If you want Hallmark versions of roses and lush, dewy gardens, move to Southern California. If you enjoy your plant life with a little more fortitude – flowers that have better things to do than adorn greeting cards – the Las Vegas desert has the specimens you’re looking for.
If you live in Vegas, you know that our inhospitable summers are not designed to sustain life. But they do. Year after year, an impressive variety of rugged greenery thrives in conditions that can best be described as ‘hellish’. These are the thugs of the plant world, and they don’t care if they look good in your grandmother’s vase.
It’s easy to walk around downtown and find nice looking shrubs installed to dress up the local establishments. But to see the real, unconventional beauty of this terrain, look closely at the overgrown yards, the vacant lots and the untended nature trails.
In these obscure corners of downtown, not far from the lights of Fremont Street, I attempted to capture a fragment of these flourishing worlds, populated with plant life both indomitable and elegant.
While I tried not to look creepy crouching in the bushes with a camera, these organisms commanded respect, displaying a toughness I envy. And while some of them might look dainty in a vase, don’t let their delicate bones fool you — if it sprouted up from our anemic soil, there’s nothing meek about it.
A very big ‘thank you’ to the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Masters Gardeners of Southern Nevada, and local resident Beth Hewitt for helping me identify these plants.