I am always on the lookout for new plants to the desert plant palette. Growers experiment with new varieties of more common plants in an attempt to find new colors, sizes, and more desirable characteristics.
This past fall, I was invited to visit Civano Nursery Farm, located in Sahuarita, 20 miles outside of Tucson. The main reason for the visit was to introduce me to their new Tecoma shrub hybrid called ‘Red Hot.’ This new plant is closely related to yellow and orange bells, which are both ones that I like to use when designing.
At the time of my visit, ‘Red Hot’ was not yet available to the public but was being grown throughout the Southwest as a test plant.
While I met with Jackie Lyle, their Brand Development Manager, who plays an integral part in the introduction of new plants to the Southwest region.
Our tour began in the greenhouses where we explored their state-of-the-art automated systems and massive amounts of plants in all stages of growth. I was in heaven!
I have never worked in a nursery or for a grower, so it was fun to see how they propagate plants from cuttings.
While touring the greenhouses, I got my first view of ‘Red Hot’ Tecoma. Instantly, I could see why there is so much excitement about this new variety. The foliage has the characteristic color of most Tecomas, but the leaves were somewhat smaller than yellow bells and more compact.
So vibrant red blooms are simply stunning and sure to draw hummingbirds to drink the nectar from their flowers.
So’Civano Select’ are plants created by the grower, which have slightly different characteristics than the more common species that they are a welcome addition to the desert plant palette. I was thrilled to view several of their ‘Select’ plants during our tour.
As you can imagine, this is a bustling nursery, and there were shipments of plants headed out to job sites and other nurseries.
Whoever is getting these ‘Red Hot’ shrubs are in for a treat!
And, guess who came home with her own ‘Red Hot’ shrubs? Me!
Then I was extremely honored to receive two of these new shrubs, so I can share with you how they do in my Phoenix area garden. They are doing very well along the south-facing side of my house underneath the window by my kitchen.
Then, of course, I also brought home other plants – autumn sage (Salvia greggii), Mt. Lemmon marigold (Tagetes lemmonii), ‘Mr. Liko’ pink gaura (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Mr. Liko’). Getting free plants is like Christmas to this horticulturist!
The great news is that ‘Red Hot’ Tecoma is now available at many local nurseries.
Want to see if this is the right shrub for your garden? Here are the stats:
‘Red Hot’ Tecoma
Size: 4 feet tall and wide
Exposure: Full sun, reflected sun
Bloom Season: Spring through Fall
Cold Hardiness: 15 degrees
I will share the progress of my new ‘Red Hot’ shrubs and maybe you can do the same.
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?
Have you ever noticed that spring has a way of surprising you in the garden? That is indeed the thought that I had earlier this week as I walked through my front landscape.
After spending a week visiting my daughter in cold, wintery Michigan, I was anxious to return home and see what effects that a week of warm temperatures had done – I wasn’t disappointed.
I want to take you on a tour of my spring garden. Are you ready?
Penstemons play a large part in late winter and spring interest in the desert landscape, and I look forward to their flowering spikes.
One of the most dramatic blooms that grace my front garden are those of my Echinopsis hybrid cactuses. I have a variety of different types, each with their flower color. This year, ‘Ember’ was the first one to flower and there are several more buds on it.
Moving to the backyard, the gray-blue foliage of the shrubby germander is transformed by the electric blue shade of the flowers. This smaller shrub began blooming in the middle of winter and will through spring.
This unique shrub was a purchase that I made several years ago at the Desert Botanical Garden‘s spring plant sale. If you are looking for unusual plants that aren’t often found at your local nursery, this is the place to go. This is a lush green, tropical shrub that is related to the more common Baja Fairy Duster. However, it only flowers in spring and has sizeable red puff-ball flowers. It does best in east-facing exposures.
I am trialing a new self-watering hanging container that was sent to me free of charge by H20 Labor Saver for my honest review. I must say that I am very impressed. Growing plants in hanging containers is difficult in the desert garden as they dry out very quickly. But, this is a self-watering container, which has a reservoir that you fill, allowing me to have to water it much less often.
In the container, I have Million Bells growing, which are like miniature petunias. They are cool-season annuals that grow fall, winter, and spring in the desert garden.
Not all of my plants are flowering. My yellow bells shrubs have been pruned back severely, which I do every year, and are now growing again. This type of severe pruning keeps them lush and compact, and they will grow up to 6-feet tall within a few months.
This past fall, my daughters took over the vegetable garden. I must admit that it was fun to watch them decide what to grow and guide them in learning how to grow vegetables. They are already enjoying the fruits of their labor and onions will soon be ready to be harvested.
My Meyer lemon tree hasn’t performed very well for me and has produced very little fruit in the four years since I planted it. I realized that it wasn’t getting enough water, so I corrected that problem, and it is covered in blossoms – I am so excited!
Moving to the side garden, chocolate flower adds delicious fragrance at the entry to my cut flower garden. It does well in full sun and flowers off and on throughout the warm season.
In the cut flower garden, my roses are growing back from their severe winter pruning. Although the roses aren’t in bloom yet, my California native verbena is. This is a plant that I bought at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden – I don’t remember the exact name, but it does great in my garden.
I have some fruit trees growing in the side garden including peaches! I can just imagine how delicious these will taste in May once they are ripe!
While the peaches are already forming, my apple trees are a few weeks behind and are still flowering. It surprises people that you can grow apple trees in the desert garden and they will ripen in June – apple pie, anyone?
I hope that you have enjoyed this tour of my spring garden. All of these plants are bringing me joy.
*What is growing in your garden this spring that brings you joy?
For my longtime followers, you may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging as regularly as before. Well, I am excited to tell you the reason why.
But first, a little background. I help desert gardeners in my work as a landscape consultant where I meet with my clients and give them the knowledge and tools that they need to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful outdoor space that thrives in a hot, dry climate.
Many of you know that gardening in the desert can be challenging and it is hard to find resources to help you to learn the “right” way to do things. As a result, my phone was ringing off the hook with people who needed my help. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day to help everyone, and I soon became overwhelmed with work and exhausted.
So, I began looking for a way that I could reach more people to give them the help they needed. All winter long, I worked hard on my ‘new project’ and debuted it in January to a limited number of desert gardeners. I hoped that they would give me feedback so I could make sure that my new project was what they needed.
What I wasn’t prepared for was their overwhelmingly positive response! I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. I achieved my goal of reaching more people and helping them on their desert garden journey, and it is working!
And now, I’m finally ready to draw back the curtains and share it with you!
Desert Gardening 101 is a way that you can learn how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful garden that thrives in the desert. I’ve combined my 20+ years as a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant into this class.
Here are the topics covered in the class:
Live group coaching from me is included!
And there are bonuses for students including…
Here is what some of my current students have to say about Desert Gardening 101:
“This class has been very informative. We recently moved into a home in AZ with no landscaping in both the front and back yards. Having no experience in desert gardening and spending a lot of time online researching this subject. I came across the AZ Plant Lady and was happy to see there was an upcoming class on Desert Gardening. We signed up immediately.
This class is very helpful, and I’m sure it will keep us from making expensive mistakes in our new landscape and saving many hours of research. We can’t wait to start planting. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.” – Laurie Wolf
“I have really enjoyed Desert Gardening 101 and have learned so much! Talk about a learning curve! Everything about gardening here is a complete 180! Yikes. I have killed more plants in the past three years, that I ever did in the many, many years I gardened in Milwaukee! I wish that I would have had the opportunity to learn all that I am learning now before we hired a landscape firm to landscape our yard.
We had a clean slate – a brand new construction with nothing but dirt surrounding our home! I knew very little about the desert, the plants and trees that grow best here and how to plant and care for them, soil to use, the watering “issue,” let alone design. We are now in the process of fixing the problems, thanks in large part to the knowledge I am gaining through Desert Gardening 101! I still have a ton to learn, but I’m making lots of progress with the weekly modules!
Thanks, Noelle for making this a very informative and worthwhile course for all of us trying to learn the ins and outs of desert gardening! – Barb Terschan
“A Phoenix resident for many years, I recently moved from downtown to a house on the mountain preserve and wanted to flow into the desert with native and low water desert plants. That is when I found AZ Plant Lady and started learning. This class has been a huge help in this transition. I have learned I’ve been planting my new plants too deeply and watering way too much. The pruning session was an eye opener, also. Now I know when and how to prune my shrubs. The many plant suggestions provided have narrowed my search when visiting nurseries and has kept my focus on what really thrives in the desert. I am gardening with more confidence thanks to this course. Highly recommend!” – Linda Yowell
Desert Gardening 101 is an online course that teaches proven landscape strategies that I use myself, and I’ve taught hundreds of my clients who have gone on to succeed in their own landscape goals.
The course spans 8-weeks, and you can access it anytime online and view the content at your convenience. Most importantly, you will have lifetime access to the course, so you revisit the classes at any time in the future.
I am currently accepting new students for my next class session for a LIMITED time. I close the doors for new student sign-ups on Thursday, March 21st and I won’t be offering the class again until this fall!
I would be honored to come alongside you on your garden journey! Click here for more information and to register.
*This is by far the most affordable way to work with me at a fraction of the price of my private consultations.
Do you have a plant that DOESN’T bring you joy?
I do. There is one particular that has been bothering me for a while and I finally did something about it as I explain in the video below:
While there may be some sadness when removing a healthy plant, I confess that I didn’t feel that this time. The frustration that I feel each year with its under-performance in my garden that I was ready for it to go.
Although it doesn’t show in this photo, there was a healthy root system on this tiny orange tree.
I sat and watched them plant my new tree. They did a great job!
I will keep you updated as to how it does. It will be hard to wait for two years for new fruit, but it will be worth it!
What plants do you have that no longer bring you joy?
Let’s face it, a winter landscape filled with frost-damaged plants isn’t the most attractive. During this time of year, I often find myself itching to grab my pruners and get rid of the ugly, brown growth on my bougainvillea, lantanas and yellow bells shrubs. But before I do, I keep repeating to myself, just a few more weeks…
Perhaps you have a similar urge to prune away all the brown too early. What helps me to stop grabbing my pruners is remembering that the dead outer growth of my summer-flowering beauties is protecting the inner part of the plant AND the fact that freezing temperatures are still a distinct possibility.
And so, I will focus my attention on the winter-flowering plants that are adding beauty to my cool-season garden for now. If you don’t have any, I recommend Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana), Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’), and Firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatoni), and feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides).
If you would like more information on this subject, I invite you to read “Got Brown Crispy Plants?”
So, what are you dying to prune back in your winter garden?
One of the things that I enjoy about living in the Southwest are the beautiful outdoor spaces. In particular, I am struck by the color and beauty in the winter landscape.
Now, for those of you who follow, know that I often take photos of ‘problem’ landscapes I drive by.
Well, not this time! I was so distracted by the beauty around me that I didn’t notice any landscape mistakes.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and are inspired to create your own!
In the background, you see the pink blooms of pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla). Their uniquely shaped blooms look like a feather duster and hummingbirds find them irresistible.
Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea) is a native groundcover that needs little water and provides nice color contrast.
An almost leafless mesquite tree stands sentinel over a planting of red-flowering chuparosa (Justicia californica). This shrub has lovely green foliage and tubular flowers that drive hummingbirds crazy with delight.
As you can see, the Southwestern landscape is filled with beauty and color, even in winter. Unfortunately, many homeowners only use plants that bloom spring through summer. This leaves them with a boring landscape through the winter months for several months. So, celebrate the winter season by adding a few of these cool-season beauties to your garden!
Are you having a hard time ignoring them the ugliness of the frost-damaged leaves? Or perhaps you have no problem with some brown spots in your garden.
Well, before you pick up your pruning tool of choice – I have some important advice for you.
There are three very good reasons not to prune back your frost-damaged plants during the winter.
So, I hope these reasons help to convince you to turn a blind eye to your brown and crispy plants for a little while.
I learned this lesson the hard way. Years ago, I was in charge of decorating with plants for a large event. I purchased 100 potted geraniums and arranged them expertly with my crew in late February. The night before the event, we had a late frost that damaged every single geranium and we have to rapidly replace them. I should have used a plant that was more cold hardy.
Take a drive through your neighborhood and those close by as well. Look at your neighbor’s front landscapes and see what plants are still green and did not suffer any frost-damage.
The yucca, desert spoon, and pygmy date palm all did well while the trailing lantana did not.
When looking around, you will find exceptions. Some plants that normally would suffer frost damage look healthy and green.
As you can see, there is a large blue palo verde tree with a ‘Torch Glow’ bougainvillea underneath to the right. You may note that this bougainvillea did not suffer frost damage.
I am always looking for ways to help people on their desert garden journey and so I’m offering a FREE class on 5 reasons you are struggling with your desert garden.
As a horticulturist and landscape consultant, I have seen people making the same mistakes, which prevent them from having a beautiful outdoor space.
Because of this, they unintentionally ‘hurt’ the plants by over-maintaining them and spending money on unneeded products and landscape services.
If this sounds like you, I AM HERE TO HELP!
I’ve been helping people like you for over 20 years and I can help you too!
This LIVE class is on January 17th, at 1:00 MST. *If you want to register for this free class, but can’t attend it live, it will be recorded so you can watch it at our convenience for a limited time.
Knowledge is power and once you know what you are doing wrong in the landscape – you have taken one GIANT step in having a desert garden that you are proud of.
CLICK the following link to learn more and register – http://bit.ly/2RpFFb5
I hope to see you there!