I’m writing this in early December and if you’re reading it soon after publishing, Happy Holidays! At the end of every year I to show you what’s been happening plant and landscaping wise. So, come along and join me on a desert garden tour!
I left Santa Barbara 5 years ago and bought a townnhome here in Tucson. Last December I moved into a new home (goodbye HOA) 5 days before Christmas. The property is a hair under an acre, much of it desert that I just look at and don’t do anything to. The wildlife is plentiful and they enjoy the surrounding plants as much as I do.
Last summer was non-stop sunshine and record-setting heat. Even the cacti were loking sad! This summer the glorious monsoon rains arrived with a bang in June and continued through September. We were blessed with a lot of rain and the desert perked up and leafed out.
My house is in great structural shape but it needs updating. Let’s just say it’s stuck in the early 80’s! I’ve been doing a lot of work on the inside of the house (including new floor throughout, painting, and a total kitchen renovation), the pool (a new filter, heater, electrical, and lighting), along with having the exterior repaired and painted.
I haven’t done much in the garden yet, except for the Golden Barrel Cactus additions in the front garden and 3 mature shrubs in the back garden. They’ve become an addiction – I bought 10 Golden Barrel clusters in February and 8 more in September. They glow at all times of the day, but especially at sunset. They’re golden!
Enough rambling … on with this desert garden tour and my plans.
Saguaro Cacti are the symbol of the Southwest. I have 5 or 6 of them on my property. I have a great view of this wacky one from a kitchen window. It has an arm that has grown downwards & touches the ground. You can get a close up look at the flower – they bloomed like crazy this spring.
The photos show bits & pieces of my desert garden. This video tour shows all:
The Front Garden
How it looked when I moved in. The 2 single Saguaros grew in front of 2 of the windows which was a funny place for them.
1 year later. The Saguaros got moved & planted in a cluster with 3 smaller Saguaros. As you can see, the Golden Barrel population has grown!
A close up of 1 of the GBC clusters.
A Fishhook Barrel Cactus with lots of fruits. As they age & get taller, they grow towards the sun. This, along with a weakened root system, can cause them to fall over.
The Sonoran Desert is full of Creosote bushes that smell oh so good after a rain. It’s made into smudge sticks, just lke sage.
I’m only adding 1 more single, large Golden Barrel to this area and that’s it. There won’t be a drip system in this part of the garden and everything has to be tough to survive the dry spells.
The large rocks/boulders look like they’ve been plunked down haphazardly from outer space. I’m going to have some of them relocated, some repositioned, and all of them dug into the ground a bit. The reddish groundcover rock will be topped off about an inch or so and that’s it for the front.
Now, the Back Garden
All the plants I’m buying to go in the gardens are in 15 gallon or 25 gallon pots. Most are slow to slower growing and I want them to have a good start size wise. The back garden will be drip irrigated and I’ll have a new system put in that’s more efficient.
Not the most impressive thing you’ve seen garden wise but here are 2 of 3 shrubs that were planted 2 months ago. The 1 on the left is Tecoma Orange Jubilee which I’ll keep at about 9′ tall. The hummingbirds & butterfllies love it! Greg’s Ash is on the right & there’s another 1 on the other side of the Orange Jubilee. 1 I’ll keep as a large shrub & the other will be trained into a small tree.
The pool is about 20 steps from the covered patio/kitchen. I love the panoramic views of the Catalina Mountains from all parts of this garden. I’m only keeping a few of the existing plants. The ones taken out aren’t going to the compost, Cassie who works with me is taking them. I’ll be planting a few tall specimen cacti, a few lower ones, & of course, some Golden Barrrels.
As you can see by now, my back garden is very private. Planted under the Palo Verde in the raised planter are 7 Hesperaloes & an African Sumac that seeded from the 1 in the foreground. I’m keeping 2 or 3 of the Hesperaloes & filling in with Lady Slipper Pedilanthus & Moroccan Mound. The undulating section under the large Afican Summac will the planted minimally – 2 raised rock plantings & a few container plantings.
This Talavera container ended up here during the move & will stay somewhere in this section. Opuntia Joesph’s Coat is such a fun, wacky plant that I had to show you a close up.
This is the Pencil Cactus that I brought as a small cutting from my Santa Barbara garden. I prune it on the regular to keep it from getting to top heavy. I have a 26″ container picked out for it & that repotting project will happen sometime in spring. I’ll need 2 men to help me with this because the plant is so heavy & breaks easily!
My fav spot – the back patio. It’s north facing & stays (relatively) shaded in the summer. The hanging succulent pots suffer in the hot months but are recovering & filling in now that it’s cooled. Next spring this patio is getting a makeover so stay tuned!
My Aeonium container is happy as can be here. These were brought to Tucson as cuttings too – you can see them in a long, low planter here. It’s getting very wide & I’ll be moving it the other side where the sun-burned, pruned back Hoya is.
My little baby Aloe Vera! This has grown so much & produced so many pups in a year & a half. I can’t even imagine how much it weighs. I’ve quite a bit on this succulent which you can read in this Aloe Vera 101 round-up post.
I hope you’ve found this tour of my desert garden to be entertaining. It’ll evolve over the next few years so come back year same time for updates. Happy Holidays!
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Nell, the founder of Joy Us garden, was born into a gardening family and grew up in Connecticut’s countryside. After living in Boston, New York, San Francisco, & Santa Barbara, she now calls the Arizona desert home. She studied horticulture & garden design, working in the field all her life. Nell is a gardener, designer, blogger, Youtube creator, & author. She’s been gardening for a very long time & wants to share what she’s learned with you.