Why would a Portland, Oregon, gardener be interested in a book called Palm Springs-Style Gardening? Two reasons…the plants and the extremes. Many of the plants suited to desert gardening are my favorites, and I’m always interested to know more about them. Plus I find it very compelling to learn about gardening in a climate that is so different from mine, like a place where the dormant season is summer, not winter.
After moving to Palm Springs the author, Maureen Gilmer, found there were few books available that addressed the specialized gardening needs of the Coachella Valley. Including unrelenting heat and sun (over 300 days a year), little water, strong wind, and soil that exhibits signs of its history as an inland sea.
The extreme sun exposure and heat is startling to read about. I can’t imagine gardening in an environment where the temperatures are regularly so high that they stress a plant to a point where it ceases to photosynthesize. And while I plant in pots so I can move them to friendlier environments in the winter, when there is too much rain and cold, Palm Springs gardeners use such methods to protect their plants from too much sun and heat in the summer.
In Palm Springs the drying wind is also an issue, in this photo Maureen shows an example of how semi-transparent screens block the wind and yet still allow light into the garden. Isn’t it gorgeous? And it makes the area beyond private; for me the fact that it is a wind break is just a bonus.
The chapters are broken into plant categories such as: The Palms, The Africans, and The Low Desert Natives…which include the agaves and yuccas, like this Yucca Rostrata…hopefully someday Sammy will be this tall…
The chapters introduce readers to plants that will survive, and hopefully thrive in Palm Springs. Since Palm Springs is, at least partially, still a winter respite for part-time residents there is a whole segment of the population that never sees the harsh circumstances that their garden is left behind to face. The selections in this book are aimed to help them make educated choices that will allow their garden to weather the cruel summer months.
Another chapter called The Tropical’s includes this picture of a plant I know (and love) as an indoor grower, the Sansevieria. Isn’t this a great entry way? I want to live in this house! Perhaps a future vacation to Palm Springs is in order. There is also a section on the evil Agave Snout Weevil which unfortunately has wiped out most of the “old growth” agaves throughout Palm Springs. I pray I never see this pest in my garden. Hopefully it’s terrified of our cold temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest. And just when I was feeling serious climate envy the author notes that New Zealand Flax is a “no-go” In the desert. Finally! Something I can grow that they can’t!
Seriously though this was a great read for Fall in Portland when we’re facing the coldest wettest months of the year ahead. I enjoyed being transplanted to a place where the sun is too bright, and Summer too warm!
And in case you are wondering here is my disclaimer…I purchased the book Palm Springs-Style Gardening and really enjoyed it, so I wanted to do a blog post about it. I contacted the publisher to make sure they were ok with my scanning and including a few pictures. Not only were they ok with it but they sent me these jpegs of the pictures I wanted to include in my post. Everything in life should be this easy!