beautiful winter color in desert garden

One of the many blessings of living in the desert is that you can garden all year.  That means that you can have beautiful color all year, even in the desert winter (above).

beautiful garden

Drive down the street during the summer, and you will see flowering plants in the common areas and gracing the front yards of everywhere you look.  Texas Sage, Bougainvillea, Lantana, and Tecoma species dot the landscape as shown in the photo above.

Why, then, do people not include plants that will provide color in the winter?  You can take the same drive as you did in the summer and see nothing but green blobs and nothing else (below).  The landscape below is an unfortunate victim of ‘poodle’ pruning.  We are so fortunate to live in an area with relatively mild winters, so why not take advantage of that fact in your garden?

beautiful landscape

I mean, who thinks that this looks nice?  Countless times, when I am meeting with clients, they ask, “My landscape is so boring.  What can I do to make it look better?”  The majority of the time, I hear this from winter residents.  Their landscape is a riot of color in the summer when they are gone.  But, in the winter when they are there, they have green blobs and little else.

brand new landscape

The landscape (above) has potential.  The solution to a somewhat dull landscape is easy.  Add plants that bloom in the cool-season to the landscape.

When I create a landscape design for a brand new landscape, I make sure to include a variety of plants that flower at a different time of the year.  This ensures year-round color.  If you have an established landscape, add a few winter-flowering plants.  That is all it takes.

For beautiful winter color,  I recommend trying the following:

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) Flowers late winter to spring and again in fall it's a beautiful winter color

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) Flowers late winter to spring and again in fall

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata 'Valentine')  Flowers winter into mid-spring

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)  Flowers winter into mid-spring

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae) Flowers in mid-winter

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae) Flowers in mid-winter

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) Blooms winter, spring, and fall

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) Blooms winter, spring, and fall

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) Flowers winter into spring

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) Flowers winter into spring

 Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) Flower mid-winter into spring

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) Flower mid-winter into spring

Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisoides) Blooms mid-winter into spring

Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisoides) Blooms mid-winter into spring

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) syn. Hymenoxys acaulis  Blooms off and on throughout the year

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) syn. Hymenoxys acaulis Blooms off and on throughout the year

As you can tell, there are countless plants that you can use for winter color. If you are only a winter-resident, you may choose to primarily have plants that flower in winter. As for me, I love lots of color year-round.  My favorites are Purple Lilac Vine, Firecracker Penstemon, Valentine, and Angelita Daisy.

Whether you live in the Tropics or Canada, this same principle is true for any climate you live in – make sure your garden provides color for you when you are there.

What are your favorite winter-bloomers?

Gardeners have long known about white flowers plants and the beauty that they bring to the garden.

The color white is seen by many as a bright, clean color that makes surrounding colors ‘pop’ visually.  Others like how white flowers seem to glow in the evening and early morning hours in the landscape.

Thankfully, there are several white flowering plants that do very well in the Southwestern landscape. In Part 1, I showed you four of my favorites, which you can view here.

Today, let’s continue on our white, floral journey…

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

White Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)

White Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)

The arrival of spring transforms the low-growing green foliage of White Evening Primrose with the appearance of beautiful white flowers. What makes these flowers somewhat unique is that as the flowers fade, they turn pink.

White Evening Primrose looks best when used in a landscape with a ‘natural’ theme or among wildflowers.

The flowers appear in spring and summer on 10″ high foliage.  Hardy to zone 8 gardens, this small perennial is native to Southwestern deserts.

White Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua 'White')

White Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua ‘White’)

This is a shrubby perennial that is in my own landscape.  While the most common color of Globe Mallow is orange, it does come in a variety of other colors including red, pink and white – all of which I have.

The white form of Globe Mallow shares the same characteristics of the orange one – it thrives in full sun and can even handle hot, reflected sun.  The foliage is gray and looks best when cut back to 1 ft. high and wide after flowering in spring.

I pair white Globe Mallow alongside my pink ones for a unique, desert cottage garden look.

White Flowers for the Southwest

See what I mean about white flowers helping other colors to stand out visually?

Hardy to zone 6, Globe Mallow grows to 3 ft. tall and wide.  It does best in full sun and well-drained soil.

To learn more about this beautiful desert native, click here.

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

Blackfoot Daisy is another perennial that looks great in a natural desert-themed landscape.  This ground cover produces sunny, white daisies in spring and fall in desert climates – it flowers during the summer in cooler locations.

Hardy to zone 5, Blackfoot Daisy can handle extreme cold when planted in full sun.  I like to plant it near boulders where it can grow around the base for a nicely designed touch. It grows to 1 ft. high and 24 inches wide.

I have several in my front garden and I love their beauty and low-maintenance. They need very little maintenance other than light pruning with my Felco Hand Pruners in late spring to remove dead growth.

Little Leaf Cordia (Cordia parvifolia)

Little Leaf Cordia (Cordia parvifolia)

This white flowering shrub is not used often enough in the Southwestern landscape in my opinion.  It has beautiful flowers, needs little pruning if given enough room to grow, is extremely drought tolerant and evergreen.

Little leaf cordia can grow 4 – 8 ft. tall and up to 10 ft. wide. Unfortunately, some people don’t allow enough room for it to grow and shear it into a ‘ball’.

You can go 2 – 3 years or more between prunings. It’s best when left alone to bear its attractive, papery white flowers spring into fall.

Hardy to zone 8, little leaf cordia does great in full sun and well-drained soil.

‘White Katie’ Ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana ‘White Katie’)

During a visit to a nursery some time ago, I noticed a white flowering variety of the more commonplace purple ‘Katie’ ruellia and I immediately decided that I liked the white color better.

‘White Katie’ ruellia grows to 8 inches tall and 1 1/2 ft. wide in zone 8 gardens and warmer.  It looks great when planted in groups of 3 or more.  You can plant it alongside the purple variety for fun color contrast.  It does suffer frost damage when temps dip below freezing but recover quickly in spring.  

This white flowering perennial does best in morning sun or filtered shade in desert gardens.

I hope you have enjoyed these white flowering plants and decide to add them to your garden!  

Vine for Southwestern Garden, Tangerine Crossvine

Vine for Southwestern Garden, Tangerine Crossvine

Vines are a wonderful way to decorate vertical surfaces with lovely shades of green as well as colorful flowers.

Queen's Wreath

Queen’s Wreath

This is especially valuable in southwestern gardens where vines can help moderate the heat that re-radiates from a wall or used to create filtered shade when they are grown up on a pergola or patio roof.

Vine for Southwestern Garden, Pink Bower Vine

Vine for Southwestern Garden, Pink Bower Vine

I have grown several types of vines during my years living and gardening in the desert southwest and have shared my 10 favorite vines in my latest article for Houzz.

Do you have a favorite vine?

10 Flowering Vines for Southwestern Gardens

 

 

New Use for Vines

Last week, I had one of my best days at work.  I had to do some work out in the field, which entailed placing 3 large boulders in a high profile landscape design of a golf course.

high profile landcape area of a golf course

While placing boulders may seem rather boring to some, I must say that I always enjoy this job.

large boulders

Why you may ask?

Well first of all, it can be quite exciting.  Moving very large boulders isn’t without its risks.  There is always danger of damaging nearby structures.  You can also get a sense of how heavy a particular boulder is when the back tires of the backhoe comes off the ground.

landscape design

But, the reason that I most enjoy placing boulders is that I have several people listening and following my directions as to where to place each boulder.

Now, lest you think that I may get carried away with my power – there is no chance of that.  After a busy day in the field, I came home and tried my best to get my 3 teenagers to listen and do what I asked.  Needless to say, the ‘power’ I had earlier in the day, mysteriously disappeared  😉

landscape design

landscape design

But at the end of the day, I did have three nice-sized boulders to anchor my landscape design.  Plants were ready to go in a couple of days later.

A Snapshot of My Crazy, But Happy Life…

With the arrival of winter, some people resign themselves to a boring garden, devoid of interest until spring arrives with its warmer temperatures.

Thankfully, we don’t have to settle for ‘blah’ winter gardens if cold-hardy succulents have a spot to grow in the landscape, many of which can survive temps down to 0 and even -20 degrees F.

Yucca growing among boulders.

Yucca growing among boulders.

When the flowering plants are ‘sleeping’ through winter, succulents take center stage with their unique shapes and growing patterns.

10 Cold Hardy Succulents That Add Beauty to the Winter Landscape

Whale’s Tongue Agave (Agave ovatifolia)

While the cold temperatures may freeze back your favorite bougainvillea or lantana flowers, cold hardy succulents like these whale’s tongue agave steal the show with their beautifully shaped leaves.

Toothless Sotol (Dasylirion quadrangulatum)

Toothless Sotol (Dasylirion quadrangulatum)

During the warmer seasons, these succulents add texture and welcome structure to the garden, often serving as a backdrop to flowering shrubs and groundcovers.  But, when winter arrives, they get their turn to shine.

Want to learn more about cold hardy succulents, which will add beauty to your outdoor space, not just in winter, but year round?  I recently compiled a list of 10 succulents, for Houzz.com that would be a welcome addition in most landscapes.

Hopefully, you’ll find some of your old favorites and maybe a few new ones.

 
 

Great Landscape Design: Drought Tolerant and Beautiful!

Some of you may remember me sharing about my oldest daughter moving to a small town in Michigan back in early September – “Goodbye Arizona, Hello Michigan”

oldest daughter moving to a small town in Michigan

It was so hard to see them go, but at the same time, I was excited for their new future as they left to join my son-in-law who just started a new job as a professor at a college in Petoskey, Michigan.

The very next day, as my husband and I booked a flight for Michigan in November.  I must admit that planning a trip within a few months of their leaving helped me to deal their absence more easily.

As November approached, I began to count down the days until we would see them again.

Grand Rapids

Our flight left on an early Friday morning and would take us to the city of Grand Rapids.

Petoskey, Michigan

From there, we rented a car for the 3-hour drive up to Petoskey, Michigan. which is located at the “tip of the mitt” as the locals like to say.

Along the way, we spotted a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant.  Now this is a place where both my husband and I spent a lot of time (separately) visiting while children growing up in Arizona and California.  Sadly, they have all but disappeared in those states, but they are still quite popular in Michigan.

So, we stopped off for dinner where we both enjoyed our favorite meals from our past.

 

As we sat eating our dinner, snow began to fall.  It was at this point that the fact that we weren’t local was painfully obvious as we couldn’t stop looking and talking about the snow.

We pulled into Petoskey just before 8:00 pm and Brittney, Lily & Jeff were waiting outside for us, bundled in their jackets.

It was so wonderful to be close enough to hug them all again and I could hardly wait for the next day to begin.

Lily

Our first stop was at Meijier’s, which is very large grocery store chain in the Midwest.  Lily was excited to share her coffee drink with me.  She said that it was better than Starbucks because they put sprinkles on their drinks.

We then bought some groceries.  My job was to make her a birthday cake and we also took her birthday shopping.

Northern Central Michigan College

Next, we drove to Northern Central Michigan College, where my son-in-law now teaches.  Lily loves to visit her dad at work.

Northern Central Michigan College
Northern Central Michigan College

It was so nice seeing his office, classroom and how happy he was after working so many years for his PhD.

local pizza and sandwich

Whenever we are traveling, I love to eat at restaurants that are different than what are at home.  We ate dinner at a local pizza and sandwich restaurant where I was introduced to ‘grinders’.

local pizza and sandwich

Grinders are basically Italian subs that are often served alongside pizza.  All I can say, is that were delicious!

The next morning, we were awakened early by the appearance of our granddaughter Lily, by our bedside who then got into bed with us and snuggled for a half hour before we all woke up.  I must confess, that was one of my favorite moments of our entire trip.

Little Traverse Bay.

Little Traverse Bay.

The next morning, we decided to set out for the picturesque downtown area of Petoskey, which is consistently rated in the “Top 10 Best Small Towns of America”.  

granddaughter Lily

While the walk was a short one (3 blocks), we found time to pick dandelions and blow the seeds.

Petoskey, Michigan.
Petoskey, Michigan.

The downtown area is quaint and filled with a variety of shops, restaurants and other businesses. We passed the local park with its gazebo, a lovely church with its tall steeple and gas lights and shop windows being decorated with garlands made of fresh evergreens.

You can read more about our visit to the downtown area in my previous post “A Small Town Visit and Holiday Traditions”. 

Petoskey, Michigan.
Petoskey, Michigan.

After doing some Christmas shopping the local bookstore, general store and fudge shop, we made our way back home.

Petoskey, Michigan.

While Lily took her nap, my husband and I took a mini-road trip to visit the other small towns close by before getting ready for our ‘big date’.

Petoskey, Michigan.

We had a date with our very sweet granddaughter, Lily, while her parents went on their own grown-up date.

Our restaurant of choice was ‘Roast & Toast’, which I had eaten at the year before on a prior visit to Petoskey.  Lily thought that the cups and plates stuck to the outside of the window were pretty cool – the purple coffee cup was her favorite 😉

 our granddaughter Lily

Lily was a delightful dinner partner.

 our granddaughter Lily

We had a table located in a little alcove.

 our granddaughter Lily
 our granddaughter Lily

It turned out that the seat was perfect for lying on while eating your dinner.

*Believe it or not, I had no problem with Lily lying down eating her dinner.  In fact, I thought it was rather cute.  But, I would NEVER allow my own kids to do that, which let me to an epiphany that many grandparents experience – your standards you set for your children vs. your grandchildren are completely different, which makes it much easier to be a grandparent than a parent!

 our granddaughter Lily

The downtown area came alive in the evening with the gas light lit up with their festive greenery and Christmas lights.

Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan

The next day, we spent some time at home.  I found myself enjoying the view from the living room windows, where the you could just see Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan out of the window through the trees.

Wildlife

Wildlife was abundant around the house including brightly colored blue jays, cardinals, black & brown squirrels and deer.

A Welcome Visit

Of course, Flynn, their dog was there to chase those wild animals away 😉

My Little Pony

Lily and I spent time playin with her new ‘My Little Pony’ toy, that squirted out play-doh.

Lily

Her papa showed his love for Lily by playing dolls with her for over an hour at the kitchen table.

It was so nice to completely unplug from our busy lives and just sit back and enjoy the simple pleasures.  I helped my daughter with her first knitting project and even found myself coloring a page in her new ‘adult’ coloring book, which was surprisingly enjoyable and relaxing.

After cooking dinner for the family, I set to work making Lily’s birthday cake with her help.

orange cake with hot pink frosting and sprinkles.

She wanted an orange cake with hot pink frosting and sprinkles.

orange cake with hot pink frosting and sprinkles.

And that is exactly what she got.

After we left the next day for our trip home, I reflected on how fortunate we were to have been able to spend time with our daughter and her precious family.  Thankfully, we only have to wait a few more weeks until Christmas until they come to our house for a long visit!

**Thank you for allowing me to share a glimpse with you an important part of my life 🙂

I love flowers.  In fact, it was my love affair with flowers that inspired me to get my degree in horticulture.  I figured that life is too short to not do what you love, so working as a horticulturist allows me to be around blooming plants throughout much of the year.

As the weather begins to cool, blossoms begin to lessen, but one of the many benefits of living in the Southwest is that there are always some plants showing off their flowers.

Today, I’d like to share with you just a few of the flowering plants that I saw during the past couple of weeks, which are decorating the fall landscape.

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) flowers in spring and fall, is extremely drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) flowers in spring and fall, is extremely drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F.

Creeping Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii) is a groundcover, which flowers in spring and fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

Creeping Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii) is a groundcover, which flowers in spring and fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F.

The Cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco) flowers in fall and on into early winter, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 20 degrees F.  While thorny, there is a new variety with a smooth trunk, called 'Smoothie'.  Still in bloom in November

The Cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco) flowers in fall and on into early winter, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 20 degrees F.  While thorny, there is a new variety with a smooth trunk, called ‘Smoothie’.

 Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is an ornamental grass that flowers in fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 0 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is an ornamental grass that flowers in fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 0 degrees F.

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) flowers all year long, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 17 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) flowers all year long, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 17 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

These are but a few plants that are still in bloom in November in my zone 9 climate.

How about you?  What is blooming in your garden or neighborhood?

A Beautiful Centerpiece for November’s MGB

It may seem rather strange to think of landscapes decorated with lilies in fall, but summer and fall rain bring on the lovely blooms of rain lilies (Zephyranthes species).

lilies add beauty to the gardens

Rain or ‘zephyr’ lilies add beauty to the gardens throughout the Southern half of the U.S., including the Southwest.  While their apperance may make you think that they are delicate and needs lots of coddling, nothing could be further from the truth.

lilies in fall

Like other types of lilies, they are grown from bulbs planted in fall and are surprisingly, moderately drought tolerant.

lilies in fall

The white species (Zephyranthes candida) is my favorite and has evergreen foliage.  There are other species and hybrids in colors such as pink and peach.

Rain lilies deserve a greater presence in the landscape, given their delicate beauty that adds welcome interest to the garden.  They are also easy to grow.

For more information on this delightful plant, including the different species and how to plant and grow your own this fall, check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.

 
 

 

 

 

What’s Happening In My Fall Garden…

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 greatest effect and what plants to pair it with in my latest article for Houzz.com

 

When trying to decide what to fill our containers with, most people gravitate toward colorful, flowering annuals. For those of us who live in the Southwest, we are equally likely to fill our pots with cacti or succulents, which thrive in our dry climate.

However, did you know that plants aren’t the only thing that looks great in containers?  In fact, what many people would consider ‘trash’ can actually transform the look of a container and your outdoor space.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

Dried plant material can add a unique and striking look to the landscape when showcased in a pot.

Besides decorating your outdoor space, they aren’t particular about sun, shade and are perfectly happy without any water or fertilizer.

In this particular case, I had a lovely blue container in my front entry that had stood empty for longer than I would care to admit to.  The opening was too small for most plants and it sat in the shade for most of the day making it difficult to grow colorful annuals.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

On a recent visit to a client whose home was surrounded by the natural desert, I found some dried plant material that would soon find its way to my house.

Among a pile of yard debris mixed in with cut tree branches and branch clippings were several dried yucca flowering stalks that had been pruned away and were waiting to be put in the trash.

Now most people would probably walk right by this pile of discarded plant material and understandably so.  But, I was on the lookout for items that the homeowner could use for a walled in patio, which was quite bare and received hot, reflected sun for most of the day.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

My thought was to add colorful, glazed containers in order to bring welcome color to this space and fill them with cacti.

yucca

However, once I saw the dried yucca stalks, I decided that they would make a striking filler for a container.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

The homeowner, who enjoys designing the interior of her home, saw the potential right away and selected three stalks.

soaptree yucca (Yucca elata)

The flowering stalks came from a magnificent soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) that they had growing in their front yard.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

The homeowners graciously offered to give me a few of the stalks to take home.

 blue container

I knew that my empty blue container would make the perfect home for dried yucca stalks.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

While I love my new dried yucca stalks – they are just a few natural items that can be used in containers.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

This large, dried flowering stalk from an agave would look fabulous in a container and displayed in the corner of an entry or patio.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

Discarded canes from an ocotillo that would otherwise be headed toward the landfill can find new purpose as a filler for containers.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

A saguaro skeleton would make a dramatic statement if ‘planted’ in a large container.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

On my recommendation, this client gave up trying to grow flowering annuals in her shady entry and add colorful containers with bamboo poles.

Do you have a location where you’d like to have containers, but whatever you plant there dies?

Do any of the following situations where you’d like to have containers apply to you?

– Too much shade or sun

– Access to irrigation is limited

– You are gone for long lengths of time and can’t care for container plants

– Worried about staining the concrete or tile underneath the container from mineral buildup from watering

– You tend to kill anything you plant

If you are dealing with one or more these situations you may want to look at adding dried plant material to your containers for a unique and fuss-free look that will add beauty to your outdoor space.

It’s All About the Leaves: Creative Container Plantings