High Desert Garden

Submitted by Weiser on

Hello every one!
My name is John Weiser.
I garden in Reno/Sparks, NV
I have been gardening for the past forty years. First in North Dakota, and now in Nevada for the past ten years. My main focus has been the cultivation of native western plants.
We are in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada Range, on the western edge of the Great Basin, and considered a high desert steppe environment. It becomes obvious that my gardening methods and choices must conform to a drier regiment than is often found in literature about rock gardening.
It has been my goal to plant suitably adapted hardy plant selections, from the high desert steppes and desert mountain ranges of the world.
I currently grow a modest selection of Mediterranean, Asian Steppe, South African and west coast South American species. By in far the majority of my selections have come from the Inter-Mountain West, Great Basin and Northern Great Plains of North America.
Since we have a limited supply of moisture (six inches annually) I need to to do a modest amount of irrigation. I accomplish this using seasonal drip irrigation on about half of the species I grow. The critical time to irrigate is in late summer and early fall as the plants are preparing for dormancy. Storing energy reserves to see them through. Once they are going dormant the irrigation is discontinued.
I consider my garden to be a dry land rock garden.

From the High Desert Steppe
of the Great Basin and the Eastern
Escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Range
Located in Reno/Sparks,NV
[email protected]
John P Weiser


Submitted by RickR on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 13:56

Nice to know some more about you.  Did you anything from North Dakota and have success growing it in Nevada?

Submitted by Hoy on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 14:07

Hello John! You certainly have less precipitation than me. I get 6 inches monthly. How is the winters there?

Submitted by Mark McD on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 17:50

Welcome John,

I started looking at your Flickr photos in the link you provided, then had such a feeling of deja vu, then realized... I've been to your vast Flickr photo album several times before, searching for photos of Allium parvum and anceps, western Trifolium, Penstemon, etc... just goes to show, you may not hear much back after you post so many superb photos on a site like Flickr, but they are indeed useful and educational for people... thanks for taking the time to post 2780 photos :o :o

There was recent discussion in another thread on Viola beckwithii... people, take a look at look at John's Flickr link above for some breathtaking photos of that Viola, among the best of all Viola. 

Liked the "Lichen communities" photos, and Draba asterophora... where does that grow???  And I'll be in touch regarding Cleomella hillmanii, regarding a Cleome hybridization effort I worked on about 10 years ago but looking to start up again.

Looking forward to your contribution to this forum... there are a lot of wannabe cacti cultivators here (even in eastern USA), and judging from the incredible photos on your Flickr account, you really know how to growing these babies.


Submitted by Weiser on Wed, 04/14/2010 - 10:50

Yes there are several genera that do well in Nevada. With minimal late summer irrigation.
The cacti- Escobaria vivpara &  E. missouriensis -Opuntias fragilis & polyacantha
The asters-Echinacea angustifolia, Liatris punctata, Gaillardia grandiflora, & several species of Antennaria
The mallows- Sphaeralcea coccinea
The yucca- Yucca glauca
The peas-Astragalus gilviflorus ,and several others

Winters can be dry. This last one was wet with a lot of snow that hung around for a month or more. The mountains get a lot more snow than the valleys. We usually have snow only hang around for a day or two at the most. We go through the freeze thaw cycle almost every day.

Glade you found a use for all those shots. Digital photography  certainly has expanded our ability to help tie down IDs, when descriptions alone are not enough. Besides I like to look at them. ;)

I am glad every one has enjoyed the shots of Viola beckwithii. It is one of the true gems of early spring in the high desert .
Draba asterophora grows above 9000' elevation in the Lake Tahoe area. I have found it on the top of Slide Mountain and Mount Rose both located on the North East corner of the Tahoe Basin. The common name for it is the "Tahoe Draba"

Thank you all for your fine welcome.

Submitted by Hoy on Wed, 04/14/2010 - 13:59

Ever since I read about Nevada, Arizona, Utah and other states in Western series as a young boy have I wanted to go and see for myself. I am sorry that I have not achieved that goal. In the meantime till I get the opportunity can I enjoy your flick pictures!

Submitted by Boland on Thu, 04/15/2010 - 16:49

Welcome John!  I can't imagine such a lack of rain...I'd be happy to send you some of my 60" of annual precipitation!

Submitted by Weiser on Fri, 04/16/2010 - 15:27

I'd be happy to receive it!! ;D

When I first moved to Nevada I was in denial!! As far as I could see there "weren't nuten worth grown in them thar hills".  It took me a couple of years to appreciate the survival strategies of the local flora. I am still after so many years making the adjustment. ;)
I still over irrigate the established natives plants and have to make the difficult decision to take the dripper's going to them off the system. Of course newly planted specimens need to be irrigated constantly the first year or they would just shrivel up and blow way. :(
I learned not transplant anything after the end of June to the end of September, if it can be avoided. It takes a lot of attention and effort to keep them hydrated.  :-\
The adjustment to working with the jumble of diverse soil types we have in the basin and range can be a real challenge just by itself. ::)

The scenery and climate are hard to beat. When you crest the ridge top, of a High Sierra alpine scree and there spread out before you are, the clear saphire blue waters of Lake Tahoe, with a backdrop of forests and glistening peaks. You come to the realization, your on the edge of Eden.  ;D(or as close as you are ever in this life time  likely to be.) :-\