Country Gardens - - Grassroots -

Our deserts fea­ture cold win­ter nights, and many plants go dor­mant just like in places far­ther north. The three plants listed be­low never fail to brighten my gar­den— even on the odd cold or gray day.

1 Chu­parosa (Jus­ti­cia cal­i­for­nica) The es­sen­tial win­ter hum­ming­bird nec­tar plant, chu­parosa is a small shrub with gray-green stems that sport tubu­lar red flow­ers. Al­though its peak bloom sea­son is spring, it flow­ers in win­ter too. The leaf­less plant re­sem­bles a bou­quet of sticks dec­o­rated with tiny red fire­crack­ers. I like to plant this Zone 9 shrub near win­dows where the hum­ming­bird ac­tion can be mon­i­tored. I’ve had two chu­parosa plants out­side my bed­room win­dow for 20 years.

2 Cape cowslip (Lachena­lia aloides var. quadri­color) I don’t grow many bulbs, but this one makes a cameo ap­pear­ance every Fe­bru­ary. Cape cowslip is a South African bulb from the West­ern Cape re­gion that grows in lit­tle soil pock­ets on granitic out­crops. True to its botan­i­cal name, it sports flow­ers that are four shades: red, orange, yel­low, and char­treuse. In my Zone 9 Tuc­son gar­den, it usu­ally be­gins bloom­ing in Fe­bru­ary. I pre­fer grow­ing Cape cowslip in con­tain­ers, and some­times I com­bine it with other South African bulbs such as corkscrew al­buca (Al­buca spi­ralis).

3 Devil’s tongue (Fe­ro­cac­tus latispi­nus) Named for its wide and showy orange-red spines, Devil’s tongue is lesser known for be­ing one of the only cac­tus species that blooms dur­ing the cool months. I used to say that it blooms up to around Thanks­giv­ing, but I’ve since seen its pur­ple-pink blos­soms in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary. It is the ul­ti­mate win­ter-vis­i­tor cac­tus. It has a smaller hemi­spher­i­cal shape that is ex­cel­lent in pots. Scott Cal­houn, a fourth­gen­er­a­tion Ari­zo­nan, is a gar­den de­signer and writer liv­ing in Tuc­son.

Devil’s tongue

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