I apologize, but life is kind of crazy this week, so I promise that I will get to back to my ‘Tree Planting’ posts soon.  In the meantime, I would like to share with you one of my favorite posts that I wrote about 1 1/2 years ago.  I was rather new at blogging at the time so most of you probably have not read it.  I hope you enjoy it 🙂

When people think of a desert, most envision a place of intense heat, sparse plants, snakes and lots of sand.  Well, some of that is true, but there is much, much more which I have discovered.  I am not a native desert dweller.  In fact, I was born and raised near the beach in Southern California and I never thought that I would live in the desert.  However, here I am, having lived in Arizona for over 23 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way….

Sonoran Desert

All of the photos were taken in an area about 30 minutes northeast of Phoenix.

The desert that I live in is called the Sonoran Desert and it occupies over 120,000 sq. miles covering parts of Arizona, California and Mexico.  Although deserts around the world do not receive much rainfall, the Sonoran Desert receives more then any other desert in the world.  We have two seasons of rain.  In the winter our storms come from the west from the Pacific coast and the rains are usually gentle.  In the summer our rains come up from Mexico and are called “monsoons”, which means “wind shift”.  These summer storms are sporadic and result in torrential rainfall and high winds.  Often, when we receive these torrential downpours, my kids and I just stand inside our front door, just watching the rain.

By the way…..you know you are an ‘official’ desert dweller when you rejoice whenever it rains.

Sonoran Desert

Because of our dual rainy seasons, the Sonoran Desert has the most animal and plant species of any North American desert.  We have over 2,000 native plant species alone.  In the spring, the desert is awash in wildflowers and cactus blooms.  The rain brings out the distinct, yet pleasing, scent of the Creosote bush (if you rub the leaves in your fingers, it smells like the rain).  I live in zone 8b and we do experience occasional freezing conditions during the winter. 

Sonoran Desert

Interestingly, the western part of the Sonoran Desert, located in California (Palm Springs and surrounding area), is regarded as a sub-desert called the Colorado Desert.  It differs in appearance and in that the soils are sandy, there is less rainfall in the summer and as a result there is less plant density and native plant species.  The Saguaro cactus does not grow naturally in the Colorado Desert.  If you have a chance to drive across the California – Arizona border, you can see the difference as you cross over the Colorado River.  This sub-desert has a beauty of it’s own and I enjoy visiting this part of the Sonoran Desert.

Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert is a fascinating place with cactus and snakes  (I rarely see them), but is also filled with trees, shrubs, flowers and wildlife.  Far from being a barren wasteland, this desert is full of life and beauty.

It is my home….

Two Iconic Sonoran Desert Plants: Saguaro and Ocotillo

I have been enjoying sharing with you some of my favorite lesser-known plants.  These are plants that are not used enough in the landscape and can brighten up an otherwise boring landscape filled with over-used landscape plants such as Lantana, Dwarf Oleander, etc.  My last post featured the beautiful Valentine shrub.

I am very excited to talk about this lesser known plant.  Let me introduce you to chaparral sage (Salvia clevelandii).

Lesser Known Plant

Isn’t it beautiful?

Years ago, I planted the chaparral Sage above along with many others around a golf course.  Their blue-purple flowers were a definite focal point in the spring time landscape.

Lesser Known Plant

The striking flowers begin to form in the spring and continue on into early summer.

This shrub is native to San Diego county and performs well in well-drained soil.

Like most of my favorite plants, this flowering shrub is low-maintenance.  There are also many other reasons that I think you should definitely try this out in your garden:

Hardy to 10 degrees F.

And so mine is still green despite temps dipping into the low 20’s this winter.

Has a beautiful, naturally round shape.  Only requires pruning by at least 1/2 its size in February and removal of spent flowers in the summer.

Hummingbirds will be congregating around the beautiful flowers.

Reaches a mature size of approximately 4′ x 4′.

The foliage is highly fragrant and is attractive even when not covered with flowers.

Lesser Known Plant

In the low deserts, it is wise to place the shrubs where they will receive filtered shade in the afternoons.  In high desert locations, they can be set out in full sun.

The foliage is quite fragrant and while most people enjoy its fragrance, some do not.  So, be sure to find a Chaparral Sage plant ahead of time to make sure that you enjoy the fragrance as much as I do before you buy some for your garden.

The fragrance is best enjoyed from a short distance, so I recommend not planting right next to walkways or windows.

Chaparral Sage looks great when planted near yellow, red or pink flowering plants.

I hope you will decide to try this shrub out in your garden.  I absolutely love mine.

*******************************

For those of you who are determined to be trendsetters in your garden, try these beautiful, fuss-free plants in your garden.  

For those of you who have read my blog from time to time, you have already met some of the members of “The Refuge” and seen glimpses of their gardens.

Today, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce to all of the residents and show you more of their garden and the beautiful desert that surrounds them.

California desert

The Refuge is a beautiful, green oasis, located in the California desert, near Palm Springs.  Stark, beautiful, desert mountains surround them that are often covered in snow in the winter.

California desert

It does rain in the desert and is always a time of celebration.  Dry desert washes, are suddenly filled with running water.

In the middle of this desert are the home and gardens of my sister and her family.

Beautiful Desert Garden

 Peach Tree Blossom

In the middle of the desert, you will find life in this desert garden.

Beautiful Desert Garden

Yellow Daisy (Euryops pectinatus)

Flowers are lovingly grown by my sister, Daisy Mom.

Beautiful Desert Garden

Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

Vegetables are grown by my nephew, Mr. Green Jeans.

Mr. Green Jeans

My sister and niece, Fruity Girl, also lend a hand to the vegetable garden.

Beautiful Desert Garden
vegetable garden

A large Mesquite tree graces the front garden….

Beautiful Desert Garden

And if you look closely, you will often find one of the residents of “The Refuge” high up in the tree.

high up in the tree
brother-in-law

We have heard from Mr. Compost, my brother-in-law, about how why we should compost and his guest post can be read here.

All that is left for me to do now is to introduce you to the supporting cast, which includes, Gimli, who is the son of my dog.

Missy….and their shy cat.

Gimli
shy cat

The beauty of the surrounding desert, the gardens of “The Refuge” along with it’s residents make this a very special place to visit.

Beautiful Desert Garden

There is so much that I am looking forward to sharing with you…we will visit the vegetable garden in depth and view more of the beautiful flowers that my sister grows.

We will also be going on a field trip to see a wind farm which is located close by “The Refuge”.

As the seasons change, we will be visiting the garden to see the changes that they bring.

Thank you for visiting “The Refuge” with me.

cold in the desert

This may come as a shock to some of you….but, it does get cold in the desert.  Tonight’s temperatures are dropping to the low 30’s, which for us desert dwellers is cold.  Below, is a sampling of how winter looks in the desert.

cold in the desert

I was surprised when I moved here from Southern California, that is actually got much colder here in the winter.  I live in zone 8b and we do have a few nights a year with the temps in the 20’s, occasionally dipping into the high teens.  Tonight, my neighbors have their frost-sensitive plants covered with either frost cloth or old towels.   I just covered my 3 Lantana shrubs in the front yard with some old sheets.

I have enjoyed the photos of frost covered landscapes that many of you have posted.  My most memorable experiences with frost is of driving through the golf courses where I worked when there was a solid layer of frost on the grass.  Everything was white and looked so beautiful.

I do enjoy the winter months, but I am always ready for the spring and warm weather….