This past Monday my sister (Daisy Mom) took me and my family to a very special place at the base of the desert mountains.  Beautiful gardens, plant collections from around the world and wild animals were on display for all to see at “The Living Desert”.

Teddy Bear Cholla, Ocotillo and the yellow flowers of Brittlebush grace the desert.
The Palm Springs area  is located in the midst of the California desert.  One of the first things that you notice about this area is that it is surrounded by tall, snow covered mountains.  It is a wonderful example of how mountains block much of the rain from entering the desert.
My nephews, niece and children were all ready for a fun day.
We were still in the parking lot when I knew that I was in trouble….I felt pulled in so many different directions by the beautiful and unusual plants that I saw.
Saliva coccinea
In general, flowering plants are what I am drawn to and there were so many to look at.  Countless flowering plants were enjoying the warmer then normal temperatures of the upper 70’s.
The tiny purple flowers of Trailing Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii), contrast nicely with the gray-green foliage of this groundcover.
Beautiful trees were also in flower…
   Australian native, Weeping Wattle (Acacia saligna) is covered with golden puffball flowers.
Flowering Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)
 Yellow Columbine benefits from the water from this stone fountain.
My son, two daughters and niece stop by the pond to see the tadpoles.
 One of my favorite flowering plants that grows well in light shade, Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera).
Salvia (I haven’t looked this one up yet)
Another Penstemon 
Did I mention already that I love Penstemons?
This low-growing shrub is absolutely covered in tiny purple flowers.
Are you tired yet? 
Today’s portion of our tour is almost over…
I love these African Daisies with their orange petals and purple center.

I have a preference for plants that produce plumes of flowers, such as this Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis).
I mentioned yesterday that I took over 500 pictures of our visit and I did promise not to make you sit through all of them.  But I do have a few more to show you.  So our next visit together will focus on some of the unusual plants that we saw.  
There were many smaller paths that led off from the main path and there were always surprises around the bend – usually spectacular vistas along with some unusual plants.  More about that next time…. 
 My daughter, heading down a path – not sure what she will find at the end.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to view some of the beauty of this special place.
I have left one of my favorite pictures for you to view in preparation for tomorrow’s post of unusual plants.
 Now, I am off to the dentist….

Although it is still technically winter here in the desert, the signs of spring are everywhere….

The plum tree at Double S Farms begins to flower.
Earlier this week, I noticed the plum tree that sits in front of the house at Double S Farms, is just beginning to unfurl it’s flowers.  I cannot wait to have some of my mother’s plum preserves in a few months :^)
Yesterday, I traveled up to an area north of Fountain Hills, AZ, which is approximately a one hour’s drive from my home.  It is also the place where I worked for over 5 years.  I was asked to do a landscape consultation for a client and so I brought my camera along to see what signs of spring I could capture in the surrounding area.
I went for a drive on one of the golf courses that I used to work on and immediately headed for one of my favorite places.  This area of the golf course borders the desert, with only a barbed wire fence separating the natural desert from the golf course.

The desert was lush and green as a result of the winter rains we have received.  Snow can be seen melting from the top of Four Peaks Mountain in the distance.
Flower buds are beginning to form at the tips of the Buckhorn Cholla.
Tiny blue flowers grace this Rosemary shrub.
Next, I went on a drive around the beautifully landscaped homes and took pictures of the plants that were in flower. 

Threadleaf Cassia (Senna nemophila)
Cassia shrubs, a favorite Australian native of mine, are beginning to flower showing off their bright yellow blossoms.
Trailing Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii)
Tiny purple petals are just beginning to peek out from the Trailing Indigo Bush.  Their vibrant purple color contrast so beautifully with the gray-green leaves of this groundcover.
Sweet Acacia Tree (Acacia farnesiana)
This native desert tree is encased in fragrant, golden puffball flowers. 
Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana)
This Octopus Agave, which I planted years ago, is working towards achieving it’s crowning glory – rapidly growing it flowering stalk, which will produce hundreds of new ‘baby’ agave plants.  Once it has finished flowering, it will die.
Gopher Plant (Euphorbia glandulosa)
An ugly common name, graces this beautiful succulent plant.  In spring, they are covered with vibrant, chartreuse colored flowers.
Valentine Shrub (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)
I would like to finish this post by showing you a photo that I took yesterday of my favorite shrub, Valentine.  They were in full-bloom yesterday and it was obvious that they are my favorite as they were present in most landscape areas that I had designed years ago.
Thank you for allowing me to show you some of the beautiful plants that I have been so blessed by seeing this week.  This is such a wonderful time of the year in the desert and it isn’t even spring yet!  
As winter ends and spring begins, there will be more to see….wildflowers, flowering Palo Verde trees, cactus flowers and much more!