Planting Choices—Beyond Cacti

Bonnie Nowicki

I took advantage of our mild weather the past month by visiting several local gardens for inspiration. Desert Meadows Park, located off South Abrego, and The Arid Garden, located off West Camino Encanto, are so lovingly tended by the Green Valley Gardeners. In addition to the interesting landscape layouts, hardscapes, and plant ideas, these gardens are a valuable source of information, since most plants are identified with their proper botanical names. It’s such a pleasure to stroll the pathways and write down names of specimens that may work in my garden and observe them in a more mature form.

At The Arid Garden I was accompanied by several ladies from my Quail Creek unit’s garden group. One person periodically visits this garden to observe the growth of a seven-foot Afghan pine tree in a somewhat confined space. She has a more mature Afghan pine in her backyard, and it’s very tall. They can grow quickly to 50 by 30 feet.

While numerous cacti fill many planting beds, I target other plants. Native to the Mediterranean, perennial gopher spurge (euphorbia rigida) really stood out with its chartreuse flowers shining in the sun. What a great accent bush in any landscape. I also liked the tight clumps of Mexican feather grass (stipa tenuissima). They looked so soft and billowy. In several planting beds I noticed a hearty evergreen, candelilla (euphorbia antisyphilitica). The clusters of slender, upright, leafless stems looked very healthy and unaffected by the recent frosts. And, lastly, I was impressed by the many large clumps of vivid green holly agave (lophantha agave). I saw no sign of any frost damage in these clumps, which is a real plus.

How fortunate we are here in Quail Creek and Green Valley to have access to peaceful and welcoming local gardens. So, fellow gardeners, think beyond the usual cactus plants and make time to visit these local jewels for new ideas. You won’t be disappointed. Happy gardening.