Desert trip—day 5: Palm Desert to Davis

Spending the night in the wealthy community of Indian Wells paid off with the best motel breakfast we’d had on this trip. However, it didn’t take long for us to overdose on the endless display of conspicuous consumption evident everywhere: from the country clubs and gated communities to upscale shopping and dining.

What depressed me the most, though, was the unbelievable amount of water wasted on expansive lawns, out-of-place plantings of flowering annuals, and enormous fountains found at the entrance of almost every hotel, country club, and shopping center. Don’t landscape designers realize that this is the desert, with an average annual rainfall of under 5 inches? While we did see great examples of xeric plantings around some commercial buildings, most of them are still stuck in the dark ages as far as climate-appropriate landscaping goes.

Before we left the Palm Springs area, we made one last stop. A few weeks ago I’d come across a Craigslist post from a new succulent nursery in the town of Desert Hot Springs just a few miles off the I-10 and I wanted to check it out. I had expected a small specialty nursery with a modest selection of 4-inch plants. Boy, was I in for a surprise! Mariscal Cactus & Succulents is huge, and while they do have a large stock of 4-inch plants, they have an even larger stock of plants in 5-gallon containers and up, ranging all the way to 8-foot cacti in 24-inch tree boxes. I’d never been to a nursery that offers so many large specimens of succulents.

The Desert Hot Springs location is one of three; Mariscal’s main nursery is in Fallbrook in San Diego county. According to their website, they grow 500 different varieties of succulents.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I ended up buying a few plants—just a few, no more than a generous handful.


For me, one of the most impressive man-made sights in the Palm Springs area is the giant wind farm off I-10. There are 4,000 wind turbines and they generate enough electricity to supply Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley. Apparently they were featured in the movie Mission: Impossible III, which I have yet to see.

Just a few of the 4,000 wind turbines dotting the desert
on either side of I-10

I had such a blast on this trip that it was hard heading home, back to our everyday routine. But at least I have the many photos I took to tide me over until our next trip to the desert, whenever that may be.

Joshua tree right along Highway 395 in the Mojave Desert
Mysterious cloud hovering over the desert. Maybe it’s an alien spacecraft?

All posts about our trip:

Day 1  •   Day 2  •   Day 3  •   Day 4  •   Day 5


  1. That's what my plant table is going to look like in a few years I'm afraid -- rows and rows of cactus! ;-)

    Are the tall cactus supported because they are too heavy and their boxes will tip over?
    It's not work, it's gardening!

  2. Alan, I already regret not getting another display table from that clearance place! It's amazing how little pots of cacti keep appearing out of nowhere at our house :-).

    As for the tall cacti in the photo above, yeah, I think they're tied to supports because they might fall over in the wind. Other columnar cacti in 15-gallon containers were actually partially buried in the ground to prevent them from tipping over. It was very windy when we were there, and I imagine that's typical considering the nursery is only a few miles from that wind farm.

  3. I figured it wasn't that the plant would uproot, but that the whole thing, pot and all, would tip over.

  4. Wow, wow, wow! That nursery is xeric heaven, stunning selections! Not surprised a few went home with you ;)

    Interesting comment about the choice of lush planting in the area, wasting water. I guess it reflects the occasionally perplexing human nature of wanting what you're not supposed to have...

  5. I feel very conflicted about the Palm Springs area. The natural landscape is so beautiful--desert with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains and a frost-free climate
    --that I totally understand why people want to live there. But there has got to be a better way to be less wasteful with resources. Cities in Arizona, especially Tucson, have been great strides in that regard.

  6. I suspect it is the SPRINGS of Palm Springs that provide the water?


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