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Conservation | Gardening Books

Desert Gardening Book List

References for desert landscaping ideas, concepts, methods, and plant sources.

NOTE: Any plants mentioned in these references not found on the Indian Wells Valley Water District’s Approved Plant List may not be climatically suited for the Indian Wells Valley.


Books and Pamphlets

Many of these books are in stock or can be special ordered through the Maturango Museum. A number of these books will also be available through the Ridgecrest Branch Library.

The Complete Book of Cacti & Succulents

  • Terry Hewitt
  • DK Publishing, Inc.; 1997
  • Features the history, cultivation, and imaginative use of more than 300 plants in step-by-step color stages.

Cool Plants for Hot Gardens: 200 Water-Smart Choices for the Southwest

  • Gregg Starr
  • Rio Nuevo Publishers; 2009
  • An encyclopedia of interesting and colorful plants for southwest gardens.

The Desert Gardener’s Calendar: Your Month-by-Month Guide

  • George Brookbank
  • University of Arizona Press; 1997
  • Especially valuable for people who are new to desert living and gardening.

A Desert Gardeners Companion

  • Kim Nelson
  • Rio Nuevo Publishers; 2001
  • A list of month-by-month desert garden chores from a master gardener.

Desert Gardening Fruits & Vegetables

  • George Brookbank
  • Fisher Books
  • Fertilizing and watering information is especially good.

Extreme Gardening: How to Grow Organic in the Hostile Deserts

  • David Owens
  • Poco Verde Landscape; 2000
  • Quintessential guide to organic vegetable gardening against all odds.

Gardening in the Desert: A Guide to Plant Selection and Care

  • Mary F. Irish
  • University of Arizona Press; 2000
  • Many books offer advice on adapting plants to the desert; this one tells how gardeners can better adapt themselves to the challenge.

Gardening in the Southwest

  • Kathleen Norris Brenzel, Philip Edinger and the Editors of Sunset Magazine
  • Sunset Books; 2005
  • A wealth of great and doable landscaping ideas from the Sunset experts.

High Desert Yards & Gardens

  • Lynn Ellen Doxon
  • University of New Mexico Press; 1999
  • Tips for beginning new yards and maintaining established ones, including converting lawns to xeriscapes.

The Hot Garden: Landscape Design for the Desert Southwest

  • Scott Calhoun
  • Rio Nuevo Publishers; 2009
  • An informative, inspiring and witty guide to garden design in dry climates.

Landscaping with Native Plants of the Southwest

  • George Oxford Miller
  • Voyageur Press; 2007
  • A guide to choosing the best of the garden-worthy native plants of Arizona and New Mexico.

The Low-Water Flower Gardener: Plants for the Arid West

  • Eric A. Johnson and Scott Millard
  • Ironwood Press; 1992
  • Useful for both planning a garden and choosing the perfect, colorful blossoms.

Native Landscaping from El Paso to LA

  • Sally Wasoski with Andy Wasowski
  • McGraw Hill; 2000
  • Create a drought-tolerant, environmentally friendly, low-maintenance and affordable garden.

The New Book of Salvias: Sages for Every Garden

  • Betsy Clebsch
  • Timber Press; 2008
  • This amazingly varied plant – and its many brothers, sisters and cousins – is known for its pest and disease resistance, drought tolerance and gorgeous flowers.

Perennials for the Southwest: Plants That Flourish in Arid Gardens

  • Mary Irish
  • Timber Press; 2006
  • Doyen of desert gardening Mary Irish shares an incredible palette of pretty perennials.

Plants for Dry Climates: How to Select, Grow, and Enjoy

  • Mary Rose Duffield and Warren Jones
  • Perseus Publishing; 2001 (revised edition)
  • A classic book on desert gardening with hundreds of descriptions of desert-hardy plants.

Plants for Natural Gardens: Southwestern Native and Adaptive Trees, Shrubs, Wildflowers, and Grasses

  • Judith Phillips
  • Museum of New Mexico Press; 1995
  • Companion book to Natural by Design concentrates on over two hundred SW native plants.

Southwestern Landscaping with Native Plants

  • Judith Phillips
  • Museum of New Mexico Press; 1987
  • One of the first books to inspire gardeners in the arid west, it is still in print and very useful.

Tough Plants in a Fragile Land: Saving Our Planet, One Garden at a Time

  • by Fritzie von Jessen
  • Dorrance Publishing Co.; 2008
  • Introducing beginning and expert gardeners to the beauty of desert gardening through the use of native plants and gardening in a chemical-free, holistic manner.

Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest:Woody Plants for Arid Gardens

  • Mary Irish
  • Timber Press; 2008
  • Another great volume from the doyen of desert gardening, this time on trees and shrubs.

Waterwise Garden Care Booklet

Waterwise Gardening

  • Editors of Sunset and Sunset Books
  • Lane Publishing; Menlo Park; 1991
  • Out of print but worth searching for a library copy.