amyshizzle wrote:I am in Southern California close to the desert. How do I find out what zone I am in?
Sunset's Western Garden Book
has detailed maps of southern California, northern California, Oregon, Washington, ... all the western states and provinces, showing which Sunset climate zones they're in. The Los Angeles Basin alone accounts for seven Sunset climate Zones (#18 through #24).
Sunset climate zones are based on average max/min temps, winds (direction and speed), precipitation, latitude, elevation...just a host of variables. Once you've ascertained your Sunset climate zone, you can look under the list of plants and their cultivars elsewhere in the Western Garden Book
to see which cultivars are most recommended for your zone, and when it's recommended to plant them in your zone.
Sunset was instrumental in helping me transition from four-seasons gardening in Atlanta to "Mediterranean" gardening in the Bay Area.
The USDA Hardiness zones, which take into account only the minimum winter temperature and whether a plant will survive that temp, aren't very helpful when you're looking for what will succeed vs. what won't die. Annuals, esp., aren't expected to over-winter, but we do want them to succeed when we plant them!
There's an online version of the Sunset climate zone maps, but I've looked at it, and a lot of the important detail, esp. around the Seattle/Puget Sound area and in southern California near the different mountain ranges, has been omitted completely in favor of simplicity. I can't recommend the online version.
Most hardware/garden-supply stores/libraries have copies of Sunset. Take a look through it, at least to get your zone. I use the 7th ed., published in 2001; the 8th has now been released. I only purchase every other issue, so I'll wait for the 9th ed., whenever it shows up. Info doesn't change *that* quickly!