Forecasts of a heatwave in the desert may seem a rather foreign concept when temperatures in summer are routinely over 100 degrees.  However,  when temps are predicted to be 110 degrees and over, plants in landscapes that normally handle hot weather without complaint, can suffer. 

The best preparation for heat-proofing your landscape begins before summer.  However, with the imminent arrival of a heatwave, here are two tips that will help your plants survive.
 
 
1. Provide extra water by irrigating shrubs and groundcovers in the early morning hours for an extra 1/2 hour when temperatures are forecast over 115 degrees.
Plants can uptake water more easily in the early morning as opposed to being watered during the day.  During the heat of the day, plants have to devote much of their resources to handle the stress of the heat and cannot uptake water efficiently.  Therefore, it’s best to water early in the morning so that they are replenished with water and ready to face the excessive evaporation that will occur with temperatures over 115 degrees.  
*It’s important not to overwater plants, so if the heatwave lasts more than three days, skip a day between providing extra water.
 
2. Provide temporary shade for heat susceptible plants such as hibiscus or roses.
The sun’s intense rays are even more focused during a heatwave and can cause stress to the plant itself, including sunburn damage.  This is especially true for plants that receive hot, western sun or in areas that receive reflected heat.
 
For shrubs and groundcovers, leaves may wilt and turn brown in response to a heatwave.  Even cactus and other succulents can suffer sunburn or other heat stress, which often reveals itself as yellowing.
 
Temporary shade can be provided using sections of shade cloth.
 
 
In a pinch, a lawn chair can work to add a welcome spot of shade for a plant.
 
Old sheets tied to posts, chairs or trees can also provide temporary shading until the heatwave subsides.
 
 
As I mentioned earlier, the best way to handle a desert heatwave is wise planning including using native plants, mulch and the use of trees to provide shade.  
 
In the meantime, escape the heat by hibernating indoors as much as possible 🙂
 
**You can read more about how to create a heat-proof garden in an earlier blog post.  

Did you ever garden when you were a child?


I did.  My dad gave my siblings and me, each a small raised bed in the backyard.  We would spend hours leafing through the latest Burpee catalog, deciding what seeds we would buy to plant in our little gardens.


I never forgot my introduction to gardening under my father’s guidance, and I enjoy doing the same thing with my granddaughter, Lily.  

Lily, and her mom and dad, just moved into their first house, and she was very excited to be able to garden.

So, I took her to the local nursery in their town of Petoskey, Michigan and told her that she could pick two types of flowers.

After some deliberation, Lily decided on cosmos and marigolds.

We brought them home and got ready to create a pot filled with flowers.  

The pot was purchased from the local big box store and painted a bright shade of blue using spray paint.  

The first step was filling the pot with planting mix, which is specially formulated for container gardening as it holds onto just the right amount of soil as opposed to potting soil, which can become soggy.


As we planted the flowers, I took the time to explain to 4-year-old Lily how the roots help the top part of the plant grow and flower.


I dug the holes, and she would put each plant inside.


Then we patted down the soil and watered them well.


When we were finished, we had a colorful pot filled with cosmos and marigolds ready to sit by the front door.
As the flowers mature and eventually dry out, Lily will collect the seed and save it for next year’s garden.

We had a lovely time and Lily would call me “Plant Lady” and herself the “Plant Girl”.  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.

Have you ever spent time teaching kids to garden?  What did you plant?

This morning, I was on my way to a landscape consultation for my fellow Arizona gardener, Claudette, who blogs over at Gilbert Garden Girls.


As I always do before driving to an appointment, I entered the address into my car’s GPS and was pleased to see that it would only take 20 minutes to get to her house from mine.
  
However, as I drove down her street, the addresses did not match up with hers.  So, I took out my phone and brought up my trusty Google Maps app and found that my car’s formerly reliable GPS had misdirected me.  Luckily, I was only 1 mile away and so I was only a couple of minutes late, which truth be told, is normal for me.


My unanticipated detour did have a silver lining, though.

I drove by a house that had a beautiful hop bush shrub (Dodonaea viscosa).  


 This evergreen, drought tolerant shrub does wonderfully in our southwestern climate, and it is a frequent addition to landscapes that I design. 

Hop bush is quite versatile and relatively fuss-free, especially if maintained by pruning every 6 months or so, as shown above. 


Here is another example of a hop bush shrub that has been pruned more formally, which it handles well.


 Of course, you can always let it grow into its more natural form as a large shrub.

For more information on hop bush including what its flowers look like and why it’s becoming a popular substitute for oleanders, you can read my earlier blog post – “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Hopbush the Alternative to Oleanders.”


Have you ever seen this shrub where you live?  How was it maintained?  As a shrub, hedge or small tree?

Do you enjoy reading magazines about home and gardening?  I do.

Often with the busyness of life, I don’t have as much time to read magazines as I used to.  But, always make time for my favorite subscription, which is Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine.

I enjoy thumbing through the pages that are filled with colorful photographs and articles about beautiful landscapes and lovely home decor with a Southwestern flair.



I must admit that I have been impatiently waiting for the June issue in my mailbox.  Day after day, I volunteered to go out to get the mail and several times, would come away with a handful of junk mail and bills and little else.

But, finally, it came.

So, why was I so excited about this particular issue?


Because my first article for Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine was contained within its pages.

Two months ago, I was contacted by one of the editors and was asked if I was interested in writing for them.  Of course, I said yes!

I visited a stunning garden and met with the homeowners as well as the architect who helped them create their landscape.  

It was a slightly new experience for me as I had to interview the homeowners, their architect, gardener, and builder.  

There was so much to see from multiple water features laid with handcrafted Spanish tiles, beds of roses around the pool, a Southwestern Zen garden and an edible garden.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend grabbing a copy so you can see this spectacular outdoor space.  There are also several other lovely gardens featured in the magazine as well.


You can also view the article online, here.

I look forward to more opportunities to write for this fantastic publication.

If you don’t have a subscription to this magazine, you can get two years for the price of one for readers of my blog.  Click here for details.

One of the many things that I enjoy about my job is when I am asked to visit school gardens.

You can read about a previous school garden visit here.


Yesterday, I was asked to come to my daughter, Gracie’s, class to talk about what I do as a horticulturist.  


As I’ve shared before, Gracie has autism.  She and the other kids in her class have been learning about gardening, which includes having their own school garden.


The kids were so excited to show me what they were growing.


Healthy, green tomato plants were laden with new fruit that the kids took the time to show me.  Even though they were hidden underneath the foliage and still green, they knew where each new tomato was.

Gracie was anxious to show me a young squash growing.


The only red tomato in the garden took center stage.


In addition to growing plants, the kids were also learning how to compost, which they will use to help enrich the soil around their garden.


At the end of the garden plot, was a grove of struggling citrus trees along with a few grape vines.

The teachers and class had just inherited this neglected citrus grove and wanted to learn how to care for them.


Despite years of neglect, the trees were still had some fruit.


An old grapevine was growing into the grapefruit tree and Gracie had to show me the lone cluster of grapes growing on it.


Finally, the kids showed me their new peach tree, which they earned the money to buy from their  recycling efforts.  

The peach tree will be the first, of hopefully many new fruit trees, that will line the walk to the garden.


I had a wonderful time with the kids and found myself teaching the teachers how to care for their new garden.

Last weekend, my husband and I went away to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  We’d been looking forward to leaving kids and work behind and spending time alone eating great food, sleeping in and long walks enjoying beautiful surroundings.   

30 years ago
 
Now with past anniversary milestones, my husband would give me a piece of jewelry, and you would think that being married for 30 years would be marked by maybe a ring or necklace, but I wanted something else for this milestone anniversary.
 
 
Last month, one of my blog followers sent me a photograph of his stunning torch cactus (Trichocereus/Echinopsis hybrid), ‘Flying Saucer’.  Ever since I saw the brightly-colored flowers of this cactus, I knew that I wanted one for my garden.
 
Since our anniversary trip was to take us through the city of Tucson, we planned a short diversion to B&B Cactus Farm.
 
As we pulled up to the nursery, I was hoping that they had a ‘Flying Saucer’ torch cactus just for me.
These cacti are native to South America and do very well in the desert Southwest.  Their large blooms come in many different colors and often repeat throughout late spring and summer.
 
 
Walking through the cactus nursery, there was a large number of agave, cacti, and other succulents, which were somewhat distracting me from my mission to find the section where the torch cacti were located.
 
Finally, I found them!
 
 
Some were in full bloom like this ‘Blood’ variety.
 
 
Toward the entrance, they had the larger specimens including a few large ‘Flying Saucer’.  
 
 
There were also some other hybrids as well.
 
 
It  harisd to believe that even the younger torch cacti could produce large, colorful flowers.
 
 
The blooms last only a couple of days, but there are often multiple blooms.
 
 
At this point, I should mention that while I appreciate many different types of cacti and use many in my designs, I only have a few in my landscape.  
 
 
But, because I love flowers, I wanted to make room for one of these lovely cacti.
 
It is hard to believe how these cacti, that blend into the background throughout most of the year, are completely transformed by these breathtaking blossoms.
 
Now, back to my decision.  As you might have expected, I was tempted by the other varieties of torch cactus.  While they did have the ‘Flying Saucer’ one that I wanted, they only had a few large specimens.  So my choice was to buy one large one or two smaller torch cacti for less money.
 

 

 
I elected to buy a smaller ‘Ember’, which looked similar to the ‘Flying Saucer’ and I picked the ‘First Light’ since I love pink flowers.
 
 
As we drove away, I looked back at my new torch cactus in the back seat thinking that I couldn’t wait to plant them when we got home.  My husband smiled and said, “You never cease to surprise me, choosing cactus to mark our 30th anniversary rather than jewelry”.
 
We had a wonderful weekend together, and my torch cacti will be planted this week.  I’ll be sure to show you pictures of their blossoms.  Have you ever seen a torch cactus or perhaps, have one yourself?
 
For more information on these cacti and their beautiful flowers, click here.

Drive through any Southwest neighborhood and you are highly likely to see cacti growing alongside shrubs and groundcovers.  


I must admit that I don’t have a lot of cactus in my own landscape – there are three to be exact.  But, the few that I have, I find myself particularly attached to.


This is my Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus), which I brought home as a single cactus cutting over 10 years ago.  As you can see, it has grown a lot since then, growing taller and producing new stems.


Three years ago, we took a cutting from this cactus and gave it to our friends and neighbors, who live kitty-corner from our house.  

Newly planted – March 2013.

Every since then, I’ve kept my eye on this newly planted cactus watching with interest as it grew.

November 2013

Eight months later, two new stems began to emerge.  You can see the parent cactus in our yard in the background.

March 2014
A year later, the new stems were becoming more noticeable.

March 2015 – 2 years later

I was surprised at how quickly it grew.

Three years after planting.

Today, as I was driving home, I noticed a new little stem beginning to emerge.  

Many different types of cacti can be planted from cuttings and it has been so much fun watching this one go from a single ‘spear’ to one with multiple stems.  

Have you ever planted a cactus cutting?  If so, what kind and how did it grow for you?

Click here, to read how to plant a cactus cutting.

Well, another road trip is drawing to a close, but not before two more fun-filled days.



After leaving San Francisco, we headed up toward Napa Valley.  Despite it being a rainy day, we were determined that getting a little wet wouldn’t hinder us from exploring this area.


Our first stop was (not surprisingly) a winery.  Many wineries were surrounded by beautiful landscapes and to be honest, I like plants more than wine, so I spent more time outside than inside sampling wine.


Olive trees and roses were prevalent in landscape beds alongside grape vines.


Young grapes were beginning to appear on the vine.


Ivy climbed up the walls of buildings and neatly trimmed boxwood shrubs enclosed areas filled with roses and shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans) shrubs.  


The green hills were studded with oak trees and tall poplar trees were also used throughout the area.


The next morning was sunny and warm making it a perfect day to spend exploring  Cornerstone Sonoma with its trendy stores and gardens.


Many of the stores were filled with items for both home and garden while others offered stylish clothing with a casual theme.  


An artisan created ollas onsite.  These clay containers are buried in the ground and are an old-fashioned way to water plants that have seen a resurgence in popularity. 

Also offered for sale were shallow basins that mimic the appearance of wood.  They were filled with water and used as containers for plants.


Old grape vines were used as borders for garden beds as well as for an accent piece in the garden – you could also buy some for your own garden.


Unique, rusted metal containers were for sale, just waiting to be taken home and planted.

Throughout the shopping area were creative container plantings that I really liked.  They were housed in square metal containers and filled with purple hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’) and bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum).  The focus on these containers wasn’t on flowers but rather on the colorful foliage of the plants.

One very exciting element of Cornerstone Sonoma is their new partnership with the folks at Sunset Magazine who are moving their test gardens and their test kitchen to this popular spot in Napa Valley.


While the official opening isn’t until mid-May, the Sunset Test Gardens were well on their way to being completed.

Large amounts of plants were still waiting to be planted in the new Sunset test gardens, which is where new plant varieties will be evaluated while also allowing the public to see them up close.

Landscapers were hard at work planting the new gardens.


 There are a lot of creative garden structures and I hope to see these gardens someday once everything is finished.



Next on our tour was the existing Cornerstone Gardens, which are described on their website “as  an ever-changing series of gardens, showcasing innovative designs from international and local landscape architects and designers.  They create a cultural and creative haven, celebrating the connection between art, architecture and nature”. 

“There are currently nine Cornerstone Gardens. 
Continually in a state of evolution, some garden installations will be in place for a season, while others will remain for several seasons.”

Approaching the gardens, the main path takes you by a grassy area, dappled with shade.  The focal part of this area is the ‘plastic pinwheel flower garden’.  Passersby enjoy this fun take on a traditional flower bed – especially kids.

Individual gardens were surrounded by Japanese privet hedges, creating a sense of mystery as you walk toward the entry into each one.

One of my favorites was In the Air by Conway Chen Chang.  “This garden is intended to give the viewer a better sense of the human relationship to air in a very playful and whimsical way.”

Wisteria Vine

Clematis flowers
A curved path with uniquely-shaped step stones sits beneath curved metal rebar with clematis vines.

The next garden was filled with plants that are popular in the Southwest, including Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.

Garden of Contrast by James Van Sweden and Sheila Brady

“This is an experience of contrasting texture, form, color, and scent that changes with the seasons.”

I love contrasting textures in the landscape and using agave with its bold shapes alongside ornamental grasses and their wispy texture creates drama in the garden.

Eucalyptus trees
This garden was the most unusual, in my opinion and paid homage to the eucalyptus tree.

Eucalyptus Soliloquy by Walter Hood & Alma Dusolier

“A celebration of the non-native eucalyptus trees in the Sonoma Valley.”

Driving throughout Southern, Central and Northern California, eucalyptus trees are almost as  familiar as native oak trees.
Wire cages held strips of eucalyptus bark and decorative eucalyptus seed pods were piled at the base.


The wire cages framed an attractive view with a pond filled with waterlilies.

Rise by Roger Raiche and David McCrory

“A tubular experience that stirs and arrange of emotional response.  A place for interaction and play.”

I loved the use of contrasting colors and textures in this garden, don’t you?


The view at the end of the ‘tunnel’ was a field of grape vines.

We spent a wonderful morning at Cornerstone Sonoma and I highly recommend visiting if you ever find yourself in San Francisco (it’s about 1 hour north).

As we left Napa Valley, heading back toward to San Francisco and our airline flight back home, I found that crossing the famous Golden Gate Bridge the perfect way to finish a fabulous road trip.



Thank you so very much for coming along with me.  


We will be back on the road next year!

San Francisco has been a popular destination for me and my family.  While I was born and grew up in Southern California, both my parents are from the northern part of the state.  As a result, trips to the San Francisco area were frequent events in my childhood as well early in my marriage when our two oldest girls were young.

For this part of our road trip, we decided to do something that we had never done in San Francisco – visit Alcatraz – or more specifically, the gardens of Alcatraz.



Believe it or not, Alcatraz has gardens, many of which were created and tended by the inmates themselves.

The boat ride to the island of Alcatraz is very short as it is only 1-mile away.


However, as you leave the dock, the views of the city of San Francisco as spectacular.


Coit Tower, which was built in 1933, stands sentinel as boats come and go.


Off in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge traverses the gap between the city of San Francisco to the south over to Marin County to the north.


As we neared the Alcatraz Island, you could see the much of the city.


As you approach the 22-acre island, you notice that part of the island is covered in greenery.


Century plant (Agave americana) grows wild along the hillside and many were flowering.

Getting ready to dock, you get a good glimpse of the structures on the island, which housed prisoners 1934 – 1963.  Before that, it was a U.S. military prison.


It was believed, and correctly so, that no inmate could successfully escape through the waters of the bay with its strong currents.


After you disembark from the boat, you are greeted by a park ranger who gives you guidelines for your visit.  Basically, you can’t take food anywhere on the island (other than the dock area) and you must not remove any plant material.


There are a large number of birds who call this island their home and this was nesting season, so some of the areas were off limits.


Now, it was time to climb up to the top where the prison building was located – the equivalent of 13 stories.  There was a tram for those who couldn’t make the walk to the top.


The walk to the top was a gradual slope with no stairs.  These stairs were roped off.


I was so proud when I reached the top and looked down to see how far I had come.


We entered the prison, which offers a great audio tour.  


The cells were still there and some were set up as they were when this prison still held inmates.

Details of escape attempts were shared during the tour.


Former inmates said the it was torture to be able to see the city just off in the distance while they were stuck in this horrible place that was cold and drafty.


The part of the tour that was really difficult was walking into a cell where prisoners were held in solitary confinement.  Once the doors closed, there was no light and total darkness.

While the prison tour was very interesting, I was much more interested in the gardens on this rocky island.


The gardens begin along the roadside the leads up toward the top of the island where the prison is located.  



It was almost surreal to be walking along, enjoying the beauty of colorful plants and mixtures of textures on the way to a stark prison where prisoners would be, for the most part, quite miserable.


One of the few bright spots for the inmates were the gardens that they tended.

One former inmate enjoyed gardening on the island so much that he went on to have a

 successful career as a landscaper once he was released.



As you might imagine, it was a privilege to work in the gardens and gave prisoners a brief respite from their incarceration.  Inmates were trained how to care for plants, many of which were donated.


While the garden plants on Alcatraz aren’t native, they do thrive in the harsh climate of the island.  This red valerian (Centranthus ruber) does so well on Alcatraz, that is growing out of a wall.

Canada geese with their goslings explore part of the garden.

A seagull sits on her nest amidst colorful ice plant.

Parts of the garden were roped off because feathered residents of the island were nesting and raising their young.


However, we were still able to see them from above.  This section of the garden was called the Officer’s Row Gardens.


The inmates and staff weren’t the only residents of the island.  The families of the staff also called Alcatraz home and assisted in the creation and care of the gardens. 

As there are no prison staff or inmates to take care of the gardens anymore, volunteers come to maintain the garden areas.


What a cool way to volunteer!



Built in 1929 the warden’s house was created after the popular Mission Revival style.  In 1970, a fire destroyed much of the house.  The skeleton still stands.

The Bay Bridge visible from an old window from the warden’s residence.

Our visit to Alcatraz lasted about 2 hours, which took us through the prison building and allowed plenty of time to explore the picturesque gardens.


It also serves as a good reminder that it pays to follow the law 🙂


If you would like to learn more about the gardens of Alcatraz, click here.


What is the tallest tree that you have seen?  


See how tiny I am compared to the trees?

How about one that is over 250 ft. tall?

Our journey took us to a place that I have been to at least ten times – from trips as a small child, a teenager, as a young mother and finally as a grandmother.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park is located in the mountains outside of Santa Cruz, California, and as you will see, it is a truly incredible place filled with stunning beauty among giant redwood trees.


Upon entering the park, you notice the shady conditions with spots of sunlight shining through.

On the left is a large cross-section of a redwood tree that fell in 1934.

What is special about this tree is its age.



Tree rings tell the age of a tree and this tree has lived through many historic events, including the birth of Jesus, indicated by my finger.



This outer ring is from when Lewis & Clark’s expedition in 1804.



As many times as I have seen this display, it never ceases to amaze me at the longevity of these Coastal redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens).

Visitors take a leisurely stroll along the .8 mile-long path that meanders through the redwood grove.


The enormous height and size of the trees are hard to understand until you see someone standing next to them.

Compare the perspective from the photograph above and the one of the same area below, except now I am standing at the end of the path.



It’s hard to see me, as I am so dwarfed by the trees.

Coastal redwood trees grow along a narrow corridor from Big Sur to southern Oregon.



Rainfall is just one way that the redwoods receive the water they need.  The fog that primarily occurs in summer can provide up to 50% of their water needs.  

The lower leaves (needles) are flat, which allows water droplets from the fog to drip down to the root zone.  The upper needles that are exposed to more sunlight are rounder and have a thicker coating, which protects them from excess evapotranspiration (losing water from their leaves).



The walk through the trees is quite educational, with certain trees singled out for special attention. 

Our favorite has always been the tree that has a ‘wooden cave’ inside its base.


The Fremont tree has a hollow base that was created from a fire long ago.  John C. Fremont was exploring California in 1846 and allegedly camped inside the tree.

Over time, the outer part of the tree has been slowly growing back over the old fire damage, creating a ‘wooden cave’.  The opening is gradually closing up, making it difficult for adults to step inside without doing a lot of crouching.

While these trees are very long-lived, our family has seen the Fremont tree change. 
-In the 1950’s my mother and her entire family of six, could walk through the hole of the tree and stand up inside.
– In the 1970’s I did the same with my family.
– Once the 1990’s came around, I brought my kids to this place and while we had to crouch to enter the tree, we still could.
– Fast forward to 2016, and the opening is too small for me to want to crouch to get inside – I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get back up 😉


Walking next to these old, majestic trees, you cannot help but get a healthy perspective on what’s going on in your life and the world when you consider all the history that they have lived through.



The photos above are all of the same tree.  It took three separate photos to get the entire tree.


The lush undergrowth is filled with ferns, greenery, and some shade-loving iris.

The visitor center has been recently renovated and is filled with great displays, which detail the ecosystem of the majestic beauties including the wildlife and other plants.

If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, I invite you to take the 1 hour and 20-minute journey to this special place.  While you are in Santa Cruz, you can stop by the beach and the Boardwalk.


After leaving the Big Basin Redwoods, we drove up the adjoining mountain, 5 minutes away on a hunt for a cabin that used to belong to our family.

The cabin was owned by my mother and her siblings.  For years, we would all travel to the cabin where we would spend our summer vacation together with aunts, uncles, and cousins.

The cabin had three self-contained levels and a deck around the middle level.  We had heard that the cabin was not being used and that they path to the cabin had been blocked.  To be honest, we weren’t sure if it still existed.

So, I headed up a different trail, lower down, hoping to see our much-loved, albeit very rustic, cabin.



Imagine my surprise and delight when I found the cabin looking much the same as it did 16 years ago.

Fun-filled memories began to come back, including my cousin’s wedding held down in the forest and her reception on the deck of the cabin.

Our cabin was balanced precariously on the side of a hillside and had no foundation.  Believe it or not, it rested on jacks.

Back in 1989, we were staying there when there was an earthquake; that was a pre-cursor to the large one that hit the San Francisco area in October for 1989.  The cabin didn’t slip down the hill then and is still standing.


There are no occupants of the cabin, and we are not sure what the owners have planned.  Maybe they want to build a new cabin someday?

At this point of our trip, we were ready to head north to San Francisco.  Like most of our road trip, we don’t always travel the fastest way – our goal is to enjoy the journey, so we decided to travel on Highway 1 along the coast through the small towns of Pescadero and Half Moon Bay.


Pescadero is one of the few areas that has remained largely untouched in the 20 years since I had been there.  The church, with its tall steeple, still is the highest point in the town.



The two small grocery stores have a nice selection of baked goods – especially sourdough bread.  Californians are serious about their sourdough!



A few miles down the road is the larger town of Half Moon Bay.  The main street is filled with very interesting boutiques, restaurants, and galleries.  This beach town is also known for its nurseries.

Creative container plantings lined the street.


Succulents grow like they are on steroids in northern California!

 If you think that you have heard of Half Moon Bay before, you likely have.  Surfers flock to the beaches of this small town where waves 25 – 50 ft. and more are known to occur. 


San Francisco, here we come!