Thursday, November 20, 2014

White Flowers for the Southwest Landscape: Part 2

Gardeners have long known about white flowering plants and the beauty that they bring to the garden.

The color white is seen by many as a bright, clean color that makes surrounding colors 'pop' visually.    Others like how white flowers seem to glow in the evening and early morning hours in the landscape.

Thankfully, there are several white flowering plants that do very will in the Southwestern landscape.  Last time, I showed you four of my favorites, which you can view here.

Today, let's continue on our white, floral journey...

Desert Primrose (Oenothera deltoides)

The arrival of spring transforms the low-growing green foliage of desert primrose with the appearance of beautiful white flowers.  What makes these flowers somewhat unique is that as the flowers fade, they turn pink.

Desert primrose looks best when used in a landscape with a 'natural' theme or among wildflowers.

The flowers appear in spring and summer on 10" high foliage.  Hardy to zone 8 gardens, this small perennial is native to Southwestern deserts.

White Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua 'White')

This is a shrubby perennial that is in my own landscape.  While the most common color of globe mallow is orange, it does come in a variety of other colors including red, pink and white - all of which I have.

The white form of globe mallow shares the same characteristics of the orange one - it thrives in full sun and can even handle hot, reflected sun.  The foliage is gray and looks best when cut back to 1 ft. high and wide after flowering in spring.

I pair white globe mallow alongside my pink ones for a unique, desert cottage garden look.


See what I mean about white flowers helping other colors to stand out visually?

Hardy to zone 6, globe mallow grows to 3 ft. tall and wide.  It does best in full sun and well-drained soil.

To learn more about this beautiful desert native, click here.


Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

Blackfoot daisy is another perennial that looks great in a natural desert themed landscape.  This ground cover produces sunny, white daisies in spring and fall in desert climates - it flowers during the summer in cooler locations.

Hardy to zone 5, blackfoot daisy can handle extreme cold when planted in ful sun.  I like to plant it near boulders where it can grow around the base for a nicely designed touch.

Blackfoot daisy grows to 1 ft. high and 18 inches wide.

Little Leaf Cordia (Cordia parvifolia)

This white flowering shrub is not used often enough in the Southwestern landscape in my opinion.  It has beautiful flowers, needs little pruning if given enough room to grow, is extremely drought tolerant and evergreen.

Little leaf cordia can grow 4 - 8 ft. tall and up to 10 ft. wide.  Unfortunately, some people don't allow enough room for it to grow and shear it into a 'ball'.

You can go 2 - 3 years or more between prunings. It's best when left alone to bear its attractive, papery white flowers spring into fall.

Hardy to zone 8, little leaf cordia does great in full sun and well-drained soil.

'White Katie' Ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana 'White Katie')

During a visit to a nursery some time ago, I noticed a white flowering variety of the more commonplace purple 'Katie' ruellia and I immediately decided that I liked the white color better.

'White Katie' ruellia grows to 8 inches tall and 1 1/2 ft. wide in zone 8 gardens and warmer.  It looks great when planted in groups of 3 or more.  You can plant it alongside the purple variety for a fun color contrast.  It does suffer frost damage when temps dip below freezing, but recovers quickly in spring.  

This white flowering perennial does best in morning sun or filtered shade in desert gardens.

I hope you have enjoyed these white flowering plants.  Next time, I'll show you some plants that produce white flowers that also grow in the Southwest, but may be somewhat unexpected.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

White Flowering Plants for the Southwest Landscape: Part 1

Do you use white flowering plants in your landscape?

I do.

However, some people tend to overlook white flowers in favor of flashier colors such as yellow, orange or red.  But did you know that white flowers can help show off the other colors in your landscape by providing color contrast?

In addition, white flowering plants also have a visually cooling effect in the garden, which is a welcome sight in the Southwest where summers are hot.

I'd like to share with you some of my favorite white flowers, all of which do well in the Southwestern landscape.

Bush Morning Glory (Convolvulus cneorum)

Pretty white flowers with yellow centers are just one of the reasons people love bush morning glory.  It's silvery foliage is another great color that it adds to the landscape.

In the desert, the flowers appear for several weeks in spring before fading away.  However, the silvery foliage is evergreen and will add great color contrast when planted nearby plants with dark green foliage.

Do you have an area that gets full afternoon sun and reflected heat?  Bush morning glory can easily handle it while looking great.

Hardy to zone 8, bush morning glory grows approximately 2 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide.  Prune back in spring, after flowering has finished by 1/2 its size.

For more information on bush morning glory including other plants to pair it with, click here for my latest Houzz article.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)

This white flowering perennial has a prominent place in my landscape.  White gaura has small flowers, shaped like small butterflies, that start out pink and turn white as they bloom.


It flowers in spring and fall and needs little maintenance.  I shear it back twice a year to 1/2 its size and it grows right back.

White gaura is related to the pink variety 'Siskyou Pink', but has a bushier appearance and grows larger - approximately 2 1/2 ft. wide and tall.  This native perennial is hardy to zone 6 gardens.

'White Cloud' Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens 'White Cloud') 

While most of us are more familiar with the purple flowering Texas sage shrubs, there is a white variety which is well worth adding to your landscape.  

It can grow large, 6+ feet tall and wide, if given enough space and thrives in full sun.  In summer and fall, periodic flushes of white flowers cover this evergreen shrub.  

Avoid the temptation to excessively prune this shrub, which decreases the flowering and is not healthy for this type of shrub.  Hardy to zone 7, this shrub looks great when used as an informal hedge or against a wall.

For guidelines on how to (or how NOT to) prune flowering shrubs, click here.

Texas Olive (Cordia boissieri)

This a huge favorite of mine - Texas olive is a large shrub or small tree, depending on how you prune it.  It has dark green, leathery leaves and beautiful white flowers, which appear spring through fall on evergreen foliage.

Whenever I see this shrub, I always take a moment to admire its beauty, since it isn't used often in the landscape - but it should be!

Small fruit, resembling an olive are produced, which are edible.  Texas olive thrives in full sun and areas with reflected heat.  Allow plenty of room for it to grow - it gets 25 ft. tall and wide.  Hardy to zone 9, the only drawback of this white flowering beauty is that it can be a little messy, so keep away from swimming pools.

All of these white flowering plants are drought tolerant and do well in hot, arid climates.  

Do you grow any of these in your garden?  Which is your favorite?

**As beautiful as these plants are, I have more to show you next time!

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Newly Planted Vegetable Gardens

Fall is a busy time for me in the garden.  However, you will usually find me in other people's gardens helping them achieve their goal of a beautiful, low-maintenance garden.


I did manage to get my cool-season vegetable gardens planted.  I planted my favorites, which include carrots, cauliflower, garlic, a variety of leaf lettuces and radishes.


I included broccoli in my list of vegetables this year, despite the fact that I have yet to grow a healthy head of broccoli (the broccoli in the photo above is from my mother's garden).

Every year, I grow beautiful cauliflower while my broccoli decides to produce very few flowering stalks.  At the end of the season when I look at my less than stellar broccoli harvest - I promise myself that I won't try again.

But, after 6 months pass, I am always tempted to try again hoping that this year will be different.

With the exception of carrots and radishes, I planted all of my other vegetables from transplants.  Normally, I almost always use seed, (with the exception of broccoli and cauliflower, which do better when grown from transplants) but I knew that I wouldn't have time to come out and thin excess plants later.


This smaller vegetable garden is closer to my kitchen and so I put in vegetables that I would harvest more frequently throughout the season in this area.  Leafy greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and kale all went in here.

The larger garden is a bit further away and so it was planted with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic and radishes, which are harvested once.

My artichoke plant from next year died back to the ground in the summer, (which is normal by the way) and is now growing again.


In addition to my artichoke, my bell pepper plant is also a holdover from last year's garden.  Actually, it is 2 years old.  Although pepper plants can die from freezing temperatures, I protect mine when the temps dip below freezing, so they are qutie large and produce a lot of peppers much to the delight of my husband and children who like to eat the bell peppers raw.


I also dice them and freeze them for using in my favorite Mexican rice recipe.

I've already had to spray my leafy greens with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) to deal with the caterpillars that had started to eat holes in the leaves.  It worked great, but I will need to reapply every once in a while.


Nasturtiums are coming up again from seed in the gardens.  I just let them go to seed each year and they always come back.  I use nasturtiums in my vegetable gardens because they repel bad bugs.  Besides, they look pretty, don't you think?


Nasturtiums aren't the only flowers in my vegetable gardens - marigolds are also great at keeping damaging insects at bay.  This year, I planted a marigold at the end of each row of vegetables.

I love how their orange flowers brighten up the garden in the middle of winter.

Marigolds and nasturtiums are just a few of the flowers who actually help vegetables.  For more information on other plants to include in your vegetable garden you can visit my previous post, "Even Vegetables Need Friends".


I am having a problem in one of my vegetable gardens that began this past summer - spurge!  I have come to truly hate this creeping weed and it has decided to move from the nearby landscape areas into my vegetable garden.

It got pretty bad last summer and we ripped it all out.  To help combat it, we added 4 inches of compost/manure, which did help to smother some of the weeds.  But, some are still coming up.  So, I go out every week and spray them with my homemade weed killer, taking care not to spray my vegetables by accident.

You may see homemade weed killers that list salt as one of the ingredients.  DON'T add salt to weed killers - especially if you live in the desert Southwest.  Our soil and water already has a lot of salts in them and adding more is not good for your plants - in fact, too much salt can kill them.

Homemade weed killer made from vinegar and soap works just fine on most weeds, except for the really tough ones.

Have you planted a vegetable garden this year?  What are you growing?


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Natural, Recycled DIY Items for the Home & A Sale!

Do you like to decorate your home with natural objects?  

I do.

Recently, I've been busy creating items using things found in nature.  



For example, these may seem like regular pieces of wood from a tree - but what if I told you that they were actually old roots from a cresote bush?


You may not know what a creosote bush is, but if you live in the desert - you've seen them.  They are the shrubs scattered throughout the desert.  

The roots that I used for my project came from one of the creosote shrubs in the picture, above.


This creosote shrub was in an area that I was asked to design next to a golf course.  While I kept most of the creosote, I had one removed to make room for new plants.

You can see the pile of creosote roots left over after the shrub was pulled out.  

I came up on these roots after placing the new plants and thought that they would be great for a future project.  They were woody, twisted and had great character.  I loaded them up in my truck and stored them in my side yard until I could find the right project in which to use them.



I decided to pair my old wooden roots with air plants.

My mother, who is extremely creative, introduced me to air plants and I immediately fell in love with their unique shapes.

Air plants are unique in another way in that they do not need soil.  All they need to grow is air, water and a sunny window, which makes them perfect for using in home decorating projects since you don't have to worry about soil.
You can read more about air plants and how to care for them, here.

So what do you get when you pair air plants with pieces of natural wood?


A very attractive centerpiece that looks great on the coffee table.

I was so excited about how nice it looked that I decided to try using smaller pieces of wood and different air plants.


Because each piece of wood was unique and had been twisted over time by nature, each pairing looked different.


I must admit that I had so much fun playing with different combinations.

So, what am I going to do with so many creosote wood / air plant combinations?

Earlier this year, my mother proposed going together with my sister and create items for the home that are made from natural elements for a large holiday boutique.

My sister and I both agreed and have been working on making different items focused on using natural and/or recycled elements, along with my mother.

Here are just a few of the items we will be selling:

Gourd Bird Houses

My mother and I have both grown gourds in our gardens and transformed them into bird houses and feeders.

Seed pod Christmas ornaments

Can you tell what type of tree/shrub this seed pod comes from?


 If you guessed Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), you'd be right.

My sister has made a variety of Christmas ornaments using seed pods.  I love the idea of transforming natural items and using them to decorate your home for the holidays!

Terrariums with air plants

Do you like terrariums?  I think of them as small worlds enclosed by glass.  There will be quite a few terrariums with air plants, including hanging ones.

Lavender sachets made from antique seed bags.

During a trip to Winona, Minnesota - we bought quite a few old seed bags from antique stores.  My mother, who is an excellent seamstress, made them into sachets, glass cases and aprons.

Reading glass cases made from antique seed bags.

'Sparkly' white Christmas seed pod ornaments

My sister has made a variety of Christmas ornaments using seed pods.  I love the idea of transforming natural items and using them to decorate your home for the holidays!

Basil Salt

I love using basil salt on my favorite Italian dishes.  The basil came straight from my garden :-)

Mini air plants on antique wooden spools

Seed Bombs

Have you heard of seed bombs?  I wrote about this fun garden trend last year.  I first saw these at the Sustainability Festival last year.
 *Can you tell that they are wrapped in 'recycled' packaging?

Air plants mounted on driftwood sitting on top of wooden plants ready for hanging.

My mother and I collected much of the driftwood during our trip to Lake Michigan this summer.


In addition to what I've shown you above, we will have aprons, totes made from seed bags, terrariums made from light bulbs and fairy garden houses made from wood and moss.

Our goal was to create items using natural and/or recycled items. 

If you live in the greater Phoenix area, we would love to see you!  

We will be selling our natural items at the Believe Boutique, which is a large holiday boutique with over 125 vendors.  It is being held at Cornerstone Church in Chandler, Arizona on Friday, November 7th from 4:00 - 9:00 and again on Saturday, the 8th from 10:00 to 3:00.

**We'll be located in the main lobby in the 'Sustain' booth.  I'd love to meet you, if you have time to stop by!

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