1/1/16: The Living Desert, Palm Desert, CA (2 of 2)

Part 1 of my post about The Living Desert in Palm Desert, California ended in the Baja Palm Oasis. From there I headed towards the Opuntia Garden and the Barrel Cactus Garden. I didn’t try to cover each garden systematically. Instead, I simply took photos of scenes and plants that caught my eye. That’s what I typically do, and it works for me.


As I was taking photos, I began to chat with a nice lady who lives near The Living Desert. She’s a member and goes there almost every morning to walk. Sure beats the gym, doesn’t it?


Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) waiting for the rains. We all were!



Many opuntias looked a bit rough around the edges—clearly the effects of our five-year drought

Many of the trees were striking against the blue sky:


Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)


Lysiloma candida, native to Baja California. It goes by the name of palo blanco in Spanish, but it should not be confused with the palo blanco from Sonora (Mariosousa willardiana) that we have growing in our front yard (part of the acacia family).

The barrels are my favorite group of cacti, and the Barrel Cactus Garden had many of my favorite species. Here are just a few:



Barrel Cactus Garden


Golden barrel (Echinocactus grusonii)


Ferocactus pringlei

I was photographing this octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)…


…when I heard a voice from behind asking me if I was Gerhard from Succulents and More. To say I did a double take would be an understatement. Put yourself in my shoes: on the road, many hundreds of miles from home, in a city where you don’t know anyone, and somebody recognizes you?

Yep. That’s exactly what happened.

And the person who stopped me couldn’t have been nicer. It was Bernie Rummonds who lives in the Coachella Valley. She reads my blog and therefore knew that I was on my annual desert trip. She’s also a volunteer docent at The Living Decent and had messaged me the night before to invite me to stop by. While I hadn’t received her message because of spotty cell phone reception, I ended up at The Living Desert anyway. Talk about coincidence!


Selfie with Bernie Rummonds

I had a great time walking around with Bernie. She was very easy to talk to and shared stories of what living and gardening in the desert is like. I look forward to meeting up with her again the next time I’m in the Palm Springs area.


What’s going on with this ocotillo? Bernie didn’t know either.


Teddbyear cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) and Agave deserti


Agave deserti, the only agave native to the mountains surrounding the Coachella Valley


Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) and Agave deserti


The Agave Garden near the Palo Verde Garden Center


Agave shawii


Another octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)



Desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) and ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)


Agave ‘Sharkskin’

I fondly remembered the Palo Verde Garden Center from our 2011 visit.



While it still carried a number of interesting plants, including the smoke tree I had been so excited about earlier…


…as well larger trees at 25% off…


…the nursery had a picked-over appearance, with many areas and tables only partially stocked.


Still, agaves were well represented…


…with Agave zebra (uncommon in cultivation)…


Agave colorata


Agave titanota and Agave parryi


Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Variegata’ (aka ‘Butterfingers’)…



…and these curiosities, Agave parryi inside glass bowls:


Clearly these agaves were planted when they were still small. Now they’re too big to be removed, short of breaking the glass.

In general, prices were high on the high side, but there were some bargains:


A boxed ocotillo at 30% off


15-gallon palo blanco (Mariosousa willardiana) at 25%, which made it $75. In hindsight, I regretted not trying to fit it into my car because it was a truly beautiful specimen, large enough for the bark to start peeling already. My specimen, which I got from the Ruth Bancroft Garden, is smaller and the bark is still gray and tight. I wish I were more impulsive sometimes…

I’ve talked to a few other people who have visited The Living Desert recently, and they also thought that the nursery had gone backwards in terms of selection and general appearance. I hope this is only temporary and that after hiring the right manager its former reputation as a top-notch plant source will be restored.



  1. You're a celebrity Gerhard :) and it's the first time I've seen a relatively large agave in a glass bowl, how odd!

    1. I still think about about that agave in the glass bowl occasionally. What an unusual sight.

  2. How nice to get your own personal tour guide! I'm always thrilled when I find a nursery on a public garden's site - I would've snagged one of the Agave colorata, which seem so hard to find here.

    1. I'm looking for the perfect form of Agave colorata: symmetrical and, above all, (mostly) solitary. Many of the plants I've seen in nurseries--and bought--have turned out to be prolific puppers, which, to me, ruins the form.

      Greg Starr has exactly what I want in his yard in Tucson but since it's solitary, he hasn't been able to propagate it. It's a large plant overall as well.

  3. You are the master of road trips my friend. And what a great place!

    1. I love (LOVE!) road trips. I'd become a professional road tripper if somebody paid me.

  4. The Psorothamnus is so cool. I wonder how they would do in a more mild climate.

  5. Loved seeing my picture in your post about the Living Desert. I would definitely love to meet up with you the next time you are in the area. BTW, my husband and I took a trip to Arizona in March and used your blog to plan our trip. We even stayed at The Lodge on the Desert in Tuscon. Love your blog. Bernie

    1. I'm so happy to hear my blog was useful for trip planning.

      I was just talking to friends today who will rent a condo in Palm Springs next February. They invited me to visit. I may see you then!

  6. The image of Ferocactus pringlei (pilosus) looks to be Ferocactus gracilis

    1. I can't really say for sure. My ID is based on the plant label.


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