Do you like red-flowering plants?

I do.


Many of the landscape plants in the southwestern landscape tend to be found in shades of purple and yellow.  As a result, I tend to include plants with red flowers whenever I create a design to help balance the purple and yellows in the plant palette.

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) is one of my favorites because it has such unusual flowers.  

They do look like ‘fairy-dusters’, don’t they?  The unique shape of the flowers is due to the fact that the showy part of each flower is actually a bunch of stamens grouped together – you don’t see the petals.

You can learn more about this beautiful, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance shrub including what zones it will grow in, in my latest plant profile for Houzz

Which red-flowering plants is your favorite?




Springtime in the desert southwest is a glorious time.  

We say “goodbye” to cold, winter temperatures and delight in the landscape around us and it bursts into bloom.

I enjoy spending time outdoors this time of year, realizing that soon I will go into what I like to call ‘summer hibernation’ as the temperatures reach triple digits.

Today, I thought that I would share with you some beautiful, pink flowering plants that are in bloom right now…

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)

Pink fairy duster shows off its pink flowers once a year in spring.  The rest of the year, it quietly recedes into the background until spring arrives again.

Beavertail Prickly Pear (Opuntia basilaris)

My favorite prickly pear has vibrant, pink flowers throughout spring.  One of the reasons that I like beavertail prickly pear is that it stays rather small and does not become overgrown like other species can.

Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

I’m a sucker for plants that produce flowering spikes, like Parry’s penstemon.  It has such a delicate, pink color and hummingbirds find it irresistible.

Pink California Poppy

Did you know that the traditional, orange California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) comes in other colors?  I think I’m in love with the pink variety.

‘Raspberry Ice’ Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea makes an excellent container plant. All you have to do is water them deeply and then allow them to dry out before watering again.  Although I have a deep, magenta bougainvillea in my own garden – I must admit that I really like the variety ‘Raspberry Ice’ which has cream-colored brachts with pink tips.

Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’

Although traditionally a summer-bloomer, this pink gaura was already blooming in March.  I have white gaura growing underneath my front windows and I love it.

Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlandieri)

Pink, cup-shaped blooms cover Mexican evening primrose in spring.  This groundcover looks great in natural desert landscapes, but can be invasive, so be careful where you use it.

Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii)

The one beauty of this spiny cactus are its magenta flowers that appear in spring.

In my own garden, I have two pink flowering plants in bloom…

Hollyhock

Every year, hollyhocks come up from seed next to one of my vegetable gardens.  They tower over our house and are at least 15 feet tall. 

I first planted hollyhock seeds 4 years ago and that was it.  Every year, they self-seed and I thin them out so that 5 remain.  I’m never sure what color variety will come up.  Sometimes they are white, pale pink or red.



This year, they are deep pink.  Aren’t they pretty?

Pink Wood Sorrel 

I received a small division of pink wood sorrel from a fellow blogger who lives in Oregon.  I wasn’t sure if I could grow it in our desert climate.  So, I gave it a home in my vegetable garden.

Since then, it has done so well.  So well in fact, that I have divided it and planted it in all three of my vegetable gardens.  

It dies back to the ground in summer, but comes back in fall.

Do you have any favorite pink-blooming plants?  Are any in your garden?  

This is a story about new beginnings – one for a new cactus and another beginning for my second-oldest daughter, Rachele.

Believe me when I say that both stories are connected in a way.

This cactus, above, is a Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marinatus), which has been happily growing in my front garden. 

What may not be initially obvious is that 11 years ago, I started this cactus from a 2 ft. piece of one (called a ‘cutting’) given to me by a client from their large Mexican Fence Post cactus.

Well, exactly 1 year ago, I repeated the favor for our neighbors.


Look carefully at the photo above and compare it with the first one.  Can you see where we cut off a piece of the cactus?

Our neighbors had recently re-landscaped their front yard and wanted a cactus like ours.  Of course, they knew that they would have to start out with a much smaller one – but they were unprepared for how expensive it would be to buy one at the nursery.

Our cactus had been growing so well, we decided to offer them a piece (cutting) off of our Mexican Fence Post.  So, my husband, daughter and I gathered together to take a cutting from our cactus.

Here is how we did it…


We selected a good-sized length of cactus and while I held onto it, my husband took a pruning saw and started sawing it off at the bottom.

Multiple layers of newspaper and gloves are helpful to use to grab onto cacti with short thorns. For cacti with longer thorns, you can use carpet remnants.

When you cut out a piece of cactus, it will be much heavier then you are expecting – so be prepared.


My husband and daughter wheeled the cactus cutting over to our neighbor’s house using our wheelbarrow.


We then placed the cutting in a dry, shady spot for 2 weeks in order to allow the cut site to ‘callus’ over, which would protect the cacti from rotting when it is replanted.

*Exactly 3 days after helping us with the cactus cutting, my daughter, Rachele, left for the Navy and basic training.  It was a sad goodbye for us, but a new beginning for her.

After 2 weeks had passed, the new cactus was planted in its new location with a wooden stake for support.

No water was applied for the first month after planting, in order to make sure that the entire cut end had callused over.

One month after planting, the cactus was watered deeply, monthly, until November.


*Whenever I looked at the newly-planted cactus, thoughts of my daughter and how she was doing in her new Navy life always crossed my mind.


One year later, the new cutting is doing so well and has even grown two new sections.

You can see the parent cactus in the background.

Now, I may not be located as closely to my daughter as these two cacti, but like the new cactus, she is growing and doing so well in her new career with the Navy.  We are so proud of her!


You can read more about Rachele’s adventures, here.

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Propagating cactus via cuttings can be done with many species of cacti.

But there are some guidelines to follow for success:

1. Propagate cactus during the warm season, when the threat of frost is over.

2. Make the cut at the joint where the segment attaches to the parent plant.  For prickly pear cacti, you can cut a segment that consists of 1 – 3 pads.

3. Place the new cutting in a dry, shady spot for 2 weeks to allow the cut site to ‘callus’, which protects the cacti from rot when it is replanted.

4. Plant your new cactus in full sun with well-drained soil.

5. Don’t water for a month after planting.  Then water deeply, monthly until fall.

5. Provide temporary shade for the first summer.  You can do this by placing a plastic patio chair over the top or using shade cloth.

Soon, you will begin to see new growth on your cactus.

Which type of shrub would you prefer in your garden?


This one?


Or, this one?

Believe it or not, these are the same type of shrub. 
Did you know that over-pruning causes a lot of problems in the landscape that affect the shrub, water usage and your wallet?

I was recently asked to write an article for the folks at Water Use It Wisely, which is a water conservation campaign created by cities in the greater Phoenix metro area.   

The article I wrote talks about the specific problems that over-pruning causes along with ways to avoid over-pruning.


You can read the article by clicking, here

I hope you find it informative.  **If you have a friend or neighbor who has an over-pruned landscape, you may want to forward the link to them 🙂

If anyone asks me what is on my list of succulent favorites, Santa-rita prickly pear would be near the top.


Santa-rita prickly pear with new pads.

This beautiful prickly pear is also often referred to as ‘purple prickly pear’.  

I love how the its gray/blue pads become gradually tinged with purple as the temperatures get cold.

To learn more about this particular prickly pear and why you’ll want to plant one in your garden, check out my latest article for Houzz.com

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I hope you enjoy my latest plant article for Houzz.  I’ve been working on profiling plants that thrive in the desert southwest.


Stay tuned later this month for another great plant!


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.


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…


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…


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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 🙂

Last year, my mother gave me a blackberry plant.


She had planned on using it herself, but then gave it to me instead.


To be honest, I hadn’t really thought seriously about growing berries in my garden.  But, as a child, we had quite a few blackberry bushes in our backyard and I remember eating blackberries over vanilla ice cream.  


So, I planted my single blackberry bush in my edible side garden where one of my vegetable gardens is located along with my fruit tree.


This spring, I was delighted to find the beginnings of little blackberry flowers…



Soon, I had tiny, green berries covering my blackberry bush…


I could hardly wait until they ripened.


Every few days, my son, Kai, would run outside to check on how they were ripening.  He would always come in with a few ripe ones.


I froze the berries in batches since they did not all ripen at the same time. 

Then I stored them away in the freezer until a special occasion in which to serve them.

BUT, you know what happened?  
I forgot about them until the other day when I was rummaging about in my freezer.


So I brought them out and prepared to make a blackberry topping for my homemade angel food cake.


I added sugar to the berries, which helps them to release their delicious juices.  

A couple of hours later, I mashed them and served them over cake…


They were so sweet and delicious.

It was fun to surprise my family with this truly homemade dessert.

**Last winter, I planted 6 additional blackberry bushes.  I can’t wait to harvest berries next year!

What is your favorite type of berry to eat?  
Do you grow any berries?  
What kinds?

Can you tell what is wrong with this Mesquite tree?


This tree has mistletoe growing in it.

Can you see it?

It is hard to spot mistletoe when it first infects a tree.  I can spot it right away, but it takes some time to recognize it when it is small.

Here is a closer look…


Look for green growth that has a slightly different shape and texture then the tree leaves.

Here is a close up photo…


You can see where the mistletoe has attached to the tree branch.

Mistletoe is easier to spot in the winter, when many of the trees are leafless.

The types of trees that I see with mistletoe are mesquite, palo verde and sweet acacia.

Because mistletoe is a natural part of the desert ecosystem, there is debate about whether or not to remove it from trees.

Mistletoe does not kill your tree, but it can stress them because it steals nutrients from the tree.  This can leave the tree open to additional stresses that can kill it.

Mesquite tree heavily infested with mistletoe.

As a Certified Arborist, I recommend removing mistletoe infestations from trees in landscape settings.  You may not mind the mistletoe, but it is spread by birds and your neighbors may not be too happy when their trees start sprouting mistletoe.

In the natural desert, I would leave mistletoe alone because it is part of the natural ecosystem and its berries are a food source for birds.

This small mistletoe growing on a palo verde tree trunk cannot be completely removed.  But, you can break off the mistletoe easily and keep it from becoming more established as long as you remove any new growth as it occurs.

For more information on when it is possible to remove mistletoe completely, you can read my previous post – “Got Mistletoe?”

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Thank you all for your supportive comments regarding my son Kai and his recovery from his sixth hip surgery.

His recovery has been harder this time with the pain.  Also, he is a lot heavier then he was the last time.  We have to carry him from his bed to his wheelchair to the toilet.

Kai is know finished with his prescription meds which has helped ‘clear his head’ a little bit.  Ibuprofen is not as effective with the pain, but it is manageable.

This week, instead of our weekly dinner at the family farm – they came over to our house because it is hard to transport Kai.


It was fun seeing his young cousins play army men with Kai using his wheelchair as a battlefield.

Kai is enclosed in a ‘cloverleaf’ brace that covers his torso and both legs, which helps to immobilize his hip.  The blue braces on his lower legs are his AFO’s which he has to wear all the time.  They add strength to his lower legs and keep his feet straight (he has had surgeries on these areas as well in the past).

We are slowly settling into our new routine with caring for Kai while getting our other tasks done, like blogging 😉

I stepped outside, early this morning, and did a little pruning to our palo verde tree that was hanging too far over our front entry pathway.  It felt great just doing something normal.

I hope your summer is off to a good start and you are finding ways to keep cool 🙂




Do you ever wonder what you should be doing in your garden in a particular month?

As a freelance writer, I write a few monthly gardening articles and newsletters.

So, instead of writing an entirely new blog post, here is my latest “What To Do In The Garden” article for the Southwest that I wrote for Houzz.com
(I hope you don’t think I am lazy, but I would rather not write the same thing twice 😉



I’d love to share with you the latest addition to my desert garden…


I am now the proud owner of two new apple trees.

It’s hard to believe that you can grow apples in the desert, but you can!

Okay, I must confess that the photo above, is NOT from my new apple trees.  It is a photo of one of my mother’s apple trees that she grows in her Arizona garden.

‘Dorsett Golden’ Apple Tree
I realize that my apple trees are a lot smaller then my mother’s, but it is healthy and will grow beautifully in my garden.

You might have noticed that I mentioned that I bought two apple trees.  You may be thinking that I planted two because I wanted a lot of apples and you would be right.

BUT, there is another reason that I planted two apple trees.

**Most apple trees cannot ‘self-pollinate’ themselves.

So, what does the term ‘self-pollinate’ mean?

Remember way back to high school biology class…

Plants need to be pollinated to produce fruit and seeds.  Some plants can self-pollinate themselves, but some plants need a little help from another plant.

The majority of apple trees need help in this area.

Thankfully, the solution is easy…

“Plant at least two different apple trees near each other.”

What this means is to select at least two different varieties of apple tree.  In my case, I planted a

‘Dorsett Golden’ apple tree 

and a 

‘Anna’ apple tree

These trees will pollinate each other and I will get lots of delicious apples in a few years.


Now, some apple trees can self-pollinate themselves but they will produce more fruit if there is another type of apple tree nearby.  

**Both my ‘Dorsett Golden’ and ‘Anna’ apple trees are considered self-fertile, which means that they can pollinate themselves – but they won’t produce as many apples as they would if planted next to a different variety of apple tree.

Both of these varieties are great for growing in warmer climates.

Apple trees should be planted in winter, before spring.  They are available as bare root or in containers.  If you are planting in March, then buy an apple tree in a container.  Bare root fruit trees are best planted January – mid February.

Again, not my tree – it’s my mother’s apple tree 😉
I do have a couple of apple blossoms on my trees.  In a few years, they will soon look like my mother’s trees.