Do you like plants that flower throughout most of the year?

How about a plant with evergreen foliage in zone 9-11 gardens throughout the year?

Would you prefer a plant that requires very little pruning?

Texas Olive (Cordia)

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then Texas Olive may deserve a spot in your garden.

This beautiful southwestern native deserves a spot in our ‘Drought Tolerant & Fuss Free’ category.

Texas Olive (Cordia)

Despite its common name, this is not an olive tree. However, depending on your preference, it can be trained into a small tree or a large shrub.

With all of its outstanding qualities mentioned earlier, it deserves to be seen more often in the landscape.

My favorite characteristics are its large, dark green leaves and white flowers that decorate the landscape.

Want to learn more about Texas olive and how you can use it in your landscape?

Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.  

Great Design Plant: Cordia Boissieri

You can check out my other plant profiles here if you want more ideas for great plants to add to your drought-tolerant landscape.

succulent plants near a front entry in Arizona garden

Do you enjoy the summer heat?

I’m going record to state that I’m not a huge fan. I prefer to endure the intense heat indoors in the comfort of air-conditioning.

However, the plants in my garden don’t have that option. They are stuck outside no matter how hot it gets.

I always feel sad when I see plants struggle in the heat of summer. If I could bring them indoors to cool off I would 😉. But, let’s face it, that isn’t realistic or really what is best for plants.

For that reason, you will find the plants around my home are fairly heat-tolerant.

If you think that heat-proof plants are boring (and if I’m being honest, some are), many are attractive and beautiful.

One of my clients has a great example of an eye-catching entry that is fuss-free and shrugs off the heat of summer.

Artichoke agave (Agave parryi v. truncata), golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii), and lady’s slipper (Euphorbia lomelii), and yucca create a living sculptural landscape with their unique shapes.

As you can see, you don’t have to settle for a blah garden or one filled with heat-stressed plants. In fact, I loved this example so much that I featured it in my book, “Dry Climate Gardening” which is available for pre-order.

You know that I don’t care for fussy plants – I prefer plants that look great with little effort on my part and this succulent garden is a great example, don’t you agree?

I invite you to take a walk through your garden to see what plants may be stressed from the heat. It may be time for you to switch them out for more heat-tolerant ones.

The dog days of summer…

By the time midpoint of summer heat arrives, I am firmly in ‘summer hibernation’ mode. I have past all the garden needs in hot early summer and moved on to trying to find a cool spot with a nice glass of lemonade.

Why Summer Hibernation Mode in the Desert

While much of the country stays indoors during the cold of winter, we desert dwellers flip that and spend the hottest days of summer safely ensconced indoors in the comfort of A/C.

Of course, cabin fever can hit, making us venture outside of our homes. That’s where summer getaways come into play.

I’m fortunate that there are many spots in Arizona (where I live) that are just a few hours from my house where the summer temperatures are blessedly cooler.

When my husband and I were young, we couldn’t afford to stay overnight in out-of-town destinations. But, we could go for the day. We would pack up our two young daughters and go on day-long adventures to the cool mountains and pack a picnic lunch. Oh, what fun we had!

Nowadays my husband and I travel to cooler spots and spend a few days. One of our favorite places is the town of Bisbee in southeastern Arizona.

There is a lot of history in there and we love to explore while enjoying the cooler temps. The photo above is a part of Bisbee called Lowell, which is preserved in time from the 1950s.

Garden Concerns for Extreme Southwest Heat

Speaking about the heat, I’ve heard from a number of people in my membership club who are worried about the lack of flowers they see on their shrubs and groundcovers.

Perhaps you have similar worries…

I want to assure you that this is normal in summer – particularly when monsoon rains have been sporadic and not regular.

Intense heat and dryness tend to make flowering plants slow down and a heatwave can burn flowers of certain plants. There are also a lot of fuss-free plants you can choose for the summer garden that bloom and look beautiful all season long.

Rest assured that they will come back by summer’s end to provide beauty to your outdoor space.

flowering groundcovers and a cactus desert adapted plants landscape


Embracing the Desert Heat: Landscaping with Desert-Adapted Plants

Surviving the Summer Scorch with Desert Adapted Plants

Let’s face it…summer can be brutal.

I tend to spend as little time outdoors as possible when temperatures soar above normal ranges. It’s times like this that I praise the inventor of air-conditioning.

While we can escape record-breaking temperatures, our heat-stressed plants can’t.

Beauty in the Heat: Desert-Adapted Plant Landscaping

However, you can create a landscape filled that thrives in the heat by using native or desert-adapted plants. And you know what? Most are very pretty!

Last weekend, I saw a great illustration of this…

Hospital vs. Church Landscaping: Lessons in Adaptation

Our church recently opened up a new campus, filled with new plants, but many of them were struggling to survive the intense heat, even if irrigated properly. Many were planted native to more tropical climates.

After church, my husband and I headed out to the hospital to visit a loved one. The hospital had just undergone a renovation and brand-new landscape areas surrounded the entrance.

I stopped to take a photo of one of the areas that were doing very well so I could share it with you. Full disclosure: if you hang out with me, be prepared for sudden stops to take pictures of plants.

The Secret to Thriving Landscapes

There were two main reasons that the landscape by the hospital was doing better than the one by the church:

  1. The plants by the hospital were better adapted to hot summers – desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), gold lantana (Lantana ‘New Gold’), and Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus).
  2. Additionally, these plants had been installed three months earlier than the ones at the church. Yes, plants can technically be added any time of year BUT there are times that should be avoided if at all possible – specifically May and June.

Heat-Resilient Gardening

Sometimes you need to add new plants at the wrong time of year due to construction schedules, etc. In that case, I advise the use of shade cloth on a temporary basis for young plants through September IF you see that certain plants are struggling. This is in addition to watering them more often than existing plants in the landscape to help them establish their roots.

Use native or desert-adapted plants (those from other regions with similar weather conditions) to help your garden to be more resilient to hot, dry temperatures and they will need less help from you to beat the heat.

Stay cool friends!

Cultivating Wildflowers: Nature’s Colorful Display

Rediscovering the Desert’s Beauty in Fall

As summer begins to slowly fade and the heat begins to dissipate, the Southwestern garden comes alive with second spring.

"Second Spring" in the Southwest Garden

In the absence of scorching 100+ degree temperatures, both plants and people reawaken to the vibrant beauty of the desert landscape during the fall season.

The Allure of Autumn is “Second Spring”

When people talk about their favorite season, many will tell you that spring is the time that they enjoy the most as their gardens come alive, spring forth with new green growth and colorful blooms. But in the desert Southwest, there’s another season that deserves just as much acclaim – fall, often referred to as the “second spring.”

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta) during second spring

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

While spring is a glorious time in the desert landscape with winter blooms overlapping with spring flowering plants along with cactus flowers – it isn’t the only ‘spring’ that the desert experiences.

"second spring" garden beauty in the desert Southwest

A Season of Renewal

Fall in the desert brings a rejuvenating touch. The cooler temperatures breathe new life into plants, coaxing them into refreshed appearances and prolonging their flowering displays. Irrigation becomes less of a chore. Birds, butterflies, and various wildlife also make a prominent return during the daytime hours.

The Great Outdoors Beckons

With the arrival of fall, desert residents find themselves irresistibly drawn outdoors. Whether it’s leisurely walks, al fresco dining, or simply working outdoors, the comfortable temperatures and captivating landscapes make every moment spent outside a delight.

"second spring" pathway in the desert Southwest

Fall is the ideal season for making alterations to your garden. It’s the perfect time to replace thirsty, old plants with drought-tolerant alternatives or expand your outdoor living space by adding new features like patios or pergolas.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) during second spring

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) 

Second Spring Planting for the Future

Regardless of your garden’s location, fall stands as the prime season for introducing new plants to your landscape. With three growing seasons ahead, it offers them the opportunity to establish robust root systems before the next scorching summer arrives.

No matter what garden region you live in – second spring is the best time of year to add new plants to the landscape as it provides plants with three seasons in which to grow a good root system before the heat of the next summer arrives.

**Thinking of making some changes to your landscape?  Click here for a list my favorite drought tolerant plants that provide fall blooms.  

sunburnt roses with dog

Photo: Roses Feeling The Heat , My Abraham Darby shrub rose and my little dog, Tobey.

Challenges of Hot Arid Climates for Roses

If you live in a hot arid climate, chances are that your roses are feeling the heat and aren’t looking their best right now. While gardeners in cooler climates celebrate summer with beautiful rose blooms, the opposite is true for those of us who live in the desert.

Surprisingly, roses actually grow quite well in hot, southwestern zones, and even though mine look somewhat sunburned – I’m not worried because this is normal. Understanding proper irrigation makes a big difference, but roses feeling heat will still have concerns.  

Effects of Roses Feeling Heat with Intense Sun and Warmth

You see, roses that are grown in the low desert regions, don’t like the intense sun and heat that summer brings. As a result, the flowers become smaller, and the petals burn in the sun and turn crispy.  By July, you are unlikely to see any new roses appearing until Fall.

roses with leaf burn

Impact on Rose Plant Leaves

The rose blooms aren’t the only parts of the roses feeling heat concerns in summer – the leaves can become sunburn.  

The sight of brown crispy petals and leaves may make you want to prune them away, but don’t.    

Why?

Avoiding Premature Pruning

Pruning will stimulate new growth that will be even more susceptible to sunburn damage.  Second, the older branches and leaves will help to shade the growth underneath the sun.  

Strategic Pruning Schedule will Help Roses Feeling Heat

I know that it is very hard not to prune away the brown leaves – I feel you. However, in September, pull out your pruning shears and prune back your rose bushes by 1/3. This removes the sun-damaged flowers and leaves and stimulates new growth. 

beautiful rose bloom

Comparative Benefits of Hot Arid Climates

If you lament the less-than-stellar appearance of your summer roses feeling heat, and think it’s easier to grow roses in other climates, you would be wrong. 

Oh, certainly, we have to deal with our roses not looking great in the summer.  But, compare that with gardeners in other regions who have to deal with the dreaded Japanese beetle that shows up every summer and eats their roses. Or, people who live in more humid climates and are having to deal with severe cases of blackspot or powdery mildew (white spots on the leaves).  

Blessing of Dual Bloom Seasons in the Southwest 

Lastly – we are fortunate to enjoy two separate bloom seasons for our roses.  In fall, when many other gardeners are putting their roses to bed for the winter, ours are getting ready to bloom a second time that year.

hot pink roses

And so, I will ignore my less than beautiful roses this summer, because I know that they will look fantastic this fall It is that simple 🙂

Two New Roses Find a Home in a Desert Garden

mesquite tree Branches

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.

mesquite tree Branches

Texas Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)

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. 

mesquite tree Branches

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.

mesquite tree Branches

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?

Portable Drip Irrigation With a Recycled Milk Jug

Do you have plants that need extra water this summer? I have the portable drip irrigation solution for you!

Many of us have a few plants that aren’t connected to an irrigation system. Some people don’t have an irrigation system and use a hose to water plants, which is time-consuming and inefficient.

Portable Drip Irrigation is an Alternative to Traditional Irrigation

While you can certainly haul out your hose and water each of your thirsty plants, it is not the best way. The main problem is the hose puts out water quickly and the soil can’t absorb it fast enough. As a result, much of the water runs off and doesn’t benefit the plant as much as it should.

So, if the time-consuming task of watering plants by hand isn’t your cup of tea, I’m here for you. You can make life easier by creating your own portable drip irrigation system with a recycled milk jug.

3 Steps to Create a Simple Recycled Drip Irrigation System

This solution is very easy and will have you digging through your recycle bin collecting your used milk jugs.

To get started, you will need an empty plastic milk jug and a nail.

1. Make the Holes:

Heat the nail using a lighter or stove burner. Then use the nail to pierce 3 – 4 small holes in the bottom of the milk jug.

Pouring water in a jug for portable drip irrigation

2. Fill the Jug with Water:

Fill the milk jug up with water, put the cap on and carry it upside down to the plant. Turn it right side up and set it down to the plant that needs irrigation. *You can also set the empty milk jug(s) next to your plants, bring the hose to them and fill with water that way.

Portable Drip Irrigation at the bottom of a  Recycled Milk Jug

3. Portable Drip Irrigation Water Pressure

Slightly loosen the cap, which will allow the water to drip out of the holes at the bottom – this allows the water to penetrate the soil slowly, instead of running off.

Once the water has drained out of the bottom of the jug, pick up your milk jug and move it to the next plant. After you are done, bring the empty jugs inside and store until the next time you need them.

Special Note: If you live in a windy area and worry the milk jug will blow away, weigh them down with an inch of small rocks in the bottom of the jug – the rocks won’t interfere with the water dripping out.

Milk jug next to an agave plant

I usually recommend this method of irrigating cacti monthly in summer.

This portable drip irrigation system is a great aid for those who live in areas that are suffering from drought or where an irrigation system may not exist.

**A semi-permanent variation of this method is to create holes along the sides instead of on the bottom. Then bury the entire jug next to the plant, leaving just the top exposed. To water plants, remove the milk cap and fill with water and replace the cap.

I hope you find this DIY garden project helpful. Please feel free to share it with your friends by clicking the “Share” button below. 

How To Grow Tomatoes in the Desert

A boot planter adds a touch of whimsy to a patio table.

A boot planter adds a touch of whimsy to a patio table.

Exploring Southwest Garden Style Inspiration

I am always on the lookout for new ideas to use in outdoor spaces and on a recent trip to Austin, Texas, I toured 17 different gardens and came away filled with garden inspiration Southwest garden style. 

Southwest Garden Style: A Personal Touch

A garden’s style is a reflection of the owner and because everyone is unique, so is the way that they decorate their landscape. I confess that I saw several ideas that I felt representative of my taste and am contemplating replicating them in my garden or recommending them for my clients.

These ideas may inspire you to enhance your own landscape or recommend them to your clients if you’re a gardening enthusiast.

Southwest Garden Style Inspirations

1. Living Art: Wooden Picture Frames Adorned with Plants

One delightful feature I discovered was wooden picture frames filled with live plants, adorning a garden fence. This artistic touch adds charm to any Southwest garden.

These ideas may inspire you to enhance your own landscape or recommend them to your clients if you’re a gardening enthusiast.

Wooden picture frames filled with live plants adorn a fence.  Southwest garden style

Wooden picture frames filled with live plants adorn a fence is Southwest garden style

2. Gazebo Oasis: Creating a Cozy Outdoor Retreat

I fell in love with a gazebo nestled in Colleen Jamison’s backyard. Furnished with comfortable seating and even a chandelier, it’s a dreamy space that I aspire to recreate in my own garden someday.

 I fell in love with the gazebo in Colleen Jamison's backyard. Filled with comfortable furniture and even a chandelier, I hope to create something similar in my back garden someday.  Southwest garden style

I fell in love with the gazebo in Colleen Jamison’s backyard. Filled with comfortable furniture and even a chandelier, I hope to create something similar in my back garden someday.

3. Illuminating Elegance: Candelabra and Mirrors

Within the gazebo, a candelabra graces a side table, casting a warm glow. Mirrors strategically placed throughout the garden reflect its beauty, creating the illusion of a larger outdoor space.

 A candelabra graces a side table underneath the shade of the gazebo while mirrors reflect other areas of the garden.  Southwest garden style

A candelabra graces a side table underneath the shade of the gazebo while mirrors reflect other areas of the garden.

4. Reflective Charm: Mirrors in Shady Spaces

The simple inclusion of a mirror in shaded areas can work wonders, reflecting the garden’s other side and enhancing its visual appeal.

The simple inclusion of a mirror reflects the other side of the garden and creates the illusion of a larger outdoor space. This works well in shady areas.  Southwest garden style

The simple inclusion of a mirror reflects the other side of the garden and creates the illusion of a larger outdoor space. This works well in shady areas.

5. Whimsical Welcome: Garden Gate with a Unique Handle

A garden gate with a handle crafted from a hand cultivator adds a whimsical touch to the entryway, embodying the spirit of Austin’s “keep it weird” campaign.

A unique handle for a door - a hand cultivator welded to the garden gate. Southwest garden style

A unique handle for a door – a hand cultivator welded to the garden gate.

6. Artistic Garden Sculptures

One garden featured a stone head adorned with Mexican feather grass, creating a striking and artistic focal point.

A stone head spouts a full head of hair made from Mexican feather grass (Nassella tennuisma).  Southwest garden style

A stone head spouts a full head of hair made from Mexican feather grass (Nassella tennuisma).

7. Playful Entrance: Skull and Prickly Pear Cactus

Embrace creativity with a garden doorway graced by a skull and a prickly pear cactus, making a memorable first impression.

Keeping with the "keep Austin weird" campaign, a garden doorway is graces with a skull and a prickly pear cactus.  Southwest garden style

Keeping with the “keep Austin weird” campaign, a garden doorway is graces with a skull and a prickly pear cactus.

8. Curved Path of Discovery

A curved garden path leads visitors on a journey of discovery, punctuated by large concrete balls that add a unique visual element.

A curved garden path leads visitors on a journey of discovery with large concrete balls dotting the way.  Southwest garden style

A curved garden path leads visitors on a journey of discovery with large concrete balls dotting the way.

9. Upside Down Planters: Gravity-Defying Charm

An upside-down planter hanging from a tree, showcasing flowering impatiens, defies gravity and adds a cool, unexpected element to the garden.

An upside down planter hangs from a tree with flowering impatiens. I don't know how the plant stays in without falling out, but it's cool!  Southwest garden style

An upside down planter hangs from a tree with flowering impatiens. I don’t know how the plant stays in without falling out, but it’s cool!

10. Container Brilliance: Pots as Decorative Elements

Large, colorful containers can serve as focal points in the garden, even when they don’t contain plants. Explore the beauty of decorative outdoor pots.

A large colorful, container is the focal point behind a swimming pool. Pots don't need to have plants inside them to add beauty to the garden. Pots can serve as a decorative outdoor element.  Southwest garden style

A large colorful, container is the focal point behind a swimming pool. Pots don’t need to have plants inside them to add beauty to the garden. Pots can serve as a decorative outdoor element.

11. Pear Arbor: Rustic Elegance

Four pear trees form an arbor over a rustic dining table, creating a tranquil outdoor dining experience. These trees were trained onto a rebar structure, adding rustic charm.

Four pear trees form an arbor over a rustic dining table. The trees were planted 5 years ago and trained onto a basic structure created from rebar.  Southwest garden style

Four pear trees form an arbor over a rustic dining table. The trees were planted 5 years ago and trained onto a basic structure created from rebar.

12. Burst of Color: Planters, Cushions, and Outdoor Carpet

Pam Penick’s garden demonstrates that color doesn’t only come from plants. Add vibrancy using planters, cushions, and outdoor carpets to create a lively atmosphere.

Color doesn't only from plants in Pam Penick's garden - she adds interest with vibrant hues using planters, cushions, and outdoor carpet.  Southwest garden style

Color doesn’t only from plants in Pam Penick’s garden – she adds interest with vibrant hues using planters, cushions, and outdoor carpet.

Summer in my desert garden is a time to enjoy its beauty from the air-conditioned comfort of my home. Yet, it’s also when I plan and dream of what I would like to add to it when the weather cools in fall.

Metal stars are on display, framed by star jasmine vine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).  Southwest garden style

Metal stars are on display, framed by star jasmine vine (Trachelospermum jasminoides).

Embrace Garden Inspiration and Inspire Beauty

While garden inspiration was in plentiful supply during my visit to Austin, it can also be found in other places such as a roadside planting, a local business’s landscape, a favorite magazine, or perhaps even in your neighbor’s front yard. I encourage you to keep your eyes open to possibilities of what you can do with your outdoor space.

White Flowering Plants for the Southwest Landscape: Part 1

home of landscape designer, B. Jane

Embrace Modern Elegance with a Low Maintenance Garden

Discover the Beauty of B. Jane’s Contemporary Landscape

Is your landscape style more free-form and natural. Or do you embrace a more modern, contemporary kind of garden with straight lines and right angles? On a recent visit to Austin, I had the opportunity to visit the home of landscape designer, B. Jane, which looks as if it came straight from the pages of a magazine with its resort-style design. If you had a garden like this, why leave home? You can vacation at home in a contemporary, low maintenance garden?

Low Maintenance Garden plantings

A Front Yard Oasis

The front of B.’s garden has a large crepe myrtle. It is located between her two front windows. This helps to frame her view from the house. The flat pads of a prickly pear cactus add rich texture contrast among the softer shapes of perennials.

asparagus fern and silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea)

Stylish Groundcover Choices

An agave nestles between asparagus fern and silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea). Both plant are ground covers. I often saw at the gardens in Austin. This plant is a type of Dichondra. I liked it so much. Happily, I brought some home and now have it growing in one of my large containers by the front entry. Silver ponyfoot creeps along the ground. It can be used to trail over the sides of pots as well.

live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) with shady plantings

A Modern Twist with Natural Elements

A live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) is planted in a circular section. Decomposed granite works around the tree. Asparagus fern adds softness around the outer edges, again, creating nice texture contrast.

Low Maintenance Garden path

Striking Pathways and Stone Accents


As I walked toward the backyard, the square step stones caught my eye. The dark grey beach pebbles contrast nicely. This is a great design look.

low-maintenance garden ornaments

Simplicity and Beauty in Low Maintenance

As you can see from the potted plants on the patio table, simplicity reigns in this garden. This garden is filled with native or adapted plants. They flourish with little fuss. Low maintenance doesn’t mean that a garden is dull. Often the truth is just the opposite as you will see as we continue on our tour.

rectangular pool with balls floating

Resort-Style Backyard Retreat

A rectangular pool runs along the center of the backyard. Colorful balls reflect the colors used throughout the landscape. This is a brilliant way to draw attention to the colors. A ‘Sticks on Fire’ succulent (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’) basks in the sun. This is a plant that does beautifully in hot, arid climates.

Low Maintenance Garden southwest office

A Garden Office with a View

Now, we are at the point in the tour where I became seriously envious. This is B.’s office. It is separate from her house. She simply walks by her beautiful pool on her way to work in the morning and enjoys a glorious view of her garden while she works. Have I ever mentioned that I work in my dining room. That is, until my kids leave home and I get my own office (room).

hibiscus, rosemary, and basil

Creative Container Displays

A group of containers filled with a variety of plants including hibiscus, rosemary, and basil. This adds interest to this corner by the pool.

low-maintenance garden with bold plants in Austin, tx

Privacy and Color in the Low Maintenance Garden

Bamboo is used to help provide privacy from neighbors. The shrub roses add a welcome pop of color. It is an unlikely combination that really works.

Low-Maintenance Garden fire hydrant for a dog

A Garden for Every Family Member

Even the dog has its own space in B.’s garden with a patch of grass and his own fire hydrant!

Low-Maintenance Garden seating

Relax in Style in this Low Maintenance Garden

Isn’t this a lovely low maintenance seating area? I love the splash of red and the bamboo backdrop.

Low-Maintenance Garden

A Contemporary Low Maintenance Garden Oasis

Just the perfect spot to sit with my friend, Teresa Odle. I must admit that I am drawn more toward more naturalistic gardens. I enjoy curves and staggered plantings. My heart does love the contemporary lines of B. Jane’s garden and its resort-like vibe. You can find out more about B. Jane and her creations here.