As a native Californian, it took some adjustment to get used to Arizona gardening seasons and landscaping techniques. The charm of the desert was not lost on me, however, and I soon realized that despite a very intense learning curve, I could enjoy gardening in Arizona, as much as I had when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area.
There are several very short gardening seasons in Arizona, which means plant choices need to be considered carefully. Flowers and herbs are good options, because many grow throughout multiple seasons with limited care. Plant location must be considered, remembering that the average climate is moderate to hot most of the year, with a tendency toward extremely high temperatures in the summer months. For this reason, plants should be grown in an area with an adequate amount of shade, particularly in the afternoon hours.
While winter is the down season for gardeners living in cooler climates, summer is the down season for Arizonans. I've learned to let my flowers die and reseed accordingly, with the full knowledge that it's too hot to garden anyway. Nature must take its course, and far be it from me to interfere.
Interestingly enough, flower planting season begins in late August or early September, depending on the heat and monsoon activity in any given year. This is when I prepare my beds and add detailed touches to my landscape. Weather providing, I also plant flower seeds that should bloom by mid fall and last through early summer.
Hollyhocks, snapdragons and carnations are some of my favorite flowers to grow in my garden. Each year, they seem to sprout and grow in different places, depending on where the seeds have landed or been carried by the birds. Most of my herbs are located in a bed along the front of my house.
Oregano and thyme make a nice ground cover, intricately weaving themselves at the base of the shrubs there. Sage is fragrant and produces the most delicate bluish purple flowers annually. Parsley and cilantro seem to pop up all over the place, blooming and seeding in turn. Cilantro grows wispy white flowers. A few years back, one of my neighbors asked how it was that I could grow Queen Anne's Lace in our climate. I just smiled, knowing full well I'd have a bountiful crop of cilantro in the months to come.
I'm currently in the process of creative landscaping in my flowerbeds. Years of hot summer months finally took their toll on some of the features and flowers in my yard. The wooden border you see around my carnations weathered and rotted away. It has been replaced by a more permanent brick lattice barrier, in front of the raised brick behind it. With the help of my family, I've built a much higher, raised flowerbed, adjacent to it, where you see salvia and hollyhocks flourishing. I'm determined to cover as much of that awful brick wall as possible.
It's the hottest part of summer right now in the desert, and my yard is a bit of a mess from all those dust storms we've had recently, so no pics to share at the moment. I'll keep Glory posted on my progress when cooler weather arrives, the best time to garden in Arizona.
___________________________________________MJ Joachim is a prolific writer of short stories and all sorts of informative articles at Helium and also has a few E-books to her name. You can follow her on Twitter: @MJJoachim and on Facebook.