THIS is how you learn to be a better desert gardener…

On April 13th, 2018, a small group of members took a field trip to Green Desert Nursery in Indio and Mariscal Cactus and Succulents in Desert Hot Springs.  At each location, we had a VERY  knowledgeable plantsman to take us around the nursery to answer our many questions and educate us on plants that we pointed out.  The information was so practical, making it easy to apply to our own garden issues.  Green Desert Nursery is located at 79-301 Avenue 40 and is only open to retail customers from 7 a.m. to Noon on Saturdays.  Their website, which features a list of the plants they have available and a plant gallery with photos is  They specialize in cactus, specimen plants, desert trees and shrubs.  Mariscal Cactus and Succulents is at 66085 Dillon Road in Desert Hot Springs and they are open to the public.  Their website is  This website also has a plant directory. Check the website for operating hours.  

We learned so much...this will become an annual event!

New dues rate to take effect next season

Effective July 1st, 2018, the new dues rate will be $15 for one member or $20 for two members from the same household.  Dues are not payable until next Fall, but we wanted you to know that we are encouraging spouses to join in the fun!

Desert Horticultural Society President Tracy Merrigan comes to Shadow Hills

April 11, 2018

Tracy talked about some of her favorite tried and true plants that provide a lot of bloom for the buck, play host to our native wildlife, help conserve water and most importantly, are easier to take care of. Her endless enthusiasm for gardening is catching and she loves sharing what she has learned. Two notable quotes - “Native plants have a pattern - they sleep the first year, creap the second year and leap the third year, so leave room when you plant” and “right plant, right place”.  How true!  Check our Links page for her recommended plant list (it should be posted by May 1st.)

The 2018 Spring Garden Tour wows the crowd again!

The most often-heard comment - how wonderfully diverse the nine gorgeous landscapes were. One had a pool with a stunning view and great ironwork, one had a garden full of specimen cactus large and small, one had annual color, one had a waterfall and yet another had Mimosas!  While not technically a “garden feature”, that certainly added to the overall experience for our members and their guests!  (Thanks Bruce and Larry for giving us a new idea for next year!)  Our good friend Ken Elkman hosted a lovely garden party after the tour, with snacks and beverages prepared and served by our fabulous 2018 Garden Tour committee.  This year was clearly the best tour ever, due to the efforts of Corey and Andrea Unfried, Susan and Bob Weidman, Lucy Lee Crane, Sharon Woloschuk, Mary Riege and Debra Weisgerber.

From a Tour participant’s viewpoint…

“Too many times when people pass through the front gates of Sun City Shadow Hills, they assume that all houses and yards look the same.  “You know, you can identify my house.  It’s the beige one with the red roof and rock front yard.”

While some of this impression may be true, this year’s  SCSH Annual Tour of Gardens peaked behind the gates and walls of individual homes.  What we saw was a diversity of gardens that included Cacti gardens, small “private gardens”, elegant native gardens,  as well as a smattering of formal gardens.  We also met our tour hosts who freely shared their knowledge about how they planned and cared for each of their gardens.

This was truly a great  experience and one we look forward to doing again next year.  Thank you!”

-Larry Johnson


“Recently we volunteered to be one of the homes included in the SCSH Annual Tour of Gardens and, as luck would have it, were one of the nine houses selected for the tour.  After being selected you can’t help wondering if this was such a good idea.  Will strangers appreciate what you have tried to accomplish, the work and effort that has gone into your garden, or have you just opened yourself up to ridicule?

Calling ourselves Desert Gardeners is a real stretch of the imagination.  More like Desert Experimenters.  And our yard is the culmination of almost ten years of experimentation.  One thing we knew we would need to do was visit some local nurseries and find out the correct names for many of the plants we had growing in the yard.  Many of our plants have been replaced two or three times as we tried to figure out what would work, and if we were going to pretend we knew what were doing, we should at least know their names.

My pride and joy was a fountain that bubbled away in one corner of the yard, a real focal point.  About a week before the tour I was out pulling weeds and sprucing things up, when I tripped over my shoelaces and fell into the fountain, knocking it over and busting it into dozens of pieces.  What a disaster.  All I could do at this late stage was clean up the rubble, spread some rock around, and pretend nothing had ever occupied that spot.  It was too late to find another fountain.  

The morning of the tour arrived, and as more and more people came through, you realize how much everyone has in common.  Even though everyone has their own unique and individual vision of what they want their garden to be, we all experience the same frustrations and learning curves accomplishing our desired outcomes.  Most, however, know enough to tie their shoelaces.

Sharing our gardens with others was a great way to meet people, enable them to see what we’ve accomplished, and hear about their experiences working in the same environment.

It was good to share resources and learn how others tackled similar challenges.  We had a great time, hosting the garden tour, and recommend others do the same.”

-Bruce Atkinson

If you have comments on how we can improve the tour, or if you would like to have your garden considered for next year, please contact Amy Tomlinson by clicking here.

Ken Elkman and Bruce Atkinson after the 2018 Garden Tour

Socializing at Ken Elkman’s after the 2018 Garden tour


SCSH Desert Gardeners Club is featured on the Home page of (March 2018)

Club member Erin Smith, who is an active SCSH volunteer and member of the Information Advisory Committee, has posted a really great article about the Club’s recent trip to Gubler Orchids and the Cactus Mart.  You can view the full text by clicking here.

Thanks for the publicity, Erin!

Lush and Efficient Gardening Books available (as of March 25, 2018)

We have a few “Lush and Efficient” gardening books available for $5.00.  Please email me at if you would like one.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


It was another fabulous field trip!  We visited Gubler Orchids in Landers and The Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, CA.  Plus we had a tasty lunch at the famous Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace!  For those of you who missed this trip, do not fret!  The retail prices and selection of orchids were fabulous, and the tour was so informative.  It will be on our schedule again in the future.

Thanks to Lucy Lee Crane for some great photos!

For those

A great time was had by all at our walking tour of

the Sunnylands Public Garden followed by lunch at The Yard House

Thursday, January 25th:

Over 70 species of native and arid-adapted plants from North and South America, Africa, and the Mediterranean are displayed in the 9-acre public garden surrounding the Sunnylands Visitors Center. During the free 60-minute guided walk, we enjoyed an informative commentary by a member of the Sunnylands education department.  We learned about milkweed and its relationship to Monarch butterflies, Palo Verde and Mesquite trees, Agave and other types of cactus and even some info on hummingbirds.  This walk to open to all on Thursdays (during the high season only/not in summer/check the website for dates) at 11:00 a.m.  Pre-registration is not needed.  We finished our day with lunch at The Yard House at The River in Rancho Mirage.

January 10, 2018 - Trip to Sunnylands

Our sold-out trip to Sunnylands on January 10th was a hit!  Thanks to Deb Weisgerber for organizing this event!

“The tour of Sunnylands on Jan. 10 was worth the wait!  A sense of history envelops you as you enter the estate.  It is amazing to be in the actual rooms where so many world leaders met, ate, and slept. The estate and beautiful furnishings have been meticulously maintained and our guide was thoroughly knowledgeable, really bringing the home to life with his comments. We also enjoyed exploring the public garden, a beautiful and tranquil environment of desert plants and reflecting pools.”

-Juanita F.

“Thank you for organizing the "Sunnylands " trip, it was quite interesting to see the Estate.”

-Karin Leman

“Debra - Thanks so much for all the organization to make the event happen.  I particularly enjoyed the memory room, guest rooms and the history.”

-Patte Foreman

“You beautifully orchestrated the event from beginning to end.  Yes, the lovely weather was an added bonus.”   -Sharon W.

“The Desert Gardeners trip to Sunnylands was everything I expected and more.

What an amazing place! I can’t wait to go back because it was impossible to see everything in just one tour. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and delightful, tho he often had to remind me to keep up with the group, there was just so much to see...

I was fortunate to be the last alternate to make the trip, next year I will sign up early!”

-LucyLee Crane

“Sunnylands exceeded my expectations. Actually, I didn’t know what to expect (lol) and I found it to be amazing and inspiring.”

-Marla Hendrickson

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It was another great Happy Hour, featuring fabulous food, exciting door prizes and a great slide presentation.

Thanks so much to our door prize donors – Cheryl Croonquist, Kathy Pettit, Amy Tomlinson and Moller’s Garden Center.  If you did not attend you missed a chance to win the $100 gift certificate graciously donated by Moller’s!!

Many thanks to George (and Betty!) Shultz, who shared a terrific slide presentation titled “Gardens of Our World”.  George spent hours and hours perfecting the program and that time was well spent.  The beautiful photos were a travelogue of all the places they have been or lived.

New Officers for 2017-2018

New officers were elected at the December 2017 meeting.

But first, thanks so much to our outgoing people – Linda Delaney, Donna Zelazny, Marje Burdine and Maureen Whittaker.  They gave lots of time to the club and we so appreciate it.  The new Officers for 2017-2018 are

President – Amy Tomlinson

VP - open

Secretary – Diana Gomez

Treasurer – Deb Weisgerber

Marje Burdine will be our Communications person and Corey Unfried will be our Membership Chair.  

Volunteers Needed

There are a few spots where we need volunteers including the Program Committee and Website Management, and we could use another person to help with Membership.  The club also needs a Vice President, which is critical to the continuity of the club.  We will be scheduling a Volunteer meeting after the first of the year.  The next event that will require a cadre of people is the Garden Tour.  Please consider giving the club a bit of your time so we can continue this unique opportunity to see some great SCSH gardens.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

We had 14 members make a succulent bowl to enjoy all season.

Each person received a kit with a bowl, soil, tons of plants and rocks and other goodies.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The “hands-on” pruning demo by our favorite arborist, Donna-Lee Ekstrom drew a huge crowd (45+!) to Vintage Nursery (78755 Darby Road in Palm Desert).  Donna-Lee pruned a citrus tree, a Texas Sage shrub and a staked Lantana. 

“I really enjoyed my time  at the gardens and did learn a lot about pruning. Thanks for organizing this.”

Kind regards,

Cathy McLean


Our meeting and field trip schedule is coming together.  Here is just a brief list of what we have in mind:

November 8 - (Regular meeting) Hands-on pruning demo by Donna-Lee Ekstrom - at Vintage Nursery in Bermuda Dunes

November 30 - (Workshop) Make a succulent bowl

December 13 - (Regular meeting) Happy Hour with a presentation by nature photographer George Shultz

January 10 - (Field Trip) Sunnylands (No meeting in the clubhouse)

February 1 - (Field Trip) Gubler Orchids in Landers, CA and The Cactus Mart in Moreno Valley

February 14 - (Regular meeting) “Pollinators of the Southwest” by Kurt Leuschner

March - (Regular meeting) The Parts and Pieces of Irrigation Systems

Annual dues will be $15.00 per person and can be paid beginning October 1.

We are still in need of volunteers to serve on the Program Committee and we really need someone to be the Vice-president, even if you only have time to attend Board meetings approximately three times per season.  

HAPPY HOUR AT KEN ELKMAN’S - April 8th, 2017

Even though we had to move the event to the Montecito due to high winds, it still turned out to be a great night.  Thanks to everyone for bringing such fabulous food. Ken has invited us back next Fall, so if you missed this Happy Hour, you will get another chance to see his incredible night-time landscape featuring approximately 250 lights.







On April 5th, 2017, members of our club and the Sun City Palm Desert Garden Club went on the

SCSH Lifestyles department-sponsored trip to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets and The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch.  The Flower fields are only open while the giant “Tecolote” Ranunculus are in bloom.  Vast fields of flowers in at least thirteen colors were a sight to remember.  The Flower Fields property also had a water garden, a water-wise garden, a sweet pea maze, an orchid greenhouse featuring beautiful Cymbidium orchids, a poinsettia display, aviaries and an Armstrong Garden Center.  


All we can say is “Wow!”  On March 30th, 2017, 25 of our members went to Sun City Palm Desert to experience their annual Home and Garden Tour.  Yes - HOME and garden.  8 gracious homeowners opened their interiors and exteriors to tour attendees and every one was spectacular.  We saw beautiful water features, elaborately decorated patios, outdoor art, birdhouses, bee houses, unique exterior furnishings and some unusual plant material as well.  Everyone came home with a new idea for their own property.  Here a a few photos-






16 members enjoyed a walking tour given by Preserve volunteer Harlan Walker.  We learned local history, ancient history, geography, geology, plant biology, pond biology, and about ten other “-ologies”!  We even got to taste a palm seed from a Washingtonian Palm, which tastes much like a date, but is pea-size.  The wildflowers were in bloom, and many said they would be going back soon for another look.  The tour was followed by a great lunch at the all-new Big Rock Pub in Indio.  Thanks so much to Mary Riege for organizing this event!  For those who didn’t get to go, the Preserve is open to the public.  Go to for hours and more info.

Here are some comments from those who attended:

“Wally and I really, really enjoyed the lecture and tour today!  It was so much better with a guide, and the guide was great.  I think everyone else liked it too.  We learned so much today.” - Dana B.

We enjoyed the Thousands Palms Oasis tour. I have hiked the trail before but it is more enjoyable having a docent explain all of nature’s hidden secrets.” -Diana G.

“I had a great time yesterday. It was a great outing.” - Donna Z.


What a great day we had for the tour - the wind quit and the sun came out as did so many of our members. Here are some comments from those who attended-


The gardens were all so different. Great hosts. Great job!

 Looked like everyone was enjoying themselves and the weather smiled on us!!

All homes offered landscape and/or hardscape that was unique and beautiful.

#8 Home  -  Mike and Darci McMichaels' landscape was over the top outstanding.

This is my first event and it was very well organized, informational and easy to get around.  The hosts were also very cordial.

We had nine lovely landscapes to view, from small and intimate to one of the largest lots in the development.  The hosts had a great time sharing their vision with us, and several even said “I’m going to have to join the club - you are all such nice people!”


Kurt brought a great program to the club - “Attracting Beneficial Critters to your home garden”.  Bee houses, bird houses, scrap brush piles, plants and hardscape all provide homes for so many species that make up our desert environment.  Kurt is also the leader of the Desert Cities Bird Club.  Thanks to Linda Delaney for bringing Kurt to us.

DONNA-LEE EKSTROM was our speaker on January 11th, 2017

Donna-Lee is an ISA Certified Horticulturalist and Arborist, who was a golf course superintendent here in the valley and on the coast before becoming an Arborist.  She shared her wealth of knowledge about tree pruning, watering and fertilization.  She gave us a bit of biology, followed by some do’s and don’ts of pruning, and then talked about the importance of watering judiciously and strategically.  Donna does home consultations.  Many of the members asked for her contact information, so here it is:

Donna Lee Ekstrom


Thanks to club member Marje Burdine, who was the person responsible for bringing Donna-Lee to us.


January 21, 2017 @ 8:30 a.m. Desert Rose Society will have their annual rose pruning demonstration followed by the pruning of the roses at the Palm Desert Civic Park Rose Garden, 43900 San Pablo Avenue, Palm Desert. Hal Reynolds, the rose expert who spoke at our April 2015 meeting will be showing you how to prune roses. This is a great opportunity for a free pruning lesson and you will get to practice your new skills on someone else’s roses!  Please check in with Hal Reynolds and identify yourself as being from SCSH Desert Gardeners, bring a sharp/clean pair of pruners and gloves if you wish to participate in the pruning of the rose garden (A kneeling pad is also helpful).  Actual pruning of the garden will follow the demonstration. This is not a SCSH Desert Gardeners sponsored event.  Just go on your own and enjoy the free lesson!!!

Desert Gardeners Go Off the Concrete Path, November 17th, 2017


The Living Desert was the site of our November 2016 field trip.  The guided tour was lead by the ever-so-dedicated Suzanne Jarvinen, a two-time (CA and CO) Master Gardener and SCSH resident. A group of 18 Club members visited the North American, Madagascar and Eastern African gardens, and caught glimpses of various zoo inhabitants along the way.  The cheetahs were out, as were the Bighorn sheep. There was even a Boa Constrictor (in the capable hands of a zookeeper) there to greet us at the gate.

The Living Desert has an amazing variety of native and non-native plants throughout the park.  With Suzanne’s guidance we negotiated the sand pathways that weave around the areas between the concrete sidewalks, which most visitors don’t even know are there.  The cactus, shrubs, perennials, vines and trees are left to grow naturally and receive little or no supplemental water.  It was a great opportunity to see what things look like when left to grow without much human interference as well as how they adapt to the harsh conditions of this area.

Everyone had a great time – a nice walk (lasting about two hours), cool weather, a great guide and good company.


For more information on upcoming workshops, hikes and tours being offered by The Living Desert and various partners, go to

The Living Desert University

“Thanks so much for another fantastic event with the Desert Gardeners on Thursday! I enjoyed every minute of it, and could listen to Suzanne for hours. I appreciate all of your efforts to make this club a terrific learning experience and loads of fun, too. “  Wende G.