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Arizona Flora

This postcard was mailed in 1947 from Glendale Arizona to someone in Ohio, and talks about the orange blossoms in the valley. (The Valley of the Sun, not Valley as in Valley Girl!)

Spring spoke to me from the orange trees in the valley, it came first, as a whisper, the hint of blooms, of spring, lovely weather, longer days and the end of school. It meant nights outside, riding a bike, or walking, or in a car, with that essence of orange, giving substance to the air.

I understand why this person wrote what they wrote. It is about the joy of scent. I imagine this person, like me, from the Midwest smelling the orange blossoms for the very first time. Now that I think about it, Phoenix should have Orange Blossom Festival, not like the Cherry Blossom Festival which is all about the photographs, but the scent, floating around the valley. The Valley should have Queen and King of the Orange Blossoms, a parade, a balloon festival, orange blossom themed drinks, frosting on dark chocolate cake, orange blossom infused water, well you get the idea. My mind wanders with ideas.

From the postcard:

“The orange blossoms are out, and one can smell them a long ways. If I lived here for good, I would want some just to smell.”

I understand that sentiment. There are few things as lovely, ephemeral as delicate as orange blossoms in the air. If I could buy bouquets of them, I would have them every day of my life. Orange blossoms are not that kind of flower and they don’t live in vases. They live on trees, in the open, once a year. Other citrus can bloom several times a year, but not the queen of the citrus family, which blooms just once a year. And, interestingly, grapefruit, lemon, lime trees don’t have that same floating scent. I can’t imagine how intense that aroma was when thousands of acres were planted with orange trees.

This card is all about Arizona flora. The writer talks about the oranges, and the card itself talks about desert plants.

The tall, blooming plant in this postcard is the Century Plant (aka Sentry Plant, agave).

Why a Century plant? People believed that it lived for 100 years, bloomed and died. In fact, it lives between 10 and 30 years, but, indeed, blooms and dies in one last blaze of glory. These blooms can rise 30 feet from the base. They are impressive to behold.

When we moved to Arizona, I found most of the flora alien, fascinating, terrifying (why were there all these plants with seriously BIG thorns!?). I recall my initial reaction, which was – this looks like giant, alien asparagus. For real. In Wisconsin, wild asparagus grew around our house, which I would often pick and eat. (Eating really local!!)

I’ve looked at that plant my entire life, and thought – asparagus!! I never took the time to look it up, so here I am, googling away on Century plants and there it is. The gigantic, kingly, Century plant, belongs to the same family as my petite asparagus plants.

In full the postcard says:

“Dear friends, rec’d the card – it was surely a nice one and thanks so much. Eldo appreciated them and is going to take them all home with him. The orange blossoms are out, and one can smell them a long ways. If I lived here for good, I would want some just to smell. We go out in the country and buy good oranges for 20 ¢ per dozen, grapefruit the same. I got a good sunburn to-day. Eldo and Irene A.”

Sent to Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Traxler
Kunkle, Ohio

The Ohio location is significant. A group of people from Ohio came to the Phoenix area to farm. In fact, one of these families, the Diller’s bred and grew oranges in the area near 7th Avenue between Butler and Dunlap. Those oranges were seedless and juicy and I suspect were the very oranges at our home in Arcadia. (The Diller house still stands.)

Another moment in time, place, journey and the scent of orange blossoms!


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