Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What Could Be Sweeter Than A Garden At A Chocolate Factory?

A chocolate factory with a botanical cactus garden on site.

This is Las Vegas, of all places, and two of my favorite things are combined most unexpectedly.

A chocolate factory smack in the middle of a desert region, with crazy high temperatures for months on end, seems an unlikely spot for making and selling fabulously fresh chocolates, made without preservatives, that could melt outside in a New York minute. 

Because they use no preservatives, the factory doesn't make more chocolates than they need and they suggest you eat the chocolates you buy within two weeks for the best flavor.  Not that they would last longer than two weeks in my possession, ahem.

February really is just another great reason to buy and eat chocolate.

And then they have this garden, which also might seem out of the question. Let's face it, you can drive for hours in Nevada without seeing much foliage, plants or even civilization for that matter (with the exception of the Strip, where fantasy on all levels pervades).  For the most part, landscaping both on tamed and untamed grounds here is mostly gravel and rocks. Lots and lots of rocks.

So this chocolate factory garden is a sight for sore eyes. 

 Eye candy, if you will.

Lechuguilla agave

Even though spiky

Fishhook barrel cactus
Ferocactus hamatacanthus var. hamatacanthus

and spiny is the genre of the region.

Twisted Acacia tree
Acacia schaffneri

It was a bright but slightly cool day in the low 60's with a beautiful blue sky in Las Vegas in early February when I visited this garden with my daughter, sister and niece.

Opuntia santa-rita

We saw the purple pancake paddle cactus

Ferocactus Pilosus

the red barrel cactus

Carnegiea gigantea

and the mighty Saguaro.

We saw the Prickly Pear paddle cactus that always makes me think of Mickey Mouse ears,

the adorable polka dot cactus, another prickly pear variety,

Agave americana var. marginata

and the variegated century agave plant.

Opuntia bigelovii

We saw the teddy bear cholla, and even though this looks fuzzy
I don't think you want to cuddle up with this teddy bear.

But the Baja style garden, native to the Sonoran Desert in California and the Baja Peninsula, is probably my favorite, with layers of color and variety.

Plants are decked in colorful lights at  the holidays

And while I have eaten and enjoy prickly pears and nopales, which are both harvested from cactus, I tend not think of desert gardens as productive. 

So just to challenge your notion of what constitutes a garden,
the cactus garden overlooks a modern day "solar garden" where energy from solar panels is harvested.

So what could be better than a chocolate factory with a garden on a gorgeous day?

Being there with my daughter. 
She's the sweetest.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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