Many Northwest Tucsonans lost plants earlier this year to the sudden round of freezing temperatures. Maybe that’s why more than 1,000 people turned out for Tohono Chul Park’s annual spring plant sale last week.

“A lot of people are replacing plants that they lost in February,” said Jo Falls, the park’s director of public programs. “They are being a little more careful about what they are buying. They are looking at the cold-hardiness of something and not just how pretty it is because they realized now that it can get cold in Tucson and it can nail some of the more tender, tropical stuff.”

Tohono Chul Park offers some plants that you cannot get any where else, either because they are difficult to grow in this climate or the plant curators at the park invented them.

“I go out and find really cool stuff, I get seeds, and find out how to grow them,” said Russ Buhrow, the curator of plants at Tohono Chul Park. “Some of them take 20 years, while others I get on the first time.”

One of the plants that Buhrow helped make and is patent-pending was this season’s featured plant, a penstemon called a “red-headed beauty.”

The park also sold plants that Buhrow said you couldn’t find anywhere else, including a heuchera hybrid called “flush of spring,” as well as Atascosa rock pixie, chiltepin and lacerated catchfly.

Oro Valley resident Pat McGrath came to the advanced sale last Wednesday to replace some plants that died during the frost last month.

“I came out to replenish what was frozen out,” McGrath said. “I mainly bought butterfly plants.”

McGrath only shops for plants at Tohono Chul Park because she knows the ones she bought are acclimated to Northwest Tucson’s weather and soil, and won’t die as easily as those bought at other locations.

Not everyone came out to the plant sale for personal needs. George Montgomery, the curator of botany at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, attended the plant sale with the museum’s plant gala in May in mind.

The gala is the museum’s largest fundraiser of the year where they auction plants off to the highest bidders.

Montgomery said he and his staff members shop at local nurseries for the museum’s fundraiser. The museum also displays the plants, like the red-headed beauty and penstemons for educational purposes and to promote Tohono Chul’s efforts of cultivating a hybrid plant, Montgomery added.

For more information about the plants, visit

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