When you pair beauty and low-maintenance in a single type of plant – that is one that I highly recommend.

Earlier this week, I was doing a landscape consult with a client who had multiple (Hesperaloe parviflora) plants throughout his garden and I was reminded again, how much I enjoy this succulent plant.  

I’d love to share with you just a few of the many reasons to add red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) to your landscape…

beautiful red yucca

First of all, its flowers are beautiful and appear May through September and hummingbirds find them irresistible. Red yucca isn’t only drought tolerant but is hardy to -20 degrees, making it suitable for planting in many different planting zones. Although it often referred to by the common name ‘yucca’ – it isn’t a yucca at all.


Even when not in flower, its grass-like succulent foliage add texture to the landscape.ย I really like how they look when planted in groups of three.

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

**When adding multiple plants of the same kind – focus on adding them in odd numbered groupings such as 3 or 5.  The reason is that odd numbered plant groupings are more pleasing to the eye.


In addition to the more traditional red/pink colored flowers, there is also a yellow variety available.  They are the same as red yucca with the flower color being the only difference.

Their requirements are few…. full sun, well-drained soil and periodic deep watering.


Red yucca plants are extremely low-maintenance. All you need to do is to prune off dead flower stalks in the fall.  

Don’t prune the foliage like the homeowner did in the photo above – why create more maintenance then is needed?  Especially when it results in turning an attractive plant ‘ugly’?

**You can read more about my past experience with this type of pruning to red yucca that was done by a member of my crew in a previous blog post:

“Do This, Not That”

beautiful red yucca

Red or yellow yucca thrive in areas with reflected sun and heat.  They also do well around swimming pools and in pots.

I love how this yellow yucca was placed between garage doors, don’t you?  It is almost impossible to find a plant that will do well in this unforgiving location.

beautiful red yucca

Over time, red yucca can become overgrown.  The photo above are from my client’s front yard.  His red yucca aren’t quite overgrown yet, but will eventually get there in 2 – 3 years.

What I recommend is to simply take them out and replace them when that happens.  You don’t even have to buy a new red yucca to replace them with. Simply separate a small section of the overgrown plant that you just removed and re-plant it.

beautiful red yucca

What’s not to love about this fabulous plant? I hope you will decide to try red or yellow yucca in your landscape.  

Have you ever read a Dr. Seuss book?

It may be hard to find someone who hasn’t.  I had quite a few of his books as a child and “Green Eggs & Ham” was my favorite.  

As a mom, I made sure that Dr. Seuss books had a place on my kid’s bookshelves.

One of the things I love about Dr. Seuss, is his illustrations.  His imaginative drawings of plants, especially.

Earlier this month, my mother and I spent some time at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  As I walked along the garden paths, there were times that I felt that I had walked straight into a Dr. Seuss book….

Crawling succulents

Crawling succulents

Spiky Yuccas

Spiky Yuccas

Sundial made out of cacti

Sundial made out of cacti.

Desert Botanical Garden

Doesn’t this look like a brain?

Desert Botanical Garden

A towering forest of Cardon cacti.

Desert Botanical Garden

One word…”ouch!”

Desert Botanical Garden

 The drooping leaves of a Ponytail Palm.

Desert Botanical Garden

The strange shapes of Prickly Pear cactus and Agave.

Desert Botanical Garden

This Boojum tree would fit nicely in a Dr. Seuss book, don’t you think?

Desert Botanical Garden

 An ‘old’ cactus growing a beard.

Desert Botanical Garden

Arching Yuccas lean over the pathway as you leave.

I love spending time at the Desert Botanical Garden.  Of course, in addition to weird and strange plants – they also have beautiful flowering trees, shrubs and perennials.

Desert Botanical Garden

So, take some time for a visit and see what Dr. Seuss book they remind you of. 

There is still time to enter the giveaway for one of my favorite new gardening books,

“The Unexpected Houseplant”

Click here for details. 

I love my job…

I get to meet nice people who let me help them with their landscape.  

Usually, they want help with plant suggestions, recommended maintenance and sometimes even which plants should be removed.

Sometimes, I visit a landscape that has some features that I just love.  I would love to share some pictures of a recent visit…

date palms and gold lantana

Her back garden was simply beautiful with date palms and gold lantana.

Fun Landscape

Along the back fence, she had created a plant shelf using masonry bricks and wooden planks.

She added a some colorful pots filled with golden barrel cacti and other plants.

I just loved this idea for masking a bare wall.  

Fun Landscape

In the front courtyard, I found a great example of how to grow a plant next to a palm tree (or any kind of tree).  Often trees have too many roots that make digging next to them almost impossible.  So, this homeowner, simply planted a creeping fig in a container and placed it next to the tree.

Pedilanthus macrocarpus

Lastly, there was a container with Lady’s Slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) growing inside, which softened the side of the garage.  This plant does well in full sun and likes deep, infrequent water.

In fact, I liked it so much that I went out and bought a Lady’s Slipper plant for myself ๐Ÿ™‚

You know what?

Sometimes it is easy to tell who in the neighborhood uses the same landscaper.  

It is pretty evident from these photos that I took over the summer that quite a few people in this neighborhood are using the services of the same landscaper….

same landscaper

This is the first ‘mushroom-shaped’ Olive tree that I have ever seen.

same landscaper

To me, this Texas Sage looks somewhat like a small loaf bread, don’t you think?

Ebenopsis ebano

For those of you who have seen Texas Ebony (Ebenopsis ebano) in its natural form, may not recognize this heavily pruned one, above.

Texas Sage shrubs

These two Texas Sage shrubs remind me of a lumpy cake that you have just pulled out of the oven.


I hope you are all enjoying a great start to your weekend.

This is the last weekend for awhile where I am not busy, so I plan to enjoy it ๐Ÿ™‚

First of all, I would like to thank you all for bearing with me as I have taken a trip down memory lane recalling my adventures as a landscape designer.  Your comments have been so much fun to read.

Some of you may be wondering if I am still a landscape designer.  Well the answer is both yes and no.  I no longer work only as a landscape designer.  But, my work as a horticulturist does involve some design work from time to time which I love.

Why am I no longer working only as a landscape designer?  Well, there are a few different reasons.  

landscape designer

First of all, I did enjoy parts of my job, including meeting with so many different people and helping them to realize their goals for their landscapes.

I loved seeing the successful completion of a job.

And lastly, my fancy office with the black granite desk.

I know, you are tired of hearing about my fancy desk by now ๐Ÿ˜‰

landscape designer

Now there were some aspects of the job that I really did not enjoy.

The first part was the emphasis on selling.  Now I have nothing against the sales industry.  But I found out that sales is not my strong point.  Ironically I did sell quite a lot, but that was largely because of my passion of beautiful gardens.  But, I do not like it when a salesperson tries to do a hard sell with me and I definitely did not like the emphasis placed on that in the company.  Besides, I was not good at it, so I rarely attempted it.

Secondly, hardscapes were highly prized by the company.  Now hardscapes are those items such as patios, built-in BBQ’s, seatwalls, firepits and fireplaces, just to name a few.  Sometimes, trees and plants never entered the equation.  I have nothing against hardscape, but I preferred gardens full of plants with just a few hardscape elements.

Thirdly, I would spend a lot of time working with a client, producing a landscape design, only to have them cancel later and have nothing to show for my effort.

Lastly, the recession hit and the home builder I worked for declared bankruptcy and eventually went out of business.  And so in one year, I had created over 200 designs and only 50 would ever be completed and so hours of work was wasted and I would not see any money from them.

So, by this point in my career, I was at a crossroads.  I was very burned out by the amount of time and effort my job required and I had very little to show for it at the end.

So, I took off a year from working.  I am embarrassed to admit that even my passion for plants was affected.  I did the minimum in my garden, but did not receive any joy from it.

About one year afterward, I began to feel my interest in my garden begin to return.  And so, I started my blog, which I have enjoyed so much.

At that time, I began working as a horticulturist again, but with myself as the boss.  Now, I work quite a bit as a garden writer, speaker as well as a landscape consultant.  

landscape designer

I do still create landscape designs from time to time. It works out perfectly for me because I can control how busy I am while ensuring that I have enough time for my family.

Do I regret my working as a landscape designer for a home builder?

No.  I learned so much from that experience.  It not only made sharpened my landscape designing skills, it helped me to learn me more about myself and what I really wanted.

So, one important thing I learned is that life is about the simple pleasures – like taking time to stop and take a roll in the grass…..  

roll in the grass

Thank you again for following my short-lived career as a landscape designer.


I do plan on sharing stories of my early career as a horticulturist, working on golf courses.

Adventures with coyotes, snakes, destructive storms, monster grubs and being the only woman working in an all-male environment are just part of what is to come ๐Ÿ™‚  

Well, there I was….in my new job, working only as a landscape designer for a large home builder.  My surroundings had definitely changed since I left my small and sometimes dirty maintenance office and traded it in for a beautiful office on the 14th floor in downtown Phoenix (you can read more in my “Part 1” post if you like).

Now you would think that with as a horticulturist, I was more then ready to get started……well not exactly.  Before I was allowed to meet with home buyers by myself, I had to learn how to design a whole host of custom structures.  And so, I spent 4 weeks learning how to design built-in BBQs, firepits, seatwalls, arbors, fountains, raised patios, etc.  

 Landscape designer

Landscape designer, Built-in firepit

It was harder then you may think because I had to design these structures from the ground up, which I found challenging.  Trying to factor in gas lines, how many bricks, did it need to be reinforced, how much material was needed, water lines, paint, stucco finishes, etc. was exhausting. I soon learned that visualizing these structures, much less drawing them out, was quite hard for me.  My brain just does not work well that way.  But, I did learn how….but I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed the process.

 Landscape designer

Landscape designer

With my new knowledge, I was soon ready to meet with clients in my fancy new office.  I had traded in my work gloves and boots for manicured fingernails and a business professional wardrobe.  Did I already mention my black granite desk in my previous post?I know I did….but it was just so beautiful ๐Ÿ˜‰

In addition to the fancy trappings of my office, I had a variety of samples to show new home buyers.  Pieces of flagstone in all sorts of colors, pavers, cultured stone, colored concrete and I even had a clear glass box with fake grass inside.

 Landscape designer

Landscape designer, I still have a couple of flagstone samples…..I’m not sure why I kept them.

I think my favorite prop was my ‘rock box’.  Doesn’t that sound exciting?  I still have it and so I dug it out of my stuff in the garage just to show you how cool it is….

 Landscape designer

Okay, maybe it isn’t the most exciting thing you have seen, but wait until I open it up….

 Landscape designer

Still not too interesting, is it?

Personally, I found the subject of landscape rock selection quite boring, but clients needed to see samples of what type of landscape rock (gravel) they could chose to use in their landscape.  (It was surprising how many people get hung up on choosing landscape rock.  Throw in a couple who have differing opinions, and it would take forever.)

So I was finally trained and ready – after all I had my rock box ;-).  But, I was so nervous.   Did I mention that I had to actually draw out the landscape design in front of the client, price the entire landscape and get a signed contract within a period of 1 hour?

Believe it or not, I gradually got used to designing on the spot.  I enjoyed meeting so many different people and most of them were very nice to work with.

Over the course of my two years working with the home builder, I met with many wonderful people.  I also met with some unusual people as well.  Here is just a small sampling of some client meetings that stick out in my mind…..


This particular client did not want any trees or plants in his front yard.  NONE!  Now for the horticulturist and plant lover in me – I just couldn’t fathom someone not wanting plants in their yard.

I did my best trying to describe the benefits of having trees and plants in his front yard.  I told him that I could design his landscape using low-maintenance plants.  But, he was not swayed in the least….not even when I whipped out my photos of beautifully landscaped areas.

 Landscape designer

Landscape designer

Well, who do you think got their way…..me or him?

I did!

I wish I could say that I persuaded him by showing him examples of my landscape designing expertise….but that would be a lie.

I got my way because the community where his new home was to be built, required trees and plants in the front yard.  Actually, 2 trees, 10 large shrubs and 12 smaller groundcovers.

The expression on his face was just priceless because he just couldn’t believe that he had to have plants.


I had a wonderful time meeting with this client.  She was moving into a beautiful community located in the upper desert surrounding Phoenix AND she loved plants.

All except for this one…..

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

I’m not sure why she did not like this plant.  It is quite beautiful, low-maintenance as well as being drought-tolerant, all of which are good things.

Now the fact that a client did not like a particular plant was not unusual and did not usually present a problem; I would create a design using other plants.

However, the community she was moving into had some strict guidelines in regards to what types of plants could be planted.  Every home had to have one particular plant in the front yard.

Guess what plant she absolutely had to have planted in her front yard?

Yep…..you guessed it,  Red Yucca.

The client couldn’t believe it, but she was quite nice about it.  Together, we figured out where we could have it planted in her front yard where she would not have to see it.  We put it on the side of her house where only her neighbor would be seeing it.


This client was building a home in a gorgeous part of the desert, called Gold Canyon.  It is located by beautiful mountains and the views from her new home were going to be stunning.

This particular community required a quite a few plants in the front yard – I love plants so designing for this community was always a treat.

We spent our time creating her landscape design together.  I suggested plants and their placement and I could see that she was getting excited about how beautiful her landscape would look.

I loved working with clients who could ‘see’ what the finished landscape would look like.  They were very easy to work with.

I remember her discussing her plans for inside her new house and she couldn’t wait to move in.

Because it was a corner lot, there was a 1 ft. wide strip of land between the block wall of her backyard and the sidewalk.

As we were getting ready to wrap things up, I mentioned that little strip of land was hers and that she was responsible for maintaining it.  Now, maintenance for that area was easy.  There were no plants there, just landscape rock.

Well, she was not happy about owning that little strip of land.  In fact, she was so upset that she walked up to the front desk and canceled her house purchase.  She wouldn’t even want to consider building her house on a typical lot.  

You know, I soon learned to expect the unexpected.  Each person is unique as are their preferences.  Who would have ever guessed that someone would back out of a house purchase over a little 1 ft. wide strip of land……


I hope my stories are not too boring.  I have had fun recalling some of the more memorable moments.

If you are not completely bored to death……come back for Part 3 in a few days ๐Ÿ™‚

landscape design

Okay, some of you may be asking – when did you work as a landscape designer?  I thought you were a horticulturist?

Well the answer is, is that part of a horticulturist’s job involves landscape design.  Actually, that was my favorite part of being a horticulturist and I was able to design everything from annual flower combinations to large landscape areas and everything in between.

There was a point in my career where I wanted to concentrate solely on landscape design, so I took a job with a major design and landscape company.

As a horticulturist, my time used to be split between my small, cramped office in the golf course maintenance facility as well as around the beautiful outdoors, driving around golf courses and desert landscapes.

landscape design

I was the only woman in a department made up of 39 men.  Work boots, shorts and polo shirts were my normal wardrobe along with my floppy hat.  My mode of transportation was my little green golf cart.

A typical day was spent outdoors during the morning hours, driving around the landscape areas, fertilizing, pruning and assigning jobs to my landscape crew.

Afternoons were typically spent in the office catching up on paperwork and working on new designs and estimates.

Well that all changed dramatically once I decided to work solely as a landscape designer.  Why did I leave my previous job?  Well, after 5 years, they were running out of new areas for me to design and I did not only want to manage landscape areas…..I wanted to keep on creating new ones.

My new job involved more then a new job title.  It came with many drastic changes.

I was assigned to work with a major home-builder, working with new home buyers and designing their new landscapes.

The first major change was my office space.  I no longer had a cramped and sometimes dirty office…..

beautiful office

My new office was located on the 14th floor of a beautiful office building in downtown Phoenix.

No longer did I work from an old formica desk.  I now had a desk made of black granite.

Instead of a windowless office, I had a beautiful view of the city from up high.

The dress code had changed as well.  No more boots and polo shirts…..professional business clothing was now required.

I must admit that at first, I was a bit dazzled by the trappings of my new position.  I mean, I even had a coveted parking pass and free reign over a fully stocked refrigerator.

Well, my adventures in my new position were just beginning and then reality started to set in.

I met with many interesting clients who had some interesting views on what they wanted in their gardens.  I will share some of my stories in my next post.

The Continuing Adventures of a Landscape Designerโ€ฆ.

I do hope you all had a good week.  I have had a busy week of consultations as well as preparing for two upcoming speaking engagements, (which I love to do by the way).  But the most exciting thing is that I am working on getting ready for a trip along the east coast – I can’t wait to tell you more about that ๐Ÿ™‚

I have enjoyed this series of ‘Curing the Garden Blahs’ and would like to cover the topic of form and texture since they belong together along with color, which we covered in an earlier post.  

You may not be too familiar with these concepts and wonder what part they play in a good garden design.  To help, let my ask you the following question – have you seen a landscape that really catches your interest, but you cannot tell exactly why?  Landscapes full of flowering plants do attract our attention, but have you ever been attracted to one that does not necessarily have lots of flowering plants?  If so, chances are that the designer made sure to incorporate both texture and form when they created the garden.

Well, let’s get familiar with texture first.  Texture refers to the visual surface of a plant, such as rough or smooth as well as the size and shape of foliage, flowers, branches and bark.  Here in the desert, we definitely have our share of plants with rough surfaces, but no matter where you live the following photos should help you understand the concepts of texture and how it relates to your landscape plants.

Curing the Garden Blahs


Curing the Garden Blahs;Purple Prickly Pear

Curing the Garden Blahs;Purple Prickly Pear

In direct contrast are those plants with smooth surfaces…..

Agave desmettiana

Agave desmettiana

Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana)

Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana)

Different types of texture are also expressed in the different shapes of foliage and bark.

First, examples of fine textured plants which are characterized by small leaves and flowers and sometimes have a ‘lacy’ appearance.

Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

Black Dalea (Dalea frutescens)

 Black Dalea (Dalea frutescens)

Threadleaf Cassia

Threadleaf Cassia  (Senna nemophila)

Curing the Garden Blahs ;Alyssum 'Royal Carpet'

Curing the Garden Blahs ;Alyssum ‘Royal Carpet’

Here are some examples of plants that have a coarse texture which is characterized by large leaves that tend to be bold and make a statement in the landscape.

Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegata)

  Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegata)



Curing the Garden Blahs

 Australian Bottle Tree (Brachyiton populneus)

One way that designers draw attention the landscape is to pair different textures together.  The following picture is an excellent example of this…..

Curing the Garden Blahs

  Agave weberi with Purple Trailing Lantana

The coarse texture of the Agave paired with the fine texture of the Purple Trailing Lantana accentuate their differences and your eye is drawn to that naturally.  When emphasizing the ways that they are different, you also appreciate their individual beauty even more.  If you place plants with similar texture next to each other, they can fade into the background.  

In general, coarse textured plants are placed in the background while the finer textured plants are in the front. 

Curing the Garden Blahs

A variety of textures are represented in this backyard garden, which draws your attention.

Now let us look closer at the concept of form as it relates to the garden.  This is somewhat easier to grasp as it has to do with the overall shape of plants.

Here are spiky plants, often called ‘accent’ plants….

Curing the Garden Blahs

 Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)


  Bougainvillea ‘Torch Glow’

Red Yucca

  Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

Parry's Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

 Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

Other plant shapes are more naturally more rounded…..

Curing the Garden Blahs

 Eremophila ‘Valentine’

Curing the Garden Blahs

 Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

Curing the Garden Blahs

Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii)

Curing the Garden Blahs

  Green Cloud Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’)

Now you may notice that the naturally rounded shrubs are not unnaturally round and smooth…..these shrubs have texture which is a good thing.

Imagine if you will, a landscape of ‘green balls’.  Believe it or not, you don’t need your imagination to picture this because there are countless landscapes with this problem.

Curing the Garden Blahs
Curing the Garden Blahs

These plants have been robbed of their form.   Now they are little better then green balls.  There is nothing interesting about them.  *For those of you who have gotten to know me through my blog or in person, you know that I am passionately against the practice of ‘poodling’ landscape shrubs.  Especially those that flower.  If you feel like it, you can always read my earlier post, “Shrubs Aren’t Meant to be Cupcakes.”

Curing the Garden Blahs

 Besides being too crowded, the shrubs have all been overly pruned, removing much of their form and texture and creating a boring landscape.

Below is a formally pruned Texas Ebony tree….

Curing the Garden Blahs

Needless to say, they are not to be pruned into round balls.

Which do you like better….the one above or the one below?  Believe it or not, they are the same type of tree.

Curing the Garden Blahs

A beautiful landscape incorporates both color, form and texture…..

Curing the Garden Blahs

 The fine texture of the Foothill Palo Verde contrasts nicely with the coarse texture of the Agave in the foreground.  The ornamental grass in the background also add nice form and texture contrast.

Curing the Garden Blahs

  This ‘natural’ desert landscape has actually been recreated using the desert as the inspiration.  The different form and textures of the succulents contrast well with the trees, shrubs and groundcovers.

Curing the Garden Blahs

  Form and texture at play with only a few different plants.

Curing the Garden Blahs

 This is one of my personal favorites ๐Ÿ™‚

I do hope this post has been helpful in explaining the importance of both texture and form in the landscape.  I have only briefly touched upon it and there is much more information available online or at your local bookstore if you would like to get into more detail.

I am now off to help my husband finish building the fence of my new flower garden ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a great weekend!

I hope you all had a great weekend and are ready for the week ahead.  I know I am ๐Ÿ™‚  I would like to continue on with our “Curing the Garden Blahs” series and focus on one of my favorite aspects…..color.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that just by adding some color to our wardrobe, our food, our homes, etc. we can look better, enjoy our food more and create an atmosphere in our homes.  Well, adding color in the garden creates much more interest and increases the beauty and curb appeal of your garden as well.

 color in the garden

 As we get started, I would like you first to become acquainted with our friend, the color wheel…..

 color in the garden

Color is an integral part of landscape design.  Now, I am not going to go into a lot of detail or complexity, but will keep this fairly simple.

Most of us know what we like or don’t like in regards to color.  We each have a favorite color and some of us may have a color that we dislike.  What is even more interesting is that if you have a color that you dislike in your house or in your wardrobe, you may love it in your garden.  **For me, that color is orange….I don’t care for it in my house or in my wardrobe, but I do love it in my garden.  I wonder why I like it in some places and not in others?

There are two main color groups for the garden.  The first group consists of warm colors which are the reds, oranges and yellows.  When used in the landscape, they grab your attention right away and excite you.  The tend to make a large area look smaller and more intimate.  If you want to create a focal point, then plants with warm colors are what you would want to use.  For those of you who live in cooler climates, using warm colors in the garden can ‘visually’ warm you up ๐Ÿ™‚

The blossoms below are a perfect example of warm colors….

 color in the garden

Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

Yellow Bells

 Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans)

Red Autumn Sage

Red Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

Cape Honeysuckle

Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

Our next group consists of cool colors such as pinks, purples and blues.  These colors tend to make you feel relaxed and can make a garden appear larger.  Cool colored plants would be the ideal choice for a quiet spot in the garden.  If you live in a hot climate, you may want to incorporate cool colors in your garden as a way to ‘visually’ cool off.

Here are some examples of plants with cool colors….



Rio Bravo' Sage flower (Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Rio Bravo')

 ‘Rio Bravo’ Sage flower (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

Parry's Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

 color in the garden

This bouquet of Pink and White Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) flowers and Goodding’s Verbena are a perfect example of cool colors.

Now, how do you decide what colors look good together?

Well in general, warm colors look great together as do the cool colors.  But you can also mix them up to create a contrast that really catches your attention.  To do this, let’s go back to our color wheel….

 color in the garden

Now, think of the phrase “opposites attract”, because in this case it is true.  Opposite the purples and blues you will find the yellows and oranges.  When paired together, the contrast between the two colors immediately grabs your attention.

For example, picture Cape Honeysuckle shrubs with Purple Trailing Lantana growing in front of them…..

 color in the garden
 color in the garden

Here is another example….

 color in the garden

The blossoms of Orange Jubilee (Tecoma x Orange Jubilee) and Green Cloud Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’) contrast very well.

Now I would like to share with you an excellent tip and it involves the color yellow.  Now you may be thinking that yellow really does not do much for you and I would actually agree….it is not my favorite color.  BUT, do not underestimate the power of yellow in the landscape.  By just adding a few yellow flowering plants among your other colors, they will cause your other plants to look better.  Really, it’s true.  Yellow flowering plants contrast so well with other colors….I promise you they will make your garden look better.

For example, look at the container plantings below….

 color in the garden

We have a collection of Lavender, Lobelia and Geraniums….all cool colors.  But the addition of yellow daisies and gazania, all the colors really ‘pop’.

So now are you all ready to head to the nursery and mix your colors?  Well, I have a word of caution first…..if you intend to plant two different plants together so that you can enjoy the way their colors look next to each other when they are in bloom…..make SURE that they bloom at the SAME time.  You would be surprised at how many people make the mistake of purchasing plants, relying on the color picture of the plant tags thinking the colors would look great together….only to find later that one plant blooms in spring and the other in summer.

I do hope you are finding these posts on “Curing the Garden Blahs” helpful.  Our next installment will cover how texture can create interest in the garden.

*****There is still time to enter my seed giveaway for Firecracker Penstemon seeds.  Here is the link for those of you interested.  You have until this Wednesday (September 29th).****

I have been looking forward to writing this next installment because I am passionate about garden design.  I had planned to post this yesterday, but, as sometimes happens, ‘life’ interrupted.  

Yesterday, we received a call from the school principal (never a good thing).  In fact, I would love to hear from someone who has ever received a call from their school principal and gotten good news ๐Ÿ˜‰  Okay, back to my story…..our son Kai had hurt his leg on the playground.  The school nurse was with him and they were calling the paramedics.  We rushed out to the playground at the school and got there when the fire department paramedics did.  

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you may be familiar with Kai and his many surgeries on his hip, legs and feet.  If you like, you can read more about them here.  Well, Kai had hurt his shin and was in a lot of pain.  After the many surgeries that he has been through, he is a pretty tough kid.  The paramedics splinted his leg and offered to call the ambulance.  But, my husband said that we could easily take him to the hospital.

The doctors checked him out thoroughly and took x-rays.  Thankfully, they could not see any break.  The only thing that saved his leg from being broken, was the steel plate that Kai has on his shin bone from a previous surgery.  He does have a contusion on his bone and so far, cannot walk.  So, Kai is home as we speak, watching one of his favorite Star Wars movies.  We are consulting with his orthopedist tomorrow.

You may be wondering how he hurt his leg.  Well, when I asked him how he hurt it, he told me that he was chasing girls and ran into the bottom of the curly slide with his leg.  So, I do hope he learned his lesson and stops chasing girls ๐Ÿ˜‰

Well, thank you for letting me share our latest ‘life interrupted’ incident.  So, now back to our latest installment of “Curing the Garden Blahs”.  I am really having fun with this series of posts because it is so easy to make your garden more interesting.

Today, let’s discuss where to place plants.  No matter where you live…..in the desert like me or in Alaska like my friend Christine, these are basic design ideas that are applicable to almost every garden.

I like to think of trees and plants as a wonderful way to ‘window dress’ your home and increase interest.  For example, are there any homes in your neighborhood where the front garden looks better then the others?  It really isn’t hard to achieve this for yourself and you don’t have to spend lots of time on your hands and knees gardening to achieve it.

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This bare wall beside the garage sticks out because it is so barren.  Many people tend to ignore this part of their house.  

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Like my ‘virtual’ plant?  Seriously, by placing a tall shrub or vine in this area, you immediately dress up your home and create interest.  If you add a plant that has unusually colored foliage or pretty flowers, that is even better.

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Here is another example of a bare wall next to a window.  This is actually the side of a house that is visible to the street.  While the Ocotillo is very nice, there is still something missing.

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Similar to the side of the garage door, add a tall shrub or vine and then add shrubs underneath the window.  **When planting shrubs, I always use shrubs that flower at least for part of the year to increase interest.

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Here is a landscape that has lost some plants due to age or neglect and were never replaced.  You can see the empty drip irrigation emitter sticking up.  This is one of the main reasons for dull and drab landscapes…..homeowners do not replace plants.  This may be news to some of you, but plants do not live forever – you do need to replace them from time to time ๐Ÿ™‚

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By adding two more Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) to match the existing one and adding three flowering groundcovers around the boulder, you immediately transform this ‘blah’ landscape.

*Boulders are meant to have plants growing next to them.  The contrasting texture of the boulder and plants are visually appealing…..so if you have an empty boulder – plant something next to it.  Do not plant something that will grow too large and overwhelm the boulder, but rather a groundcover or small succulent, such as a smaller Agave.

Low walls are also a good place to plant as well.  The shadows from the plants reflected onto the wall attract the eye.  Use plants that will not overgrow the low wall.

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One of the most common bare areas that I see is in the entry way.  When you visualize your front garden, you want the eye to be attracted towards the front door, which is the focal point of your home.  Plants, placed in the right place can guide the eye to the front door. 

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A little texture from spiky plants and color from flowering plants can do a lot to focus attention on your entry.  Plants in containers are also a great way to achieve the same thing.

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Now this photo had good things and bad things in it.  I do love the design….boulders, flowering perennials and spiky Red Yucca look great together.  They are placed by the driveway, which is also a good place to place plants.  However, about half of the Angelita Daisies should be replaced.

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One word describes this area….boring.  This empty corner is created by the low wall hiding the air-conditioning unit.  Empty corners just cry out for some help.

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A single shrub would fill this area nicely.  It is easy to ‘hide’ your air-conditioner, even if it is not concealed behind a low wall.  Simply add some shrubs about 3 ft away from the unit itself to help hide it.  **This also works great for pool equipment that does not have a wall surrounding it.

Where to Place Plants

Many landscapes started out from a good design, but again, plants were not replaced as they died.  Look around your neighborhood and see how many empty drip-emitters you can see.

The two shrubs flanking the window are also old and woody.  The window is quite decorative and meant to be a focal point, so I do not recommend planting shrubs beneath it.

Where to Place Plants

Add tall growing shrubs or vines on either side of the window after removing the two old shrubs.

Add two additional Gold Lantana to match the one in the foreground and add a taller accent plant by the boulder.

Where to Place Plants

The interior garden behind this wall is beautiful and lovingly cared for.  But you would never know that by looking at the bare front area.

Where to Place Plants

I recommend that the client add spiky accent plants with small, colorful shrubs.  

Where to Place Plants

As trees begin to grow larger and shady areas begin to expand, plants that were growing beneath can sometimes fail to thrive in their new shady situation.  So, homeowners pull them out and think that they are doomed to have this large bare area beneath their trees.

Where to Place Plants

Many arid-adapted trees such as this Mesquite, produce a filtered shade and many plants thrive in this type of light.  Planting around the tree, at least 3 – 4 ft away from the trunk looks wonderful.  I also added flowering groundcovers around the boulders for additional color and interest.

Where to Place Plants

Again, these windows are meant to be a focal point and not to have shrubs planted underneath that would grow tall and cover the bottom half.  

Where to Place Plants

By placing a tall shrub between the windows, you actually draw attention to the architectural detail of the windows. 


Plant in groups of 3 or 5 or more using odd numbers, which is more pleasing to the eye then when using even numbers.

*I’m not sure why that is, but it is true.

Know what the mature size of the plant will be and allow plenty of room for it to grow to it’s full size.

Try to avoid planting trees in front of windows….try to place the tree to the side of the window so that as it grows, it frames the window and your view.  Otherwise, when you look out of your window, all you see is a tree trunk in the center of your vision.  The same thing applies when you are looking at your house from the outside….a tree placed in the center of your view to the window, disrupts the architectural line of your house, since windows are meant to be a focal point.

Replace plants when they die.

Concentrate on adding plants in the following areas….

The entry

Each corner next to the driveway

Beside the garage door

Bare walls

Along pathways

Besides boulders

You do not have to have plants growing everywhere in your garden, but by concentrating on a few areas, you will enjoy a beautiful garden that makes your house look even better.  Don’t underestimate the power of curb appeal.

Our next subject will cover what types of plants to choose.  We will discuss what colors go well together, what are accent plants and why you should include them in your garden, plant size and more.

I hope you will join me ๐Ÿ™‚