Do you enjoy reading magazines about home and gardening?  I do.

Often with the busyness of life, I don’t have as much time to read magazines as I used to.  But, always make time for my favorite subscription, which is Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine.

I enjoy thumbing through the pages that are filled with colorful photographs and articles about beautiful landscapes and lovely home decor with a Southwestern flair.

Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine

I must admit that I have been impatiently waiting for the June issue in my mailbox.  Day after day, I volunteered to go out to get the mail and several times, would come away with a handful of junk mail and bills and little else.

But, finally, it came.

So, why was I so excited about this particular issue?

Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine

Because my first article for Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine was contained within its pages.

Two months ago, I was contacted by one of the editors and was asked if I was interested in writing for them.  Of course, I said yes!

I visited a stunning garden and met with the homeowners as well as the architect who helped them create their landscape.  

It was a slightly new experience for me as I had to interview the homeowners, their architect, gardener, and builder.  

There was so much to see from multiple water features laid with handcrafted Spanish tiles, beds of roses around the pool, a Southwestern Zen garden and an edible garden.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend grabbing a copy so you can see this spectacular outdoor space.  There are also several other lovely gardens featured in the magazine as well.

Guess What Came In the Mail?

Last week, I had one of my best days at work.  I had to do some work out in the field, which entailed placing 3 large boulders in a high profile landscape design of a golf course.

high profile landcape area of a golf course

While placing boulders may seem rather boring to some, I must say that I always enjoy this job.

large boulders

Why you may ask?

Well first of all, it can be quite exciting.  Moving very large boulders isn’t without its risks.  There is always danger of damaging nearby structures.  You can also get a sense of how heavy a particular boulder is when the back tires of the backhoe comes off the ground.

landscape design

But, the reason that I most enjoy placing boulders is that I have several people listening and following my directions as to where to place each boulder.

Now, lest you think that I may get carried away with my power – there is no chance of that.  After a busy day in the field, I came home and tried my best to get my 3 teenagers to listen and do what I asked.  Needless to say, the ‘power’ I had earlier in the day, mysteriously disappeared  😉

landscape design

landscape design

But at the end of the day, I did have three nice-sized boulders to anchor my landscape design.  Plants were ready to go in a couple of days later.

A Snapshot of My Crazy, But Happy Life…

With the arrival of winter, some people resign themselves to a boring garden, devoid of interest until spring arrives with its warmer temperatures.

Thankfully, we don’t have to settle for ‘blah’ winter gardens if cold-hardy succulents have a spot to grow in the landscape, many of which can survive temps down to 0 and even -20 degrees F.

Yucca growing among boulders.

Yucca growing among boulders.

When the flowering plants are ‘sleeping’ through winter, succulents take center stage with their unique shapes and growing patterns.

10 Cold Hardy Succulents That Add Beauty to the Winter Landscape

Whale’s Tongue Agave (Agave ovatifolia)

While the cold temperatures may freeze back your favorite bougainvillea or lantana flowers, cold hardy succulents like these whale’s tongue agave steal the show with their beautifully shaped leaves.

Toothless Sotol (Dasylirion quadrangulatum)

Toothless Sotol (Dasylirion quadrangulatum)

During the warmer seasons, these succulents add texture and welcome structure to the garden, often serving as a backdrop to flowering shrubs and groundcovers.  But, when winter arrives, they get their turn to shine.

Want to learn more about cold hardy succulents, which will add beauty to your outdoor space, not just in winter, but year round?  I recently compiled a list of 10 succulents, for Houzz.com that would be a welcome addition in most landscapes.

Hopefully, you’ll find some of your old favorites and maybe a few new ones.

 
 

Great Landscape Design: Drought Tolerant and Beautiful!

Do you have a neat and tidy front landscape?  One where plants are pruned neatly and at the right time of year.  Where drip lines are covered up and where there is never a weed in sight?

Or maybe you would describe your front garden space as somewhat natural and untamed.  Where plants are late in getting pruned (if at all), drip tubing is exposed and where weeds can be found lurking in hidden corners?

neat and tidy succulents

Today, I’d like to share with you a story of two landscapes – the ‘neat and tidy’ neighbors have a perfectly lovely landscape filled with a combination of flowering plants and succulents.  There is always something blooming in their garden in all seasons.

flowering plants

They even planted the outside of their side wall with pinky muhly grasses even though they don’t see this area of their landscape.

Now, let’s look at the second set of neighbors who have a ‘natural and untamed’ garden…  

flowering plants

While this landscape is also filled with flowering plants at all seasons, you’ll notice a weed or two next to the purple trailing lantana, exposed drip tubing and a smattering of dead leaves from the nearby tree.

flowering plants

The plants in the ‘natural and untamed’ landscape aren’t always pruned right away and sometimes grow into nearby plants before being pruned.

If you look carefully, you’ll often find a weed (sometimes two or five) hiding alongside shrubs and underneath groundcovers.

Despite their differences in their landscape maintenance practices, the neighbors are good friends and have lived near each other for over 10 years.

Now that I have created the setting, I’d like to share with you something that happened this week that made the owner of the ‘natural and untamed’ garden absurdly happy.    

flowering plants

As she was driving by her ‘neat and tidy’ neighbor’s house, she noticed something definitely out of place.

flowering plants

At first, she could hardly believe what she was seeing – a weed!  It was something that she had NEVER seen growing in her neighbor’s landscape.

And it wasn’t just a little weed – it was a really big one!

The sight of this unwelcome weed brought a smile to her face as she drove a couple of houses down to her ‘natural and untamed’ landscape filled with more weeds than she would care to admit to hiding among the rambling shrubs and groundcovers.

This tale of two landscapes and a single weed leads me to ask you this question:

Which type of landscape does yours resemble?

Neat & Tidy or Natural & Untamed

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

As you may have guessed (or recognized my landscape), one of the neighbors in this story is me and before I wrote this story, I got my neighbor’s permission to show their single, solitary weed.

While I like the idea of having a neat and tidy garden, I am frankly so busy helping others with their landscapes that I don’t always have time to tend mine as much as I would like.

Maybe someday, we will have time to cover up the drip tubing, get rid of all our weeds and prune our plants at the right time of year.

But, I wouldn’t hold my breath….

DIY Weed-Killer: Vinegar & Soap

Do you like discovering new things?

I do. Particularly newer plant introductions. New plant hybrids are always being discovered and I am always on the lookout for new ones.  I like to use newer plant introductions in landscapes to help give them a new and updated look. 

Last week, I told you about my partnership with Monrovia plants and selecting two new plants for my garden. 

Two New Water Wise Plant Discoveries

New Water Wise Plant

While shopping at the nursery for plants, there were many different plants to choose from. As I walked through the nursery, I was tempted by lavender but then a display of Monrovia cacti and succulents caught my eye.

Two New Water Wise Plant Discoveries

New Water Wise Plant

This tiny prickly pear grows 8 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

It looked so cute, I almost reached out to touch it, but stopped myself just in time.

Santa rita and purple prickly pear are among my favorite types of cacti. I like their blue gray pads touched by purple. ‘Baby rita’(Opuntia basilaris ‘Baby Rita’) is a great alternative for smaller areas or you can group 3 of them together.  

'Lucky Crown' agave(Agave Kissho Kan)

The next plant I was tempted by was ‘Lucky Crown’ agave(Agave Kissho Kan).  These are small agave that reach 18 inches high and wide.  They have beautiful, variegated leaves with maroon teeth along the edges.

I must admit that I was sorely tempted by both of these plants, but I decided on two different drought tolerant plants.

Have you seen any new plants that you have been tempted by?

To see what two plants I did come home with, click here.

Do you ever find yourself pulling into the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant?

I do.

Lately, I have been very busy with landscape consults as well as working on a large golf course re-landscaping project, which have resulted in more than my share of visits to the local drive-thru.  Add to that my preparations for a local craft fair in November (along with my sister and mom where I am making basil salt, seed bombs and air plants mounted on creosote roots), preparations for an upcoming family reunion as well as hosting my daughter’s baby shower – we will probably be making quite a few more visits to the drive-thru.

Normally, drive-thru restaurants are places where you can see examples of poor design showcasing overplanted and over pruned shrubs that are too large for the narrow landscape spaces by the drive-thru lane.  However, I was truly surprised during one trip through at my local fast food restaurant.

First, let’s look at the landscaping you normally find as you visit the drive-thru…

drive-thru landscapes

Over pruned feathery cassia shrubs (Senna artemisioides)

These shrubs would actually work well in this space if you reduced the amount down to three and allowed them to grow to their natural size and form…

Feathery cassia in bloom

Feathery cassia in bloom

Do you think that those overpruned shrubs ever have any flowers appearing in late winter and spring, like this one?

I didn’t think so.

drive-thru landscapes

In the Southwest, the types of shrubs that you are most likely to see growing along drive-thru landscapes are oleander and Texas sage species.

Lately, Valentine bush, which is one of my favorite shrubs, has also been showing up more often in these areas.

Again, the problem is too many plants in not enough space.  Couple that with the compulsive need to strip the natural beauty from these beautiful, flowering shrubs in an attempt to create anonymous green shapes and you have the perfect scenario for drive-thru landscapes.

With so many bad examples of landscaping while visiting the drive-thru, I must admit that I’ve become somewhat de-sensitized and purposely ignore it.

However, a recent visit to the drive-thru made me take a second look as I drove past this…

drive-thru landscapes

Notice anything different?

The plants actually fit into this space and without over pruning!

There is room for the bougainvillea against the wall to grow and while the lantana could use a little more room – it is looking great too.

What I really liked about this landscape was the use of banana yucca.  Its leaves added great spiky texture and the flowers are just lovely.

*I did notice the overpruned dwarf oleanders in the background, but I’m ignoring them.

Using fewer shrubs and allowing them room to grow is a great start to rethinking the drive-thru landscape.

The next important part is to stop the frequent pruning of flowering shrubs.

I’d love to see a mix of shrubs and succulents in drive-thru landscapes for more interest, less maintenance and that is more water efficient.

For now, I will keep trying to keep my eyes open for another great example of a drive-thru landscape.

drive-thru landscapes

But, I think it may be awhile…

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

For other examples of drive-thru landscapes, click here.

If you have shrubs that resemble this and would like to have beautiful shrubs with a pleasing natural shape that actually flowers as well as see some other examples of bad pruning – click here for some of my favorite pruning posts.

Do you like palo verde trees?

Blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida)

I must confess that I fell in love with these iconic desert trees with their green trunks and yellow flowers when I moved to Arizona 28 years ago.

Some people may resent the mess that the fallen flowers leave behind in late spring, but I don’t mind – they look like a carpet of yellow.

Blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida) is on my ‘fuss-free‘ list of trees that add beauty to the arid landscape.

How about you?  Do you like blue palo verde trees?

Want to learn more about this desert beauty?  Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.com:

Great Design Plant: Parkinsonia Flor Paints the Desert Green and Yellow

Have you ever had something happen to you that was such a coincidence that it was hard to believe?  Recently, I had one such experience.

 
It all happened on a beautiful, sunny morning in August…

But first, a little background:

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time may remember me sharing about my past job as a landscape designer.  I wrote about my adventures that you can read about, here.  

design the landscape

There were things that I enjoyed about my job and others things that I did not.

However, I did enjoy working with clients and helping design the landscape of their dreams.

*Okay, back to my amazing ‘coincidence’ story.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was on my way to an appointment for a landscape consult – (I work for myself now).

As I got off the freeway and started driving through the residential streets, I realized that I had designed a landscape there years ago when I worked for the landscape design company.

As I got closer to my destination, I saw that I was in the same neighborhood.  I promised myself that I would try to find the same house after I was finished with my appointment.

My GPS directed me down the street where my ultimate destination was and soon I found myself sitting in front of the SAME house that I had originally designed back in 2008.

Hard to believe?

My first reaction was “I can’t believe it!”

I had designed hundreds of landscapes and the chances of being called back to the same one by a different owner was so small.

The second reaction was, I hope they don’t hate their existing landscape – if they did, I wasn’t sure I would tell them that I was the original designer.

But then I remembered that my client had told me via email that she and her husband had just moved into their new home and wanted to learn about the plants in their landscape and how to take care of them – they had no idea that I was the original designer.

I knocked on the door and my client greeted me and proceeded to take me into their backyard.

broken concrete (called 'urbanite')

Now 

The first thing I saw was the pathway made up of broken concrete (called ‘urbanite’) that was had already been present the first time…

broken concrete (called 'urbanite')

Then 

I did have pictures of the landscape when it had been newly installed in 2008.

The new homeowner told me that she and her husband had bought the home because they loved the relaxing backyard landscape.

I then told her that I had been the original designer.  She couldn’t believe it either!

job as a landscape designer

Now 

As we walked into the backyard, the details of the design came flooding back.

Would you believe that there used to be a swimming pool in this backyard?  

job as a landscape designer

Then

Back in 2008, we filled in the pool and added mounds, boulders, drought tolerant plants and a palo verde tree. 

drought-tolerant landscape

Now

The original owners wanted to get rid of their pool, which they hardly used to convert it into a drought-tolerant landscape with a seating area underneath a tree.

I had designed a meandering path from the patio which ended in a seating area made from flagstone.

drought-tolerant landscape

Then

You can really tell how much the tree and other plants have grown over the past 7 years.

Coincidence? Hard to Believe!

Now

While the overall landscape looked good and I was happy with how the design turned out – but there was an issue.

Most of the plants were brown and straggly – not very attractive and showing signs of under watering.

The new homeowner provided me with the irrigation schedule that the original homeowners had been using and it was easy to see why some of the plants were a bit small for their age and didn’t look great – they were getting too little water.

 job as a landscape designer

Then

I helped her adjust her irrigation schedule and assured her that her plants would soon improve in appearance.

Although some of the original plants had been lost due to under watering, I remembered what they were and was able to give her a list of replacements to buy.

 job as a landscape designer

As I got ready to leave, the homeowner told me that she couldn’t wait to tell her husband that by sheer coincidence, their landscape consultant turned out to be the original designer.

I drove away with a huge smile on my face because it isn’t often that a residential landscape designer gets to see their designed landscape a few years later.

It made my job feel very rewarding that day 🙂

**For information on watering guidelines for the low desert including how to avoid over & under watering, click here.  

I have been dreaming of converting our backyard into a beautiful, low-maintenance desert landscape.

Right now, it has a large area of grass surrounded by large, flowering shrubs against the wall.  I would have loved to have taken out the grass years ago, but my husband and son protested since they would throw the football back and forth each evening before dinner.

low-maintenance desert landscape

low-maintenance desert landscape

But, now my son is almost 12 and often throws the football over the wall, so now I have been give permission to at least start thinking of converting the backyard.

Often, on my way home from a landscape consult, I will mentally design my new backyard garden.  I have some concrete ideas, but there is still a lot to be decided.

Whenever I see a landscape area that I like, I stop to take a picture.  I have quite a few pictures that I have taken of landscapes that inspire me.

Here are just a few…

Red flowering Chuparosa, growing underneath native mesquite and foothills palo verde trees.  A hedgehog cactus grows by a large boulder.  Mexican bird-of-paradise, trained as trees are growing in the background.

Red flowering Chuparosa, growing underneath native mesquite and foothills palo verde trees.  A hedgehog cactus grows by a large boulder.  Mexican bird-of-paradise, trained as trees are growing in the background. 

Goodding's verbena, chuparosa and brittlebush blooming with creosote bush in the background.

Goodding’s verbena, chuparosa and brittlebush blooming with creosote bush in the background. 

Desert ruellia provides an attractive background for golden barrel cacti.  This area needs to be pruned once every 2 years

Desert ruellia provides an attractive background for golden barrel cacti.  This area needs to be pruned once every 2 years. 

low-maintenance desert landscape

Young palo verde tree with potted artichoke agave. 

I am still in the “designing inside my mind” stage, but will soon need to put things down on paper.  I have my drafting supplies ready to go once I am.

Of course, the entire project hinges on having enough money for large containers, big boulders, trees, plants, dirt for mounds and paying someone to rip out our grass.

I would hope to be able to do this next winter, but we will see…

Which one of the landscape areas above do you like best?  

New Ideas for Sustainable Landscaping

New Ideas for Sustainable Landscaping

Have you ever given much thought about how sustainable your landscape is?

I must confess that I have been giving it a lot of thought lately.

I am busy putting the final touches on a presentation that I am giving tomorrow on “New Ideas for Sustainable Landscaping”.

New Ideas for Sustainable Landscaping

The community where I am giving this talk, asked me to speak on this subject in their continuing efforts to become an Audubon International Sustainable Community.

There will be other experts on hand to discuss other ways that people and communities can become sustainable.

My talk will focus on three ways to create a more sustainable landscape:

– Maximize the use of arid-adapted plants.

– Utilize a good, functional design that is environmentally-friendly.

– Appropriate maintenance is practiced.

New Ideas for Sustainable Landscaping

Next week, I will write a series of blog posts that will focus on these three ideas.

My hope is that you will be able to implement some of these things in your own landscape.

In the meantime, please wish me luck for my talk tomorrow!