Freezing temperatures are coming tonight and forecast to last for the next several days.

Take a drive down the street in your neighborhood, you will probably see landscape plants covered with assorted sheets, towels or frost cloth.

How to Protect Plants From Frost

Those that don’t protect their frost-sensitive plants such as lantana, bougainvillea, yellow bells, orange jubilee or hibiscus will soon have plants that look like this…

Protect Plants From Frost

In most cases, you do not have to cover your frost-sensitive plants when temps dip into the lower 30’s.

There is nothing wrong with allowing the top growth of your ornamental plants to get frost damage.  You just prune it away in spring.

For those of you who don’t like the look of frost-damage, then you will need to protect your plants from the cold.

**If temperatures are predicted to dip into the 20’s – then I do recommend protecting them from frost because temps this cold can kill a plant.

I wrote a blog post earlier this year when temps hit the low 20’s.  It talks about how to protect plants from frost (and how NOT to) along with the types of plants to protect.

You can read it here…

“Prepping For Deep Freeze”

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I hope you are having a great week.  I must confess to being a little behind on writing blog posts this month with all the Christmas goings on 🙂

Yesterday, I showed you a photo of a citrus tree that I came upon during a landscape consultation.  

landscape consultation

I mentioned that there was more then one problem affecting this tree.  There are actually two large problems and one small problem.

Problem #1: Look at the area near the trunk.  Notice a little green shoot coming up from a small citrus root?

This innocent-looking little sucker can cause a lot of problems if allowed to grow.  The reason for this is that citrus trees are grafted onto a vigorous rootstock.

Basically, the top of a citrus tree and the roots come from different plants.  Citrus trees we enjoy in our landscape don’t have a particularly strong root system.  So, they are grafted onto a thorny, citrus tree that has vigorous roots and sour fruit.

landscape consultation

Occasionally, small suckers from the thorny, citrus tree start to grow up from the roots or the base of the trunk below the bud union.  The bud union is a bulge around the lower part of the tree, about a foot above the ground.  Any suckers that originate from below the bud union should be removed, because if allowed to grow – the thorny citrus tree will grow and take over.

Now, back to our original picture for our second problem…

landscape consultation

Problem #2: Look closely at the soil and you can see signs of shallow irrigation. How can you tell? Look at the small citrus roots criss crossing out from the tree.  In a properly watered citrus tree, you shouldn’t see the roots at all.

This indicates that when the tree is irrigated, that the water is not turned on long enough to penetrate to the recommended 3 ft. depth.

When I pointed this out to the homeowner, she indicated that if the water is turned for too long, that it runs out from the basin.

There are two solutions for this problem.

 Elevate the sides of the basin to at least 6 inches high and allow to fill with water.  Next, check to see how deeply you have watered by taking a long, narrow stick or piece of rebar and push it into the wet soil.  It should go down fairly easily to the point where the water permeates.  Pull it back out and you will get a good idea of how much more or less water you will need.

– If after trying the first solution and you still haven’t hit the recommended 3 ft. depth, then try this trick – water in the morning, filling up the basin.  Allow the water to sink and fill the basin again later in the day.  This should help you achieve the right depth.

The smaller problem is really nothing to be overly concerned about…

Orange Dog Caterpillar

If you look closely, some of the leaves have ragged edges and holes.  The damage is caused by the Orange Dog Caterpillar.  This caterpillar appears in the summer months and resemble ‘bird poop’ which makes them hard to spot.  

These caterpillars will turn into the beautiful Giant Swallowtail butterfly.  Mature citrus trees can usually handle the damage from the caterpillars, so in most cases, the best thing to do is nothing.

For additional resources for raising citrus in the Valley of the Sun and other areas throughout the Southwest, check out this helpful link.

Do you have citrus trees in your landscape?  Which kinds?  

something wrong with citrus tree

something wrong with citrus tree

Last week, I came upon this citrus tree while I was doing a consultation.

At first, there was one problem that I noticed right away.  As I peered closer, I saw that there was another problem affecting this tree.

The tree was well-fertilized and I could see no sign of nutrient deficiencies.

Can you tell what is wrong with this citrus tree?

Leave your guesses below in the comment section and I will reveal the answer tomorrow 🙂

*You may be wondering why you should care about the problems of this particular citrus tree.  Well, if you have citrus growing in your garden, you may have the same problem(s) and not even know it.

My hope is to help others identify and correct problems with their plants that they may not be aware of until it is too late.

Is you home decorated for fall yet? I am still working on getting my house ready for the fall holidays.  

Fall Centerpiece

Normally, I am content to buy a single pumpkin and set it in the middle of my dining room table.  But, after seeing my mother’s beautiful fall centerpiece (above), I decided to try to do something a little more creative…

Fall Centerpiece

So, I decided to challenge myself to see what I could come up with for my own unique fall centerpiece by taking a visit to the produce section of my local supermarket.  I was determined to look beyond the normal fall offerings of pumpkins and Indian corn to see if I could be inspired. 

Fall Centerpiece

Surprisingly, I found quite a few vegetables and fruits that would look nice in a fall centerpiece.  So, armed with my cell phone camera, I started taking photos of some of my favorites…

Fall Centerpiece

Acorn Squash

Now, I don’t like to eat squash at all.  I still remember hiding the cooked squash in my napkin that my grandmother would try to get us to eat.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

BUT, squash looks great when used as a fall decoration.

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

In fact, I have even seen Butternut squash decorated as a ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ with a ghost face colored in using black markers.

Artichoke

Artichoke

Okay, artichokes are another vegetable that I don’t like.  But, they look great in arrangements, so I bought one.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

Finally, I found something that I do like to eat AND decorate with – pomegranates.  I love their deep color, don’t you?

Oranges

Oranges

Limes

Limes

Let’s not forget citrus, which is always beautiful no matter how you use it – whether in a bowl in the center of the table or as part of a larger arrangement.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

I admit that heirloom tomatoes aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when creating a fall centerpiece.  But, their deep and rich colors would accent any centerpiece.  Tomatoes won’t last as long as the other produce I have profiled, so use for a few days and then eat them.

Mangoes

Mangoes

How about mangoes? 

Apples

Apples

Apples are great for decorating the tabletop.  I like to use them at Christmas time as well.

Red Pears

Red Pears

I don’t think I have ever noticed all of the different types of produce that my grocery store had before now.

I did come away with a few things that I will attempt to create a centerpiece out of.  I promise to share it with you later.

In the meantime, I did find myself captivated by the unusual pumpkin offerings at the store…

Fall Centerpiece

Aren’t they beautiful?

I selected one for my centerpiece.  When I got home, I excitedly showed it to my kids, who to my surprise, were not happy about it.  They asked, “Is this the pumpkin we are going to carve?”

I assured them that this pumpkin is for decoration only and will hopefully last until Thanksgiving.

I did promise them a ‘regular’ pumpkin for carving later on.

So, when you head to the supermarket this weekend, take a closer look at the produce aisle and see what you can use to create your own ‘natural’ fall centerpiece.

Is It Fall Yet?

Oftentimes when I am called to help a homeowner with their landscape, they pose a problem and/or a question about a certain area in their landscape.

I will share a few with, you now and then, in the hopes that I can help those of you who may have a similar situation.

Okay, let’s first look at this resident’s sunny area…

Wanted to create a Southern European garden theme

Wanted to create a Southern European garden theme

As you can see, there is a young citrus tree growing in this corner bed.

The resident, who was from Europe, wanted to create a Southern European garden theme in her backyard.  However, in this area, she disliked the appearance of the bare wall around her citrus tree.  She wanted to have a retaining wall installed and raise the level of the bed and plant an assortment of herbs, which would cover part of the bare expanse of the wall.

The problem, is that you cannot raise the level of soil or you will suffocate the roots of the citrus tree.  Plants need the oxygen that is present in the soil.  Most of the oxygen is found in the upper levels of soil.  Adding more soil would decrease the amount of oxygen where the plant roots currently are located.

Taking out the citrus tree and replanting it into a raised bed was not an option in this case.

So, what would you do in this area?

Recommendation: Add three tall (3 feet or higher), colorful, glazed pots and place them up against the wall – one in the corner and the other two on either side.  Select pots in bright colors such as blue or orange, which will add a punch of color to the landscape AND plant an assortment of herbs in the pots.

Herbs are quite tough and can handle being in containers better then other flowering plants during the summer months and on through winter.

As the citrus tree grows and shades this spot more, the resident can switch out the sun-loving herbs for container plants that enjoy shady conditions.

So, what do you think of this solution? Do you have an area like this where you want to add color up against a bare wall?

I hope you enjoyed my first “AZ Plant Lady House Call”.  I will be posting more in the future in the hopes that I can help you with an issue you may be facing in your own garden.

AZ Plant Lady House Call: What’s Wrong With My Bougainvillea?

Every winter, we are the lucky recipients of a bounty of citrus from both family and neighbors.

lemon juice

My fruit bowls and pantry are full of blood oranges, grapefruit, and lemons.

Citrus generally ripens during the winter and the cold snap that we had last week had many people picking the citrus fruit from their trees so that the fruit wouldn’t be damaged by the frost.

The problem arises that either I have too many lemons in winter and none in the summer unless I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on lemons.

So, what do you do?

Well, I juiced them a week ago and made “lemon ice-cubes.”

lemon juice

Then, I promptly forgot about them until I was searching in the freezer for the chicken to thaw out for dinner.

So, I took them out and put my lemon ice cubes into freezer bags.

lemon ice cubes

have three freezer bags full of lemon ice cubes, which will last me through the coming year.

What do I use them for?  Well, many of my favorite dinner recipes call for a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, and they are great for making ice tea.

You can also save the lemon zest, (just before you juice them), and freeze the zest too.

My kids love grapefruit (I don’t) and have been eating some for both breakfasts and a snack.  They have also been taking the blood oranges to school in their lunch boxes.

My friend, Becky, from Tucson, made ‘Orange Peel Vinegar’ which she uses as a cleaner with her extra oranges.

What do you do with an overabundance of citrus?

Most of my job as a horticulturist and garden writer is fun.  

But sometimes, I have to be the bearer of bad news.

Last week, I was called to a home where the homeowners were worried about one of their citrus trees.  Although I am a horticulturist, I am also a Certified Arborist, which can also be very helpful – especially when I am dealing with trees.

There was a large lemon tree in their front garden.  They were concerned because they had some branches dying back and wanted to know what the cause was.

So, I stopped by and took a look at the lemon tree.  At first glance, it looked fine – the homeowner had had the dead branches removed.

But, I had to look more closely, which meant getting close to the interior branches and the trunk.

What I saw in one of the remaining branches wasn’t good…

Sooty Canker

Can you see that the branch on the left is missing bark and is colored black?

Sooty Canker

What is this you may wonder?

Sooty Canker.

Sooty Canker is a fungal disease that infects many different species of trees including citrus.  It spreads through fungal spores.  The spores enter the tree through damaged areas on the branches or trunk, forming lesions and eventually causing the bark to peel off.

It is called ‘sooty canker’ because of the black color of the fungal spores.  The branches almost looked as if they have been scorched by fire.

In this case, the lemon tree had experienced severe frost damage 1 1/2 years ago.  Frost can cause splitting and other damage in the bark.  Sunburn damage can cause similar problems as well.  The fungal spores enter through these damaged areas and begin to grow.

If only branches are affected, they can be pruned 6 inches to 1 ft. below where you see evidence of the sooty canker.  Pruning tools must be disinfected with a 20% bleach solution to keep the disease from spreading between each pruning cut.

I was hopeful that I could tell the homeowners that all they had to do was to prune the affected branches.

But that was before I looked down at the trunk…

Sooty Canker

The entire trunk was infected with sooty canker.  Unfortunately, this almost certainly means that the tree will die.

In this case, the tree should be removed to avoid spreading it to other trees.

I hated to tell the homeowners that they would have to have their tree taken out.  Especially after they told me how much fruit they had enjoyed over the years from this tree.

After I told them the fatal diagnosis of their lemon tree – I offered to look at their other four citrus trees.  I wanted to make sure that they weren’t infected as well.

Well, the good news was that their Meyer lemon tree was healthy.

The bad news was that their two orange trees and pommelo tree were all badly infected with sooty canker.

Did I mention that I hate being the bearer of bad news?

I must say that the clients accepted the bad news very well.

In fact, they said that they had gotten tired of picking up dropped fruit AND that one of them couldn’t even eat citrus any more due to dietary constraints.

They will be removing their five infected citrus trees while keeping a close eye on their disease-free Meyer lemon tree.  At the first sign of a lesion, they will prune it away to help keep it safe from infection.

Guess what?

They asked me to return in spring to design a new landscape area in place of their citrus trees.  I like being with people who see things as “a glass half-full”.

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If you suspect that your tree has sooty canker – have a professional confirm the diagnosis and discuss with you the treatment options.  If the trunk is not affected, you may be able to save your tree.

For more information, check out this link.     

This past weekend, I had a special helper accompany me on one of my landscape consults….

My son, Kai.

He has never expressed any interest in going with me before – but I think he was bored and his best friend (who lives across the street) wasn’t going to be home.

So, Kai offered to come with me and be my ‘photographer’. 

landscape consults

As I was talking to my clients, Kai would take photos of certain plants, landscape areas or problems, which I would later include in my report.

He caught me gesturing to this evergreen pear tree, above.

Kai also took some good close-ups as well…

Salt damage

 Salt damage from lack of deep watering.

Manganese deficiency

Manganese deficiency in citrus tree.

Kai did also take a few photos with me in them, but he neglected to press the ‘skinny button’ on my camera so I elected not to include them in this post.  (Okay, I know that a ‘skinny button’ does not exist on a camera, but I wish someone would invent one, don’t you?)

As our consult progressed to the backyard, Kai was no longer taking pictures.

Instead, he was finding himself in some of the photos I took….

landscape consults

 Meeting my client’s new chickens.

landscape consults

Swinging from rings in an old citrus tree.

Kai and I both had an enjoyable time.  The clients were very nice people who had a beautiful landscape.

I hope that Kai was able to see more clearly what I do for my work, (besides writing blogs and articles).

But all he said on the way home was, “Can we get some ice-cream?”

“Absolutely.”

Reading The Leaves: Diagnosing Common Plant Ailments

Growing up, we had a lemon tree in our backyard in California.  I loved to be able to go outside and just pick lemons whenever we needed them.  As an adult, I must admit that of all the different kinds of citrus trees – lemon are my favorite.  Our first home in Phoenix came with two mature citrus trees in the back garden….grapefruit and orange, but sadly no lemon trees.  We did plant one, but moved a year later and so did not get to enjoy any lemons.

Cannot wait for fresh lemonade

Cannot wait for fresh lemonade

We have lived in our current home for over 10 years and we have no fruit trees growing in the garden (I may be changing that soon).  We have been blessed by the residents of Double S Farms (my mother, my sister and her family) who have many different types of fruit trees and they share their bountiful harvests with us.  The best part is that they have a large lemon tree and I get to use all the lemons that I need.

Right now, the lemon tree is covered in green fruit that will soon ripen.  Can you see the lemons?

Cannot wait for fresh lemonade

For healthy citrus trees and delicious fruit, a regular fertilization program is needed.  They need to be fertilized three times a year….Feb/Mar, May and Aug/Sept.  You can use either a regular citrus fertilizer or you can go the organic route and use an organic citrus fertilizer.

If you have not already fertilized your citrus trees, now is the time.  You can read more about citrus and their needs in my post from last September if you like.

Cannot wait for fresh lemonade

Soon these green lemons will turn yellow and then it will be time to pick them…..

lemons

One of my favorite things to do with lemons is to juice them and freeze the juice for later use throughout the year.  Right now, my frozen lemon juice is running pretty low.  I cannot wait for new lemons and my kids cannot wait for fresh lemonade 🙂

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend.

I am getting ready to seed my vegetable garden today 🙂

The past couple of days have been filled with the normal things that make up my life….taking care of my family, landscape consults, blogging, etc.  But, one of the things that I love and sometimes don’t love about life are the unexpected things that sometimes cross my daily path.

First the unexpected things that I enjoy…

Blue Hibiscus

Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii)

The beautiful flowers on this Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii), stopped me in my tracks as we were entering the house at Double S Farms.

This Australian native is a big favorite of mine because of the large purple flowers that are produced in the spring.  To be honest, I am not sure why someone decided to give it the common name of ‘Blue Hibiscus’, because the flowers are always purple.  I am not a huge fan of common names in general – especially the ones that don’t make sense.

Blue Hibiscus

Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii)

Blue Hibiscus does well in our desert climate and grows 4 – 6 ft. high and wide. Some gardeners report that it is hardy to 15 degrees F,  so this shrub hold up well under the frosts we experience.  Prune lightly after the first flush of flowers to help produce a second flush.  Supplemental fertilizer is not needed, but regular irrigation is.  It does not do well in an area with reflected sun, so place in a north, south or east facing exposure.

Okay, here is one last look at one of the gorgeous flowers just beginning to open….

Blue Hibiscus

Other instances when I enjoy the unexpected is when I see a plant that does something different then the norm – grow larger, produce different colored flowers, foliage, etc.

Yesterday, I was called to a client’s home to look at his sick Magnolia tree (yes, Magnolias grow in the desert).  The prognosis on the Magnolia tree was good and the client was happy.  I offered to look at the rest of his landscape to see how things looked when we walked up to the largest lemon tree that I have ever seen…

lemon tree

This picture really does not accurately show how large this lemon tree was.  The fragrance coming off of the tree was amazing….the scent of the lemons along with the smell of the lemon blossoms was intoxicating.

**My clients are soon quickly convinced that I am somewhat of a crazy plant lady because I get so excited when I see something out of the ordinary.  They in turn are tickled pink by the knowledge that they have a special plant in their very own garden.

Well, the client with the lemon tree was a retired doctor who was pleased to show off his tree that was planted over 20 years ago.  He said that he had more fruit then he knew what to do with and offered to pick me some lemons and ended up picking me 2 bags full.  I was very touched because he was an older gentleman and it was not easy for him, but he insisted on picking them for me himself.

lemon

Now for the unexpected things that I do not enjoy at all….

I was on my way home from this consult when my husband called me to say that my 7 year old son may have broken his arm.  So I rushed home and took him to the doctor.  X-rays were not clear as to whether there was a break or not, so his arm was put into a black brace for a couple of weeks until they could check it again.

Kai

You know at first, how it can be kind of fun for a kid to have a cast and/or brace?  That is until they realize how restrictive it is.  I was asked, “Do I have to wear this all the time?  Even when I sleep?”  This morning, he asked me if he had to wear it when he played his video game 😉

Yesterday, I received very unwelcome AND unexpected news…

It was the beginning of a beautiful day and I was getting ready to leave to go on a landscape consultation when I got a call from my oldest daughter, who was just sobbing into the phone.

You know that dropping feeling in your stomach that you get sometimes when you know you are going to hear something awful?  Well, that is exactly what I felt as soon as I heard her voice.

Well, she had fallen down the stairs as she left her apartment and she was pretty sure that she had broken both of her feet.  Somehow, she was able to crawl back up to her apartment where she called her husband, who was at work, to come and get her.  Then she called me.

As a mother, it is so hard when your child is in pain.  I spoke to her trying to help her stay calm while her husband rushed as fast as he could to get home.  But her voice would break with cries of pain.  I woke up my husband, who works at night, and we rushed to be at her side.

Firefighters were called to carry her down the stairs of her apartment and then we met her and her husband at the hospital.  As she was checking in, the clerk asked her if she had ever been there before and my daughter said “No”.  I then stepped in to remind her that she had been there before….23 years ago when she was born.  Surprisingly, they still had her medical records from back then.

My Daughter

Well, it turns out that she broke her right foot AND her left ankle.  She is definitely laid up for a while and will not be able to teach (she is a high school history teacher).  Her husband is wonderful and very supportive.  I will be going to ‘babysit’ her today so that he can attend an important meeting for a little while.  So, I am gathering my magazines, DVD’s and bringing them dinner.

And so in closing, I am hopeful that the coming days bring only unexpected good things for both my family and yours 🙂

Like a Kid in a Candy Store…