To be honest, I have never wondered why before, until I met a desert tortoise who wanted to cross a road.

desert tortoise

Desert Tortoise, Stock Photo

My encounter with a desert tortoise occurred while I was on my way home in the late afternoon and I was traveling from a rather isolated community in the desert.  


I had just turned onto a two lane road when I noticed something starting to walk into the road ahead.  I slowed down and as I got closer I saw that it was a tortoise.

Well, there were several cars behind me who could not see the tortoise.  At the rate he was traveling, he was not going to survive to make it to the other side.  So, I stopped my car, put on my emergency blinker lights, and got out, lifted him up and carried him to the other side.  

On my way back to my car, I was rewarded by the smiles of those stuck in their cars behind mine once they saw why I had stopped.

So, why did the tortoise cross the road?  I still wonder why to this day….

Do you ever wonder why some plants go through what I like to call the “Ugly Stage” of winter when they are covered with frost-damaged growth, while the exact same plant(s), located close by do not?ย  Is their any possible way to avoid this “ugly stage” besides covering your plants during freezing nights?ย ย 

frost damaged

My frost-damaged Bougainvillea.  Not too pretty, is it?
It can be cumbersome to cover your plants each night when freezing temperatures are forecast…you have to pay attention to the forecast, rush out in the freezing cold to cover them and hope you have enough old sheets and towels to do the job….or rush to the nursery to buy frost cloth.  And, if you forget to do it for one night, all your hard work the previous nights, was for nothing…

Luckily, there are some easy solutions you can implement in order to avoid this “ugly stage”.

frost damaged

Isn’t it amazing that there is beauty in dead leaves?

Bougainvillea grow very well in the desert, but will suffer from frost damage in the winter months.  Now, I am okay with that….Bougainvillea look beautiful 9 months out of the year and I ignore them for the other 3.  I thought this was just the way things were, until I was driving down a residential street about 10 years ago and saw a beautiful Pink Bougainvillea surrounded by frost damaged ones.  What was so different about this one I wondered?  Well, it was obvious as I looked at it’s surroundings.  This particular Bougainvillea was located underneath the canopy of a Mesquite tree, which protected it from the cold.

frost damaged

This is what my protected Bougainvillea looks like.  The canopy of my Palo Verde tree provides protection from frost damage.

How simple the solution was, I thought.  So, I decided to put this into practice whenever I designed landscapes, including my own.  I would place frost-susceptible plants under trees and underneath the eaves of a house where they would be protected from freezing temperatures.  I would use trees that provided light, filtered shade such as Palo Verde and Mesquite, because many plants will not bloom under heavy shade trees.

frost damaged

This Bougainvillea enjoys protection from the eaves of the house.

frost damaged

Frost damaged Lantana

The same holds true for Lantana.  Out in the open, Lantana does get damaged by the frost.  However, by placing them under the eaves or underneath a tree, they usually escape frost damage.

Lantana

I designed this area and had the Lantana placed underneath the overhanging eaves of this building.  This photo was taken in January.

So, if you love Bougainvillea, Lantana or other frost-susceptible plants but have avoided using them because you can’t stand their “ugly stage” in the winter – there is hope!  Try planting them underneath the protection of a tree or under the eaves of your home and enjoy year-round green leaves and beautiful flowers.  Or just accept that they will go through their annual 3 month “ugly stage” and focus instead on your winter-flowering plants instead ๐Ÿ˜‰ As this year ends and a new one begins, I would like to thank those of you who have taken the time to read what I write and have left comments as well.  

I wish for all of you a very 
Happy New Year.

favorite flowers

Favorite flowers, 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.

favorite flowers

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.

favorite flowers

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.ย  I have enjoyed living vicariously through many of you who have posted pictures of your beautiful snowy wonderlands.ย ย  So, unlike many of you, I do not have any beautiful photos of snowy landscapes to share.ย  But I do offer the following pictures of my world, taken by my husband who is an amateur photographer.

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.

amateur photographer

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.  

amateur photographer

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.

Grand Canyon

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….

I Have a Confession To Makeโ€ฆ

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

beautiful day

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.

beautiful day

Stolk

Flowering in my children’s pool garden.See

earlier post about planting this garden.

beautiful day

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)

This bright perennial will bloom all year.

This particular flower is from my neighbor’s garden.

beautiful day

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

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

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.

yellow rose

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….

Purple Violas

My Purple Violas are blooming beautifully.

Goodding's Verbena

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

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

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

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…..

โ€ฆ you rejoice when it rains!

rainy weather

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.

rainy weather

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.

rainy weather

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

rainy weather

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.

Chinese dragons

Chinese dragons

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.

Chinese dragons

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.

Chinese dragons

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.

Chinese dragons

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

Chinese dragons

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 ;^)

Chinese dragons

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

Chinese dragons

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.

Chinese dragons

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

Beautiful Banyan trees

Beautiful Banyan trees just a block from our hotel.

Beautiful Banyan trees

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….

medium sized tree

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.

medium sized tree

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. 

medium sized tree

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.

Cascalote

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.

Cascalote

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. 

Cascalote

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.