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I am busy putting the finishing touches on my presentation for an upcoming speaking engagement this Monday evening…


The women’s ministry at Cornerstone Church in Chandler, AZ asked me to speak about desert gardening.

Now, I love talking about how easy it is to have a beautiful and low-maintenance garden in the desert – yes, I said easy.

We are the ones that make our landscapes high-maintenance by making the following mistakes:

– Not allowing plants enough room to grow, which leads to over-pruning.
– Pruning plants more often then they need it.
– Selecting plants that aren’t well-adapted to our climate.
– Using fertilizer on plants that almost never need to be fertilized.


The event begins at 7:00 with the main speaker and afterward, attendees are given the choice of going to one of several ‘labs’ being offered at 8:00 pm.

I will be heading up the lab, “Creating a Beautiful, Fuss-Free Garden”.


The main speaker, is Lysa TerKeurst, who is fabulous.

And, did I mention that the entire event is FREE???  There is no need to register.  Just show up.  Here is a link for more information.

I’d love to those of you who live in the greater Phoenix area!

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On another note, I have been talking about attending plant sales and sharing with you about new varieties of some popular plants available along with a few of the newest plant introductions.

I had mentioned that I had come away with 3 new plants from the Desert Botanical Garden’s Spring Plant Sale.

So today, I thought that I would share with you the plants I chose and why…


1. The first plant I chose is one that I have never grown before – Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephla).  As indicated on the plant sign, it is new to the market.  

It is related to Red & Pink Fairy Duster shrubs, (which are great plants for the desert landscape, by the way).

I was entranced by the photo of large, puff-ball flowers.  I also liked that I could grow it as a small tree, if I wanted too.  

I like that is hardy to 20 degrees, which should make the occasional dips into the low 20’s in my garden no problem.

I planted it along the eastern side of my backyard, against a patio pillar.  It will receive morning sun and afternoon shade.  Growing to its right is a 15 ft. tall Mexican Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) that I’ve pruned into a tree form.  So, I think that they will look great next to each other.


The next plant I chose is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha).

Years ago, I planted this shrubby perennial in a parking lot of a golf course I worked at.  It did beautifully and attracted hummingbirds.  It would die back to the ground every winter, but quickly grew back in spring.

I have also seen Mexican Bush Sage grown in a variety of other areas during my travels, including Santa Barbara, CA and Miami, FL where it is grown as a perennial.

During a tour of the White House in Washington DC, I saw it grown there as well, where it is treated as an annual.

As much as I have liked this plant, I’ve never grown it in my own garden.

I planted it against the outside of one of my vegetable gardens where it will get morning and early afternoon sun.  Two other factors were important in choosing this area for my new Mexican Bush Sage – I didn’t have to add drip irrigation for it because it will get residual moisture from the vegetable garden AND it will also attract pollinators to my vegetable garden.


The last plant that I chose is one that many of you may be familiar with, just with a different flower-color.

Purple Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Purple’) was evidently a very popular plant at the sale because there was only one left, which went home with me.


It will grow much like the red variety, pictured above, enjoying filtered shade or afternoon shade.

Flowers will appear in fall, winter and spring in low-desert gardens.

Other varieties of Autumn Sage are available with different-colored flowers like white, pink and  salmon.

My new Purple Autumn Sage is also happy in its new home outside the vegetable garden where it will receive afternoon shade.

I will keep you updated on how well they grow in my garden.

Do you ever get tired of seeing the same plants showing up in landscapes time after time?  


It doesn’t matter whether you live in the desert or in more temperate climates – there are always 5 – 10 varieties of plants that are used over and over.


Even though these plants may be attractive, the fact that they are seen everywhere makes the landscapes they are in somewhat unremarkable and therefore ‘forgettable’.


As a horticulturist, I am always on the lookout for different plants to use in landscapes.  Last week, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden’s Plant Sale, which is a great place to go to see the newest plant introductions along with lesser-known plants that grow in our desert climate.


In an earlier post, I shared about new plant colors available for well-known plants.  Today, I thought that I would share with you some lesser-known plants that you may want to try out in your garden.


I love the name of this small, flowering shrub – ‘Lipstick’.  While the flowers closely resemble those of Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), they are from a different plant (Salvia microphylla ‘Lipstick’).  

Both plants are closely related and their requirements are the same.  So you would use the same way as you would Autumn Sage.  Hardy to zone 8 – 11, ‘Lipstick’ does best with afternoon or filtered shade in desert gardens.  I like to plant them around the base of Palo Verde trees.  Flowers will appear fall, winter and spring.


This is ground cover with large Australian-shaped plant tags is a new introduction that is very exciting.

Called ‘Outback Sunrise Emu’ (Eremophila glabra mingenew gold ‘Outback Sunrise’) is a great addition to the desert garden palette.  


My first opportunity to see this plant was during a visit to the master-planned community of Verrado, where it is planted throughout the medians.

In spring, yellow flowers appear covering this evergreen ground cover.  A single plant grows 1 foot high and 6 – 10 feet wide.

‘Outback Sunrise Emu’ thrives in full sun or filtered shade, is hardy to zone 8 – 11 and is drought-tolerant.  It may be a little hard to find in nurseries right now, but it is well worth the effort.


For those of us who love agaves, then I have a new one for you to try.  Agave ‘Blue Glow’ is a hybrid of two different agaves (A. attenuata and A. ocahui).

Like its name suggests, the leaves seem to ‘glow’. My mother has one that she purchased years ago at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, CA.  It moved with her from California to Arizona where it does very well.

‘Blue Glow’ is a smaller agave that grows 1 – 2 feet high and 2 – 3 feet wide.  It does require filtered or afternoon shade in desert gardens.


This gray shrub was definitely the most unique plant that I encountered at the plant sale.

Pearl Bluebush (Maireana sedifolia) is another great import from Australia.  The leaves are succulent and I couldn’t help but keep touching them.

This drought-tolerant shrub thrives in full sun, is hardy to zone 9 – 11 and will grow 3 – 5 feet tall and wide.

I would plant it near dark-green ground covers where the gray color will provide great contrast.


Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) is rapidly on its way to becoming one of my top 5 shrubs.

It closely resembles the gray-colored sages of (Leucophyllum).  While they do share many similar characteristics – blue/purple flowers, drought-tolerance and the ability to thrive in full, desert sun – there are some differences.

Blue Bells are hardy to zone 8 – 11 and stay rather compact at 3 ft. tall and wide and rarely need pruning.  In addition, it flowers all year long.

I recently included these shrubs in a re-design of a church landscape and am very happy with how they look.


I am always attracted to salvias of all kinds, so I found myself paying particular attention to all of the different species available.

The dark pink flowers of Chiapis Sage (Salvia chiapensis) caught my eye and I was sorely tempted to buy one.

This salvia grows to 2 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide.  Hardy to zone 8, the flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  

Chiapis Sage does best in filtered shade and fertile soil.  Because I don’t have any room in my areas with filtered shade, I didn’t buy this salvia.


I was intrigued by this shrub, which is a relative of Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica), which I do like to use in landscapes.  

This is Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephala).


I had not heard of this shrub before, so I was immediately curious.  It looks like the flowers resemble those of its cousins Baja & Pink Fairy Duster.  But, its leaves are much larger.

Hardy to zones 8 – 11, it will grow large – 4 – 10 feet tall and wide.  Filtered shade would probably be best if growing this shrub in a desert garden.

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I hope you have enjoyed some of these new plants that are definitely worth a second look.

Next time, I’ll share with a few helpful tips when shopping for plants along with the 3 plants that I bought from the plant sale.