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

Water Your Cactus…or Not?

Drought Kills Desert PlantsI was talking the other day with someone who wanted to buy a cactus.  “Do I have to water it?”  When I told him yes, he asked why.  I mean, the plants in the desert don’t get watered unless it rains…why do I have to water it?

Great question!  True, the plants in the desert don’t rely on us to water them.  They’ve been well-adapted to our desert climate, and take what rain they get.  But what happens in a drought?

Drought-stressed plants not only lack adequate water, they become vulnerable to diseases and pests.  And they sometimes die as a result, like this Ocotillo.  That’s why, in many Phoenix landscapes, we even supplement our native and desert-adapted xeriscape plants with water.

So when you’re planning your landscape, consider whether you want to take your chances (and a few rain dances) on a “natural” desert landscape…you’ll want to consider neighborhood and zoning restrictions, too.  Or whether you want to provide enough water to ensure a healthy desert garden.


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Cool Idea for Creating Privacy in Your Xeriscape

Creating a Privacy ScreenI have a healthy respect for people who, with a little creativity, figure out how to get around the rules.  Such is the case here.

The City of Phoenix (and many other Greater Phoenix municipalities, I’m sure) has a rule about building walls higher than three feet on the side of your property with the address on it.  For most of us, this is the front yard.  I’m sure there are good reasons for this…like maybe they’re afraid we’ll wall off our compounds and build moats all around.  Or something like that.

Anyway, most of us like our privacy and we grumble when the city won’t play in the sandbox with us.  But I love this solution!  Instead of a wall, which is against the rules, this homeowner erected 6′ high parallel sheets of metal placed at an angle in what I like to call a sculpture.  The benefit of it is that he skirted the rules (YAY!) and got some privacy because when you drive down the street toward his home, you see a wall.  But coming at it from the other direction, it’s a series of metal panels placed at angles.  Freakin’ cool!

What makes it even cooler is that he then mass planted the area in front of the panels with Golden Barrels, giving the desert garden a very contemporary look, incorporating some low-water xeriscape plants, and creating a security barrier to boot.  I mean, would you tiptoe through this spiny, ankle-slicing moat?

So become friends with your camera phone, and snap away at all those good ideas!  By the way, the Desert Botanical Garden is offering a Smartphone Photography class on April 14 to show you how to get all those great shots.


The All-New Western Garden Book

Sunset Western Garden BookWOW, I just got the new Western Garden Book and it is gorgeous!  So much better than the last edition.  Biggest difference?  Photos galore!   The last edition used illustrations for all of the plants.  They’re good, but dang…nothin’ can beat a good shot of the plant you’re trying to find or identify.

Here’s the other thing:  the cover is boatloads better!  It’s not a paperback cover and it’s not a hard cover, but something in between…like reinforced something or other.  Anyway, it won’t fall apart.  Drop it from a tall building like they do with the Samsonite and it’ll stay intact.  I think.

So if you’re looking for a good general gardening book, check this one out. It’s not specific to Phoenix desert landscapes, and I don’t think they’ve heard of the word “xeriscape”…it’s published in California after all, and they get all kinds of rain. But it has all kinds of information to help you get started and it’s a great plant reference besides!


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