|My Abraham Darby shrub rose and my little dog, Tobey.|
|My Abraham Darby shrub rose and my little dog, Tobey.|
“Where do you recommend I go to buy plants?” This is one question that I’m often asked by desert dwellers.
The choices that people have for purchasing plants range from a locally owned nursery, a nursery chain, or a big box store.
So which is best? Well, that depends on the situation. So, I am going to give you my recommendations based on different factors.
|Big Box Store Nursery|
When I need perennials, shrubs, succulents, or trees, you’ll find me at my favorite local nursery. They grow most of their nursery stock, so I know that it is adapted to the climate.
While traveling to areas with similar climates to mine, I take time to see if they have any specialty nurseries and take time to visit.
I do need to confess that my favorite place to find plants is not at a nursery, but at my botanical garden’s seasonal plant sale. They have hard to find plants, and I know that whatever plants I come home with will do well in my garden.
Regardless of where you shop for your plants, I highly recommend researching plants ahead of time.
Have you ever had the experience of receiving an unexpected bouquet?
I’ve been blessed to have gotten bouquets throughout my life from my wonderful husband, my children, and in the past – from a boyfriend or two.
But recently, I was presented with a bouquet from an unlikely source.
If you look up the definition of the word, ‘bouquet’, it states “an attractively arranged bunch of flowers, especially one presented as a gift or carried at a ceremony.”
This spring, I was delighted to see that my garden had presented me with an unexpected bunch of flowers – in other words, a bouquet.
This area in my front garden has a lovely Sandpaper Verbena (Glandularia rigida), which is a ground cover with vibrant purple flowers. It blooms spring through fall and thrives in full sun.
I planted the Sandpaper Verbena, however, I didn’t add the other flowers in this area.
Last year, I noticed the white flowers of Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) growing up in the middle of the Verbena. It came from a seed from a nearby plant that alighted in this area and grew in the presence of irrigation.
I liked the look and as the plants were doing well together, I left them to their own devices.
Well evidently, someone else wanted to join the party. Enter, Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) that came up on its own. I have several throughout the landscape and they do self-seed sometimes.
I absolutely adore colorful plants and I must say, I am so happy with this bouquet growing in my garden. As long as they play nice and one doesn’t try to take over the other, they can remain.
Who knows who will show up in my living bouquet next year?
Have you ever paused in the shade of a mesquite tree (Prosopis spp.) and noticed that its branches grow every which way?
I was reminded of this when I was visiting a client earlier this week and was advising him on how to care for his mesquite tree. I looked up and saw a cluster of branches growing up, down, sideways, and in curvy pathways.
In an ideal situation, mesquite trees resemble the shape of more traditional tree species, as shown above. However, they don’t always turn out this way.
Have you ever wondered why mesquite trees grow in such crazy ways?
The answer is quite simple – in nature, mesquites grow as large shrubs. The branches of shrubs grow in all directions, up, down, sideways, etc., and so do mesquites.
The problem arises when we train them up as trees, and their branches don’t always behave as trees do. Because of this, mesquites that have been pruned into trees, do best being pruned by a professional, particularly when they are young and certain branches are being chosen to remain while others are pruned off.
Of course, this doesn’t always happen, and you can see the results of bad pruning practices in many places.
I do love the shade that mesquite trees provide and I must admit that I enjoy a good chuckle when I see the unusual shapes that some mesquite trees have taken.
How about you? Have you ever seen a mesquite tree with crazy branches?
What do you do when you spot aphids on your plants?
Do you reach for the nearest bottle of insecticide? Spray them off with a hose or remove them with your fingers?
Believe it or not, sometimes the best thing is to do nothing.
So, is this something I learned in school? No. I figured it out by observing the plants in my first garden.
One of my favorite things I do as a landscape consultant is to show my clients newer plant introductions on the market.
Imagine being the first person on your block with the latest plant that all your neighbors will want to add in their landscape.
|Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’|
Did you know that you can have plants blooming in your landscape every month of the year? In the desert garden, this is definitely true!
One of the most popular programs that I teach at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is ‘Flowering All Year’. During the presentation, I teach students how to incorporate plants in their gardens so they can enjoy colorful blooms all year long.
Sadly, many desert dwellers miss this opportunity. Drive down a typical neighborhood street in winter, and you will have a hard time finding plants in bloom except for colorful annual flowers. As you’ll note, the focus in our gardens is typically on plants that flower through the warm season.
So, how can we change that? It’s quite simple – add plants that will flower in winter. Believe it or not, there are quite a few plants that fit the bill.
I invite you to come along with me on a virtual tour of the plants I showed to the students in the class as we walked through the garden in mid-February.
*Before we embark on our walk, I have a confession to make. Usually, I arrive early before my classes to see what’s in bloom so I can plan our route. But, my daughter’s bus arrived late that morning, so I was running a bit late. As a result, I didn’t know what we would see. Thankfully, there was plenty to see.
The vibrant, blooms of Purple Lilac Vine never disappoint. Blooms appear in mid-winter, adding a welcome relief to colorless winter landscapes. Here it is planted in a tall raised bed and allowed to trail downward. In my garden, it grows up against a wall with a trellis for support.
Several perennials and small shrubs do best in the desert garden when planted in filtered sunlight. Desert trees like Ironwood, Mesquite, and Palo Verde are excellent choices for producing filtered sunlight. Mexican Honeysuckle doesn’t do well in full sun. As a result, it thrives under the shade of this Ironwood tree. I love the texture contrast in this bed next to the Whale’s Tongue Agave.
Desert Marigold is a short-lived perennial that resembles a wildflower. Yellow flowers appear throughout the year on this short-lived perennial. I like to use them in wildflower gardens or natural desert landscapes because this yellow bloomer will self-seed.
Shrubs, vines, and perennials aren’t the only plants that add winter color in the landscape. Colorful stems of the succulent Firesticks add a splash of orange all year. I am a fan of the use of blue pots in the garden, and here, it adds a powerful color contrast with the orange.
Lush green foliage decorated with orange/red blooms is on display all year long with this Australian native. Several types of Eremophilas add cool-season color to the landscape, and this one deserves more attention. There must be a blank space in my garden for one…
Blue Bells is arguably one of my most favorite plants. It resembles a compact Texas Sage (Leucophyllum spp.) but doesn’t grow as large AND blooms throughout the year. For best results, plant in full sun, but well-drained soil is a must.
My favorite choice for winter color is Valentine Bush. Red/fuschia blooms begin to appear in January and last into April. For maximum color impact, use them in groups of 3 – 5. They are low maintenance – prune back to 1/2 their size in mid-April after flowering. No other pruning is required.
Winter into spring is a busy time for Aloes, and many species do well in the desert garden. Most require filtered sunlight to do their best, but ‘Blue Elf’ Aloe does well in both full sun and bright shade.
People from colder climates are often surprised to note that rosemary flowers. In the desert, we are fortunate that we get to enjoy their blue flowers from winter through spring – the bees like them too!
Toward the entrance to the garden, I was delighted to see Shrubby Germander. A star in my own garden, this shrub has flowered all winter long and will continue to do so into spring. The blooms are a lovely periwinkle color.
As our walk was wrapping up, the bright red blooms of a Chuparosa shrub caught our eye. A hummingbird was busily drinking as much nectar as he could. I like to use this shrub in landscapes with a natural theme as it has a sprawling growth habit. It flowers through winter into spring and an important nectar source for hummingbirds.
Of course, blooming plants aren’t the only way to add color to the garden. Garden art can play a vital part in adding interest. The Desert Botanical Garden is host to a traveling art exhibit with various animals made from recycled plastic. This group of meerkats greets visitors to the garden.
I hope that you enjoy this virtual tour of winter color in the garden and will add some to your own.
What plants do you have that flower in winter?
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.
This particular garden was the backdrop for a video shoot by the horticultural filmmaker, PlantPop this past December. They asked me to be the subject of their first video shoot in Arizona, and I was thrilled to do so.
Shooting the film in my garden wasn’t possible as my backyard is undergoing renovation. So, I asked one of my clients if we could film in her landscape instead. Thankfully, she said yes!
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 🙂
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 PlantPop 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!
No matter where you live, you will see the same shrubs being used over and over again in countless landscapes. While the shrubs may be attractive, their overuse throughout neighborhoods creates a boring appearance because they are so common.
In California, Nevada, and Arizona, oleanders have held a prominent spot in the landscape for years. Their popularity is due to their lush evergreen foliage, ability to withstand intense heat, and their pretty flowers.
However, their overuse in many areas makes their beauty less impactful and frankly, almost forgettable.
“When things are expected (in the landscape), they become less powerful and impactful”.
His statement sums up what happens when we use the same plants over and over.
In the case of oleanders, there is another problem.
This bacterial disease is spread by leaf-hopper insects and there is currently no known cure or control available. Infected oleanders slowly decline over 2-3 years before dying. To date, dwarf oleanders have not shown signs of the disease, only the larger forms. But, that could change sometime in the future.
You can learn more about this disease that affects oleanders here.
|Hop bush flower|
Have you ever seen hop bush growing in the landscape?
For those who live in the western half of the United States, water has always been a precious resource. In recent years, this has become especially true during a long-term drought has made its impact felt.
As a result, many of us find ourselves looking for ways to save water. The first place you should start is your landscape as that is the largest percentage of your water consumption.
Today, I’d like to show you examples of three different low water landscape options: