Among the most prolific of garden writers, Maureen “Mo” Gilmer has published no less than fifteen books and lectures widely throughout the West. For health reasons, she and her husband moved to Palm Springs a few years ago, and, in typical Mo fashion, began to study the art and science of gardening in a desert—a different world from Northern California, which she had previously called home. The result is Palm Springs-Style Gardening, a glorious visual ramble through the plants and gardens that characterize the desert region of the Southwest.
As the subtitle of the book suggests, Gilmer focusses on plants that succeed in desert gardens and the horticultural considerations that ensure their wise use. She begins by describing those characteristics of climate and land that define the desert and constrain the selection of garden plants: the intensity of the sun, the persistence of the wind, the inescapability of the heat, the challenges of the soil, and the scarcity of water. She then discusses the major plant groups available to the desert gardener, beginning with the iconic palms, cacti, and succulents, and continuing with native plants, tropicals, staples such as bougainvillea and lantana, trees for shade, and herbaceous plants for seasonal color.
Gilmer ties all this information together in the final chapter, wherein she provides guidelines for selecting plants to pair with the various architectural styles found in the desert: Spanish, mid-century modern, desert natural, Mediterranean, and tropical. Along the way, the crisp text is embellished with capsule summaries of each chapter and a series of sidebars called “Mo’s Tips,” where she shares her secrets to successful desert gardening.
Palm Springs-Style Gardening is both a visual treat and a practical guide to gardening in the drier parts of the Southwest, be they desert or mediterranean-type climates. The rationale for plant choices and design concepts will be of value to gardeners throughout the arid West.
Richard G Turner Jr, editor