Saguaro Canyon, Idaho

Out of all the bizarre, pre-recession themepark residential developments in the Boise area, Saguaro Canyon in Meridian gets my pick for the best.  All those Tuscan villas, the Carolina antebellum neoclassical architecture, and Sun Valley inspired landscapes with aspens full of borers aren't even in the same league.

Sadly, you'll not find a single saguaro at Saguaro Canyon, but you will find a rare collection of specimen sized yuccas and Joshua Trees strangely interspersed with more commonly found Deodar Cedars and Weeping Sequoias. 

An ambitious experiment in landscaping with plants of questionable hardiness, this is what Saguaro Canyon looked like shortly after it was completed.

Ferocactus wislizenii and friends....

At the entrance you're greeted by a who's who list of Sonoran/Chihuahuan superstars.  And, just to make sure you get the subtle vibe of the place, massive slabs of Arizona sandstone were installed as a backdrop.

A sexy night time shot a little further in illuminates Yucca  filamentosa x thompsoniana, Yucca brevifolia,  Cylindropuntia imbricata,  Agave havardiana,  Fouquieria splendens and Opuntia x somethingoranother.

I stopped by a few weeks ago in the bitter cold to see how our southwest friends were holding up.  By this point, I figure that we should be able to get a decent sense of what will survive and what won't.

Let's fast forward five years after the installation was completed ...

On a cold and snowy day...

The sandstone is still there, as are the Deodar cedars, the weeping sequoias and spruce....

A leashed Yucca  filamentosa x thompsoniana trying to make an escape.

The lone Agave survivor.  A. neomexicana?  A. havardiana?  You tell me.  A Yucca baccata sulks in the background.

Yucca  faxoniana on the right.

Cylindropuntia imbricata looking to tangle with anyone dumb enough to amble by.

No sign of the narrow Fouquieria splendens (bummer) or even  the Opuntia polycantha. Unsurprisingly, Ferocactus wislizenii has also left for the great desert in the sky (it was a nice idea, though).  The oft planted Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard' looks to have been added later.

Driving a bit further into Saguaro Canyon you start to see specimen sized Yucca faxonia as well as more Yucca  filamentosa x thompsoniana (or is it Yucca rostrata?)

Yucca brevifolia
The most gratifying part of the visit was seeing just how well the Joshua Trees are doing.

Scattered throughout the common area landscape, all the specimens look to be thriving. 

     A veritable yucca copse!

The clubhouse.

All I'm gonna say is that cultured stone looks better in photographs.

Another Yucca faxonia nestled against a south facing wall.  It's where I'd be if I was a yucca forced to live in Idaho.

Yucca baccata hanging with his pal Ephedra equisetina

Cercocarpus trimmed into tidy little snow cones. 

Why stop there?  Surely the Chrysanthemum nauseosus could be trimmed into fish and flying monkeys?

So, we've got a clear idea now of what will survive in southwest Idaho, right?  

Not really.  

Sure, I didn't expect the Ferocactus wislizenii or the Fouquieria splendens to overwinter, but what happened to the hardy Opuntia or the Festuca idahoensis?  I think this hints at some irrigation issues, but it's hard to pin down how soil, drainage and other factors played into the plants' success or mortality rate.

I'm pleased that the Idaho Botanical Garden now has a xeric test garden where these factors can be measured and controlled.  In a couple of weeks I'll be sharing a picture tour of that as well.