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).  

Agave are my favorite succulent of mine in my own garden and also finds itself a prominent addition to many of my landscape designs.


There is so much to love about agave, from the unique, rosette pattern of their succulent leaves to the dramatic flowering stalk that they send up toward the end of their lives.



While I have several species of agave, whale’s tongue is one of my favorites.

This agave first drew my attention when my friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, wrote about the one growing in her garden, where it takes center stage in her backyard.

Since then, I have seen several throughout the greater Phoenix landscape as well.  


There is so much to like about this agave including how its blue-green color adds great color contrast to the landscape.


I also happen to like the unique shape of its leaves, that really do resemble a whale’s tongue.

Do you think this lovely agave deserves a place in your landscape?

Learn more about how and where to plant this agave as well as what plants to pair it with for maximum impact in my latest Houzz plant profile.  



Have you ever seen this agave in the landscape?  What would you plant alongside it?

No matter where you live, you often see five types shrubs being used over and over in landscape after landscape.  While the shrubs themselves may be attractive, their overuse throughout neighborhoods can create a somewhat ‘boring landscape’.

 
In California, Nevada and Arizona oleanders have held a prominent spot in the landscape due to their lush evergreen foliage, ability to withstand drought and pretty flowers.
 
However, they have been overused in many areas which makes their beauty less impactful and frankly, almost forgettable.
 
At a recent conference that I attended, the head of horticulture for Disneyland said,
“”When things are expected (in the landscape), they become less powerful and impactful”.
 
 
Another issue with oleanders is that they are susceptible to a fatal disease called, oleander leaf scorch that is slowly spreading from California.  I have seen several cases affecting large, mature oleanders in the greater Phoenix area. 
 
From an objective point of view, I’d like to make it clear that there is a lot to like about oleanders; they do extremely well in hot, dry climates with minimal fuss, they have attractive dark green foliage and add color to the landscape when in flower.  
 
My main issue is with the overuse of them in the landscape when there less common plants that do equally as well in the landscape while also adding beauty.
 
 
When I am asked for another option for the large, tall forms of oleanders, hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa) always comes to mind first.
 
This native desert shrub has attractive, evergreen foliage and a similar growth habit to oleander.
 
 
They can be used in the same ways that oleanders can in providing an attractive green hedge and/or screening.
 
Hop bush flower
 
They don’t have colorful flowers; their bright green foliage is their strong point.
 
 
Hop bush can be allowed to grow into their natural shape or pruned into a formal hedge.
 
Want to learn more about this oleander alternative?  In my latest Houzz article, I share what types of plants look nice next to hop bush, how to care for them and show a purple-leafed form.
 
I hope that you find a spot for this lovely shrub in your landscape.
 
**There are still a couple of days to enter the giveaway for the book Grow For Flavor.  Enter now for your chance to win!**
 
 

I have had a love affair with roses for over 23 years.




It all began when we bought our first house.  I was a young mother with two girls who was giddy with the possibilities of having her very own spot of garden to grow roses in.

We would take our girls around to the local rose gardens where so could see what types of roses to pick for our new rose garden.

The rose garden was located in the front yard along the side of the driveway.  At the time, money was tight so we ended up purchasing twenty different ‘grade 1 1/2’ roses for $3 each at Home Depot.
‘Grade 1’ roses are considered to be the cream of the crop and the best type to purchase based on the their size and number of canes (stems).

A few months later, my roses were in full bloom and the talk of the neighborhood (we definitely stuck out from the surrounding neighbors since we had taken out a large chunk of lawn to grow a LOT of roses).


Many people ask if I had a favorite rose and the answer is “yes”.  Mr. Lincoln with its deep red blossoms which were incredibly fragrant always stands out in my memory of our first rose garden.  At one time, it reached almost 6 ft. tall and had over 30 blossoms covering it.

Three years later, we had gone from 20 rose bushes to 40 – all a different type of hybrid tea or shrub rose.  I realize that I maybe went a little overboard, but I loved growing roses – no two roses were the same.  

Whenever we were traveling, if there was a rose garden nearby – we would visit it…

The rose garden at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.

That’s me posing by the roses and the castle.

Santa Barbara Mission rose garden in California

After we sold our home in Phoenix, we moved to the suburbs to be closer to my husband’s job.  As we built our new home, I knew that I did want room for a few roses.


After adopting our three youngest kids, I was eager to share my love for roses with them.  They each picked out their own rose from a rose catalog and helped plant them.  It was a fun experience, complete with finding earthworms in the soil and more.

While their roses did grow, they didn’t have the best location, which was rather shady and so they turned out rather straggly.  Needless to say, they were pulled out a couple of years later.

Even though I didn’t have roses growing in my garden, I still went out of my way to enjoy them whenever I found myself on the road.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.
Stopping to smell the roses in Santa Barbara, CA.

A few months ago, I realized that my love affair with roses never ended and that it was time to think seriously about growing a few again.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you about my decision to grow a few roses in a former vegetable garden that I could see from my kitchen window.  I promised to let you know what type of roses I would plant.

The first one was just planted yesterday.


Not surprisingly, it is a Mr. Lincoln hybrid tea rose.  

While it looks rather humble right now, I have visions of a tall rose busy covered with fragrant roses whose scent comes through my kitchen window.

This is but the first rose in the garden.  There are two more that have been ordered from mailorder rose companies.  I will be sure to share what those are when they come!
I am so happy that I have returned to growing the plant that inspired my passion for gardening years ago.

**Have you ever grown roses?  Do you have a favorite type? If you find yourself overwhelmed by the different types of roses there are to pick from, I have written an article for Houzz, which looks closer at several of the most popular roses in order to help people select the best type of rose for their garden.


I love flowers.  In fact, it was my love affair with flowers that inspired me to get my degree in horticulture.  I figured that life is too short to not do what you love, so working as a horticulturist allows me to be around blooming plants throughout much of the year.


As the weather begins to cool, blossoms begin to lessen, but one of the many benefits of living in the Southwest is that there are always some plants showing off their flowers.


Today, I’d like to share with you just a few of the flowering plants that I saw during the past couple of weeks, which are decorating the fall landscape.


Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) flowers in spring and fall, is extremely drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F.

Creeping Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii) is a groundcover, which flowers in spring and fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F.
The Cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco) flowers in fall and on into early winter, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 20 degrees F.  While thorny, there is a new variety with a smooth trunk, called ‘Smoothie’.
Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is an ornamental grass that flowers in fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 0 degrees F.

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) flowers all year long, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 17 degrees F.  

These are but a few plants that are still in bloom in November in my zone 9 climate.

How about you?  What is blooming in your garden or neighborhood?

As summer begins to slowly fade and the heat begins to dissipate, the Southwestern garden comes alive.



Plants perk up in the absence of 100+ degree temperatures and people begin to venture outdoors  (without their hats!) to enjoy their beautiful surroundings.

When people talk about their favorite season, many will tell you that spring is the time that they enjoy the most as their gardens come alive, spring forth with new green growth and colorful blooms.

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

While spring is a glorious time in the desert landscape with winter blooms overlapping with spring flowering plants along with cactus flowers – it isn’t the only ‘spring’ that the desert experiences.


Fall is often referred to as the “second spring” in the desert Southwest as plants take on a refreshed appearance due to the cooler temperatures with many still producing flowers.  Many birds, butterflies and other wildlife reappear during the daytime hours in autumn.

Desert residents often find themselves making excuses to spend more time outdoors whether it’s taking a longer walk or bringing their laptop outdoors where they can enjoy the comfortable temperatures and surrounding beauty of the landscape.


Fall is also a time where we take a look around our own garden setting and decide to make some changes whether it is taking out thirsty, old plants replacing them with attractive, drought tolerant plants or creating an outdoor room by expanding a patio or perhaps adding a pergola.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) 

No matter where you live – the East Coast, Midwest, Northwest, etc., fall is the best time of year to add new plants to the landscape as it provides plants with 3 seasons in which to grow a good root system before the heat of the next summer arrives.

What do you enjoy most about fall?  

**Thinking of making some changes to your landscape?  Click here for a list my favorite drought tolerant plants that provide fall blooms.  

The beginning of fall is only a few weeks away as the long summer winds down.  Fall is a wonderful time in the garden and is the best time of year for adding new plants, allowing them a chance to grow before the heat of next summer arrives.


Turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia) in bloom

When deciding what plants to add to your garden, many people concentrate on incorporating plants that bloom in spring and summer, but there are a number of attractive plants that bloom in fall.

Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Using plants with overlapping bloom periods ensure year-round beauty for your landscape.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Many plants that flower in fall also flower at other times of year as well such as damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and autumn sage (Salvia greggii)

Early October is a great time to start adding new plants, so now is a great time to decide what type of fall-blooming plants to add.

I recently shared 10 of my favorite, drought tolerant fall bloomers in my latest article for Houzz.  I hope you’ll include some of these in your landscape where they will help to decorate your fall landscape.

Do you have a favorite fall-blooming plant?

Do you have a pot or two that you fill with flowering annuals each season?


I must confess that I did this for years – both in the landscapes I managed and at home.  In fall, I would plant combinations of alyssum, geraniums, lobelia, petunias and snapdragons.  In summer it was celosia, salvia and/or vinca that I turned to for color. 

But, with many areas of the country experiencing significant drought conditions, perhaps it’s time to think about replacing thirsty flowering annuals with drought tolerant succulents in our containers.


On a recent visit to California, (which is suffering from extreme drought conditions), we walked through the small beach town of Carpinteria.  

This is a fun place to walk, especially through the downtown area with their plant nurseries and the beach is really a great one for swimming.  We used to camp near the beach as kids and spent swimming in the ocean.


A visit Carpinteria for us is never complete without a visit to crushcakes for their delicious cupcakes.

In front of their restaurant, I noticed a unique coffee pot container filled with aloes.


After eating my favorite vanilla cupcake, we continued our walk down the main street.


Other store fronts also had pots filled with attractive succulents.

In fact, what was unusual was that there weren’t any pots filled with flowering annuals, as you would normally see along a picturesque downtown area.  

That made me realize that while I love flowers, I didn’t miss them.  

The absence of flowering annuals, got me to thinking that if you live in an area where there is drought, or even if you don’t – maybe we should look at using succulents instead of flowering annuals?


Like flowering annuals and perennials, there are countless types of succulents available with soft, colorful shades and unique shapes.


Another reason to consider using succulents is that they are easy to grow – especially when compared to flowering annuals.

All you need is a container with holes for drainage, potting mix formulated for succulents and the succulents themselves.


You could plant a variety of succulents or even add some cacti into the mix…


 A container like this one above, needs water twice a month in summer and monthly in spring and fall.    


I loved this succulent container that I saw at recent visit to a client’s home.

 I must confess that I stopped growing flowering annuals a few years ago because succulents are easier to take care of – especially with watering.


  Using succulents instead of flowering annuals doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact, a single agave looks great by itself.


But, what if you aren’t a fan of succulents.  Is there a drought tolerant option instead of planting flowering annuals or perennials?


Believe it or not, bougainvillea makes a great container plant and they don’t need much water.  Simply water them deeply once a week in summer and twice a month spring and fall.  In winter, water them every 3 weeks.

**So what about you?  Could you ditch your containers filled with colorful flowers for a waterwise one filled with succulents?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Do you use any lotion that contains aloe vera?


While most of us think of the medicinal qualities of aloe vera – particularly how they provide relief from burns, it’s beauty and drought tolearance makes it well worth adding to our “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful” category.



Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) thrives in drought tolerant gardens and produces lovely, yellow flowers in spring, much to the delight of hummingbirds everywhere.

Want to learn more about this succulent beauty?  Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.



How about you?  
Have you ever grown aloe vera?
April in the desert garden is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful time of year.  Winter and spring-flowering plants (damianita, penstemon and ‘Valentine’) are just beginning to fade and summer blooms are beginning to appear (coral fountain, Texas sage and yellow bells)

But perhaps, the most colorful event in this month  is the flowering of palo verde trees.

Did you know that each species of palo verde has a different shade of yellow?

It’s true.  The differences may not be obvious unless you see them next to each other, but I’ll make it easier for you and show you some examples below.

Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida)

Foothills (Littleaf) Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)

‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde (Parkinsonia hybrid ‘Desert Museum’)

Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox)

Every year, the arrival of the yellow flowers are met with delight by many and to the dismay of others.  Those that like unnaturally, pristine landscapes, without a stray leaf or fallen flower, don’t like the flowers that they leave behind.

As for me, I like things mostly natural and the golden carpet that my ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees leave behind, area welcome sight.

Yesterday, I went on Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine’s Grand Tour of Gardens.  The gardens we visited were spectacular, but we also passed by equally impressive landscapes.

This one in particular caught my eye, so my husband stopped the car and patiently waited while I took a few photos – this tends to happen often, so he is used to it.


While I liked the contemporary entry to the front flanked by desert spoon and with the columnar cardon cacti surrounded by golden barrels, it was the majestic ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees that caught my eye.


The plant palette was limited, which works well with contemporary design.  The flowers from the palo verde trees along the street decorated the grass and sidewalk, although they were badly pruned.


While my personal style is more informal, I do appreciate good, contemporary design and I really liked this pathway, although I believe a better species of agave that can handle full, reflected heat without growing too large would have been better – maybe Victoria agave?

I’m still loving the flowers.


My favorite picture is this one of the entryway which is covered with a solid carpet of golden yellow flowers, which contrast beautifully with the gray-blue walls and red door.

How about you?  Do you like the way flowers look on the ground once they have fallen?  Or do you feel the overwhelming impulse to blow them away?

**I’ll be sure to share about my experience on the Grand Tour of Gardens, but I need time to sift through the hundreds of photos I took.**

I hope your week is off to a great start!