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The Plants Bees Love

In this day and time, I would hope gardeners understand the importance of bees and other insects in the garden. However, from time to time, a person comes into the nursery and asks for plants that will NOT attract bees (sigh). They are not really gardeners though, they are just looking for a plant to fill a space. I find myself more and more intrigued by bees although I don't know that much about the different types. I do make note of plants that they like and try to add as many as I can to the garden. Over the past weeks, with watering a daily activity amidst a lingering heat-wave, I've conducted an informal survey and noted the plants that they seem to like the most. Butterfly Weed ( Asclepias tuberosa ) Butterfly Weed ( Asclepias tuberosa ) is one of my favorite perennials and the bees love it too. I don't think I've ever seen a butterfly on it but we don't seem to have many of those. Everybody wants the "Showy Milkweed" (Asclepias speciosa) but I knew

Book review - Desert Gardens of Steve Martino

I have always said that I would be unhappy living in the desert because it is not green enough for me. I still adhere to that belief but I do enjoy looking at photos of desert gardens and the plants that inhabit them are certainly dramatic.

I was recently sent the book "Desert Gardens of Steve Martino" by Caren Yglesias to review for Library Journal and I really loved the book.

Martino, a Phoenix-born landscape architect, calls himself "an accidental landscape architect". He was fascinated by the desert from a young age when he would explore the surrounding Sonoran Desert on horseback. Later, he majored in architecture and found himself more interested in the outside spaces between buildings and how to use them as expansions of the interior. He became highly interested in native desert plants at a time when other landscape architects considered them nothing but weeds. He questioned why they were using plants that relied on water instead of local plants that thrived on practically none. 

His work, which he describes as “weeds and walls” pairs native plants alongside boldly painted stucco walls, water features, and custom outdoor furnishings.

This book showcases twenty-one of Martino's artistic gardens in Arizona and California which dramatically capture the light, colors and shadows of the Southwest. The book is illustrated by spectacular photographs by Steve Gunther. 

Martino says that he is a fanatic about privacy and creates it by using walls and plants.

He started out as a photographer and composition and shadows are a focus in his work.

Courtyards are often used in his designs as a way to bring people out of their houses and into the garden.

I love walls and we had a purple wall in our previous garden. I have been thinking about how to incorporate a wall in our new garden and this book gives me ideas.

Water features and pools are also important elements in a desert garden.

This is a beautifully designed book that will appeal to gardeners and designers interested in Southwest gardens. The book is published by Monacelli Press and will be available April 3.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. The photos look beautiful.

    I do wonder though about the sustainability of using water in gardens in deserts - especially in the last photo where it looks like quite a large body of water... But the idea of using desert plants (especially natives) that don't need too much supplemental water sounds like a fantastic idea! :)

  2. I enjoy visiting the desert but like you I don't want to live there. These photos are gorgeous. I bet it is a nice book to peruse.

  3. I could live and garden in the desert southwest because I love desert plants and arid landscapes. I think the colored walls lend themselves to those kind of plantings. A few sculptural plants placed in front of the walls. The photos make me want to try something like that myself but you do have to have the right setting. Thanks for the review.

  4. Photos and gardens are gorgeous. That is where our climate seems to be heading, so perhaps mine will be something like those one day (just not as well designed).

    Purple wall! Oh that sounds good!


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