Monday, May 2, 2011

My Desert is Yellow

Gardeners often disparage yellow.  It's too easy.  It's too safe.  Everything blooms in yellow, even if it also blooms in blue or red or white.  There's no challenge.

I fell victim to that kind of snobbery for exactly one full year of growing seasons.  I learned quickly but not painlessly that you take what you can get here in Zone 12. (For all you gardening nerds: that's Sunset Western Gardens zone system, not the USDA's zone system.  A quick explanation of the difference is here.)  If you want results, you can't afford to be picky.

The hardiest plants in my landscape are the volunteers.  Dropped from the pelts or the poop of coyotes or bobcats or javelina, remnants of bird excrement or discarded cuttings which have blown out of the recycle pile, these random arrivals find just the place to make themselves comfortable, and they do.  This teddy bear cholla landed next to the hesperaloe and its irrigation and is doing just fine, as you can see:

But right now, the desert is putting on its own show.  Without benefit of rain or warm temperatures, our trees and our cacti are doing their best to remind us of why we live here. 

They start small and tight

and they are very teeny at the ends of the branches

and don't last very long and end up on the ground, spreading yellow flecks of loveliness as they wait to shrivel and die

And they are yellow.  The palo verdes, which get their name from their very green trunks

come first, and their yellow is paler than that of the mesquite and acacia which will follow them in the next few weeks.  Recovering from record breaking cold spells and an unusually dry winter rainy season, the flora are magnificent in their resilience and their tenacity.  These have all survived the winter with no care at all.  No water.  No protective covering.  No fertilizer.  And here they are:

Bring it on.  We can take it.  They inspire me.


  1. Must be a reason for yellow. It's sunny and funny and pretty and bright!! I love yellow! It's the sign of rebirth, new growth, delights children and adults!! Three cheers for yellow!!...debbie

  2. Ah, Happy, I couldn't agree with you more. When I was a toddler, G'ma tells me I always chose "Yeyyow... mommy's favorite coyor"... the "L" being too much for my mouth right then.

    I repeat that to myself every time I look at the blooms.


  3. I envy anyone that can garden. I do not have a green thumb and everything I seem to touch dies. I have a plant here on my desk and right now it's wilting, but I watered it this morning and hopefully it will come back to life. I'm amazed that I've had this plant for over a year--that's an accomplishment for me. LOL.

    Thanks for all of the lovely pictures. I love plants.

    Megan xxx

  4. I think that the best gardens are the ones that feature the native plants of the region--no matter what that region may be. I also think there is a particular beauty to the desert landscape.

  5. The palo verde blooms are gorgeous...wish they didn't wreak such havoc on my poor husband's allergies! My favorite yellow these days comes from the blooms on my prickly pears and the yellow centers of the saguaro blooms--so beautiful! Every year I'm struck by how vigorously everything comes back to life, despite the lack of really is remarkable.

  6. Allergies are awful, and the top of the pool has a lovely filter-clogging coating but I'm mostly jealous that your saguaros are blooming. Mine are just starting to poke out some potential blossoms.

    I'm with you, Olga - native plants rule!

  7. Well, a/b, living in the North east gives me all kinds of color: pink azaleas, yellow forsythia, purple hyacinths. But when I visited the gardens in Scottsdale a couple of years ago and saw the breathtaking beauty of the silvery cacti and the red rock of Sedona, well, I was jealous as hell. Ain't nature grand all by itself without our help?

  8. Just noticed that you too are a Sharon McCone fan. I read that latest one a few months back. She is terrific, as I'm sure you are too. Keep fighting the good fight, however that works for you.

  9. Lovely. Yellow is always the first sign of spring on our lush coast, so we'd be doing ourselves a disservice to disparage it. I love that you love your desert. Bloom where you're planted, baby.

  10. I was drawn into a vibrant velvety beckoning yellow blossom on a prickly pear yesterday, it was huge and fresh and seemed to call to me. I spent a good three minutes just looking at it in a way that I rarely do since childhood. So many shades and textures! Maybe it is because I live in the desert and now appreciate the effort it takes to bloom. Yes, yellow is grand and the desert is too! Love your nature writing!


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!