Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon

There is nothing quite so refreshing as the fragrance of lemons as you slice through their yellow skin.  Lemons are a very popular fruit tree for those of us who in zones 8 and above and their lush green foliage and yellow fruit add beauty to the garden.  

Meyer Lemon

If you have been thinking of adding a lemon tree to your landscape, March is the best time of year to plant new citrus in the garden as it gives them time to become established before the heat of summer arrives.

I am often asked about what type of lemon is best for the garden.  My personal choice is Meyer lemon for a number of reasons.  You may have heard of this type of lemon tree, but what you may not know is that it isn’t a ‘true’ lemon – it’s actually a naturally occurring hybrid of a lemon and ‘Mandarin’ orange.  This results in a pseudo-lemon that is sweeter and less acidic than true lemons such as ‘Eureka’ and ‘Lisbon’.

See why you should consider planting a Meyer lemon tree in your backyard in my latest article for Houzz.com.  (Click on the photo below to read the article).

*What type of lemon tree to you grow?

artichoke agave (Agave parryi 'truncata')

artichoke agave (Agave parryi ‘truncata’)

Today as I was downloading photos from my phone, this one caught my eye.  It is a picture of an artichoke agave (Agave parryi ‘truncata’) along with her babies.  For some reason, it spoke to me about family relationships.  Some of her tiniest children are venturing a bit too far like our kids do as toddlers when they walk into the street without any fear.

Some of her tiniest children are venturing a bit too far like our kids do as toddlers when they walk into the street without any fear.  Then there are those slightly older babies who I like to describe as ‘tweens’ who still enjoy their mother’s protection while looking outward into the world.

Then there are those slightly older babies, nestled under their mother’s protective leaves, who I like to describe as ‘tweens’ who still enjoy their mother’s protection while looking out toward the wonders of the world.

The medium-sized agave baby is the teenager who enjoys the illusion of independence while still being attached to their mother by an underground root – kind of like relying on their parents for allowance, paying for their phone, and driving them where they need to go.

I especially love the largest of the babies and the relationship to its mother as it speaks of my relationship with my two oldest daughters. They are individuals, yet they enjoy being close to their mom and go to her for advice and even enjoy hanging out together.  

Black Spine Agave (Agave macroacantha)

Black Spine Agave (Agave macroacantha)

Many species of agave propagate themselves by producing ‘pups’, which are attached to the parent plant by an underground stem.  These new agave can be removed and replanted elsewhere in the landscape.  It’s not hard to do and I wrote about how to do this, which you can read here.  

Have you ever replanted an agave baby?

Mister Lincoln hybrid tea rose

Photo: Mister Lincoln hybrid tea rose

I love roses.  So much so, that at one time I had over forty different varieties growing in the garden of my home in Phoenix.

Fast forward 25 years later, and I live in a different house with a different garden.  While I don’t have quite as many roses as before, I still do have a special place for several of my favorites. 

Mister Lincoln hybrid tea rose

After growing over fifty varieties of roses, I do have a favorite one, which is ‘Mister Lincoln.’  There are so many reasons to grow this rose including dark red, velvety petals along with incredible fragrance.

I planted this bush in my newest garden last year, and I was delighted to see a single, large red bloom decorating my winter garden. What is so special about this single rose is that there are no other flowers currently blooming in this area of the garden, which makes it even that more special.

Mister Lincoln hybrid tea rose

The leaves of my apple trees are falling in the background, and much of my garden is sleeping. However, this single Mister Lincoln rose brightens my winter garden bringing welcome beauty on a cold winter’s day.

A Hidden Rose Garden in the Desert

Cool-season vegetables transplants

Cool-season vegetables transplants

One of the things that I enjoy about living in the Southwest is the ability to garden throughout the year.  Well, that may be a slight exaggeration – I don’t especially like gardening in July or August.  During those months, I simply like to view my garden out the window from the air-conditioned comfort of my home.  But, you’ll often see me outside spending January in the vegetable garden through the winter months.  

Cool-season vegetables transplants

So far, this year’s cool-season garden hasn’t been very impressive.  In fact, it was quite disappointing.  Our drip irrigation system wasn’t watering this particular vegetable bed well because the tiny holes had become clogged from mineral deposits left behind by our notorious hard water.  As a result, a handful of romaine lettuce transplants survived, but none of the seeds that I planted in early October germinated except for the radishes and a couple of carrots.  

To make it worse, when I discovered the problem last fall, I was so busy trying to keep up with my landscape consulting that I didn’t fix the irrigation troubles.  Spring and fall for horticulturists is much like tax season for accountants, and little else gets done.

Well, I felt bad looking out at my sad little vegetable bed, so I cleared my calendar to give it a little TLC earlier this week.  First on the list was to pull out the lettuce plants, which had bolted and were ready to be taken out.  I was able to get a few radishes, much to the delight of my youngest daughter who loves them.

Cool-season vegetables transplants

Before planting, I added a 4-inch layer of compost to help refresh the soil.  There wasn’t any need to mix it in with the existing soil – in fact, it’s better if you don’t do that.

Like many people, I find working out in the garden therapeutic and the stresses of day to day life simply melt away.  What made this day even better was that my husband came out to help me.  At this point, I should mention that he isn’t one of those men who loves to work out in the garden.  Oh, he does a great job at it, but he doesn’t like it – at all. Poor guy, he had no idea that the woman he married 30 years ago would turn out to be a plant lady who lives, eats, and breathes all things related to the garden.  

Cool-season vegetables transplants

My darling husband took an entire morning out of his busy schedule to help me in the garden, fixing the drip irrigation system in my garden.  Forget flowers, if spending a morning out in your wife’s vegetable garden fixing irrigation doesn’t shout “I love you,” I don’t know what does.

The drip irrigation system in my vegetable garden is made up of a main poly drip line that runs up the center of the garden.  Micro-tubing, with small holes along the length, are then looped along the length of the main drip line.  We pulled out the old micro-tubing and replaced it.  

Cool-season vegetables transplants

Once the irrigation repair was finished, it was time to add plants.  Luckily, there is still plenty of time to plant cool-season favorites.  To get a head start, I bought romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach transplants.  The rest I would grow from seed.  Irish Eyes Garden Seeds is one of my favorite seed companies.

Cool-season vegetables transplants

Another seed company who I have used over the years is Burpee.  I remember perusing my dad’s Burpee seed catalog when I was a child and planning on which ones I would order for the little plot of land that he gave me in the back garden.  

I still order seeds from Burpee and was pleasantly surprised to receive a gift from them this Christmas – an advent calendar where each door opened up to a seed packet filled with one of their new 2017 plant introductions.  What an ingenious marketing tool!  Every morning, I felt like a kid again waiting to see what new seeds I would find behind the door.  

Cool-season vegetables transplants

I selected ‘Dragon Tail’ radish, where you eat its purple seed pods and NOT the roots.  It is a version of an Asian heirloom radish and has a more delicate flavor than regular radishes.  I am very excited to see what this one does in my garden.  ‘Rido Red’ radish and ‘Bend and Snap’ snap peas also found a spot in the garden.

Marigolds and nasturtiums are always present alongside cool-season vegetables as they attract beneficial pollinators, discourage harmful insect pests, and just make the garden look pretty.  Imagine my delight when I saw new varieties of my favorite flowers in the advent calendar.  ‘Strawberry Blonde’ marigolds and ‘Orange Troika’ nasturtiums will add welcome beauty to my vegetable bed.  There were other seeds in the calendar that I plan on using including ‘Bend and Snap’ snap peas.  I plan on giving some of my seeds to my mother for her garden.  Burpee has a list of their new 2017 introductions, which you can access here.  I’d love to hear if you grow any of them.

Meyer' lemon tree

Next to the vegetable garden is my young ‘Meyer’ lemon tree.  We planted it two years ago, and this is its first ever fruit.  Young citrus trees can take a year or two, after planting, before it produces fruit and I look forward to years of delicious fruit from mine.  

Meyer' lemon

Meyer lemons aren’t true lemons.  They are a cross between a regular lemon and mandarin orange, and this gives them a sweeter flavor and a deep yellow skin.  The story behind Meyer lemons includes overseas exploration, threatened extinction, and Martha Stewart.

Well, that is what is happening in the January vegetable garden.  What is growing in your winter garden?

I adore flowers of all kinds, but I must confess that my favorite types look as if they belong to a cottage garden, which probably explains why I am wild about penstemons.

The pink flowers of Parry’s penstemons (Penstemon parryi) adds welcome color to a spring garden.

Photo: The pink flowers of Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) adds welcome color to a spring garden.

I adore flowers of all kinds, but I must confess that my favorite types look as if they belong to a cottage garden, which probably explains why I am wild about penstemons.

There are many different species of penstemon with varying colors, ranging from shades of pink to red with some white ones thrown in.  

Firecracker penstemons (Penstemon eatonii) adds vibrant color to a hummingbird demonstration garden.

Photo: Firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) adds vibrant color to a hummingbird demonstration garden.

All penstemons are native to the western half of North America where they thrive in well-drained soil.  Most grow in higher elevations, and all are drought tolerant.  For those of you who love to grow native plants that are low-maintenance, penstemons are a must-have.

The 4 - 6 foot flowering spikes of Palmer's penstemons (Penstemon palmeri) lightly perfume the air of this desert landscape.

Photo: The 4 – 6 foot flowering spikes of Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) lightly perfume the air of this desert landscape.

I like plants that add a touch of drama to my garden and penstemon do a great job at that when they send up their flowering spikes that tower over their lower cluster of leaves.  Bees and hummingbirds love their flowers and it is fun to watch their antics as they sneak inside the flowers for nectar.

A row of rock penstemons (Penstemon baccharifolius) adds lovely color to this area at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Photo: A row of rock penstemon (Penstemon baccharifolius) adds lovely color to this area at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

While penstemon may look rather delicate, it is anything but as it can survive temperatures over 100 degrees and temperatures that dip anywhere from 15 degrees Fahrenheit all the way down to -30 degrees, depending on the species.  

firecracker penstemons (Penstemon eatoni)

The bloom time for penstemon depends on the species as well as the climate they grow in.  For desert dwellers like me, most bloom in late winter into spring.  Each year, I eagerly await the appearance of the first unfolding flowering spikes of my firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)  to emerge in January.

Parry’s penstemons (Penstemon parryi)

In my garden, Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) is another favorite of mine in the garden, and its flowers begin to open in late February.  This year, I am growing pineleaf penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius), which is a new one for me and I am curious to see how it will do.

Another penstemon that I am anxious to try is rock penstemon (Penstemon baccharifolius), which blooms spring through fall.  Lastly, I have added Palmer’s penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) to my garden.  I used to grow it years ago and was happy to incorporate it back into my landscape.

It’s important to note that penstemon grows best when grown in the western half of North America.  The season in which they bloom can vary depending on the USDA zone.  In my zone 9 garden, I begin to appear in January and last through spring. For those who live in colder climates, penstemon will bloom later in spring or even begin flowering in summer.  However, no matter when they bloom, penstemon are sure to add beauty to the landscape with a touch of drama.

**Do you have a favorite penstemon?

Fall Gardening , Gaillardia

Fall Gardening , Gaillardia

Fall has arrived in the desert southwest, despite what the thermometer says.

Days are still warm, but the nights are getting longer and cooler.

Plants are beginning to show signs of fall by putting an extra flush of bloom.

Fall Gardening , Salvia chamaedryoides

Fall Gardening , Salvia chamaedryoides

This is by far, my favorite time of year and you’ll often find me in the garden adding new plants as well as tending to my vegetable garden.

Not surprisingly, fall is the busiest time in the garden, and there is a lot to do.  I’ve made a new ‘AZ Plant Lady Garden Video‘ to help you with what needs to be done in the garden right now.

 
 

*What are you doing in your fall garden?

Fall Planting: How to Select Plants

September Gardening Tasks

September Gardening Tasks

After a seemingly endless summer, we have finally made it to the finish line.  This is the season where we experience a ‘second spring’ and venture out into the garden again.

citrus fertilized

Soil is ready to be amended, citrus fertilized, and some light pruning can be done.

 September Gardening Tasks, Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings

September Gardening Tasks, Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings.

September is the gateway to a busy time in the garden, but there are a few things that it is still too early to start on yet.

I’ve made a video of what you should do and shouldn’t do this month:

 
 
 

What is your favorite season of the year?

Have you ever met someone whom you felt an instant bond with?  If so, you know that it isn’t an everyday occurrence.

Last year, I attended the Garden Writer’s Association Conference for the first time.  I went to the conference not knowing anyone else there, but was excited for the classes, garden visits, and hopes to meet other people who loved and wrote about gardens like I did.

At this point, I should mention that going up to people and introducing myself isn’t easy for me to do, but another garden writer was also attending for the first time who had come all the way from Oz (also known as Australia 😉.  Well, I decided that I needed to go up and introduce myself to Andrea – after all, we had some things in common – she lived in a dry climate and Arizona landscapes made use of many plants native to Australia.  

Well, we formed an instant friendship and found out that we shared numerous similarities – including the fact that we both had recently turned 50, worked as garden consultants as well as garden writers.

Oz Explores Arizona

Over the next few days, we shared storied about our work and memorable clients while strolling through gardens viewing plants that we both use, despite living on two different continents.  

Oz Explores Arizona

We would also talk to each other about new plants to try all while sharing the trials and tribulations of gardening in a dry climate.

All too soon, the conference was over, and I headed home with a suitcase of free plants while Andrea flew back to Australia.

After that, we conversed back and forth while making plans to attend the next year’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  I thought that it would be a fun to invite Andrea to come and visit Arizona on her way to the conference.  So earlier this week, I found myself at the airport, anxiously waiting for her.  I couldn’t wait to show her my favorite garden spots around Phoenix.

At this point, I should mention that while most people spend time cleaning their house and getting it ready for a special guest, for those of us who are in the landscape business, also have to get our gardens ready for our gardener friends to visit as well.  As a result, my garden was neatly pruned, weeded, and cleaned in preparation for Andrea’s visit.  

The first day, there was no question that the Desert Botanical Garden would be our first destination.  We were blessed with a partly cloudy day with a light breeze to take the edge off of the heat.  Walking along winding paths with stunning examples of cacti, palo verde trees, flowering shrubs, and ground covers, I showed her the beauty of the desert landscape.

Oz Explores Arizona

Of course, we had to get a picture in front of a saguaro cactus.

Craft Beer in a Jar

Craft Beer in a Jar

After the garden, it was off to get a taste of American food.  So, good BBQ with a jar of local craft beer was next.

Delicious BBQ

Delicious BBQ

Evenings were spent at my house having dinner and allowing Andrea and my kids time to get to visit.

Oz Explores Arizona

Andrea bought a lovely collection of gifts, not just for my younger kids, but also for my grandchildren.  Eric looks adorable in his Australia hat.

The next day, we visited the Heard Museum and explored the Native American history and artwork, eating delicious smoked hamburgers at a downtown restaurant that is frequented by locals.

Hamburger Works Restaurant

Hamburger Works Restaurant

We enjoyed event-filled days and great food, but one of my favorite parts was watching her try her very first Rice Krispy treat.

Now, we are off to the second part of Andrea’s visit – attending the conference where we first met one year ago.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the story of a gardener from Arizona and Oz.  We have plans to write a book together highlighting our experiences and lessons learned gardening in dry climates, 9,667 miles apart.

The next several days will be filled with garden visits, informative classes, a trade show and much more.  I’ll be sure to share the newest and latest garden products with you once I return home next week.

**Click here for Andrea’s blog.**

Arizona Road Trip: Flowers, Containers, and a Wedding

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

I am always on the lookout for great examples of plants in the desert landscape. In my work as a landscape consultant, I drive through countless neighborhoods, which allows me to see lots of ideas.

A few years ago, I drove by a house that had a beautiful Hop Bush shrub (Dodonaea viscosa).  

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

This evergreen, drought tolerant shrub does wonderfully in our southwestern climate, and it is a frequent addition to landscapes I design. 

It’s versatility is one of the reasons it is near the top of my favorite shrub list.

  • Hop Bush is a great substitute for Oleander shrubs.
  • They can grow up to 12 feet tall or be maintained at a shorter height – basically you can decide how large it gets.
  • Their height makes them a great choice to screen out an unattractive view in spaces where a tree won’t fit while providing shade for for windows.
  • Hop Bush can be allowed to grow into their natural shape or pruned more formally.
Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

Native to the Southwest, Hop Bush is quite versatile and relatively fuss-free, especially if maintained by pruning every 6 months or so, as shown above. Here is another example of a hop bush shrub that has been pruned more formally, which it handles well.

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

 Of course, you can always let it grow into its more natural form as a large shrub.

For more information on hop bush including what its flowers look like and why it’s becoming a popular substitute for oleanders, you can read my earlier blog post – “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Hopbush the Alternative to Oleanders.”

Do you have a list of favorite plants?  I do.  Mine is made up of about 12 plants, and they change from time to time.

One of my recent additions to my favorites list is anacacho orchid (Bauhinia lunarioides).

anacacho orchid (Bauhinia lunarioides)

This lovely plant can be trained as a small tree or a large shrub.

anacacho orchid (Bauhinia lunarioides)

Fragrant white flowers appear in spring, and the foliage adds beauty throughout the year.

anacacho orchid (Bauhinia lunarioides)

While I don’t have this plant in my landscape, yet – I have been using it in a few of my latest designs.

If you would like to learn more about this beautiful plant, I invite you to read my latest plant profile for Houzz.

How about you?  Have you ever seen or grown an anacacho orchid?