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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. 

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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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.*

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  


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

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.



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


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.

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)

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.

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


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.


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.

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).  

Agave are my favorite succulent of mine in my own garden and also finds itself a prominent addition to many of my landscape designs.


There is so much to love about agave, from the unique, rosette pattern of their succulent leaves to the dramatic flowering stalk that they send up toward the end of their lives.



While I have several species of agave, whale’s tongue is one of my favorites.

This agave first drew my attention when my friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, wrote about the one growing in her garden, where it takes center stage in her backyard.

Since then, I have seen several throughout the greater Phoenix landscape as well.  


There is so much to like about this agave including how its blue-green color adds great color contrast to the landscape.


I also happen to like the unique shape of its leaves, that really do resemble a whale’s tongue.

Do you think this lovely agave deserves a place in your landscape?

Learn more about how and where to plant this agave as well as what plants to pair it with for maximum impact in my latest Houzz plant profile.  



Have you ever seen this agave in the landscape?  What would you plant alongside it?

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the television camera?  



What we often see is just a small portion of what goes on behind the scenes as I have learned during my occasional appearances on television.

Today, I thought that I would let you see what goes on behind the scenes getting ready for a gardening segment on television. I documented what went on behind the scenes of my television appearance last Friday.

You may be surprised to find that appearing on camera is the easiest part.  Here is how it all happens…

– Typically a week ahead of time, I am contacted by the producer of the show I am being asked to appear on.  They give me a general gardening topic and then send me a guest sheet to fill out.  On the guest sheet, I list general questions for the host to ask and send in photos for them to use in the segment as well.

– Two days before my scheduled appearance, I visit my local nursery to get the plants and other ‘props’ that I will need.

– The day before, I am busy ‘cleaning’ up the plants – removing any dead leaves and/or flowers and wiping down the nursery containers with a wet rag to remove any dirt.  Often, I plant some of the plants in decorative pots.  Believe it or not, I have a stash of ‘props’ that I only use when I appear on television, which I will show you later.



The next day begins with an early arrival at the television station.  Plants are unloaded onto large plastic carts located in the television station’s lobby for transporting props.

I usually bring someone with me to help me set up.  For me, it’s usually a family affair with various members of my family accompanying me. This time, my nephew came along to help.  He recently graduated from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences and I thought that he would like to experience the workings of a television studio.


There is security in the lobby and only those on the list are allowed to enter.  Guests are expected to arrive 1 hour before the show airs.

After entering, you are shown to the ‘green room’ where you wait with others who will also appear on the program.


Most often, I bypass the green room as I am shown directly to the outdoor area in back of the studio where I will set up.  Along the way, we pass the newsroom.


In the outdoor area there is typically a rectangular table set up for me and I get to work on setting up my props.


When selecting props, color is an important element, so I always try include colorful flowers whenever possible.  


In this case, I was asked to talk about what to plant in winter, so I picked out the most colorful annuals that my local nursery had – in this case, primrose.

Earlier, I mentioned that I have a stash of ‘props’ that I use when I am to appear on television.  Well, I used three of them; a hand shovel, a hand rake as well as a galvanized steel container.  I don’t use them in the garden so that they will always look nice and I’m not having to clean them.  A nice pair of leather garden gloves usually appear alongside my other props as well.


Setting up my props is called ‘staging’ and I must admit that it’s not my strongest suit.  In general, tall plants go in the back with smaller ones in front.

My sisters and mother are very good at staging and have been especially helpful when they have come with me when appearing on television.


However this time, I was on my own when it came to arranging my plants and props.


This is the perspective from where I will stand when talking in front of the camera.  The small TV shows a live feed of what is currently being broadcast and is helpful when being interviewed since I can see what the viewers see – especially when the photos I sent in are shown on screen so I can speak directly about them.

About a half-hour before my segment, a producer comes out and sets up my mike, which is threaded through my clothes and clipped to my collar.


After a busy morning of getting up early, loading plants, driving to the studio, unloading plants and staging plants and getting ‘miked’ – it’s time to sit and wait until it is time for my segment to go on.

Since my segment is being filmed on the back patio and not inside the studio, I usually spend my time in the break room waiting until the television host comes to find me to talk about the upcoming segment.

It’s interesting to note that I never know before I get to the station, when I will be on.  I’ve been on at the beginning, middle and end of the show – I prefer to be on at the beginning instead of waiting.


Shortly before my segment, a ‘teaser’ is shown with close-ups of my plants being shown after which, a commercial is shown.


During the commercial, the host talks to me about what I brought and we both go over what I will talk about.

Finally, it is time for my live segment.  At this point, everything goes very fast.


My four minute garden segment feels like it only takes one minute to do.  I admit that this is the part that I like best – helping people learn how to enjoy their garden and hopefully inspiring them to try something new.  In this case, we talked about adding lettuce and other leafy green alongside colorful annuals in pots.

If being on camera makes you nervous, it helps to just talk directly to the host and try to ignore the camera.  I do that most of the time, but I do try to talk directly to the camera a few times as well.

After the segment is over, I load my things back onto the plastic cart and leave.  Sometimes, I make it home before the program is over.

Later in the day, I receive an email from the producer with a link to my garden segment.  I don’t like to watch myself on TV a lot, but I do watch it once to make sure that I didn’t make any mistakes.  Every time I go on, I find myself becoming a little more comfortable with the process.
And so, that is a behind the scenes look to filming a garden segment on television.  I hope that you enjoyed it.  

**If you would like to view this particular garden segment, click here.
January is off to a busy start.  We have gone from a house bursting at the seams to one that seems suddenly spacious after my two oldest daughters left for home with their children.  While I do miss them, I must admit that I never thought a house filled with 3 teenagers would seem quiet.

Enjoying last minute cuddle time with Lily before she flew back to Michigan.

As I drove my oldest daughter and her family to the airport, I felt that familiar tickle in my throat and knew that I was getting sick.  I wasn’t too surprised with all of the busyness of the holidays that my resistance was low.  

A few days later, I was due to make an appearance on the television show, Arizona Midday, which airs on our local NBC television station.  The topic was to be about winter gardening tasks.

While I have been on television a few times before, this was my first time on this particular program.  

As with the other times, I made a trip to the nursery for plants and other things for the television spot since the producers like a lot of props to make things look more interesting.

I came away with a bare root rose (my favorite Mr. Lincoln red rose), leaf lettuce and kale, parsley and cool season annuals for color.  Other props included different types of frost protection including frost cloth, old towels, and sheets.

Unfortunately, as the date of my television appearance neared, my cold got worse and evolved into a full-blown sinus infection.  


So on a brisk winter morning, loaded up with cold medicine and a pocket full of kleenex, I loaded up my plants and other props and headed to the TV station along with my mother who came with me to help me stage the table and provide moral support.  

We spent a delightful time waiting to be escorted to the studio in the green room with a pair of chili cooks who were talking about an upcoming chili cookoff.


Finally, it was time for the gardening segment, which went quite smoothly – I didn’t cough or sneeze once.  The host was kind, gracious and most importantly – laid back and relaxed.

After returning home, I got on my favorite pair of sweats and got back into bed.  I am determined to kick this cold!

If you would like to see the garden segment click here.

I hope that your January is off to a great start!

I have been enjoying sharing with you some of my favorite lesser-known plants.  These are plants that are not used enough in the landscape and can brighten up an otherwise boring landscape filled with over-used landscape plants such as Lantana, Dwarf Oleander, etc.  My last post featured the beautiful Valentine shrub.


I am very excited to talk about this lesser known plant.  Let me introduce you to chaparral sage (Salvia clevelandii).

Isn’t it beautiful?

Years ago, I planted the chaparral Sage above along with many others around a golf course.  Their blue-purple flowers were a definite focal point in the spring time landscape.
The striking flowers begin to form in the spring and continue on into early summer.  

This shrub is native to San Diego county and performs well in well-drained soil. 

Like most of my favorite plants, this flowering shrub is low-maintenance.  There are also many other reasons that I think you should definitely try this out in your garden:

Hardy to 10 degrees F.   
And so mine is still green despite temps dipping into the low 20’s this winter.

Has a beautiful, naturally round shape.  Only requires pruning by at least 1/2 its size in February and removal of spent flowers in the summer.
Hummingbirds will be congregating around the beautiful flowers.

Reaches a mature size of approximately 4′ x 4′. 

The foliage is highly fragrant and is attractive even when not covered with flowers.

In the low deserts, it is wise to place the shrubs where they will receive filtered shade in the afternoons.  In high desert locations, they can be set out in full sun.

The foliage is quite fragrant and while most people enjoy its fragrance, some do not.  So, be sure to find a Chaparral Sage plant ahead of time to make sure that you enjoy the fragrance as much as I do before you buy some for your garden.

The fragrance is best enjoyed from a short distance, so I recommend not planting right next to walkways or windows.

Chaparral Sage looks great when planted near yellow, red or pink flowering plants.
I hope you will decide to try this shrub out in your garden.  I absolutely love mine.

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For those of you who are determined to be trendsetters in your garden, try these beautiful, fuss-free plants in your garden.