Sometimes, life isn’t fair. Especially when nature hasn’t endowed you with any noticeable outward beauty. What makes it worse is that you are a flower and supposed to be pretty.

 

What makes it worse, is when you are compared to your ‘sister’ who is drop-dead gorgeous. 

 

 

Imagine having to stare at her vibrant colors and exquisite shape all day long?

 

 

It doesn’t matter which angle you use, there is no improving your outward appearance. So you decide to concentrate on inner growth and decide to be the best flower you can be on the inside.

 

 

*When I spotted this forlorn flower next to its spectacular companion, I immediately thought of the story of the ‘ugly stepsisters’ from Cinderella – one who is having a ‘bad hair’ day. 

In actuality, this bedraggled flower used to be a beautiful tropical bird-of-paradise bloom (like its companion), but its lifespan is nearing an end and it will soon be clipped off. 

I hope you enjoyed the floral edition of the ‘Ugly Stepsister’.

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Do you have a container, or two, filled with flowers or maybe a succulent? Chances are you do. Many of us settle for the bland shades of brown or beige when choosing pots and miss out on an excellent opportunity to add interest and color to our outdoor spaces.

I am a strong proponent ditching boring neutrals in favor of colorful pots with unique shapes and textures in my ongoing attempt to encourage people to think of plant containers as outdoor decor. As a result, I was thrilled with I was contacted by Annette Gutierrez, one of the authors of Potted: Make Your Own Stylish Garden Containers and asked to review her book.

Innertube from an old tire converted into a planter at the Tucson Botanical Garden.

Within the pages of Potted, Annette and her co-author, Mary Gray, inspire as they show the reader how to create unique and unusual containers that create instant interest.

During my garden travels, I seek everyday items that are reimagined and converted into unorthodox planters such as a recycled tire innertube. 

Annette and Mary refer to themselves as decorators rather than gardeners and own a store in Los Angeles, aptly named Potted where they create innovative receptacles for plants using everyday items such as cinderblock, PVC pipe, and even old wood doors to name but a few. 

If you have ever shopped for colorful or unique containers, you’ve undoubtedly experienced sticker shock at the high prices and settled for a boring, but sturdy terra-cotta pot. Over twenty container ideas await the reader, each of which, meet the following criteria:

  • It must be affordable
  • Materials must be easy to find
  • A good DIY project for the average person

I must admit that after finishing the book, I was looking at ordinary items like paint cans and plastic garbage pails in a different light – decorated and filled with plants.

**UPDATE: The giveaway is over, but you can always order your own copy of Potted.

Disclosure: I received a copy of ‘Potted’ free of charge for my honest review.

Do you grow garlic in your garden? If so, you know that it takes a long time to grow with planting in October and harvesting it in May.  During the long growing period, the leafy green tops of the garlic plant are all that is visible while the garlic bulb is growing below ground.

But, did you know that the garlic greens can be used in some of your favorite dishes? Here is how I use them…

It’s always fun to find new ways to enjoy the vegetables in your garden. Have you ever tried garlic greens or other non-traditional parts of vegetables?

For tips on how to grow your own garlic, click here.

Friendship Sage (Salvia ‘Amistad’)

Talk to most homeowners about what they want in their garden and they will usually reply “color”.  I am no different and when I was given the opportunity to try out two new plants, courtesy of the folks at Monrovia, I jumped at the chance to showcase more examples of their plants, which are available at Lowe’s or at your local garden center.

I would like to share with you two plants that will add a pop of color to your garden.

The first is Friendship Sage (Salvia ‘Amistad’). Recent visitors to my garden couldn’t take their eyes off of the vibrant purple flowers and the lush green foliage of this new plant.

This particular salvia does best in filtered shade and should be kept away from full sun, especially in hot, inland areas.  Hardy to zone 9, it is suitable for climates with mild winters.  

I would recommend pairing it with yellow-flowering perennials like angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), or gold lantana (Lantana ‘New Gold Mound’). I can hardly wait to see the hummingbirds flock to the tubular blooms.  Flowering occurs in spring, summer, and fall.  However, in hot climates, flowers may disappear in the summer only to resume in fall.

Hummingbirds will flock to the tubular blooms so be sure to place friendship salvia where you can view it up close.  Flowering occurs in spring, summer, and fall.  However, in hot climates, flowers may disappear in the summer only to resume in fall.

Salvias have always been a huge favorite of mine and I am so happy to have this new addition to the garden.

*Learn more about this and other colorful plants at Monrovia.

‘Little Janie’ Gaura

The second perennial that I’d like to show you is a variety of pink gaura.  ‘Little Janie’ gaura (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Little Janie’) produces masses of small, pink flowers, which are shaped like butterflies.

They thrive in full sun to light, filtered shade and are drought tolerant.  

Gaura have a long bloom period, beginning in spring and lasting through fall.  They are also very cold and heat tolerant and can be grown in zone 6 gardens (-10 degrees F.) while easily handling summer temperatures over 100+.

I like to group 3 gaura together and plant them next to boulders or plant them in perennial beds along a front entry.  

My new ‘Little Janie’ gaura has lots of buds, ready to open up to reveal their pretty, pink flowers.  They look great next to purple-flowering plants such as Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) or purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis).

These are just two of the beautiful plants from Monrovia that you can find at Lowe’s or your local nursery.  Simply look for plants in the green ‘Monrovia’ containers.

*Learn more about Monrovia and their ‘Grow Beautifully’ campaign to help you create a colorful outdoor space.

There is nothing quite so refreshing as the fragrance of lemons as you slice through their yellow skin.  Lemons are a very popular fruit tree for those of us who in zones 8 and above and their lush green foliage and yellow fruit add beauty to the garden.  

If you have been thinking of adding a lemon tree to your landscape, March is the best time of year to plant new citrus in the garden as it gives them time to become established before the heat of summer arrives.

I am often asked about what type of lemon is best for the garden.  My personal choice is ‘Meyer’ lemon for a number of reasons.  You may have heard of this type of lemon tree, but what you may not know is that it isn’t a ‘true’ lemon – it’s actually a naturally occurring hybrid of a lemon and ‘Mandarin’ orange.  This results in a pseudo-lemon that is sweeter and less acidic than true lemons such as ‘Eureka’ and ‘Lisbon’.

See why you should consider planting a ‘Meyer’ lemon tree in your backyard in my latest article for Houzz.com.  (Click on the photo below to read the article).

*What type of lemon tree to you grow?

Have you ever driven by a newly-planted landscape?  If you have, you probably noticed that many of the plants were quite small.  

I like to joke that sometimes you need a magnifying glass just to see the new plants.  But, within a short amount of time, those plants start to grow.  


After three years or more, the plants are well-established and look great.  

Fast forward five additional years, and you may start to see signs of some plants becoming overgrown and unattractive.

When this happens to shrubs, we can often push a ‘restart button’ and prune them back severely in spring, and that solves the problem.  However, there are some plants where this approach doesn’t work.

Let’s identify a few of these plants and how to deal with them once they outgrow their allotted space or become filled with old, woody growth.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Desert spoon is one of my favorite plants.  I love how its blue-gray, spiky leaves add texture to the garden and contrast with plants that have darker green foliage.  


After ten years or more in the landscape, desert spoon can start to take on a ragged, rather unattractive appearance, as well as grow quite large.

When this happens, I recommend that they be removed and a new desert spoon planted in its place.  

Now, some of you may think that may seem wasteful, but I invite you to take another look at your landscape and the plants within it.

Your outdoor space isn’t static and unchanging.  Its appearance changes with the seasons, plants blooms at different times of year, trees extend the amount of shade they provide as they grow, and plants change in size.  

A newly planted garden doesn’t look the same through the years, it changes.  

Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’)
Rosemary is a good choice for those who want rich, dark green color in the garden.  Bees love the light blue flowers that appear in late winter and spring, and the aromatic foliage can be used to flavor your favorite dishes.  


But, as time passes, it does get bigger, outgrowing its original space.  


When this happens, people start to shear their rosemary, which is stressful for the plant and contributes to sections of branches dying.

For those who don’t like the formal look, pruning rosemary back severely would be a likely choice.  But, the problem with rosemary is that they often don’t respond well to severe pruning.

So again, in this case, it’s best to pull out the old rosemary and add a new one, which will provide beauty for several years.

Rosemary hedge
To avoid having to remove and replace rosemary, allow them plenty of room to grow to their mature size.

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
Red yucca is prized for its succulent, green leaves that resemble an ornamental grass and its coral flowers, which appear spring through fall.


Once it has been growing seven years or more, red yucca may overwhelm the landscape visually, particularly if the area it is growing in isn’t very big.

Occasionally, some people will try to remove the outer leaves at the base, but this is laborious and only serves to stimulate red yucca to grow back faster.

In those situations, I tell people that they have had a nice life, but it’s time to start over with new ones.

Newly-planted red yucca

The question that may come to mind is why use plants that you’ll only have to replace after seven to ten years?

Well, all three of these plants add beauty to the landscape and are low-maintenance.  Another way to think of it is to compare your landscape with the interior of your home.  Do you make small changes to the decor of your home every few years to keep it looking fresh and attractive?  The same should be true of the outside.

Replacing a few plants after seven years or more isn’t expensive, and the beauty that these plants offer to your outdoor space makes them worth it.

After a seemingly endless summer, we have finally made it to the finish line.  This is the season where we experience a ‘second spring’ and venture out into the garden again.

Soil is ready to be amended, citrus fertilized, and some light pruning can be done.

Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings.
September is the gateway to a busy time in the garden, but there are a few things that it is still too early to start on yet.

I’ve made a video of what you should do and shouldn’t do this month:


What is your favorite season of the year?

The popularity of fairy or miniature gardens is evident with whole Pinterest boards dedicated to them as well as nurseries having entire sections filled with fairy garden furniture and accessories.

During a recent visit to California, I visited the J. Woeste Nursery, which had taken a slightly different direction with fairy gardens.  Theirs were decidedly drought tolerant and planted with succulents.




Each fairy garden was well-designed, each with their own unique mixture of succulents and moss for grass.


I was told that the nursery had a specific designer who created these miniature succulent worlds.


No two were alike.  From the houses used to the combination of succulents and the container itself – each was a truly unique creation.


I must admit that I had a hard time tearing myself away in order to look at the rest of the nursery, as I was so captivated by these miniature, drought tolerant gardens.



Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit one in my suitcase.


However, if I decided to make my own, there were a lot of different fairy succulent gardens to be inspired by and the nursery had a large selection of succulents available to assist in my endeavors.


Besides miniature succulent gardens, the nursery was filled with other unique examples of succulents being planted in unexpected ways.

A large variety of succulents were available for customers to use to in their own gardens, whether planted in the ground or in a favorite container.


If you ever find yourself in the charming town of Los Olivos, California, you must stop by J. Hoeste Nursery to see the fairy succulent gardens along with its other treasures.


Have you ever thought of planting a fairy garden? If so, I recommend the book, Gardening in Miniature.  It teaches you how to make your own miniature garden, in easy steps.  There are also a number of inspiring ideas to help you on your way to make your own.  I reviewed this book in an earlier post, which can read here.


This morning, I was on my way to a landscape consultation for my fellow Arizona gardener, Claudette, who blogs over at Gilbert Garden Girls.


As I always do before driving to an appointment, I entered the address into my car’s GPS and was pleased to see that it would only take 20 minutes to get to her house from mine.
  
However, as I drove down her street, the addresses did not match up with hers.  So, I took out my phone and brought up my trusty Google Maps app and found that my car’s formerly reliable GPS had misdirected me.  Luckily, I was only 1 mile away and so I was only a couple of minutes late, which truth be told, is normal for me.


My unanticipated detour did have a silver lining, though.

I drove by a house that had a beautiful hop bush shrub (Dodonaea viscosa).  


 This evergreen, drought tolerant shrub does wonderfully in our southwestern climate, and it is a frequent addition to landscapes that I design. 

Hop bush is quite versatile and relatively fuss-free, especially if maintained by pruning every 6 months or so, as shown above. 


Here is another example of a hop bush shrub that has been pruned more formally, which it handles well.


 Of course, you can always let it grow into its more natural form as a large shrub.

For more information on hop bush including what its flowers look like and why it’s becoming a popular substitute for oleanders, you can read my earlier blog post – “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Hopbush the Alternative to Oleanders.”


Have you ever seen this shrub where you live?  How was it maintained?  As a shrub, hedge or small tree?

There are many flowering perennials that I can think of that only flower once a year and many people think that the lovely blooms of penstemon count among them.

Parry’s Penstemon
But, did you know that if you prune the flowers just as they begin to fade that you can stimulate another flush of colorful blooms?

Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida), Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi) and Parry’s Agave (Agave parryi)

I’ve grown penstemon for years and recently planted a Parry’s penstemon in my front yard.  I enjoyed seeing its pink blossoms waving in the breeze and the hummingbirds who stopped by for a drink of nectar.

The individual flowers began to fall, leaving only a few behind, which is the best time to prune the flowering stalks back. 


If you wait too long, the chances are that you will lose your window of stimulating your penstemon to produce more flowers.  It’s best to do this when there are a couple of blossoms left on the plant.


This is what my young penstemon looks like right now, but within a couple of weeks, new flowering spikes will begin growing.

The reason that pruning off the first set of flowers stimulates a second bloom period is that the penstemon’s goal is to produce seeds.  To do that, they produce flowers to attract pollinators and once pollinated, the flowers drop and the seed develops.  However, when by pruning off the flowering spikes when there are a few flowers left, we disrupt the cycle and the plant will produce another set of flowers for the purpose of producing seeds.

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

Doing so will promote a second bloom for several penstemon species including firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) and Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi).