A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take another photo of a landscape I passed by in a neighborhood where I had just finished up a landscape consultation.
Sadly, I often see examples of truly ‘interesting’ or should I say ‘bad’ pruning. I drove by this landscape and then made a U-turn so that I could take a quick photo…
I don’t know about you, but these Texas sage shrubs look like mushrooms, don’t you think?
Sadly, pruning these beautiful flowering shrubs this way robs them of their flowers, increases maintenance, creates dead wood, and shortens their life.
While there are quite a few shrubs that take well to repeated formal pruning – doing this to flowering shrubs should be avoided.
I must admit that I have seen Texas sage and other flowering shrubs pruned into many different shapes…
But, let me be frank – shrubs aren’t meant to be cupcakes, frisbees, or gumdrops
Here are just a few reasons why…
It removes the leaves needed for the shrub to make energy for itself
Excessive pruning actually makes your shrubs grow faster, which equals MORE maintenance
Shrubs pruned often require more water as they constantly work to replace foliage lost
Continued shearing will shorten the lifespan of your shrubs
Green ‘blobs’ are ugly compared to beautiful flowering shrubs
If you are tired of the time and money it takes to maintain flowering shrubs the ‘wrong’ way. I invite you to join me in my online shrub pruning workshopwhere I will teach you the right way to prune.
Imagine your outdoor space filled with beautiful, flowering shrubs instead of green ‘balls’. Believe it or not, the shrubs in the photo above are the SAME plant – they have just been maintained differently. The one on the left takes much more money and time and the other thrives with pruning once (or twice) a year.
In my online class, I show you how to work with your landscaper or how you can take care of your shrubs yourself. Got ‘green balls’ already in your landscape? I’ll teach you how to rejuvenate them and the best time of year to do it.
So, ditch the ‘green blobs’ in your yard and learn how to prune with confidence – it’s much easier than you think. Learn morehere and what students have to say about the class.
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/IMG_1844.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 19:15:002022-09-11 06:58:52Shrubs or Mushrooms?
It’s important to note that not all shrubs respond to rejuvenation pruning, but Cassia (Senna species), Sage (Leucophyllum species), Ruellia, Fairy Duster (Calliandra species), and Lantana shrubs respond well as long as they aren’t too old and healthy.
I encourage you to declare your landscape free of shrubs pruned into balls, cupcakes, and squares and transform it into one filled with beauty 🙂
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/IMG_1235.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 20:25:002022-09-17 01:19:04The Ugly Truth – What Over-Pruned Shrubs Really Look Like
You would think that the beauty of these shrubs, in flower, would be enough for people to stop pruning them into absurd shapes, but sadly, this is not the case. In the Desert Southwest, there is an epidemic of truly horrible pruning that affects not only Texas Sage (Leucophyllum species), but also Cassia (Senna species), Fairy Duster (Calliandra species),and even Oleander.
Unsurprisingly, excessive pruning like this is NOT healthy for shrubs and it strips them of their beauty.
You don’t have to go far to see these sad shrubs. All you need to do is drive down the street as I did…
Okay, it should be rather obvious, but I will say it just the same,
“Do not prune your shrubs into the shape of a ‘frisbee’.
I kept driving and found even more examples of truly awful pruning. Sadly, all are within a 5-minute drive of my house.
I call this ‘pillbox’ pruning.
These Texas Sage & Cassia shrubs were located across the street from the ‘frisbee’ shrubs.
An attempt at creating a ‘sculpture’?
Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)
A second attempt at creating a sculpture?
Let’s get real. Shrubs pruned this way does nothing to add beauty to the landscape. And, when pruned this way, they cost more, take more time, and use more water – it’s true!
Now on to some of my favorite ‘cupcake’ examples:
An entire line of ‘cupcakes’.
‘White Cloud’ Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘White Cloud’)
Do you think they use a ‘level’ to make the tops perfectly flat?
I honestly wouldn’t put it past them.
You can see the dead area on the top, which is caused from this shrub being sheared repeatedly.
This dead growth is caused by lack of sunlight. Repeated shearing (hedge-trimming) keeps sunlight from reaching the interior of the shrub.
As a result, branches begin to die.
After driving around for a while, I drove toward home when I saw the saddest ones of all…
Now if you look closely, you can see a light layer of gray-green leaves, which really don’t begin to cover the ugly, dense branching that has been caused by years of repeated shearing.
I actually like topiary, but not when done to a Texas Sage.
Some people prune up their shrubs so that they can clean up the leaves underneath more easily.
Now, I am not against formal pruning, when performed on the right plants. But, it is not attractive when done on flowering, desert plants and it is also unhealthy for the shrubs themselves and contributes to their early death in many cases. Add to that the fact that it greatly increases your maintenance costs due to repeated pruning and having to replace them more frequently.
Now if you have shrubs that look like any of these pruning disasters, don’t panic! They can be fixed in most cases.
Now, why would anyone want to remove the flower buds from your shrubs by shearing,
when you can have flowers like this?
If you are tired of unnaturally shaped shrubs in your landscape, I understand. Believe it or not, most flowering shrubs need pruning once or twice a year at most – and NOT the type of pruning into weird shapes. I find it ironic that your yard will look better when you do less.
So, if you are wanting to declare your landscape a ‘cupcake-free’ zone, I have something I think you’re gonna love. I invite you to check out my popular online shrub pruning workshop where I teach you how to maintain flowering shrubs by pruning twice a year or less. Hundreds of students have taken the course and are reaping the rewards of a beautiful outdoor space filled with colorful shrubs at a fraction of the work.
Are you ready to break out of the cycle of green blobs?
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/DSC_0043.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 06:54:002022-06-04 02:13:57Shrubs Aren’t Meant To Be Cupcakes, Frisbees, or Pill Boxes
Did you know that you can have plants blooming in your landscape every month of the year? In the desert garden, this is definitely true!
One of the most popular programs that I teach at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is ‘Flowering All Year’. During the presentation, I teach students how to incorporate plants in their gardens so they can enjoy colorful blooms all year long.
Sadly, many desert dwellers miss this opportunity. Drive down a typical neighborhood street in winter, and you will have a hard time finding plants in bloom except for colorful annual flowers. As you’ll note, the focus in our gardens is typically on plants that flower through the warm season.
So, how can we change that? It’s quite simple – add plants that will flower in winter. Believe it or not, there are quite a few plants that fit the bill.
I invite you to come along with me on a virtual tour of the plants I showed to the students in the class as we walked through the winter garden in mid-February.
*Before we embark on our walk, I have a confession to make. Usually, I arrive early before my classes to see what’s in bloom so I can plan our route. But, my daughter’s bus arrived late that morning, so I was running a bit late. As a result, I didn’t know what we would see. Thankfully, there was plenty to see.
Plants for Cool-Season Color:
Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)
The vibrant, blooms of purple lilac vine never disappoint. Blooms appear in mid-winter, adding a welcome relief to colorless winter landscapes. Here it is planted in a tall raised bed and allowed to trail downward. In my garden, it grows up against a wall with a trellis for support.
Whale’s Tongue Agave and Mexican Honeysuckle underneath an Ironwood tree
Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)
Several perennials and small shrubs do best in the desert garden when planted in filtered sunlight. Desert trees like ironwood, mesquite, and palo verde are excellent choices for producing filtered sunlight. Mexican honeysuckle doesn’t do well in full sun. As a result, it thrives under the shade of this ironwood tree. I love the texture contrast in this bed next to the whale’s tongue agave.
Weber’s Agave (Agave weberi) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
Desert marigold is a short-lived perennial that resembles a wildflower. Yellow flowers appear throughout the year on this short-lived perennial. I like to use them in wildflower gardens or natural desert landscapes because this yellow bloomer will self-seed.
Firesticks (Euphorbia ‘Sticks on Fire’) and Elephants Food (Portulacaria afra)
Shrubs, vines, and perennials aren’t the only plants that add winter color in the landscape. Colorful stems of the succulent ‘Firesticks’ add a splash of orange all year. I am a fan of the use of blue pots in the garden, and here, it adds a powerful color contrast with the orange.
‘Winter Blaze’ (Eremophila glabra)
Lush green foliage decorated with orange/red blooms is on display all year long with this Australian native. Several types of Eremophilas add cool-season color to the landscape, and this one deserves more attention. There must be a blank space in my garden for one…
Blue Bells Eremophila and Mexican Fence Post Cactus
‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana)
‘Blue Bells’ is arguably one of my most favorite plants. It resembles a compact Texas sage (Leucophyllum spp.) but doesn’t grow as large AND blooms throughout the year. For best results, plant in full sun, but well-drained soil is a must.
Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)
My favorite choice for winter color is Valentine bush. Red/fuschia blooms begin to appear in January and last into April. For maximum color impact, use them in groups of 3 – 5. They are low maintenance – prune back to 1/2 their size in mid-April after flowering. No other pruning is required.
Winter into spring is a busy time for aloes, and many species do well in the desert garden. Most require filtered sunlight to do their best, but ‘Blue Elf’ aloe does well in both full sun and bright shade.
Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
People from colder climates are often surprised to note that rosemary flowers. In the desert, we are fortunate that we get to enjoy their blue flowers from winter through spring – the bees like them too!
Shrubby Germander (Teucrium fruiticans ‘Azurea’)
Toward the entrance to the garden, I was delighted to see shrubby germander. A star in my own garden, this shrub has flowered all winter long and will continue to do so into spring. The blooms are a lovely periwinkle color.
Chuparosa (Justicia californica)
As our walk was wrapping up, the bright red blooms of a chuparosa shrub caught our eye. A hummingbird was busily drinking as much nectar as he could. I like to use this shrub in landscapes with a natural theme as it has a sprawling growth habit. It flowers through winter into spring and an important nectar source for hummingbirds.
Of course, blooming plants aren’t the only way to add color to the garden. Garden art can play a vital part in adding interest. The Desert Botanical Garden is host to a traveling art exhibit with various animals made from recycled plastic. This group of meerkats greets visitors to the garden.
I hope that you enjoy this virtual tour of winter color in the garden and will add some to your own.
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Desert_Botanical_Garden_Winter_Flowering_Plants_Arizona_Gardening-Purple-Lilac-Vine-Hardenbergia.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 12:20:292023-02-16 17:49:39A Stroll Through a Flowering Winter’s Garden
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 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.
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Noelle-Johnson-AZ-Plant-Lady.email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 12:55:272020-12-15 14:16:15Desert Garden Resources to Guide, Inspire, and Support
It may surprise you to find that it is easier to find plants that thrive in the sun than in the shade.
Especially if you live in the desert Southwest. Why is this, you may ask?
Well, it can be hard to find plants that can handle the intense, dry heat of our climate while flourishing in the shade. While there are a number of lovely plants that can work in shady conditions, it’s hard to know which ones will, which is why I make sure to include my favorites for students in my online gardening class.
So, what do you do if you have a shady spot to fill?
One of my favorites is Yellow Dot (Wedolia trilobata), which is a vining ground cover with lush, dark green leaves interspersed with yellow daisy-like flowers.
Here is a plant that does fabulously in dark shade and will handle brief periods of full sun.
Yellow Dot grows quickly to 1 ft. high and 4 – 6 ft. wide and is hardy to 30 degrees. It’s susceptible to frost damage, which can be easily pruned back in spring.
One of my favorite characteristics of this lush green ground cover is that it has a long bloom period – spring through fall.
It grows beautifully underneath trees, along pathways, and among boulders. You just want to be sure to allow enough room for them to spread.
So, if you have a difficult shady spot that needs a plant – try Yellow Dot.
How about you? Do you have a favorite plant that does well in shady spots? I’d love to hear about it!
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Yellowemail@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 09:07:002020-12-15 12:05:44Made in the Shade: Yellow Dot
I have a weakness (well, one of many) to confess to you today….
I absolutely love salt.
In fact, I have a theory that the reason that so many people love french fries is not the potatoes or the fat it is fried in. No, it is the salt that you put on them afterwards. I mean, can you imagine eating an unsalted french fry?
In preparation for this blog post, I went through my kitchen and pulled out all of my salt & pepper shakers.
It’s kind of embarrassing isn’t it? I have so many.
But in my defense, I must admit that I collect different types of pottery and need salt and pepper shakers for each set.
My husband made me my wooden salt cellar, which I keep near the stove when I cook.
Now, I do not use as much salt as I used to. In fact, I am trying to be better about it. When I visited the doctor earlier this week for my physical, I still had low blood pressure, much to my relief.
Well, we all know that too much salt is bad for you and can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure. But did you know that too much salt is not good for your plants as well?
Plants don’t get ‘high blood pressure’ with too much salt, but they do have another problem that shows up.
They get brown tips on their leaves, which we call ‘salt burn’.
Here is another way that you can tell plants are getting too much salt. Shallow watering causes the water in the soil to evaporate quickly, leaving behind the salts. The salts look like a white crust on the soil around your plants.
At this point you may be wondering how plants get too much salt?
Well, both soil and water have naturally occurring salts in them. This is especially true in the Desert Southwest where our water is somewhat salty and our soils can suffer from salt build-up due to high evaporation.
So what do you do if you have indoor or outdoor plants that have brown tips?
The solution is very easy.
Here is a shrub that has signs of salt build-up. I encountered with one of my clients during a landscape consultation – he had other shrubs that looked similar.
I will tell you what I told him:
If your outdoor plants look like this, first water the affected plant with your hose on a slow trickle for at least 2 – 3 hours. This helps to ‘leach’ or flush the salts away from the roots.
Thereafter, adjust your irrigation schedule so that your shrubs are watered to an approximate depth of 18 inches deep each time. Sadly, most people water too often, too shallow and not long enough.
For example, I water my shrubs and perennials every 5 – 7 days in the summer. This takes approximately 2 hours for my plants to be watered to a depth of 2 ft. Of course the time it takes to water that deeply is different for each landscape and is dependent on a variety of factors including soil type and water pressure.
If your houseplant has brown tips (salt burn), then simply flush the salts out by deeply watering. You can do this by putting your plant in the sink or bathtub and let water slowly trickle on your plant for 1 – 2 hours.
I cover landscape irrigation in depth with my students in my online course, Desert Gardening 101, but for those of you looking for advice right now here’s what I recommend. Search online for watering guidelines on your city’s website – most have schedules including recommended depths.
So in closing I’ll leave you with these two tips:
Be sure to limit your salt intake AND water your plants deeply to prevent salt burn.
https://email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 08:40:002022-09-18 05:28:50Too Much Salt Isn’t Good For You OR Your Plants…
For my longtime followers, you may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging as regularly as before. Well, I am excited to tell you the reason why.
But first, a little background. I help desert gardeners in my work as a landscape consultant where I meet with my clients and give them the knowledge and tools that they need to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful outdoor space that thrives in a hot, dry climate.
White trailing lantana grows nearby a Santa-rita purple prickly pear
Many of you know that gardening in the desert can be challenging and it is hard to find resources to help you to learn the “right” way to do things. As a result, my phone was ringing off the hook with people who needed my help. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day to help everyone, and I soon became overwhelmed with work and exhausted.
So, I began looking for a way that I could reach more people to give them the help they needed. All winter long, I worked hard on my ‘new project’ and debuted it in January to a limited number of desert gardeners. I hoped that they would give me feedback so I could make sure that my new project was what they needed.
What I wasn’t prepared for was their overwhelmingly positive response! I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. I achieved my goal of reaching more people and helping them on their desert garden journey, and it is working!
And now, I’m finally ready to draw back the curtains and share it with you!
Desert Gardening 101 is a way that you can learn how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful garden that thrives in the desert. I’ve combined my 20+ years as a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant into this class.
Here are the topics covered in the class:
And there are bonuses for students including…
My favorite plants along with growing guides and how to use them
Here is what some of my current students have to say about Desert Gardening 101:
“This class has been very informative. We recently moved into a home in AZ with no landscaping in both the front and back yards. Having no experience in desert gardening and spending a lot of time online researching this subject. I came across the AZ Plant Lady and was happy to see there was an upcoming class on Desert Gardening. We signed up immediately.
This class is very helpful, and I’m sure it will keep us from making expensive mistakes in our new landscape and saving many hours of research. We can’t wait to start planting. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.” – Laurie Wolf
“I have really enjoyed Desert Gardening 101 and have learned so much! Talk about a learning curve! Everything about gardening here is a complete 180! Yikes. I have killed more plants in the past three years, that I ever did in the many, many years I gardened in Milwaukee! I wish that I would have had the opportunity to learn all that I am learning now before we hired a landscape firm to landscape our yard.
We had a clean slate – a brand new construction with nothing but dirt surrounding our home! I knew very little about the desert, the plants and trees that grow best here and how to plant and care for them, soil to use, the watering “issue,” let alone design. We are now in the process of fixing the problems, thanks in large part to the knowledge I am gaining through Desert Gardening 101! I still have a ton to learn, but I’m making lots of progress with the weekly modules!
Thanks, Noelle for making this a very informative and worthwhile course for all of us trying to learn the ins and outs of desert gardening! – Barb Terschan
“A Phoenix resident for many years, I recently moved from downtown to a house on the mountain preserve and wanted to flow into the desert with native and low water desert plants. That is when I found AZ Plant Lady and started learning. This class has been a huge help in this transition. I have learned I’ve been planting my new plants too deeply and watering way too much. The pruning session was an eye opener, also. Now I know when and how to prune my shrubs. The many plant suggestions provided have narrowed my search when visiting nurseries and has kept my focus on what really thrives in the desert. I am gardening with more confidence thanks to this course. Highly recommend!” – Linda Yowell
Desert Gardening 101 is an online course that teaches proven landscape strategies that I use myself, and I’ve taught hundreds of my clients who have gone on to succeed in their own landscape goals.
This is a self-study course and you can access it anytime online and view the content at your convenience. Most importantly, you will have lifetime access to the course, so you revisit the classes at any time in the future.
I would be honored to come alongside you on your garden journey! Click herefor more information and to register.
*This is by far the most affordable way to work with me at a fraction of the price of my private consultations.
https://email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 06:00:592022-09-19 09:13:40Exciting News! New Resource for Desert Gardeners
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 – it’s my online class called Desert Gardening 101. You can learn about it HERE.
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!
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?
https://email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 07:23:392020-12-16 13:22:07Busyness, a New Look and Opportunities
https://www.azplantlady.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/IMG_0649email@example.com://firstname.lastname@example.org 07:05:242022-06-04 04:45:525 Reasons You Are Struggling With Your Desert Garden