In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
September, 2004
Regional Report

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Roger's Red grapevine shimmers a vibrant red when temperatures cool. (Photo courtesy of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.)

Winter Color

Planning for winter color is a cinch in the low desert, unlike many parts of the country that experience frosty hibernation. Winter is one of our prime growing seasons, with cool-season vegetables, flowers, and herbs thriving in the garden. An unusual selection of landscape plants provides blooms or foliage color as well. Here are a few ideas to jazz up your winter season.

Red California grapevine (Vitis Californica 'Roger's Red'). Foliage on this deciduous vine turns shimmering red in late fall when temperatures decline, peaking in color around mid-December. It has small, tasty fruit in summer and is great for a wildlife habitat. The vine grows vigorously to 30 or 40 feet long but can be trimmed back. This is a superb plant to cover a chain-link fence.

Cascalote tree (Caesalpina cacalaco). In the same family as the Mexican bird of paradise shrubs that bloom in summer, this tree is adorned with fabulous, fat clusters of yellow flowers from fall into winter. It does have thorns, so place it where that isn't a problem.

Mount Lemmon marigold (Tagetes lemonii). This fragrant perennial grows in an attractive mound about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Butterflies like the nectar from the golden, daisy-like flowers.

Cool-season annual flowers. Even apartment dwellers can usually find space for at least one container of plants. Fill it with an assortment of flowers that thrive in cooler temperatures. Choose from bachelor's buttons, calendulas, dianthus, geraniums, Johnny-jump-ups, larkspur, nasturiums, pansies, petunias, statice, stocks, sweet peas, sweet alyssum, and violas.

Aloe. Most aloe species bloom in winter, sending up intriguing red, orange, or yellow flower stalks that serve as stop signs for hummingbirds. Aloes do best in partial sun with protection from hot afternoon sun in winter.

Lucky low-desert gardeners! We can have something colorful growing year-round.


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