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Have you ever renovated the interior of your house? Seeing the old, outdated elements peeled away and replaced with new paint, flooring, etc. can leave you feeling refreshed and even excited. Well, I get to do that with outdoor spaces, assisting clients with already established landscapes, create an updated look. The key to this is NOT to tear everything out and begin from scratch – instead, it’s a delightful puzzle deciding what should remain and what is best removed and replaced.

I get so much satisfaction helping people create an attractive landscape, and even more when I get to see them several months later once the plants have a chance to begin to grow. Last week, I was invited to re-visit a new landscape that I designed, exactly one year after it was completed and was very pleased with the results.

I’d love to show you photos of the finished product, but first, let’s look at what I had to work with.

As you can see, the interior of the house was also undergoing renovation when I first visited. The front yard consisted of two palm tree stumps, a few agave, overgrown gold lantana, and boulders.

The landscape rock was thinning and mixed in with the river rock while the asphalt from the street was crumbling away.

The parts of the landscape that I felt could be reused were the boulders and the gold lantana. Also, the river rock could be re-purposed. All of the rest was removed.

To create the structure for the new landscape elements, additional boulders were added, and the existing contouring was enhanced by elevating the height of the mound and a swale in the front center. The circular collection of rip-rap rock serves to mask the opening of the end of a french drain which helps to channel water from the patio.

A saguaro cactus and totem pole ‘Monstrose’ (Lophocereus schottii ‘Monstrose’) were placed for vertical interest and the gold lantana that were already present were pruned back severely to rejuvenate them and others were added to create visual continuity. Along with the cactuses, other succulents like artichoke agave (Agave parrying var. truncata) and gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa) were incorporated to add texture with their unique shapes.

The existing river rock was removed, washed off and replaced along with the crumbling edge of the street, helping it to blend with the natural curves of the landscape.

Anchoring the corners with a grouping of plants is a very simple way to enhance the curb appeal of a home. This collection of volunteer agave and old palm tree stumps weren’t doing this area any favors.

This corner was built up slightly, creating a gentle rise in elevation. A large boulder joined the existing one, and a beautiful, specimen artichoke agave was transplanted here from the owner’s previous residence. Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) will add year-round color as they fill in. ‘Blue Elf’ aloe were planted to add a welcome splash of color in winter and spring when they flower.

Moving into the front courtyard, the corner was filled with an overgrown rosemary shrub. The dwarf oleander shrubs were also taken out as they were too large for the smaller scale of this area.

Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus) helps to anchor the corner and will grow at a moderate rate, adding more height as it grows.

Year-round color is assured with angelita daisies and ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, which won’t outgrow this area.

Moving toward the front entry, this area is somewhat underwhelming. The natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa) adds a pleasant green backdrop and is thriving in the shade, so should stay. However, the Dasylirion succulent should never have been planted here as it needs full sun to look its best.

The solution in this area is quite simple. Pruning back the natal plum to a more attractive shape makes them an asset. A lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) adds height and texture contrast and will grow in the bright shade. We kept the trailing purple lantana (Lantana montevidensis), for the color that it provides. Rip rap rock was placed to add some interest at the ground level.

Moving toward the backyard, another old rosemary shrub was removed from the corner in the background and replaced with ‘Blue Elf’ aloe and angelita daisy, repeating the same planting from the corner area in the courtyard, helping to tie these separate areas together.

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) were added along the shady side of the house where their spiky shape creates interesting shapes. The key to keeping them attractive is to remove new growth around the base as it occurs.

The corner of the backyard is a very high-profile spot and faces the golf course. The homeowner’s wanted to get rid of the dwarf oleander hedge to improve their view. Clumps of agave look slightly unkempt as volunteer agave were allowed to remain and grow. The gold lantana does add ornamental value as does the small ‘Firesticks’ (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’) and can be reused.

One of the clumps of agave was removed, which opened up this area and allowed us to add two aloe vera, which will decorate this corner with yellow blooms in winter and spring. The existing gold lantana provides beautiful color spring through fall. The centerpiece of this group of plants is the water feature.

It’s been over 20 years that I’ve been doing this, and I never get tired of seeing the transformation. I love being a part of it and combining the old with the new for a seamless design.

Thank you for allowing me to share this particular project with you!

Cereus cactus, golden barrel cactus, and firecracker penstemon

Is your outdoor space looking rather drab? If so, you aren’t alone – many landscapes can appear somewhat dull, especially if there is a lack of color. But, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

One of my favorite aspects of my job as a landscape consultant is to help my clients to transform their garden from drab to colorful and it is quite easy to do. 

I invite you to join me as I revisit with a client two-years after I created a planting plan for her existing, lackluster landscape. 

BEFORE – Corner of Driveway

Initially, this area did little to add to the curb appeal of the home. Overgrown red yucca plants and a cholla cactus created a ‘messy’ and boring look to this high-profile spot in the landscape.

AFTER

Removing the old plants and adding angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) and gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa), creates colorful interest while adding texture. Before, the boulders were hidden behind the overgrown plants, so now they serve as an excellent backdrop for the new additions. 

 

The corners of the driveway are one of the most viewed spots in the landscape and are often the first part people see when they drive by. It’s important to anchor them visually with plants that look great all year and preferably produce colorful flowers or have an attractive shape or color. I always like to add boulders to help anchor both corners as well.

These areas are also critical in that they create symmetry, connecting both sides of the landscape, which is done by using the same types of plants on each side.

 

Although there is no ‘before’ photo for the entry, here is an example of plants that will add year-round color because of their overlapping bloom seasons. ‘Blue Elf’ aloe blooms in winter and on into early spring while ‘New Gold Mound’ lantana will flower spring through fall, as the aloe fades into the background. A ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) brings a nice vertical element to this spot and will grow taller with age.

BEFORE

Along the front entry path, a tall cereus (Cereus peruvianus) cactus adds a welcome vertical element while the golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) creates excellent texture contrast. However, something is missing in this area, in my opinion.

AFTER

A colorful element was what was missing in this area. A single firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) adds beauty while also attracting hummingbirds.

BEFORE

On the corner of this lot was a palo brea tree with a large desert spoon and turpentine bushes. Overall, there was nothing exciting in this spot.

AFTER

The turpentine bushes were removed to make way for a set of gopher plants, which served to tie in this corner of the garden with the areas next to the driveway. These succulents flower in spring and add nice spiky texture throughout the rest of the year.

Purple and white trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) serve to create a colorful carpet throughout the warm months of the year. This type of lantana can struggle in full sun in the middle of summer in the low-desert garden but, thrive underneath the filtered shade of a palo verde tree.

When working with an existing landscape, I relish the challenge of determining what existing plants still add beauty to the outdoor space, or have the potential to if pruned correctly. Sometimes an ugly, overgrown shrub can be transformed into something beautiful if pruned back severely. Often, it’s up to me to decide what goes and what stays. Then, the real fun part begins, which is selecting what areas need new plants and what ones will work best.

I find that many people think that to renovate a landscape, you need to get rid of most of the plants and put in a lot of new ones. But, this is rarely the case. All you need to do is keep the plants that will continue to add to the curb appeal or create a beautiful, mature backdrop for new plants and new plants should be concentrated in high-profile areas where their impact will be maximized.

What would you like to get rid of in your landscape and what would you keep?

Noelle Johnson, AKA, ‘AZ Plant Lady’ is a horticulturist, landscape consultant, and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. While writing and speaking on a variety of gardening topics keeps her busy, you’ll often find her outside planting vegetables, picking fruit from her trees, or testing the newest drought-tolerant plants. 

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Globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Living in the desert southwest has many advantages, including being able to have a landscape filled with blooming plants all winter long when gardens throughout much of the country are brown or covered in a layer of snow.

Over the weekend, I stepped out into my garden to see how my plants were doing and took photos of those that were flowering.

**I’ve provided links to earlier blog posts where you can learn more about these plants and see if they deserve a home in your landscape.

First, were the globe mallow, which are just beginning to produce their colorful blooms. While the most common type produces orange flowers, they do come in other colors as well. I have red, pink, and white ones in my garden. You can learn more about this plant in an earlier blog post.

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)

Despite its small size, angelita daisy is a small powerhouse in the landscape that blooms off and on all year long. They thrive in full sun and look great when grouped next to boulders. During my walk through the garden, I discovered that this one has a volunteer Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) growing next to it. I’ll leave it alone as they will look great together.

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

This perennial delights hummingbirds with its red-orange blooms that appear in January and last well into spring. There are many different kinds of penstemon, which thrive in drought-tolerant gardens and firecracker penstemon is by far, my favorite. 

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

The delicate flowers of this ground cover don’t look like they can survive the intense heat of the desert garden, but blackfoot daisy thrives all year long with little fuss. I have mine growing alongside boulders and at the base of cactuses. I haven’t been able to determine exactly when they are supposed to bloom because mine always seem to be flowering. 

Purple/White Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis ‘Purple’ and ‘Alba’)

This groundcover form of lantana is a popular staple in the drought-tolerant landscape, but you seldom see it with two different colors. In winter, it is usually touched by some frost damage, but our weather has been unusually warm, so it is still flowering. Normally, you see all white or all purple, but not both together. While there is a variety called ‘Lavender Swirl’; it can be hard to find and somewhat expensive. I’ve replicated the same look in my garden, which I share in this earlier blog post.

‘Sparky’ Tecoma

Here is the newest addition to the front garden. It shouldn’t be blooming this time of year, but again, with the mild winter, it is getting a head start on spring. ‘Sparky’ tecoma is a new plant that is a cross between yellow bells and orange bells. The flowers are apricot in color with deep maroon centers. This shrub was created by an ASU professor, who named it after the school’s mascot. I am very excited to see it reveal its lovely flowers on either side of our large front window.

Do you have any plants that bloom in winter? Inside or outside, please share what is happening in your garden this month.

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One of the most rewarding things about my job is having the opportunity to revisit areas that I have designed.  Despite designing landscapes for over 17 years, I never tire of having the opportunity to explore them again to see how the landscape has matured.  When touring the landscapes, I take time to look at what worked and sometimes what didn’t.  I take these lessons with me and implement them in future designs.


Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) and feathery cassia (Senna artemisoides)
Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of a landscape that I designed for a church two years ago.  
I was asked by the landscape committee to create a landscape that would be filled with color during the cool season since that is when the majority of the members are attending.  

BEFORE:




The landscape was filled with over-pruned shrubs, many of which flowered in summer.  In addition, there were a large number of frost tender plants in the landscape that were unsightly when much of the residents were in town.

AFTER:


After removing the shrubs, I added feathery cassia (Senna artemisoides), which blooms in late winter and spring, along with the newer Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) which flowers all year long while staying at a rather compact 3 feet tall and wide size.
BEFORE:


When working with an existing landscape, I always try to keep mature plants that are healthy and fulfill the design criteria.  In this case, a Mexican (Yellow) Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana), that had been trained into a tree, which has evergreen foliage and flowers in spring and fall.

AFTER:


Blue Bell shrubs and golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) completed this planting area.

BEFORE:


In this area, a few shrubs, a barrel cactus and a lonely red yucca hang on from the previously designed landscape, all of which add little interest to the landscape.


AFTER:

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine) and desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Contrasting textures and color add interest to the landscape throughout the entire year.  Seasonal blooming creates an entirely different look to the landscape as well.

BEFORE:


As landscapes age, plants can become overgrown and to some, unattractive as was the case with this old desert spoon.  The lysiloma tree was in good shape and the decision was made to keep it.

AFTER:

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis syn. Hymenoxys acaulis)

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) is one of my favorite small perennials as its bright, sunny flowers appear throughout the entire year.

Valentine bush and feathery cassia serve as foundation planting.

BEFORE:


Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) had been used to create a hedge.  However, while pink fairy duster does flower in winter and spring, it isn’t a suitable choice as a formal hedge.  Rather, it belongs in a natural desert landscape and untouched by hedge trimmers.

AFTER:

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) in winter.


Pink muhly was added for welcome fall color when its plumes turn a vibrant burgundy color, which fade to an attractive wheat color in winter.  After being pruned in early spring, bright green growth quickly fills back in.

BEFORE:


This is a high-profile corner as it is one of the entries into the church parking lot.  As you can see, there was little to attract the attention of passersby.

AFTER:


Adding a combination of plants that will ensure year round interest no matter whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter.

Even though the purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) can die back to the ground in winter, the bright colors of the Valentine bush and feathery cassia will draw attention away from it.

BEFORE:


Three Agave americana were all that sat in this area, which offered little color and virtually no interest.  


I took the existing agave and spread them throughout the landscape, where they can create both texture and color contrast when paired with the softer shapes and darker colors of shrubs.  

One thing that I wish I had done differently was to space the shrubs in this area a little further apart.  This can cause landscapers to excessively prune shrubs into poodle shapes in an attempt to keep them from touching.  Pruning them severely once a year can keep them from outgrowing their space OR removing every other shrub once they become too large can take care of the problem.  

I hope that you enjoyed seeing the transformation of this landscape to one filled with cool season color.

Do you ever find yourself wishing that you had flowers to give to a friend or to decorate your table?


Instead of heading out to the store for a generic bouquet, how about creating a lovely bouquet straight from your garden?


Now before you say that you don’t have any flowers suitable for a bouquet, think again.  


Here are several bouquets from my garden and a few from the family farm….


Isn’t this a lovely arrangement?

Believe it or not, the flowers in these vases all came from plants that many of you probably have in your own garden.

My mother created this arrangement using gold lantana (Lantana ‘New Gold Mound’), orange jubilee (Tecoma x Orange Jubilee) and Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) flowers.  As you can see, it is beautiful, didn’t cost her anything and took minutes to create.


This is a bouquet that I created using flowers from my late winter garden.  Pink and white globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) coupled with Goodding’s verbena (Glandularia gooddingii) are a vision of pinks and purples.


I used a small pitcher to put cuttings of purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis), angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) and flowers from my cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco).


This antique milk of magnesia glass jar makes the perfect vase for sweet white alyssum (Lobularia maritima) , purple violas and pink bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides) flowers.


Flowers aren’t the only thing from the garden that you can use to create a bouquet with.  

A mason jar filled with cut branches from a kumquat tree looks lovely on this table in winter.


Maybe your winter garden has no flowers.  Well, don’t let that stop you.  A small vase filled with seedpods and dried leaves from a Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) looks great on my mother’s diningroom table.


Perhaps you’ve never thought that petunias could look be used in a vase.  But, if you use a small, shallow bowl, they can add a beautiful spot of color on your table.


Of course, roses always make a lovely bouquet.

Bouquets created from items in your garden are a great way to add a personal touch of beauty to your space.

So, are you inspired to create your own unique garden bouquet?  Step outside in your garden and take a new look at your plants – you’ll probably be surprised at how many would look nice in a vase.

**How about you?  What plants would you use to create a bouquet with?
Earlier this week, I mentioned I was being interviewed about drought tolerant gardening for several radio stations throughout the country.  
 
This morning, I am doing a live interview for the public radio station, KERA in Dallas, Texas.  I will be taking viewer questions throughout the program.  
*You can listen to it here, if you like. 
 
I must admit to being a little nervous, but am mostly excited to talk about a subject that I am passionate about and have a lot of experience with having lived in California and now Arizona.
 
 
 In my last post I talked to you about 10 steps toward a drought tolerant garden.
 
As I promised, it is time to decide what to plant in your water wise garden.
 
Today, let’s talk about one of my favorite group of plants – perennials. 
 
The perennials I am sharing with you can grow in a variety of climates throughout the United States and I will note their USDA planting zones.
 
*For best results, the following guidelines should be followed when planting these or any drought tolerant plants:
 
– Plant in well-drained soil.
-Amend the existing soil with compost at a ration of 1:1.
– The planting hole should be 3X as wide as the root ball to allow the roots to grow outward more easily and the plant to establish more quickly.
 
White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)
 
White gaura has a central place in my drought tolerant landscape.  I have three growing underneath my front window where I can enjoy their delicate, butterfly-shaped flowers that appear in spring and fall where I live in the low desert.
 
In cooler locations, it blooms spring through summer. This white-flowering native grows approximately 2 ft. tall and wide.
 
Hardy to zone 7 – 10, plant gaura in well-drained soil.
 
Penstemon species
The arrival of spring is heralded by the flowering spikes of penstemon.  There are many different species of native penstemon and all have a place in a drought tolerant garden. 
 
Hummingbirds will flock to your garden to enjoy the nectar from its blooms.  The base rosette of penstemons are approximately 1 foot high and 1 – 2 feet wide when not in flower.
 
The species you choose depends on your region and their cold hardiness ranges from zone 4 – 10.  Plant in full sun to filtered shade in well drained soil.
 
Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)
 
If you like white daisies, than this is a drought tolerant perennial that deserves a place in your garden.
 
Blackfoot daisies are a native, mounding plant that grow 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide.  Don’t let their straggly appearance fool you when you see them at the nursery – once they are planted and have a chance to grow roots, they will fill in and look great.
 
I like to plant blackfoot daisies next to boulders where their soft texture provides beautiful contrast.
 
Plant in full sun, well-drained soil.  Hardy to zone 5 – 10.
 
Angelita Daisy / Perky Sue (Tetraneuris acaulis – formerly Hymenoxys)
 
Here is one of my all time favorite perennials.  I use it often in my designs and landscapes that I have managed in the past.
 
Angelita daisies are native to the United States, which add a welcome spot of color to the garden.  Don’t let their delicate appearance fool you – they are very tough.
 
Plant them in groups of 3 or 5 for best effect in areas with full, (even reflected) sun to filtered shade.  Gardeners in zones 5 – 10, can grow this pretty little perennial that reaches 1 foot high and tall.
 
In zone 8 gardens, it is evergreen and will flower throughout the year.  For those who live in zones 5 – 7, it can die back to the ground, but will quickly grow back in spring and provide yellow blooms throughout the summer into early fall.
 
In zones 4 and below, angelita daisy is often grown as an annual.
 
Tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
 
The flowers of tufted evening primrose open at night where their white blooms illuminate the garden.  As flowers fade, they turn pink.
 
Plant this native alongside boulders or at the base of spiky plants such as sotol (desert spoon) where you can show off the contrast in textures.
 
Plant in full sun to filtered shade in well-drained soil for best results.  Hardy to zones 8 – 10.
 
Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
 
It’s hard to find a native plant that can compete with the golden yellow blooms of damianita.  
 
This shrubby perennial grows 1 foot high and 2 feet wide.  Masses of yellow flowers appear in spring and fall covering the bright green needle-like foliage.
 
Hardy to zones 7 – 10, damianita needs full sun and well-drained soil.  Prune back to 6 inches in spring after flowering has finished to keep it compact and reduce woody growth.
 
Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
 
While not a native, trailing lantana is a plant that is well adapted to arid climates and is a popular choice for drought tolerant gardens.  It also is a butterfly magnet.
*Lantana can be invasive in warm, humid climates but in arid regions, this is not a problem.
 
Trailing lantana grows up to 1 foot high and 3 feet wide.  Plant in full sun or filtered shade.  
 
Although lantana is not cold hardy (it grows in zones 8 – 10), it is often grown as an annual in colder climates.  Flowers appear quickly after the danger of frost has passed that last until the first frost in fall / winter.  Shear back to 6 inches in spring once the freezing temperatures have ended.
 
Any of these beautiful perennials will add beauty to your drought tolerant garden.  

Do you like spending hours pruning and fertilizing your plants?  Or maybe you are tired of having to spend money on monthly visits from your landscaper.



I have been asked to show some ‘fuss free’ plants for fall planting on Sonoran Living, which is a local lifestyle show on our local Phoenix ABC network. The show will air on September 10th at 9:00. (I must admit that I am a little nervous.  I am off to my favorite nurseries to select some plants for the taping this Sunday, after church).

So, enough about my nerves….

What if you could have a landscape full of beautiful plants that only need pruning once a year and little to no fertilizer? 

Now you may be thinking that I am talking about a landscape full of cactus, like the photo below – but I’m not.  

The key to selecting ‘fuss free’ plants is to choose plants that are adapted to our arid climate.

Here are a few of my favorite ‘fuss free’ plants that need pruning once a year or less…

Firecracker Penstemon

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) is great addition to any desert landscape.  It’s orange/red flowers appear in late winter and last through the spring.  Hummingbirds find them irresistible.  

Maintenance: Prune off the dead flower spikes in spring.

Hardy to -20 degrees.

Plant in full sun.

Damianita

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) is a low-growing groundcover that is covered with tiny green leaves.  Masses of golden yellow flowers appear in spring and again in the fall.

Maintenance: Prune back to 6″ in late February.

Hardy to 0 degrees.

Plant in full sun.  Damianita looks great next to boulders or lining a pathway.

Gulf Muhly ‘Regal Mist’

Gulf Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’) is a fabulous choice for the landscape.  This ornamental grass is green in spring and then covered in burgundy plumes in the fall.

Maintenance: Prune back to 6 inches in late winter.

Hardy to 0 degrees.

Plant in full sun in groups of 3 to 5.  Gulf Muhly also looks great when planted next to large boulders or around trees.

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) is the perfect plant for areas with filtered shade.  Tubular orange flowers appear off an on throughout the year that attract hummingbirds.

Maintenance: Little to no pruning required.  Prune if needed, in late winter.

Hardy to 15 degrees.

Plant in filtered shade such as that provided by Palo Verde or Mesquite trees.  Add Purple Trailing Lantana in the front for a beautiful color contrast.

Baja Fairy Duster

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) has truly unique flowers that are shaped like small feather dusters.  The red flowers appear spring through fall and occasionally in winter.

Maintenance: Prune back by 1/2 in late winter, removing any frost damage.  Avoid pruning into ’round’ shapes.  Baja Fairy Duster has a lovely vase-shape when allowed to grow into its natural shape.

Hardy to 20 degrees.

Plant in full sun against a wall.  Baja Fairy Duster can handle locations with hot, reflected heat.

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis formerly, Hymenoxys acaulis) is a little powerhouse in the garden.  Bright yellow flowers appear throughout the entire year.

Maintenance: Clip off the spent flowers every 3 months.

Hardy to -20 degrees.

Plant in full sun in groups of 3 around boulders.  Pair with Firecracker Penstemon for color contrast.  Thrives along walkways in narrow areas that receive full, reflected sun.
These are just a few ‘fuss free’ plants that you can add to your landscape this fall, which is the best time of year to add plants in the Desert Southwest.

*******************************

So, I will be heading to the television studio early Tuesday morning with my sister, who will help me set up and take photos of the whole experience.  I promise to share the video link for those of you who would like to watch it 🙂

**For more of my favorite ‘fuss free’ plants, check out my latest post.

This past week, I have been sharing with you my latest landscape project that is located next to a golf course.


I shared with you the tree and shrubs that I had chosen and not it’s time to show you what perennials and succulents that will be going in.


*All the following perennials are drought tolerant and require full sun with well-drained soil.



Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) is a fabulous flowering ground cover.  

It thrives in locations with hot, reflected heat and handles cold temperatures (down to 0 degrees F) just as well.  

In spring and again in fall, masses of bright yellow flowers cover this low-growing perennial.  When not in bloom, it has dark green needle-like foliage.



Newly planted landscape with Purple Trailing Lantana, Parry’s Penstemon, Desert Spoon, Palo Blanco trees and Damianita.
I have used Damianita in other landscapes that I have designed in the past (shown above), with great results.  

*The trick to keeping Damianita looking great is to shear it back in late spring.


Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) is my favorite flowering perennial.  The one pictured above, is in my own garden.

I am often asked about this brilliantly colored plant in spring when it is in bloom.

One of the reasons that I love this Penstemon is that is begins flowering in winter, in zone 9b and continues on into spring.  In cooler zones, it begins flowering in spring and lasts into summer.  It handles cold temperatures easily and is hardy to zone 5.

Hummingbirds find the flowers irresistible.  To prolong bloom, prune off the flowering stalks once the flowers begin to fade and you will be rewarded with another flush of bloom.

Angelita Daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis formerly, Hymenoxys acaulis) are what you could call one of my ‘signature’ plants, because I use them often, like the landscape I designed, above.

I find them invaluable in the landscape because they flower off and on throughout the year, with the heaviest bloom occurring in spring.

They easily handle full sun and reflected heat and look great in pots.  I like to plant them next to boulders in groups of 3 or 5 for best effect.   Cold temperatures are no problem either because they are hardy to zone 5.

Maintenance is easy – simply shear the flowers every 8 weeks or so. 

Now, so far I have shown you the trees, shrubs and perennials planned for this area.  But, I want to add succulent plants, which are also used as accent plants.  These types of plants add texture to the landscape because their unique shapes contrast well with the softer, more rounded shapes of the shrubs and perennials.


Weber’s Agave (Agave weberi) is a large agave that can grow 5 to 6 ft. high and up to 8 ft. wide.

In large landscape areas, I don’t want to use small succulents because it will be hard to see them unless you mass a lot of them together.  My budget won’t allow for that with this project.

I love how this large agave can stand up on its own.  I like to plant flowering ground covers underneath them.

Plant in full sun or light shade.  Weber’s Agave is hardy to zone 7.  *Agave need supplemental water in our climate to look their best.  I recommend watering twice a month in summer and once a month in spring and fall.  


You can’t get much more unique in shape and coloring then Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa-rita).  

I love the gray pads with shades of purple.  
The purple color deepens in cold temperatures or in times of drought.


In spring, yellow flowers cover this beautiful cactus.  

Hardy to zone 8, plant in full sun and well-drained soil.

**If you notice white cottony masses on your prickly pear, simply spray it off with a hose.  They are caused by an insect.

Okay, are you ready for my last plant selection for this new project?


It is hard to find a succulent that works harder then Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora).  Despite their common name, they aren’t a yucca.

The lower, succulent leaves resemble ornamental grasses.  In spring coral-colored flowers are borne above the grass-like foliage.


Hardy to zone 7, Red Yucca thrives in full sun.  While drought-tolerant, they do best with supplemental water.  

Maintenance is easy – just remove the flowering stalks as they begin to fade.  

*There is a common mistake that landscapers often make with this succulent plant.  To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, check out my previous post, “Do This NOT That”.

The last element for my newest project isn’t a plant at all, but it adds height and texture to the landscape without requiring any water or pruning…


Boulders!

I will use boulders interspersed throughout this flat area to add height.  The boulders will have either a succulent and/or flowering perennials planted next to them.

Well, I must say that I am excited to get started on this project.  We will wait until this fall for the planting.

I’ll be sure to take you all along as it progresses.

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7 days until my daughter, Rachele, comes home from the Navy!!!







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…



They looked like tufts of green grass with dead sticks.

This is what Angelita Daisies should look like…


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…

 I love taking walks in the spring outdoors.  All too soon, summer will be here and walks will have to happen in the early morning hours before the heat of the day arrives.  I suppose that I could always take a walk inside of our local air-conditioned mall, but I think that would get expensive after a while, don’t you?


Besides, I would miss the natural beauty outdoors….

So, let us continue our walk with my husband and my two twin nephews – Danny and Dean….

My favorite trees are starting to bloom right now.  Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) is a deciduous tree and from spring through fall, they are covered with beautiful pink flowers.
I have 4 of them in my garden.  They are thornless and are a small to medium sized tree.
We passed by another kind of my favorite plants, Angelita Daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis).  But, these definitely need a ‘haircut’.  Just grab a bunch of flowers in your hand and clip them back using hand pruners.  Soon, they will be covered with bright yellow flowers.
Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) is a wonderful succulent for the garden.  The bottom, looks grass but the leaves are actually succulent.  In spring, gorgeous coral-colored flowers are produced.
Maintenance is super easy.  Just clip back the flowers once they have died.
Here is a closer view of their gorgeous flowers….
Aren’t they beautiful?
Okay, here is another not so pretty photo.
You can see that this Evergreen Elm tree provides great shade, but the grass does not grow underneath it.  This is a very common problem for grassy areas underneath trees that provide heavy shade such as Pine trees, Carob, etc.
The most common warm-season grass grown in the desert Southwest is bermuda grass, which does not tolerate shade very well.  It need full sun to look its best.
So what can you do?
Unfortunately, there is not a warm-season grass that will grow in heavy shade.  But, you can plant shade-tolerant groundcovers, perennials or even succulents in the area instead such as Agave desmettiana, Autumn Sage, Yellow Bulbine, Santa Barbara Daisy, Justicia spicigera or Bat-faced Cuphea.

Okay, this looks like a whole post in and of itself that I will address sometime in the future in more detail 🙂
So, we were almost at the end of our walk and walking by my front garden and I saw one of my favorite perennial plants…
This Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) partially hides our water meter, but does not obstruct the meter reader’s ability to look inside.

You want to know something else?  I didn’t plant this Desert Marigold.  It is a volunteer.  Over 11 years ago, I planted two Desert Marigolds in my garden and then let their seed spread naturally.  I have about 7 of them scattered throughout my garden right now.


So, I hope you enjoyed our ‘walk’.  
I think Dean enjoyed it more then Danny….who fell asleep 😉