yellow-flowering shrub

The back wall along my backyard is covered in yellow blossoms spring through fall.

Every year, I find myself pleasantly surprised that such this lovely, yellow-flowering shrub is native to southwestern deserts on into Mexico.

Most of the flowering plants in my garden have a long flowering period.  I tend not to waste time on plants that flower for less then 2 months.  

My yellow bells (Tecoma stans) provides me with beautiful, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers spring through fall.  

Hummingbirds love the flowers too!

Want to learn more about this lovely shrub?  I invite you to check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.com

Great Design Plant: Yellow Bells, a Screening Queen

Prickly pear

Prickly pear

The next time you find yourself grumbling about having to prune your trees and shrubs – just be thankful that you don’t have to prune cacti at the Desert Botanical Garden.

While I have never had to prune a large bed of cacti, I have backed into cholla that lined the golf course where I worked.  I had a piece stuck on the back of my leg – Ouch!

 Prickly pear

Some cacti like prickly pear and cholla sometimes need to be pruned from time to time in a landscape setting.

Prickly pear can grow very large and spread.  If you don’t have enough room, you may find yourself having to prune it back.  When pruning prickly pear, make your pruning cuts where the individual pads, meet.

 Prickly pear

Cholla tend to drop segments on the ground, which are how they propagate.  The segments will root in ideal conditions and grow a new cholla.

In a managed landscape, it is a good idea to clean the fallen pieces of cholla to help keep people from inadvertently getting it stuck to their shoes.

**Have you ever wondered why cacti have thorns?  I wrote about the surprising reasons that cacti are prickly and some tips for pulling out cactus spines, if you get stuck…

“Why Do Cactus Have Spines”

Have you ever gotten pricked by a cactus?  I’d love to hear your story 😉  

Last week was a busy one for me.  I had several appointments scheduled, and then I got the ‘mother’ of all colds.  

I don’t get sick colds very often. So, that is probably why when I do get them every few years – I get a severe one.  

My constant companions the past week

My constant companions the past week. 

I am finally among the living after a week of fighting through all that this cold could throw at me, and I feel weak and drained – BUT, I can now walk through the house without carrying a box of tissues.  *Being able to breathe through your nose is so delightful when it has been stopped up for a week (cold medicine just doesn’t seem to work all that well for me).

Despite this terrible cold, I was able to make it through my appointments, although I prayed that my nose wouldn’t start dripping in front of my clients. Whenever I started to feel weak or faint, I would come up with an excuse to sit for a minute or two by saying, “Let’s sit for a minute and see what the view of the landscape looks like from this perspective.”

I promise that I used a lot of hand-sanitizer before shaking hands with everyone 😉

Alright, enough complaining about my cold.  I am excited to show you my latest project.

drought-tolerant landscape

Okay, I admit that it doesn’t look too exciting right now.

As you can see, the project is on a golf course.  This particular course is removing 50 acres of turf and planting drought-tolerant landscapes in their place in their attempt to save water.   The area pictured above is just one of many that I will be working on throughout the summer.

drought-tolerant landscape

As part of the turf removal, the golf course will be re-designing its entire irrigation system. (It hasn’t happened yet in this area, which is why it is wet.)

drought-tolerant landscape

Along the entire length of this area, will run a river-rock lined wash, which will help to channel stormwater.

I have been working on a plant palette that includes native, drought-tolerant succulents, shrubs, and groundcovers that will require minimal water once established.

Railroad ties, that separate homeowner properties will be removed to help the transition toward the golf course landscape visually.  To that end, I will include a few of the same plants already present in the adjoining properties to create the illusion of a seamless landscape.

The goal is to create a beautiful landscape area that has minimal water and maintenance requirements.  To say that I am excited about working on this project is an understatement.

Interestingly, my first job out of college was working as a horticulturist for a golf course.  Although I had unlimited opportunities to golf for free – I never did. Other than indulging in an occasional round of miniature golf – I don’t play golf at all.

I may not play golf or completely understand the passion for the game – I have come to know the unique challenges that landscaping around golf courses entail – overspray from sprinklers, carts driving through landscape areas when they aren’t allowed, knowing what plants to use in areas that are in play, etc.

Next time, I will share with the plant palette of drought-tolerant natives that will be used in these areas.  Who knows?  You may be inspired to use some of these plants in your landscape!    

Tips to Save Money When Shopping for Succulents

Do you like red-flowering plants?

I do.

baja fairy duster

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?

Plant Palette for New Landscape Area: Trees and Shrubs

Mexican Fence Post

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.

Mexican Fence Post

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…  

Mexican Fence Post

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.

Mexican Fence Post

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

Mexican Fence Post

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.

my second-oldest daughter, Rachele

*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.

new cutting

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.

**********************

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.

6. 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?

Over-Pruning and Ways to Avoid Them

This one?

Over-Pruning and Ways to Avoid Them

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.  

Over-Pruning and Ways to Avoid Them

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

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…  

 
 

Architects, interior designers, and more ∨

Use the help of top home decorators to select matching bedside tables and a new lamp shade for your own bedroom design.
Find a wall shelf, customizable closet organization and stylish furnishings to whip your closet into shape.

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.

How to Protect Plants From Frost

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

Protect Plants From Frost

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

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

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

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

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

You can read it here…

“Prepping For Deep Freeze”

*******************

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…

blackberry bush

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

Blackberry plant

Blackberry plant

I could hardly wait until they ripened.

From Humble Beginnings To A Sweet Finish

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.

berries

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.

blackberry

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

blackberry

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…

homemade dessert

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?

Recovery Update

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…

Recovery Update

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

Here is a close up photo…

Recovery Update

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.

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.

mistletoe

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?”

*********************

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.

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 🙂