Beauty In The Desert….

foothills of the desert

As I have mentioned before, I am not a desert native….I grew up near the ocean.  To me, the desert was a brown place where prickly cactus and coyotes lived.

Well, I have now lived in the desert for almost 24 years and I have found out that the desert is brown, there are cactus and I have seen my share of coyotes.  But, I have also discovered that the desert is so much more then what my previous stereotype was.

Last week, I was visiting a client in the outskirts of the Phoenix metro area.  Her home was located in the foothills of the desert.  The plants and scenery around there were just breathtaking. 

Thankfully, I had my camera with me that day and I would like to share with you some of what I saw….

plants and scenery

Plants and scenery

The homes are set against the backdrop of beautiful mountains.

plants and scenery

Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia floridium) were in full bloom against the blue sky.

plants and scenery

Buckhorn Cholla were covered with unopened buds just beginning to open….

plants and scenery

It sometimes hard to believe that something so prickly can produce such beautiful flowers.

Gambel's Quail

I met a little friend, a Gambel’s Quail, perched atop of a mailbox.

plants and scenery

One of my favorite shrubs, Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii), was beginning to flower.  The foliage is very fragrant and I have a small one in my own garden that I just planted recently.

plants and scenery

The familiar desert shrub, Creosote (Larrea tridentata), was flowering along with their fuzzy covered seedpods.

plants and scenery

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) brightens the desert with their yellow blooms.  They self seed very easily and you can help the process by collecting the seed heads from spent flowers, like the one(s) above.

Prickly Pear

Many different types of Prickly Pear were in full bloom.

 beauty of a plant

It never ceases to amaze me that the beauty of a plant is often in the small details.

Globe Mallow

The bright colors of Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) were on display.

Okay, I have save the best for last.  I was just about ready to pack my camera away and head for home when I saw a beautiful Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri).  Unlike the more common Parry’s & Firecracker Penstemon that are found in the landscape, Snapdragon Penstemon is not found often in our area although it does very well and is native to Arizona and other southwest states.

desert southwest

 It is a large perennial – it can grow 4 to 5 ft. tall.  Native to the desert southwest, it does best in areas with low rainfall.


 Unlike many Penstemons, this one is lightly fragrant.

Thank you for joining me in viewing some of the beautiful sights from my visit last week.  In closing, I would like to share with you my favorite photo, which is a close-up picture of Snapdragon Penstemon flowers.


Have a great day!

Beautiful Desert Sunset…..Storm Clouds On The Horizon

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."
22 replies
  1. Kyna
    Kyna says:

    Love the quail 😀 One time, a flock of quail flew out of the trees while Chuck and I were walking, and scared the hell out of him. He carries this walking stick, and immediately assumed a warrior stance out of reflex. Bahaha!v I'm still laughing at the memory 😀

  2. Rainforest Gardener
    Rainforest Gardener says:

    What great inspiration! Yes, the desert is brown, but that sand makes for a wonderful matte and a place for the eye to rest! I think that the topography there also makes things more interesting.

  3. NorthPhxAgent
    NorthPhxAgent says:

    Thank you so much for naming the Penstemon! I see them all over my neighborhood and never knew what they were called. And that creosote bush in bloom… my fave smell in the whole world is a creosote bush in the desert after it rains. Beautiful!

  4. Antique ART Garden
    Antique ART Garden says:

    Pretty, but I am originally a native Texan, and I prefer the beauty of the Deep South's gardens with those in the Southwest far in the US. I do believe your photography is magical !! Thanks for the post, Gina

  5. Ami
    Ami says:

    For some reason, I had the same stereotype about the desert before I became a frequent reader of your blog. Now I know there are so MANY beauties in the desert!!! Thanks for sharing all the beauties with us! Love that snapdragon.

  6. Floridagirl
    Floridagirl says:

    You are changing many people's perception of the desert through your blog. Because of you, I now realize there are many types of desert, each with their own unique flora and fauna. I love that Chaparral Sage! What a pretty purple! The flat-top buckwheat is beautiful as well, but what a name! And that snapdragon penstemon is lovely and quite un-desert-like.

  7. Bernie
    Bernie says:

    I think your blog shows that beauty can be found in every types of landscape … if your really look!

    Terrific photos once again … but I do have to agree that the Penstemon is an outstanding beauty!

  8. sweet bay
    sweet bay says:

    Your blog showcases the beauty of desert gardens so well… the taupe and green landscape, the mountains, the trees, the vivid flowers in the bright sunlight, all wonderful.

  9. camissonia
    camissonia says:

    Hi Noelle, really great photos! Some of these are familiar to California's landscapes. Penstemon palmeri, Creosote, Globemallow, and Desert Marigold can be found in the Mojave desert, while the Buckwheat and Cleveland's sage are common to Southern Cal's chaparral habitats. All are superb specimens in cultivation.

  10. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Noelle, that Palo Verde is so beautiful against the blue sky. I wonder if you know the Golden Shower or Casia fistula, looks like your Palo Verde though its spikes are drooping that's why the name.

  11. Carol
    Carol says:

    Yes indeed the desert has its time of bloom and great beauty. I should love to visit and see the flowers and wildlife! Lovely post Noelle. Hope you have a great day too!

  12. Msrobin
    Msrobin says:

    Our recent vacation to Arizona allowed me to begin to appreciate it's different kind of beauty. I still prefer greenery, but I can definitely appreciate desert beauty too. Your adoptive home is lovely indeed!

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