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

New Xeriscape Plant for Phoenix Desert Gardens

Tecoma x 'Sparky'We love those Yellow Bells in our Phoenix desert gardens, right?  Most have bright green foliage and they bloom nearly all year long.  Well, here’s a new cultivar you may like called Sparky (Tecoma x ‘Sparky’).

This beautiful xeriscape plant is locally grown by V & P Nurseries, it likes full to part sun and a moderate amount of water.  Its mature size is about 5′ x 5′  and it blooms from spring through fall, although most Tecomas I’ve seen will bloom most of the year.  The blooms are yellow with what looks like a waterfall of maroon going into the throat…STUNNING!  And, of course, the hummingbirds love it!

Even better is that the plant is named for Sparky, the Arizona State University Sun Devil mascot, and a portion of the sales goes to the Fund for Landscape Architecture Students at ASU.  So, go out and add this little devil to your desert garden and help a future horticulturist at the same time.

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.


Design Idea: Succulents All in a Row

Mass plantings work really well for a big bed or a big space in our desert gardens.  They’re simple to design but, if done well, make a really bold statement.

Take this new bed at the Phoenix Art Museum.  It features alternating plantings of a columnar Euphorbia with the curvy wildness of Pedilanthus macrocarpus (Slipper Plant).  Add some cool mulch (they used a river rock, but recycled glass would work well, too) and you’ve got a stunning and contemporary garden.  Light it up at night and, well…breathtaking!

Make it even simpler by sticking to just one low-water xeriscape plant.  Columnar plants, especially cacti, not only create a look, they can act as a security barrier.  And a row of Slipper Plants provide structure, but their unpredictable growth patterns provide a sense of fun!