Prune Shrubs, Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) before pruning

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) before pruning

We had experienced a delightful spring with hot temperatures staying away for the most part. The weather has been so lovely that I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the garden. One garden task that has needed to get done is pruning back my winter/spring flowering shrubs.

What are winter/spring flowering shrubs you may ask? Well, they are those that flower primarily in late winter and on into spring. In the Southwest garden, they include cassia (Senna species), globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), and Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata)

The time to do this varies depending on the plant and the region you live in, but generally, you want to prune them back once flowering has finished. 

I’ve decided to show you how I have pruned my cool-season shrubs and I find that using hedge trimmers make quick work of this job. Yes, I realize that I preach against using hedge trimmers for ‘poodling’ flowering shrubs into formal shapes, BUT they are very useful for corrective pruning for the health and beauty of your shrubs. I only use them ONCE a year.

Above, is a photo of my red globe mallow shrubs before I pruned them. They put on a beautiful show for several weeks, but have gone to seed, and they aren’t particularly attractive in this state. 

Prune Shrubs, Newly pruned globe mallow shrubs

Newly pruned globe mallow shrubs

This is what they look like after pruning. As you can see, they have been pruned back severely, which is needed to keep them attractive and stimulate attractive, new growth. Don’t worry, while they may look rather ugly, in a few weeks; they will be fully leafed out.

Prune Shrubs, Valentine bush before pruning

Valentine bush before pruning

Here is one of my Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) shrubs. This is one of my favorite plants, and it adds priceless winter color to my garden. One of the things that I love about it is that it needs pruning once a year when the flowers have begun to fade.

Prune Shrubs, Valentine bush after pruning

Valentine bush after pruning

I prune mine back to approximately 2 feet tall and wide, but you could prune it back even further. This pruning is necessary to ensure a good amount of blooms for next year. Don’t prune it after this as you will decrease a number of flowers that will form later.

Finally, it was time to tackle pruning my feathery cassia shrubs (Senna artemisoides). I love the golden yellow flowers that appear in winter and last into early spring. They add a lovely fragrance to the garden as well. However, once flowering has finished, they produce seed pods that will turn brown and ugly if not pruned.

I’ve created a video to show you how to prune these shrubs. Unlike the others, I only prune them back by 1/2 their size.

*As you can see in the video, my grandson, Eric was having fun helping out in the garden.

That is all the pruning that these shrubs will receive, which will keep them both attractive and healthy.

It’s worth noting that hedge trimmers aren’t a bad tool to use – rather, the problem is when they are used incorrectly to prune flowering shrubs excessively throughout the year.

I hope that this post is helpful to you as you maintain your shrubs. If you’d like to learn more about pruning shrubs in the desert garden, I invite you to learn more about my popular online pruning workshop. I’ve helped countless people just like you learn how to maintain beautiful, flowering shrubs with pruning twice a year or less! 

*What do you prune in mid-spring?

Ready to Prune? Here Are Common Pruning Terms Defined

Winter Garden, The vibrant flowers of firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) add a welcome splash of color during winter and into spring.

Winter Garden, The vibrant flowers of firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) add a welcome splash of color during winter and into spring.

People often ask me to post more photographs of my garden on my blog.  I must confess that I am sometimes reluctant to do so as I wonder if they expect a ‘perfect’ garden – one that is meticulously maintained and expertly designed.  

However, I decided that would show you my garden, even if it bursts a few bubbles of what people expect it to look like.  

The yellow flowers of angelita daisy contrast with the cool colors of purple and white trailing lantana. Gopher plants (Euphorbia rigida) are getting ready to produce chartreuse-colored flowers

The yellow flowers of angelita daisy contrast with the cool colors of purple and white trailing lantana. Gopher plants (Euphorbia rigida) are getting ready to produce chartreuse-colored flowers.

The landscape that surrounds my home reflects my love for plants that add beauty without needing much attention from me.  I don’t tend to rake or blow my leaves and the plants are allowed to grow into their natural shapes without much interference from me. 

The fragrant blossoms of feathery cassia (Senna artemisiodes) add visual warmth to the winter landscape.

The fragrant blossoms of feathery cassia (Senna artemisiodes) add visual warmth to the winter landscape.

That is important because I am usually so busy helping others with their landscapes, that I often don’t have enough time to fuss over mine.  Pruning once, or at most, twice a year is my standard of a fuss-free plant.

I love color  throughout all seasons.  So, you are just as likely to find as much color in my winter garden as in the summer.

Green desert spoon (Dasylirion texanum) add spiky texture contrast to the landscape

Green desert spoon (Dasylirion texanum) add spiky texture contrast to the landscape.

As for the design of my garden, horticulturists are by nature, collectors of plants.  This means that we likely to include many different kinds of plants – often more than you would see in a well-designed garden.  

I do enjoy designing landscapes and have done my best in designing my own garden, while incorporating a large variety of plants.  

The leafless canes of an ocotillo will soon leaf out with the arrival of spring.

The leafless canes of an ocotillo will soon leaf out with the arrival of spring.

I’ve always felt that a garden should reflect the owner’s personality while also enhancing the exterior of their home.  Mine shows my love for color and low-maintenance beauty.

What does your garden reveal about you?

Colorless Winter Garden ? No Way!

Caterpillars Eating Shrubs , Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans)

Caterpillars Eating Shrubs , Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans)

Do you have caterpillars lurking beneath the leaves of your shrubs?

If they look like the yellow bells shrub, pictured above, probably not.

Caterpillars Eating Shrubs

Caterpillars Eating Shrubs

But, if your leaves look as if a vampire came along and sucked them dry, then they are there, whether you can see them or not. Other telltale signs include little black pellets, which are caterpillar ‘poop’. 

Damaged bougainvillea leaves

Damaged bougainvillea leaves

Bougainvillea can also fall prey to hungry caterpillars, who leave behind ragged holes and edges.

So, what do you do?  Nothing?  Or should you pull out all the stops to get rid of them?

I address these questions and more in my latest video:

 
 
 

Fall Gardening Tasks for the Southwest Garden

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

I am always on the lookout for great examples of plants in the desert landscape. In my work as a landscape consultant, I drive through countless neighborhoods, which allows me to see lots of ideas.

A few years ago, I drove by a house that had a beautiful Hop Bush shrub (Dodonaea viscosa).  

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

This evergreen, drought-tolerant shrub does wonderfully in our southwestern climate, and it is a frequent addition to landscapes I design.ย 

It’s versatility is one of the reasons it is near the top of my favorite shrub list.

  • Hop Bush is a great substitute for Oleander shrubs.
  • They can grow up to 12 feet tall or be maintained at a shorter height – basically you can decide how large it gets.
  • Their height makes them a great choice to screen out an unattractive view in spaces where a tree won’t fit while providing shade for for windows.
  • Hop Bush can be allowed to grow into their natural shape or pruned more formally.
Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

Native to the Southwest, Hop Bush is quite versatile and relatively fuss-free, especially if maintained by pruning every 6 months or so, as shown above. Here is another example of a hop bush shrub that has been pruned more formally, which it handles well.

Beautiful Hop Bush Shrub (Dodonaea viscosa)

 Of course, you can always let it grow into its more natural form as a large shrub.

For more information on hop bush including what its flowers look like and why it’s becoming a popular substitute for oleanders, you can read my earlier blog post – “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Hopbush the Alternative to Oleanders.”

Most of the time when you walk through a parking lot, you are often greeted by the appearance of islands scattered throughout overplanted with badly maintained shrubs. Last month, I drove into a parking lot that was quite unusual in that it was planted with attractive succulents and not ugly shrubs.

Attractive Succulents

Attractive Succulents

Instead of shrubs, the medians were planted with beautiful agave specimens.

Euphorbia rigida

In addition to different types of agave, were gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) succulents, which added a welcome respite to the crowded and over-pruned shrubs that usually characterize most parking lots.

Calliandra californica

In addition to the agave and other succulents were  flowering shrubs such as Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica), which was allowed to grow into its natural shape.

attractive succulents

This parking lot was located in front of a hospital where my husband had an appointment for a routine procedure.  Our walk through the parking lot took twice as long as it would normally take with me pausing every few seconds to take pictures of the plants.

attractive succulents

It was so refreshing to see succulents such as these  in parking lot islands instead of struggling shrubs.  They thrive in the hot, reflected heat while needing very little water.

Maybe we should rethink what we plant in parking lot islands and ditch the high-maintenance, thirsty shrubs?

Plant Palette For New Landscape: Perennials and Succulents

Fall in the garden is a time of celebration with plants enjoying the period after the heat of summer has bid goodbye and before the cold of winter arrives. 

This time of year is filled colorful blooming plants decorating our outdoor spaces.  In the past few weeks, the color purple has made its presence known in several gardens that I have visited recently.

If you love the color purple, here are some plants that you may want to include in your garden.

Purple Blooms for the Fall Garden

Black dalea(Dalea frutescens) saves its flowering for fall when violet flowers appear above its lacy foliage.

This Southwestern native is hardy to 15 degrees F. and does best in full sun.  Black dalea is underused in the landscape and deserves to be used more.

Purple Blooms for the Fall Garden

Desert ruellia(Ruellia peninsularis) is a shrub that I use it often for my client’s designs.  I love that it flowers throughout the year as well as its attractive foliage.

A native of Mexico, this shrub does best in full sun to partial shade and is hardy to zone 9 gardens.

blue ranger(Leucophyllum zygophyllum)

Sometimes, parking lot medians can put on a spectacular show.  This blue ranger(Leucophyllum zygophyllum) begins blooming in summer but saves its best flowering for fall.

The gray foliage adds nice color contrast in the garden.  Hardy to 10 degrees, plant in full or reflected sun for maximum flowering.

skyflower(Duranta erecta)

One of the most beautiful purple blossoms belongs to the skyflower(Duranta erecta) shrub.  Delicate purple flowers are arrayed on graceful arching stems.

Hardy to 20 degrees, skyflower blooms spring through fall.  

blue potato bush (Lycianthies rantonnetti)

Last week, while I was doing a landscape consultation, my attention was drawn to a beautiful blue potato bush (Lycianthies rantonnetti) blooming in the front yard.

vibrant purple flowers

The vibrant purple flowers contrasted beautifully with the bright green foliage. This shrub is hardy to zone 9 gardens.

purple trailing lantana(Lantana montevidensis)

Finally, let’s look at the generous blooms of purple trailing lantana(Lantana montevidensis).  This lantana groundcover blooms spring through fall and needs very little care other than pruning once or twice a year.

Hardy to 20 degrees, this lantana grows in full sun or partial shade.

I hope that you have enjoyed this tour of purple autumn blooms.

What is flowering this fall in your garden?

Blooms in February

Whenever I am not writing, you’ll often find me out in the field helping others learn how to grow and maintain their landscapes.

Usually most landscape consultations are fairly routine.  However, I sometimes see something truly unique.

Earlier this week, I saw something that is probably the most unexpected thing that I’ve ever encountered.

Here is how it unfolded…

new landscape

I met with a very nice couple who had a new landscape installed a year ago.  While they were very happy with the design, they wanted to learn how to care for their plants and needed help with some problems with dead plant(s) and some failing to thrive.

Other than a dead Valentine bush, some iron chlorosis, over fertilizing and a few plants growing in the wrong exposure – it was all fairly routine until I saw an unusual shrub off in the distance.

unusual shrub

I must confess that I had no idea what the shrub was from this distance.  Now every once in a while, I am faced with a plant that I am not familiar with, but I was hopeful that as we got nearer, I would be able to figure it out.

unusual shrub

As we got closer to the shrub, I still didn’t know what it was.  I’m starting to feel a bit uncomfortable because I have no idea what this shrub is.

It did have dark, dusty green foliage that started to turn red with cooler winter temperatures.

The homeowner had carefully staked it upright and it had an attractive vase shape growth habit.

unusual shrub

At this point, the homeowner complained about a mesquite tree volunteer that was coming up at the base.

I took a closer look and discovered that the so called ‘mesquite tree’ was actually a Baja fairy duster – that was a MAJOR clue about the identity of this unusual shrub.

At this point, I looked closer at the leaves of the shrub, which did look rather familiar – just not on a shrub…

unusual shrub

Does it look familiar to you?

At this point, I knew what it was, but I couldn’t get my head around what this unusual shrub actually was.

Can you tell what it is yet?

Baja Fairy Duster

The base was quite large and I could see the Baja Fairy Duster, to the left, trying to grow.

I told the homeowners that what they thought was a mesquite tree volunteer (basically a weed), was in fact the plant that was supposed to grow there.

A Most Unusual Shrub With a Shocking Secret...

So what was the ‘unusual shrub’ then?

Belive it or not, the shrub that the homeowners had carefully staked and fertilized over the past year was actually a WEED!

So what kind of weed was it?

spurge weed

That large shrub that was 4+ ft. high and 2 ft. wide was really a spotted spurge weed!

Can you believe it?

Spotted spurge is the bane of many gardeners and is a low-growing weed that spreads.  I hate this little weed.  I’ve spent hours battling this weed during my time as a horticulturist for golf courses and now in my own garden.

A Most Unusual Shrub With a Shocking Secret...

So how did the homeowners mistake this weed for a shrub?  Well, I suspect that the nursery container, with their actual shrub, had spurge already growing in it (not uncommon).

The new shrub was quite small when first planted and the spurge, like most weeds, grew quickly – much more quickly than the shrub itself.

The poor little Baja fairy duster had little chance of growing afterward since weeds are famous for being vigorous growers and out compete other plants for water and nutrients.

So what did the homeowners think, you may wonder?

Well, they were shocked, but then got a good laugh out of it.  The wife was having a lot of fun teasing her husband about his ‘unusual shrub’.

Have you ever seen an unusual plant that turned out to be a weed?  This one is definitely one for the books in my career.

**If you have problems with spurge, you can treat them with homemade weed killer that uses natural ingredients – vinegar and soap – that’s it.  

Prickly pear

Prickly pear

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

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

 Prickly pear

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

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

 Prickly pear

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

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

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

“Why Do Cactus Have Spines”

Have you ever gotten pricked by a cactus?  I’d love to hear your story ๐Ÿ˜‰  

One of my favorite shrubs is Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).  I have used it in countless landscapes and I like how well it does when planted around trees where they can enjoy the filtered shade.

Now that fall is just a couple of days away (SUPER excited about that by the way), my thoughts drift toward plants that bloom in fall, which include Autumn Sage.

For more reasons why you may want to add this delightful plant to your garden, check out my latest article for Houzz.com

 

Architecture, interior design, and more โˆจ

Hire residential landscape architects to help with all aspects of landscape design, from selecting or designing outside patio furniture, to siting a detached garage or pergola.
As you get ready to host an event, be sure you have enough dining room chairs and dishes for dinner guests, as well as enough bakeware and chef knives for food preparation.

 

In my last post “A Long Forgotten Area Ready for Transformation”, I told you that I would share what plants I was going to have put in this neglected area.

The plants I chose are based on the following:

– I have grown them myself in either my home garden and/or in landscapes I have managed.

– They are relatively low-maintenance.

– Drought-tolerant.

– The plant palette will also ensure year round color, with at least one or more plants being in bloom at a given time.

So are you ready to see what I chose?

Let’s start with the trees…

The area has two large Foothills Palo Verde trees along with a Wolfberry tree, so I chose one other type of tree to add.

Desert Willow

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) is one of my favorite desert trees.  It is not a true willow, but is named for the fact that its leaves are willow-shaped.

Colorful flowers appear throughout the summer that add a vibrant punch of color to the landscape.

Hardy to zone 6, Desert Willow requires well-drained soil and full sun or filtered shade.

For more information on Desert Willow along with the different varieties available, check out my Houzz article about this lovely tree.

Now for the shrubs…

Valentine Bush

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is my favorite shrub of all time. I will never forget the day when I was first introduced to this red-flowering shrub, by Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.  It was 1999 and I was a horticulturist fresh out of college.

I was given 2 Valentine shrubs from Mountain States to plant in the landscape area I managed.  Ever since then, I have been hooked.

Trees and Shrubs

Red flowers appear on this shrub, beginning in January and lasting until April.  If you haven’t noticed it before, there isn’t much blooming in winter, which is one of the reasons I love Valentine.

The foliage is evergreen and Valentine are hardy to zone 8.  Better yet, they only need to be pruned once a year – in spring after flowering.

Plant in full sun and well-drained soil.

For more information about Valentine, check out my post about this great plant.

Baja Ruellia

My second choice for shrubs is Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis).

Now, this isn’t its rather invasive cousin Ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana), pictured below…

Trees and Shrubs

Baja Ruellia is what I like to think of as a smaller version of Texas Sage species (Leucophyllum sp).  It doesn’t get as large and has a longer flowering season then Leucophyllum.

Trees and Shrubs

The flowers of Baja Ruellia are tubular and appear spring through fall, with the heaviest bloom occurring in spring.

The foliage is light green and rarely suffers frost damage in our zone 9b climate.  Hardy to zone 9, Baja Ruellia should be planted in full sun and well-drained soil.

Silvery Cassia

The third shrub for this area will be Silvery Cassia (Senna phyllodenia).  This Australian native does very well in arid landscapes.

The silvery foliage will provide contrast to the darker greens present in the landscape.  Evergreen to 20 degrees, this shrub flourishes in zone 9 landscapes.

Yellow flowers appear in late winter and into spring.  Pruning is needed after flowering, to remove seed pods in managed landscapes.

Like the other shrubs, Silvery Cassia enjoys full sun and well-drained soil.

Autumn Sage

The smallest shrub for this area will be Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).  This plant is hard to zone 7, so remains evergreen during winter here.

Flowers appear fall through spring in the low desert.  The most common colors are red or pink, although there are other colors such as white, lavender and peach. 

I like to use Autumn Sage around trees like Palo Verde, where the filtered shade shelters it from the intense summer sun.  I first saw them planted around a tree at the Desert Botanical Garden and I really liked the way it looked, so I have repeated this design in many of my landscapes.

The Autumn Sage above, was planted by me around a Foothills Palo Verde about 12 years ago and they are still going strong.

I still have perennials and accent plants to show you that I have included in the design and I’ll share them with you next time.

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

Life around our household has been busy lately….

School is back in session (for which I am extremely grateful for ๐Ÿ˜‰

My son Kai, has ditched his wheelchair for a walker and will soon be able to walk without it.

AND

My daughter, will soon come home after leaving 5 months ago for the Navy.  She is graduating from her Equipment Operator School next week and will be an official ‘SeaBee’.  She will be on leave for 2 weeks before she reports for combat training in Mississippi, where she will be stationed for a month.

The BEST news is that her permanent base will be in Port Hueneme, which is where she wanted to be.  What is even better for us, is that it is in Southern California, just 7 hours from home!!!

We are getting ready to celebrate her homecoming, which I will share with all of you ๐Ÿ™‚