Plant of the Month

Fouquieria splendens


  • Plant Form: Deciduous succulent shrub
  • Water Use: Very low, low
  • Mature Size: 8-20 ft. tall x 5-10 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, reflected sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May),
    Summer (June – Aug)
  • Native to: Southern California, southwest US, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0-10°F

Do you need a striking accent plant for your yard, or a living sculptural shape to light up at night against a wall for interesting shadows? Ocotillo is waiting for your discovery. This extremely water-wise, drought-tolerant California native plant produces orange-red flowers that hummingbirds and orioles can’t resist…and that will make your yard pop with vibrant color from spring to summer.

Ocotillo is an iconic symbol of the southwest that forms a vase-shaped shrub with up to 100 wand-like, thorny stems that radiate from the crown. Small, oval, fleshy leaves appear after rain, persisting for weeks or even months, then fall off during drought. Bright orange-red, tubular flowers form on the tips of each cane that attract hummingbirds and orioles in late spring and early summer. While bare-root plants are available from nurseries, potted plants are more reliable (always check for legal tags and permits). Water newly-planted ocotillos frequently by lightly spraying the canes from top to bottom during summer months. No added water is needed once established, but leaves can be retained by watering twice a month over the summer. Ocotillo is stunning as an accent, especially when lit up in front of a wall, or for interesting vertical structure as a specimen, in beds and borders, hummingbird and bird gardens, or as an impenetrable hedge.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for December


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,

Check out our other events and workshops!  


 December Garden Tasks

     Winter begins and plant growth is on hold until February

Prune to shape evergreens, and save some of the trimmings for holiday decorations, such as from this Hollyleaf Cherry.

Prune to shape evergreens, and save some of the trimmings for holiday decorations, such as from this Hollyleaf Cherry (yes, my ocean-bred husband does wear shorts all year, even in winter unless it is literally freezing).

~Prune to shape evergreens like arborvitae, juniper, pines, and cypress—and save trimmings for holiday decorations

~Prune dense trees to avoid wind damage; make sure young trees are well-staked

~For overnight protection when frost threatens, cover delicate plants with large cardboard boxes, old sheets, or tarps

~Consider setting irrigation timers to “off”, and manually water in response to our irregular winter weather, based on winds, rain, or snow; using the manual mode on your controller in winter can save precious water

Check out our featured
Plant of The Month
for December

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 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