Rainy Day(s) In The Desert…

welcome the rain

I love it when it rains.  Actually, most desert-dwellers welcome the rain.  Believe it or not…the rain is a welcome change to bright, sunny days.  

welcome the rain

The park near my home is starting to fill up with water – this is supposed to happen.  Two previous storms this week have started the process, but we are expecting a very large storm to hit today which could bring 3 – 4 inches more (which is a lot for us).

I notice the park filling up when I took my children to school this morning, so I ran back home and got my camera and returned to take pictures.

welcome the rain

Look around an urban desert landscape and you are likely to find examples of the above, which is known as a detention basin or dry pond.  The purpose is to hold large amounts of water from rainfall and keep it from flooding the streets.  

During the summer months, we often receive periodic torrential rains over a short period of time.  These dry ponds rapidly fill with water, which helps to prevent flooded streets.  The water in the pond is then slowly released via a small outflow opening.  Water usually stands in these basins for 24 – 48 after rainfall ends.

Most parks in our area are dual purpose; they serve as a park, but also as a detention basin.  The edges are raised up, forming a bowl shape, which allows them to hold water.

welcome the rain

I snapped this photo this morning of a group of Mallard ducks taking advantage of our now wet ‘dry pond’.

Do you want to know what my favorite part is about the rain?

Rainy Day(s) In The Desert...

It is how the desert looks afterwards….

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
25 replies
  1. Liisa
    Liisa says:

    I too love a good rain shower. The after effects are wonderful… the smells, and the leaves and flowers that retain the glistening raindrops. Everything seems refreshed. Though, had you asked me this last summer, I probably would have told you a different story. We had a very soggy summer, and this year I am hoping for one that is a little less wet.

  2. Catherine@AGardenerinProgress
    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress says:

    It is a nice relief to see rain, and the green it brings with it. I remember that feeling this past summer which was so dry here.
    It's interesting to see how the detention basin was made created in the park, looks like it takes the ducks not time to find it.

  3. Carol
    Carol says:

    Your 'dry ponds' … I love that concept … are like a true oasis in the desert! A very clever idea! Your photos are beautiful Noelle … especially the last!

  4. Liza
    Liza says:

    The rain in the desert is wonderful! We're getting that storm right after you're done with it.

    In Albuquerque, people clap when it rains!

  5. Darla
    Darla says:

    The wet 'dry pond' is very interesting. We have had 4 inches of rain here just this morning. The desert looks beautiful after the rain. Nothing like vitamin G for the land and gardens.

  6. NellJean
    NellJean says:

    We had 4 inches of rain overnight and this morning, too. It doesn't stand around for long, soaking right into the earth.

    The ryegrass I planted in November looks bright green in the afternoon sun since the clouds passed by.

  7. Elephant's Eye
    Elephant's Eye says:

    And that wonderful wet dry earth smell (of Africa for me!) Apart from the actual plants, your green picture could be Namaqualand in the spring. Does your desert also produce flowering annuals and bulbs in the spring?

  8. azplantlady
    azplantlady says:

    Hello Diana,

    Thanks to winter rains, we do see many native desert annuals flower in the spring. There are many places just outside of town where you can view wide swaths of wildflowers growing in the desert. However, during dry winters, there are not many flowers.
    Bulbs do grow here, but you do not see many of them in the landscape, although they are available to be purchased. Thank you for your questions.

  9. Teresa O
    Teresa O says:

    I learn so much from your blog, Noelle. I have never heard of dry basins for catching rain water, but then why would I? The last photo has a dewy quality that makes it almost ethereal. Lovely post!

  10. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    Funny how we all have such different issues due to where we live. Your photos really show the rainy day well. That looks like a typical day here, gloom wise. The desert is pretty after it rains. I was out in Las Vegas a few years ago and we went to Red Rock. I was thrilled to witness a thunderstorm there. It was awesome and I swear I could hear the plants saying ahhhhh. Thanks for the info. It's very interesting.

  11. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    The photos are very beautiful. Was the first photo processed via photoshop? I still dont know how to use it! Even if the dessert garden looks desolate and sad, it still feels very safe and serene. A very bright idea for those trap basins. The last photo is very inviting for exploration. I just saw a dessert in Dubai once but there are very few growths, few grasses and on dicot which we also have here.

  12. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Noelle that last photo is stunning. I can see why you like the rain ~ your landscape gets totally transformed. It's just beautiful. I've been hearing about all the storms coming across your area on our nightly weather reports. We've gotten clouds but no moisture from them in Colorado but that's good ~ it would be snow here instead of rain! I appreciate a nice gentle rain but a thunderstorm makes me a little jumpy for some reason.

  13. Bernie
    Bernie says:

    Feel exactly the same about rain here … I live in a dry tropics zone and the smell of rain is the absolute sweetest perfume in the whole world!!!
    We literally jump for joy when the rain comes in the summer … after many, many years of drought, the last two years' summer rains have been a joy!

  14. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Last night we had a very strong storm go through. I have never been through one with so much wind (70+mph) and rain falling so fast. Thankfully, the damage to my garden was minimal – a few trellises w/ vines fell and we lost a few branches from one of our trees. Our neighborhood lost some very large trees though. I am looking forward to some sunny weather on Saturday….

  15. lostlandscape(James)
    lostlandscape(James) says:

    Over here on the coast the rains have finally stopped for now, and I'd guess they're drying out for you as well. The green afterwards will be great, but the cool, wet, waterlogged place you show in your photos must be a real welcome respite from the dryer months. I like how you who that the desert has a lot of different faces, not just hot and dry all the time…

  16. leavesnbloom
    leavesnbloom says:

    Oh Noelle you had some bad weather didn't you and glad there was not much damage to your property. As you can see I am so late in catching up this week with everyones writings. Rain is so precious to you desert gardeners your town planners seem to have everything well thought out for water conservation. I loved seeing all the green after the rain its so refreshing to see. And those ducks get everywhere don't they!

    Rosie 🙂

  17. Brad
    Brad says:

    Glad to see you guys are getting some rain too. I love how you explain all the things that are quite normal in Phoenix, but would seem so odd to almost anyone else. The detention basin parks being one of those things. I always thought they were also to help recharge the ground water, since the city uses some of it for drinking water.

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