Ocotillo

Beautiful Ocotillo Flowers

There is little that can compare to the dramatic silhouette that Ocotillo add to the landscape.

I have been fascinated by these plants ever since I moved to the desert, over 27 years ago.

Since then, I have planted Ocotillo in landscapes around golf courses and even have one of my own, which was a gift for Mother’s Day years ago.

If you would like to learn more about Ocotillo including the fact that they are actually shrubs and not cactus, like many people assume – please check out my latest article for Houzz.com

 

Architecture, interior design, and more ∨

Hire residential landscape architects to help with all aspects of landscape design, from selecting or designing garden furniture, to siting a detached garage or pergola.
As you get ready to host an event, be sure you have enough dining benches and dishes for dinner guests, as well as enough bakeware and kitchen knives sets for food preparation.

**I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and that your refrigerator is filled with delicious leftovers 🙂

Now on to Christmas, my FAVORITE time of year!  

Two Iconic Sonoran Desert Plants: Saguaro and Ocotillo

Today is a very busy day for me…much to busy to even step out into the garden.

Happy Thanksgiving Treat

But, all my plants are happy – especially since the drenching rain they received over the weekend.

Every year, Thanksgiving is usually held at my house and I can often be seen this time of year running around, trying not to stress about how nice the tables look, whether or not I need to polish the silverware since it only comes out once a year.

Of course all that keeps me busy in addition to the cooking.

However, yesterday something happened that put a wrench into our Thanksgiving plans…my son got sick.  He has a ‘croupy’ sounding cough.  The doctor said that it isn’t croup because he just had his shots 6 weeks ago.  But, he is contagious.

So, we are having our Thanksgiving meal at my oldest daughter’s house.  Of course, I will still be making everything at our house and then driving it over to her house just 5 minutes away.

You would think that my son’s illness would stress me even more.  But, other then a horrible cough and scratchy throat – he is okay.  AND now I don’t have to clean my house, polish the silverware or set out my special dishes.

All I need to do is cook 🙂

In our family we do a potluck for Thanksgiving where each family brings something.  My mother-in-law makes delicious stuffing.  My sister-in-law brings her green bean casserole and my daughter braves the crowds at Costco for their famous pumpkin pies.

I am in charge of the turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls and making pumpkin bread.

pumpkin bread

Now this is no ordinary pumpkin bread.  It is quite seriously the best that I have ever had.

The recipe came from my pre-school’s cookbook – so it is old, like me 😉

This pumpkin bread has made its appearance every year at Thanksgiving and sometimes at Christmas.   I make 6 small loaves of it.

I can’t tell you how often I am asked for the recipe.  It is very easy to make.

So, because you are such wonderful people for taking a little time out of your day to read what I have to say, I am going to share with you this special recipe…

“The Best Pumpkin Bread You’ve Ever Tasted”

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

I wish for you all a very special Thanksgiving!

My Fall Garden

My Fall Garden

A few days ago, I received an unexpected gift.  This gift was a morning where I had no appointments, I didn’t have to babysit my granddaughter, the kids were in school and I was caught up with all of my garden writing.

So, what should I do with this gift of time?

I spent it in my garden, taking pictures of the plants that make me happy right now.

I’d love to share my favorites with you if you have a few minutes of time…

Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana)

Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana)

One of my favorite plants growing in my gardens is Pink Trumpet Vine.  It stands at the corner of one of my vegetable gardens.  It is in full bloom right now as you can see.  Gorgeous pink flowers appear in spring and fall.

It can grow as a vine, with support, or as an open, sprawling shrub, which is how I like to grow it.

Pink Trumpet Vine does suffer frost damage and has even been killed to the ground in winter, but quickly grows back.  It is hardy to zone 7.

Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco)

Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco)

Bright-yellow flower spikes cover my Cascalote tree in fall.  I love this small tree for so many reasons.

It is slow-growing, so there is not a lot of pruning required.  I love the round leaves that stay on the tree all year unless we get a cold spell of temps in the low 20’s.

Best of all, are the yellow flowers that appear in fall when most plants are beginning to slow down.

*Cascalote are very thorny and I personally think that the thorns are very cool-looking as long as you don’t get pricked.  There is a new variety called ‘Smoothie’ that is thornless.

Queen's Wreath Vine (Antigonon leptopus)

Queen’s Wreath Vine (Antigonon leptopus)

Despite my best attempts, my Queen’s Wreath Vine insists on growing up the trunk of my Cascalote tree instead of up on the nearby garden wall.

But, I love this vine no matter where it chooses to grow.  It has heart-shaped leaves and stunning pink flowers that appear in summer and fall.

This is a tough vine that can handle reflected heat and does not need support to grow upward.  In winter, it will die back to the ground, but grows back in spring.  Hardy to 20 degrees F, or zone 9 gardens.

Gold Lantana

Gold Lantana

I know that Lantana can seem like a rather boring plant to some – but I wouldn’t write it off, if I where you.

Lantana is not fussy and it’s hard to find a plant that will bloom more throughout the warm months of the year.  I have it growing up along my front entry and I really like how it looks.

Maintenance is simple – prune back to 6 inches once the danger of frost is over (early March in my garden), removing all frost damage. Lightly prune back by 1/2 in August and that is all you need.

Lantana are frost-tender and hardy to 10 degrees (zone 7).

My Fall Garden

My Fall Garden

My side garden is filled with another vegetable garden, apple and peach trees, blackberry shrubs and herbs.

Because I do not like looking out at bare walls, I have Pink Trumpet Vine, Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans), ‘Summertime Blue’ (Eremophila x ‘Summertime Blue’) and Pink Emu Bush (Eremophila laanii) planted along the wall.

These large shrubs are pruned once a year and that is all they need because I have given them enough room to stretch out.  

While these flowering shrubs make my bare wall disappear, they also benefit my edible garden in the side yard.  First, they help absorb the heat that the walls re-radiate out, keeping temperatures down.  Secondly, they also attract pollinators which pollinate my vegetables, fruit trees and blackberries.

Hummingbirds and other feathered visitors like to take shelter in their branches and I get to watch from my kitchen window.

My Fall Garden

My Fall Garden

In this garden, the vegetables are still rather small. But there is a collection of broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots and Swiss chard.

My Fall Garden

An newly-planted artichoke is growing nicely next to some young carrot seedlings.  This vegetable doesn’t just produce delicious artichokes – they are also quite ornamental.

My Fall Garden

Just one month after sowing radish seeds, I am harvesting radishes already.  

Mexican Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)

In the corner of my vegetable garden is a Mexican Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) that I grew from seed.

What's Happening In My Fall Garden...

They are irresistible to butterflies and bees like them too 🙂

What's Happening In My Fall Garden...

I have a rusty watering can that I just love.  Every fall I fill it with flowering annuals that will last through spring.

I poked drainage holes in the bottom of the can and put a drip emitter next to the flowers.  Once temperatures heat up into the 90’s, it gets too hot for the roots to survive in the pot, so it sits empty during the summer.  But even empty, it adds a touch of whimsy to my garden.

What's Happening In My Fall Garden...

In front of my vegetable garden sits my herb container garden.  Chives, parsley, sage and thyme are growing nicely.  I like to throw in some petunias for additional color.

peach tree

This young peach tree was planted back in January and is doing very well.  

That little plant next to it is a volunteer basil plant.   It will die once our first frost appears, so I will harvest it soon.

What's Happening In My Fall Garden...

In front of my other edible gardens sit three brightly-colored pots filled with an assortment of flowers and edible plants.

This one is filled with a jalapeño pepper plant, garlic, ornamental kale and cabbage, bacopa, petunias, violas and red nasturtiums. 

What's Happening In My Fall Garden...

Along the back is a small trellis that has sugar snap  peas growing on it.  They are just beginning to flower.

What's Happening In My Fall Garden...

This is my daughter, Ruthie’s, vegetable garden.  She has leaf lettuce, strawberries, carrots and garlic growing in her garden.

What's Happening In My Fall Garden...

This is my youngest daughter, Gracie’s, garden which has celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, malabar spinach and radishes growing in it.

*One of my fondest childhood memories was of my dad giving me a raised garden in the backyard of our Southern California home.  I was allowed to grow whatever I wanted, which was usually vegetables, violas and cosmos.

 my fall garden

Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day, allowing me to share my favorites in my fall garden.

What is growing in your garden right now?

A few weeks ago, I introduced a new feature called “AZ Plant Lady Drive By”, where I show a photo of a landscape that I have driven by that has something wrong.

My goal is to help you avoid making the same mistake in your own landscape.

The response to my last one was overwhelming, so here is a new one for you to see if you can tell what is wrong.

Are you ready?

wrong with the landscape

As you can see, the landscape is well maintained.  But, there is one problem.

Leave a comment, with your guess about what is wrong with this landscape and I will post the answer in my next post.

I don’t have a favorite tree….I actually have quite a few favorites.  But, if I had to pick one that I like most of all, it would be the ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde (Parkinsonia x ‘Desert Museum’).

Palo Verde tree

This Palo Verde is natural hybrid, resulting from 3 other Palo Verde tree species – Mexican Palo Verde (Parkinsonia mexicans), Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida) and Little Leaf Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla) trees.

I have grown this tree in commercial settings as well as in my own landscape with great results.

Palo Verde tree

They grow quickly, are thornless, and flower over a longer period of time then other Palo Verde species.

‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verdes do great in full sun and areas with reflected heat such as a parking lot or in a west-facing exposure.

A Palo Verde Tree That Rises Above the Rest

I love how beautiful flowers in spring, when they bloom.  I also think they are pretty when they blanket the ground.

If you are somewhat of a neat and tidy gardener, then you may not enjoy the flowering season as much as I do.

Don’t waste your money on a large-size tree.  Because they grow fairly quickly, a 15-gallon is a good size to start out with.  Once planted in the ground, a 15-gallon will grow more quickly then a larger-size container.  The reason is that smaller trees are younger and handle transplant stress better.  So save yourself money and go with the smaller tree.

Want to learn more about this fabulous tree?

Check out my latest plant profile on Houzz.com

 

 

 

Remodeling, decorating, and more ∨

 

Hire a decorator to find that sofas and a coffeetable for your living room.
As you revamp your house, browse photos for inspiration on everything from fireplace mantels to crown molding and wainscoting.

 
 
 
 

My Desert Museum Palo Verde and an Unfortunate Event

Earlier this week, we were at my mother’s house for our traditional Tuesday night dinner.  I love having one night off a week from making dinner and it is nice to hang out with my siblings and their families, who also come. However, as I entered the house, I saw my mother’s beautiful fall display on her dining room table…

beautiful fall display

It is pretty, isn’t it?

Many of the gourds she grew herself and I like how she placed bare branches in mason jars.

Now, while I was admiring her display, I realized that I haven’t done anything to get ready for fall in my house, not to mention my garden.

So, this weekend, I will add a few bags of manure and compost to my vegetable gardens along with a sprinkling of bone and blood meal. Hopefully, I will be planting seeds and transplants soon – I promise to let you know what I plant.

In the meantime, I will gather my younger kids together and pull out our Fall / Halloween decorations (if I can just remember where I stored them 😉

When will you plant your fall garden and do you decorate your home for fall?

Great Small Shrub for Fall: Autumn Sage

Have you ever been on television before?

I hadn’t until 2 weeks ago.  To be frank, the idea was a bit scary to me.  

Do you remember way back, when you were in school and had to present a report in front of the entire class?  That is what I imagined it would feel like – except worse.

I have done work before cameras doing how-to videos, but it wasn’t quite the same since they can retake the video every time you mess up. 

This was going to be live TV…

So, how did this all come about?  I assure that I don’t have an agent looking to book TV shows for me 😉

The producer of our local ABC television station contacted me about appearing on their morning show, called Sonoran Living (we live in the Sonoran desert, hence the name).

She asked me to do a segment on plants for fall.

favorite 'fuss-free' plants

So, I came up with a list of a few of my favorite ‘fuss-free’ plants and headed out the nursery.

I visited 3 different nurseries to see which ones had the best looking plants.  Then I waited until 2 days before my appearance to pick them up.

You know what true love is?  It is when your husband traipses through the nursery with you without an umbrella in the pouring rain 🙂

Sonoran Living

It was so rainy for the next couple of days that I kept the plants on my patio and took some time to do a little ‘window dressing’ pruning away dead flowers and branches so that they would look their best.

My youngest sister, Grace, volunteered to come with me to the studio and help me set up for my segment.  So, I loaded up the plants and my little cart and we headed out to downtown Phoenix and the television studio.

When we arrived, the security guard let us in and showed us the studio and then led us to the green room.

Sonoran Living

Sonoran Living

I did walk through the studio before anyone got there, to see what it looked like because I knew I wouldn’t see it again since my segment was to be filmed out on their patio.

Sonoran Living

Sonoran Living

 My sister, who is a professional photographer, told me to pose up front where the hosts of the show come out every morning.

Sonoran Living

We headed to the green room where we saw the order of the upcoming segments.

I must admit that I was both more nervous and yet relieved that mine was to go first, so that I could get it over with more quickly.

Sonoran Living

Sonoran Living

We were led outside to the patio, which had a golfing green.  I’m not sure why there was a green – maybe the news anchors like to golf during their breaks?

Another reason I was so glad my sister came with me was that in addition to moral support, she is great at staging.  So she did the plant placement for me along with some of the props that I brought.

Sonoran Living

She will tell you that she has no particular talent in staging, but she is wrong!  Just look at how well the plants look together.

Sonoran Living

I brought gardening tools and my leather gloves because I was told to bring props.

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) and Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera).

I posed for a few pictures while waiting.  The plants next to me are Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) and Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera).

It was so humid that morning because of all the rain, that my carefully curled hair was rapidly becoming UN-curled 😉

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) and Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera).

I was told to prepare for a ‘teaser’ before my segment, so I tried to look busy putting a plant marker in my pot of chives.

One of the hosts (Terri Ouellette) of Sonoran Living came out early to meet me and go over what I was going to talk about.  She was very nice and I told her that I had been watching her on TV since the 90’s.

It was almost time to go and they wired me up with a mike and they put a monitor outside so we could see what the television audience saw.  

Instead of beginning the show inside the studio, they started it outside and then it was time for my segment.

The segment went smoothly and while my nerves showed a little, I actually enjoyed it.  I did mess up by saying “All of these shrubs need pruning one year”, when I meant to say that they need pruning once a year.

After it was over and the commercial was running, our host Terri said that she wanted me on again – so I guess I didn’t mess it up too badly.

Sonoran Living

Before we left, my sister asked if she could take a picture of me with the host.  I was too embarrassed to ask myself, so I was glad she did 🙂

So, would I do this again?

I received an email the day after from the producer saying that she wanted me back in 3 months.  I’d told her that I’d be happy too.

I think that I will enjoy it more next time and have fewer nerves.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the video, here is the link – “Ready? Fuss Free Plants for Fall”.

Bougainvillea

**Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link of a product that I use in my garden and I recommend to those who are experiencing similar problems.

A week ago, I was called to see one of my regular clients to see how her landscape was progressing since she had installed a lot of new plants at the beginning of summer.

The majority of her plants looked great considering she had planted them at a particularly tough time of the year.

BUT, what caught my attention was her bougainvillea shrub.

Bougainvillea

The leaves were quite ragged and looked like something had been chewing them.

In addition, there were some small black droppings scattered among the leaves.

The diagnosis was relatively simple…

The culprit was bougainvillea looper caterpillars.

Now, you rarely ever see the caterpillar itself.  It is rather small and looks like a yellow-green to brown colored inch-worm.

The signs are ragged leaves that appear to have been chewed along with the black droppings.

My bougainvillea growing in the back garden.  I haven't seen any signs of caterpillar damage yet.

My bougainvillea growing in the back garden.  I haven’t seen any signs of caterpillar damage yet.

If you see similar damage to your Bougainvillea, don’t panic.  Most Bougainvillea can handle the damage from the chewed leaves.

However, if your Bougainvillea is young, or if the infestation is severe, you can help to get rid of the caterpillars by spraying your bougainvillea with a product containing BT (bacillus thuringiensis), which is an organic pesticide.  I use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz in my own garden.

In the case of my client’s bougainvillea, I told her that the damage was not severe enough to warrant any treatment.

Some of you may see similar damage to your yellow bells or orange jubilee shrubs, which I wrote about in a previous post, “Oh No, What’s Happened to My Shrubs”.

**In the future, I will be sharing some gardening problems or design challenges that I encounter during some of my consults and their solutions.

My hope is that they can help you in your own landscape 🙂

**********************

I hope you have a great weekend.  We will be celebrating my 3-year old twin nephews birthday at our house tomorrow morning.  I’ll may post a picture or two next week from the party.

My daughter, Rachele, is doing well after the first week of her combat training in Mississippi.  But, she did share some funny stories that I will share with you next week too!

Do you like mint?  I love using it in my iced tea.

I have a beautiful apple mint growing in my garden, but winter is not its best season.  Because I want to enjoy fresh mint in the winter, I decided to freeze some mint leaves in ice cubes.

Fresh Mint

My granddaughter, Lily helped me pick some mint from the garden.

Fresh Mint

Preserving mint is easy to do and I have enough to last me through the winter, ready for my favorite beverage.

To learn how to preserve mint, check out my latest blog post for Birds & Blooms – “Preserve the Taste of Summer With Mint Ice Cubes”.

Yesterday, in my latest “Landscape No-No” post, I asked you if you could figure out what was wrong with this landscape that I drove by earlier this summer.

What's Wrong With This Landscape? - And The Answer Is...

I had some great guesses.

Here are a few of my favorites…

“The grasses are planted too closely together.”

“There are too many similarly-shaped plants.”

AND

“The large Pine tree is too large for this landscape and planted too closely to the wall where its can fall or its roots can cause damage.”

Well, they are all great answers and are correct.  BUT, there is something else wrong with this landscape, which no one noticed.

Look closely at the two photos below…

Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum')

Above, is Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’).  

It is a beautiful ornamental grass and is fine for this landscape.

BUT, notice the ornamental grass to the right with the cream-colored plumes.

Here is a closer view…

Fountain Grass

This grass is also called Fountain Grass, just without the ‘Purple’.

The problem with regular Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum), is that while attractive – it is considered an invasive plant in many areas including the southern half of the United States and Hawaii.

Native to Africa and the Middle East, it spreads easily and is overtaking areas of the desert, outcompeting the native plants and grasses.

The reason that it’s a problem here is that it was widely planted in the mid 20th century.  Unfortunately, that was before people knew it would become a problem.

In this landscape, the homeowners were probably thinking that they were planting the same type of grass as the Purple Fountain Grass (which is not invasive).

SO WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Well, removal is necessary and requires someone with a strong back to take it out.

A great alternative to Fountain Grass that looks even better is called ‘Gulf Muhly’ or ‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’).

Fountain Grass

It starts out green in spring and summer…

Fountain Grass

As fall approaches, burgundy-colored plumes begin to appear…

Fountain Grass
Fountain Grass

Once winter arrives, the plumes fade to an attractive wheat-color…

Fountain Grass

Maintenance is very easy – simply prune back to 6 inches in late winter/early spring.

**For more information on Fountain Grass, including on where it is found and how to manage it, click here.

I promise to show additional “Landscape No-No’s” and how to deal with them in the future.