Introducing ‘The Refuge’….An Oasis In The Desert


 Many of you have visited Double S Farms with me where my mother (Pastor Mom), youngest sister (Chicken Farmer) and family reside. Well, I have more family for you to meet along with their desert gardens.

I would like to introduce you to ‘The Refuge’ along with it’s residents, their gardens and the beautiful desert surrounding them.  The Refuge is located in the California desert, in the Coachella Valley, and is the home of my younger sister and her family.

desert surrounding

Desert surrounding , The desert drinks up all the rain as it runs through the wash, by The Refuge.

My entire family and I are all native Californians who grew up minutes from the ocean.  Much of our time was spent at the beach.  Some of us were surfers, while others, (my sisters and I), would lay on the beach working on our tans, or lack of – we are fair-skinned.

*Disclaimer – we always wear sunscreen, now that we know better.  Back then, we were young and stupid ;0)

As time passed by, we all eventually found our way to the desert and have made our homes here.  My younger sister and her family live in the California desert, near Palm Springs –  while my mother, brother and youngest sister (and families) live in the Arizona desert as I do.

desert surrounding

Desert surrounding , Washes in the desert fill quickly with rushing water when it rains.

Often, when people think of the desert, they picture barren, sandy hills with small scrubby shrubs and believe that all deserts look the same.  However, there are differences in all deserts.  The California desert around the Palm Springs area is part of the Sonoran Desert as is the larger Phoenix area where I live.  

However, there are some differences between the California  and the Arizona Sonoran Desert, which caused the California desert area around the Palm Springs area to be sub-classified as the Colorado Desert.  You can read more about the differences in an earlier post Journey Into My Backyard – The Sonoran Desert.

desert surrounding

Small pools like this will quickly disappear as the soil drinks up the rain water. A Creosote (Larrea tridentata) shrub is reflected in the water.

As a child, I would look forward to visits with my grandparents who lived in Palm Desert.  The beautiful barrenness of the mountains against the deep blue sky just transfixed me.  My sister has a beautiful view of the tallest mountain, Mount San Jacinto, from her kitchen and it is often covered in snow in the winter.

As we drive through the California desert towards my sister’s home, you are surrounded by the stark beauty of the desert.  As we turn down the street towards her home, it is easy to see why it is called ‘The Refuge’.  A beautiful garden surrounds their home, creating a green oasis with colorful, flowering plants and trees.

desert surrounding

My nephew, Mr. Green Jeans, who is the resident photographer at ‘The Refuge’.

In future posts, we will have more glimpses of the gardens at ‘The Refuge’ and meet it’s residents.  My nephew, Mr. Green Jeans, is not only the resident photographer, but also grows beautiful vegetables.  My brother-in-law, Mr. Compost, is passionate about composting and will perhaps do a guest posting about how he composts.  My sister, Daisy Mom, grows beautiful container plants as well as houseplants.  

We will soon return to ‘The Refuge’ and meet more of it’s residents, view their gardens and the beautiful desert that surrounds them.

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."
27 replies
  1. Curbstone Valley Farm
    Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    Beautiful! Wonderfully lush for desert. I'm always amazed at the diversity of ecosystems just within California. That's part of why I love living here…minutes from the ocean, minutes from the mountains, and everything in between! Looking forward to your next visit to 'The Refuge'.

  2. Darla
    Darla says:

    This is so neat! My girls just asked me the other day if flowers can grow in the desert…I said, "They sure can and I know a desert gardener who has a blog that you can look at." Thanks, you are teaching more than just bloggers!

  3. Teresa O
    Teresa O says:

    Noelle…you keep bringing to light so many things I never knew about deserts and the gardens that grow there. It's a pleasure to meet the residents of 'The Refuge.'

  4. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    Beautiful photographs, and thank you for enlightening us about the beautiful diversity of deserts. I am so enjoying getting to know your bioregion and those that surround yours. 🙂

    Oh, and I would love to read a post about compost!

  5. Shady Gardener
    Shady Gardener says:

    What a beautiful photo-essay, Noelle. I've visited the desert (Sonora) several times in my lifetime, but have never been there during a rainfall. Mr. Green Jeans has done a wonderful job with his photography. Simply breathtaking! 🙂

  6. Joanne
    Joanne says:

    Noelle Thanks for sharing your beautiful countryside with us. My father's cousin lives in Arizona and I also have a Lyme friend who runs the Arizona Lyme group LEAP.
    I must admit your photos put such a different slant on my perception of it.

  7. Di
    Di says:

    Noelle, thank you for sharing those remarkable photos and a bit about your family. I sense much luv there. 😉 That first shot is amazingly beautiful… love those views.

  8. Janet
    Janet says:

    Noelle, you have introduced me to amazing landscapes and instructed me to the wonderful world of Arizona. Not at all what I thought of when I thought of Arizona. I look forward to seeing more!

  9. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Noelle, you're going to convert us all into desert lovers if you're not careful! It is very beautiful and interesting to see it with water. I love the names you have for your family members too.

  10. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    A very lovely post Noelle. Yes it doesn't look like a dessert to me but a dry tropical area, and it is beautiful. It looks like it is in my country, how wonderful it is also to play in that shallow stream.Is the term "The Refuge" your term or the real name of the place? I definitely would love to be your Ms. Neighbor Gardener.

  11. Martha Z
    Martha Z says:

    You certainly come from a family with horticulture in their blood. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these gardens.
    I thought of you when we were looking at the gardens at the Getty. Some plants were made to submit to shears while in less formal areas they were allowed a more natural shape.
    I hope you get a chance to visit. I neglected to photograph the large area of succulents they have, it's a bit out of the way and we viewed it from a distance.

  12. Brad
    Brad says:

    So far I've liked your sidetrips to visit your family. Keep the posts coming. And even though I lived in Phoenix for a while I constantly learn new things on your blog about the desert. I didn't realize part of the CA desert was Sonoran as well. The difference seems so drastic every time I drive between the two states. Though the lack of monsoons would definitely explain the lesser density of plants on this side of the border.

  13. Patchwork
    Patchwork says:

    We go to Palm Springs every year. Mr. P. plays in a golf tournament, usually at Indian Wells.
    I'm always amazed at how much can grow there. What seems like 'dead dirt' comes alive with water.
    Looking forward to your future glimpses of The Refuge.

  14. Liisa
    Liisa says:

    That first image is just beautiful. It is wonderful that so many members of your family enjoy gardening. It is a passion I share with my mother and 2 sisters. It does make one think that gardening is truly in our blood. I look forward to seeing more of The Refuge. 🙂

  15. leavesnbloom
    leavesnbloom says:

    Until I started reading over here Noelle the picture I had no real idea what a desert would really be like in the USA – I was so surprised to see lush areas of greenery and such beautiful flowers – I did not expect to see much other than cacti – but its been great discovering the tundra you live in. Rosie

  16. Rose
    Rose says:

    The only desert I have visited, Noelle, is the Sonoran Desert around Phoenix, and I agree with you about its beauty. Until I went there, I had no idea how beautiful a desert could be. It's such a dramatic change from the green fields and flat land of the Midwest and so much fun to learn about the very different plants living in this area. Looking forward to seeing more of "The Refuge."

Comments are closed.