Friday, April 18, 2014

DIY in the Garden: Floral Ice Cubes

Did you know that certain flowers are edible?

It's true.

Last week, I mentioned on my Facebook page that I was "channeling my inner Martha Stewart", preparing for a future diy blog post.

Here are the ingredients I used...



Distilled water, ice-cube trays and edible flowers such as violas.  

Here is what I ended up with...


Wouldn't these look great on your Easter table?

It was very easy to do, but there are some tricks to doing it just right.

*Not all flowers are edible and you must be sure to use flowers that have not been treated with chemicals or pesticides.

I wrote about how to make your own floral ice cubes along with a list of edible flowers, in my latest blog post for Birds & Blooms, which you can access here.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pink Blooms In the Desert Garden


Springtime in the desert southwest is a glorious time.  

We say "goodbye" to cold, winter temperatures and delight in the landscape around us and it bursts into bloom.

I enjoy spending time outdoors this time of year, realizing that soon I will go into what I like to call 'summer hibernation' as the temperatures reach triple digits.

Today, I thought that I would share with you some beautiful, pink flowering plants that are in bloom right now...

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)

Pink fairy duster shows off its pink flowers once a year in spring.  The rest of the year, it quietly recedes into the background until spring arrives again.

Beavertail Prickly Pear (Opuntia basilaris)

My favorite prickly pear has vibrant, pink flowers throughout spring.  One of the reasons that I like beavertail prickly pear is that it stays rather small and does not become overgrown like other species can.

Parry's Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

I'm a sucker for plants that produce flowering spikes, like Parry's penstemon.  It has such a delicate, pink color and hummingbirds find it irresistible.

Pink California Poppy

Did you know that the traditional, orange California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) comes in other colors?  I think I'm in love with the pink variety.

'Raspberry Ice' Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea makes an excellent container plant. All you have to do is water them deeply and then allow them to dry out before watering again.  Although I have a deep, magenta bougainvillea in my own garden - I must admit that I really like the variety 'Raspberry Ice' which has cream-colored brachts with pink tips.

Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri 'Siskiyou Pink'

Although traditionally a summer-bloomer, this pink gaura was already blooming in March.  I have white gaura growing underneath my front windows and I love it.

Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlandieri)

Pink, cup-shaped blooms cover Mexican evening primrose in spring.  This groundcover looks great in natural desert landscapes, but can be invasive, so be careful where you use it.

Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii)

The one beauty of this spiny cactus are its magenta flowers that appear in spring.

In my own garden, I have two pink flowering plants in bloom...

Hollyhock

Every year, hollyhocks come up from seed next to one of my vegetable gardens.  They tower over our house and are at least 15 feet tall. 

I first planted hollyhock seeds 4 years ago and that was it.  Every year, they self-seed and I thin them out so that 5 remain.  I'm never sure what color variety will come up.  Sometimes they are white, pale pink or red.



This year, they are deep pink.  Aren't they pretty?

Pink Wood Sorrel 

I received a small division of pink wood sorrel from a fellow blogger who lives in Oregon.  I wasn't sure if I could grow it in our desert climate.  So, I gave it a home in my vegetable garden.

Since then, it has done so well.  So well in fact, that I have divided it and planted it in all three of my vegetable gardens.  

It dies back to the ground in summer, but comes back in fall.

Do you have any favorite pink-blooming plants?  Are any in your garden?  
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Monday, April 14, 2014

A Jewel in the City: Sustainable Landscapes Part 3

Have you ever made a discovery that was literally under your nose?  

I did.

Earlier this month, I embarked on a tour of low-water gardens that displayed sustainable design throughout the greater Phoenix area.  

The earlier parts of our tour showed examples of water harvesting using cisterns along with man-made arroyos.  Then we viewed a creative example of sustainable design for a beautiful parking lot that needed no supplemental water and little to no maintenance.

I mentioned last week that I had saved the best for last and I can't wait to share with you this jewel in the midst of a desert city.


The last stop on our tour of low-water and sustainable gardens was the Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden.

The garden is just over 5 acres and sits hidden from the street next to Chaparral Park in central Scottsdale.

Over 200 different types of plants are used throughout the garden, all of which are drought-tolerant and well-adapted to our hot, dry climate.

My friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, came with me to this beautiful garden (you can see her at the top of the terraced planters).

One of my favorite parts of the garden included this innovative design, called the 'Terraced Cascade' which creates the appearance of water traveling down between terraced planters filled with Palo Blanco trees (Acacia willardiana) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata).  



 Water does flow down discretely hidden steps between the terraces during times of heavy rainfall toward the water harvest basin where it waters existing plants before flowing underground toward the nearby lake.


Raised planters were filled with flowering Ocotillo  as well as Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides).

Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) in the foreground and Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlanderi) growing against the Ocotillo.

I must admit that I was surprised to find this garden in an area that I used to spend a lot of time in.

Years ago, before the garden existed, my husband and I would take evening walks around the nearby lake with our daughter.  Believe it or not, before there was a garden, there used to be a miniature golf course in this location. 


I love stone walls and would have some in my own garden, if I could afford them.  The stone walls were capped with flagstone and had rows of round stones, which added an unexpected touch of texture.  


From our vantage point, we could see to the other side of the garden where a tall, dead tree stood.  Trees like this are called a 'snag', which is a dead or dying tree.  This tree provides a home for hawks, which help keep the rabbit population down. 

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Gabion walls were used along pathways to created terraces to help slow down storm water in order to reduce flooding while watering the plants.

The demonstration garden is located next to a water treatment plant and part of the garden sits on top of a reservoir that contains 5.5 million gallons of treated water.

Deer Grass in the foreground.

One of the things that I enjoy about demonstration gardens is that they 'demonstrate' different gardening methods as well as showcasing plants.

In this case, I was impressed with the collection of plant species used, which aren't typically seen in residential or commercial landscapes, which is a shame.


As we walked down the main path, we came upon a man-made, mesquite 'bosque'.  The word 'bosque' is used to refer to stands of trees nearby rivers or washes throughout the southwestern United States.  Usually, you'll find these bosques made up of mesquite trees.

This bosque was planted with Honey Mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa), which is simply stunning in spring when it's bright-green leaves reappear.  A warning though - it has thorns.

Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox) trees and gabion walls line the main walkway.

Plants are maintained just the way I like them - no shearing or over-pruning.  

Gold Mound Lantana, Orange Bush Lantana and Pink & White Globe Mallow.

The main pathway parallels the local dog park.


There is little that can compare to the beauty of the  new spring leaves of mesquite trees.  I love how the coral-colored variety of Bougainvillea and the yellow flowers of Aloe Vera look like brightly-colored jewels along with the leaves of the mesquite.


Nearing the end of the trail, I couldn't help but marvel at this beautiful garden and its creative design.

Throughout the garden were educational signs talking about a myriad of gardening subjects that were clearly illustrated by the garden itself including planning and design, plant care and desert habitat.


A large cistern was located on one end of the trail, which was filled with the average amount of water that a household uses in 1 week.  

Around the outer border of the cistern is an American Indian saying that says:

"THE FROG DOES NOT DRINK UP THE POND IN WHICH HE LIVES"

Those are words that all of us who live in the dry, southwest should all ponder...

*******************

The Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is located at Hayden and McDonald Roads in Scottsdale.  It is open from sunrise to 10:30 at night.

I hope you have enjoyed these posts of our tour of sustainable, southwestern landscapes in the greater Phoenix area.

Pam and I drove about 170 miles in one day and we weren't able to see all of the great examples of sustainable landscaping.  However, if you are interested in seeing examples of sustainable gardening, then I would recommend starting at the Desert Botanical Garden, which is filled with arid-adapted plants that thrive in our climate with minimal water and fuss.

If you haven't visited Pam's blog, Digging, I encourage you to do so.  Many of the plants that she grows in Austin do well in our climate too.  Did I also mention that she is an author?  She has a fabulous book called "Lawn Gone", which I highly recommend.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Tour of Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes: Part 2

I am always on the lookout for beautiful landscapes that are well-designed and need minimal care.  I like to call them sustainable or 'fuss-free' landscapes.

A week ago, my friend and fellow-blogger, Pam Penick came into town on a quest to see examples of gardens that use little water.  So, I was more then happy to spend a day with her looking at some great examples of gardens around the greater Phoenix area.

The first part of our journey began with a visit to the beautifully-designed Arizona State Polytechnic Campus, which included cisterns, man-made arroyos and creative uses for urbanite.  If you missed it, you can read about our visit, here.

The second leg of our tour took us to a butterfly/hummingbird demonstration garden along a golf course and a well-designed parking lot (yes, I said a parking lot).

First, was our visit to a butterfly/hummingbird demonstration garden.

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

I must admit that I was excited about seeing this garden, which is near and dear to my heart because I designed it.


In the beginning, this landscape area was rather unremarkable   There were a number of foothill palo verdes, cascalote and ironwood trees in this area and a few over-pruned Valentine shrubs.

Pink Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

The golf course community wanted to create a demonstration garden to show residents how they can have a beautiful landscape that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds that consists entirely of drought-tolerant plants.

Coral Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Coral')

I want to showcase drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials that provided overlapping seasons of color.

Firecracker Penstemon, Purple Trailing Lantana and Damianita.

Paths were created by using stabilized DG that blended seamlessly with regular DG placed around the plants.


While walking through the garden, we saw hummingbirds enjoying the flowers.

White Globe Mallow

The plants in this garden aren't only drought-tolerant - they don't require any supplemental fertilizer, soil amendments and need pruning once a year or less.

It doesn't get much better then that, does it?

Our next stop was a park in the mountains of Scottsdale, called Cavalierre Park.  

I must admit that I was surprised that my favorite thing about the park was its parking lot.

I realize that that may sound strange, BUT have you seen how ugly most parking lots are?


The majority of parking lot islands are over-planted and over-pruned.  In addition, trees seldom thrive in the small islands in the midst of hot, reflected heat.

So, as we drove up to Cavalierre park, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was no asphalt in sight.


Believe it or not, these parking lot islands get no supplemental irrigation and need little, if any pruning.

Each island was edged with rusted steel edging and filled with native rock from the site.  

The fact that there is not a traditional asphalt parking lot reduces the amount of runoff from rainfall.  This non-traditional parking lot created from stabilized DG (decomposed granite) doesn't heat up, thereby keeping the area a bit cooler since it doesn't contribute to the 'heat-island' effect that asphalt does.


During construction cacti and trees were salvaged from the site and replanted onsite once it was finished.  

Trees too large to be removed were incorporated into the design with steel edging preserving their original grade.


This raised planter keeps the existing mesquite tree and saguaro cactus at their original grade while creating a beautiful, focal planting near the entrance of the park.


I am constantly amazed at how beautiful sustainable landscapes can be simply by using good design and arid-adapted plants that are maintained correctly.

I don't know about you, but I would much rather enjoy a parking lot like this instead of one surrounded by asphalt and over-pruned shrubs, wouldn't you?

I hope you have enjoyed this second installment of our tour of sustainable landscapes in the Phoenix area.

Be sure to come back for our last installment - I have saved the best for last...
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