PHOENIX — For the past 40 years, a 40-foot-tall saguaro cactus watched over a north Phoenix neighborhood.
This cactus was there when The Beatles called it quits, it was there when the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft linked up for a first-ever cooperative space mission between the Soviets and Americans.
This cactus might have been able to overhear the marriage between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer coming from the television inside or maybe it struggled to understand why the towers fell on 9/11 but felt proud to see American flags flying all over the neighborhood.
On Sunday, this proud saguaro gave way to the record heat that has engulfed the Valley and the lack of water from non-existent monsoon storms.
The over 40-year-old saguaro gave its last and crumbled onto the house which stood tall in front of for more than four decades.
“I just started to hear a loud crack, so I looked up and just saw the cactus falling over,” recounts Marianna Diniz, one of the people who currently live in the north Phoenix home.
Diniz and her family were celebrating her mother’s birthday that day. While Diniz and a friend were talking out front, they witnessed the end of the majestic Saguaro. It was right on top of their garage.
“If we were inside, what would have happened if we were inside?” Diniz wondered out loud. “What would have happened with us?”
Both Diniz and her mother are painters who converted their garage into an artist's studio. They spend countless hours every day plying their trade.
The saguaro in front of the Diniz home isn’t the only cactus to not make it out of 2020 alive. Countless pictures of fallen saguaros all over the Valley popped up on various social media pages this summer.
“Well, this changes everything. even the normal stuff,” explained Brian Whitfill, owner of Whitfill Nursery. “I mean, you’ll have pines that have been growing here in the Valley for 60 years; they’re all burned up and golden. We have palms which are yellow, we have plants which normally thrive in the desert, and this year they’re burnt.”
If anyone should know and understand the plight of greenery in Arizona this year, it would be Brian Whitfill. He’s spent his whole life in the Phoenix area tending to all kinds of plants.
“We get some rain, the humidity comes up, temperatures go down, plants recover,” Whitfill said. “That didn’t happen this year. And the first time in my life it didn’t happen.”
(Of course, it didn’t happen this year, because, you know: 2020.)
For as bad as many people’s vegetation look right now, Brian has a simple suggestion to bring those plants back to life if and when the weather ever decides to cool a bit.
“Ideally what you are going to do is you are going to water deeper, not necessarily more often, but deeper,” Whitfill suggested.
Even saguaros, like the one that stood sentry over the Diniz home since the invention of the microprocessor (1971), needs deep water at least twice a month. Two feet deep, according to Whitfill.
“This year pushed the limits. We set records in July, we set records in August, the hottest ever, but we know fall is coming,” Whitfill said, eyeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Yes, autumn is on its way and those lower temperatures will help revive the burnt, crispy things that we used to call bushes. To paraphrase Brian Whitfill: as soon as you are done reading this article, go outside and give those plants nice, deep water.
Unfortunately, this advice is a little too late for our saguaro resting atop of the Diniz garage and studio. But as its last act, let it teach us all: even a cactus needs a little water every now and then in a record-setting summer such as this.