Nursery Visit: Civano Nursery in Tucson, Arizona


After my drive-by of Civano’s candy-colored homes and front-yard gardens while in Tucson earlier this month, I popped into Civano Nursery for a look around. Yep, that’s right. The lucky residents of Civano have a full-service nursery in their neighborhood, within wagon-pulling distance of many of the homes.


The nursery is located at the entrance to the neighborhood, with views of rugged mountains over a wall that shields the grounds from highway road noise.


Colored walls are the perfect backdrop for desert plants like cactus and succulents.


Civano has such plants in abundance.


Agaves and cactus


More beautiful agaves


Palo verde, the ubiquitous native tree that was blooming all over Phoenix and Tucson while I was there.


Mexican fence post cactus


I’d have to grow this if I lived there.


Drought-tolerant perennials like guara are also offered.


Lots of reasons to plant them


Pocket gardens throughout the grounds are planted with desert-loving plants, like this ‘Sharkskin’ agave and ‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia.


I love when nurseries plant display gardens. They give you such great ideas for what might work in your own garden.


Red yucca, a Texas native


Here’s something you don’t see in central Texas: bundled ocotillo branches for sale


You can make them into fences that might even take root and grow.


Here’s one that screens a row of electrical panels.


Purple prickly pear against a pistachio-colored wall — such great color and texture


Colorful accessories seem to be vital in the desert, and Civano offers a nice selection of pottery.


Or maybe you’d prefer muted pottery if your wall is painted. I love this!


They also sell pre-planted containers…


…as well as southwestern-style garden art.


A large, covered patio offers space for garden speakers and their audiences.


A tree-size saguaro grows in a streetside display garden — symbol of the Arizona landscape.


If you garden in the desert, you’ve gotta create some shade. This expansive arbor is something to aspire to.


Or maybe you’d be lucky enough to have a shade tree. The nursery is family-friendly, with a play area and also several animal pens, shown here, which house goats, chickens, and even a tortoise.


Civano is a wonderful neighborhood nursery that shows how beautifully you can garden in the desert. I ran into the owner, Chris Shipley, whom I’d met at the Garden Writers Association conference two years ago. He was the one who gave me the Indian mallow (Abutilon palmeri) that I packed home in my suitcase. How about that? I already have a Civano plant at home! (That is, if it survived our freezing winter; it’s still too soon to say.) Chris is a friendly, knowledgeable guy, and I enjoyed visiting his family-run nursery.

Up next: A series of posts about Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, where the Chihuly exhibit was on display

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

18 Responses

  1. TexasDeb says:

    I am fascinated by so much here but those ocotillo fence panels really captured my imagination. I suppose our local correlate would be cedar? When I see lush gardens from cooler wetter spots I appreciate their views but it is these desert plants and gardening solutions that really ring my chimes. I suppose that means I’m completely acclimated to Texas (no shock – born here and lived here much of my life). I can’t wait to see your photos from the Botanical Garden including the Chihuly exhibit up next. So much fun!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, our cedar (juniper) posts would be the central Texas equivalent. You won’t be able to grow a cedar tree from a post, but they sure do add a lot of local character to our gardens, don’t they? —Pam

  2. Ann says:

    I wonder if they’ll ship the ocotillo fence panel. Love it!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Doesn’t hurt to ask! —Pam

    • Amy says:

      Sadly, I don’t believe that we’re currently able to ship these…though it would be interesting to see the postal worker’s reaction to seeing one with their pick-up packages =) They’re quite bulky, with some thorns thrown in for good measure.

      However, you may be able to find them locally if you live in Texas. I believe that they’re most commonly sourced from Mexico, and a lot of the ocotillo available here in AZ actually comes from TX, so it seems possible at least.

      • Pam/Digging says:

        I’ve never seen ocotillo branches for sale at any nursery in central Texas. However, ocotillo itself is — rarely — available, and I’ve seen a few gardeners give it a try. It doesn’t take well to our humidity and rainfall levels, however.

        I have seen ocotillo fencing used in Marfa, in far west Texas. Maybe that’s where your ocotillo comes from? —Pam

  3. Thank you so much for this post and your others from Tucson. I’ve always wondered what Civano Nursery looks like.

    Like you, I’m a big Scott Calhoun fan. It was through his book Yard Full of Sun that I first became aware of Civano. In your photos, you make the neighborhood look impossibly beautiful. But I suspect it really is like that :-).

  4. Beautiful! Neat to see how many of the same plants work in both Austin and Tucson, as well as a few I’m not accustomed to seeing here. Love the purple prickly pear! We have relatives out in Tucson, I’ll have to put Civano on our itinerary whenever we go out to visit.

  5. Kris P says:

    I love the idea of a nursery “within wagon-pulling distance” of home. I had one of those many years ago when I was a renter in Santa Monica. Sadly, there seem to be very few nurseries in the LA area located near housing.

  6. We talk about moving to Tucson someday, this post (and yesterday’s) have me wanting it even more. How can a Pacific NW girl yearn for the desert so much???

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I had no idea you’d ever consider leaving Portland for drier, sunnier pastures, Loree, though of course I know you love the desert. I’d love to see the desert garden you’d create! —Pam

  7. Amy says:

    I have to say, Pam, that it feels really great to read such a nice review and see such beautiful photos of the nursery that I’m proud to be employed by. I read your blog often, and really enjoy your photos and writing. Thanks for making our day! =)

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