Purple Phlomis
Purple Jerusalem Sage
Phlomis purpurea 

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 2-4 ft. tall x 3-4 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, light shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (Mar-May), Summer (June-Aug)
  • Native to: Spain, Portugal, Morocco
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

There is so much to like about Purple Phlomis! It thrives in hot, dry areas of your yard while needing very little water, produces unusual but beautiful purple flowers from spring through summer, has leaves so soft you want to pet them, and takes heat and cold in stride.

Purple Phlomis offers a beautiful solution for hot, dry areas of a yard, forming a large mound of wooly leaves with whorls of rose-lavender, hooded flowers skewered in tiers on long spikes of fuzzy stems. Its softness belies it tough nature, since it is drought-tolerant, heat tolerant, cold hardy, low maintenance, resists browsing by deer, and requires very little summer water once established. Butterflies and bees love the flowers, adding good habitat to your yard. The cut flowers make nice bouquets, and after the flowers fall away, the seedpods create interesting dried arrangements. Flowers allowed to go to seed attract songbirds in fall and winter. Cut back to about 1 foot tall in late fall. While this drought-tolerant shrub tolerates some shade, it may get leggy with too much shade. Use as an accent or specimen plant, in borders and beds, or massed in the garden. Ideal plant for rock gardens, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, Mediterranean gardens, and any xeriscape garden.      

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for May


The Desert Underground

Who would guess that anyone could say, with any credible authority, “Mushrooms can help save the world?” And even more preposterous, that in the desert, fungal threads that connect to plant roots combat global warming? Even though these statements sound like science fiction, we are finding that both are proving to be absolutely true. 

These concepts were at the forefront of the vision to create an artistic, visually compelling book that would transport readers along a graphic “tour” of the unseen desert beneath the soil surface. Robin’s new book, “The Desert Underground,” will lead you on a virtual tour of the hidden but magnificent world of microorganisms intertwined with roots that silently works under our feet every day.

“The Desert Underground” book reveals the amazing partnerships that connect every native plant underground across the landscape. Journey through the interlocking biological and geological systems that work together to create a surprising carbon sponge, helping to combat climate change wherever desert soils remain intact.

Come on a virtual tour of the desert’s surprising living soils under your feet. Join in this tour within the pages of “The Desert Underground” book by Robin Kobaly.
Sample page from “The Desert Underground”

Robin’s newest book was released at a special exhibit featuring “The Desert Underground” at the Joshua Tree National Park Art Expo at the 29 Palms Inn in September 2019. A series of large graphic displays, created with the original artwork presented in Robin’s book, led viewers along an illustrated tour through our desert soils, delving deeper and deeper into the underground. The exhibit was created by Robin Kobaly and was presented by The SummerTree Institute, an environmental education nonprofit, of which Robin is Executive Director.

Visitors take a virtual “tour” of the desert underground at the
Joshua Tree National Park Art Expo in fall 2019.

For more information about
The Desert Underground” book,
or to order your own copy,
visit www.summertree.org/the-desert-underground/.

For an overview of the hidden but magnificent realm that works silently underground every day, read the feature article, “The Desert Under Our Feet” written by Robin Kobaly in the March 2019 issue of The Desert Report.


Check out our other events and workshops!  


 May Garden Tasks

Due to warmer weather, it is best to water during the early morning and late evening hours to reduce evaporation.

Due to warmer weather, it is best to water during the early morning and late evening hours to reduce evaporation.


Rising temperatures cause changes in plants…prepare for summer!


~ Change watering schedule from mid-day to early morning or evening as weather heats up to minimize loss through evaporation.

~ Maintain a good mulch of organic matter (such as leaves, bark, or chipped wood) covering garden soil throughout the summer to hold in moisture, moderate soil temperatures for optimum root growth, improve the soil as it decomposes, and prevent weeds from germinating. Mulch allows you to water less often (but still deeply). Keep mulch several inches away from tree trunks and plant stems for good air circulation.

~ Remove spent flowers from annuals, perennials, and shrubs—unless you want to collect seeds (such as from Penstemons); “deadheading” old flowers stimulates repeat blooming.

~ Work compost or soil amendments into planting beds to improve moisture retention as summer approaches.

~ Encourage your plants’ roots to grow deeply for moisture. In spring, for average soils, water established plants deeply only every two to three weeks. By the time summer’s heat arrives, plants’ feeder roots will be growing deeply for moisture, and the plants won’t need watering more than once a week during very hot spells.


Check out our featured “Plant of The Month” for May




California Native Landscaping

Enter the fascinating world of southwest desert plants

Through our series of workshops and classes, we invite you to enter into the captivating world of plants and their impressive uses. Experience the plants growing in your area’s natural community as you never have before…through taste, smell, touch, and stories.

Let us lead you through native gardens to witness the variety and beauty of native plants available to gardeners throughout the southwestern United States. Join us in exploring the ancient and modern uses of our native plants for medicine, tools, shelter, clothing, and food. Enjoy learning how to incorporate drought-tolerant native plants into your garden design for benefits you might not have imagined. Discover the fun of using native southwest desert plants for food, herbal remedies, landscape, and even art.

In our workshops and classes, you will learn which of California’s 4,800 native plants are perfectly suited for your particular yard, and which ones best serve as evergreen hedges, privacy screens, shade-giving trees, long-lived ground covers, erosion control, seasonal color, interesting vines, and striking specimen plants. Find out how to select, plant, irrigate, and care for a remarkable variety of attractive, drought-tolerant native plants. Read More


Water-Wise Landscaping

Water-Wise Landscaping DVD

Water-Wise Landscaping DVD

Available Now!

This engaging DVD, produced by The SummerTree Institute and featuring professional botanist Robin Kobaly, contains all the essential information you need to transform your High-Desert property into an enchanting, Water-Wise Landscape. You choose your path of discovery by selecting the topics within yard themes. This comprehensive DVD, with nearly four hours of hard-to-find expert information, covers the resources you will need to plan, design, plant, irrigate and maintain an attractive, drought-tolerant landscape.

To help you choose the right plants, you will find descriptions and growing tips for over 80 plants suited to high-desert gardens, all grouped by water-use themes.

Discover how you can create beautiful drought-tolerant landscaping in the high deserts of the Southwest with valuable tips and insider’s information. Robin leads you on this journey with fun demonstrations and real-life examples of yard solutions.

Here’s a sample:

Water-Wise Landscaping DVD

Special Features:

  • Yard Design
  • Understanding Soil and Mulch
  • Planting Tips
  • Irrigation
  • Maintaining a Healthy Landscape
  • Profiles of 84 Star-Performing Plants
  • Price: $20.00, plus $2.50 shipping – All proceeds go to The SummerTree Institute to help support outreach efforts and educational materials for the non-profit’s “Water-Wise Landscaping” programs. Visit www.summertree.org for more program details.

Other Ways To Order:

To place an order with your credit card by phone, please call 760-363-1166.
Download the Water-Wise Landscaping DVD order form to mail a check or credit card information.

“All I can say is Wow! The presentation – Robin, the DVD –was simply superb…”
—Michael Stevens, Community Liaison Officer, Mojave Water Agency

“This DVD is absolutely a phenomenally crucial tool in educating the public…I’m so excited about this wonderful educational tool!”
—Marie Sovitsky, Publications Coordinator, Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District