A little piece of paradise in the desert

2013-12-19T00:00:00Z 2013-12-19T11:17:04Z A little piece of paradise in the desertBarbara Russek Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Where do you go to get away from it all — where you can infuse a little tranquility into your stressful holiday schedule? Perhaps it’s at the crest of North Campbell Avenue with its expansive desert view. Maybe it’s a relaxing walk after work, when you pause to admire one of our orange sherbet sunsets, as a friend of mine calls them. Even better, how does a drive up to the White Mountains or Sedona sound?

Delightful as these little getaways are, my favorite way to relax involves no more traveling than walking out my front door to the patio, just a few hundred square feet of space. A little tending and a lot of what I call nature’s miracles have produced a treat for the senses that is soothing to body and soul.

As I stroll out onto the patio after a busy day, the little rose garden calls to me. In the book “Le Petit Prince,” by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the little prince talks about a single rose he “tames” to make it his. I wonder what the little prince would think of my glorious task of taming masses of roses, in varied hues of pink, yellow and peach. At this point, some stems tower over me and have to be contained by gardening tape in their wild abandon and apparent desire to practically take over the patio.

This all started a few years back with occasional purchases of miniature rose plants I bought for about $5 each at Trader Joe’s. After the blooms faded, I decided to plant them and see what happened. My expectations weren’t high considering the fate of other flowers I’d planted in the same space — snapdragons, pansies even violets — all of which eventually fizzled … either that or they’re annuals.

I was never quite sure which it was, because my knowledge of horticulture could be contained on the tip of one of my very non-green thumbs.

I was literally starting at ground zero, so there was nothing to lose. Much to my astonishment, those miniature rose plants have been growing their little hearts out ever since, with luscious blooms now, many the size of my fist and a fragrance that has as much soothing power as lavender or other natural oils I’ve inhaled.

A botanist could no doubt give me a scientific explanation of how miniature roses with little or no scent could undergo such a dramatic transformation. My explanation will always be: nature’s miracles.

My eye then travels to six of the cutest little koi you ever saw — yes, I know I’m biased — swimming in their tub-sized pond approximately 4-feet long, blissfully unaware of the world’s problems. Just watching them, I find my own concerns melt away.

Another one of nature’s miracles: koi can handle very cold weather, when the temperature outside is well below freezing. I remember learning in elementary school science class that fish are cold-blooded. But, still, these little guys are only 3-inches long. While I have to bundle up on a cold winter’s day just to walk to the mailbox, the koi are enjoying their skinny-dipping to the max.

Oh, to be a koi for a day and have nothing more pressing to do than listen (if koi have ears) to the soft sounds of water trickling over the rocks into the pond sending a message of peace and serenity.

Settling into a comfy chaise longue, I look up at the orange tree, which was planted over a dozen years ago. For the first few years, there was nary an orange to be found. In the ensuing years, there were maybe four or five, until Keith, who does maintenance work at the house, added fertilizer. Et voilà! That tree is covered in oranges every December.

Each year I watch the whole process in amazement, from pollination of those intoxicating orange blossoms in April to the resulting fruit. Being able to pick one for the morning’s breakfast, feeling its perfection in the palm of my hand, tasting its nectar after piercing the skin … to me, they’re all part of nature’s miracles

I’ve added some foliage to the patio, a few live flowering plants from the 99¢ Only Store; also some French-themed decorations, including a “Bonjour” sign welcoming visitors. No, it’s not Le Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris — not even close — but it’s my little garden and patio, which makes it all the more precious.

Tucson writer Barbara Russek welcomes comments, especially stories of your garden successes, at Babette2@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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