In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
September, 2001
Regional Report

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'Golden Superstition' mallow yellow blooms contrast with their soft blue-gray foliage.

Summer Rain Flowers

My landscape has been blessed with some late monsoon rains the last few weeks. It's always intriguing to desert gardeners how one location will get inundated with a downpour, while just a few miles or even blocks, away it can stay dry as a bone. Jealously comparing rain gauges after a thundershower is a standard activity for many gardening friends. The best part of the rains is a couple days or weeks later plants spring into action. In my garden, I'm watching a variety of flowers pop up from their summer dormancy. Making sure your garden has a few of these planted is a good way to have color in the late summer garden.

Native Onion

A native onion from the Native American Tohono O'odham people called the I'itoi's onion is a good example. It produces a small bulb similar to shallots and deep green stalks that look like a clump of chives. It dies back to the ground when the heat hits in June, but leave bulbs in the ground and they will sprout beautifully with the late summer rains. They're fast growers, reaching about 8 inches tall in a few weeks.

Bright Golden Mallow

The mallow shrub (Abutilon palmeri) is one of my favorites. It has velvety smooth, blue-gray foliage that, in addition to being delightful to touch, is soothing to look at. It blooms periodically through the year, but is really putting on a flower show now after soaking up rains the last few weeks. The bright gold flowers contrast nicely with the foliage.

Rain Lilies

Rain lilies (Zephyranthes) are another great late summer plant. Aptly named because no matter how much water we gardeners apply, rain lilies just won't bloom until it rains. But once the heavens open what a show they can put on with their yellow, white, or pink flowers.


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