Mr. Lincoln

My favorite hybrid tea

I have a confession to make….

My favorite flowers in the whole world are roses.  Okay, that isn’t my confession, but I will get to that later. 

In my previous home, I had over 40 rose bushes that I had planted and lovingly cared for, which I wrote about in an earlier post, which you can read here if you like.

Okay, so here is my confession….I do not have any roses currently growing in my garden.  Sad, isn’t it?  As much as I write about roses, I think that it is tragic that my favorite flower in the whole world does not currently have a place in my garden.

I have made two attempts at growing roses in my current garden with mixed results.  I believe that the reasons that I did not succeed were that the exposure was just not right.  They were located next to a brick wall, which tends to absorb the heat of the day and does not cool down in the evening and so does not allow the roses to take a break from the heat.  The other reason is that back then, I spent my work days designing and maintaining landscapes and at the end of the day I was too tired to work on my own garden and give my roses the attention they deserved.

John F. Kennedy (Hybrid Tea Rose)

This was one of my attempts at growing roses in my current garden a few years ago.

Well, I have decided that life is too short not to grow the flowers that I love most.  That and the fact that since I now work solely as a Landscape Consultant, I instruct people on how to achieve the garden they want; I don’t do the work myself, so I have lots more energy to work on my own garden.

I have also found a new area in the garden that I think will work.  It faces east and will receive afternoon shade, which is important in the summer months, because roses do not like the intense desert afternoon sun.

I have decided to try growing 3 different varieties of English Roses.  In my previous home, I grew mostly hybrid teas and a few English Roses.  I love the appearance and fragrance of the English Roses and from my experience, were easier to maintain.

Here is another one of my early roses, but I cannot remember which variety it was.

So now, I am happily trying to decide what 3 varieties of English Roses I will try.  Bare-root season for our area is in January.  So I have to make my decision now, so I can place my order.

For those of you who have grown English Roses, what are your favorite varieties?  I could use some suggestions.  I have grown Abraham Darby and Sweet Juliet in the past with good results, but I would love your input.

**From my photos of hybrid tea roses, it should be obvious that I don’t have any photos of English Roses, so I hope my English Roses take off quickly so I can take lots of pictures of them to share with you.

It is rare that we receive any snow in the Phoenix metro area where I live.  I have enjoyed living vicariously through many of you who have posted pictures of your beautiful snowy wonderlands.   So, unlike many of you, I do not have any beautiful photos of snowy landscapes to share.  But I do offer the following pictures of my world, taken by my husband who is an amateur photographer.

A building in Old Town, Scottsdale, Arizona.  Some snow does fall in the upper elevations of Scottsdale, but rarely sticks to the ground.

A couple of time a year the outer areas of Phoenix receive snow and  there is a lot of fuss made over it….everyone runs outside to see it before it stops.  The news reporters are out in full force to cover the fact that there is snow.  Of course, it usually does not stick to the ground and what does melts quickly.

A farmer in Gilbert, Arizona in the early morning.  It does not snow here….

We live inside of a valley edged with mountains.  A few times a year, they are covered in snow.  There is just something so beautiful about snowy mountains with Saguaro cactus covered with a dusting of snow.  

A new morning dawns over the Superstition Mountains.  A few times a year, these mountains are dusted with snow.

In a perfect world, I would have one week of snow at Christmas.  I  would play outside with my children and enjoy the beauty of my snow-covered garden.  But, the reality is is that we have to drive 1 1/2 hours to get to the snow, which we will do in January so the kids can play in the snow.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon does receive a lot of snow, but we usually only visit in the summer. 

I grew up in Los Angeles, so have never had a “White Christmas”.  That is probably a good thing you see, because then I don’t know what I am missing…..

I promise you this though….if we get that rare snowfall, I will be one of those crazy people running outside to enjoy what little snow falls and take as many pictures as I can before it all melts away….

Today was a beautiful, crisp day.  Temps are in the upper 50’s and there are still flowers present in the garden.

Firecracker Penstemon

Hummingbirds just love the flowers.  Blooms will continue until late April.

**I will have some seeds available this spring.  Click here to see if this perennial will grow where you garden.

Stolk

Flowering in my children’s pool garden.See

earlier post about planting this garden.

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)

This bright perennial will bloom all year.

This particular flower is from my neighbor’s garden.

Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) (Tetraneuris acaulis)

My Valentine shrub is really starting to bloom.  

Blooming peaks in February, but continues into late April.

Rio Bravo Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

Surprisingly, my Sage is still blooming, although there are not many left.

**Look closely at the little hairs covering the flower…this helps to protect the flower from the intense heat and sunlight in the summer months. 

Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’)

This perennial blooms spring through fall.  It is slowing down, but I was able to get some pictures of the last blooms.

My neighbor’s yellow rose.Roses

continue blooming through December and into January. 

 We actually have to cut them back severely in January to force dormancy.  It just kills me to prune off the beautiful rose blooms of my roses….

My Purple Violas are blooming beautifully.

Goodding’s Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)

A few blooms remain.

Next to the flowers is a volunteer Victoria Agave that has sprouted from the parent plant.

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Blooms fall through the spring.

Unfortunately, they do self-seed prolifically and I have to do a bit of weeding.

**If any of you are interested in seeds, I should have quite a few available this spring.

Click here to see if Globe Mallow will grow in your area. 

Purple Lantana (Lantana montividensis)

A few blooms remain, but a lot of Lantana has been burned by frost.
This one is located underneath a tree, which gives some protection from the frost.

Bougainvillea

The colorful ‘petals’ are actually not the flower.  They are called ‘brachts’.

The actual flowers are the tiny cream colored flowers in the center.

*I realize I include photos of my bougainvillea often, but it has done very well. Most Bougainvillea have been damaged by the frost, but this one is located underneath a tree in my backyard, which has protected it from the cold.

Thank you for joining me for December’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Please visit May Dreams Gardens for more sites to visit.

Coming up soon…..A Desert Christmas Celebration.  More specifically, how we decorate our homes and gardens for Christmas.   You may be surprised at what we cover with lights…..

… you rejoice when it rains!

It sounds crazy, I know, but it is absolutely true.   Our weather is usually sunny and beautiful the majority of the year.  Now don’t get me wrong, we do love our sunny days, but sometimes we yearn for something different.

This week we are in for wet and rainy weather.  Just the thought of a rainy day brings a smile to many desert dweller’s faces.  Winter rains are usually gentle, not like the torrential summer rains that we experience.

The desert ground drinks up the rain greedily and soon the desert will become covered in a sea of green grass.

Even as a child, growing up in Southern California, I loved rainy days.  Now, there are some who hate the rain, no matter what.  As for me, I choose to rejoice knowing that the sunny days that I also love will soon be back.

Who would expect to find dragons in the garden?  Well these two Chinese dragons look quite at home in the park gardens.

When I first visited China, I fell in love with the beautiful landscaping that I found everywhere.  However, I also found some interesting anomalies as well which I will share along with some photos of the beautiful landscape areas.

This November scene above was found at Martyr’s Park in Changsha.  If you look at the trees in the background, you can see that they stake them rather differently then we do.

Look carefully and you can see that there are young trees beginning to grow out of either side of the window of this Catholic Church in Guangzhou.

OK, there are no anomalies here, just a beautiful setting.

While visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, we were warned to be careful and be sure not to climb those perilous hills.  So, I warned my kids who looked at me like I was crazy ;^)

The scenery was just breathtaking in many of the areas we visited.

Don’t you think that this tree has outgrown it’s original planting area?  Maybe they should have read the plant label ahead of time to see how large this tree would get.

Beauty can be found everywhere, such as this museum garden in Hangzhou.

Beautiful Banyan trees just a block from our hotel.

Okay, I admit that this photo has nothing to do with gardens or gardening.  But, since there are two trees in the background I thought I could include it. This street worker had propped up his ladder in the middle of the intersection and had it resting against  the wires.

I have more pictures to share, some beautiful and others that are humorous, but that is for another post….

Want beautiful foliage, spectacular flowers all packaged up in a tree that blooms in fall and winter?  Well, let me introduce you to a medium -sized tree with a funny name: Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco). 

I love this medium-sized tree with it’s circular leaves, textured bark and winter flowers.  Native to Mexico, Cascalote produces beautiful yellow flowers during the cooler months of fall and winter.  It is hardy to 20 degrees F, but will lose it’s leaves during if temperatures dip into the 20’s.   At maturity, the approximate size is 20 ft. x 20 ft.

I bought my first Cascalote 11 years ago when my Plant Identification class took a field trip to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  They were having a plant sale and I bought a 15-gallon size Cascalote,  which I planted it against a west facing wall that received a lot of reflected sun and heat.

The yellow flowers are stunning when viewed against the backdrop of a deep blue sky.  Early in November, they begin to produce tall spires of tightly bound yellow flower buds. 

In mid to late November, the flowers begin to open, showing a blush of bright orange.   In addition to being beautiful, the flowers also are lightly fragrant.  The flowers are retained through February.   Seed pods will soon follow the flowers.

USES: Cascalote thrives in hot locations and even in areas with reflected heat and should be planted in full sun.  It looks great as the focal point of a planting area or can be used to provide shade to other plants and also makes a great patio tree.  

I once planted one in a high profile corner of a commercial building with Radiation Lantana planted beneath.  Because of the overlapping bloom seasons of the Lantana and Cascalote, there was always color year-round.

You might ask the question, “This tree sounds terrific.  Are there any drawbacks?”  Well, it does have thorns.  Now, generally, I am not a huge fan of plants with thorns.  However, I do make an exception in this case because the thorns are an ornamental feature of the tree.  When the branches are young, the thorns appear maroon.

As they age, the thorns appear larger, yet still ornamental adding great texture to the appearance of the tree.  That being said, I just prune off the tip of the thorns so that I don’t get scratched and the trees still retain the beauty that the thorns add.

*There is a thornless variety called (Caesalpinia cacalaco ‘Smoothie’).

MAINTENANCE: Cascalote is relatively a low-maintenance tree.  It can be grown as a single or  multi-trunk tree.  Prune in the summer removing dead and crossing branches.  Weekly irrigation is required throughout the summer and once monthly in the winter.  I do not fertilize my Cascalote, but a slow-release or organic fertilizer can be applied if desired. 

The nest of a Yellow Finch in my Cascalote

Occasionally, some Cascalotes have been affected in the springtime by an insect known as a Psyllid which is a tiny insect that sucks on the leaves causing the tree to lose it’s leaves.  Look closely at the leaves and you will see little white dots and shiny honeydew on the leaves.  The best method to take care of this problem is to diagnose it quickly and spray off the leaves with a strong jet of water everyday to help prevent more leaf loss.  For those not opposed to using pesticides, applying a systemic insecticide such as Merit, (available in Bayer Advanced Garden Tree & Shrub Insect Control), will take care of the problem.  If your tree has lost all of it’s leaves, they will grow back, but will require one of the two treatments in order for the tree to retain them and recover.  

I have had Cascalote trees in landscape areas that I managed become infected, but by using one of the two methods above; took care of the problem.  I would not hesitate to continue to use Cascalotes in the landscape because of their overwhelming, positive attributes.

I highly recommend planting this tree in your landscape.  The beauty of it’s leaves, flowers and bark plus it’s ability to thrive in hot, reflected sun makes it an asset in any desert landscape.

Aren’t these shrubs beautiful?

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

Thunder Cloud Sage (Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’)

‘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. 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.

I dedicated an entire post to the unfortunate shaping of many of these beautiful shrubs into ‘cupcakes’, which you can view here Read The Plant Label Or You Might End Up With Cupcakes. I had not planned on creating a similar post, until last weekend when I was driving along, just minding my own business and I saw an entire line of shrubs pruned like this…

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 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?

I have no idea what they were trying to do with these Texas Sage, a sculpture of some sort?  Honestly, when I first saw them, words failed me – I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing and believe me, I have seen a lot of pruning disasters.

 Learn how to prune shrubs the right way

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.

Well, I had seen enough of really awful pruning and was on my way home and I drove down the street and saw this poor shrub:

 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?

So for now, this is the end of horrible pruning examples. If you are tired of seeing beautiful shrubs pruned into unnatural shapes, I invite you to check out my popular online shrub pruning workshop where I will teach you how to maintain flowering shrubs by pruning twice a year or less.