Desert in bloom at Red Hills Desert Garden, part 1

Red Hills Desert Garden in southwestern Utah dazzles in glorious spring bloom in April. Here’s Part 1 of my tour.… Read More The post Desert in bloom at Red Hills Desert Garden, part 1 appeared first on Digging. June 27, 2023 Utah. Red rock desert. Cactus and yuccas. When we set out in April in a rented RV to visit national parks out west, I expected hundred-mile vistas, arches, and canyons. What I didn’t expect was a flowery, beautifully designed garden of desert-appropriate plants. But thanks to a tip from Quercus/David C. on Instagram, I added Red Hills Desert Garden to our itinerary, curious to visit this young, up-and-coming public garden. Cow’s tongue prickly pear and penstemon One morning we drove from our campground near Zion to Red Hills Desert Garden in picturesque St. George, Utah. Settled by Mormon cotton farmers, St. George today is a charming boomtown whose water supply is strained by a megadrought and rampant population growth. Red Hills aims to show residents and visitors how beautiful desert-wise landscaping can be, spurring outdoor water conservation. The first desert conservation garden in Utah, Red Hills Desert Garden opened in 2015 as a collaboration between the Washington County Water Conservancy District, City of St. George, and Virgin River Program. According to its website, “[t]he nearly 5-acre garden features 5,000 water-efficient plants, a 1,150-foot stream stocked with native and endangered fish species, a replica slot canyon[,] and prehistoric dinosaur tracks found onsite dating back 200 million years.” Admission is free, and the garden stays open every day from 6 am to 10 pm, early and late enough that you could take golden-hour photos even in summer — a rare treat at most public gardens. It’s located next to the hike and bike trails of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and 52-acre Pioneer Park on a ridge overlooking the town. OK, let’s tour! In late April, spring was popping in the garden. Pink and red penstemons glowed in the clear, bright desert light… …each flower spike displaying dozens of tubular flowers. Agave ‘Durango Delight’, with its crisp white lines and hair-like filaments, makes a handsome specimen against red rock. Curly filaments adorn Faxon yucca (Yucca faxoniana) too. ‘Rocky Point’ ice plant with sunny yellow flowers But back to those gorgeous penstemons… I believe this was labeled superb penstemon (Penstemon superbus), an appropriate name for a beautiful plant. Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) is another desert beauty. This one is ballerina pink. I spotted white globemallow too and, later, a peach one. A manmade stream ambles through the garden, with riparian plants along the banks. In an arid garden, such a water feature has a big impact. More superb penstemon One trail climbs out of the main garden to run along the boulders of adjacent Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. Against the distinctive Utah (Martian-esque) landscape poses a flowering banana yucca (Yucca baccata). A multi-trunked Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) fits in here too. Sections of the garden feature a particular genus, like hesperaloe. Massed hesperaloes have a surprisingly grassy look, don’t they? A few of them were starting to bloom. Big, bold agaves were showing off toothy, sword-shaped leaves in the agave garden. Such drama queens Bouncy golden barrels announce the cactus garden. Like spiny beach balls In late April, some trees were just starting to leaf out after a cold, snowy winter. Claret cup cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) flowering gorgeously Shaggy-spined Mojave prickly pear (Opuntia erinacea) about to bloom I think that’s a palo verde tree, and I can just imagine how beautiful its golden flowers will look with the golden barrels. In the yucca garden, beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata) holds up shimmering, strappy leaves in its distinctive Koosh ball way. Banana yucca (Yucca baccata) puts on a show with fruit that really does resemble miniature bananas. Banana yucca from above Soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) wears a hula skirt of dried leaves. Faxon yucca (Yucca faxoniana) and penstemon make a pretty duo. Garden signage educates visitors about native ecosystems in the desert… …and promotes reducing thirsty lawn through thoughtful design. Mormon tea (Ephedra viridis) covers its slender stems in butter-yellow flowers. A soft-textured pine is at home here too. Atop a low hill you get a view across the garden, through a scrim of new-leafing trees. And back to my spring fave, that sparkling superb penstemon! I’ll have more from this garden in Part 2, so stay tuned. Up next: Part 2 of my visit to Red Hills Desert Garden in St. George, Utah. For a look back at the hoodoo wonderland of Bryce Canyon National Park, click here. I welcome your comments. Please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading in an email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post. And hey, did someone forward this email to you, and you want to subscribe? Click here to get Digging delivered directly to your inbox! __________________________ Digging Deeper Come learn about garden design from the experts at Garden Spark! I organize in-person talks by inspiring designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year in Austin. These are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added. Season 7 starts in August. Stay tuned for the lineup! All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. The post Desert in bloom at Red Hills Desert Garden, part 1 appeared first on Digging.

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