California bluebells and red flax
One of spring’s many joys are the fields of wildflowers that we often see growing along the side of the road.  It is one of the many miracles of nature how such lovely flowers can grow in the wild without any help from people.
 
I find it kind of ironic that if we want to grow these flowers of the wild in our own garden we  have to give them a little assistance to get them going.  But, the preparation is fairly simple and the rewards are definitely well worth the effort.
 
Arroyo lupine with white gaura
 
As with many things in the garden, planting begins in advance, and in the case of wildflowers, fall is the best time to sow the seeds for spring bloom.
 
 
I’ve planted wildflower gardens throughout my career, but I’ll never forget my first one.  It was on a golf course and I sowed quite a bit of wildflower seed in that small area – and I mean a LOT of seed.  The wildflowers were growing so thickly together and probably would have looked nicer if I had used less seed and/or thinned them out a little once they started to grow.  But, I loved that little wildflower garden.
 
If you like wildflowers, how about setting aside some space in your garden to plant your own?
 
I have shared my tips on creating a wildflower garden in my latest article for Houzz.  I hope you enjoy it.
 
**Do you have a favorite wildflower?
 
 

 

Have you ever driven by a newly-planted landscape?  If you have, you probably noticed that many of the plants were quite small.  

I like to joke that sometimes you need a magnifying glass just to see the new plants.  But, within a short amount of time, those plants start to grow.  


After three years or more, the plants are well-established and look great.  

Fast forward five additional years, and you may start to see signs of some plants becoming overgrown and unattractive.

When this happens to shrubs, we can often push a ‘restart button’ and prune them back severely in spring, and that solves the problem.  However, there are some plants where this approach doesn’t work.

Let’s identify a few of these plants and how to deal with them once they outgrow their allotted space or become filled with old, woody growth.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Desert spoon is one of my favorite plants.  I love how its blue-gray, spiky leaves add texture to the garden and contrast with plants that have darker green foliage.  


After ten years or more in the landscape, desert spoon can start to take on a ragged, rather unattractive appearance, as well as grow quite large.

When this happens, I recommend that they be removed and a new desert spoon planted in its place.  

Now, some of you may think that may seem wasteful, but I invite you to take another look at your landscape and the plants within it.

Your outdoor space isn’t static and unchanging.  Its appearance changes with the seasons, plants blooms at different times of year, trees extend the amount of shade they provide as they grow, and plants change in size.  

A newly planted garden doesn’t look the same through the years, it changes.  

Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’)
Rosemary is a good choice for those who want rich, dark green color in the garden.  Bees love the light blue flowers that appear in late winter and spring, and the aromatic foliage can be used to flavor your favorite dishes.  


But, as time passes, it does get bigger, outgrowing its original space.  


When this happens, people start to shear their rosemary, which is stressful for the plant and contributes to sections of branches dying.

For those who don’t like the formal look, pruning rosemary back severely would be a likely choice.  But, the problem with rosemary is that they often don’t respond well to severe pruning.

So again, in this case, it’s best to pull out the old rosemary and add a new one, which will provide beauty for several years.

Rosemary hedge
To avoid having to remove and replace rosemary, allow them plenty of room to grow to their mature size.

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
Red yucca is prized for its succulent, green leaves that resemble an ornamental grass and its coral flowers, which appear spring through fall.


Once it has been growing seven years or more, red yucca may overwhelm the landscape visually, particularly if the area it is growing in isn’t very big.

Occasionally, some people will try to remove the outer leaves at the base, but this is laborious and only serves to stimulate red yucca to grow back faster.

In those situations, I tell people that they have had a nice life, but it’s time to start over with new ones.

Newly-planted red yucca

The question that may come to mind is why use plants that you’ll only have to replace after seven to ten years?

Well, all three of these plants add beauty to the landscape and are low-maintenance.  Another way to think of it is to compare your landscape with the interior of your home.  Do you make small changes to the decor of your home every few years to keep it looking fresh and attractive?  The same should be true of the outside.

Replacing a few plants after seven years or more isn’t expensive, and the beauty that these plants offer to your outdoor space makes them worth it.

After a seemingly endless summer, we have finally made it to the finish line.  This is the season where we experience a ‘second spring’ and venture out into the garden again.

Soil is ready to be amended, citrus fertilized, and some light pruning can be done.

Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings.
September is the gateway to a busy time in the garden, but there are a few things that it is still too early to start on yet.

I’ve made a video of what you should do and shouldn’t do this month:


What is your favorite season of the year?

Do you use any power tools to keep your landscape looking its best?

If you are like me, you may have a hedge trimmer and perhaps a leaf blower, or both.  

When I was contacted by the folks at Troy-Bilt to review their newest line of garden equipment that is powered by CORE technology, I was very excited to partner with them and I was provided with the products free of charge. Each piece of this equipment uses a rechargeable battery.  Their equipment line includes a hedge trimmer, leaf blower, string trimmer and a lawn mower.

Due to my previous experience with the quality of Troy-Bilt products, I have high expectations for these new tools will share my experiences with a video.

 
CORE technology means that the “power comes from the motor and not the battery.”  
 
According to Troy-Bilt, “the controller communicates with the CORE motor to monitor how hard it’s working and senses when the motor needs more power and automatically calls for more energy from the battery. So when you need maximum power, CORE answers. The controller efficiently manages the transfer of energy from the battery to the motor to deliver maximum runtime from every charge”.
 
The equipment is simple to put together, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow.  I couldn’t wait to use both of them on a particular problem area in my landscape.
 
 
I have an informal hedge of white gaura growing in my front garden, but within its depths lurks an infestation of bermudagrass.  The grass was left over from when we renovated the landscape and took out the lawn.  As usually happens, sometimes grass can re-emerge, which is what happened here.
 
Unfortunately, I am now at the point that where the grass is threatening to take over my gaura, so drastic measures need to be taken.
 
To solve the problem, I have to prune back the gaura severely so that I can get to the base of the grass and dig it out.  So, I will use the hedge trimmers to prune the gaura back severely and then the leaf blower to help clean up the area afterward.
 
 
Troy-Bilt’s CORE hedge trimmer is effective and not too heavy for me to use comfortably.  I am impressed at how easily it cut through the old stems without getting tangled up.
 
 
I have had the opportunity to test over five different Troy-Bilt blowers over the past few years and this one is my favorite.  It is very powerful, easy to hold, and simple to use.
 
Battery-powered technology paired with Troy-Bilt’s CORE engine creates powerful garden equipment that is easy to use. The power of their tools rivals those with gas-powered engines.  Now, I don’t have to worry about messing around with power cords – no more rolling and unrolling electrical cords, accidentally cutting the cord, or having to constantly move the cord out of my way.  I also don’t miss having to fill gas engines up with fuel.
 
One thing that is important to note is that the battery should only be charged at temperatures between 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  So, for those who live in areas with extremely cold or hot climates, the battery will need to be charged indoors.
 
All of the CORE power garden equipment operate off of the same battery.  Each tool comes with a battery and charger, but you can order additional tools without the battery if you  have one from other CORE products.
 
To learn more about Troy-Bilt’s line of CORE products and how they work, click here.
 
*I was offered the hedge trimmer and blower free of charge from the folks at Troy-Bilt with the expectation of an honest review.
Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)
Trees are a treasure to us that live in the Southwest where the sun can be relentless with its intensity.
 
We all know the delight of stepping into the cool shade of a tree during a hot summer’s day where their canopy provides blessed relief.
 
Honey Mesquite Bosque (Prosopis glandulosa) at the Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden
 
In addition, to welcome shade, trees also add beauty to the landscape with their lovely shades of green leaves, flowers (in some cases), and the way the dappled shade dances along the ground.
 
Palo Blanco (Mariosousa willardiana) formerly Acacia willardiana

There are many trees native to this region that add both shade and beauty to the garden while thriving in our arid climate.

I recently shared a list of my ten favorite, native trees for the Southwest in my latest article for Houzz.

*Do you have a favorite tree?  Please share it with us!

 
The last blooms of red bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) in bloom underneath the filtered shade of a desert willow (Chilopsis linearis).  Mexican bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) grows in front of the window.
There is nothing better than enjoying a lovely view of your garden, (while sitting with your feet up), after being out of town for several days.

I’ve spent the past several days in Atlanta, Georgia, touring gardens, learning from educational sessions, networking, and socializing at this year’s annual Garden Communicator’s Symposium.

A few days before I left for the conference, I hosted my dear friend, Andrea, who flew all the way from Australia to me in Arizona for a few days before we both left for Atlanta.

I got in late last night and relished sleeping in my own bed – there is truly no better feeling after a long day of traveling and sleeping in a hotel bed.

I try to keep my schedule light the day after I get home from a trip and today is no different.  So what’s on the schedule today?  Catching up on my favorite television shows while going through business cards from new contacts I met, working my way through the large pile of mail waiting for me, deciding where in the garden to put the new plants I was given at the conference, and deciding what new garden samples to try first in my garden.

What do you do when you come home from a  trip?

Have you ever met someone whom you felt an instant bond with?  If so, you know that it isn’t an everyday occurrence.

Last year, I attended the Garden Writer’s Association Conference for the first time.  I went to the conference not knowing anyone else there, but was excited for the classes, garden visits, and hopes to meet other people who loved and wrote about gardens like I did.

At this point, I should mention that going up to people and introducing myself isn’t easy for me to do, but another garden writer was also attending for the first time who had come all the way from Oz (also known as Australia 😉.  Well, I decided that I needed to go up and introduce myself to Andrea – after all, we had some things in common – she lived in a dry climate and Arizona landscapes made use of many plants native to Australia.  

Well, we formed an instant friendship and found out that we shared numerous similarities – including the fact that we both had recently turned 50, worked as garden consultants as well as garden writers.


Over the next few days, we shared storied about our work and memorable clients while strolling through gardens viewing plants that we both use, despite living on two different continents.  


We would also talk to each other about new plants to try all while sharing the trials and tribulations of gardening in a dry climate.

All too soon, the conference was over, and I headed home with a suitcase of free plants while Andrea flew back to Australia.

After that, we conversed back and forth while making plans to attend the next year’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  I thought that it would be a fun to invite Andrea to come and visit Arizona on her way to the conference.  So earlier this week, I found myself at the airport, anxiously waiting for her.  I couldn’t wait to show her my favorite garden spots around Phoenix.

At this point, I should mention that while most people spend time cleaning their house and getting it ready for a special guest, for those of us who are in the landscape business, also have to get our gardens ready for our gardener friends to visit as well.  As a result, my garden was neatly pruned, weeded, and cleaned in preparation for Andrea’s visit.  

The first day, there was no question that the Desert Botanical Garden would be our first destination.  We were blessed with a partly cloudy day with a light breeze to take the edge off of the heat.  Walking along winding paths with stunning examples of cacti, palo verde trees, flowering shrubs, and ground covers, I showed her the beauty of the desert landscape.


Of course, we had to get a picture in front of a saguaro cactus.

Craft Beer in a Jar
After the garden, it was off to get a taste of American food.  So, good BBQ with a jar of local craft beer was next.

Delicious BBQ

Evenings were spent at my house having dinner and allowing Andrea and my kids time to get to visit.


Andrea bought a lovely collection of gifts, not just for my younger kids, but also for my grandchildren.  Eric looks adorable in his Australia hat.

The next day, we visited the Heard Museum and explored the Native American history and artwork, eating delicious smoked hamburgers at a downtown restaurant that is frequented by locals.

Hamburger Works Restaurant

We enjoyed event-filled days and great food, but one of my favorite parts was watching her try her very first Rice Krispy treat.

Now, we are off to the second part of Andrea’s visit – attending the conference where we first met one year ago.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the story of a gardener from Arizona and Oz.  We have plans to write a book together highlighting our experiences and lessons learned gardening in dry climates, 9,667 miles apart.

The next several days will be filled with garden visits, informative classes, a trade show and much more.  I’ll be sure to share the newest and latest garden products with you once I return home next week.

**Click here for Andrea’s blog.**
Do you like rainy days?

Chances are, if you live in the desert Southwest, you rejoice when the clouds roll in, and the rain begins to fall.


After the rain stops, have you ever noticed that plants look fresher and a brighter shade of green?

If so, it’s not your imagination.  The rain actually fertilizes your plants.


Take a moment and think back to your days in high school when you learned that the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of oxygen and nitrogen.

When rain falls, it brings some of the nitrogen down from the atmosphere straight to plants.  This form of nitrogen is easily absorbed by plants and fertilizes them as well as the soil.

How cool is that?


So the next time you enjoy a rainy day, it’s nice to know that your plants do too!
Tangerine Crossvine
Vines are a wonderful way to decorate vertical surfaces with lovely shades of green as well as colorful flowers.

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.

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?


What type of plants comes to mind when you are planning what to plant in your containers?

I’m willing to bet that purple hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’) and bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum) probably weren’t the first plants that came to mind.

Admittedly, I tend to think of using plants known for their flowers or succulents in my containers.  That is until a trip to California that I took this past April.

In the Napa Valley region of northern California, sits Cornerstone Sonoma, which describes itself as “a wine country marketplace featuring a collection of world-class shopping, boutique wine rooms, artisanal foods, art-inspired gardens.”

Believe me; it is all that and more.  There was so much to see, but what caught my attention were some unusual, yet beautifully planted containers.

Purple hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’), shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans), and violas.
Square steel containers were filled with plants that are most well-known for their foliage and are seldom used in pots.

I was intrigued, especially when the plants used are a part of the southwestern plant palette.

There were quite a few things about this type of container planting that appealed to me.

One, it is low-maintenance – no deadheading required.  Just some light pruning 2 – 3 times a year, to control their size.

Second, the plants are all drought tolerant (with the exception of the violas).

Third, I like seeing new ways of doing things and using plants prized for their foliage in containers is something we don’t see too often.  

Fast forward a few months, and I had to rethink what to add to the large, blue planter by my front entry.  Why not try the same arrangement?


Granted, the plants are smaller than those I saw in California, but given a few months, they should grow in nicely.

As you can see, purple hopbush will grow taller, and its evergreen foliage will add both shades of purple and green to this space.  This shrub is one of those highly-prized plants that does well in both sun and filtered shade.

The silvery gray foliage of bush morning glory will create great color contrast with the darker greens of the other plants.  It may not flower much in this semi-shady corner, but I primarily want it for the color of its leaves.

Lastly, I wanted to use a plant that had bright green foliage, so I added a single foxtail asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus Myers), which will thrive in this semi-shady exposure. 

What plants, that are known for their foliage, would you use in containers? 

To read more about my trip to Cornerstone Sonoma and its gardens, click here