succulent plants near a front entry in Arizona garden

Do you enjoy the summer heat?

I’m going record to state that I’m not a huge fan. I prefer to endure the intense heat indoors in the comfort of air-conditioning.

However, the plants in my garden don’t have that option. They are stuck outside no matter how hot it gets.

I always feel sad when I see plants struggle in the heat of summer. If I could bring them indoors to cool off I would 😉. But, let’s face it, that isn’t realistic or really what is best for plants.

For that reason, you will find the plants around my home are fairly heat-tolerant.

If you think that heat-proof plants are boring (and if I’m being honest, some are), many are attractive and beautiful.

One of my clients has a great example of an eye-catching entry that is fuss-free and shrugs off the heat of summer.

Artichoke agave (Agave parryi v. truncata), golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii), and lady’s slipper (Euphorbia lomelii), and yucca create a living sculptural landscape with their unique shapes.

As you can see, you don’t have to settle for a blah garden or one filled with heat-stressed plants. In fact, I loved this example so much that I featured it in my book, “Dry Climate Gardening” which is available for pre-order.

You know that I don’t care for fussy plants – I prefer plants that look great with little effort on my part and this succulent garden is a great example, don’t you agree?

I invite you to take a walk through your garden to see what plants may be stressed from the heat. It may be time for you to switch them out for more heat-tolerant ones.

flowering groundcovers and a cactus desert adapted plants landscape


Embracing the Desert Heat: Landscaping with Desert-Adapted Plants

Surviving the Summer Scorch with Desert Adapted Plants

Let’s face it…summer can be brutal.

I tend to spend as little time outdoors as possible when temperatures soar above normal ranges. It’s times like this that I praise the inventor of air-conditioning.

While we can escape record-breaking temperatures, our heat-stressed plants can’t.

Beauty in the Heat: Desert-Adapted Plant Landscaping

However, you can create a landscape filled that thrives in the heat by using native or desert-adapted plants. And you know what? Most are very pretty!

Last weekend, I saw a great illustration of this…

Hospital vs. Church Landscaping: Lessons in Adaptation

Our church recently opened up a new campus, filled with new plants, but many of them were struggling to survive the intense heat, even if irrigated properly. Many were planted native to more tropical climates.

After church, my husband and I headed out to the hospital to visit a loved one. The hospital had just undergone a renovation and brand-new landscape areas surrounded the entrance.

I stopped to take a photo of one of the areas that were doing very well so I could share it with you. Full disclosure: if you hang out with me, be prepared for sudden stops to take pictures of plants.

The Secret to Thriving Landscapes

There were two main reasons that the landscape by the hospital was doing better than the one by the church:

  1. The plants by the hospital were better adapted to hot summers – desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), gold lantana (Lantana ‘New Gold’), and Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus).
  2. Additionally, these plants had been installed three months earlier than the ones at the church. Yes, plants can technically be added any time of year BUT there are times that should be avoided if at all possible – specifically May and June.

Heat-Resilient Gardening

Sometimes you need to add new plants at the wrong time of year due to construction schedules, etc. In that case, I advise the use of shade cloth on a temporary basis for young plants through September IF you see that certain plants are struggling. This is in addition to watering them more often than existing plants in the landscape to help them establish their roots.

Use native or desert-adapted plants (those from other regions with similar weather conditions) to help your garden to be more resilient to hot, dry temperatures and they will need less help from you to beat the heat.

Stay cool friends!

self-planted bouquet

The Joy of Unexpected Bouquets in the Garden

A Garden Surprise with Sandpaper Verbena

Have you ever had the experience of receiving an unexpected self-planted bouquet?

I’ve been blessed to have gotten bouquets throughout my life from my wonderful husband, my children, and in the past – from a boyfriend or two.

Blooming Definitions: Exploring the Concept of Bouquets

But recently, I was presented with a bouquet from an unlikely source.

If you look up the definition of the word, ‘bouquet’, it states “an attractively arranged bunch of flowers, especially one presented as a gift or carried at a ceremony.”

self-planted bouquet

Nature’s Gift: The Unplanned Bouquet in My Garden

This spring, I was delighted to see that my garden had presented me with an unexpected bunch of flowers – in other words, a bouquet.

This area in my front garden has a lovely Sandpaper Verbena (Glandularia rigida), which is a ground cover with vibrant purple flowers. It blooms spring through fall and thrives in full sun.

I planted the Sandpaper Verbena, however, I didn’t add the other flowers in this area.

The Unexpected Garden Companions: Blackfoot Daisy and Angelita Daisy

Last year, I noticed the white flowers of Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) growing up in the middle of the Verbena. It came from a seed from a nearby plant that alighted in this area and grew in the presence of irrigation.

I liked the look and as the plants were doing well together, I left them to their own devices.

angelita daisy
Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)

Well evidently, someone else wanted to join the party. Enter, Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) that came up on its own. I have several throughout the landscape and they do self-seed sometimes.

I absolutely adore colorful plants and I must say, I am so happy with this bouquet growing in my garden. As long as they play nice and one doesn’t try to take over the other, they can remain.

Who knows who will show up in my living bouquet next year?

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.

I have a wonderful treat for you! This week’s blog post is from Dr. Jacqueline Soule.

Chances are that her name sounds familiar and that is because she is a noted plant expert and well-known author of several books on desert gardening.

Jacqueline grew up in Tucson and currently resides there where she enjoys growing low-maintenance plants that add beauty, which thrive in the desert.

I am fortunate to call Jacqueline my friend and we are both part of SWGardening.com I am excited to share with you her post on Germander.

“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

Gorgeous Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) Photo by Amadej Trnkoczy cc 3.0

Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) Photo by Amadej Trnkoczy cc 3.0

Gorgeous Germander 

by Jacqueline A. Soule, Ph.D.

Special for AZ Plant Lady, 03 2020

Germander is a gorgeously green low-water ground cover that grows well in Arizona, is great for pollinators, and happens to be usable as a culinary herb.  

Greeting from another desert garden this week – that of garden writer Jacqueline Soule, who lives in Tucson (Gardening With Soule – in the Land of El Sol).  Noelle has graciously shared her space this week to allow me to introduce you to one herb for your landscaping.  

Germander Has a Long History

This handsome herb was brought to the mission gardens of Arizona in 1698 by Father Kino.  Germanders are native to the rocky hillsides of Greece and Turkey, where they get rain only in the winter.  This means they tolerate dry and hot conditions well!

Gorgeous Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) growing in a Sedona garden.

Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) growing in a Sedona garden.

Which One to Use?

There are around 100 species of germander!  The one most commonly used in landscaping is the wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys).  This species has tiny, bright green, rounded leaves.  The creeping germander is the same species, but has been selected over time to be a low ground cover (Teucrium chamaedrys var. prostratum).  Both of these are available at many local nurseries (but not big box stores).

For landscaping, germander offers a gorgeous bright, forest-green.  I confess, I prefer this color in general over the blue-green of rosemary.  Even in poor soil and with little water, germander grows to form a dark green carpet, about 2 feet around per plant, the creeping germander a bare 4 to 6 inches tall.

Germaders grow well in alkaline (unamended) desert soil, in full sun to part shade situations.  Reflected summer light is tad too much for them, so not under picture windows.

Teucrium chamaedrys by Amadej Trnkoczy cc 3.0 002

Teucrium chamaedrys by Amadej Trnkoczy cc 3.0 002

Fragrant Flowers

Both germander and rosemary have many oil glands in their leaves and are fragrant plants.  But then there are the flowers!  Germander flowers are far more fragrant than rosemary.  Germander blooms are almost honey-scented, like sweet alyssum.  Like rosemary, germander are bee pollinated, by both European honey bees and by our native Arizona solitary bees, with occasional butterfly visitors.

Use In Your Landscape

Both rosemary and germander can be used in roasting potatoes or to add flavor to meat dishes.  I use either herb to scrub down the grill prior to cooking – depends on which needs pruning.  In ancient Greece, hunters would field dress their meat with germander, often found growing wild in the hills.  (It may have anti-microbial properties.)  Germander abounds on Greek hillsides because the strong oils render it unpalatable to wildlife.  I won’t promise it is rabbit proof, but those “wascally wabbits” don’t bother mine.  

Herbs that can be used to create a beautiful, low-water-using, edible, Southwest landscape are numerous. Learn more in this webinar offered March 25, 2020 by the Herb Society of America – only $5 and you don’t have to drive anywhere! Or in April, drive to Carefree, where Jacqueline will speak about “Gardening for Fragrance” on April 18 2020.

Jacqueline

Want to learn more from Jacqueline? Check out two of her most popular books –  Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico Month-by-Month Gardening and Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening.

You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Javelina in the Desert Garden

No matter where you live, you will see the same shrubs being used over and over again in countless landscapes. While the shrubs may be attractive, their overuse throughout neighborhoods creates a boring appearance because they are so common.

The Allure and Overuse of Oleanders

oleander shrubs in a row

In California, Nevada, and Arizona, oleanders have held a prominent spot in the landscape for years. Their popularity is due to their lush evergreen foliage, ability to withstand intense heat, and their pretty flowers.

However, their overuse in many areas makes their beauty less impactful and frankly, almost forgettable.

The Power of Unpredictability

 At a recent conference, this point was put quite succinctly by the head of horticulture for Disneyland who said,

“When things are expected (in the landscape), they become less powerful and impactful”.

His statement sums up what happens when we use the same plants over and over.

Oleanders’ Ailment: Oleander Leaf Scorch

In the case of oleanders, there is another problem.

Oleander leaf scorch

Oleanders are susceptible to a fatal disease called, oleander leaf scorch. This disease has come from California into Arizona where it is popping up in neighborhoods in Phoenix and also Lake Havasu. I have consulted with several cases affecting large, mature oleanders in Arcadia, Biltmore, and Moon Valley areas in Phoenix. 

This bacterial disease is spread by leaf-hopper insects and there is currently no known cure or control available. Infected oleanders slowly decline over 2-3 years before dying. To date, dwarf oleanders have not shown signs of the disease, only the larger forms. But, that could change sometime in the future.

Seeking a Shrub Alternative: Introducing Hop Bush 

Objectively, there’s a lot to like about oleanders; they thrive in hot, dry climates with minimal fuss, have attractive dark green foliage, and add color to the landscape when in flower. However, their overuse in the landscape makes them less impactful and coupled with their susceptibility to oleander leaf scorch, people want an alternative. 

You can learn more about this disease that affects oleanders here.

Hop Bush along a house wall

When asked for another option for the large, tall forms of oleanders, I recommend Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa), also known as Hopseed Bush.

Grab my FREE guide for Fuss-Free Plants that thrive in a hot, dry climate!

Hop Bush is a Versatile Landscaping Solution

This native desert shrub has attractive, evergreen foliage and a similar growth habit to oleander. They grow up to 12 feet tall or prune to a shorter height.

Hop Bush is a green shrub

Use Hop Bush in the same ways as oleanders to provide a nice green hedge or privacy screen.

Hop bush flower

Hop bush flower

Hop Bush has Elegance in Foliage

While they don’t have colorful flowers; they have lovely foliage that is only mildly poisonous as opposed to oleanders which are highly toxic. Hop bush has a lovely natural shape or prune as a formal hedge.

Hop bush  as a hedge

Share Your Experience

Have you ever seen hop bush growing in the landscape?  Your insights and experiences are invaluable – feel free to share them in the comments below.

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

Cereus cactus, golden barrel cactus, and firecracker penstemon

Cereus cactus, golden barrel cactus, and firecracker penstemon

From Drab to Colorful: A Landscape Transformation Story

Is your outdoor space looking rather drab? If so, you aren’t alone – many landscapes can appear somewhat dull, especially if there is a lack of color. But, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

One of my favorite aspects of my job as a landscape consultant is to help my clients to transform their garden from drab to colorful and it is quite easy to do. 

Revisiting a Landscape Transformation: Two Years of Colorful Growth

I invite you to join me as I revisit with a client two-years after I created a planting plan for her existing, lackluster landscape. 

BEFORE - Corner of Driveway

BEFORE – Corner of Driveway

Transforming the Driveway Corner: Adding Color and Texture

Initially, this area did little to add to the curb appeal of the home. Overgrown red yucca plants and a cholla cactus created a ‘messy’ and boring look to this high-profile spot in the landscape.

AFTER  Landscape transformation

AFTER

Removing the old plants and adding angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) and gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa), creates colorful interest while adding texture. Before, the boulders were hidden behind the overgrown plants, so now they serve as an excellent backdrop for the new additions. 

Symmetry and Year-Round Color: Anchoring the Driveway Corners

Arizona Landscape Transformation at the front of a house

The corners of the driveway are one of the most viewed spots in the landscape and are often the first part people see when they drive by. It’s important to anchor them visually with plants that look great all year and preferably produce colorful flowers or have an attractive shape or color. I always like to add boulders to help anchor both corners as well.

These areas are also critical in that they create symmetry, connecting both sides of the landscape, which is done by using the same types of plants on each side.

A Burst of Color by the Entry: Enhancing Year-Round Appeal

Landscape Transformation by the front door

Although there is no ‘before’ photo for the entry, here is an example of plants that will add year-round color because of their overlapping bloom seasons. ‘Blue Elf’ aloe blooms in winter and on into early spring while ‘New Gold Mound’ lantana will flower spring through fall, as the aloe fades into the background. A ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) brings a nice vertical element to this spot and will grow taller with age.

Adding Color to the Entry Path: Transforming a Desolate Space

BEFORE (Landscape Transformation)

BEFORE (Landscape Transformation)

Along the front entry path, a tall cereus (Cereus peruvianus) cactus adds a welcome vertical element while the golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) creates excellent texture contrast. However, something is missing in this area, in my opinion.

AFTER (Landscape Transformation)

AFTER (Landscape Transformation)

A colorful element was what was missing in this area. A single firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) adds beauty while also attracting hummingbirds.

Corner Landscape Transformation: Bringing Beauty to an Overlooked Space

 BEFORE (Landscape Transformation)

BEFORE (Landscape Transformation)

On the corner of this lot was a palo brea tree with a large desert spoon and turpentine bushes. Overall, there was nothing exciting in this spot before the landscape transformation.

AFTER (Landscape Transformation)

AFTER (Landscape Transformation)

The turpentine bushes were removed to make way for a set of gopher plants, which served to tie in this corner of the garden with the areas next to the driveway. These succulents flower in spring and add nice spiky texture throughout the rest of the year.

Creating a Colorful Carpet: Enhancing Warm Months with Lantana

Purple and white trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) serve to create a colorful carpet throughout the warm months of the year. This type of lantana can struggle in full sun in the middle of summer in the low-desert garden but, thrive underneath the filtered shade of a palo verde tree.

When working with an existing landscape, I relish the challenge of determining what existing plants still add beauty to the outdoor space, or have the potential to if pruned correctly. Sometimes an ugly, overgrown shrub can be transformed into something beautiful if pruned back severely. Often, it’s up to me to decide what goes and what stays. Then, the real fun part begins, which is selecting what areas need new plants and what ones will work best.

Landscape Transformation: Less Is More

I find that many people think that to renovate a landscape, you need to get rid of most of the plants and put in a lot of new ones. But, this is rarely the case. All you need to do is keep the plants that will continue to add to the curb appeal or create a beautiful, mature backdrop for new plants and new plants should be concentrated in high-profile areas where their impact will be maximized. Be sure to incorporate proper irrigation for the new plantings.

What would you like to get rid of in your landscape and what would you keep?

Noelle Johnson ‘AZ Plant Lady’

Noelle Johnson, AKA, ‘AZ Plant Lady’ is a horticulturist, landscape consultant, and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. While writing and speaking on a variety of gardening topics keeps her busy, you’ll often find her outside planting vegetables, picking fruit from her trees, or testing the newest drought-tolerant plants. 

'Valentine Bush' (Eremophila maculata 'Valentine')

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)

The Vibrant Beauty of Valentine Bush

A Colorful Gem for Your Landscape

How would you like gorgeous red, tubular flowers blooming at Christmas time and lasting past Valentine’s Day, all packaged up in an attractive, low-maintenance shrub?  Believe it or not, such a shrub exists.  Let me introduce you to Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’). 

'Valentine Bush' (Eremophila maculata 'Valentine')

A Promising Valentine Bush Introduction

My first experience with this colorful shrub occurred in 2000 when  I was offered two free Valentine shrubs to test out on the golf course where I was working. Never one to pass up free plants, I was more than happy to try these new shrubs out. 

Young Valentine, six months after planting, next to Trailing Rosemary.

Young Valentine, six months after planting, next to Trailing Rosemary.

Flourishing Garden Shrub Beauty

Those new shrubs did so well that a couple of years later, I had planted over fifty of them planted all around the golf course. I love their cool-season blooms, which add a welcome splash of color when many plants aren’t blooming, and the dark green foliage continues to add beauty to the landscape even when their flowers fade.

Nowadays, you will find Valentine in both commercial and residential landscapes.  An interesting fact that many may not know is that many of the arid-adapted plants that thrive here are native to Australia, including the species Eremophila

Valentine Bush looks great in groupings

Landscaping with Valentine Bush

Valentine provides much need color in the landscape during the winter months and will bloom through early spring.  Red is often a color missing in the desert plant color palette that this shrub provides.  Valentine grows at a moderate rate and will reach a mature size of 3-4 feet high and 4 feet wide.  

I pair it with groundcovers such as blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) or trailing rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and perennials such as Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) and desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Valentine when not in flower.

Valentine when not in flower.

A Shrub that Has Year-Round Attractiveness

When not in flower, Valentine is still very attractive and is hardy to 15 degrees F.  It does best when planted in full and reflected in the sun.  Their leaves turn maroon at the tips during the winter adding some fall color to the landscape.

Caring for Valentine Bush with Proper Maintenance

Valentine does best with regular irrigation and soils with good drainage.  If planted in areas with wetter soils, let the soil dry out between watering to prevent root rot.  

You will probably not believe this, especially coming from me – the person who rants and raves about beautiful shrubs that have been incorrectly pruned by being sheared, but here it is: Valentine shrubs should be sheared. That’s right, I said they should be shared.  

Believe it or not, there are some types of shrubs where shearing is the best way to prune them, and this is true for Valentine.  They should be pruned ONCE a year, once they have finished blooming in the spring.  DO NOT prune later in the year as this will remove the branches that will produce the flowers later in the year.

The Perfect Shrub for the Desert Southwest

Here is the first bloom of this season on my Valentine shrub.

Here is the first bloom of this season on my Valentine shrub.

Well, would any of you be surprised to know that Valentine is my favorite shrub?  I mean, what is there not to love?  It has everything – low-maintenance, attractive foliage, thrives in the heat and sun, and most importantly, gorgeous winter color.

In this landscape area, I designed, you can see Valentine in the background paired with Parry's Penstemon and Desert Marigold.

In this landscape area, I designed, you can see Valentine in the background paired with Parry’s Penstemon and Desert Marigold.

So run, don’t walk, and go and add Valentine to your landscape.

A Stroll Through a Flowering Winter’s Garden

swimming pool

Have you ever encountered this landscaping challenge? This blank wall is rather boring, and the home behind it dominates the view. So what would you do to fix these problems?

I faced this dilemma last month at a client’s home. The pool was the main focal point of the landscape, and the dull wall wasn’t doing it any favors. In coming up with a solution, we had to select a plant that was relatively low-litter, due to the proximity to the pool and that looked attractive throughout the entire year because of the high-profile location.

evergreen shrub , Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa)

Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa)

I recommended adding three hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa). These are tall, evergreen shrubs that thrive in arid climates such as ours. 

swimming pool

One of the many things that I love about them is their versatility. They thrive in full sun and light shade, and can be allowed to grow up to 12 feet tall, or maintained at a lower height.

Hop bush , evergreen shrub

Hop bush can be allowed to grow to their natural shape…

evergreen shrub

…or pruned more formally.

evergreen shrub

For the area behind the pool, I recommend having it grow to its full height, which will help provide privacy while the attractive foliage will add a welcome screen of green throughout the year.

evergreen shrub

evergreen shrubs Hop bush flowers

Hop bush does produce light green, papery flowers in spring, but they aren’t particularly showy. So, we need to add a color element to the area behind the pool.

colored containers

One of my favorite ways to add color to any landscape is to incorporate brightly colored containers in shade of blue, purple, or orange. That way, whether plants are in bloom or not, there is always a bright splash of color.

colored containers

For this area, I recommended adding 3 blue pots, equally spaced.

Now it was time to decide what to plant in each pot. The client wanted a low-maintenance choice that wouldn’t require a lot of water.

Blue Elf'

Immediately, I remembered touring a landscape that had blue containers filled with ‘Blue Elf’ aloe. Even though the aloe had finished blooming for the year, their spiky blue-gray foliage added nice color contrast.

Aloe vera

This small aloe is one of my favorite succulents for several reasons. First, it begins to bloom in late winter, lasting into spring adding welcome color to cool-season landscapes. Hummingbirds can’t resist the flowers either.

Aloe vera

This aloe is best showcased when grouped together and thrives in full sun, unlike most aloe which prefer filtered shade. Finally, it is hardy to 15 degrees F. so cold winters seldom bother it.

colored containers

And so, here is the planting that I suggested to my client that will provide year round beauty and privacy.

*Do you have a favorite plant or group of plants that you like to use against bare walls?

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