Zone 10

Botanica of the Arid Southwest

In winter, the flora of Zone 10 in Southern California is a strange sight to a northerner. Peculiarities that caught my eye:

  • Agave plants protrude menacing, serrated, blade-like leaves
  • Cacti grow into perfect spheres
  • Prickly needles attach to intruders with the slightest touch
  • Palm trees define their territories with single vertical columns
  • Airy fronds catch the wind, sending pollen and seeds on their wayAccording to the USDA, Zone 10 plants need only tolerate lows of 30° to 35°, scorching daytime heat and scarce rainfall. In Minnesota, Zone 4 predominates, with fierce lows of -25° to
    -30° and the waters of the famous 10,000 lakes.


I created these images over several years at three locations:

  • San Diego Botanical Garden
  • Living Desert Museum, Palm Desert
  • Palm Canyon Oasis, on lands of the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians


For the original images, I used a Rolleiflex, and later a Hasselblad, 120mm film camera. A film camera is far slower than a digital camera. With only 12 frames per roll, I was motivated to take my time, absorb the composition options and make the most of each frame.


Printmaking and botanical subjects hark back to another era. Botanical subjects were long featured in printmaking, especially before photography became portable, affordable and colorful. Some prints were scientific records; others charming pieces for the wall. Prints could be distributed to a wider, although not immense audience, and retain the intimacy of a small image. The polymer photogravure process integrates modern elements – photography and a polymer plate – with the handwork of an intaglio process.


p.s. As a newcomer to photogravure and printmaking, I owe a big thank you to Keith Taylor and the staff at Highpoint Center for printmaking for their expertise and patience.


June 2016