Desert-Wise Landscape Tour Speaks to Do-It-Yourselfers

Yucca Valley couple's home has more than 50 varieties of indigenous plants

The entrance to George and Nancy Huntington's house in Yucca Valley is surrounded by native plants.

Photos by Jim Powers


Even with 58 varieties of plants inside the walls of their Yucca Valley home, George Huntington can name them all.

He will be quizzed plenty this weekend by visitors during the Desert-Wise Landscape Tour, which takes participants on a self-guided tour of up to 24 homes to view a variety of desert landscapes stretching from Twentynine Palms to Yucca Valley, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 26.

Sponsored by the Morongo Basin Conservation Association, the four-year-old tour requires pre-registration and then participants receive a list of the addresses.

“We have enjoyed the tour over the years,” says George. “Lots of new people come through, look and ask questions.”

Adds his wife, Nancy, “The tour offers a variety of homes. Some are cactus only. Each one offers a different type of landscaping you might work on in your own yard.”

The couple are native to the area, left after high school but came back to raise their own family. The spent more than 30 years at their original house, which is where George began to flourish as a gardener and student of indigenous plants.

“I’ve enjoyed gardening my whole life,” says George, who is retired after owning his own plumbing business. “My first years were spent in southern Idaho in the Potato Belt on the Snake River. Everyone had huge gardens and huge properties. My dad was a high school science teacher and was always out there gardening.”

They purchased a six-acre parcel their current home sits on 24 years ago when it was littered with Joshua Trees. However, in 2005 the Dulce fire swept the area and destroyed much of the native vegetation including the precious trees.

The Huntington’s persevered and built that same year, building a southwestern style home that melds with its natural backdrop.

“I went out and collected seeds from areas that had not burned and spread them around to try and get the wildflowers to come back,” says George, who can show you the empty prescription bottles he has in his garage full of seeds he has collected. “It’s slowly rehabilitating itself. We’ve had some luck with Joshua trees coming back.”

You won’t see turf or grass. Much of Morongo Valley save for the high school athletic fields and parks is void of lawns, and the emphasis is on drought tolerant landscaping.

The timing of the tour couldn’t be better. Almost everything is in bloom, and as pretty as the Huntington’s house looks, it’s put to use by the couple and their extended family.

“Our yard was beautiful at our other house, too,” Nancy says. “We used it all the time. People don’t always use their outside areas. We use the outside of our property probably six months out of the year.”

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