Desert Plants and Wildlife

Get to Know Your Local Cacti

The Sonoran Desert is well-known for its large variety of cacti. While they grow rampant in the open desert, they are also common in yards that use native landscapes. Here are a few of our common cacti.


Local Cacti
2222584 – saguaro in superstition wilderness.

A saguaro can live beyond 150 years, but it takes 75-100 years to grow their first arm if one grows at all. When it is fully hydrated, it can weigh over 4,000 pounds, getting its support from inner woody ribs. The white, waxy flowers open after sunset and close in midafternoon. These blossoms are Arizona’s state wildflower.


Local Cacti

Prickly pear cactus is one of the most popular desert cacti because of its delicious, magenta fruit used in candies, jellies, syrups, and cocktails. The green, pancake-like pads, called nopales, are also edible and highly nutritious.


Local Cacti

There are many varieties of cholla cactus, but most have a reputation for sticking to skin, fur, and clothing with their barbed spines that can spring when disturbed. They appear as ground creepers, shrubs, or trees standing anywhere from 1-15 feet in height. Watch out when hiking or taking your dog for a walk.


Local Cacti

This succulent earned its name because of its short, spiny stems that resemble hedgehogs. The flowers range from pink to lavender, opening in the morning and closing at night. Edible fruit with a strawberry taste appears after flowering.


These cacti grow about 3-4 feet in height with pronounced ribs and long spines, living to over 100 years. Yellow or orange flowers appear on top after many years of maturing. Pineapple-shaped fruit may form after flowering, but it is dry and bitter to taste.


Local Cacti

With a height up to 25 feet, the organ pipe-shaped branches grow upward instead of branching out. Older plants grow three-inch-long funnel-shaped flowers that open at night and close by morning with pollination accomplished by bats. Tennis ball-sized fruit grows that tastes like watermelon.

To learn more about native plants of the Sonoran Desert, visit the Desert Botanical Garden.

Desert Plants and Wildlife

Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

It all started with a single coyote. When Linda Searles found an orphaned coyote pup, there were no local veterinarians who would treat orphaned or injured wild animals. She dreamed of a wildlife rehabilitation center, and that dream turned into reality with the purchase of 10 acres near Rio Verde in 1994.

Today, Southwest Wildlife is one of the leading wildlife sanctuary and rehab centers in the southwestern United States. They take in injured, displaced, and orphaned animals who have lost their homes. Rehabilitated animals return to the wild, but those that cannot be released are provided life-long sanctuary.

Southwest Wildlife

Participation in the recovery of the endangered Mexican gray wolf has also been an important project for the non-profit. They also offer sanctuary to wild horses and burros who have been neglected, abused, or are slaughter-bound. Often new homes are found for them, but some peacefully live out their remaining days at Southwest Wildlife.

Other animals have also made their home here over the years: bears, coati, coyotes, deer, fox, leopard, javelina, mountain lion, owl, desert tortoise, and even skunk! Many of them can be seen on tours of the facility.

Education and humane scientific research opportunities are an important part of the organization’s mission. They have a passion for educating and inspiring people to learn about and respect wildlife and conserving their habitat.

As with most non-profits, Southwest Wildlife is funded entirely through private donations, fundraising, and grants. They have volunteer teams who respond to wildlife emergencies, provide an on-site medical care center, and offer full-time wildlife consultation services.

Southwest Wildlife is open to the public by appointment only. Tours include A Walk with Wildlife, Twilight Tours, Full Moon Tours, school field trips, and virtual events.

For information about the organization and available tours, visit

Around Arizona

10 Places to Find Fall Leaves

Did you know that Fall has an actual scent? For most places around the country, it comes from the falling leaves, something we do not really experience in the Sonoran Desert. Many enjoy a day trip to the higher elevations to hike among the golden beauty of the season. Here are ten great places around Arizona to see them.


Drive to Cape Royal and stop at Point Imperial along the way for beautiful views of the Grand Canyon and golden aspens.


Located in the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, Locket Meadow is at the edge of a large stand of aspen and the beginning of the Inner Basin Trail. This is a heavy use trail.


The road to Arizona Snowbowl just outside of Flagstaff offers three great options for enjoying the golden aspens: Aspen Corner, the Aspen Loop Trail, and Kachina Trail.


Located near Flagstaff, this trail is loaded with quaking aspens in the fall. It is a favorite trail year-round.


Located north of Sedona, this is arguably one of the most beautiful areas in our state. There are multiple areas and trails to choose from to enjoy Fall leaves.


Horton Creek is at the base of the Mogollon Rim near Kohl’s Ranch. The trail follows the creek and is surrounded by pines and lots of Fall colors.


The White Mountains are a great place to visit for some solitude and Fall leaves. Thompson Trail #629 is a great way to get up close to the leaves and get away from crowds.


Learn about native plants while enjoying the colors of Fall. Check the website for hours of operation.


Located southeast of Tucson, Madera Canyon is a great place for birdwatching and Fall leaves. Includes a wheelchair-accessible trail.


Located 50 miles northeast of Tucson, Aravapai Canyon offers beautiful isolation along a river stream. Only BLM trailheads are currently open.

Yard and Garden

10 Steps for a Successful Backyard Garden

When you live in the Sonoran Desert, you can have a backyard garden year-round. This is a great time of year to plant a fantastic Fall/Winter garden. Vegetable gardening is fun and can provide delicious, organic food straight from your own backyard. Watching the seeds that you plant spring to life, flower, and fruit often gives a great sense of enjoyment and accomplishment. It also brings awareness to the natural world that flourishes outside your back door.

Whether you plant in a few pots or in a garden bed, these 10 steps will help you grow a successful vegetable garden.


The location of your garden is key to your success. Choose an area with plenty of morning sunshine and some afternoon shade or be prepared to add shade cloth to block hot afternoon sun during the hotter seasons. You will need at least 6-8 hours of full sun exposure.


Draw a diagram of your garden before getting started. Decide what vegetables you like to eat and plan where they will go in your beds. For the most efficient use of your space and water, check out Mel Bartholomew’s famous book, The New Square Foot Garden.


We live in a unique climate, so selecting the best varieties of seeds is important for success. Select seeds for Hardiness Zone 9, short-season varieties, and bush or dwarf varieties for small garden spaces.  


Find a reputable seed source. If purchasing through a seed catalog or online store, be sure to follow the tips in Step 3. Vegetable transplants can be purchased from a local nursery or greenhouse. Make sure plants look healthy, medium-sized, with vigorous roots that are not tangled in a ball. Avoid plants that are wilted, yellowed, spindly, or show signs of pests.


Your soil will determine the life or death of your plants. Our desert soil has very little organic matter in it and often is filled with clay. Garden soil should drain well and not have any standing water. Amend (brand name) garden soil, steer manure, worm castings, and compost are valuable for building healthy soil. Fertilizer can help improve your soil season after season, too.


Most vegetables can be grown by sowing seed directly in the ground. Be sure to follow the instructions on the seed package for when to plant, how far apart to plant, and how deep to sow the seed. Some do better if you start with a pre-grown plant that can be transplanted, such as tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Transplants should be hardened off by gradually adjusting them to the full sun, cool nights, and wind over the course of several days.

CLICK HERE for a planting calendar for Maricopa County.


Water your garden enough to keep the soil moist but not wet in the plant’s root zone. Apply regularly, as fluctuations in timing and quantity can have a negative impact on the plant’s growth. Never let the soil get dry.


Weeds compete for water, nutrients, and light. Keep your eye out for weeds and carefully remove them from your garden bed. Mulching will help control weeds, conserve moisture, and regulate the soil temperature. Use leaves, straw, sawdust, wood chips, cardboard, or newspaper. Chemical herbicides are not recommended in home gardens.


Learn about insects and diseases that might attack your vegetables. Start by selecting disease-resistant varieties when possible. Use “crop rotation” by not planting the same plant family in the same spot year after year. Water deeply, make sure plants are not crowded so they can get plenty of air and sunlight, and watch for signs of pests.


The job is not done until you harvest your food and eat it or share it with others. Most vegetables are at peak quality for a short time. If you harvest too soon, they will lack flavor. If you harvest too late, they will be tough and lack the desired taste and texture.

For a more detailed description of each step, CLICK HERE.

Real Estate

8195 E. Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch

At 8195 E Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch, you can enjoy the McCormick Ranch lifestyle at Heritage Village Three.

8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch

This community offers two pools, tennis courts, and pickleball. Just minutes away from bike riding along the famous Greenbelt, coffee overlooking the lake, tennis courts in your backyard, and world-class entertainment at some of Scottsdale’s top attractions, including Talking Stick Resort, Top Golf, Old Town Scottsdale, Fashion Square, and so much more.

1895 E. Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch
1895 E. Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch

The home has been gorgeously updated with a Southwest casual style. It is the perfect open concept living with wood-style plank flooring, a fireplace with a stacked stone surround, and easy access to outdoor spaces.

8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch

The kitchen has stainless steel appliances, a granite peninsula, and plenty of cabinetry. This space opens to the great room, dining room, and outdoor patio space, making entertainment a dream. It’s a great gathering space for the whole family.

8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch

The split floorplan gives the master bedroom extra privacy. It has a sleek bath that is small but efficient and low maintenance. It features an extra-large tile and glass walk-in shower, double vanity, and a nice sized closet.

8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch
8195 E. Del Caverna in McCormick Ranch

Two additional bedrooms on the other side of the home offer versatile space for guest rooms or a home office. Each room is comfortably sized.

The back patio is elegantly appointed with access to a greenbelt. The community pool feels like your own private pool because of its proximity to the house. Easy access to a local walking path through Scottsdale McCormick Ranch will keep you active without having to jump in the car.

8195 E. Del Caverna at McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale

3 BD | 2 BA | 1,930 SQ FT | 2 CG


We invite you to take a virtual tour of 8195 E. Del Carvana, or give us a call at 480-837-1331 to schedule a tour in-person.

CLICK HERE to view more great homes.

Yard and Garden

Save the Saguaros

You may not see anyone standing on a street corner holding a sign that says, “Save the Saguaros”, but many are concerned about the loss of these desert giants.

You probably don’t need to be told again that the summer of 2020 was the hottest summer on record with negligible rain in Fountain Hills. Sadly, many saguaro cacti have met their demise as a result.

The saguaro is one of the most iconic species of the Sonoran Desert. Over millions of years, they have adapted to the harsh conditions of this climate. This was accomplished with a succulent stem that stores a huge amount of water, accordion-like ribs that expand and shrink with fluctuating water levels, leaves that are modified into spines, a thick cuticle for reduction of evaporation, and a metabolism that can withstand long periods of dry weather.

The local monsoon season typically runs from July through mid-September. These life-giving rainstorms eluded us this summer. Monsoons are essential for the saguaro to recover from water loss during the hot summer months. These giants suffer dehydration without these soaking rains.

As a saguaro becomes dehydrated, the stems get thinner and the ribs shrink and become narrow and deep. As a result, the plant may collapse under its own weight.

Saguaros have a shallow root system. It has a taproot that runs 2-3 feet deep and lateral roots to anchor it that only go 1-2 feet deep. When a saguaro is transplanted (as most in our landscapes are), most of the lateral roots are removed, leaving only the short taproot. Often during transplanting, the cactus is planted 1-2 feet deeper than the original depth and the soil is aggressively tamped down to give the plant stability. This is the main reason many fail to establish. The roots are planted too deep for adequate water to reach them. Root rot usually follows.

In summers like this, a saguaro could use an extra drink of water. Make a well around the base of the cactus and run a trickle of water from a garden hose for 4-6 hours. The goal is to get the soil moist to a depth of 2-3 feet where most of the roots are found. This is only necessary once a month during the hottest parts of the summer.

A little extra TLC during these excessively hot months can go a long way toward saving your amazing saguaro.

To learn more about saguaro cactus care, check out THIS PUBLICATION from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

Real Estate

16400 E. Log Lane

This Santa Barbara-style estate at 16400 E. Log Lane sits on 22 acres on an elevated ridge in Fountain Hills.

The 300-degree elevated views will treat you to every mountain view offered in Fountain Hills, including the Mazatzal Mountains, Four Peaks, the Superstitions, Red Rock, and the McDowell Mountains.

The world-famous fountain provides a dramatic focal point in the center of the panorama.

Designed by Hassan Jalaly, who designed many of the area’s most stunning custom homes, this home has an artistic mosaic of ceiling designs that is timeless. Jalaly is a master at drawing the focal attention of the room upward toward lofty clerestory windows through open trusses. From twilight to sundown, you are treated to the changing moods of indirect sunlight.

16400 E. Log Lane

The massive Porte-cochere with paved driveway, double 8-foot doors with art glass transom, and a fountain provide a beautiful entry experience. A grand foyer with 20-foot ceilings, 14-foot windows, plantation shutters, and numerous ceiling details with delight and amaze.

16400 E. Log Lane

The sweeping open staircase combined with 20-foot tray ceilings, plus massive window and transom combinations perfectly frame the surrounding mountain and desert vistas.

16400 E. Log Lane

The impressive grand living room also serves a formal dining room and shares a 2-sided fireplace with the media room. The gas fireplace is floor-to-ceiling granite ledgestone, quarried in Montana.

16400 E. Log Lane
16400 E. Log Lane

Nearly all rooms offer a stunning, 25-mile view towards the mountain ranges with twinkling city lights at night. There is sturdy, Red Oak hardwood flooring throughout the living areas and the gallery. The octagonal den with an open beamed wood ceiling is perfect as an office, game room, or music room. The large hobby room has plenty of cabinets and counter space to let you explore your creative side.

16400 E. Log Lane
16400 E. Log Lane

Upstairs, a spacious family room with a full bar and an adjacent fully-suited bedroom offers the ultimate hospitality.

16400 E. Log Lane

The large kitchen is the heart of the home, with a 3-sided workspace around a massive center island, work sink, and cooktop. there are double ovens and a kitchen sink with a million-dollar view. A cozy family nook allows everyone to enjoy the sunny mornings and more of those views. Kitchen amenities include:

  • Thermador 4-burner cooktop
  • Thermador double wall ovens
  • Two stainless full-size sinks with Reverse Osmosis at island sink
  • Paneled Subzero refrigerator
  • Walk-in pantry with floor-to-ceiling shelves
  • Hardwood cabinetry with solid surface
  • Eat-in nook offers large picture windows to take in the sunny morning views
16400 E. Log Lane

The master suite is a true retreat featuring a 2-sided fireplace and a sunny reading area with private access to the patio. The closet offers generous rod, shelf, and drawer space. The master bath is elegantly appointed with an elevated jetted tub, a large walk-in shower, double vanities with seating, plus cabinetry and storage.

The private bedroom wing offers two bedrooms and a full bath. Upstairs, the suited guest bedroom offers space for guests or teenagers.

This home offers the best in outdoor entertaining. A tiled veranda the length of the home presents dramatic mountain and fountain views. Overlooking the pool and spa are various locations for dining, seating, and lounging, with private entrances to all lower level rooms.

16400 E. Log Lane

The 38’x20′ pool and spa are both heated with gas and electric heat pump, allowing for efficient use year-round. Elegant lantern and recessed lighting surround the patios and the pool.

The oversized 3-car garage features additional storage cabinets, a storage room, and a workbench. the vented rubber flooring grid is a huge plus!


4 BD | 4.5 BA | 6,215 SQ FT | 3CG


38’x20′ POOL & SPA


Enjoy a VIRTUAL TOUR of 16400 E. Log Lane, or schedule an appointment to see it in person by calling us at 480-837-1331.

CLICK HERE to view more great homes in Fountain Hills.

Non-profit Organizations

Flutter at the Fountain Butterfly Gala 2020

Since 1995, the Fountain Hills Community Foundation has provided over $1.2 million grants to educational, cultural, and humanitarian non-profit organizations in the Fountain Hills area. This year, these organizations have greater needs than ever.

This year’s momentous and magical fundraising season is called Flutter at the Fountain, a combined live and virtual event.

Twenty-six local artists have transformed 30 aluminum butterflies into beautiful pieces of art, ranging in size from 12 to 36 inches. Each butterfly will be fluttering around Fountain Hills at various businesses for viewing in the month leading up to the main event.

On Saturday, November 7, 2020, participants are invited to visit the Fountain Hills Community Garden to tour the entire collection of butterflies and place bids on their favorites to adopt for their own garden.

One butterfly with a 36-inch wingspan, Winged Sky Stone, will be given away through a raffle. Tickets are available for $10, 3 tickets for $25, or 10 tickets for $50.

Garden tours will take place from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on November 7 in ten-minute intervals. Up to ten people are permitted per time slot. Tickets are $40 per person and ages 12 and under are free. Admission includes a swag bag with tickets for the Pub Flutter. Use them for food and beverages at various Fountain Hills restaurants after your tour.

The finale takes place virtually at 7:00 PM. During this Zoom event, the winner of the raffle will be announced and auction winners for the remaining butterflies will be announced.

To purchase admission tickets for the garden tour, place bids on butterflies, or to purchase raffle tickets, text “Flutter 2020” to 76278. You will receive instructions for participating through the GiveSmart online auction.

To further support this fundraising event, Sami Fine Jewelry is donating 25% of every purchase of their unique line of butterfly wing jewelry by Peruvian artist Yolanda Ormachea. Sami Fine Jewelry is located at 16704 E. Avenue of the Fountain, Suite 101.

For more information about the Community Foundation and Flutter at the Fountain, visit


How to Survive the Summer: Water Recreation in Arizona

Boating, jet-skiing, fishing, kayaking, rafting, or swimming. We are blessed with many options for water sports that provide a welcome respite during the heat of summer. Arizona’s founding fathers had the vision to balance recreational use, functional water supplies, and energy management.


Only 20 minutes east of Fountain Hills, Saguaro Lake features a full-service marina, boat rentals, and restaurant. The Desert Belle is a resort cruise boat hosting guests on a 90-minute tour of the lake

It’s also a great venue for private or corporate events. Butcher Jones Recreational Site on the north side of the lake features a beach and a lake-view hiking trail.


On the upper section of the Salt River is the dam that started it all, Roosevelt Dam. The lake has 128 miles of sandy shoreline and crystal blue warm water. The full-service marina offers a full-hookup RV park, and boat rentals. It’s also a popular spot for fishing and has nearby hiking trails. Be sure to check out nearby Tonto National Monument.


Dubbed the “hidden gem of the Salt River Lakes”, Apache Lake gives visitors gorgeous views and seclusion. Surrounded by the Superstition Wilderness, it is a favorite for boating, fishing, water sports, hiking, and camping. There is a full-service marina, RV park and camping, a restaurant and bar, and three motels.


Canyon Lake has 28 miles of cactus-dotted shoreline and a designated swimming area. The full-service marina includes boat rentals. Visitors come for water sports, fishing, and camping at the Canyon Lake Marina Campground.


The Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch is situated at the bottom of Saguaro Lake’s Stewart Dam along the Salt River. This historic ranch is one of the most scenic guest ranches in the southwest. Spend a night in one of their rustic cabins, attend a cowboy dinner, or rent a kayak with full-service pickup at the end of your trip.


Fed by the waters of the Verde River, Bartlett Lake features shore camping, a full-service marina with boat rentals, and hiking trails. You can grab a meal at The Last Stop Bar & Grill located by the marina.


One of the most scenic water recreation areas in the Valley of the Sun, Lake Pleasant is a recreationist’s dream. Enjoy camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, picnicking, stargazing, and wildlife viewing. There is a Discovery Center (closed during COVID-19), and a restaurant. This reservoir is part of the Central Arizona Project, bringing water from the Lower Colorado River into central and southern Arizona.


Tempe Town Lake is a desert oasis in the middle of the Phoenix metro area.  This lake’s water is supplied by the Colorado and Salt Rivers. Visitors can rent small boats, kayaks, and paddleboards. It is home to the ASU Sailing Club and is used by several rowing clubs. Other activities include fishing, biking, jogging, and picnicking.


Dirk’s Electric: Trusted Electrician

When Mark Derksen started his company, Dirk’s Electric, he set his eye on craftsmanship and quality in his work.

Mark is a master electrician and worked in the lighting industry for over ten years, designing and installing lighting packages for homes and commercial properties. His clients love his attention to detail, his ability to troubleshoot difficult electrical problems, and his perfect mix of easy-going personality and professionalism.

Whether you need work done inside your home, a new electrical panel, or a commercial lighting retrofit, Dirk’s Electric has the skills and the experience to get the job done right.

In addition, Mark is a Dark Sky lighting expert, helping clients select exterior lighting that accomplishes their goals without adding unnecessary light pollution to the night sky. He sits on the board of the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association, helping the Town achieve its designation as an International Dark Sky Community in 2018.

Dirk’s Electric is a member of the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, a graduate of the Fountain Hills Leadership Academy, and is committed to making our community a better place for everyone.

When you need a trusted electrician who will do the job right, keep your home safe, and clean up when he’s finished, you can trust Dirk’s Electric. He is licensed, bonded, and insured.

Reach Mark at 480-203-1706, or at