Connecting Greater Phoenix gardeners with information that helps put xeriscape principles into action.

Finding Inspiration for Natural Desert Gardens

Mammilaria grahamii (Fishhook Pincushion)In desperate need of either inspiration or intervention, I set out on a hike in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  I tend to tackle these things as if Target’s my sponsor and I’m in training…for the Iron Man.  Which, by the looks of my thighs, I am not.  So I have to remind myself to slow down…stop…and look around.

It’s frickin’ amazing what happens when you do.  I discovered this little fist-sized gem, Mamillaria grahamii, growing out of a pile of rocks.  This tiny xeriscape plant, commonly known as a Fishhook Pincushion or a Nipple Cactus (for somewhat obvious reasons),  likes being tucked into or around a rock in our desert gardens.  And with a little water, these guys will bloom with a bold profusion of color in the spring.

Stopping to see how plants live in their native desert environment allows you to re-create similar growing conditions in your own landscape…especially if you want a more natural desert garden.


Guide to Flowering Plants for Arizona

I meant to mention this book in my last post, but forgot.  So here it is, an excellent guide to flowering plants for Arizona’s low desert–Phoenix, Wickenburg, Tucson, Yuma, etc.

The Arizona Low Desert Flower Gardenfeatures more than 175 flowering plants that do well in natural desert gardens.  But the really cool thing is that the book is divided by plant size and bloom time, so you can quickly find some really good low-water xeriscape options for your desert garden and landscape.  And it’s spiral-bound so it lays nice and flat!

It’s also written by a local expert.  Horticulturist Kirti Mathura was a curator with the Desert Botanical Garden for 17 years before moving over to Singh Farms to tend their vegetable gardens.  She really knows her stuff!

So if you want a really good guide to flowering annuals, perennials, groundcovers, and shrubs, check out The Arizona Low Desert Flower Garden.


Best Time to Plant (and Enjoy) Wildflowers

A wet winter in Phoenix means just one thing:  abundant spring wildflowers.  Yep.  Vibrant yellow-orange Mexican Poppies, bright pink Parry’s Penstemon, sunny Desert Marigold, and lots more crawl up hillsides, gather along roadsides, and dot our desert landscapes.  And my sedentary lifestyle is rudely interrupted by an urge  to hike.

But why hike if you can create the natural look of wildflowers in your own desert garden?  (Yeah, yeah…the health benefits…sigh.)  Wildflowers fit really well into our xeriscapes, adding the same breathtaking color that you see growing naturally in the desert.  Plus, they’re pretty easy to grow.

When overnight temperatures start to cool, around mid-October to mid-November, lightly rake soil and sprinkle wildflower seeds where you want them.  For more even coverage, mix 1 part seeds with 5 parts sand and apply with a hand spreader.  If you already have mulch, such as decomposed granite, seeds can be sprinkled directly over the mulch and watered in.

Keep the area moist until seedlings are an inch or two tall.  Then, cut back watering to every couple of weeks or when seedlings start looking stressed.  Seeds need sunlight to germinate, so don’t bury or cover them with soil.

When spring arrives, skip the hike and enjoy the show in your own natural wildflower garden.  Or double the pleasure with a long hike!



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