Favorite or New Plant
Yellow bells (Tecoma stans var. angustata) has stunning clumps of yellow trumpet-shaped flowers that will bloom spring through fall. It takes full sun and is drought tolerant when established. It doesn't even mind the intense heat reflected from block walls. Foliage is dark green and somewhat "airy" in appearance.
Native to parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, this easy-care shrub can reach 5 feet by 5 feet. It is frost tender in the 20sF, but it bounces back vigorously in spring. Beware though. A non-native plant found in southwestern nurseries and sometimes called "yellow bells" is a different plant, so verify the Latin name before buying.
Gathering the Desert
Gathering the Desert, by Gary Paul Nabhan (University of Arizona Press, 1997; $19), is a must-read for anyone who loves the desert. And if you don't like the desert, this book will win you over. Nabhan is a scientist who writes like a novelist, portraying the amazing survival mechanisms and adaptations of desert plants with clarity and an obvious respect. His essays include a wealth of anecdotes and history of how native peoples used the plants, combined with entertaining accounts of his journeys around the Southwest in search of desert plants and the people who know them best.