Wildflowers ,  California bluebells and red flax

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.

Wildflowers , Arroyo lupine with white gaura

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.

Wildflowers

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.

Plant a Wildflower Garden in Fall for Spring Blossoms

Wildflowers

**Do you have a favorite wildflower?

hidden garden in Encanto district in downtown Phoenix

Have you ever discovered a hidden garden in a surprising place?

A few years ago, I found myself driving through the historic neighborhoods of the Encanto district in downtown Phoenix. I had finished up a landscape consultation in the area and decided to drive through the nearby neighborhoods in the historic district.  

My initial goal was to see if I could find the home my grandparents owned in the 1940’s. While I didn’t find the home, I did find a house that stopped me in my tracks.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

What first drew my eye was this parking strip (also known as a ‘hell strip’) between the sidewalk and street, filled with a bounty of flowering annuals and perennials.

I couldn’t believe this was growing blocks away from the skyscrapers of downtown Phoenix.   

And so, I whipped out my phone and started to take pictures. The bright colors of California poppies, red flax, and plains coreopsis caught my eye, while in the background I noticed the old, Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum where the Arizona State Fair is held every fall.

Thundercloud' sage and red yucca. Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

As I made my way up the planting bed, I saw more colorful, annual flowers intermixed with globe mallow, ‘Thundercloud’ sage and red yucca.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

One flower that I did not expect to see in the desert garden, not to mention downtown Phoenix, was larkspur with its deep purple spikes.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

Multi-colored bachelor’s button flowers grew among scarlet flax and plains coreopsis.

As I stood admiring the effect that all these flowering plants had on the street landscape, I happened to meet the son (James) of the owner of the house. He was busy working out in the garden and was flattered at my interest in the garden he had created.

Last fall, James took three packs of wildflower seeds (multiple varieties) and threw them on the bare parking strip, added some compost on the top and watered well. Over the months, he has watched them come up and was thrilled at how the hell strip had been transformed.

He then offered to show me what he had done to the backyard – I could hardly wait to see it after seeing what he has done on the outside.

(A few of the photos are a bit blurry. I’m not sure what went wrong with my phone’s camera, but you can still get a sense of the beauty in the backyard.)

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

The backyard consists of a lawn split in two by a large planting bed with hollyhocks.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

I love hollyhocks and have grown them in the past. They self-seed and flower for me every spring.  All I give them is a little water – that’s all they need.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

The small patio in the back of the house is filled with an old-fashioned table and chairs, which fit the age of the home perfectly!

The pathway separates the two lawn areas and leads to the garage in the back. It was created using concrete molded into geometric shapes.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

Bermuda grass is allowed to grow into the cracks for an interesting look.

blanket flower, bachelor's button, and yellow daisy (Euryops pectinatus) from hidden garden

The patio is edged with flowering annuals such as blanket flower, bachelor’s button, and yellow daisy (Euryops pectinatus).

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

In this blurry photo, a large crown-of-thorns plant was thriving in a tiny container. Believe it or not, it is 20 years old and thriving in a very small pot. According to James, he waters it twice a week in summer and weekly throughout the rest of the year.

Two Chinese elm trees Hidden Garden

Two Chinese elm trees provide dappled shade on a beautiful spring day.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

A small potting bench stands in front of the wooden fence painted a greenish-chartreuse color, which blends well with the garden.

A fountain is in the center of this grassy area and adds the refreshing sound of water.

How relaxing would it be to enjoy this outdoor space, even in the middle of summer with all of its shade?

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

I bade a reluctant goodbye to the back garden and ventured back out to the parking strip. James then showed me where he had planted wildflowers next to the detached garage.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix
Bright pink and vibrant orange flowers from hidden garden

Bright pink and vibrant orange – doesn’t that remind you of the 70’s?

Tall poppies from hidden garden

These tall poppies were planted from 3-year-old seed that James was going to throw out. I’m certainly glad that he decided to plant them instead.

While old seed won’t germinate as well as young seed, you’ll often still get some seeds to sprout – just not as many.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

It is unexpected surprises like this that make life interesting. This hidden garden was fairly small but beautifully tended to. Ironically, most of what was growing in it grew from seed with little effort.

Keeping America (and Phoenix) Beautiful

Okay, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it October 1st just a few days ago? It’s hard to believe that November is already here. You know what that means – Christmas is just around the corner.

Last month was a busy one in the garden.  While there are not as many tasks to be done in November, there are still a few things to do.

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

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.

Continue planting cold-tolerant trees, shrubs, and perennials.  These include Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana), Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla), and Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata).  All of these plants do well in full sun.

Wait until spring to tropical flowering plants such as Lantana, Bougainvillea, and Yellow Bells since these frost-tender young plants are more likely to suffer damage from winter temperatures.

Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii)

Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii)

Other shrubs to consider planting now include Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii) and Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera). Each of these do well in an area that receives filtered sun.

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia mexicana)

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia mexicana)

Mexican Honeysuckle is one of my favorites because it thrives in light shade, is frost-tolerant AND flowers much of the year.

Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri)

Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri)

Perennials are a great way to add color to the landscape and Penstemons are some of my favorites.  Parry’s and Firecracker Penstemons are seen in many beautiful landscapes, but there is another that I love. Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) is not often seen but is stunning. It grows up to 4 ft. tall blooms in spring and its flowers are fragrant.

It’s not always easy to find but is well worth the effort. Use it in an area that gets some relief from the afternoon sun.

'Regal Mist' (Muhlenbergia capillaris 'Regal Mist')

‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’)

You may have seen this colorful ornamental grass blooming this fall. Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a lovely green, ornamental grass in spring and summer. Once cooler temperatures arrive, it undergoes a magical transformation.  Burgundy plumes appear in fall, turning this grass into a show-stopper.

'Regal Mist' in winter.

‘Regal Mist’ in winter.

In winter, the burgundy plumes fade to an attractive wheat color.

 November Garden

There is still time to sow wildflower seed for a beautiful spring display. My favorites are California Poppies, California Blue Bells, and Red Flax.

 November Garden

My edible garden is usually filled with delicious things to eat in fall.

Herbs are easy to grow and most will thrive throughout the winter. The one exception is Basil, which will die once temperatures dip below freezing. Harvest your basil before the first frost arrives. You can dry it and put it into spice jars or freeze it into ice cubes.

 November Garden

Thin vegetable seedlings. This is easiest to do using scissors and snipping them off at the soil line so that you don’t disturb the roots of the remaining seedlings.

Check your seed packet to determine how far apart the seedlings should be.

 November Garden

Many vegetables can be planted in November. Leafy greens like bok choy, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, and Swiss chard can be added. Sow carrots and radishes can also be planted in November.

 November Garden

I am so happy to be able to make salads from my own garden again instead of relying on a salad from a bag.

 plant garlic

If you haven’t done so yet, this is the last month to plant garlic in your garden. It is easy to grow, and I grab a few heads of garlic from the grocery store to plant.

Broccoli and cauliflower transplants can still be added to the garden this month. Onions, peas, and turnips can also be planted in November.  

If you haven’t already done so, adjust your irrigation schedule to water less frequently then you did in the summer months. More plants die from over-watering than under-watering, even in the desert Southwest.

I find that monthly gardening task lists keep me on track in the garden. This book is a great resource for Arizona gardeners:

 
 

*What will you be doing in your garden this month?

golf course

golf course

Last week, I was cleaning out old files that I had stored in a box from my years working as a horticulturist on golf courses, and I found this photo of me standing in a bed of wildflowers.

It was taken during my first year after graduating with my degree in horticulture in 1999. Throughout the golf course, was feature areas and I took this empty one and planted wildflowers including succulent lupine, red flax, and desert marigold (not blooming yet).

When I look at the picture, it brings back many memories of garden victories, along with a few failures – I call that life (garden) experience. 

*What were you doing in 1999?

A Boy Scout, a Horticulturist and a Lot of Plants

Do you like red yucca (Hesperaloe parvifolia)?

red yucca (Hesperaloe parvifolia)

Landscapes throughout the desert southwest come alive in spring and early summer as the coral-colored blooms of red yucca burst forth.

There are a few reasons that this succulent is a popular plant.

For one, its grass-like foliage add texture to the garden, even when not in flower.

Second, it needs little maintenance – simply prune off the flowers when they fade.

red yucca

The flowers are quite beautiful.

While the most common flower color for this fuss-free plant is coral, there are two other colors that I would like to introduce you to.  

Hesperaloe parvifolia

While not a new color, there is a yellow variety of “Hesperaloe parviflora” available.

It is the same as regular red yucca, except for the color.

Imagine the creamy yellow flowers against a dark-painted wall such as brown, green or purple?

Gorgeous!

Here is a color of “Hesperaloe parviflora” that is relatively new…  

Brakelights

This is a new variety of red yucca called ‘Brakelights’.  Its flowers are a darker red then the normal coral flowers.

I am always interested in differently colored varieties of my favorite plants.  It is an easy to add interest to your garden when people see a different color then they expect.

What color of “Hesperaloe parviflora” is your favorite?

Shared Love for Gardening….

For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you have probably heard me talk about the epidemic of over-pruning. But, that doesn’t mean that you should never prune. The other day, I was driving down a street in our neighborhood when I saw one of my favorite perennials, Angelita Daisies.

The problem was, that they didn’t look very attractive…

Angelita Daisies

They looked like tufts of green grass with dead sticks.

This is what Angelita Daisies should look like…

Angelita Daisies

So, what went wrong with my neighbor’s Angelitas?

They didn’t remove the dead flowers.

Dead-heading doesn’t have to be done to them all the time, but once every 4 – 8 weeks will make a huge difference in their appearance.

In general, dead-heading spent flowers stimulates the plant to produce more flowers.  The reason for this is that the goal of flowers is to produce seed.  So, if dead flowers are allowed to remain on your plants, they figure that they have done their job and will stop flowering.

Of course, if you want to collect seeds from some of your favorite plants, then allow the flowers to dry and then collect the seeds (this doesn’t work that well with hybrids).

But, if you want colorful flowers – then take a couple of minutes a month and clip off the dead flowers.

Would you like to know why Angelita Daisies are one of my favorite perennials?  Check out my post about this wonderful plant…

“A Bright, Sunny, Lesser-Known Plant”

I have a confession to make…

Sometimes I am a lazy gardener.  Are you shocked?  Will this revelation cause you to stop reading my blog?  

In my defense, I must say that life gets rather busy and at the end of a long day, I forgo the opportunity to do some needed garden maintenance.

However, my reluctance to perform needed maintenance has a rather beautiful benefit…

Neglected Herbs

Neglected Herbs

My herbs begin to flower in the absence of harvesting their leaves.

Now, I like growing herbs and harvest them so that I can use them both dried and fresh.

But, there are times that I don’t get out to harvest the leaves.  When herbs are allowed to grow without harvesting the leaves – they begin to flower.

My sage (above) has beautiful purple flowers, don’t you think?

Neglected Herbs

Neglected Herbs

Now, my green and purple basil plants are beginning to flower as well.

Herbs are best harvested before the begin to flower for the best taste.

So, what do you do when they start to flower?  Well, you have two options…

– You could let them flower for a couple of weeks and enjoy their beauty.

– Or you could prune them back severely and let the leaves grow back so you can harvest them.

What do you think I should do?