Sunday, June 02, 2013

Art in the Park

Tohono Chul Park, where I am a docent, is a small (49 acre) desert preserve that includes cultivated  gardens of native Sonoran and adapted plants, natural desert trails,  and lots of art—much of it related to the culture of the southwest. We have three small art galleries with changing exhibits, and a number of outdoor sculptures that blend with or enhance the gardens.

Here are some of my favorite pieces, because they are not only artistic, they are (or seem) functional:

Bee habitat 4-29-2013 9-42-52 AM 1997x2684 This weathered-looking structure is a habitat for solitary bees, of which we have hundreds of species in Arizona. These include mason, leaf-cutter, and resin bees, and many of them have found homes in this specially drilled piece of wood, The bees lay their eggs at the bottoms of the holes, then plug the holes with wax. Please don’t tell anyone, but I often refer to them as “cribbage bees.”

Bee habitat CU 4-29-2013 9-43-11 AM 2361x3474 Here is a close-up of the habitat, showing bees crawling and some holes with plugs.

Below is my favorite piece of art in the Park—an old mesquite tree that was allowed to grow where it fell during a monsoon storm. Our head botanist at the time built the small fountain.Mesquite behind Exhibit Hall 3-31-2010 9-31-26 AM 3616x2712

Last year the sculptures of a javelina family were added:

javelina sculptures 8-20-2012 9-45-08 AM 3616x2712

Finally, the cactus fountain, currently standing in front of a ramada,

Cactus fountain 4-29-2013 9-44-01 AM 948x2254

is used by birds on hot days to cool their feet. Here, the guy cooling off is a beautiful white-winged dove.

White-winged dove at Tohono Chul Park on cactus fountain


  1. How fabulous your photos are today. We're quite concerned about our bee population here in the UK, since they've suffered over the previous few years with harsh weather and habitat loss. So I'm glad you have a flourishing population. And your javelina family look like our wild boar. Any relation, I wonder?

    1. Thank you, Susan! We're very concerned about bees over here as well. The honeybee population has been declining due to a disease of unknown origin (probably related to pesticides and climate change, among other factors). The solitary bees seem to be fine, and they continue their role here in AZ as important pollinators. The javelina fill a similar ecological niche to your wild boars, but they are not closely related at all--rather an example of convergent evolution. Boars and domestic pigs, which are an Old World group, belong to the Family Suidae; javelinas, which originated in the New World, are in the Tayassuidae family.

  2. Anonymous6:38 AM

    The white-wing on the fountain is such a good picture, cools me off too. I love Greg Corman's bee sculpture. I have a piece of wood that I have intended to make into one of my own, maybe next year. SKF

    1. Definitely make a bee habitat. The bees have made one of their own in the eaves of our back porch.

  3. That cactus fountain is terrific. It never occurred to me that bird's would actually soak their feet in it. I just assumed they'd be too skittish. And is that the mesquite tree that fell over just a couple years ago? Glad to see it survived.

    1. I should have mentioned--I've seen hummingbirds drink from that fountain. The mesquite fell over years before I became involved with the Park. That little grotto is one of my favorite areas of the Park, but I'm practically the only person who ever goes there.