The Pitfalls of Improper Pruning: A Tale of Flowering Shrubs

Flowering Shrubs need pruning, but how they are pruned makes such a difference. Aren’t these shrubs beautiful?

Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)

flowering shrubs need pruning

Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)

Thunder Cloud Sage (Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’)

flowering shrubs need pruning

Thunder Cloud Sage (Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’)

Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

flowering shrubs need pruning

‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

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.

The Consequences of Excessive Pruning

Unsurprisingly, excessive pruning like this is NOT healthy for shrubs and it strips them of their beauty.

The ‘Frisbee’ Phenomenon

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…

flowering shrubs need pruning

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’.

The ‘Pillbox’ Pruning

I kept driving and found even more examples of truly awful pruning.  Sadly, all are within a 5-minute drive of my house.

pillbox

I call this ‘pillbox’ pruning. These Texas Sage & Cassia shrubs were located across the street from the ‘frisbee’ shrubs.

Leucophyllum frutescens 'Green Cloud

An attempt at creating a ‘sculpture’? Texas Sage ‘Green Cloud’ (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)

flowering shrubs need pruning

 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!

‘Cupcake’ Pruning: An Unappetizing Approach

Now on to some of my favorite ‘cupcake’ examples:

Leucophyllum frutescens 'White Cloud

An entire line of ‘cupcakes’. ‘White Cloud’ Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘White Cloud’) 

flowering shrubs need pruning

Do you think they use a ‘level’ to make the tops perfectly flat? I honestly wouldn’t put it past them.

flowering shrubs need pruning

You can see the dead area on the top, which is caused from this shrub being sheared repeatedly.

flowering shrubs need pruning

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…

Flowering Shrubs Need Pruning, but these are Disappointing

flowering shrubs need pruning

 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.

Texas Sage

 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.

The Goal Should be to Prune with Purpose

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.

flowering shrubs

 Now, why would anyone want to remove the flower buds from your shrubs by shearing,  when you can have flowers like this?

Join the ‘Cupcake-Free’ Movement

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.

flowering shrubs

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?

palo verde tree bougainvillea backyard landscape

Revamping Your Backyard Landscape

Assessing the Need for Change

Do you have parts of your backyard landscape that you would like to change? Perhaps you have areas you like in your garden. There are also plants you are tired of or are struggling to manage.

I want to show you what I did in my backyard, where I blended both old and new elements. First, a little history:

Balancing Old and New in a Backyard Landscape

Preserving What Works

I was fairly happy with the areas bordering the walls of the backyard. These areas have colorful shrubs such as Bougainvillea, Coral Fountain, and Yellow Bells.

Bid Farewell to the Dominant Lawn

We removed the large lawn that had dominated the center of my backyard space last year. We made the decision to replace the grass with a focus on plants that I love and that would blend well with the existing plants.

Creating a Harmonious Landscape

A New Focal Point

The focal point is a new flagstone seating area with Adirondack chairs arranged around a portable firepit. Around this area, boulders add height and texture. Angelita Daisy, Artichoke Agave, Blackfoot Daisy, and Pink Muhly grasses surround the seating area, which adds year-round color and texture.

In another area, a gentle mound stands planted with a ‘Bubba’ Desert Willow tree. Purple Trailing Lantana grows around the tree and will soon cover the entire mound in a mass of purple blooms.

Embracing Change and Growth

At this point, the new plants are still rather small. However, plants grow quickly in the desert climate and, in another year, will soon reach their mature size.

The Beauty of Seamless Integration

The result? A backyard landscape where the new and old will blend seamlessly together. I am delighted with how the finished product looks. It took me a long time to decide what to do with this area – it is so much easier to design someone else’s yard than your own.

Stay Tuned for more Transformations:

Progress! One-Year Post Desert Landscape Renovation

mesquite tree Branches

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.

mesquite tree Branches

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. 

mesquite tree Branches

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.

mesquite tree Branches

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?

Creative Container Gardening

Container Gardening: Bringing Life to Your Desert Garden

Spring Transitions in Container Gardening

Spring in the desert brings a flurry of activity out in the garden – much of it involving container gardening. As the season changes, it’s time to rejuvenate your containers and infuse new life into your outdoor space.

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.  

Embracing the Heat-Resistant Annuals

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.

beautiful container

Beyond Blossoms: Creative Container Gardening Ideas

While flowers remain a popular choice for container gardening, there’s a world of possibilities to explore with growing plants in containers. Here are some creative ideas to elevate your container gardening game:

1. Colorful Containers

Give your containers a vibrant makeover by painting them in eye-catching colors. Elevate the aesthetics of your garden by transforming inexpensive plastic containers into stylish focal points with a simple coat of paint.

Leaf lettuce and garlic grow along with flowering petunias in Container

Leaf lettuce and garlic grow along with flowering petunias.

2. Edible Delights

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 Gardening with spinach, parsley and garlic growing with pink petunias

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 fertilized. You can use a slow-release fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer of your choice.

Cucumbers growing with vinca and dianthus Container

Cucumbers growing with vinca and dianthus.

3. Seasonal Vegetable Pairings

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.

Creative Container Gardening

4. Low-Maintenance Succulents

For a fuss-free container gardening experience, consider planting cacti and succulents. These hardy desert dwellers not only flourish in pots but also require less water compared to their flowering counterparts.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) Container

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.

cactus & succulents Container

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.

Container Gardening

5. Space-Saving Strategies

Let’s face it – the 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. 

Best Tips for Successful Container Gardening

To ensure your container garden thrives, follow these essential tips:

  • Use a potting mix specially formulated for containers to maintain optimal moisture levels.
  • Regularly fertilize your container plants with a suitable fertilizer.
  • Choose a potting mix tailored for cacti and succulents when growing these drought-resistant plants.
  • Consider supplementing water with succulents in arid areas.
  • For more information on succulent container gardening, click here.

Reimagine Your Desert Garden with Containers

Whether you’re a gardening novice or a seasoned pro, container gardening offers boundless opportunities to transform your outdoor space. Explore the beauty of diverse plantings, experiment with colors, and embrace the practicality of edible container gardens. By reimagining what you can do in a container, you’ll breathe new life into your desert garden this spring.

A chilly winter's morning dawns over this Phoenix garden

A chilly winter’s morning dawns over this Phoenix garden

Embracing the Beauty of Winter in the Desert Landscape

A Tranquil Video Shoot at an Oasis in the Desert

Video shoot in the desert? YES! 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. It’s a great time to film

A seating area beckons you to sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of the desert garden by horticultural filmmaker

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

Lights, Camera, Action: A Video Shoot Day with Plant Pop

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

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

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

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

green hedge doorway

Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) shrubs

Behind the Scenes of a Desert Paradise

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 🙂

I love talking about desert gardening

Being interviewed – I love talking about desert gardening!

Lights, Camera, Desert!

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 Plant Pop 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!

A Stroll Through a Flowering Winter’s Garden

AZ Plant Lady Noelle Johnson

Thoughtful Gardening Gifts: Seven Must-Have Items

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!

Simplifying the Essentials: Gardening Gifts That Made the Cut

And you know what? I found that I only need a few must-have items that make great gardening gifts. 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 wish list!

*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.

Garden Gloves That Combine Comfort and Functionality

blue garden gloves (gardening gifts )

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.

Conquer Weeds with Ease: The CobraHead Hand Weeder

Hand Weeding Tool ( gardening gifts)

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.

Pocket-Sized Pruners for Precision: Dramm Compact Hand Pruners

Purple Hand Pruners (gardening gifts)

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!

Effortless Clean-Up: The Garden Clean-Up Canvas Tarp

Desert gardening
canvas garden branches ( gardening items )

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.

Stylish and Functional Readers for Garden Enthusiasts

Eye Glasses with Flowers (gardening gifts)

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.

Versatile Hand Transplanter and Shovel: Ergonomic Aluminum Hand Tool

Hand Shovel Green Handle (gardening items)

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.

Botanical Art Prints as Gardening Gifts: Decorate with Nature’s Beauty

Seed Packets (gardening gifts)

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.

Stylish and Functional Travel Companion: Baggallini Journey Crossbody Purse

brown purse

Explore More Gardening Gifts

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.

Noelle Johnson, the AZ Plant Lady

Exploring Desert Garden Resources

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!

Navigating the Desert Garden Journey

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.

Ramblings From a Desert Blog

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.

AZ Plant Lady

R

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? Search Here

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.

Desert Garden Resources to Guide, Inspire, and Support

Join 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.

Join Our Desert Garden Community

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

Desert Garden Resources to Guide, Inspire, and Support

Explore My Garden Adventures on 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.

Desert Garden Resources to Guide, Inspire, and Support

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.

You’re Not Alone in Your Desert Garden Journey

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!

AZ Plant Lady’s Must-Have Items for the Desert Gardener

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 peaches from tree for Peach Vinegar

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

remove the skins from the peaches for Peach Vinegar

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. 

chop the peaches for Peach Vinegar

Roughly chop the peaches into 1-inch sections. Plan on using 2 – 3 peaches per pint-sized jar.

chopped peaches and pour white wine vinegar

Add the chopped peaches and pour white wine vinegar over them until it reaches the top of your jar.

Peach Vinegar

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.

Peach Vinegar

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.

Peach Vinegar

Strain the peach vinegar needs through a coffee filter (or paper towel) to remove the remaining peach solids.

Peach Vinegar

*I’ve found that paper towels work better than coffee filters.

peach vinegar pour into clean jars with lids

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!

Spring in the desert 'Tangerine Beauty' Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty')

Spring in the desert ‘Tangerine Beauty’ Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’)

Capturing the Beauty of Spring in the Desert

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!

Pausing for ‘Tangerine Beauty’ Crossvines

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

Spring in the Desert Speaking Engagements and Garden Inspirations

As a speaker on various gardening topics, my journey often takes me to the Desert Botanical Garden, public libraries, and also to garden groups. During one of my presentations 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 (Spring in the desert)

Nearby, an impressive collection of spiky succulents graces decorative pots. Agave, with their striking spiky shapes, makes excellent container plants. Placed against a wall, these succulents thrive in full sun and embrace reflected heat with grace.

Cave Creek Branch of the Phoenix Public Library

The Quirky Side of Presentations

Speaking engagements can sometimes bring unexpected surprises. 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. A humorous touch, albeit one that might discourage young readers, added a dash of quirkiness to the library entrance.

David Austin Olivia Rose

‘Olivia Rose’

Embracing the Rose Garden

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.

A Touch of Prom Night

AZ Plant Lady

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

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 revel in the bustling energy of spring and cherish the vibrant moments it brings. How about you?

Tour of My Spring Garden

Tour of My Spring Garden, Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

Tour of My Spring Garden, Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

A Spring Garden Tour: Nature’s Pleasant Surprises

Have you ever noticed that spring has a way of surprising you in the garden? This is what I considered as I walked through my front landscape this week.

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?

Penstemon Parade (Penstemon parryi)

Parry's Penstemon (Penstemon parryi) Spring Garden

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.

Echinopsis Hybrid ‘Ember’

Echinopsis hybrid 'Ember (Spring Garden)

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.

Shrubby Germander’s (Teucrium fruiticans) Electric Blue Transformation

Shrubby Germander (Teucrium fruiticans) Spring Garden tour

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.

Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephala)

Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephala) Spring Garden tour

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. It is related to the more common Baja Fairy Duster. Mostly it flowers in spring and has sizeable red puff-ball flowers. It does best in east-facing exposures.

Million Bells (Calibrachoa) in a Self-Watering Container

Million Bells (Calibrachoa)  Spring Garden tour

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. 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.

Resilient Yellow Bells on the Rebound

Yellow Bells recently pruned (Spring Garden tour)

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.

Abundant Onions in the Vegetable Garden

Onions growing in my 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. Guiding them in learning how to grow vegetables is a joy. Onions will soon be ready for harvest.

Meyer Lemon’s Blossoming Promise

Meyer Lemon blossom from Spring Garden Tour

Meyer Lemon blossom

My Meyer lemon tree hasn’t performed very well for me. In the four years since I first planted it, my Meyer lemon tree has been rather stingy with its fruit production. However, a recent revelation unveiled the root cause: insufficient watering. With this issue rectified, I’m absolutely thrilled to report that my Meyer lemon tree is now adorned with a profusion of blossoms. This promises an exciting abundance in the near future!

A Fragrant Welcome from Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata)

Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata) Spring Garden Tour

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.

Vibrant Verbena Blooms in the Cut Flower Garden

Verbena in bloom on my Spring Garden Tour

Verbena in bloom

In the cut flower garden, my roses are growing back from their severe winter pruning. The roses aren’t in bloom yet. But my California native verbena is. This is a plant that I bought at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden.

Promising Young Peaches

Young peaches from Spring Garden

Young peaches

I have some fruit trees growing in the side garden including peaches! I can just imagine how delicious these will taste. They will be ripe in May.

Apple Tree Blossoms: A Desert Delight

Apple tree blossoms from Spring Garden Tour

Apple tree blossoms

My apple trees are a few weeks behind the peaches. It surprises people that you can grow apple trees in the desert garden and they will ripen in June – apple pie, anyone? I love the flowers.

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?