This Page Last Updated: June 21, 2005

Location Background
Possible Material

      While the Phoenix Bonsai site has focused primarily on bonsai in Maricopa County (south-central Arizona, Phoenix metro, Sunset Zone 13: Low or Subtropical Desert), we have also had a little input from Pima County (southern Arizona, Tucson, Sunset Zone 12: Arizona Intermediate Desert).  From late March 2002 to late June 2005, your humble editor moved up to northwestern Arizona for family reasons after thirty-one years in the Phoenix area.  Never wanting to abandon bonsai nor this web site, I was in the process of [re-]learning this gardening art in Sunset Zone 10: High Desert.  Through the modern miracles of e-mail and snail mail, I was able to continue in my chosen post as web master, just three hours up the road (State Route 93 into Interstate 40 and back again into 93).  Occasional visits to Phoenix area activities were expected.  Club members continued to report on and return photographs of the various events.

      (Why do I use Sunset Zones on this page and elsewhere on this web site?  The USDA Zone system is based on winter minimum temperatures.  "Its focus on cold-tolerance alone, for example, places the Olympic rain forest into a zone with parts of the Sonoran Desert...  [The Sunset] method of zoning considers a broad range of factors, including winter minimums, summer highs, elevation, proximity to coast or mountains, rainfall, humidity and aridity, and growing season.  It gives gardeners a more accurate picture of what will grow where..." ( Sunset Western Garden Book (2001, Seventh Edition, pg. 28))

      The climate around Kingman (and similar parts of Mohave [moh-HAH-vee] County, elevation: 3500+ ft) is at least 7 to 15° F cooler than Phoenix.  This works out to a winter season of 75 to 100+ nights below 32° F.  Locals say that it snowed on the previous two Easters (2000 and 2001).
      There are breezes/winds from usually the south or east practically every day, often kicking up by mid-morning.  This keeps the air clear and cool.  If the winds are already up at dawn, the more distant hills and mountains -- such as the Hualapai Mtns to the southeast [extending about 50 miles S, highest point is 8417' Hualapai Peak, two islands of Sunset Zone 2] -- are tannish-gray from dust.  The winds also suck moisture right out of plant containers.  Days are mostly sunny.  Arizona and the neighboring region is also in the midst of what is now becoming a six-year drought.
      There are any number of stone-fruit trees available at the handful of local nurseries, but no citrus.  Eldarica pines and purple robe locust and a few azaleas, but no carob or bougainvillea (well, extremely few of the latter).  Fruitless olives and mulberries and fruiting pomegranates and edible figs, but no desert ferns or elephant food.  Ocotillos and barrel and beaver-tail cactus, very few saguaros.  (One neighbor had a few rather tall specimens of saguaro in his yard, and there are a couple of tall but decrepit looking ones in both a park and a yard in town and a perhaps a few 4' tall specimens elsewhere.  All told, I only counted barely two dozen, if that, in the area.)  A fair variety of garden vegetables are offered for sale at the nurseries, as well as border flowers.
      Local landscaping consists primarily of pines, junipers (mostly low with a few Alligators), oleander, shamel ash, purple-leaf plum, mulberry, willows, cypresses, deodar cedar, sage, rosemary, rhaphiolepis, arborvitae, red-leaf photinia, and large-blossom roses.  Small amounts of queen palms, heavenly bamboo, eucalyptus, cottonwood, tamarisk, Palo verde, and African sumac have been sighted.  Probably over half of the residential yards have some variation on the theme of "desert landscaping."
      Undeveloped fields in and around town are populated by creosote, catclaw acacia ( A. greggii ) often nourishing a dusky reddish-brown mistletoe, cholla, yuccas, yellow or desert bird-of-paradise ( Caesalpinia gilliesii ), dried low shrubs/tufts of grasses, and small prickly pear type cacti.  Lichens can be found on a few of the mostly volcanic/igneous rocks which show signs of weathering.  The Cerbat Mtns. are to the immediate west of Kingman [and extending about 25 miles N, highest point being 7153' Mt. Tipton].  Perhaps up to one-fifth of the local vegetation were not I.D.'d by RJB.  Garden ponds do seem to be fairly popular.  And the water here is not quite as hard/alkaline as in the Maricopa County area.

      Within the last couple of years the area has been visited by an itinerant bonsai-tree seller or two, I was told.  As is unfortunately always the case, most of the trees sold out of the backs of their trucks are now long dead (and the pots discarded).  Insufficient instruction.  Mismatched climate.

      To the north and east about 30 miles from Kingman is a vast Joshua tree ( Yucca brevifolia ) forest extending out to Lake Mead and the western end of the Grand Canyon (where it is known as the Hualapai Valley Joshua Trees).  This is definitely larger and more varied than the marked Joshua Forest Parkway northwest of Wickenburg along Highway 93.   RJB explored the possibility of some form of a magical miniature of this landscape.
      To the east of town is rangeland, flat with a little scrub and very low-growing vegetation, broken only briefly by the Peacock Mtn. northern extension of the Hualapais.  Heading towards Williams on I-40, the higher elevations (4000'+, Sunset Zone 2B) see junipers also.
      To the southwest is similar ( Sunset Zone 10, easing into 12 which is similar to Tucson) but more desolate land with ocotillo and creosote as the primary visual flora.
      Over the Black Mountain range [about 90 miles S from Lake Mead, highest point is 5445' Mt. Wilson] to the west and down into the Colorado River Valley, the climate is again Sunset Zone 13 Phoenix-like.  This is evidenced by the blossoming quantities of bougainvillea, Texas sage and palm trees around Bullhead City, AZ and the Laughlin, NV casinos.  And while the club has been able to rescue in previous years with permits Alligator and California junipers from the road construction in those hills, the State Route 68 is now finished and new digs are an unknown variable. 
      And to acknowledge the wild fauna: numerous birds, most easily spotted quail and an occasional buzzard and small hawk, and so far one roadrunner; jackrabbits, cottontails and assorted small rodents, squirrels and mice; geckos and other lizards; small crickets, some assorted flies, very few scorpions, large dragonflies, some moths, fewer butterflies, and several types of ants and spiders, including a lone tarantula once on our patio screendoor; yellowjackets and bees; small bats (mostly Western Pipistrelles) at dusk during warmer times; highly poisonous Mohave Green rattlesnakes.  There's evidence of mountain lions in the nearby hills.  And coming home from work one afternoon at the end of Coyote Pass I had to step briefly on the brakes allow a coyote to pass. 

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      For the time being, any experience specifically based on Sunset Zone 10 will be limited to the confines of this page.  Note: the High Desert is also in the eastern and southern parts of New Mexico, the southeastern corner of Arizona (Cochise County: Benson, Tombstone, Douglas, Nogales), dotted across central Arizona, into southern Utah and Nevada, and into the adjacent California desert. 

      In the meantime, this web site will continue to evolve to embrace dwarf potted tree caretakers and other magical miniature landscapers who live throughout this wide-ranging state and its neighbors.


     It appears that local outdoors bonsai can be successfully made out of the following, although no significant experience has been had with these yet:

Catclaw Acacia
Japanese Boxwood
Yellow or Desert Bird-of-Paradise 
Natal Plum
Deodar Cedar
Netleaf Hackberry
Mexican Redbud
Arizona Cypress
Acacia greggii
Buxus microphylla japonica
Caesalpinia gilliesii
Carissa macrocarpa
Cedrus deodara
Celtis reticulata
Cercis canadensis var. mexicana
Cotoneaster sp.
Cupressus arizonica
Crape Myrtle
Creosote / Greasewood
Japanese or Wax-leaf Privet
Ginkgo biloba
Juniperus sp.
Lagerstroemia indica
Larrea tridentata
Ligustrum japonicum
Apple and Crab Apple
White Mulberry
Heavenly Bamboo
Fruitless Olive
Mondello Pine
Mugho Pine
Japanese Black Pine
Chinese Pistachio
Texas Ebony
Arizona Sycamore
Velvet Mesquite or Honey Mesquite
Almond, Apricot, Peach, Plum
Dwarf Pomegranate
Pyracantha / Firethorn
Magnolia sp.
Malus sp.
Morus alba
Nandina domestica
Olea europaea
Pinus eldarica
Pinus mugo
Pinus thunbergii
Pistache chinensis
Pithecellobium flexicaule
Platanus wrightii
Prosopis velutina or glandulosa
Prunus sp.
Punica granatum ' Nana'
Pyracantha sp.
Texas Red Oak or Cork Oak
Weeping Willow
Vitex / Monk's Pepper Tree
Zelkova / Japanese Gray-Bark Elm
Rosmarinus officinalis
Quercus buckleyi or suber
Salix babylonica
Vitex agnus-castus
Wisteria sp.
Zelkova serrata

      While very few maples and sweetgums/liquidambers have been seen in nurseries, their leaves are sure to fry with the winds here.  Blue spruce are said to be highly susceptible to an incurable air-borne virus here.  A virus has also been killing landscape ash ( Fraxinus sp.) trees.

We know of an exotic nursery that is a supplier of reasonably priced small and starter bonsai:

Bamboo Bob's Emporium
1578 Newberry (just off Miracle Mile)
Bullhead City, AZ  86429

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       Based on selection of plants, size of grounds, and knowledge of staff, the two good local nurseries discovered by RJB so far (but without any bonsai accessories) are:

Neil's Nursery
3785 E. Diagonal Way
Kingman, AZ
Rod's Nursery
4140 Stockton Hill Rd.
Kingman, AZ

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