Go Native

Horticulturalists give us the dirt on how to create beautiful backyard habitats



Find inspiration for native landscaping with plants indigenous to the desert.

Photo by thinkstockphotos.com

 

When designing a personal outdoor oasis, there are many reasons to opt for plants native to the desert.

“Native landscaping evokes a sense of place and allows you to identify with the region,” says Kirk Anderson, curator of gardens at The Living Desert in Palm Desert.

Plus, planting flora that’s adapted to the local climate improves air quality and conserves energy and water — by about 75 percent.

The term “native” is broad, Anderson explains, and in this sense refers to an array of species (about 16,000) in the Southwest. “This gives you more options than what’s native to only the Coachella Valley, and plants from similar climates do just as well here,” he says.

Natural desert landscapes, while less colorful than your traditional manicured variety, are admired for their quirky shapes and forms as well as for the diverse wildlife they attract, Botanical Garden Registrar Jennifer Hudson adds. “You can create your own biological theater by incorporating plants that shelter and feed the creatures you want to attract,” she says.

The red flowering chuparosa, for instance, appeals to hummingbirds. Seeds and insects of the brittlebush fuel such birds as the goldfinch and sparrow. Smoke trees sustain the existence of bees. Monarch butterflies flitter among the desert milkweed.

“You’ll see the monarchs lay eggs, turn into caterpillars, and [become] butterflies; it’s such a neat, magnificent thing,” Hudson says. Indigo, desert lavender, and desert willows are among many other native species you can add to your sanctuary.

When planning your landscape, it’s important to know your plants so you can place them in the appropriate location for their size, shape, and ideal sun exposure.

“Plants are cute in the little cans when you buy them,” says Anderson, “but agave, for example, get really big; if they’re planted near a walking path, they’ll be a problem.”

The same goes for the twisty desert spoon, whose razorlike leaves make it better suited for the back of the garden. Knowing the size of your plants will also help you avoid overcrowding an empty palette. Large rocks, buried partially and angled just right, are a solution for filling space and creating a balanced setting.

Since many native plants feature muted hues, especially during drier summer months, decomposed granite — also called DG — is a great way to add a punch of color to your garden.

“Our native soil is sort of a blah shade of gray-brown; DG comes in an assortment of colors (natural coral, gold, and brown, to name a few) and is a perfect way to enhance pathways and other areas where you want some color,” Anderson says.

Such water features as fountains and birdbaths also attract more wildlife and enhance a stunning outdoor aesthetic. 

The Living Desert offers courses on native landscaping; call 760-346-5694 or visit www.livingdesert.org for more information.

Inset photo by Millicent Harvey.

Comments to this website are moderated by staff. While all comments are welcome, we encourage all to be polite and please do use this system for advertising or business promotions. Any complaint towards a business or service should be directed directly to that business and not posted here. If anyone has a complaint that a comment is defamatory, please contact me at tmay@palmspringslife.com and I will take appropriate action promptly. Thank You

Add your comment:
Palm Springs Life

Related Articles

5 Tips to Ensure a Great Hotel Experience...From a Hotelier

Five handy tips to ensure a pleasurable hotel experience in the Greater Palm Springs area from our hotel blogger, Nicole Bowen, who has worked in the industry for more than a decade.

Lasers Light Up Fantasy Springs Bowling Center

Turn off the lights at Fantasy Springs Bowling Center at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, and one of America’s oldest recreational sports literally illuminates a whole new persona - laser bowling.

Monte Sereno Palm Springs Balances Midcentury with Spanish, Tuscan-Inspired

Homes at Alta Verde Monte Sereno in South Palm Springs could appease both fans of midcentury design and those of Spanish and Tuscan-inspired homes.

The Purple Room Audience May Recognize Shelagh Ratner's Voice First

Once she appears Sept. 20 at The Purple Room Restaurant & Stage in Palm Springs, it’s likely audience members will have an “aha!” moment upon hearing Shelagh Ratner’s voice.

Charles Busch Brings His Own Show to Copa Palm Springs

Charles Busch, who has portrayed female characters for most of his theater career, will personify Old Hollywood in his solo desert show debut.

Promotions + Contests

Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter just once for a chance to win tickets to one of the second annual Palm Desert International Dance Festival performances.