A chilly winter's morning dawns over this Phoenix garden

A chilly winter’s morning dawns over this Phoenix garden

Winter is a beautiful time of year in the desert landscape with bright blue skies, fresh cool air, and the plants in the garden add subtle beauty.

A seating area beckons you to sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of the desert garden by horticultural filmmaker

A seating area beckons you to sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of the garden

This particular garden was the backdrop for a video shoot by the horticultural filmmaker, Plant Pop this past December. They asked me to be the subject of their first video shoot in Arizona, and I was thrilled to do so.

A variety of succulents add beauty to this large galvanized steel horse trough container

A variety of succulents add beauty to this large galvanized steel horse trough container

Shooting the film in my desert garden wasn’t possible as my backyard is undergoing renovation. So, I asked one of my clients if we could shoot film in her landscape instead. Thankfully, she said yes!

green hedge doorway

Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) shrubs

We met at her house early in the morning with the filmmaker who set up the cameras and microphones. Our host is one of the most gracious people I know and kept us warm with the outdoor fireplace and feeding us donuts 🙂

I love talking about desert gardening

Being interviewed – I love talking about desert gardening!

We spent about 3 hours there with me talking about the unique challenges and possibilities of gardening in a hot, dry climate. During the filming, I walked around the garden, highlighting different areas throughout the garden. This garden has many ‘rooms’ and corners that display the beauty of winter in the desert.

The video has come out, and I’m so happy at how well the folks at Plant Pop condensed our visit into a 4-minute video so nicely.  I hope you enjoy it and come away inspired by what you can do in your own desert garden!

 

A Stroll Through a Flowering Winter’s Garden

For my longtime followers, you may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging as regularly as before. Well, I am excited to tell you the reason why.

But first, a little background. I help desert gardeners in my work as a landscape consultant where I meet with my clients and give them the knowledge and tools that they need to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful outdoor space that thrives in a hot, dry climate.

prickly-pear-cactus-white-lantana

White trailing lantana grows nearby a Santa-rita purple prickly pear

Many of you know that gardening in the desert can be challenging and it is hard to find resources to help you to learn the “right” way to do things. As a result, my phone was ringing off the hook with people who needed my help. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day to help everyone, and I soon became overwhelmed with work and exhausted.

So, I began looking for a way that I could reach more people to give them the help they needed. All winter long, I worked hard on my ‘new project’ and debuted it in January to a limited number of desert gardeners. I hoped that they would give me feedback so I could make sure that my new project was what they needed.

What I wasn’t prepared for was their overwhelmingly positive response! I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. I achieved my goal of reaching more people and helping them on their desert garden journey, and it is working!

And now, I’m finally ready to draw back the curtains and share it with you!

online-class-desert-gardening-101

Desert Gardening 101 is a way that you can learn how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful garden that thrives in the desert. I’ve combined my 20+ years as a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant into this class.

Here are the topics covered in the class:

class-curriculum-desert-gardening-101

And there are bonuses for students including…

best-plants-for-desert-garden

My favorite plants along with growing guides and how to use them

Here is what some of my current students have to say about Desert Gardening 101:

“This class has been very informative. We recently moved into a home in AZ with no landscaping in both the front and back yards. Having no experience in desert gardening and spending a lot of time online researching this subject. I came across the AZ Plant Lady and was happy to see there was an upcoming class on Desert Gardening. We signed up immediately.

This class is very helpful, and I’m sure it will keep us from making expensive mistakes in our new landscape and saving many hours of research. We can’t wait to start planting. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.”Laurie Wolf

“I have really enjoyed Desert Gardening 101 and have learned so much! Talk about a learning curve! Everything about gardening here is a complete 180! Yikes. I have killed more plants in the past three years, that I ever did in the many, many years I gardened in Milwaukee! I wish that I would have had the opportunity to learn all that I am learning now before we hired a landscape firm to landscape our yard.

We had a clean slate – a brand new construction with nothing but dirt surrounding our home! I knew very little about the desert, the plants and trees that grow best here and how to plant and care for them, soil to use, the watering “issue,” let alone design. We are now in the process of fixing the problems, thanks in large part to the knowledge I am gaining through Desert Gardening 101! I still have a ton to learn, but I’m making lots of progress with the weekly modules!

Thanks, Noelle for making this a very informative and worthwhile course for all of us trying to learn the ins and outs of desert gardening!Barb Terschan

“A Phoenix resident for many years, I recently moved from downtown to a house on the mountain preserve and wanted to flow into the desert with native and low water desert plants. That is when I found AZ Plant Lady and started learning. This class has been a huge help in this transition. I have learned I’ve been planting my new plants too deeply and watering way too much. The pruning session was an eye opener, also. Now I know when and how to prune my shrubs. The many plant suggestions provided have narrowed my search when visiting nurseries and has kept my focus on what really thrives in the desert. I am gardening with more confidence thanks to this course. Highly recommend!”Linda Yowell

Desert-Gardening-101-online-class

Desert Gardening 101 is an online course that teaches proven landscape strategies that I use myself, and I’ve taught hundreds of my clients who have gone on to succeed in their own landscape goals.

This is a self-study course and you can access it anytime online and view the content at your convenience. Most importantly, you will have lifetime access to the course, so you revisit the classes at any time in the future.

purple-flowers-on-boulder

I would be honored to come alongside you on your garden journey! Click here for more information and to register.

*This is by far the most affordable way to work with me at a fraction of the price of my private consultations.

Desert Garden Resources to Guide, Inspire, and Support

The 5 Most Common Mistakes People Make in the Desert Garden

I am always looking for ways to help people on their desert garden journey and so I’m offering a FREE class on 5 reasons you are struggling with your desert garden.

As a horticulturist and landscape consultant, I have seen people making the same mistakes, which prevent them from having a beautiful outdoor space.

Because of this, they unintentionally ‘hurt’ the plants by over-maintaining them and spending money on unneeded products and landscape services.

If this sounds like you, I AM HERE TO HELP!

I’ve been helping people like you for over 20 years and I can help you too!

Free Webinar AZ Plant Lady

This LIVE class is on January 17th, at 1:00 MST. *If you want to register for this free class, but can’t attend it live, it will be recorded so you can watch it at our convenience for a limited time.

Knowledge is power and once you know what you are doing wrong in the landscape – you have taken one GIANT step in having a desert garden that you are proud of.

CLICK the following link to learn more and register – http://bit.ly/2RpFFb5

I hope to see you there!

plant sales

If I had to pick the busiest month of the year, it would be November.

Life is filled with the kid’s school activities, plant sales, speaking engagements, and a lot of WORK helping people update their outdoor spaces. But, is also a time where my garden is reveling in the cooler temperatures of fall and I start to make some tweaks to it. I love the quote, “That a garden is never finished” and that is certainly true of mine, hence the little green flags indicating new plants that need irrigation run to them.

local plant sales

Earlier this month, I was a special guest expert at a local plant sales that raises money for community services. I enjoyed coming up with creative combinations for those who were shopping and answering their questions about the best exposure for the different plants offered for sale.

plant sales (Phoenix Public Library)

A few days later, it was all about creative container gardening as I spoke to a group of interested gardeners at a local branch of the Phoenix Public Library. While I like to talk about gardening to groups, there is always a little fear before it begins when you stare at a sea of empty seats and pray that they will be at least half filled by the time it starts. I must say that I was thrilled when they had to bring in extra chairs for my talk. Yeah!

plant sales (cool-season plants)

Fall is my favorite time of year in the garden when the summer bloomers are still producing colorful flowers and my cool-season plants are beginning to show off as well. 

You know what else I like about November? It means that Christmas is just around corner! I wonder how early I can get away with putting up Christmas decorations?

November Blooms

Do you love hummingbirds?  Maybe a better question would be, who doesn’t?

Hummingbird feeding from an ocotillo flower

Hummingbird feeding from an ocotillo flower.

Attracting hummingbirds to your garden isn’t hard to do by simply adding flowering plants, rich in nectar that they are attracted to.

Female Anna's hummingbird at my feeder

Female Anna’s hummingbird at my feeder.

But, what if your garden space is small or non-existent?  Is a hanging a hummingbird feeder your only option?

 hummingbird garden

Well, I’m here to tell you that space needn’t keep you from having your own hummingbird garden – all you have to do is to downsize it creating one in a container.

If you have a small patio, stoop or even a balcony, you can create your own mini-hummingbird garden in a container.

hummingbird garden

For those of you who have think you have no space at all, look up!  

Hanging containers

Hanging containers or window boxes are a great option for those short on garden space.

Whether you have small garden space or simply want to increase the amount of hummingbirds visiting your existing garden – creating a mini-hummingbird garden in a container is a great way to do it.

Let’s get started.

Here are the elements of a hummingbird container garden:

hummingbird container garden

LOCATION:

hummingbird container garden

– Select a location that receives at least 6 hours of sun a day.

Group containers together for greater color impact, which increases the chances of hummingbird visits.  

– Place containers in areas where you can view the visiting hummingbirds such as an entry, near a window or a back patio.

– Make sure that the containers are visible and allow easy access for hummingbirds to fly in and out.

CONTAINERS:

hummingbird container garden

– The type of container isn’t important – but drainage is.  Make sure pots have holes for drainage.  

– Select colorful pots for a welcome splash of color (optional).

– Larger pots will stay moister longer, therefore needing to be water less frequently.

SOIL:

hummingbird container garden

– Use a planting mix (not potting soil), which is specially formulated for container plants since it holds onto just the right amount of moisture without becoming soggy like potting soil can.

hummingbird container garden
– For large containers, save money on expensive planting mix (soil) by filling the bottom third of the container with recycled plastic water bottles and/or milk jugs.
 
WHAT PLANT WHERE?
hummingbird garden

While hummingbirds don’t care how you arrange plants in your mini-hummingbird garden

– you can certainly arrange plants.

– Place the tallest plant in the center, surrounded with medium-sized filler plants interspersed with trailing ground covers. 

hummingbird container garden

This planter has the tallest plant (Salvia) located in the center with mid-sized purple coneflower  next to it with ‘Wave’ petunias spilling over the outside.  

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

COLOR:

A hummingbird’s favorite color is red, although they will visit flowers of all colors as long as they are rich in nectar.

However, let’s explore color in regards to creating a beautiful container and figuring out what color combos look best.

color wheel

To this, we will need to visit our friend, the color wheel.

hummingbird garden

– To achieve a soft blending of colors, select plants with flower colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.

hummingbird garden

– For a striking contrast, pair flowers with colors that occur on opposite ends of the color wheel.

HUMMINGBIRD ATTRACTING PLANTS:

Salvia coccinea

Salvia coccinea

– Hummingbirds are drawn to flowers that have a tubular shape.

Hummingbird feeding from the yellow flower of aloe vera.

Hummingbird feeding from the yellow flower of aloe vera.

– The color red is their favorite, but as stated earlier, they will visit flowers of all colors.

Young hummingbird feeding from a lantana flower.

Young hummingbird feeding from a lantana flower.

– They tend to prefer flowers with little to no fragrance since their sense of smell is poor.

hummingbird container garden.

– Plants belonging to the Salvia genus are all very popular with hummingbirds and are a safe choice when creating a hummingbird container garden. 

Soap aloe flowers

Soap aloe flowers.

– Flowering succulents are also often visited by hummingbirds as well.

Rufous hummingbird feeding from the flower of a red hot poker plant

Rufous hummingbird feeding from the flower of a red hot poker plant.

– There are helpful online resources with lists of plants that attract hummingbirds.  Here are two helpful ones:

The Hummingbird Society’s Favorite Hummingbird Flowers

Top 10 Hummingbird Flowers and Plants from Birds & Blooms Magazine

– Other helpful resources are your local botanical garden, master gardener or nursery professional.

hummingbird attracting plants

Another bonus to planting hummingbird attracting plants is that many of the same flowers attract butterflies too.

CARE:

container plants

The key to maintaining healthy container plants lies in proper watering and fertilizing.

Let’s look at watering first:

– Water containers when the top 2 inches of soil are barely moist.  You can stick your finger into the soil to determine how dry the soil is.  

– Water until the water flows out the bottom of the container.

– The frequency of watering will vary seasonally.

Fertilizing is important for container plants – even plants that don’t normally require fertilizer when planted in the ground will need it if in a container.

– Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer, which lasts 3 months.

The key to maintaining healthy container plants lies in proper watering and fertilizing.

Let’s look at watering first:

– Water containers when the top 2 inches of soil are barely moist.  You can stick your finger into the soil to determine how dry the soil is.  

– Water until the water flows out the bottom of the container.

– The frequency of watering will vary seasonally.

Fertilizing is important for container plants – even plants that don’t normally require fertilizer when planted in the ground will need it if in a container.

– Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer, which lasts 3 months.

 container plants

Don’t be afraid to look outside the box when it comes to what can be used as a container.

 container plants

An old wheelbarrow makes a great container after a making a few holes in the bottom for drainage. *While marigolds don’t attract hummingbirds, there are a few dianthus in this planter that do.

Hummingbirds love water

Hummingbirds love water!

hummingbirds

Add a water feature in a container that will surely attract nearby hummingbirds.

hummingbirds

Add places for hummingbirds to perch nearby or within the container itself.  

This little black-chinned hummingbird was perfectly at home perching on a lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) stem that was growing in a container.

You can always add a small, dead tree branch within the container itself for a convenient perching spot.

As you can see, the amount (or lack of) garden space doesn’t need to limit your ability to attract hummingbirds using beautiful, flowering plants.

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

I spoke about small space gardening at the Hummingbird Festival 2015, and it was an unforgettable experience, filled with educational talks, beautiful gardens and observing hummingbirds up close – I even got to hold one!  To read more about my adventures with hummingbirds, click here.

I hope that you are inspired to create your own mini-hummingbird habitat in a container.

**Do you have a favorite plant that attracts lots of hummingbirds?  Please share them in the comments section.

golf course

golf course

Last week, I was cleaning out old files that I had stored in a box from my years working as a horticulturist on golf courses, and I found this photo of me standing in a bed of wildflowers.

It was taken during my first year after graduating with my degree in horticulture in 1999. Throughout the golf course, was feature areas and I took this empty one and planted wildflowers including succulent lupine, red flax, and desert marigold (not blooming yet).

When I look at the picture, it brings back many memories of garden victories, along with a few failures – I call that life (garden) experience. 

*What were you doing in 1999?

A Boy Scout, a Horticulturist and a Lot of Plants

The true test for many plants in my humble opinion are how they perform during extremes.  If a plant looks great in the blistering heat of summer as well as when temps dip below freezing in winter, than it deserves a prime spot in the landscape.

Cold and Heat Tolerant Plants, Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)

Thankfully, there are quite a few drought tolerant, flowering plants that do well with both the heat and cold for those of us who want a beautiful, fuss-free landscape filled with colorful plants.

I shared 10 of my favorite cold and heat tolerant, flowering plants in my latest article for Houzz.  

Hopefully, you will find some new favorites to try in your own garden.

 
 
 

Do you love hummingbirds?  If asked, most people would say that these tiny birds are among their favorite bird species.

Anna's Hummingbird whose head and throat are covered in pollen

Anna’s Hummingbird whose head and throat are covered in pollen.

I always pause whatever I’m doing whenever I see a hummingbird nearby as I marvel at their small size along with their brilliant colors and flying antics.

Last weekend, I enjoyed an unforgettable experience observing and learning about hummingbirds at the annual Hummingbird Festival, in beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

hummingbird gardening

At the festival, I gave two presentations on small space hummingbird gardening, showing people how they could create a mini-hummingbird garden in a container.

When I wasn’t speaking, I was enjoying the garden tour, visiting local hummingbird gardens along with attending other lectures given by noted hummingbird experts.  

Hummingbird Banding

While there were wonderful events throughout the weekend, this was one particular event that I’ll never forget.

Immature Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Immature Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Imagine being able to observe hummingbirds up close being banded and re-released. It really is as incredible as it sounds! In fact, I was able to hold and release a hummingbird myself!

So, what is hummingbird banding?

Hummingbirds are captured, tagged and re-released and is done to track hummingbird migration, the age and health of hummingbirds.  

Mature Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Mature Black-Chinned Hummingbird

This hummingbird banding site was located in the backyard of a home in Sedona.

hummingbird feeders

Multiple hummingbird feeders are set out to attract a large number of hummingbirds.

hummingbird feeders

A few of the feeders are inside of cages with openings for hummingbirds to enter.

hummingbird feeders

A hummingbird enters to feed from the feeder.

hummingbird feeders
Hummingbird Banding
Hummingbird Banding

Each little hummer is carefully put into a mesh bag in order to safely transport it to the nearby table to be examined and banded.

It’s important to note this process does no harm to them and it is a very quick.

The tools needed for banding hummingbirds

The tools needed for banding hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Banding

The birds are carefully removed from the bag and the process begins.

Young male Anna's hummingbird

Young male Anna’s hummingbird.

Hummingbird Banding
Hummingbird Banding

They are carefully inspected for general health and to identify the species of hummingbird.  On this day – Anna’s, Black-Chinned and Costa’s hummingbirds were seen.

Hummingbird Banding

Measurements of the beak and feathers are taken to determine the age.

Hummingbird Banding

Feathers on the underside are softly blown with a straw in order to see how much (or how little) fat a hummingbird has.  A little fat indicates that a hummingbird is getting ready to migrate.

Hummingbird Banding

Special eyewear is required for the banders to see what they are doing with these tiny birds.

Hummingbird Banding

For the banding process itself, hummingbirds are placed in a nylon stocking so that one of their legs is more easily manipulated.

Hummingbird Banding

The small band is carefully placed on the leg.

Hummingbird Banding

As you might expect, it isn’t easy to band hummingbirds because of their tiny size – the bands themselves are so small that they fit around a toothpick.  In fact, hummingbird banding is a highly specialized job and there are only 150 people in the U.S. who have permits allowing them to band hummingbirds.

drink of sugar water

After the banding has been done, hummingbirds are given a drink of sugar water before being released.

hummingbird bander is from St. Louis

This hummingbird bander is from St. Louis, MO and was so excited to see his first Costa’s hummingbird (which aren’t found where he lives). 

newly-banded hummingbirds

For me, the most exciting part is when observers have the opportunity to hold and release the newly-banded hummingbirds.

hummingbirds

The hummingbirds would sit for a few seconds in the palm of your hand before flying off.

Holding a hummingbird in your hand is as amazing as you would expect!  The hummingbird that I released was a young black-chinned hummingbird that had hatched earlier this year.

hummingbirds

One of the observers who got to release a hummingbird was a gentleman who was 100 years old + 1 month old!

How wonderful to be able to experience new things at that age 🙂

red rocks of Sedona.

The garden where the banding was held was beautiful – especially with the backdrop of the red rocks of Sedona.

hummingbirds feeding

I must admit that I was equally split between observing the banding and watching the numerous hummingbirds feeding.

Can you tell how many hummingbirds are in the photo, above?

Seven!

I have got to add more hummingbird feeders to my own garden!

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

I am so grateful to the folks at the Hummingbird Society who put on a wonderful festival.  I enjoyed speaking and learning about these wonderful “flying jewels”.

The festival is held every other year in Sedona, AZ.  There were over 1,000 attendees this year.  I highly encourage you to consider attending this special event next year.  

A Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden Finished!