Tag Archive for: Arizona gardening

desert tree with shrubs planted underneath in a garden

In a perfect world, everything runs smoothly with no unexpected problems, and while you may not know what the future holds, it’s always positive.

But, you know that isn’t how life works and this is certainly true in the desert garden.

The other day, I was walking through my back garden after returning from summer vacation, and what I noticed didn’t make me happy.

Several plants around my flagstone seating area were dead or barely alive. In fact, I need to replace at least ten plants in this area.

This lead me to wonder why I suffered these mishaps in my garden. The plants are about three-years-old and were doing fine earlier this year.

In the picture above, you can see a part of this area as it looked last fall. As you can see, all the plants are happy and thriving. Sadly, now some of them aren’t – especially the blackfoot daisy and shrubby germander.

So why did some die this summer?

Sometimes, the reason a plant dies isn’t readily apparent, but in my case, I knew what the answer was.

Back in June, a large branch from my palo verde tree broke off from being too heavy. Normally, my trees are well-maintained by a certified arborist company. However, due to the labor shortages prevalent post-Covid, most arborists are struggling with insufficient employee numbers.

So, my tree pruning, which normally takes place in March was postponed until July. As a result, the branch became too laden with new foliage and branches and broke off.

This particular branch shaded the seating area and a large number of plants around it. All of the plants in this area can handle full sun with no problem. However, they were accustomed to the filtered shade offered by the tree. So, when the branch fell, they were exposed to the harsh desert sun without having a chance to adjust to it over several weeks.

Mishaps like this are part of living with nature and it’s why there are no ‘perfect’ gardens. If you strive for a perfect garden, you are likely to experience disappointment now and then.

In my instance, I am making a list of replacement plants and may try something different in place of the blackfoot daisy – I am not sure what yet.

Unexpected problems like this are often an opportunity to try new plants. Fall is right around the corner, which is the best time of year to add new plants, so I will wait until then to get my new ones in.

I hope that your garden is weathering the summer heat nicely, but if it isn’t, don’t be afraid to try something new this fall!

succulent plants near a front entry in Arizona garden

Do you enjoy the summer heat?

I’m going record to state that I’m not a huge fan. I prefer to endure the intense heat indoors in the comfort of air-conditioning.

However, the plants in my garden don’t have that option. They are stuck outside no matter how hot it gets.

I always feel sad when I see plants struggle in the heat of summer. If I could bring them indoors to cool off I would 😉. But, let’s face it, that isn’t realistic or really what is best for plants.

For that reason, you will find the plants around my home are fairly heat-tolerant.

If you think that heat-proof plants are boring (and if I’m being honest, some are), many are attractive and beautiful.

One of my clients has a great example of an eye-catching entry that is fuss-free and shrugs off the heat of summer.

Artichoke agave (Agave parryi v. truncata), golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii), and lady’s slipper (Euphorbia lomelii), and yucca create a living sculptural landscape with their unique shapes.

As you can see, you don’t have to settle for a blah garden or one filled with heat-stressed plants. In fact, I loved this example so much that I featured it in my book, “Dry Climate Gardening” which is available for pre-order.

You know that I don’t care for fussy plants – I prefer plants that look great with little effort on my part and this succulent garden is a great example, don’t you agree?

I invite you to take a walk through your garden to see what plants may be stressed from the heat. It may be time for you to switch them out for more heat-tolerant ones.

gardening book

Have you ever had a big secret that you were dying to tell?

Well, I have been keeping a lid on a big project that has consumed most of my time over the past year and now I can finally spill the beans to you…

I have written a book on how to garden in a dry climate!

Oh, it feels so good to be able to tell you my exciting news!

Within the pages of the book, I share how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful garden that thrives in a hot, dry climate – whether you live in the desert or in semi-arid Mediterranean regions, you will get helpful advice and practical tips.

I’ve taken what I’ve learned in my 25+ year career as a horticulturist and landscape consultant and put it all here. As a California native and resident of Arizona, I know the unique challenges that we face gardening where dry conditions are prevalent, coupled with hot summers.

The good news is that you can pre-order your copy now.

I can hardly wait for you to see all I have included within its pages!

I absolutely love spring.  Some years, spring never arrives.  Sometimes spring goes missing and winter turns right into summer.  But not this year.  We have had beautiful weather and I have enjoyed being outdoors.  

But, all good things must come to an end.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I do like the summer, but you will find me inside much more often then outside.  Sometimes I wonder if some of my plants would rather be inside enjoying the air-conditioning.

Did you know that May and June are the most stressful months for plants in the desert southwest?  Well, it is.  Although the hot summer temperatures cool down in the evening, the daytime heat coupled with the extreme dryness of our climate is quite stressful for plants.  When the monsoon season arrives in July, the increased humidity and rain bring relief to the plants.

So, what is a plant to do when it cannot escape indoors from the heat?  Well, I would love to show you one example of what some shrubs do to deal with the dry heat.

To really see what I am talking about, look closely at the photo below…

love spring

love spring

Can you see it?  Can you tell what helps to protect the flowers from the sun?  

Hint: Look at the little hairs on the petals.

love spring

Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) and all other Leucophyllum species have tiny hairs on their flowers, stems and their leaves, which help to deflect the sun’s rays and helps to reduce the amount of water lost to the air. It is these tiny hairs that give the leaves a gray-green color.

love spring

Drive down any street in the Desert Southwest and you will see these beautiful shrubs throughout the residential landscape.

love spring

Even though I have worked as a horticulturist for over 10 years, I am still amazed at how plants adapt to their environment. 

By the way, you may be thinking that I took these close-up photos to show the tiny hairs covering the blossoms, but actually, my goal was to show how beautiful the flower was. It was only after I downloaded the pictures that I saw the tiny hairs.  

It makes you wonder what else you may find just by taking close-up pictures of plants….

A chilly winter's morning dawns over this Phoenix garden

A chilly winter’s morning dawns over this Phoenix garden

Winter is a beautiful time of year in the desert landscape with bright blue skies, fresh cool air, and the plants in the garden add subtle beauty.

A seating area beckons you to sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of the desert garden by horticultural filmmaker

A seating area beckons you to sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of the garden

This particular garden was the backdrop for a video shoot by the horticultural filmmaker, Plant Pop this past December. They asked me to be the subject of their first video shoot in Arizona, and I was thrilled to do so.

A variety of succulents add beauty to this large galvanized steel horse trough container

A variety of succulents add beauty to this large galvanized steel horse trough container

Shooting the film in my desert garden wasn’t possible as my backyard is undergoing renovation. So, I asked one of my clients if we could shoot film in her landscape instead. Thankfully, she said yes!

green hedge doorway

Hop Bush (Dodonaea viscosa) shrubs

We met at her house early in the morning with the filmmaker who set up the cameras and microphones. Our host is one of the most gracious people I know and kept us warm with the outdoor fireplace and feeding us donuts 🙂

I love talking about desert gardening

Being interviewed – I love talking about desert gardening!

We spent about 3 hours there with me talking about the unique challenges and possibilities of gardening in a hot, dry climate. During the filming, I walked around the garden, highlighting different areas throughout the garden. This garden has many ‘rooms’ and corners that display the beauty of winter in the desert.

The video has come out, and I’m so happy at how well the folks at Plant Pop condensed our visit into a 4-minute video so nicely.  I hope you enjoy it and come away inspired by what you can do in your own desert garden!

 

A Stroll Through a Flowering Winter’s Garden

AZ Plant Lady

Hi There!

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for visiting my blog. Whether you are a brand new visitor or a long-time reader, I appreciate you!

As many of you know, gardening in the desert can be challenging, and I have been helping people just like you in a variety of ways. My goal has been to guide, inspire, and support you in your desert garden journey; whatever stage you are at.

My outreach to desert gardeners is through a variety of channels, and you may not be familiar with all of them, so I decided to share them with you.

AZ Plant Lady

Ramblings From a Desert Blog

This blog recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and within it are over 1,000 posts filled with a lot of helpful information to help you in the desert garden.

Have a question about a specific plant or topic? Simply enter it into the search bar on the right and see if I’ve written about it. Chances are I have.

Desert Garden Resources to Guide, Inspire, and Support

My Facebook Group

This is where you will find me every day. Within this group, I share tips, stories, and other fun garden content with a friendly and supportive community of desert gardeners who on the same journey as you.

I’d love to have you join us! Click here to join.

Desert Garden Resources to Guide, Inspire, and Support

Instagram

If you love gardening photos, Instagram is a great place to be. You’ll find pictures of my adventures in the garden to help inspire you and teach you practical tips.

To watch my adventures via Instagram, click here.

Desert Garden Resources to Guide, Inspire, and Support

Through the Garden Gate Online Membership Group

I created an online membership club over a year ago in response to people who wanted more help in their garden journey. Since then, I’ve come alongside desert-dwellers like you who want a personal garden coach to guide them.

You can learn more about my membership here.

I want you to know that you aren’t alone in trying to figure out how to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful outdoor space that thrives in a hot, dry climate. I’m here to help!

AZ Plant Lady’s Must-Have Items for the Desert Gardener

hidden rose garden in the desert

I am a self-professed lover of roses and rejoice whenever I come across rose bushes that are thriving in our hot, arid climate and I also enjoy unexpected discoveries in the garden. On a recent visit to new client’s home, I came upon a hidden rose garden in the desert. 

hidden rose garden in the desert

As I walked up to the front door, I was preparing for my consultation with her and noted that her front landscape had a nice framework in place with mature plants.

palo verde trees and saguaro cacti

Upon walking into the backyard, I was greeted by expansive views of the desert, dotted with palo verde trees and saguaro cacti. Like the front, the landscape had good bones but, needed some attention to the subtler points, such as adding color.

A Hidden Rose Garden in the Desert

After discussing my recommendations for the backyard, we started toward the large side garden, when I caught a glimpse of the owner’s pride and joy – her rose garden.

A Hidden Rose Garden in the Desert

I experienced pure joy when I saw this lovely garden, filled with colorful roses that were happily growing in a desert landscape. Groups of roses were planted in beds, with amended soil and edged with rocks that created a natural look.

The owner inherited these roses, and she has put her green thumb to good use, but there are other factors that affect her success with roses. 

Tropicana Rose

Tropicana Rose

First, the roses are located in designated beds, with amended soil, such as compost and steer manure. Second, and perhaps most importantly for a desert garden, they are located in an area that has filtered sunlight. While roses can grow in full sun, they can struggle in the summer, and appreciate some relief. Third, she feeds her roses in spring and fall with a rose fertilizer.

A Hidden Rose Garden in the Desert

Although I lean toward using plants that look great with little fuss, I make an exception for roses. I have grown roses for over 25 years, and now I’m testing new roses for rose growers to see how they do in a low desert garden. 

I firmly believe that if a specific type of plant brings you joy, then it’s worth a bit of extra work, like roses.

A Hidden Rose Garden in the Desert

As I stood in my client’s rose garden, I looked out onto the saguaro forest that stood outside her backyard wall and was struck at how beautiful this colorful oasis stood in stark contrast with its surroundings.

Growing roses in the desert doesn’t have to be difficult, but there are factors that affect your success. I’ve compiled my rose-growing posts into a single list, which you can access here

Books for Waterwise Gardening

Books for Waterwise Gardening

Gardening in a dry climate comes with unique challenges where water is viewed as a precious resource and needs to be used wisely. Does that mean that you cannot have a beautiful garden?  Absolutely not!  You can have an attractive outdoor space filled with beautiful plants and a vegetable plot as well with proper planning with help from these water-wise books.

Today, I would like to share my final installment for gifts for the gardener by sharing not one, but two books that are worth adding to your gardening library.  

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

Books for Waterwise Gardening

Waterwise gardening

If you are looking to create a drought tolerant landscape but are in need of ideas and guidance, look no further than The Water-Saving Garden, by Pam Penick.  

The book opens with a chapter dedicated to inspiration with several types of water wise gardens highlighted to help the reader determine which one is right for them.  Lovely, color photos of landscapes display the incredible beauty of gardens that conserve water.

Books for Waterwise Gardening

Waterwise gardening

Designing a water-saving garden entails including several elements such as contouring, permeable building materials, and more to help conserve water and Pam does a great job of talking about each type and how to incorporate into the landscape.

Books for Waterwise Gardening

Plants that are native or adapted to survive on little water are the backbone of the water-saving landscape, and most are surprisingly attractive.  A substantial list of drought tolerant plants will have you imagining how they will look decorating your outdoor space. Helpful tips for when to plant as well as alternative locations for growing plants are included within the pages of this book, and the author doesn’t stop there – she has an entire section of how to incorporate water or the appearance of water in the landscape with water features and plants.  

The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water is a book that will help readers create a water-wise landscape filled with beauty and would make a wonderful gift for the gardener in your life or yourself.  

Pam has another book, Lawn Gone, which I bought a few years ago, and it sits in a prominent place in my garden library.  It’s filled with inspiration and guidelines for a grass-free landscape.

Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert & Dry Times: The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening without Wasting Water

I enjoy my edible gardens very much and so I was excited when Sasquatch Books provided me with a free copy of Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert & Dry Times: The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening without Wasting Water.  I certainly wish this book had been around when I first started.  Vegetable gardening comes with its set of challenges like watering efficiently and creating a micro-climate that is favorable to growing vegetables.  This book addresses these issues and more.

Whether you are a beginner or have grown vegetables in a different climate, this book is a must have for those who find themselves living in an arid region.

successful vegetable garden

Location, location, location is perhaps the most important part of a successful vegetable garden.  Of course, not everyone has the best location and the book talks about what to take into consideration when deciding where to grow your vegetables in addition to ways to modify the dry climate to make it easier for them to grow in a dry climate.

growing vegetables in raised beds and even containers

Guidelines for growing vegetables in raised beds and even containers are provided along with how to amend the desert soil so it can sustain vegetables.  Perhaps the most informative chapters for desert gardeners are those addressing several ways to irrigate as well as a list of the best varieties of vegetables for arid climates.  Additional chapters teach how to control harmful pests and solve common problems.  

If you or someone on your gift list is new to the desert or simply want to begin gardening, both of these books are filled with inspiration and guidance.

Toilet Paper Rolls and Vegetable Seeds…

Anna's Hummingbird sitting in front of my kitchen window.

Photo: Anna’s Hummingbird sitting in front of my kitchen window.

Hummingbirds are arguably the most popular birds in our gardens.  It’s not unusual to find hummingbird feeders hanging, enticing these flying jewels to come and drink of the sweet sugar water.

Of course, there are a large number of plants that promise to lure hummingbirds into your outdoor spaces as well so that you can sit and enjoy their antics.

But, what if you don’t have much space for gardening or maybe you simply want to create a special place for hummingbirds to visit.

container hummingbird garden

Well, a container hummingbird garden may be just the solution for you.

container hummingbird garden

I am very fortunate to have hummingbirds in my Arizona garden throughout the entire year.  Early last year, I decided to create my own hummingbird haven in some old plastic pots.  I gave them each a new coat of paint and got started.

container hummingbird garden
container hummingbird garden

My son and dog, Polly, came out to help me add the new plants.

container hummingbird garden

At first, the plants looked rather small and straggly.  But, I knew that it would only a matter of a few months and they would fill out and look great.

It’s been about 20 months since I planted my hummingbird containers and I am treated to the view of these tiny birds sipping from the flowers with their long tongues.

I created a short video to show people what my garden looks like now and how they can create their own hummingbird haven with only a container.  I hope you enjoy it. 

For a list of plants that I used in my containers, click here.

**What are your favorite plants that you use to attract hummingbirds?

There are many flowering perennials that I can think of that only flower once a year and many people think that the lovely blooms of penstemon count among them.

penstemon

Photo: Parry’s Penstemon

But, did you know that if you prune the flowers just as they begin to fade that you can stimulate another flush of colorful blooms?

Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida), Parry's Penstemon (Penstemon parryi) and Parry's Agave (Agave parryi)

Photo: Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida), Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi) and Parry’s Agave (Agave parryi)

I’ve grown penstemon for years and recently planted a Parry’s penstemon in my front yard. I enjoyed seeing its pink blossoms waving in the breeze and the hummingbirds who stopped by for a drink of nectar.

Parry's penstemon

The individual flowers began to fall, leaving only a few behind, which is the best time to prune the flowering stalks back.

Timely Pruning Produces Second Round of Flowers

If you wait too long, the chances are that you will lose your window of stimulating your penstemon to produce more flowers. It’s best to do this when there are a couple of blossoms left on the plant.

young penstemon

young penstemon

This is what my young penstemon looks like right now, but within a couple of weeks, new flowering spikes will begin growing.

The reason that pruning off the first set of flowers stimulates a second bloom period is that the penstemon’s goal is to produce seeds. To do that, they produce flowers to attract pollinators and once pollinated, the flowers drop and the seed develops. However, when by pruning off the flowering spikes when there are a few flowers left, we disrupt the cycle and the plant will produce another set of flowers for the purpose of producing seeds.

second bloom for several penstemon species

Photo: Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

Doing so will promote a second bloom for several penstemon species including firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) and Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi).

Pruning and Blooms in the Spring Garden