So here I am, carving a small garden out of a raw patch of the Sonora Desert. Despite the spectacular scenery, it's not everyone's ideal garden location.
In August 2013 we were living in eastern San Diego. We had moved there from the Midwest the year before, following the loss of my father. I'll say very little about that, except that he - and all of us with him - battled a year and a half, first with leukemia and then with complications from a bone marrow transplant. After his death we returned to San Diego, where much of my mother's family still lives. In June the next year, her 91 year old mother passed away also, giving us pause to rethink continued residence in San Diego.
Because, by that time, the downside of life in southern California was becoming fairly insistent. Concerns over the high cost of living, intense regulatory gridlock, quality of available healthcare (something we had become very sensitive to!), and constant presence of crime and petty litigation were all adding up to a feeling: we don't have to live with this...! But we wanted to remain in the southwest, and we didn't want to get too far from family.
We took a three day run to check the housing market in Phoenix, Arizona. Then we went back for another...
Personally, I fell in love with the place. I had dreamed of living in the desert for years though I had only been familiar with it from cross-country drives, those marathon car trips to San Diego from our home of many years in Kansas City. This time I had the chance to get off the freeways and drive down the back roads, seeing the countryside on its own terms.
The skies are gorgeous.
The wild flora is fascinating, albeit often prickly.
Housing prices at that point were about half of the SD market, and we enhanced the effect by purchasing in a rural area where we were able to buy a lovely home on two and half acres - enough for our two horses (which had come with us from Kansas City) and for a garden, with some extra empty desert in our own yard. The house has a second garage workshop that was already fully wired for our ceramics studio. And there are a few bearing citrus trees: two lemons and an orange.
By the middle of last summer, I was ready to plan for some garden.
My previous garden in Kansas City had been carved out of the lawn grasses on the south side of our house. I loved the plants, particularly the bulbs, that I grew there: snowdrops, narcissus, and lilies, as well as roses. I was not (and am not) a very organized gardener, and I waged inexperienced warfare while the lawn and other weeds attempted to overwhelm my flowerbeds. These were freeform, cut a little haphazardly from the turf, and my experiments with hedging were not very successful - particularly my Rosa multiflora hedge... Even Sleeping Beauty's castle would not have survived a hundred years of R. multiflora, pretty as it is in summer!
Kansas City is a beautiful place to garden, despite defects in the climate (humid heat in summer, dry, sub-freezing cold in winter). Daffodils and species narcissus grew very well for me; tulips might have also, but our property backed up to a nature preserve and for many years I gardened with a plenitude of rabbits and deer. This led to experimentation with herbs and other plants of pungent foliage, including a few lavender varieties, which tended to be short-lived in that garden.
So in planning my new garden, I rethought the framework question. This garden is going into land so raw that a strong structure seems a necessity. I am putting in a narrow hedge and using straight-edged beds for a more formal effect. The backbone plants must be well-adapted varieties, and I am using an assortment of native desert species, Australian varieties, and more traditional Mediterranean plants. Roses are on order for spring.
As for flower bulbs, some narcissus went in a few months ago; for some reason none have broken through yet (nervewracking!) Lilies I will probably try in the next few years though the heat may prove too much for them. I think snowdrops are out of the question as my chief feeling is simply how much the poor things would suffer! There are some specialized bulb varieties that may be good choices; much exploration remains to be done...
And this is my chance to grow lavender at last. I am keeping a sharp lookout for different varieties.
|Lavendula stoechas "Madrid"|
Luckily for me, Jessica of Rusty Duck asked only how we had arrived here, not why! Why I love the desert would be hard to explain, though it has much to do with a sense of well-being created by ample space and sunlight. No, it's impossible to explain why...!