|Purple hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’), shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans), and violas.|
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.
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 succulents in my pots.
|Victoria Agave ‘Compacta’|
In an article I wrote for Houzz, I list my ten favorite small agaves for Houzz that are suitable for growing in pots.
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!
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.
As I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of speaking on a variety of gardening topics at the Desert Botanical Garden, public libraries, and also to garden groups. Upon my arrival to give a presentation 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.
Across the way, I spotted this dramatic example of spiky succulents growing in pots. Agave are excellent container plants, and their spiky shapes look fabulous along this wall. The plantings underneath the wall are well chosen as they do well in areas with full sun and reflected heat.
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. I know that libraries work hard to get kids to read, but these signs just might scare them off 😉
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.
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.
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.
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 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 love spring and all the busyness that comes with it. How about you?
UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!
I hope you enjoy it!
I am always on the lookout for new ideas to use in outdoor spaces and on a recent trip to Austin, Texas, I toured 17 different gardens and came away filled with garden inspiration Southwest style.
A garden’s style is a reflection of the owner and because everyone is unique, so is the way that they decorate their landscape. I confess that I saw several ideas that I felt representative of my taste and am contemplating replicating them in my garden or recommending them for my clients.
I hope you find things that you will want to incorporate into your landscape.
Summer in my desert garden is a time to enjoy its beauty from the air-conditioned comfort of my home. Yet, it’s also when I plan and dream of what I would like to add to it when the weather cools in fall.
While garden inspiration was in plentiful supply during my visit to Austin, it can also be found in other places such as a roadside planting, a local business’s landscape, a favorite magazine, or perhaps even in your neighbor’s front yard. I encourage you to keep your eyes open to possibilities of what you can do with your outdoor space.
Is your landscape style more free-form and natural or do you embrace a more modern, contemporary kind of garden with straight lines and right angles? On a recent visit to Austin, I had the opportunity to visit the home of landscape designer, B. Jane, which looks as if it came straight from the pages of a magazine with its resort-style design. If you had a garden like this, why leave home when you can vacation at home in a contemporary, low-maintenance garden?
The front of B.’s garden is graced by a large crepe myrtle, located between her two front windows, which help to frame her view from the house. The flat pads of a prickly pear cactus add rich texture contrast among the softer shapes of perennials.
An agave nestles between asparagus fern and silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea), which is a ground cover, which I saw throughout the gardens we toured in Austin. It is a type of Dichondra, and I liked it so much, that I brought some home and now have it growing in one of my large containers by the front entry. Silver ponyfoot creeps along the ground or can be used to trail over the sides of pots.
A live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) is planted in a circular section covered in decomposed granite. Asparagus fern adds softness around the outer edges, again, creating nice texture contrast.
Walking toward the backyard, I was quite taken with the square step stones and dark grey beach pebbles – this is a great look that is worth replicating.
As you can see from the potted plants on the patio table, simplicity reigns in this garden, which is filled with native or adapted plants that flourish with little fuss. Low-maintenance doesn’t mean that a garden is dull – often the truth is just the opposite as you will see as we continue on our tour.
A rectangular pool runs along the center of the backyard, and colorful balls reflect the colors used throughout the landscape, which is a brilliant way to draw attention to them. A ‘Sticks on Fire’ succulent (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’) basks in the sun, which is a plant that does beautifully in hot, arid climates.
Now, we are at the point in the tour where I became seriously envious. This is B.’s office, which is separate from her house – she simply walks by her beautiful pool on her way to work in the morning and enjoys a glorious view of her garden while she works. Have I ever mentioned that I work in my dining room – that is, until my kids leave home and I get my own office (room).
A group of containers filled with a variety of plants including hibiscus, rosemary, and basil – (yes, basil) adds interest to this corner by the pool.
Bamboo is used to help provide privacy from neighbors and shrub roses add a welcome pop of color.
Even the dog has its own space in B.’s garden with a patch of grass and his own fire hydrant!
Isn’t this a lovely seating area? I love the splash of red and the bamboo backdrop.
Just the perfect spot to sit with my friend, Teresa Odle, who blogs at “Gardening In a Drought” and also just happens to co-write with me and two other writers, for our new blog, “Southwest Gardening”.
I must admit that I am drawn more toward more naturalistic gardens, filled with curves and staggered plantings but, I love the contemporary lines of B. Jane’s garden and its resort-like vibe. You can find out more about B. Jane and her creations here.
I like quirky things that are unexpected and outside the daily ‘normalness’ in our lives. That is why I have fallen in love with the city of Austin, Texas, which prides itself on being “weird.” Another reason this Texas capital city appeals to me is their beautiful gardens and rich gardening culture, and my friend, Pam Penick’s shady, colorful garden personifies the uniqueness that is found throughout Austin.
On a recent visit to Austin, I took part in the Garden Bloggers Fling, where garden bloggers from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain, gather and tour gardens within a particular city. This year’s Fling was held in Austin, and one of the gardens I was most excited to see was Pam’s.
As two long-time bloggers in the Southwest, Pam and I have been friends for several years and I was fortunate to have hosted her in Arizona four years ago, while she was researching for her latest book, “The Water-Saving Garden.” For years, I’ve wanted to visit her garden and now was my chance.
Pam’s garden flourishes underneath the filtered shade of beautiful oak trees. However, the shade does present some challenges in that there aren’t a lot of colorful plants that will flower in shady conditions. But, Pam expertly works around that obstacle, using her unique design style that she describes as mostly contemporary.
Concentrating flowering plants in the few areas that receive bright sun is one way to add needed color to a shady landscape. Here, the bright colors of this autumn sage (Salvia greggii) contrast beautifully with the blue-gray leaves of a whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia). While both of these plants flourish in full sun in this Texas garden, they do best with filtered or afternoon shade in the low desert region.
In the absence of flowering plants, texture is introduced with the use of spiky agave and yucca plants. Elements of color are added using garden art such as these blue balls.
I love blue pots, and I’ve found a kindred spirit in Pam, who has them scattered throughout her landscape.
As you walk through the garden, you need to pay attention as Pam adds lovely detail in unexpected places, like this rusted garden art.
There are garden trends that are unique to specific areas of the country, and I found several of what I call, ‘pocket planters’ hanging on walls. Right at eye-level, it is easy to explore the tiny detail of these small containers.
Walking along the driveway, toward the backyard, the soft shape of bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) adds a beautiful blue backdrop, and in front, a container filled with Dyckia and a blue heart adds interest.
A sage green garden gate led the way into the backyard.
A potting bench sits along the wall in the side garden where four “Moby Jr.” whale’s tongue agave are planted, which come from Pam’s original “Moby” agave – I have one of the babies growing in my front garden.
Masonry blocks are artfully arranged into a low wall and filled with a variety of succulents.
The garden sits on a slope, which provides a lovely view from the upper elevation where a blue painted wall adds a welcome splash of color as well as a touch of whimsy with the “Austin” sign.
The shadows from an oak tree make delightful patterns along the wall while planters add a nice color element.
Gardening in Austin isn’t for wimps. They have to deal with thin soils that lie atop rock, which is quite evident along the back of the garden.
Blue bottle trees are a popular garden ornament throughout the South as well as other areas of the U.S. Here; they serve the same purpose as a flowering vine would.
As I got ready to leave, I walked among the deck that overlooked the pool where I am greeted by more examples of Pam’s unique garden style. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen octopus pots anywhere in my garden travels, until now.
I had a wonderful time exploring this shady oasis and the innovative ways that Pam has introduced colorful elements. I invite you to check out her blog, Digging, which is one of my favorites.
I am always on the lookout for design inspiration, seeing how others create beauty in the garden so that I can help inspire you with your outdoor spaces. So, here are some design notes from the field that I found that I hope you will find useful.
Often when walking through the garden, I find myself pausing to admire the view of a garden’s beauty reflected on a window.
It is much like looking at a landscape in a mirror, which expands on its beauty while making it appear even more extensive.
On a visit to a client’s landscape, I noted a unique way that they display their succulents. Little nooks were created along the bare expanse of wall, where small pots filled with succulents were nestled inside.
What a lovely way to break up what would otherwise be a bare wall.
CIRCULAR STEP STONES:
Pathways are an essential element of the landscape, allowing us to move from one area to the other. Normally, you see square step stones, a continuous path, or flagstone in a variety of shapes forming the path. However, I like these circular step stones, which create a distinctive look. The concrete is poured into molds onsite to make these step stones.
While strolling among the buildings of the La Villita Historic Village in downtown San Antonio, Texas, I spotted a delightful splash of color on a front porch. Vintage-inspired chairs in vibrant red and turquoise created a welcoming seating area in front of an old, historic home.
I hope that you enjoyed these design elements that speak to me. This is a series of design-inspired posts that I hope to feature from time to time with you. Have you seen any unique design that inspired you?
On a cold February morning, alongside my mother and sisters, I found myself at The Magnolia Silos, created and made famous by the much-loved hosts of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ program.
We were on a girls road trip through Texas, and as fans of the show, The Silos in Waco were a must-see destination.
The day we arrived was brisk, and we headed straight to the bakery, which is well-known for its delicious cupcakes and pastries. So, while my travel companions saved me a place in line, I headed straight for the decorative window boxes along the front and side of the bakery.
To be honest, I didn’t expect to see much in the way of greenery or gardens in winter, and so I was pleasantly surprised to see the lovely plantings underneath the windows.
Edible plants were mixed with ornamental plants, creating a blending of soft, complimentary shades, which suited the cloudy day.
The rosemary pruned into little topiaries created the perfect backdrop for the white, ornamental kale.
There is almost always a line around the bakery, but we were fortunate only to have to wait for 10 minutes before entering. In the meantime, we were handed a bakery menu where we could select what we wanted ahead of time.
I picked the ‘Shiplap’ cupcake – because, where else was I ever going to have the opportunity to get one anywhere else? It was delicious!
This sign within the bakery echoed the sentiments of all who entered and came out with a box of much-coveted cupcakes.
Once outside of the bakery, we headed for the main store where four magnolia trees were espaliered to the left of the entrance.
Don’t let the relatively empty facade fool you – it was filled with shoppers inside.
A grouping of lavender greeted us as we climbed the steps into the store.
Hanging tight to my wallet while trying to figure out how much I had budgeted for shopping, I entered the store.
It was immediately evident that Joanna has a deep love for gardening and plants although all those inside the store were artificial greenery and flowers.
Back outdoors, my sister and I posed for a picture before we headed over to the garden area.
The garden is surrounded with beds filled with roses that had recently been cut back and tulips just beginning to emerge.
The Magnolia Seed & Supply shop is filled with garden decor along with seeds available for purchase.
Raised beds are filled with leafy greens. I like the wooden branches used to support the frost cloth.
To the side of the store was a little greenhouse with a planter full of gorgeous kale.
I must admit that I’ve never thought of kale as ‘gorgeous’ before, but it was in this case.
On our way out, we took a photo of the silos surrounded by families and kids playing on a large expanse of artificial turf using old-fashioned lawn games provided for their use.
A quick stop for a photo.
I hope you enjoyed exploring the green spaces of The Magnolia Silos with me. I certainly did!
Plants can do some spectacular things, and the dramatic process when agave send up their flowering stalk, definitely qualifies. Yesterday, I noticed that my octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) had begun to send up its fleshy shoot.
I must confess that I had mixed feelings about it. My first reaction was excitement in getting to view the impressive growth of the fleshy stem and the flowers that will follow. But then, I felt sad that this signaled the beginning of the end for my octopus agave.
You see, this agave is the ‘grandbaby’ of the first agave that I ever planted, back in the late 1990’s, making three generations of flowering agave in my Arizona garden.
Eventually, that agave flowered, and I harvested one of the babies and planted it in a pot. Several years later, that octopus agave went through the same process, and I collected two babies.
The two siblings started out growing in a pot, and when they got large enough, I transplanted them out into the garden.
One was planted in a corner but had a short-lived stint in the garden as construction near the wall meant that it had to go.
Its sibling did great in its new spot in the front garden when it was planted in 2010, and now it is getting ready for babies.
The tiny baby agave are barely visible, and the stalk will grow several inches a day.
Octopus agave don’t have a long lifespan and mine average eight years in the ground before they flower.
In a few months, miniature octopus agave will cover the flowering stalk, which can be easily detached and replanted in the garden. It’s hard to believe that I will be planting the fourth generation of agave in my garden.
*I will keep you updated as it continues to grow and the arrival of baby agave.