Have you ever paused in the shade of a mesquite tree (Prosopis spp.) and noticed that its branches grow every which way? 

I was reminded of this when I was visiting a client earlier this week and was advising him on how to care for his mesquite tree. I looked up and saw a cluster of branches growing up, down, sideways, and in curvy pathways.

Texas Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)

 

In an ideal situation, mesquite trees resemble the shape of more traditional tree species, as shown above. However, they don’t always turn out this way. 

Have you ever wondered why mesquite trees grow in such crazy ways?

The answer is quite simple – in nature, mesquites grow as large shrubs. The branches of shrubs grow in all directions, up, down, sideways, etc., and so do mesquites.  

The problem arises when we train them up as trees, and their branches don’t always behave as trees do. Because of this, mesquites that have been pruned into trees, do best being pruned by a professional, particularly when they are young and certain branches are being chosen to remain while others are pruned off.

Of course, this doesn’t always happen, and you can see the results of bad pruning practices in many places. 

I do love the shade that mesquite trees provide and I must admit that I enjoy a good chuckle when I see the unusual shapes that some mesquite trees have taken.

How about you? Have you ever seen a mesquite tree with crazy branches?

Spring in the desert brings a flurry of activity out in the garden – much of it involving container gardening.
 
As they say, in late spring, it’s “out with the old and in with the new.” In the desert garden, it’s when cool-season flowering annuals are traded out for those that can handle the hot temperatures of summer.  
 
Examples of cool-season annuals are pansies, petunias, and snapdragons, which are grown fall through spring. BUT, they won’t survive hot, desert summers. So, in late April, it’s time to plant flowering annuals that can take the heat. My favorites include angelonia, ‘Blue Victoria’ salvia, and vinca.
While flowers are a popular pot filler, there are so many other things that you can do with growing plants in containers.
Here are some of my favorites:


Jazz up the appearance of your containers by painting them a different color.

 
 
Let’s face it – beautiful containers can be expensive while inexpensive plastic containers are a bit boring. I like to dress up my plastic containers by adding a coat of paint.  
 
Many spray paints can be used on plastic and last a long time. I have several painted pots in my garden that add a welcome splash of color.
 

Grow herbs and vegetables along with flowers in pots.

 
Leaf lettuce and garlic grow along with flowering petunias.
 
Did you know that you can grow vegetables in pots? I love doing this in my garden. In the fall, I plant leaf lettuce, spinach, and garlic in my large pots alongside flowering petunias. When March arrives, I like to add basil, peppers along with annuals.
 
Winter container garden with spinach, parsley and garlic growing with pink petunias.
 
For pots, I recommend you use a potting mix, which is specially formulated for containers and holds just the right amount of moisture.  
 
Container plants need to be fertilizer. You can use a slow-release fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer of your choice.
 
Cucumbers growing with vinca and dianthus.
 
In spring, vegetables such as cucumbers, bush beans, and even zucchini can grow in containers paired with flowers. 
 
*If you would like to try growing edible containers, click here for more info.
 

Plant succulents for a low-maintenance container.

 
 
My favorite filler for containers in the desert garden is cacti and succulents. They do very well in pots and need less water than those filled with flowering annuals and perennials.
 
Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri).
Succulents are an excellent choice for planting in areas where water is not easily accessible. While they will need supplemental water, they don’t need water every day, making them a better choice for these areas.
 
 
In general, succulents are lower-maintenance as well, so they are an excellent choice for the ‘fuss-free’ gardener.
 
Use a potting mix specially formulated for cactus & succulents, which will drain well.
 
Fertilize succulents spring through fall using a liquid or slow-release fertilizer at 1/2 the recommended strength.
 
*For more information on how to plant succulents in containers, including how to do it without getting pricked, click here.
 

Fill the bottom space of large pots with empty, plastic containers. 

 
 
Let’s face it – potting mix is expensive and makes your pots very heavy. If you have a large pot, your plant’s roots most likely will never reach the bottom – so why waste soil where you don’t need it?
 
Fill up the unused space with recycled plastic containers and then add your potting mix. You will save money, AND your container will be much lighter as well. 
Whether you are new to gardening, an experienced pro, or have a small or large garden space – I invite you to reimagine what you can do in a container!

A chilly winter’s morning dawns over this Phoenix garden

Winter is a beautiful time of year in the desert landscape with bright blue skies, fresh cool air, and the plants in the garden add subtle beauty.

A seating area beckons you to sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of the garden

This particular garden was the backdrop for a video shoot by the horticultural filmmaker, PlantPop this past December. They asked me to be the subject of their first video shoot in Arizona, and I was thrilled to do so.

succulent container

A variety of succulents add beauty to this large galvanized steel horse trough container

Shooting the film in my garden wasn’t possible as my backyard is undergoing renovation. So, I asked one of my clients if we could film in her landscape instead. Thankfully, she said yes!

green hedge doorway

Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) shrubs

We met at her house early in the morning with the filmmaker who set up the cameras and microphones. Our host is one of the most gracious people I know and kept us warm with the outdoor fireplace and feeding us donuts 🙂

Being interviewed – I love talking about desert gardening!

We spent about 3 hours there with me talking about the unique challenges and possibilities of gardening in a hot, dry climate. During the filming, I walked around the garden, highlighting different areas throughout the garden. This garden has many ‘rooms’ and corners that display the beauty of winter in the desert.

The video has come out, and I’m so happy at how well the folks at PlantPop condensed our visit into a 4-minute video so nicely.  I hope you enjoy it and come away inspired by what you can do in your own desert garden!

AZ Plant Lady

AZ Plant Lady

I love to spend time out in the garden but it may surprise you to learn that I don’t have a garden shed full of tools, fertilizer, and other gardening items.

Full Disclosure: I USED to! As a garden influencer, companies send me their newest tools and fertilizers in hopes that I will recommend them to my followers. As a result, my garage was overflowing with so much stuff!

And you know what? I found that I only need a few must-have items. As a result, my shed is much cleaner with only my go-to items that I use in the garden.

With the holidays fast approaching, I’m here to help you make your gift list easier with seven items that I use for my own desert garden. Perhaps you’ll find some helpful gift ideas or items to add to your own wishlist!

*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

blue garden gloves

I often use my bare hands when I work in the vegetable garden and with my container plants. Most garden gloves are bulky garden gloves that make it hard to handle smaller planting tasks. That’s why I love my new Foxglove Original Garden Gloves. They keep my hands clean yet allow me to ‘feel’ what I’m doing when I handle plants or plant seeds. Of course, I love that they come in gorgeous colors – I have a pair of periwinkle blue.

 

Hand Weeding Tool

Got weeds? Okay, who doesn’t? Three years ago, I was introduced to the CobraHead Hand Weeder and I love it! This tool is unique as it’s easy to use and works well at removing weeds. The handle is made from recycled plastic and the blade is made of forged steel. Its curved shape is ergonomic and it really does make weed removal so much easier. I use it for weeds that sprout up in the garden as well as in my vegetable garden. There are several sizes – I use the ‘mini’ and the long-handled’ ones.

 

Purple Hand Pruners

 

Here is the tool that I use most often in my garden as it’s always on hand when I need to do smaller pruning tasks. These Compact Hand Pruners FIT IN MY POCKET, which means that I can put them in my back pocket whenever I need to use both hands for other garden tasks. How many times do you lay down hand pruners only to forget where you put them? Dramm makes great garden products and their hand pruners are sharp and work well for cutting stems up to 1/4″ in diameter. I love that they come in a variety of bright colors – I have the purple ones!

canvas garden branches

Here is a new product that I used for the first time this year. I like to prune, but I hate having to clean up afterward. I was asked to test out this Garden Clean-Up Canvas Tarp, and afterward, I was hooked! The tarp is relatively large and sturdy. It lays flat, and you put your garden clippings on it (branches, lawn clippings, etc.). Once you finish, you grasp the corners with their green rubber handles and haul it to the curb (or trash can). I’m not the only one happy it – my husband is too as he doesn’t have to clean up after me once I’ve finished pruning.

 

Eye Glasses with Flowers

Whether I need to read the tiny print on a packet of seeds or identify a bug, I rely on my readers. I can’t see much without them. So, if I have to wear glasses, I want them to be colorful or have a pretty floral pattern. I love these Classic Floral Readers, which come in three pairs cause let’s face it – they can be misplaced. I love the compliments that I get on my glasses, and I’m sure you’ll love these too.

 

 

Hand Shovel Green Handle

My mother introduced me to this useful tool on my shelf several years ago. Soon after, I ditched all my other hand shovels because this one was far superior. The narrow shape of this Ergonomic Alumunium Hand Transplanter/Shovel makes it great for adding flowering annuals into pots. I also use it in my vegetable garden for transplants, as well as creating furrows for seeds. Another bonus is that its handle is comfortable on your wrist and comes in other bright colors – I have a blue one.

 

Seed Packets

Here is a new product from the folks at Botanical Interests, who are famous for their beautifully decorated seed packets. For the first time, they have released Botanical Art Prints from selected seed packets! This summer, I had the opportunity to tour their facility and meet the owners. One of the stops on our tour was their art department and I was blown away by the beauty and artistry of their botanical drawings. There several to choose from, ready for framing. I confess that I don’t have one yet, but hope to soon! I can just picture them in my office or kitchen. *I encourage you to check them out to see the different botanical art prints available.

 

brown purse

I love to travel and much of that involves garden travel. One of my go-to items that I bring with me is my Baggallini Journey Crossbody Purse. I like to carry a smaller purse when I’m on the road and this one has served me well for over 7 years! Despite its compact size, I’m amazed at how much it fits – phone, sunglasses, reading glasses, chapstick, tissues, pen, business cards, and a granola bar. I like that it has slots for my drivers license and debit/credit cards as well as a zipper pouch for money – it rids you of the need to bring a separate wallet. This is a well-made product and I am a huge fan of Baggallini products! It comes in a variety of colors.

 

 

I hope that my must-have list inspires you. I use all of these products and highly recommend them. Hopefully, you will find inspiration as to what to add to your list or buy for friends and family.

**Need MORE ideas? Check out my store page on Amazon.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Hi There!

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for visiting my blog. Whether you are a brand new visitor or a long-time reader, I appreciate you!

As many of you know, gardening in the desert can be challenging, and I have been helping people just like you in a variety of ways. My goal has been to guide, inspire, and support you in your desert garden journey; whatever stage you are at.

My outreach to desert gardeners is through a variety of channels, and you may not be familiar with all of them, so I decided to share them with you.

Ramblings From a Desert Blog

This blog recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and within it are over 1,000 posts filled with a lot of helpful information to help you in the desert garden.

Have a question about a specific plant or topic? Simply enter it into the search bar on the right and see if I’ve written about it. Chances are I have.

 

My Facebook Group

This is where you will find me every day. Within this group, I share tips, stories, and other fun garden content with a friendly and supportive community of desert gardeners who on the same journey as you.

I’d love to have you join us! Click here to join.

 

Instagram

If you love gardening photos, Instagram is a great place to be. You’ll find pictures of my adventures in the garden to help inspire you and teach you practical tips.

To watch my adventures via Instagram, click here.

Through the Garden Gate Online Membership Group

I created an online membership club over a year ago in response to people who wanted more help in their garden journey. Since then, I’ve come alongside desert-dwellers like you who want a personal garden coach to guide them.

You can learn more about my membership here.

 

I want you to know that you aren’t alone in trying to figure out how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful outdoor space that thrives in a hot, dry climate. I’m here to help!

harvested-peaches

harvested-peaches

 

I love peaches. Every year, I look forward to May when the peaches on my tree are ripe and ready. While May might seem a little early for peaches, in the low desert garden, this is when they are ready for being harvested. 

picking-peach-tree
There are several things that I like to make with my peaches. Of course, peach jam, peach cobbler, and pie make the list, but also something a bit unusual.
A few years ago, I was inspired to make peach vinegar after I read the book, “The Backyard Homestead”.  So, you may be wondering why I would want to make homemade fruit vinegar? Fruit vinegars are one of my favorite ingredients in homemade salad dressing.
It is very easy to make fruit vinegar – especially when compared to making jam out of peaches.

You will need the following:

Peaches
White wine vinegar
Glass jar with lid
Strainer
Paper towels
 First, remove the skins from the peaches. If the peaches are very ripe, you can often peel them off in large sheets. Or, use a paring knife to peel them as you would an apple. 
Roughly chop the peaches into 1-inch sections. Plan on using 2 – 3 peaches per pint-sized jar.
Add the chopped peaches and pour white wine vinegar over them until it reaches the top of your jar.
Place the peach/vinegar mixture in a dark place for 4 weeks – I use my pantry. At least once a week, shake the jar to help mix the contents.
After a month has passed, pour out the mixture over a strainer to remove the peaches. You can see that the white wine vinegar has taken on the beautiful color and flavor of the peaches.
Strain the peach vinegar needs through a coffee filter (or paper towel) to remove the remaining peach solids.
*I’ve found that paper towels work better than coffee filters.
 
After straining the peach vinegar – pour into clean jars with lids. They can be stored in your pantry for 3 months.
 
Peach vinegar tastes wonderful when used on fruit salad and it makes a great pork glaze. It also makes a delicious vinaigrette and marinades. Some people even drizzle it over peach ice cream.
 
Don’t have a peach tree? No problem. You can use peaches from the grocery store or your farmers market. Just make sure they are ripe.
 
My favorite use for peach vinegar is for my grandmother’s famous salad dressing. This recipe has been in our family for years and I am going to break all the rules and risk being expelled from my family by sharing it with you. It’s easy to make and creates a sweet dressing that is popular with kids and adults alike.
Click the link below for the recipe. 


GRANDMA SMITH’S HOMEMADE SALAD DRESSING

 

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

 

 

‘Tangerine Beauty’ Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’)

Spring in the desert is the most beautiful time of year with the majority of plants in the landscape bursting out with flowers. It’s also a very busy time for me with landscape consultations, speaking engagements, work in the garden, and family life. I love to document the happenings in my life by taking photographs with my phone, and I’d like to share a sampling with you. It’s a fun combination that includes colorful plants, spiky pots, snakes, roses and the prom!

No matter how busy I may be, the sight of a beautiful plant stops me in my tracks. It doesn’t matter how rushed I may be; I will always stop and take a photo. That’s what happened when I spotted this row of ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvines on our way into church. Even though we were running a few minutes late (as usual) I had to pause to admire the beauty of the lovely blooms and take a photo.

‘Tangerine Beauty’ does very well in the low desert garden. It has lush green foliage and orange/pink flowers that hummingbirds love. It needs a trellis or other support to climb up on and does well in full sun to filtered sun, but avoid planting along a west-facing wall as it may struggle in reflected sun.

entryway-desert-gardening-flowering-annuals-geraniums

As I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of speaking on a variety of gardening topics at the Desert Botanical Garden, public libraries, and also to garden groups. Upon my arrival to give a presentation at the Paradise Valley Country Club, I was greeted by this beautiful bed filled geraniums, foxglove, and yellow daisies. The spiky shape of agave adds welcome texture contrast in this area.

agave-planted-in-containers-arizona

Across the way, I spotted this dramatic example of spiky succulents growing in pots. Agave are excellent container plants, and their spiky shapes look fabulous along this wall. The plantings underneath the wall are well chosen as they do well in areas with full sun and reflected heat.

Here is a very different entry to another presentation I was to give at the Cave Creek Branch of the Phoenix Public Library. Two identical caution signs flank the raised metal bridge, which makes you look carefully before approaching. I know that libraries work hard to get kids to read, but these signs just might scare them off 😉

David Austin Olivia Rose

‘Olivia Rose’

Back home, the rose garden is in full bloom with my favorite ‘Olivia Rose’ completely covered in fragrant, delicate pink color. She flowers more than every other rose in the garden and for the longest, ensuring her favored status.

red David Austin rose Darcey Bussell

‘Darcey Bussell’

The best performing red rose in the garden is ‘Darcey Bussell,’ and she never disappoints as I view her vibrant blooms from my kitchen window.

David Austin rose Lady of Shalott

‘Lady of Shalott’

This rose is a relative newcomer to my rose garden. ‘Lady of Shalott’ was planted in the winter of 2018 and didn’t produce many blooms in her first year, which is typical of most new roses. However, this year, she is covered with roses in delicate shades of pink and peach.

On the home front, spring means that it’s time for the prom. I can hardly believe that my son is old enough – it seemed like it was just yesterday when I came home with a darling little two-year-old boy from China.

Kai’s favorite color is red, can you tell? It takes confidence to wear a bright color like this, and he does it so well. He is the youngest of four sisters, so this was my first time helping a boy get ready for a school dance. Honestly, it is a lot simpler – all he needed was help with his tie and his boutonniere.

I love spring and all the busyness that comes with it. How about you?

flowering perennial firecracker penstemon
flowering perennial firecracker penstemon

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

Have you ever noticed that spring has a way of surprising you in the garden? That is indeed the thought that I had earlier this week as I walked through my front landscape.

After spending a week visiting my daughter in cold, wintery Michigan, I was anxious to return home and see what effects that a week of warm temperatures had done – I wasn’t disappointed.

I want to take you on a tour of my spring garden. Are you ready?

pink blooming Parry's penstemon

Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

Penstemons play a large part in late winter and spring interest in the desert landscape, and I look forward to their flowering spikes.

flowering echinopsis Ember

Echinopsis hybrid ‘Ember’

One of the most dramatic blooms that grace my front garden are those of my Echinopsis hybrid cactuses. I have a variety of different types, each with their flower color. This year, ‘Ember’ was the first one to flower and there are several more buds on it.

blue flowering shrubby gerrymander

Shrubby Germander (Teucrium fruiticans)

Moving to the backyard, the gray-blue foliage of the shrubby germander is transformed by the electric blue shade of the flowers. This smaller shrub began blooming in the middle of winter and will through spring.

Calliandra red powder puff shrub

Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephala)

This unique shrub was a purchase that I made several years ago at the Desert Botanical Garden‘s spring plant sale. If you are looking for unusual plants that aren’t often found at your local nursery, this is the place to go. This is a lush green, tropical shrub that is related to the more common Baja Fairy Duster. However, it only flowers in spring and has sizeable red puff-ball flowers. It does best in east-facing exposures.

flowering annuals Callibrochoa

Million Bells (Calibrachoa)

I am trialing a new self-watering hanging container that was sent to me free of charge by H20 Labor Saver for my honest review. I must say that I am very impressed. Growing plants in hanging containers is difficult in the desert garden as they dry out very quickly. But, this is a self-watering container, which has a reservoir that you fill, allowing me to have to water it much less often.

In the container, I have Million Bells growing, which are like miniature petunias. They are cool-season annuals that grow fall, winter, and spring in the desert garden.

severely pruned yellow bells

Yellow Bells recently pruned

Not all of my plants are flowering. My yellow bells shrubs have been pruned back severely, which I do every year, and are now growing again. This type of severe pruning keeps them lush and compact, and they will grow up to 6-feet tall within a few months.

onions arizona vegetable garden

Onions growing in my vegetable garden

This past fall, my daughters took over the vegetable garden. I must admit that it was fun to watch them decide what to grow and guide them in learning how to grow vegetables. They are already enjoying the fruits of their labor and onions will soon be ready to be harvested.

blossom of meyer lemon

Meyer Lemon blossom

My Meyer lemon tree hasn’t performed very well for me and has produced very little fruit in the four years since I planted it. I realized that it wasn’t getting enough water, so I corrected that problem, and it is covered in blossoms – I am so excited!

fragrant chocolate flower

Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata)

Moving to the side garden, chocolate flower adds delicious fragrance at the entry to my cut flower garden. It does well in full sun and flowers off and on throughout the warm season.

purple flowering verbena

Verbena in bloom

In the cut flower garden, my roses are growing back from their severe winter pruning. Although the roses aren’t in bloom yet, my California native verbena is. This is a plant that I bought at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden – I don’t remember the exact name, but it does great in my garden.

ripening peaches

Young peaches

I have some fruit trees growing in the side garden including peaches! I can just imagine how delicious these will taste in May once they are ripe!

flowers of apple tree

Apple tree blossoms

While the peaches are already forming, my apple trees are a few weeks behind and are still flowering. It surprises people that you can grow apple trees in the desert garden and they will ripen in June – apple pie, anyone?

I hope that you have enjoyed this tour of my spring garden. All of these plants are bringing me joy.

*What is growing in your garden this spring that brings you joy?

Birthday Cake

The past couple of months has been a period of busyness, a new look, and opportunities for me.

Normally in December, work in the garden slows down, which means that I have fewer landscape consultations. I welcome this time of year as it allows me to focus on Christmas and a welcome break from work. However, this time it was a very busy time for me as I have been working on two big projects. 

One is the free webinar that I gave earlier this week. It was the first live webinar that I’ve presented and although I was a little nervous, I loved it!

The second project is one that is near and dear to my heart, and you can read about it HERE.

Desert_Gardening_Website_AZ_Plant_Lady

You may have noticed that things look a little different. I decided that it was time to freshen up the appearance of my website and I’m pleased with the results. I did this with the goal of making it easier for you to navigate and find the information that you need.

During the periods of busy work, I did take time to slow down and enjoy some new opportunities. One was adding a playhouse to my garden.

Although I think it would be a great mini-garden shed, I think it works best as a playhouse for the grandkids, don’t you think?

For Christmas, we added a badminton net to the backyard. The kids got into it right away and had so much fun. Now, my husband and I go out to play three times a week or more, for about a 1/2 hour. It’s a fun workout, and the weather is beautiful!

Back indoors, I have been using my extra free time having fun in the kitchen with my new Instant Pot. My family is huge fans of what I’ve made so far which include Bolognese sauce, porcupine meatballs, and roast chicken. Do you have Instant Pot recipes that you recommend?

We are pizza lovers, and my newest recipe is based on the Pioneer Woman’s Stuffed Crust Pizza. I made some changes by leaving out the string cheese, adding sausage and shredded Mozzarella on the top. It is so good and easy to make!

Birthday Cake

The day after Christmas is my birthday and my dear husband, who is no great baker, does know how to order my favorite Freddy’s Ice Cream Cake with Heath Bar added – YUM!

Finally, I can’t wait to get back out into the garden this week. It’s time to prune back my roses. I find this task gratifying as I get to decide which canes to keep and which ones to cut back. Although it is hard to cut them back when they are in bloom, I keep thinking of how beautiful they will be in spring, in large part, due to my pruning.

What are your plans for this new year?

The 5 Most Common Mistakes People Make in the Desert Garden

The 5 Most Common Mistakes People Make in the Desert Garden

I am always looking for ways to help people on their desert garden journey and so I’m offering a FREE class on 5 reasons you are struggling with your desert garden.

As a horticulturist and landscape consultant, I have seen people making the same mistakes, which prevent them from having a beautiful outdoor space.

Because of this, they unintentionally ‘hurt’ the plants by over-maintaining them and spending money on unneeded products and landscape services.

If this sounds like you, I AM HERE TO HELP!

I’ve been helping people like you for over 20 years and I can help you too!

Free Webinar AZ Plant Lady

This LIVE class is on January 17th, at 1:00 MST. *If you want to register for this free class, but can’t attend it live, it will be recorded so you can watch it at our convenience for a limited time.

Knowledge is power and once you know what you are doing wrong in the landscape – you have taken one GIANT step in having a desert garden that you are proud of.

CLICK the following link to learn more and register – http://bit.ly/2RpFFb5

I hope to see you there!