With enough water and care you can get practically anything to grow in the desert, but should you? Since most of our desert residents are transplants from lusher zones, the urge to have a traditional yard of lawn, flowerbeds, and trees is strong because it’s what folks are used to. I have to admit that it’s pretty too but don’t hang any Beauty Contest sashes on elm and poplar ringers. Let the locals compete in your personal landscaping beauty contest.
Not only are local trees, shrubs, and flowers well worth a second look, but they have benefits that just don’t quit. Let’s take a look and see.
Lower water bills. Using drought-tolerant plants is a perfect fit for the California desert! Want lower water bills? Boom! There they are! All you had to do was change your yard over to one filled with desert plants.
Maintain the desert’s unique look. When you watch a coyote and roadrunner cartoon, what do you see in the background? The desert. When you come to Palm Springs, what lifestyle are you embracing? The desert. It just makes sense to carry the theme out to your yard, too.
Increase your virility. Non-native plants create sterile zones that are devoid of life simply because they’re the base of a food chain that doesn’t exist locally. Replace them with native plants and voila! With native shelter and food, the chain of life ramps up for local life.
Bring more birds to your yard. Most insects only eat the plants they’ve shared evolutionary history with. The same can be true as you go up the scale. More native bugs feed more native birds. Of course, having more native birds also feeds more native mammals, creating a thriving native life system.
Every little bit helps a big bit. It’s okay if you don’t have six acres to transform, every native tree or flower you grow helps to cure “nature-deficit disorder.” Taking out invasive plants and replacing them with native growth is great, but another way to go is to have a patch of ground here and there that’s declared a “no-mow” zone, or you can let a blank space go fallow and fill naturally with native wildflowers. With a little creativity, these can be incorporated into your landscape tastefully.
A number of nurseries specialize in native desert plants. It only makes sense. A local nursery with locally native plants guarantees that the plants you buy are already acclimatized to the area and are known to do well here. Desert Water Agency, at 1200 S. Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs, has a special Pollinator Garden you can walk through that is filled with native plants that benefit the birds and the bees. And if you’re by the Palm Spring Convention Center take a walk across the street to see local plants with interpretive information at the corner of Ave. Caballeros and Amado Rd.
If you need more ideas for how desert plants can be used to create a lush environment, walkthrough Moorten Botanical Gardens, and Cactarium, a 1-acre family-owned botanical garden specializing in cacti and other desert plants. You’ll be amazed at the different effects that can be created with desert plants. You may also get a chance to talk with Clark Moorten and ask him about his parent’s involvement in landscaping Disneyland when it was brand new.
Of course, my favorite way to show you the variety of ways a home can be beautified with native desert plants is to take you on a tour of homes for sale. Not only do you get to see a wide variety of landscaping styles, you also get to find your perfect desert home. While we may prefer local desert plants for our habitats, we love to bring in new residents from far and wide!
By adding more native plants to your yard, you help to maintain an entire ecosystem. Here in the desert, that’s extremely important because our ecosystem is so fragile. As you add to the vast network of desert habitats that link from yard to yard, you help threatened critters thrive.
Most of our desert critters are shy, so it’s likely that you won’t come across most of them, but don’t worry, Nature will thank you. I’ll thank you, too. I’m Stephen Burchard, The Desert Bowtie Realtor, taking the (k)nots out of real estate.