UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!
I hope you enjoy it!
UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!
I hope you enjoy it!
Creating an attractive garden in the desert can be a daunting task, especially in such a different climate with the unique challenges of blistering heat and dryness “where plants go to die.” But, I’m here to tell you that you DON’T need to settle for a yard filled with rock and spiky cactus.
It is possible to have an attractive landscape filled with flowering plants, edible gardens, trees, succulents, (and yes, cactus), all of which thrive in our hot, arid climate.
I’ve done it and you can too, and it’s much easier than you think. I help individuals like you learn how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful landscape that thrives in the desert climate.
Not surprisingly, SO many people need help that my calendar is overflowing, so I have created a way to help more of you at a fraction of the price of an individual consultation.
I’m so excited to invite you to join my membership site, “Through the Garden Gate” where I come alongside you to help you create, maintain, and most importantly, enjoy gardening in the desert. Instead of individual clients, who pay hundreds of dollars for a 2-hour consultation, I’ll come alongside to help you on your desert garden journey for a fraction of the price of a private consultation at $19.99 per month!
And you won’t be alone. You’ll be joined by a wonderful community of fellow desert dwellers who are on the same journey as you are. So are you ready to further your desert garden knowledge and enhance your enjoyment in the garden?
**UPDATE: Open enrollment to”Through the Garden Gate” MEMBERSHIP is currently closed so that I can focus on and mentor my newest group of members.
BUT…I’ll be opening doors again and if you’d like to be notified when that happens, simply click the image below to get on the waitlist and I’ll keep you posted!
Years ago, I found myself in your shoes when I arrived in Arizona as a young bride with no idea how to make a lovely outdoor space, much less grow plants in such a hot, dry place. Needless to say, in short order, I killed all my new plants as well as the beautiful rose bushes that had come with my house.
Was I discouraged? Yes!
But, I was determined to figure out how to grow, maintain, and enjoy my desert garden. And so my personal garden journey began, leading me to obtain my degree in Horticulture from Arizona State University and later, as a certified arborist.
In my 20-year career as a horticulturist, I’ve done it all – worked on golf courses, managed landscapes with my crew, designed hundreds of landscapes as a designer, and serving as a personal landscape consultant for countless clients. And yes, I’ve killed my share of plants in the process. BUT, I learned from my mistakes, and I can help you avoid them.
Most people think that having a lovely landscape is hard and do more maintenance than they need to. For example, did you know that:
As a horticulturist and landscape consultant, I’ve seen the frustration that my clients go through trying to garden in the desert. My years of experience have shown me time and again that it is easier than you think – it’s just different, which is why I created my membership site, “Through the Garden Gate” where I can help you.
Your membership includes the following:
1. Library of training videos, with new content added every month to help you garden confidently.
2. Plant of the Month downloadable pdf’s spotlighting my favorite plants along with where to plant, maintain, and how to use them in the landscape.
3. Monthly newsletter filled with garden articles, what’s going on behind the scenes, and monthly garden tasks.
4. Exclusive Facebook group for members-only. I’ll be there every day, and I look forward to seeing you there!
5. Group coaching from me, AZ Plant Lady, via Facebook Live every month where I answer your gardening questions, offer encouragement, and helpful tips tailored for participants.
Why it Works:
You will learn at your own pace, and I break it down into simple steps with no fancy garden language.
Ongoing learning – new content is added every month.
A passionate community of beginning, intermediate, and experienced gardeners.
Save money, time, and frustration by avoiding common desert garden mistakes.
Most people over-maintain their plants, fertilizing and pruning too often and I’ll show you how plants need far less maintenance than you’d expect.
You’ll have the knowledge you need to grow and maintain plants without all the stress of trying to figure it out yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What does “Through the Garden Gate” membership offer that a nursery or landscape professional can’t? A welcoming community, personal support, and unbiased advice with no motivation to sell you unneeded products or maintenance services.
I am brand new to gardening. Will I fit in? Absolutely! No one is born knowing how to garden, and no prior experience is needed. This group is a great place to learn and grow as a gardener.
I already read your blog and follow you on Facebook. What more will I get from the membership? In-depth training in the form of video training, exclusive content in the form of garden video training, detailed plant profiles, newsletter, a members-only Facebook page, and group coaching with me, AZ Plant Lady, via Facebook Live.
I know you live in Arizona. Is the membership designed only for people in your region? The club is open to anyone who is interested in learning how to create, grow, and maintain a garden in the desert. I focus on low-desert gardening for those who live in elevations lower than 3,000 feet in altitude, but members who live in other desert regions can gain helpful information too.
I have gardening experience in a cooler, wetter climate. Can the club help me learn how to garden in the desert? Yes! All levels of gardeners are welcome, and your previous experience will help you learn a little more quickly how we do things differently in the desert garden.
My life is very busy, and I don’t have a lot of time to devote to learning about desert gardening. This membership is for you! The videos are short but informative and the newsletters, and “Plant of the Month” resources are packed with information that takes little time out of your busy life
Do I really get live access to you? Yep! I’ll be using Facebook Live to talk to the membership group through our Facebook page at pre-scheduled times on a monthly basis. If you can’t watch the video live, you can watch the video, which will be posted on the FB page. You can submit your gardening questions ahead of time too so I can be sure to answer them if you can watch live to ask your question.
How do I access the resources? We have an online library with all of the videos, “Plant of the Month” pdf’s, and other handouts. Newsletters will be emailed to you monthly. When you join the club, you will be provided with a link to join our private Facebook group as well as information on how to log on into the online library.
How long does the subscription last? It is designed as a monthly subscription, which means that it can last as long as you would like it to. I will be adding new content each month, which along with the live group coaching, will help you in your garden journey for as long as you want. You can cancel at any time.
So, are you ready to join and learn “the dirt on gardening in the desert”? You get all this PLUS group coaching for only $19.99 a month!
I am opening the doors for new members to join “Through the Garden Gate” for just a few days. Sign up beginning September 5th. Doors close at midnight MST on September 10th!!
I’d love to come alongside you on your desert garden journey!
Creating an attractive garden in the desert can seem overwhelming with our dry climate and intensely hot summers that seemingly last forever. Can anything green and pretty grow in a barren, brown landscape covered in rock?
The answer is YES!
Yes, the desert is a very different place to create, grow, and maintain a garden, but it can be done and you DON’T need to settle for a yard filled with rock and spiky cactus.
I’ve done it and you can too, and it’s much easier than you think! I help individuals like you learn how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful landscape that thrives in the desert climate.
As a horticulturist and landscape consultant, I’ve been helping individuals like you learn how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful landscape that thrives in the desert climate for the past 20 years.
As you might expect, there are a lot of people who need my help, and my work calendar is overflowing with appointments with individual consultations.
This got me to thinking of a better way for me to reach a larger group of people, like you, who struggle to create an attractive landscape in a hot, arid climate. I’ve been working on a special project for the past three months to address this problem, and I’m almost ready to tell you all about it!!!
I’ll be honest; this is the biggest thing that I’ve done since I launched my blog 9 years ago and I am feeling both excited and nervous at the same time.
The official launch date is Wednesday, September 5th. I will be releasing all the details via the blog, social media, and through email to my subscribers.
HERE IS A SNEAK PEEK AT MY NEW LOGO:
My close friends and family have heard me talk about little else the past few months and it will be a relief to finally share it with all of you!!!
P.S. If you haven’t already, sign up for my subscriber list (located on the top of the sidebar) for the latest updates.
I’m back with design notes from the field, where I share observations and recommendations from my work as a landscape consultant. This edition features a new build, metal art, weeds, and shade. I hope that you can pick out helpful tips that you can use in your landscape.
Up first, is a new house that is being constructed in east-central Phoenix. The home that used to stand on this lot was taken down to the foundation and an energy-efficient home is coming up in its place. I was hired by the architect to design a landscape that will fit its clean, modern lines.
Several years ago, I solely worked as a landscape designer, working with homebuilders, creating new landscapes from scratch with a blank palette. Nowadays, as a landscape consultant design is just one aspect of what I do as part of an overall plan within an existing landscape, which also includes maintenance recommendations. Now and then, I create one for new homes, and this one has some fun challenges.
The look the architect wants is simple and uncluttered with room for the new homeowner to add to it if desired. So, I am concentrating on using plants to create a framework. This includes two trees in the front along with two along the west-facing side to provide screening from the road and protection from afternoon sun.
Foundation plants will soften the base of the house while taller shrubs will soften the corners. Ground covers will add low-level interest along with a few agave and cactuses for an accent.
A splash of color will be added by the front entry with the placement of a large, colorful pot filled with an easy to care for succulent.
Often, I am asked for advice on what to do in somewhat unique situations. In this case, the homeowner needed advice for what to do for the wall behind the BBQ, which keeps turning black after grilling.
I tend to look at problems like this as opportunities for adding more interest to the outdoor space. In this case, I recommended adding garden art in the form of rusted metal botanical panels. There is a local artist in Phoenix who creates metal panels with plant shapes cut out of them. He offers standard pieces but also does custom work.
The rusted metal garden art will add welcome interest behind the BBQ as well as disguise any blackened area on the wall.
Here is an example of the metal botanical panels from another client’s home, which was where I first encountered the work of this artist. You can learn more about this metal artist here.
Weeds will always be a problem in the landscape, like these I saw at a client’s home growing through the patio. The solution to this area is to slowly pour boiling water on weeds growing through the cracks, which will kill them. For travertine, only do this if the stone is sealed.
To wrap our design notes, here is a landscape where the homeowner wanted to concentrate on plants up close to the house and not add any further out. Now if this front yard didn’t have any trees, the absence of plants would cause it to look barren and washed out. However, the patterns from the branches of the ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde add beautiful patterns on the ground, so you can get away with leaving it bare, which draws attention to the lovely shadows of the branches.
I hope you have enjoyed this latest session of design notes. I’ll have more for you in the future.
**Stay tuned for a special announcement that I’ll be making the beginning of September. I’m working on a new project that will enable me to help you even more to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful outdoor space in the desert. I’ve been working on it for a while and am so excited to share it with you soon!
I must admit that I don’t spend much time outside in my garden in August as I quickly become a sweaty mess and the heat sucks out all my energy. So, I turn to other pursuits to occupy my time. Only one week into this month and I’ve painted trees, had a chance encounter with a roadrunner and welcomed a new princess.
While I usually indulge my creativity out in the garden with design, I had an opportunity to channel it onto canvas during a team-building event for my husband’s work.
The event was held at an art studio that hosts group art painting sessions and as I approached the blank canvas, paint brushes and paint, I felt a combination of excitement and apprehension. I’ve never painted on canvas before and the last time I’ve put brush to an easel was in kindergarten.
The instructor stood in front of the class, and we were to replicate a particular painting, and there was an example of the finished piece of art, and the instructor guided us step by step as she began painting her blank canvas.
It was enjoyable, and I’m living proof that you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the experience. However, as a certified arborist, I did feel a little bit of pressure when painting in my trees but, reminded myself that this was more impressionistic art.
A couple of days later, I was visiting my niece at our local hospital when I spotted a roadrunner walking toward the front door. We don’t see them very often where I live in suburbia, so I stood and watched what it was doing.
I just recently taught a class on gardening for birds at the Desert Botanical Garden, so I was full of facts about this type of bird, which is a member of the Cuckoo family and I started reciting them to my husband who was watching the roadrunner with me.
For those of us who grew up watching the cartoon feature Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner, the coyote never seemed to catch the roadrunner. However, in reality, coyotes can reach a top speed of over 30 mph while roadrunners can only run up to 15 mph.
Roadrunners are found throughout the entire Southwest and are spreading as far to Louisiana – so now you have two fun facts to share with your friends.
Here is a photo of another roadrunner that I spotted several years in front of a hospice facility, coincidentally across the street from the same hospital. You’ll notice the red and blue coloring on the side of its head, which is visible during mating season.
I’ve watched these large birds run and catch lizards and snakes in the desert, and it’s always a treat when I get to see them up close.
Hospital visits aren’t typically fun outings, but the exception is when you are visiting new parents. My nephew and his wife just welcomed a precious little girl into the world, and I am now a great aunt. We have had eight boys born into the family, yet only one girl in the past 25 years, so we are so excited to have another “princess” to love and dote on. Bring on the pink!
In a few short weeks, my focus will once again be in the garden, but for now, I’m enjoying the cool indoors.
How about you? Have you ever gone to an art studio for a painting class or seen a roadrunner up close?
I am always on the lookout for new and different ways that gardens are designed and the materials that they use. Recently, I was scheduled to teach a class at the Desert Botanical Garden, and as I headed toward the classroom, I admired the modern design of the building but, it was the vine-covered wall that caught my interest.
This unusual wall was made up of masonry block, like many garden walls in the desert Southwest, but this one was decidedly different. It was made from broken masonry blocks repurposed from a wall that had been removed elsewhere. Some brilliant person realized that instead of filling up landfill space, that the broken blocks could still function as a garden wall.
The salvaged wall provides the perfect surface for queen’s wreath (Antigonon leptopus) vines to crawl up on with their twining tendrils taking advantage of the nooks and crannies within the wall.
The sprays of flowers, leaves, and stems create beautiful shadows along the pavement below. Shadows are an element of garden design that is often overlooked. However, don’t underestimate the effect that the shapes of the shadows from cactuses, succulents, and even vines can add to a bare wall, fence, or even on the ground.
Years ago, I used to carry a small digital camera in my purse for unexpected opportunities to take pictures of a particular plant, or design idea. Nowadays, this is just another reason that my smartphone is perhaps my most valued tool.
Our desert tortoise, Aesop, has been a fun addition to our life ever since we adopted him three years ago. He typically becomes quite active beginning in June, after a very long winter’s nap. As a result, his curious nature has him coming out to see us when we venture out into the garden. The kids like to pet his shell while I stroke Aesop’s head.
Aesop sleeps just over six months out of the year, so we treasure the summer months when he is active. A couple of weeks ago, he came over to visit me on the backyard patio, and I noticed how dirty his shell was – likely due to hibernating in a hole all winter long. So, I decided that he needed a bath.
I wasn’t sure if he would like it or not – my dogs don’t and try to get away whenever they see me holding the hose, but Aesop seemed to enjoy his bath.
He stood perfectly still until it was over and then turned to me as if to say, “that’s all”?
A couple of minutes later, he was stretched out, relaxing after his refreshing bath.
I must admit that I never realized how entertaining having a desert tortoise as a pet could be and Aesop continues to surprise us with his curious nature and antics.
On a cold February morning, alongside my mother and sisters, I found myself at The Magnolia Silos, created and made famous by the much-loved hosts of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ program.
We were on a girls road trip through Texas, and as fans of the show, The Silos in Waco were a must-see destination.
The day we arrived was brisk, and we headed straight to the bakery, which is well-known for its delicious cupcakes and pastries. So, while my travel companions saved me a place in line, I headed straight for the decorative window boxes along the front and side of the bakery.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to see much in the way of greenery or gardens in winter, and so I was pleasantly surprised to see the lovely plantings underneath the windows.
Edible plants were mixed with ornamental plants, creating a blending of soft, complimentary shades, which suited the cloudy day.
The rosemary pruned into little topiaries created the perfect backdrop for the white, ornamental kale.
There is almost always a line around the bakery, but we were fortunate only to have to wait for 10 minutes before entering. In the meantime, we were handed a bakery menu where we could select what we wanted ahead of time.
I picked the ‘Shiplap’ cupcake – because, where else was I ever going to have the opportunity to get one anywhere else? It was delicious!
This sign within the bakery echoed the sentiments of all who entered and came out with a box of much-coveted cupcakes.
Once outside of the bakery, we headed for the main store where four magnolia trees were espaliered to the left of the entrance.
Don’t let the relatively empty facade fool you – it was filled with shoppers inside.
A grouping of lavender greeted us as we climbed the steps into the store.
Hanging tight to my wallet while trying to figure out how much I had budgeted for shopping, I entered the store.
It was immediately evident that Joanna has a deep love for gardening and plants although all those inside the store were artificial greenery and flowers.
Back outdoors, my sister and I posed for a picture before we headed over to the garden area.
The garden is surrounded with beds filled with roses that had recently been cut back and tulips just beginning to emerge.
The Magnolia Seed & Supply shop is filled with garden decor along with seeds available for purchase.
Raised beds are filled with leafy greens. I like the wooden branches used to support the frost cloth.
To the side of the store was a little greenhouse with a planter full of gorgeous kale.
I must admit that I’ve never thought of kale as ‘gorgeous’ before, but it was in this case.
On our way out, we took a photo of the silos surrounded by families and kids playing on a large expanse of artificial turf using old-fashioned lawn games provided for their use.
A quick stop for a photo.
I hope you enjoyed exploring the green spaces of The Magnolia Silos with me. I certainly did!
I am so excited to share with you the debut of a new blog, called Southwest Gardening that covers the entire SW region, which is often ignored in traditional garden media.
The blog is written by a team of four garden experts, of which I am honored to be one. Each of us lives in a different gardening climate of the SW, and together, we are excited to share our knowledge to help all of you who live and garden in this arid region of the country.
Here are the team members:
Ann McCormick from Texas who writes the blog, Herb n’ Cowgirl
Teresa Odle from the high mountains of New Mexico who is the author of Gardening In a Drought
Jacqueline Soule from the desert region of Tucson who contributes to the blog, Savor the Southwest
Noelle Johnson (me) from the low deserts of central Arizona.
I hope that you will take an opportunity to visit Southwest Gardening where we will share ways to have “fun with plants in a dry climate”.
*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Our New Year’s celebrations are usually spent at home, eating an extra nice dinner and enjoying game night playing our favorite board game, Ticket to Ride. Basically, it involves trains and moving across the U.S. I’ve never played a game that I like more and our friends and family agree.
New Year morning involves making deliciously sweet monkey bread and settling down to watch the Rose Parade with my mother and the kids. I remember going to the parade with my grandparents when they lived only blocks away and I enjoy reliving that memory every year when I watch a new one each year.
In regards to my garden, holiday activities mean that I don’t go outside in the garden much, but I do concentrate on my indoor garden that is located on my kitchen windowsill. I have amaryllis; a miniature rose, a single hyacinth bulb and a couple of succulents growing. But it doesn’t mind since the colder weather means that my plants don’t need much attention.
Even though it is winter, I will be concentrating my attention on the outside garden as January is the best time to prune back my roses as well as apple and peach trees. This is also the best time to add new roses and I have a fun project coming up with the folks at David Austin Roses, which I will share with you in a few weeks.
Over the holidays, I was often asked about garden products that I recommend, so I have created a list of my favorites that I use myself. You can view them here, or by clicking the photo above.
I hope that you find the list helpful. There is a wide variety of items from books, garden wear, fertilizers, tools, and so much more. It is also a great way to help support the blog at no extra expense to you if you purchase an item.
I have a special project that I’ve been working for the past several months. It is almost ready to debut, but until it does, I’ll give you an early peek at part of the logo:
I promise to let you know all the details very soon!
With the dawn of the New Year, I am excited about possible changes to my back garden (maybe grass removal), new roses, lots of travel, a new venture, and of course, writing this blog, which is so near and dear to my heart.
What are you excited about in this coming year?