Sunday, January 27, 2013

Over the Garden Gate

A couple of weeks ago we moved into our new house, a detached property in a gated community called Mountain Gate, not far from the Palm Springs tramway. This is a leased property but really ticks most of the boxes in our wanted list. Most important of all to me, it has a rear garden that is a blank canvas - not huge but big enough, about 10m x 15m (30ft x 45ft) of potential space to cultivate. Nearer to the house is a huge concrete patio so plenty of space for pots!

Calliandra haematocephala - powder puff plant growing over the neighbour's wall - great!

Our blank yard - horrible at the moment but lots of useful aggregate to re-use

So far no plans on paper but I'm thinking of a background planting of colourful desert tropicals, Bougainvillea, Tecoma, Caesalpinia, Hibiscus, Lantana and so on. A bit indulgent as they do need more water. Then I'll balance this with a central bed of true desert planting, succulents and cacti with lots of spiky agave and so on. I'd like a queen palm, a Bismarckia and maybe the silvery Chamaerops humilis 'Argentea'. The only other trees we are planning are three citrus, a 'Rio Red' grapefruit, an 'Improved Meyer' lemon and  a 'Fairchild' mandarin orange. To my delight I have just purchased all three this afternoon at $23 (about £15) each at Home Depot (B&Q to UK readers). I shall plant these before I leave and rig a temporary irrrigation system. They'll then hopefully get a season's growth before I come back in the autumn, when I plan to do the main work. Should be fun!

Newly purchased citrus trees

The community where we now live is in general beautifully landscaped, with some good open spaces and public planting.  The estate was built from 2004 but plants grow fast here, so already the landscape looks quite mature. Being near the mountains, there is always the risk of flash flooding when there is heavy rain and drainage water crashes down,  so the development is bisected by a small 'wash' which for most of the year is just a dry riverbed with grass and other vegetation establishing. There is also a series of deep grassy bowls, one of which is next to our house, presumably to act as holding ponds until the water drains away. Anyway it's lovely to have a green open space next to us. Overall there is a good mix of lush oasis style planting and the more eco-friendly, low water, desert planting.

One of the public garden areas
The drainage wash - can you just see the windmills in the distance?
Another public open space with the tennis courts
A typical tree-lined street
The drainage bowl alongside our house

One of three public pools on the site

Early morning view from our den
There is the inevitable usual mix of front gardens from good to average, very few poor ones, although a few with the usual harsh pruning and tree massacres.

Typical desert style front garden

More lush planting with some nice dasylirion

Great sago palms in this one

Good specimen opuntias here - can you see where I photo-shopped out the utilities box?
Not sure about this - rather odd mix of cheap and nasty and pseudo National Trust!

Planting is in many ways very similar throughout the estate. The palette of desert plants available in this area is nowhere near as diverse as those we can plant in the temperate UK climate but there are still some good plants. Sadly also some butchered, ill-treated trees.

Euphorbia of some kind I think?

Opuntia infected with the scale insect that was traditionally used to produce cochineal food colouring

Agave macroacantha - black spined agave - anyone confirm or correct?

Euphorbia 'Sticks of Fire' - love this for winter colour

So sad and unnecessary - no windows to block or anything. Why do people do this? And it will probably have cost $65-95 per tree!

By the way, we don't mean to boast! We are just two ordinary guys, one retired and one still working in nursing. We fell in love with Palm Springs many years ago and had a dream to live and work in the USA. We are not wealthy but we made the dream come true and hope you enjoy reading about our interests and lives.


  1. The area you guys moved in to looks beautiful! And your new backyard, even as a blank canvas looks good already and looking forward to seeing what magic you will work in to transforming that space to look more lush and uniquely yours.

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