peaches in Arizona

Growing peaches and making peach jam

It’s one of my favorite times of year in the garden – my peach trees are heavily laden with delicious, sweet fruit ready for picking.

Many people are surprised to learn that you can grow peaches in Arizona, but they do very well. However, they do ripen earlier than in cooler climates. May is peach season here in the desert.

 peach trees

My peach trees sit outside my kitchen window, and I’ve been keeping my eye on them to see when they were ready to harvest.  Finally, the day arrived, and I brought out my bushel basket and got to picking.

Making Delicious Peach Jam

One peach tree can provide you with most of the peaches you need. Last year, I made peach blueberry jam, which was so good, that it didn’t last long. Today, I’m planning on making regular peach jam, but I can always buy peaches from the store at another time to make other variations if I choose to.

Every May, I haul out my water bath canner, and canning jars, and spend 2 hours making delicious peach jam.

Growing peaches and making jam isn’t difficult or expensive. Here is a link to the guidelines that I follow.

My Desert Museum Palo Verde and an Unfortunate Event

For those of you who are familiar with ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees, you know how their stately beauty enhances desert landscapes. The curving branches of this tree are a lovely shade of green, which reaches toward the blue sky creating welcome shade underneath.

I have three of these palo verde trees planted around my landscape, but the one in my back garden is my favorite. Its broad canopy adds welcome relief from the summer sun, and I’m able to grow flowering perennials underneath its branches that otherwise wouldn’t survive in full sun.

Two weeks ago, this ‘Desert Museum’ tree experienced an unfortunate event. It happened around 9 p.m. on a windy day was drawing to a close. I heard a sound that sounded like firecrackers and didn’t think much of it, attributing it to kids in the neighborhood.

My Desert Museum Palo Verde and an Unfortunate Event

However, once the next day dawned, my husband called me outside to view the damage to my beloved tree. A massive section had broken off.

I must admit that I was heartsick when I saw what had happened. We had had our tree pruned by an arborist last summer and wasn’t expecting any major problems like this one. That being said, the combination of the extra weight on the branches from the flowers as well as the windy conditions of the day before was simply too much for this section of the tree.

My Desert Museum Palo Verde and an Unfortunate Event

The broken branch served to illustrate something that I frequently tell my clients; properly pruned trees are much less susceptible to branches breaking off, but they aren’t immune as my tree clearly showed. 

Under normal circumstances, I would have been upset about the loss of this major branch, but I felt a bit worse than that since we are hosting a wedding in our backyard in a few weeks and the ceremony was to take place underneath this lovely tree.

My Desert Museum Palo Verde and an Unfortunate Event

The affected branch was pruned back to a couple of smaller branches and the debris removed. Yes, my tree looks quite lopsided, however, ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees grow fairly quickly, and within a year, it should have filled in.

As for the wedding, plans for it take place underneath the tree haven’t changed. The small branches will grow more quickly in response to the pruning cut just above them, and I’ll probably notice the off-center appearance more than anyone else. It will still serve as a beautiful backdrop. 

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon

There is nothing quite so refreshing as the fragrance of lemons as you slice through their yellow skin.  Lemons are a very popular fruit tree for those of us who in zones 8 and above and their lush green foliage and yellow fruit add beauty to the garden.  

Meyer Lemon

If you have been thinking of adding a lemon tree to your landscape, March is the best time of year to plant new citrus in the garden as it gives them time to become established before the heat of summer arrives.

I am often asked about what type of lemon is best for the garden.  My personal choice is Meyer lemon for a number of reasons.  You may have heard of this type of lemon tree, but what you may not know is that it isn’t a ‘true’ lemon – it’s actually a naturally occurring hybrid of a lemon and ‘Mandarin’ orange.  This results in a pseudo-lemon that is sweeter and less acidic than true lemons such as ‘Eureka’ and ‘Lisbon’.

See why you should consider planting a Meyer lemon tree in your backyard in my latest article for Houzz.com.  (Click on the photo below to read the article).

*What type of lemon tree to you grow?

While fall color may be somewhat lacking in the Southwest landscape in comparison to areas with brilliant fall foliage, we do have several plants that wait until fall to begin to color the landscape with their blooms.

Turpentine bush(Ericameria laricifolia)

Turpentine bush(Ericameria laricifolia) is a desert native that has lovely, dark green foliage year-round. With the arrival of fall, they are transformed by the appearance of golden yellow flowers.

It’s hard to find a plant that needs less attention than this drought-tolerant beauty – pruning every 3 years and monthly watering in summer is all it needs.

Learn more about why you should add turpentine bush to your landscape including how to use it for the greatest effect and what plants to pair it with in my latest article for Houzz.com

 

Purple Blooms for the Fall Garden

Do you have oleanders?  If so, you might have heard of a fatal bacterial disease called oleander leaf scorch that affects oleander shrubs.

This disease is slowly spreading and I have been seeing it more often when I visit clients.  

I wrote an earlier post about oleander leaf scorch, its signs and how it affects oleander shrubs, which you can view here.

Earlier this month, I visited another client whose entire backyard was surrounded by tall oleander shrubs that were quite mature.  She suspected that her oleanders were starting to show signs of oleander leaf scorch and it turns out that she was right.

oleander leaf scorch

Her suspicions began when she noticed browning of her a few of her oleander shrubs that began this spring and was worsening as summer progressed.

It’s important to note that browning of oleanders doesn’t necessarily mean that they are infected with oleander leaf scorch – browning can be caused by any number of problems from drought stress, salty soil or other excess minerals in the soil.

characteristics of oleander leaf scorch disease

However, a closer look at the foliage showed some of the characteristics of oleander leaf scorch disease with the outer leaves and tips turning brown.

This occurs because the bacteria rapidly multiply, blocking the vascular system of the plant. 

sign of oleander leaf scorch

These browning tips are also a sign of oleander leaf scorch, but this particular sign can also indicate high salts in the soil.

Even if you see only a few leaves affected, the entire shrub is infected and will die within 3 – 5 years.  Because this disease is spread by a flying insect called a sharpshooter, not all oleander shrubs in a given area may be affected as it hops from bush to bush.  However, these insects carry the bacteria in their saliva and spread it to each oleander shrub that they feed from.

While I was able to tell my client that her oleander shrubs likely were infected this disease, the only way to confirm the diagnosis was to contact her local cooperative extension office and send in some leaves from her oleanders to be tested.

If the test comes back positive, she will need to remove all of her oleander shrubs.  While they will live 3 – 5 years after being infected, they will turn brown.  The most important reason for removal is to help keep the disease from spreading to other oleanders in the neighborhood.

For more photos and a detailed description of this oleander disease as well as a suggested replacement plant for oleanders, read my previous post, “Plant Disease: Oleander Leaf Scorch”

I have a love affair with trees.

It’s true. I love their beautiful branch architecture, foliage and the dappled shade that they provide. Living in the desert Southwest, shade is a valuable commodity with the relief it offers from the intense sun and cool temperatures it offers.

desert Southwest

For all these reasons and more, I can’t fathom why people would prune their trees like this, stripping them of all their beauty and much of their function.

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees

Badly pruned trees

The phrase that comes to mind when seeing something like this is badly pruned trees or how ‘not’ to prune trees.

Unfortunately, this is just one of many trees in this parking lot that have fallen prey to terrible pruning practices.

As a certified arborist, I see many bad examples of pruning, but I can honestly say that the trees in this parking lot are the worst.

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees

Years ago, my husband and I used to live next to the area in Scottsdale and the appalling pruning that was done to the trees was well known by me.

On this lovely day, the kids and I were on our way home from the Desert Botanical Garden when we drove past this shopping plaza. I quickly made a detour to see if anything had changed.

Sadly, they hadn’t. So, I took out my camera and started taking photos.

See if you can guess what each badly tree is:

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees

#1

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees

#2

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees

#3

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees

#4

Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section. After guessing, click here for the answers with examples of what the trees should look like when properly maintained.

Needless to say, you don’t need to know what type of trees they are to realize that they have been ‘butchered’.

I recently shared some examples of ‘butchered’ trees and asked you to try to identify what each tree was. You can take the quiz here, if you like before seeing the answers, below.

As promised, here the photos of badly pruned trees and what they should look like:

Badly Pruned Trees

Badly Pruned Trees

Desert Fern (Lysiloma watsonii)

Photo: #1 – Desert Fern (Lysiloma watsonii)

Badly Pruned Trees and What They Should Look Like
Shoestring Acacia (Acacia stenophylla)

Photo: #2 Shoestring Acacia (Acacia stenophylla)

Badly Pruned Trees
Chilean Mesquite (Prosopis chilensis)

Photo: #3 Chilean Mesquite (Prosopis chilensis)

Badly Pruned Trees
Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox)

Photo: #4 Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox)

‘Topping’ of trees is not only unsightly, it is also unhealthy – leaving trees susceptible to biological and environmental stresses and actually making them grow faster and use more water.

For more information on why ‘topping’ is bad for trees, click here.

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.

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Life around our household has been busy lately….

School is back in session (for which I am extremely grateful for 😉

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 🙂

Last month as I was leaving from a landscape consultation, I took some time to drive by a few of the landscapes in the neighborhood.  

I immediately noticed that quite a few people had Olive trees growing in their front yards.

Olive tree

Olive tree

There was a large difference in how some of the homeowners pruned their Olive trees…

Olive tree

Believe it or not, both of the trees pictured above are the same type of Olive tree.

Some people like to formally prune their Olive trees while others like theirs to grow naturally.

Which one would you prefer?

Olive tree

OR

Olive tree

I know which look I prefer and it is much healthier for the tree and much less maintenance.

How about you?

Which style of pruning do you like – formal or natural?

Last Saturday was a day that we had long prepared for.

My husband and I had spent countless hours sitting alongside my youngest daughter, Gracie, helping her practice for her piano recital.

She was nervous, but looked so cute in her new dress and shoes.  

 my youngest daughter, Gracie

The recital was held at the Mesa Arts Center and Gracie was playing along with her entire class.

As we were waiting for our turn to go inside, I saw something rather unusual in the distance.

The Mesquite trees looked rather colorful.  So, I walked a bit closer….    

 knit scarves

No, my eyes weren’t deceiving me.  These trees had knit scarves covering parts of their trunks.

Knit Scarves for Trees

Now, I like to knit scarves for loved ones – but this was the first time that I had ever seen them on trees.

Knit Scarves for Trees

Even the Pine trees had colorful, knit scarves.

I couldn’t imagine why anyone would spend so much time knitting scarves and then ‘sewing’ them around tree trunks.

The trees don’t need protection from the cold.

I needed some answers, because I was pretty sure that they didn’t cover this in my Trees class in college or when I took my Certified Arborist exam.

I spotted a security guard walking nearby and asked him why the trees had knit scarves.  He explained that the trees were the focus of a group to beautify the urban landscape.

What they did is referred to as ‘Yarn Bombing‘, which is described as “The Art of Knit Graffiti.”

‘Yarn Bombing’ is occurring in urban areas throughout North America in an effort to add beauty to urban areas.

Well, I must admit that I thought the trees looked quite nice.

Knit Scarves for Trees

But, I think they might get a bit ‘warm’ as the temperatures begin to rise 😉

They will soon be taken down, so if you live nearby – stop by before the ‘knit graffiti’ is taken down.

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While we were at the recital, we got our first phone call from my daughter, Rachele, who is away at basic training for the Navy.

It was so good to hear her voice!

She is homesick and is trying hard not to be discouraged.  She has finished one week of basic training and is learning how to do things “the Navy way”.

Rachele joined up with a division that had already been there a week before and needed a few more recruits.  So, she has less time to learn how to do things.

Learning how to make their beds and folding clothes a certain way is hard and they come around with a ruler and if you are 1 cm off, you get in trouble.

I can see why this would be hard for her, since most of her clothes never made it into her dresser at home 😉

It has been cold there (outside Chicago) and they have three different jackets and knit caps that they wear when they have to march from building to building (2 miles).

She was given good advice before she left by her then boss, who is a retired Army colonel.  He said to do your best to blend in and don’t volunteer for anything.  It just makes basic training that much harder.

So far so good, she said.  Her RTC doesn’t know her name, which is supposed to be good.

She has passed her swimming test along with many of her other physical tests – so that is good news.

The recruits aren’t allowed to talk to each other.  But, some try to talk to each other at night after lights are out.  However, some get caught and have to do extra exercise.

We are doubling up on our letters to keep her spirits up.

From what we hear, everything she is experiencing is normal, including the homesickness.  It is supposed to get better around week 4, once they start to get used things.

As for me, I was a weepy mess after I spoke to her.  I do miss her so much.  But, I believe that she will make a wonderful sailor 🙂