Growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area. With a wiener dog.

February 7, 2018

How to have a beautiful garden in Phoenix, Arizona

If you live in Phoenix, or Los Angeles, or anywhere that water is a precious resource, you may be pondering the wisdom of having a garden, in spite the beauty it brings to life. And I understand. It's wise to be a careful steward of the planet, and there are a lot of arguments in favor of not having a garden. And I know a lot of people who proudly point to a dry dusty area, with a stray weed or some vicious-looking plants and consider it the only way to go. I disagree.

In a long life, I've noticed that many people can only think in extremes. In exercise, they only think of running a marathon or being a couch potato, in cooking they only think that they have to be a gourmet chef or be someone who can't even boil water. The list of extremes goes on and on. And I disagree with that way of thinking.

When I lived in California, I always got a kick out of the bumper stickers that said, "Save the World, Kill Yourself". And that's an extreme! But I'm here to tell you, and I really believe this, that you belong here. You have as much right to be here as anything else on Earth. You aren't artificial, you're a thing of star stuff, or if you're a believer, created with as much love as the tiniest sparrow. If you don't believe that, I can't help you. If you do, I think I can help you, at least with your garden.

I like gardens. I like flowers and trees. My life is enriched by my garden simply because of its beauty. All of my life I've sought out gardens to sooth my mind. And here in my tiny little corner of Arizona, I've created a garden, which I sustain, and care for. It takes some work, which is a labor of love, and it takes money, and fertilizer, and weed control, and water.

Even as a "starving student" at ASU I loved to be surrounded by plants. The horrible little converted garage that I lived in was surrounded by dirt and weeds and in the two years I lived there I transformed it. I know that a lot of people wondered why I would go to so much work for "someone else's property" but they're just seeing Real Estate value, not what I see. I see a place where hummingbirds visit, I see wonderful cycle of life through the seasons, sunlight on a leaf, the beauty of a bloom. I want to see that whenever I glance outside, not dirt and weeds.

So that's where you start, by wanting a garden and being willing to care for it. As far as what to plant, that's easy. Google "xeriscape" and you'll find thousands of plants that grow well and use very little water. If you visit the Glendale Main library, you can look at a demonstration xeriscape garden that's been there since the 1980s. If you think it's just dirt and vicious-looking plants, it may surprise you.
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