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Despite a year of extreme heat, drought, and dry air, the following plants growing in desert gardens have one thing in common. Each of these plants has added bright color to the local landscape while in bloom during early February.

New residents may be curious and surprised when meeting a group of chunky, pig-like, somewhat smelly creatures wandering through the landscape around sunset. Javelina (Collared Peccary) are omnivores that primarily eat roots, cacti, succulent bulbs, tubers, pods, seeds, worms, and insects. Their preferred food is prickly pear cactus because of its high moisture content.

February is a month for patience, waiting for the danger of late season frosts to pass and springtime warmth to begin. Don’t let warm days suggest that it is time to put the frost coverings away. Continue listening closely to weather forecasts and be ready to protect any cold-sensitive plants on nights the temperature suddenly dips.

When searching for a showy winter bloomer to fill a large spot in the landscape, consider a Valentine Emu Bush (Eremophila maculate 'Valentine'). It is unique to discover a drought-tolerant plant with early season, deep magenta flowers that contrast with typical desert-adapted specimen.

Desert winter temperatures may be mild compared to much of the United States, but they can drop low enough to dissuade many ornamentals grown here. However, there are a number of plants that do not require protection from the cold. Following are just a few.

With the holidays soon to arrive, we have recently discussed berries for decorating and trumpets in the garden. Perhaps now may be the time to also plan the addition of colorful bells to the garden. With our recent long, warm autumn it has been possible to enjoy these cheerful bell-shaped blossoms for an extended blooming season.

In the local desert, it has been established that October is the ideal time for planting; November is the month to prepare for winter plant protection. It will soon be December, so what do gardeners do during this month besides celebrate holidays?

Arizona gardeners have begun to wonder if this year there would be “frost on the pumpkin.” However, in our part of the Santa Cruz River Valley, the average first frost can be expected in mid-November. Eventually cool days arrive to remind us that the brief, hopefully mild winter is just around the corner. Even native plants have endured an especially challenging summer, and now the survivors must prepare to cope with winter conditions.

When we talk about “gray matter,” it is brain composition we are often discussing. However, there can be gray matter in the garden as well. Especially adapted for hot, dry desert conditions, there are plants that appear gray because of minute hairs on their leaf surfaces.