Drive through any Southwest neighborhood and you are highly likely to see cacti growing alongside shrubs and groundcovers.  

I must admit that I don’t have a lot of cactus in my own landscape – there are three to be exact.  But, the few that I have, I find myself particularly attached to.

Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus) , Cactus Cutting

This is my Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus), which I brought home as a single cactus cutting over 10 years ago.  As you can see, it has grown a lot since then, growing taller and producing new stems.

Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus)

Three years ago, we took a cutting from this cactus and gave it to our friends and neighbors, who live kitty-corner from our house.  

Newly planted - March 2013 , Cactus Cutting

Newly planted – March 2013.

Every since then, I’ve kept my eye on this newly planted cactus watching with interest as it grew.

Cactus Cutting ,  November 2013

November 2013

Eight months later, two new stems began to emerge.  You can see the parent cactus in our yard in the background.

Cactus Cutting , March 2014

March 2014

A year later, the new stems were becoming more noticeable.

Cactus Cutting , March 2015 - 2 years later

March 2015 – 2 years later

I was surprised at how quickly it grew.

Three years after planting.

Three years after planting.

Today, as I was driving home, I noticed a new little stem beginning to emerge.  

Many different types of cacti can be planted from cuttings and it has been so much fun watching this one go from a single ‘spear’ to one with multiple stems.  

Have you ever planted a cactus cutting?  If so, what kind and how did it grow for you?

Click here, to read how to plant a cactus cutting.

Do you have pieces of garden art in your outdoor space? I have a few pieces and am always on the lookout for unique examples of artwork to use in my garden.

The past few weeks, I saw some great examples while out and about that I would love to share with you.

Unique Garden Art

Unique Garden Art

You may have seen the popularity of large clocks being displayed indoors, but I would love this one hanging on my outdoor patio.

The clock face was made out of plywood, painted and textured with antique garden tools arranged around it.

Unique Garden Art

Who knew that old horseshoes could be used to make barrel cactus?

I must confess that at first, I didn’t know that these were made from horseshoes at first glance – but, I would certainly love one in my garden.

Unique Garden Art

Javelina may be the bane of many southwestern residents when they come and eat their plants.

However, I think that some people wouldn’t mind having this one hanging around.

Can you tell what it is made out of ?

An old palm tree root!

The roots were used to mimic the rough coat of a javelina.

Unique Garden Art

Lastly, rusted metal art is all the rage and you can find it in the shape of plants and animals.

I did love this group of jackrabbits and could just picture one sitting underneath my palo verde tree.

How about you?

Do you have any unique pieces of garden art? 

A Unique Nursery Nestled Under a Huge Tree

Do you have a plant that you have wanted to add to your garden?  

I have wanted a certain cactus for my own landscape for a long time and earlier this week, I found myself bringing a cutting of my favorite cactus finally home.

A New Cactus Cutting Finds a Home

I was so excited that instead of putting it in the back of my car, I strapped it into the front seat for the ride home – I don’t recommend doing it that way for a cactus with thorns ๐Ÿ™‚

In my work as a horticulturist, I have been fortunate to have picked up cuttings of certain cacti. Often, the cuttings result from pruning and it’s not unusual to see some left at the curb for trash pick up.

While I have planted a purple prickly cactus and a Mexican fence post from cuttings, I was still missing my favorite cacti in my garden.

'Monstrosus' (Lophocereus schottii 'Monstrosus')

I have often used totem pole cactus ‘Monstrosus’ (Lophocereus schottii ‘Monstrosus’) in my designs. I love its knobby shape and the fact that it is thornless.

What I don’t like about them is their price – a 1 1/2 ft. section can cost up to $40.

So you can imagine my reaction when I was visiting a client and came up upon this sight…

different types of cacti cuttings

Seeing so many different types of cacti cuttings, just ready for planting, made me almost hyperventilate.

There were beautiful cacti available – Agave americana ‘Variegata’, a unique species of prickly pear, Cereus peruvianus AND my favorite – Lophocereus shottii ‘Monstrosus’.

My client had received these cuttings from her next door neighbor who had just pruned back some of her cacti. It turned out the neighbor had a beautiful garden that has been featured in several magazines, including Phoenix Home & Garden.

I explained to my client where she could use the cuttings and explained the benefits of each one. When I mentioned that the Lophocereus was my favorite type of cacti, she offered to give me one.

Despite my desire for this type of cacti, I was hesitant to accept, but my client was insistent.

So, I picked out the smallest one and drove home.

New Cactus Cutting

On my way home, I thought about where I wanted to put my new cactus.

I finally decided on putting it in my front landscape in the large area to the side of the driveway.

Planting cactus cuttings

Planting cactus cuttings is extremely easy and the hole doesn’t have to be big.

Planting cactus cuttings

We planted my new cactus cutting so that the bottom 6 inches were buried.

Taking cuttings from cacti of all types is a fairly simple process, there are some guidelines that you need to follow.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about giving a cutting from our Mexican fence post cactus to our neighbor with step-by-step instructions that you can see here.

Our neighbor’s cactus has been in the ground for 2 years now and is growing so well – it’s formed two new ‘arms’.

I can hardly wait to see how my newest cactus grows!

How about you? Have you ever given or planted a cactus cutting?

Did you know that one of the great things about living in the Southwest is the fact that we aren’t limited to just growing flowering annuals in our pots – succulents make great alternative container plants!

Last year, I replaced all of my flowering plants with succulents and I haven’t looked back.  They look great and take very minimal care, which fits into my busy life perfectly.

Recently, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and saw some great examples of potted succulents, which I thought I’d share with you…

Succulents in pot, Victoria Agave 'Compacta'

Succulents in pot, Victoria Agave ‘Compacta’

Succulents in pot, Agave parryi 'truncata'

Succulents in pot, Agave parryi ‘truncata’

Succulents in pot, Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus)

Succulents in pot, Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus)

A trio of variegated agave

A trio of variegated agave

Succulents in pot, 'Blue Elf' Aloe

Succulents in pot, ‘Blue Elf’ Aloe

As you can see, there are so many options when you decide to use succulents in containers.

Whether you live near the Desert Botanical Garden or even if you don’t – you can visit your local botanical garden for some alternative ideas for filling your containers.

Growing succulents in pot is easy – the most important thing is that they are well-drained, so it’s important to use a planting mix specially formulated for succulents.

Do you have any succulents growing in pots?

*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.

Have you ever made a discovery that was literally under your nose?  

I did.

Earlier this month, I embarked on a tour of low-water gardens that displayed sustainable design throughout the greater Phoenix area.  

The earlier parts of our tour showed examples of water harvesting using cisterns along with man-made arroyos.  Then we viewed a creative example of sustainable design for a beautiful parking lot that needed no supplemental water and little to no maintenance.

I mentioned last week that I had saved the best for last and I can’t wait to share with you this jewel in the midst of a desert city.

sustainable gardens

The last stop on our tour of low-water and sustainable gardens was the Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden.

The garden is just over 5 acres and sits hidden from the street next to Chaparral Park in central Scottsdale.

Over 200 different types of plants are used throughout the garden, all of which are drought-tolerant and well-adapted to our hot, dry climate.

My friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, came with me to this beautiful garden (you can see her at the top of the terraced planters).

My friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, came with me to this beautiful garden (you can see her at the top of the terraced planters).

One of my favorite parts of the garden included this innovative design, called the ‘Terraced Cascade’ which creates the appearance of water traveling down between terraced planters filled with Palo Blanco trees (Acacia willardiana) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata).  

sustainable gardens

 Water does flow down discretely hidden steps between the terraces during times of heavy rainfall toward the water harvest basin where it waters existing plants before flowing underground toward the nearby lake.

sustainable gardens

Raised planters were filled with flowering Ocotillo  as well as Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides).

Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) in the foreground and Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlanderi) growing against the Ocotillo

Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) in the foreground and Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlanderi) growing against the Ocotillo.

I must admit that I was surprised to find this garden in an area that I used to spend a lot of time in.

Years ago, before the garden existed, my husband and I would take evening walks around the nearby lake with our daughter.  Believe it or not, before there was a garden, there used to be a miniature golf course in this location. 

sustainable gardens

I love stone walls and would have some in my own garden, if I could afford them.  The stone walls were capped with flagstone and had rows of round stones, which added an unexpected touch of texture.  

sustainable gardens

From our vantage point, we could see to the other side of the garden where a tall, dead tree stood.  Trees like this are called a ‘snag’, which is a dead or dying tree.  This tree provides a home for hawks, which help keep the rabbit population down. 

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Gabion walls were used along pathways to created terraces to help slow down storm water in order to reduce flooding while watering the plants.

The demonstration garden is located next to a water treatment plant and part of the garden sits on top of a reservoir that contains 5.5 million gallons of treated water.

Deer Grass in the foreground

Deer Grass in the foreground.

One of the things that I enjoy about demonstration gardens is that they ‘demonstrate’ different gardening methods as well as showcasing plants.

In this case, I was impressed with the collection of plant species used, which aren’t typically seen in residential or commercial landscapes, which is a shame.

sustainable gardens

As we walked down the main path, we came upon a man-made, mesquite ‘bosque’.  The word ‘bosque’ is used to refer to stands of trees nearby rivers or washes throughout the southwestern United States.  Usually, you’ll find these bosques made up of mesquite trees.

This bosque was planted with Honey Mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa), which is simply stunning in spring when it’s bright-green leaves reappear.  A warning though – it has thorns.

Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox) trees and gabion walls line the main walkway

Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox) trees and gabion walls line the main walkway.

Plants are maintained just the way I like them – no shearing or over-pruning.  

Gold Mound Lantana, Orange Bush Lantana and Pink & White Globe Mallow

Gold Mound Lantana, Orange Bush Lantana and Pink & White Globe Mallow.

The main pathway parallels the local dog park.

mesquite trees

There is little that can compare to the beauty of the  new spring leaves of mesquite trees.  I love how the coral-colored variety of Bougainvillea and the yellow flowers of Aloe Vera look like brightly-colored jewels along with the leaves of the mesquite.

sustainable gardens

Nearing the end of the trail, I couldn’t help but marvel at this beautiful garden and its creative design.

Throughout the garden were educational signs talking about a myriad of gardening subjects that were clearly illustrated by the garden itself including planning and design, plant care and desert habitat.

sustainable gardens

A large cistern was located on one end of the trail, which was filled with the average amount of water that a household uses in 1 week.

Around the outer border of the cistern is an American Indian saying that says:

“THE FROG DOES NOT DRINK UP THE POND IN WHICH HE LIVES”

Those are words that all of us who live in the dry, southwest should all ponder…

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

The Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is located at Hayden and McDonald Roads in Scottsdale.  It is open from sunrise to 10:30 at night.

I hope you have enjoyed these posts of our tour of sustainable, southwestern landscapes in the greater Phoenix area.

Pam and I drove about 170 miles in one day and we weren’t able to see all of the great examples of sustainable landscaping.  However, if you are interested in seeing examples of sustainable gardening, then I would recommend starting at the Desert Botanical Garden, which is filled with arid-adapted plants that thrive in our climate with minimal water and fuss.

If you haven’t visited Pam’s blog, Digging, I encourage you to do so.  Many of the plants that she grows in Austin do well in our climate too.  Did I also mention that she is an author?  She has a fabulous book called Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard, which I highly recommend.

giant Saguaro

Saguaros can be affected by high winds and heavy rain just as trees are.  During windy weather, I love to observe saguaros swaying gently in the breeze.  In the summertime in Arizona, we have a monsoon season.  The word “monsoon” means “wind shift” or “season”.  This shift in the wind brings warm, moist air from Mexico which causes brief, intense storms.  Heavy rain, lightning, and high winds are a common occurrence during this time.  Sadly, this saguaro, (above), did not survive the latest monsoon storm of that summer.

giant Saguaro

This large giant fell in a landscape area in the community where I worked as a horticulturist.  This was one of my favorite saguaro cacti.  There had been a few consecutive days of heavy rain and wind, which caused this beautiful saguaro to fall.

*To get an idea of how large this saguaro was, the man walking in front of it is over 6 ft. tall.

There were two other casualties besides the saguaro cactus itself.  As many of you may know, some types of birds make their homes in saguaros.  This particular saguaro was home to a Cactus Wren and her babies. 

giant Saguaro
giant Saguaro

I bet you didn’t know that Saguaro cacti can suffer from weight problems, did you?

Well in my travels through countless neighborhoods, I have seen my fair share of ‘fat’ saguaro cacti.

So, are ‘fat’ saguaro feasting upon too much fast food?  I don’t think so….

Believe it or not, it isn’t totally their fault that they are fat.  The homeowner usually bears some responsibility. 

Weight problem

Weight problem

Here is a great example of a saguaro that needs to be put on a diet.

Seriously, it is quite fat.

Can you see why?

Well, all cacti are specially adapted to take advantage of any nearby water source.  

When it rains, they quickly send out tiny roots that are very close to the surface.  These roots absorb all the water they can and then dry up and die once the ground dries out.

In a landscape setting, the roots will grow towards the nearest water source and keep ‘drinking water’…..usually the water that is irrigating your other plants.

In the photo above, the saguaro is getting quite a bit of water for the citrus tree behind it.

Weight problem

Here is another saguaro that has a weight problem.

It isn’t full of fat…..just too much water.

saguaro

I took this picture of a client’s saguaro that was planted amidst two shrubs that were being irrigated regularly.  You can see that the ‘folds’ are almost non-existent.

Unfortunately, I see this quite often.  To avoid having this happen to you, do not place any irrigated plants near your saguaro.  (I am assuming that you do not water your saguaro).

How far away should irrigated plants be kept away from a saguaro?

Well, a saguaro’s roots extend out roughly the same distance as its height and sometimes twice as far.  So, make sure to place your irrigated plants out at least that far.

So what do you do if you already have a ‘fat’ saguaro?  

Well first off, remove any nearby, irrigated plants and plug up the irrigation emitters.  Then substitute other succulent plants that will require very little water (below).

saguaro

So, are you fortunate enough to have a saguaro in your landscape?

I wish I was….. ๐Ÿ™‚

Death of a Saguaro

Do you remember that song from Sesame Street, where they would show 3 things that were the same and one thing that was different?  Then you had to pick the thing that didn’t belong with the others?

I love watching Sesame Street with my younger sister and I always liked that song.

Well, I decided to borrow the song’s theme and apply it to the 4 pictures below to see if you can tell which one doesn’t belong.

In other words…..you are getting a “pop quiz”.

Are you ready?  Let’s get started….

Okay, which one of these doesn’t belong with the others?

Cardon cacti

#1

Cardon cacti

#2

Cardon cacti

#3

Saguaro cactus

#4

So, could you tell which one doesn’t belong?

Do you want a hint?

They are all cacti, but one is found in Baja Mexico, while the others are found in the Sonoran Desert.

Give up?

#3 doesn’t belong.

Why not?

Well, while it looks an awful lot like a Saguaro cactus (Saguaro carnegiea), it is actually a Cardon cactus (Pachycereus pringlei).

I admit, that it can be awfully hard to tell the difference to the casual observer unless you look carefully.  

Cardon on the left and a Saguaro on the right.

Cardon on the left and a Saguaro on the right.

Cardon cacti are the largest in the world and reach heights up to 70 ft. and can weigh 25 tons.  They are only found in Baja, Mexico and can live up to 300 years.

Cardon arms grow lower down then those of a Saguaro cactus and they do not have as many spines.

Also, if you look carefully, their ‘folds’ are deeper and wider then those of the Saguaro.  The color of the Cardon cactus is also a grayer color of green then the Saguaro.

Cardon cacti are available in cactus nurseries for those who want to grow them.

So next time you see a Saguaro cactus in a landscape setting; look closely, it may not be what you think.

How about you?  Have you ever seen a Cardon cactus before?  

October Crazinessโ€ฆ.Cactus, Spiders, Stormy Weather and a Mixed-up Bird

Whether or not you live in the desert Southwest, most people are familiar with the iconic Saguaro cactus.

Saguaro bacterial necrosis

To be honest, they are even more beautiful and impressive in person.

Unfortunately, like most plants, Saguaro cacti are susceptible to some diseases.  The most prevalent is called ‘Bacterial necrosis’.

So, what are the signs of this disease?

Well at first, it can be a bit hard to spot unless you know what you are looking for.

I was revisiting with a client, helping them fine tune their garden when I took a look at their Saguaro.

Saguaro bacterial necrosis

The first noticeable signs are usually a circular, black lesion.

As the lesion grows, black ‘goo’ starts to leak downward on the Saguaro.

The liquid ‘goo’ has an awful odor, but depending on where the lesion is located, it may be too far to be detected during the early stages.

Saguaro bacterial necrosis is caused by the bacteria called Erwinia cacticida.  It is spread by insects and/or soil. The bacteria enters through cracks or other wounds caused by rodents, insects, freeze damage or mechanical damage.

Saguaro bacterial necrosis

So, what can you do if you have Bacterial necrosis?

The vast majority of cases of Saguaro bacterial necrosis will result in the eventual death of the Saguaro, so treatment is needed.

For lesions that are rather small – (2 to 3 inches in diameter), scoop out the diseased tissue with a sharp knife.  Cut into the healthy tissue as well, to ensure that you have removed all of the disease.  As you cut, make sure the hole slopes downward so that any moisture will drain out easily and not collect on the bottom of the hole.

Then treat the area with a solution made up of a 10% bleach solution.  That is it – let it heal on its own.

Unfortunately, if the infection has advanced further and the lesions are larger with quite a bit of ‘black goo’ then there is a good chance that the disease has progressed to a point that it is not treatable.  Sadly, the only solution is to remove the Saguaro or the affected arm, which will prevent any damage from occurring since the disease weakens the Saguaro, causing it to fall.  Bacterial necrosis can also be spread to neighboring Saguaro via insects as well, so removal is important.

For more information on Bacterial necrosis and how to recognize it and treatment, check out these links….

Saguaro Bacterial

NecrosisBacterial Necrosis of Saguaro

Now, you may think that I am talking about soft, cuddly puppies finding a new home.  But, I am actually talking about my agave pups.  The word ‘pups’ refers to the small agave offsets that sometimes form from the adult agave.

Agave americana surrounded by her 'pups'.

 Agave americana surrounded by her ‘pups’.

Some agave species produce quite a few pups, while other species rarely do.  I do try to stay from agave species like Agave americana because they produce so many pups that it becomes quite a maintenance chore to constantly remove them all.  But that being said, I have many friends and clients who just love this particular agave.

Well, the day finally came in my garden for my agave pups to move away from their childhood home.

Agave americana surrounded by her 'pups'.

Can you see them?  There are 4 in the picture above.  Three are quite small still, but more then ready to leave their mother, my Agave parryi.  I am actually quite excited to be getting pups from this agave because in my experience, they do not produce many pups.  It may be that this one has because it does receive overspray from my lawn sprinklers.

Okay, this may seem obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people just start digging in the middle of their gravel (granite) without clearing it away first.  Believe me…you want to clear it away first or else you will be left with a mixture of rock and soil mixed together.

agave pups

Aren’t they cute in a prickly sort of way?  They really are quite tiny.

agave pups

I carefully removed the soil around the pups, leading to the mother plant because the pups are still attached to her by a thick, fleshy root.  You can see that the pups are beginning to form their own roots, branching out to the side.

Just cut the root connecting the pup to the adult agave….that’s it.  It is really very easy.

Now, this same adult agave also has another pup, which has grown much closer to home then these tiny pups.

agave pups

This one did not want to leave home, even though it was quite grown up.  When the pups are growing right up alongside the adult plant, just insert a shovel and push down firmly, cutting the connecting root.  **Sometimes you have to be a bit forceful in getting some pups to leave home  ๐Ÿ˜‰

agave pups

I was able to harvest 5 pups.  I was so happy and had fun selecting where I wanted to put them in my garden.

Before you plant them, you need to put them in a dry, shady spot for 4 – 7 days so that the cuts have a chance to dry first.  This helps to prevent rot when they are planted.  Don’t worry about them surviving without water for a few days….they have plenty stored inside – they are succulents after all.

Once you have planted them, they will need supplemental water to help them establish and grow roots.  Agave do best when given supplemental water, even when mature.  Most are connected to my drip irrigation system.  The others receive overspray from my sprinklers, which is enough for them.

If you haven’t noticed this before, I am not a perfect gardener and am likely to tell people, “Do as I say, not as I do”.  But, I do not profess to be a perfectionist and so I will show you one of my larger agave, whose pups should have left home long ago…

agave

This is my Smooth Leaf Agave (Agave desmettiana).  I love this type of agave.  It is medium size, and the sides of the leaves do not have thorns.  The thorns on the tips can easily be cut off if desired for a more pedestrian friendly agave.

As you can see from the photo above, the pups are quite large and should have been kicked out long ago.  So, I brought in the muscle (my husband) to help get them out.

Because the pups were growing close to the parent plant, a shovel had to be used to separate them.

agave

Agave desmettiana is known for producing offsets (pups), but in my experience, there are not too many.

Actually, the adult agave below was grown from a pup.

agave

A proud parent and her 8 offspring.  I planted a few and gave some to my mother, Pastor Farmer, of Double S Farms.

There were times when I worked on golf courses that my budget was tight, so I would ask residents to bring their agave pups to me so that we could use them in landscape areas around the courses.  The residents were very generous and after a while, we had more then we knew what to do with.  So, if you have some agave pups, plant one in a pretty container and give to a friend or donate them to your city, church or other organization.

**My son continues to do better each day.  We did have a little bit of a setback on Saturday, but yesterday and today, he is feeling much better.  Thank you again for your support and prayers!