The Plant Man: Garden touring in Palm Desert

By Steve Kawaratani

“Beneath the desert sky, my plants thrive.” –Unknown

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Photos courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Steve Kawaratani

I think often of America’s “A Horse with No name,” when we make the drive from Laguna towards the desert; it feels good to get away for a few days to the unfettered sun and warmth of an off-season Palm Desert. And there are always the “plants and birds and rocks and things” to observe during our early morning walks for sure.

Nestled in the Coachella Valley, the landscapes in the towns and cities of the desert are a testament to nature’s remarkable adaptability. With really hot summer temperatures and paucity of rainfall, plants have evolved to not only survive but thrive in harsh conditions.

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Lily’s Garden in Palm Desert is a collection of reclaimed desert plants

Lily’s Garden is right down the street from our son’s home. A plaque commemorates Lily and her girlfriends’ restoration of a landscape by collecting “fallen bits and pieces of cacti” over a period of two years. Her garden is a fine collection of agaves, cholla, prickly pear cactus and yuccas that blend in perfectly with the well-tended desert landscapes of the neighborhood.

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The Madagascar Ocotillo is a doppelgänger of the ubiquitous desert ocotillo of California, Arizona and Baja

I spotted a Madagascar Ocotillo (Alluaudia procera) just around the corner from Lily’s Garden, which in many ways resembles the locally occurring North American Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). It is interesting that the physical similarities of the two plants are due to convergent evolution (when different species evolve similar features or tolerance) as these two plants are not genetically related Nevertheless, a great find from a faraway land.

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The stately Desert Museum Palo Verde is a popular garden and street tree in Palm Desert and allied cities

The Desert Museum Palo Verde is a hybridized cultivar that reigns supreme as a street and garden tree in desert cities, the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts and throughout Baja. Its name refers to being a “green pole or stick” in Spanish, due to its distinctive green trunk and branches. The tree possesses bright green foliage and is covered with yellow blossoms during the spring.

Garden touring in Palm Desert offers a unique opportunity to discover nature’s boundless creativity up close. By embracing the resilient plants of this hot and dry land, gardeners can enjoy and create beautiful and sustainable landscapes that celebrate the enduring spirit of the desert. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani, a regular columnist with Stu News Laguna, has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula with Catharine and Loki. He can be reached at plantman2@mac.com or 949.494.5141.


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