for that I would have thought they were basic, green table grapes. 

Grapes Growing at Western Botanical Gardens

Before leaving the garden, I met up with the little critter below.  I’m no expert about lizards, but after googling it, it appears this lizard may very well be a Plateau Striped Whiptail.  They do live throughout The Colorado Plateau, including western Colorado, southern Utah, and Arizona.  So, I think the odds are good that this is what we have here.  An interesting thing about this lizard, is that – they are all female!  That’s right, the adult females lay unfertilized eggs, which grow into genetic clones of the mother lizard.  There are no males.  Watch out men!  This could happen to humans as well, so be nice while you can! 

Women want and deserve to have control over their own bodies.  That’s all I’m going to say about that. 

Plateau Striped Whiptail in Black & White
Plateau Striped Whiptail in Color

Afterwards we stopped for a drink and linner (lunch/dinner? at The Ale House in Grand Junction, one of our favorite places.

Cheers!

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