side yard art at Shawna Coronado garden

Elevate Your Side Yard with Creative Solutions

Side yard art in the form of a garden? Yes please! Do you have a side garden or perhaps an empty stretch of landscape along the side of your house?

Many of my clients do, and they desire something attractive to look at when they look outside their windows. Because let’s face it – staring at a bare block wall is boring!

1. Outdoor Side Yard Art: Adding Colorful Flair to Your Walls

It could be that your side yard is narrow or super shady, which makes growing plants difficult.

Well, I’m here to share ample inspiration for your side yard with three ideas for you to consider.

side yard art with canvas art


Bring Your Garden Views Up to Eye Level

Imagine being able to add colorful art to your outdoor walls!

My friend Shawna Coronado has done that in her side garden with colorful prints specifically made to handle the outdoors. If you have boring walls and no space to add plants, an all-weather canvas is an excellent option for adding colorful interest. Or perhaps as a backdrop for lower-growing plants.

Make Side Yard Art Creative

I love visiting her garden and how she uses her artist’s eye to create vibrant vignettes throughout her backyard. Shawna is a noted gardener and author who moved from Chicago to the deserts of Arizona several years ago. I’ve had the privilege to witness how she has embraced desert gardening, and she brings her unique style to her outdoor space.

side yard art with ceramic fish and seashells


2. Maximizing Space with Artful Raised Beds

Shawna loves plants as much as I do and has added galvanized steel raised beds along her entire side yard. The beds are powdered coated with a nice sage-green color which blends well with the desert garden palette.

A combination of succulents, perennials, and vegetables make their home in her raised beds. The narrow space can limit the sunlight plants receive for many side yards when planted in the ground. Using raised beds increases the amount of sunlight they receive.

I love this combination of agave, aloe, mangave, prickly pear, and yucca, which is low water and attractive. Ceramic garden fish appear to swim among underwater plants – I love whimsy like this in the garden!

Shawna Coronado's side yard art garden


3. Expanding Possibilities in Wide Side Yards

side yard art with cactus view

Reimagine your side yard as a canvas of possibilities. If you have a spacious side yard, seize the opportunity to transform it into a flourishing garden oasis with side yard art. Consider the practical elegance of raised beds lining both sides of this often-underutilized space, allowing you to make the most of your gardening potential.

With raised beds, you can cultivate a variety of herbs, vegetables, and flowers, turning your previously overlooked area into a vibrant green haven. But don’t stop there; infuse personality and charm with whimsical garden art, injecting life and creativity into every corner.

Your side yard has the potential to become a harmonious blend of artistry and agriculture, a true testament to the transformative power of outdoor spaces.

Click here to learn more about Shawna’s side garden gallery and where to purchase canvas prints, raised beds, and ceramic fish.

Cactus Farm

The Art of Container Cacti

Have you ever seen the beauty of cactuses showcased in containers? Adding a cactus to a container helps to set it apart from the rest of the landscape and helps it to stand out so that its unique texture and shape really stand out. However, if the thought of having to plant a prickly cactus yourself has given you second thoughts about doing it yourself, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Let’s take a closer look at how to plant a cactus in a pot.

Cactus Farm

Tried and True Cactus Planting Steps

I have planted my share of cactus over my career (usually) without getting stabbed with the spines. My method of choice is to use an old towel to cover the cactus while I removing it from a pot and planting it. However, on a trip to B&B Cactus Farm in Tucson, I was able to observed an expert at work (see the video below for a few smart tips).

1. Selecting the Right Container

Choose a large pot with good drainage that is at least 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the cactus. Ensure the container is made of a durable material like terracotta or ceramic. This will provide stability and allow the cactus to grow comfortably.

2. Gathering Your Materials

Gather the necessary materials:

  • Large cactus
  • Well-draining cactus potting mix
  • Gravel or small rocks
  • Safety gloves
  • Tongs, newspaper, or plastic bag
  • A piece of burlap or an old towel

3. Preparing the Pot

  • Start by placing a layer of gravel or small rocks at the bottom of the pot to enhance drainage.
  • Fill the pot with the well-draining cactus potting mix, leaving enough space at the top for your cactus.

4. Handling the Cactus

  • Put on safety gloves to protect your hands from the cactus spines.
  • Use tongs or wrap the cactus in newspaper or plastic bags to gently lift it out of its current container. Be cautious not to damage the roots or prick yourself.

5. Positioning the Cactus

  • Carefully position the cactus in the center of the prepared pot, ensuring it sits at the same depth as it was in its original container. You may need someone to help hold the cactus steady while you fill in the soil.

6. Filling the Pot with Soil

  • Using the well-draining cactus potting mix, start filling in the space around the cactus. Tamp the soil down gently to provide stability.

7. Mulching (Optional)

  • Consider adding a layer of decorative gravel or small stones on top of the soil for both aesthetics and to help prevent moisture loss.

8. Watering

  • Water the newly potted cactus sparingly, allowing the soil to become slightly dry between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot.

9. Placement and Sunlight

  • Find a suitable location for your potted cactus. Most cacti prefer bright, indirect sunlight, so place it near a window with filtered light. Avoid direct, intense sunlight initially.

10. Maintenance

  • Regularly inspect your cactus for signs of pests, disease, or any issues with drainage.
  • Re-pot your cactus into a larger container when it outgrows its current pot.

By following these steps, you can successfully plant a large cactus in a pot, creating an attractive and low-maintenance addition to your indoor or outdoor space.

Cactus Farm

B&B Cactus Farm

Exploring B&B Cactus Farm

Whenever I find myself in Tucson, I always try to find time to visit B&B Cactus Nursery. They have a large selection cacti, including my favorites – Torch cactus (Trichocereus hybrids).  While they are rather unassuming when not in flower, they transform win spring when their large blossoms open.

Cactus Farm

‘First Light’ Torch Cactus Hybrid

‘First Light’ Torch Cactus Hybrid

My first visit to B&B Cactus Farm was several years ago and I had the intention of buying one torch cactus. However, as often happens with me and plants, I came home with two, including this stunning ‘First Light’ torch cactus.

On my second visit, I bought a new torch cactus hybrid and a colorful blue container to plant it in. 

Cactus Farm

Meeting a Cactus Expert

Normally, I plant my own cactus, but a conversation with one of the cactus experts at the nursery changed my mind.

Damon was busy potting cactus at a table with a large pile of succulent potting mix behind him. I struck up a conversation with him and found that he had an interesting story that had him ending up at a cactus nursery in Arizona. He worked in the banking industry and moved to Arizona from Oklahoma a year ago, and began work at a local bank.

Cactus Farm

After awhile, he decided that being a banker wasn’t for him and found happiness working with cactus. As he put it, “People are always stressed about money when they visit the bank, but everyone who comes to the nursery is happy, because plants make people smile.”

We had a great time talking and I decided to have him pot my cactus, which would make it easier to transport home. When I explained that I had a gardening website and wanted to take a video of him potting the cactus, he graciously agreed and provided lots of helpful advice.

So here is a banker turned cactus expert, showing you how to plant cactus in a pot: 

I hope you enjoyed Damon’s helpful tips. For more helpful videos, subscribe to my YouTube Channel

Do you like to use fresh herbs when you cook?

What if you could just step outside your door and snip some herbs without having to go to the store? 

Have you seen how expensive fresh herbs are at the supermarket by the way? And, who wants floppy herbs when they can have fresh ones?

I am often asked whether it is easy to grow herbs in the desert garden and I always answer, “yes!”

container herb garden

Herbs come from mostly arid regions and so they flourish in our climate. They also like the sun, which we have plenty of.

One of my favorite ways to grow herbs in containers. In fact, they do extremely well in pots – especially when planted together. Imagine having a variety of herbs growing in a container near your kitchen door.

It’s easy to do and here is how:

1. Place your container in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sun.

Basil, container herb garden

Basil

2.  Fill your container with planting mix, which is sterile, has a light texture and is specially formulated for container plants.  It retains just the right amount of moisture for plants. Potting soil can become soggy.

3. Add a slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, and work it into the top 2-inches of soil.

Oregano

Oregano

4. Plant your herbs. Oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme are easiest to grow when you start out with transplants. Basil grows easily from seed, but can you also use transplants?

Sage

Sage

5. Water deeply. Do not wet the foliage when you water them as they prefer to stay dry.

Thyme

Thyme

6. Herbs like to dry out between watering. To check when they need water, simply stick your finger down to 1-inch deep – if the soil is moist, don’t water. However, if it’s almost dry, then water deeply until water runs out the bottom drainage hole.

container herb garden

Purple Basil (Not the healthiest specimen, but it was the only one they had – it was over-watered at the nursery).

7.  Don’t add any additional fertilizer after planting.  Herbs don’t like extra fertilizer since it causes them to grow larger leaves with fewer oils, which is what gives them their flavor.

I like to place my herbs near my vegetable garden.

Here in the desert, we can grow herbs all year long. However, I do like to dry herbs like basil, which don’t live through our winters.

I encourage you to dip your toes into growing your own herbs. You can find transplants at your favorite nursery, so find a sunny spot and get started!

Click below for my container gardening tips…

Creative Container Gardening Tips

Spring in the desert Southwest is a busy time of year. While those that live in colder climates countdown the days until March 20th, the spring season often begins a full month earlier in the low to middle desert.

As a horticulturist / landscape consultant, my days are quite busy in spring assisting people with their gardens.

A Week in the Desert Southwest: Embracing Creative Containers

Today, I thought that I would show some glimpses of a typical week in spring filled with creative containers, new xeriscapes, cacti flowers and the heavenly fragrance of orange blossoms.

sweet acacia tree

Showcasing Beautiful Xeriscapes

The weather this past week has been warm, in the low 80’s. Spring-flowering plants were in full bloom such as this sweet acacia tree which produces small, golden, puffball flowers. I love how the deep yellow looks against the blue sky, don’t you?

Often, in my travels assisting clients, I see some great examples of beautiful xeriscapes.

verbena(Glandularia pulchella)

This is a newly planted landscape which stood out from the surrounded homes with its mature plants, the selection of desert-adapted plants and the nice design.

The vibrant purple flowers of the verbena (Glandularia pulchella) demanded attention from passersby. I also liked how the golden barrel cacti looked in the raised bed.  

aloe, artichoke agave and golden barrel cacti.

A Succulent Wonderland

Another landscape that I saw this week was filled with countless different types of plants. Often, when you have too many kinds of plants, the effect can appear ‘messy’ visually. But, not with this landscape filled with succulents of all sorts including aloe, artichoke agave and golden barrel cacti.

damianita (Chrysactina mexicana)

While driving by a church landscape that I had designed previously, I stopped to take this photo of the damianita (Chrysactina mexicana), which was in full bloom. I absolutely love this plant and have several in my own garden.

A Visit to Verde Valley Nursery

creative containers

I took a few moments to stop by a small, local nursery in Fountain Hills, AZ – Verde Valley Nursery. My visits always last longer than I plan because I love looking at all the new plants in stock.

Creative Containers: A Splash of Color

creative containers , Blue Elf aloe, golden barrel, small variegated agave and totem pole 'Monstrosus' cactus

During visits to a few of my regular clients, who have me come by on an annual basis, I saw some great examples of container plants, including this one filled with Blue Elf aloe, golden barrel, small variegated agave and totem pole ‘Monstrosus’ cactus.  

This looks so nice, it almost makes it easy to skip planting high-maintenance annual flowers.

creative containers

I really liked this container. Many people have problems growing flowers in entryways where there is not enough sun. In addition, there is the burden of having to water frequently that can lead to stains on the concrete.  

This colorful container is filled with dried, flowering agave stalks – I love it!

creative containers

One of the joys of my job is when clients invite me back to see their landscape and sometimes recommend a few ‘tweaks’. It was during one of these repeat visits that I saw this trio of Blue Elf aloe, which looks great when planted next to boulders, don’t you think?

Unusual Sights in the Landscape

creative containers

Sometimes, I see things that are somewhat unusual, like this Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marinatus) that was forming flowers. They do not always flower in the low desert, so this was a really neat to see close up.

A Palette of Purple Flowers

sea lavender (Limonium perezii)

Visions of purple-flowering plants filled my week. While on a date night with my husband, we strolled through our local outdoor mall and I saw these lovely sea lavender (Limonium perezii). They do best in areas with filtered sunlight in the desert garden.

 Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas)

Although I do not have lavender in my garden, I enjoy seeing lavender in other people’s gardens. This Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) looked beautiful.

gorgeous blue hibiscus shrub

I came upon this gorgeous blue hibiscus shrub in an unlikely place – the supermarket parking lot. 

creative containers

Capturing Spring’s Essence in the Landscape

While not quite purple, the dark pink of Parry’s penstemon looks so beautiful in the spring landscape, as evident in a landscape as I drove by.

Orange Blossoms

Today as I drove home from an appointment, I rolled down the windows so that I could smell the heavenly fragrance of the orange blossoms from the surrounding orchards.

After beautiful weeks like this, I feel so blessed to work outdoors…

large bougainvillea in front of a southwest home

Do you love the beauty of bougainvillea? Many of us will agree that bougainvillea is beautiful, but many homeowners hesitate to grow them for a variety of reasons. The most common that I hear is that they get too big and as a result, too messy.

Embracing Bougainvillea: Maximizing Beauty while Minimizing Hassle in Containers

While both statements are certainly true, wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the captivating and vibrant beauty of bougainvillea in a more controlled manner? One can find great satisfaction in discovering how to strategically grow bougainvillea, harnessing its enchanting colors and delicate blooms while mitigating the challenges associated with its exuberant growth and occasional unruliness.

Grow Bougainvillea in Pot or container

Thriving in Harsh Desert Summers: Consider Growing Bougainvillea

Let’s face it; summers in the desert can be brutal and bougainvillea are one of the lush green, flowering shrubs that thrive in intense heat and sun. So, why not consider adding one in a high-profile area where you can enjoy their beauty throughout the warm season?

Link to desert southwest Fuss-Free Plant Guide
Grab my FREE guide for Fuss-Free Plants that thrive in a hot, dry climate!

The Advantage of Potted Bougainvillea: Small Size, Less Mess

Growing bougainvillea in pots limits their overall size, and with smaller shrubs, there is less mess. It also makes it easier to protect them from frost damage in winter by moving the container to a sheltered location, such as underneath a patio or covering them with a sheet.

pale pink bougainvillea in container

Mastering Bougainvillea Growth: Container Planting Insights

Bougainvillea make excellent container plants. In fact, many gardeners who live in cold climates, only grow them in pots and move them indoors in winter. I met a gardener in Austin, Texas who treats bougainvillea like an annual plant, planting a new one every year to replace the old one lost to winter cold. Thankfully, we don’t need to do add a new one every year.

Bold pink flowery plant in container

Simple Steps to Cultivating Bougainvillea in Pots

Growing bougainvillea in pots is easy to do. Select a location in full sun where it will promote the most bloom. Bougainvillea are one of the few flowering plants that can handle west-facing exposures. 

pale pink and white bougainvillea flowers in blue pot

Nurturing and Feeding Your Potted Bougainvillea for Optimal Growth

Provide support for them to grow upward if desired. You can also grow bougainvillea as more of a compact shrub form if you wish.

Water deeply and allow the top 2 inches to dry out before watering again. Bougainvillea does best when the soil is allowed to dry out between watering.

bougainvillea in containers along a hot wall

Apply a slow-release fertilizer in spring, after the danger of frost is passed. You’ll want to reapply fertilizer every three months until September.

Winter Care and Final Thoughts: Flourish with Potted Bougainvillea

Growing bougainvillea in pots keeps them small enough to make it feasible to cover them when freezing temperatures occur. So, if you like container gardening, consider growing bougainvillea in a pot for great success.

Creative Container Gardening Tips

Creative Container Gardening

Container Gardening: Bringing Life to Your Desert Garden

Spring Transitions in Container Gardening

Spring in the desert brings a flurry of activity out in the garden – much of it involving container gardening. As the season changes, it’s time to rejuvenate your containers and infuse new life into your outdoor space.

As they say, in late spring, it’s “out with the old and in with the new.” In the desert garden, it’s when cool-season flowering annuals are traded out for those that can handle the hot temperatures of summer.  

Embracing the Heat-Resistant Annuals

Examples of cool-season annuals are pansies, petunias, and snapdragons, which are grown fall through spring. BUT, they won’t survive hot, desert summers. So, in late April, it’s time to plant flowering annuals that can take the heat. My favorites include angelonia, ‘Blue Victoria’ salvia, and vinca.

beautiful container

Beyond Blossoms: Creative Container Gardening Ideas

While flowers remain a popular choice for container gardening, there’s a world of possibilities to explore with growing plants in containers. Here are some creative ideas to elevate your container gardening game:

1. Colorful Containers

Give your containers a vibrant makeover by painting them in eye-catching colors. Elevate the aesthetics of your garden by transforming inexpensive plastic containers into stylish focal points with a simple coat of paint.

Leaf lettuce and garlic grow along with flowering petunias in Container

Leaf lettuce and garlic grow along with flowering petunias.

2. Edible Delights

Did you know that you can grow vegetables in pots? I love doing this in my garden. In the fall, I plant leaf lettuce, spinach, and garlic in my large pots alongside flowering petunias. When March arrives, I like to add basil, peppers along with annuals.

Winter Container Gardening with spinach, parsley and garlic growing with pink petunias

Winter container garden with spinach, parsley and garlic growing with pink petunias.

For pots, I recommend you use a potting mix, which is specially formulated for containers and holds just the right amount of moisture.  Container plants need to be fertilized. You can use a slow-release fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer of your choice.

Cucumbers growing with vinca and dianthus Container

Cucumbers growing with vinca and dianthus.

3. Seasonal Vegetable Pairings

In spring, vegetables such as cucumbers, bush beans, and even zucchini can grow in containers paired with flowers. 

*If you would like to try growing edible containers, click here for more info.

Creative Container Gardening

4. Low-Maintenance Succulents

For a fuss-free container gardening experience, consider planting cacti and succulents. These hardy desert dwellers not only flourish in pots but also require less water compared to their flowering counterparts.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) Container

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri).

Succulents are an excellent choice for planting in areas where water is not easily accessible. While they will need supplemental water, they don’t need water every day, making them a better choice for these areas.

cactus & succulents Container

In general, succulents are lower-maintenance as well, so they are an excellent choice for the ‘fuss-free’ gardener.

Use a potting mix specially formulated for cactus & succulents, which will drain well.

Fertilize succulents spring through fall using a liquid or slow-release fertilizer at 1/2 the recommended strength.

*For more information on how to plant succulents in containers, including how to do it without getting pricked, click here.

Container Gardening

5. Space-Saving Strategies

Let’s face it – the potting mix is expensive and makes your pots very heavy. If you have a large pot, your plant’s roots most likely will never reach the bottom – so why waste soil where you don’t need it?

Fill up the unused space with recycled plastic containers and then add your potting mix. You will save money, AND your container will be much lighter as well. 

Best Tips for Successful Container Gardening

To ensure your container garden thrives, follow these essential tips:

  • Use a potting mix specially formulated for containers to maintain optimal moisture levels.
  • Regularly fertilize your container plants with a suitable fertilizer.
  • Choose a potting mix tailored for cacti and succulents when growing these drought-resistant plants.
  • Consider supplementing water with succulents in arid areas.
  • For more information on succulent container gardening, click here.

Reimagine Your Desert Garden with Containers

Whether you’re a gardening novice or a seasoned pro, container gardening offers boundless opportunities to transform your outdoor space. Explore the beauty of diverse plantings, experiment with colors, and embrace the practicality of edible container gardens. By reimagining what you can do in a container, you’ll breathe new life into your desert garden this spring.

winter garden views in Phoenix

Embracing the Beauty of a Winter Garden

Cultivating Year-Round Blooms in the Desert


Winter Garden Wonders:
Did you know that you can have plants blooming in your landscape every month of the year? In the desert garden, this is definitely true!

One of the most popular programs that I teach at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is ‘Flowering All Year’. During the presentation, I teach students how to incorporate plants in their gardens so they can enjoy colorful blooms all year long.

A Winter Wonderland of Desert Blooms

Sadly, many desert dwellers miss this opportunity. Drive down a typical neighborhood street in winter, and you will have a hard time finding plants in bloom except for colorful annual flowers. As you’ll note, the focus in our gardens is typically on plants that flower through the warm season.

So, how can we change that? It’s quite simple – add plants that will flower in winter. Believe it or not, there are quite a few plants that fit the bill. 

I invite you to come along with me on a virtual tour of the plants I showed to the students in the class as we walked through the winter garden in mid-February.

*Before we embark on our walk, I have a confession to make. Usually, I arrive early before my classes to see what’s in bloom so I can plan our route. But, my daughter’s bus arrived late that morning, so I was running a bit late. As a result, I didn’t know what we would see. Thankfully, there was plenty to see.

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae) winter garden

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)

Plants for Cool-Season Winter Garden Color

Let’s start by discovering some of the remarkable plants that grace the winter garden with their presence:

1. Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)

The vibrant, blooms of purple lilac vine never disappoint. Blooms appear in mid-winter, adding a welcome relief to colorless winter landscapes. Here it is planted in a tall raised bed and allowed to trail downward. In my garden, it grows up against a wall with a trellis for support.

Whale's Tongue Agave and Mexican Honeysuckle underneath an Ironwood tree

Whale’s Tongue Agave and Mexican Honeysuckle underneath an Ironwood tree

2. Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) from winter garden

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)

Several perennials and small shrubs do best in the desert garden when planted in filtered sunlight. Desert trees like ironwood, mesquite, and palo verde are excellent choices for producing filtered sunlight. Mexican honeysuckle doesn’t do well in full sun. As a result, it thrives under the shade of this ironwood tree. I love the texture contrast in this bed next to the whale’s tongue agave in this winter garden.

3. Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and Weber’s Agave (Agave weberi)

Weber's Agave (Agave weberi) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) from winter garden

Weber’s Agave (Agave weberi) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Desert marigold is a short-lived perennial that resembles a wildflower. Yellow flowers appear throughout the year on this short-lived perennial. I like to use them in wildflower gardens or natural desert landscapes because this yellow bloomer will self-seed.

4. Firesticks (Euphorbia ‘Sticks on Fire’) and Elephants Food (Portulacaria afra)

Firesticks (Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire') and Elephants Food (Portulacaria afra) from winter garden

Firesticks (Euphorbia ‘Sticks on Fire’) and Elephants Food (Portulacaria afra)

Shrubs, vines, and perennials aren’t the only plants that add winter color in the landscape. Colorful stems of the succulent ‘Firesticks’ add a splash of orange all year. I am a fan of the use of blue pots in the garden, and here, it adds a powerful color contrast with the orange.

5. ‘Winter Blaze’ (Eremophila glabra)

'Winter Blaze' (Eremophila glabra) from winter garden

‘Winter Blaze’ (Eremophila glabra)

Eremophilas from winter garden

Lush green foliage decorated with orange/red blooms is on display all year long with this Australian native. Several types of Eremophilas add cool-season color to the landscape, and this one deserves more attention. There must be a blank space in my garden for one… 

6. Winter Garden Delight – ‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana)

Blue Bells Eremophila and Mexican Fence Post Cactus from winter garden

Blue Bells Eremophila and Mexican Fence Post Cactus

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) from winter garden

‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana)

Without a doubt, ‘Blue Bells’ is arguably one of my most favorite plants. It resembles a compact Texas sage (Leucophyllum spp.) but doesn’t grow as large AND blooms throughout the year. For best results, plant in full sun, but well-drained soil is a must.

7. Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)

 Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata 'Valentine') from winter garden

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)

My favorite choice for winter color is Valentine bush. Red/fuschia blooms begin to appear in January and last into April. For maximum color impact, use them in groups of 3 – 5. They are low maintenance – prune back to 1/2 their size in mid-April after flowering. No other pruning is required.

8. Aloe ferox

Aloe ferox from winter garden

Aloe ferox

Winter into spring is a busy time for aloes, and many species do well in the desert garden. Most require filtered sunlight to do their best, but ‘Blue Elf’ aloe does well in both full sun and bright shade.

9. Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) from winter garden

Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

10. Shrubby Germander (Teucrium fruiticans ‘Azurea’)

People from colder climates are often surprised to note that rosemary flowers. In the desert, we are fortunate that we get to enjoy their blue flowers from winter through spring – the bees like them too!

 Shrubby Germander (Teucrium fruiticans 'Azurea') from winter garden

Shrubby Germander (Teucrium fruiticans ‘Azurea’)

Toward the entrance to the garden, I was delighted to see shrubby germander. A star in my own garden, this shrub has flowered all winter long and will continue to do so into spring. The blooms are a lovely periwinkle color.

11. Chuparosa (Justicia californica)

Chuparosa (Justicia californica) from winter garden

Chuparosa (Justicia californica)

As our walk was wrapping up, the bright red blooms of a chuparosa shrub caught our eye. A hummingbird was busily drinking as much nectar as he could. I like to use this shrub in winter garden landscapes with a natural theme as it has a sprawling growth habit. It flowers through winter into spring and an important nectar source for hummingbirds.

Beyond Blooms: Adding Artistic Flair to the Winter Garden

winter garden colors

Of course, blooming plants aren’t the only way to add color to the garden. Garden art can play a vital part in adding interest. The Desert Botanical Garden is host to a traveling art exhibit with various animals made from recycled plastic. This group of meerkats greets visitors to the garden.

I hope that you enjoy this virtual tour of winter garden color in the garden and will add some to your own.

What plants do you have that flower in winter?

Drive By Landscapes: Winter Beauty in the Southwest Garden

container plants

Exploring Unconventional Container Plants

What type of plants comes to mind when you are planning what to plant in your containers?

I’m willing to bet that purple hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’) and bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum) probably weren’t the first plants that came to mind.

Thinking Beyond the Blooms

Admittedly, I tend to think of using plants known for their flowers or succulents in my containers.  That is until a trip to California that I took this past April.

container plants

A Visit to Cornerstone Sonoma

In the picturesque Napa Valley region of northern California, sits Cornerstone Sonoma, which describes itself as “a wine country marketplace featuring a collection of world-class shopping, boutique wine rooms, artisanal foods, art-inspired gardens.”

Believe me; it is all that and more.

Amidst all its offerings, it was the unconventional container plantings that captured my attention.

Unusual Choices in Container Plants

Purple hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea'), shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans), and violas. (container plants)

Purple hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’), shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans), and violas.

Intriguingly, I discovered square steel containers filled with plants celebrated for their foliage, a departure from the typical container plantings I was accustomed to.

These unique designs were creative and beautiful.

container plants

The Appeal of Foliage-Focused Container Plantings

There were quite a few things about this type of container planting that appealed to me.

One, it is low-maintenance – no deadheading required.  Just some light pruning 2 – 3 times a year, to control their size. Second, the plants are all drought tolerant (with the exception of the violas). Lastly, I like seeing new ways of doing things and using plants prized for their foliage in containers is something we don’t see too often.  

Replicating the Concept with Container Plants at Home

Fast forward a few months, and I decided to rethink what to add to the large, blue planter by my front entry.  So, I thought, why not try the same arrangement?

Smaller but Promising

container plants

Granted, the plants are smaller than those I saw in California, but given a few months, they should grow in nicely.

As you can see my new plants are rather mall, however, the purple hopbush will grow taller and its evergreen foliage will add shades of purple and green to this space. Furthermore, this shrub is one of those highly-prized plants that do well in both sun and filtered shade.

Embracing Foliage Diversity

The silvery-gray foliage of bush morning glory creates a great color contrast with the darker greens of the other plants. While it may not flower much in this semi-shady corner, I want it for its silvery foliage.

Adding Greenery to the Mix

In addition, I want to use a plant that has bright green foliage, so I have a single foxtail asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus Myers), which will thrive in this semi-shady exposure. 

Maintenance will be relatively simple with periodic pruning to keep wayward branches in check. Fertilizing in spring and late summer with a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote will be all that’s needed to keep my container plants happy.

Do you have any plants with attractive foliage that you would use in containers? 

From Trash to Treasure: Unique, Fuss-Free Container Plantings

I have a confession to make.  

I don’t have any containers filled with flowering annuals. Shocking isn’t it?

There are a few reasons for this, the most important one is that I prefer using relatively fuss-free plants that look great all year in my pots.  

I don’t have much patience for high-maintenance containers. In particular, ones with flowering annuals that need frequent irrigation. Not to mention deadheading of spent flowers and having to change them out seasonally. But, I do love the way they look.

container-red-geraniums

Red Geraniums and White Bacopa

My inclination to avoid flowering annuals in my own garden has to do with my past and no, it’s nothing scandalous.

It does have to do with my work in the past. For five years, I was in charge of 45 pots. Each container was always be filled with colorful flowers.

Believe me, keeping all of those pots looking beautiful was a lot of work! Countless trips to the nursery, fertilizing, watering and replacing them twice a year got tiresome. Not to mention that I broke my foot when I tripping on a curb, while loading flats of flowers. 

So, it may not come as a surprise that I prefer using succulent plants in my pots.

Victoria Agave 'Compacta' Small succulent plants for Containers

Victoria Agave ‘Compacta’

Much of my inspiration for using succulent plants in containers come from those at the Desert Botanical Garden as shown in the photo above and below.

Agaves are some of my favorite succulent plants and the smaller species do very well in containers.

Small succulent plants for Containers

In an article I wrote for Houzz, I list my ten favorite small agaves for Houzz that are suitable for growing in pots.

I hope you enjoy it and find one that is perfect for you!

10 Small-Scale Agaves Just Right for Containers

 
 
 
Spring in the desert 'Tangerine Beauty' Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty')

Spring in the desert ‘Tangerine Beauty’ Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’)

Capturing the Beauty of Spring in the Desert

Spring in the desert is the most beautiful time of year with the majority of plants in the landscape bursting out with flowers. It’s also a very busy time for me with landscape consultations, speaking engagements, work in the garden, and family life. I love to document the happenings in my life by taking photographs with my phone, and I’d like to share a sampling with you. It’s a fun combination that includes colorful plants, spiky pots, snakes, roses and the prom!

Pausing for ‘Tangerine Beauty’ Crossvines

No matter how busy I may be, the sight of a beautiful plant stops me in my tracks. It doesn’t matter how rushed I may be; I will always stop and take a photo. That’s what happened when I spotted this row of ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvines on our way into church. Even though we were running a few minutes late (as usual) I had to pause to admire the beauty of the lovely blooms and take a photo.

‘Tangerine Beauty’ does very well in the low desert garden. It has lush green foliage and orange/pink flowers that hummingbirds love. It needs a trellis or other support to climb up on and does well in full sun to filtered sun, but avoid planting along a west-facing wall as it may struggle in reflected sun.

entryway-desert-gardening-flowering-annuals-geraniums

Spring in the Desert Speaking Engagements and Garden Inspirations

As a speaker on various gardening topics, my journey often takes me to the Desert Botanical Garden, public libraries, and also to garden groups. During one of my presentations at the Paradise Valley Country Club, I was greeted by this beautiful bed filled geraniums, foxglove, and yellow daisies. The spiky shape of agave adds welcome texture contrast in this area.

agave-planted-in-containers-arizona (Spring in the desert)

Nearby, an impressive collection of spiky succulents graces decorative pots. Agave, with their striking spiky shapes, makes excellent container plants. Placed against a wall, these succulents thrive in full sun and embrace reflected heat with grace.

Cave Creek Branch of the Phoenix Public Library

The Quirky Side of Presentations

Speaking engagements can sometimes bring unexpected surprises. Here is a very different entry to another presentation I was to give at the Cave Creek Branch of the Phoenix Public Library. Two identical caution signs flank the raised metal bridge, which makes you look carefully before approaching. A humorous touch, albeit one that might discourage young readers, added a dash of quirkiness to the library entrance.

David Austin Olivia Rose

‘Olivia Rose’

Embracing the Rose Garden

Back home, the rose garden is in full bloom with my favorite ‘Olivia Rose’ completely covered in fragrant, delicate pink color. She flowers more than every other rose in the garden and for the longest, ensuring her favored status.

red David Austin rose Darcey Bussell

‘Darcey Bussell’

The best performing red rose in the garden is ‘Darcey Bussell,’ and she never disappoints as I view her vibrant blooms from my kitchen window.

David Austin rose Lady of Shalott

‘Lady of Shalott’

This rose is a relative newcomer to my rose garden. ‘Lady of Shalott’ was planted in the winter of 2018 and didn’t produce many blooms in her first year, which is typical of most new roses. However, this year, she is covered with roses in delicate shades of pink and peach.

A Touch of Prom Night

AZ Plant Lady

On the home front, spring means that it’s time for the prom. I can hardly believe that my son is old enough – it seemed like it was just yesterday when I came home with a darling little two-year-old boy from China.

Kai's favorite color

Kai’s favorite color is red, can you tell? It takes confidence to wear a bright color like this, and he does it so well. He is the youngest of four sisters, so this was my first time helping a boy get ready for a school dance. Honestly, it is a lot simpler – all he needed was help with his tie and his boutonniere.

I revel in the bustling energy of spring and cherish the vibrant moments it brings. How about you?

Tour of My Spring Garden