Tag Archive for: Desert Gardening

The 5 Most Common Mistakes People Make in the Desert Garden

I am always looking for ways to help people on their desert garden journey and so I’m offering a FREE class on 5 reasons you are struggling with your desert garden.

As a horticulturist and landscape consultant, I have seen people making the same mistakes, which prevent them from having a beautiful outdoor space.

Because of this, they unintentionally ‘hurt’ the plants by over-maintaining them and spending money on unneeded products and landscape services.

If this sounds like you, I AM HERE TO HELP!

I’ve been helping people like you for over 20 years and I can help you too!

Free Webinar AZ Plant Lady

5 Reasons You Are Struggling With Your Desert Garden

This LIVE class is on January 17th, at 1:00 MST. *If you want to register for this free class, but can’t attend it live, it will be recorded so you can watch it at our convenience for a limited time.

Knowledge is power and once you know what you are doing wrong in the landscape – you have taken one GIANT step toward having a desert garden that you are proud of.

CLICK the following link to learn more and register – http://bit.ly/2RpFFb5

I hope to see you there!

Busyness, a New Look, and Opportunities

Life has been awfully busy lately.  So much so, that it has affected me from doing blogging as regularly as I like to do.  So, I would like to take a little time to let you know what I have been up to this past month.

Work has seen me driving me from one corner of the Phoenix metro area to the other, meeting with clients and helping them to create beautiful outdoor spaces.  In fact, I broke my record for the most landscape consultations in a single month.  Now that the holidays are here, work has slowed down a little.

A beautiful succulent, Euphorbia trigona

A beautiful succulent, Euphorbia trigona

One thing that I enjoy about visiting new clients is that I get to see impressive specimen plants like this Euphorbia trigona that flanked the entry of the Phoenix home.

beautiful succulent

beautiful succulent

This is a truly beautiful succulent that lends a tropical look to the landscape.  It is very frost tender and must be protected when temperatures dip into the 30’s.  I’d say it’s worth the effort for a plant like this.

Coyote

Coyote

Encounters with wildlife happens often during my work.  However, seeing a coyote in the middle of the day is rather rare.  As I was driving home from a consultation, I saw this beautiful coyote walk across the street.  I stopped my car and it stood off to the side of road while I took a few pictures with my phone.

Coyote

While I’ve seen a number of coyotes over the years, most often their appearance reflects the hardship of living in the desert.  However, this coyote was the healthiest one that I’ve encountered.

Coyote and

I think that it enjoyed the attention that I was giving it as it stood still for several seconds before walking off into the desert.

video shoot

Christmas is my favorite season of the year.   I enjoy shopping for the perfect gift, decorating the house, baking my favorite desserts, singing along to Christmas music in the car, and rejoicing in the reason for Christmas.

video shoot

Earlier this week, we filmed a video segment for our church’s upcoming Christmas Eve services.  We were asked to share the story of our daughter Ruthie’s adoption along with her cousin Sofie.  They were best friends in the orphanage when my sister and her family adopted Sofie back in 2006.  One year later, my husband and I went to China and adopted Ruthie.  So, they are not just best friends, but cousins.

video shoot

We taped the video at my sister’s house, which took over 3 hours.  The segment will probably only be 3 – 4 minutes in length, but I can hardly wait to see their story shared and hope that it will inspire others.  I will be sure to share it with all of you at that time.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying this holiday season.

10 Cold Hardy Succulents That Add Beauty to the Winter Landscape

Imagine a garden with containers filled with a variety of colorful flowers, herbs, ornamental grasses, succulents and even vegetables.

beautiful plants

Wouldn’t you love to have pots that look like this, overflowing with beautiful plants?

But, what if you live in the desert?  Can you grow plants in pots that aren’t just beautiful but that can thrive in our hot, dry climate?  

Believe it or not, you can. Whether your container garden is limited to one pot or several – you can grow plants in pots in the desert garden.  

beautiful plants

Now before you say, “I’ve got a black thumb…everything I plant in pots die”, I have a great resource for you.

Container Gardening Book

“Getting Potted In The Desert” is a wonderful resource that shows you step-by-step instructions on how to create beautiful potted gardens that will thrive in our desert climate.

Getting Potted In The Desert

While you can find other books that offer helpful advice on how to create potted gardens, “Getting Potted In The Desert” speaks specifically to those of us who live and garden in the desert Southwest where our hot, dry summers bring about special challenges.

Beyond the helpful advice on selecting containers and the right location, the book also talks about plant choices including flowering annuals, perennials, grasses, herbs, succulents and vegetables.

Getting Potted In The Desert

Clear and easy to understand guidelines are given on how to water, fertilize and how to adjust to changing weather conditions including freezing temperatures.

What’s even better, the guidelines are broken up into monthly guides, making growing plants in pots, easy.

Lists of plants that do well in the desert container garden are also given along with lovely photographs of pots filled with plants, which will inspire you.  

Herb Container Garden

Herb Container Garden 

The author, Marylee Pangman, has over 20 years of experience growing potted plants in the desert.  In fact, she is a certified Master Gardener and had her own company, “The Contained Gardener”, where she designed and maintained container gardens for clients.

In addition, she has taught numerous classes on growing potted gardens that can withstand hot summers and desert winters.  

Flower and Vegetable Container Garden

Flower and Vegetable Container Garden

As a horticulturist who has planted and maintained container gardens over the years, I can tell you that Marylee’s book is a godsend for those who love container gardening and need practical guidance.

You can order your own copy of “Getting Potted In The Desert” and find out more about Marylee at  www.potteddesert.com

*I was provided with a free copy of this book for my honest review.

Book Review: Potted, DIY Stylish Garden Containers

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

low-maintenance garden

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.

desert gardening

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”.

low-maintenance 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…

Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephla)

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.  

low-maintenance garden

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.  

Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)

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.

Purple Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Purple')

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.  

low-maintenance garden

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.

Does the fact that Christmas is fast approaching make you think of growing tomatoes?

Of course not.  Our thoughts are focused on making sure our homes are decorated for Christmas, looking for the perfect gift for that special someone and hopefully some holiday baking.

But, I am going to tell you why you should also be thinking about growing tomatoes this time of year.

growing tomatoes

But, did you know that December is the best time to start growing your tomatoes from seed indoors?

For those of you who have grown tomatoes in the arid desert, know that our tomato growing season occurs in spring and fall.

Oh, your tomatoes will live through the summer with a little shade – but they will stop producing new tomatoes once temperatures hit the 90’s because their pollen is not viable.

growing tomatoes

The other limiting factor is that you can’t set out tomato plants into the garden until the danger of frost is past, which is usually around the beginning of March in the Phoenix metro area.

So, to get the most tomatoes, you want to plant the largest (oldest) tomato plant you can in early March.

Many nursery greenhouses are starting their tomato plants from seed right now where they will grow, protected from the elements until March arrives when you will find them on the shelves of your nursery.

You may be wondering why you should start your own tomato plants instead of buying them at nursery?

Well the problem with purchasing your tomato plants from the nursery is that they have a very limited selection of tomato varieties. And, they may not have the variety you want, or it is sold out.

**Right now, many seed companies are having Christmas sales on their seeds including Burpee and Botanical Interests.

Growing your own tomatoes from seed is very easy and rewarding.

Here is how I have done itโ€ฆ

seedling containers

I like to use Starbucks coffee sleeves or toilet paper rolls, cut in half as my seedling containers.

seedling containers

Grab some seed starting mix from your local nursery or big box store.  Some seed mixes have fertilizer already added.  If not, then I recommend adding a slow-release fertilizer to your potting mix.

Wet the soil before adding to your containers.

Fill your recycled containers with the seed mix and add your seeds.

seedling containers

Place your newly planted seeds in a warm area, such as the top of your refrigerator.  The heat will help them to germinate.

**Use a spray bottle to keep them moist.  Don’t allow the soil to dry out.

Once the seeds begin to sprout, put them in front of a sunny window.

growing tomatoes

In just a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your tomato plants will have grown.

During warm winter days, you can place them outdoors to get a little extra – but be sure to bring them indoors at night until the danger of frost is over.

As your tomato seedlings grow, you can transfer them to larger containers until you are ready to put them out in the garden.

*For more information on seed starting, click here.

You know, every month seems to fly by before I think about what I should be doing in the garden.  Is it that way for you too?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am busy writing garden articles that will be published in November.  So my brain is thinking of all the things to do in the garden….in 3 months.  So, the fact that I have August tasks that need to be done in my garden is somehow forgotten.

So, if you have been wondering what to do in your garden this month, here it is.  Better late then never, I say ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you have citrus trees, they should receive their third application of fertilizer towards the end of this month (or the beginning of September).  Established citrus trees should be fertilized three times a year – in March, May and August/September.  You can read more about citrus fertilization here.

I used to have citrus trees in my previous home, but do not in my current one.  However, my mother shares her bounty of lemons and grapefruit with us every year ๐Ÿ™‚

The orange tree, below, belongs to my father-in-law and he loves to share the oranges with the grandkids.

Time for Citrus Fertilization

Time for Citrus Fertilization

Some vegetables can be planted now as well, including cucumbers, sweet corn, carrots, lettuce, green onions and squash can be planted from seed.  It is still a bit early to set out transplants.

vegetables

If you are a fan of palm trees, this is a great time to plant one.  Palms should be planted during the summer and not during the winter if at all possible since they actively grow when it is warm.

Don’t add any amendments to the soil.  If additional drainage is needed, you can add some sand to the hole. 

palm tree

You can also fertilize your palm trees this month as well, using a fertilizer specially formulated for palm trees.  Palm fertilizer contains certain micro-nutrients that palms require and are often missing in more conventional fertilizers.  Palm trees should be fertilized during the warm season only since palm trees will not take up fertilizer during the cooler months.

You know what?  I must admit that I have been putting off getting out into the garden.  Mostly because by the time August rolls around, I am a bit tired of the summer heat.

So, I think that I will end my “August To Do List” at this point.

Of course, if you want more to do, you can always lightly prune back your overgrown shrubs or perennials – but only by 1/4 – 1/3.

I am looking forward to September, when the weather begins to cool a little bit and I find that I am re-energized and ready to ‘play’ outside again ๐Ÿ™‚  

Arizona

That was my first thought when I came out to Arizona as a young bride over 23 years ago.  Brown mountains, strangely shaped cactus and words like ‘javelina’, ‘dust devil’, ‘haboob’ and ‘gila monster’ that meant nothing to me were soon to become part of my new world.

Southern California

I grew up in Southern California.  I loved the beaches, the beautiful tall mountains, the rolling hills and the trees.  I had spent two years attending college in California and my dorm room had a view of the ocean and I could see the Channel Islands on a clear day.  My entire family lived in California and I was sure that I would never leave.  But, then fate intervened….I fell in love with an Arizonan.

Before I knew it, I was married and driving across the desert to Arizona.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I thought Arizona was pretty in kind of a stark, prickly way.  I mean, who doesn’t like how cool Saguaro cacti look?  But, I was homesick for the bright and dark green colors that had been a part of the landscape I had grown up in.  

What Planet Have I Landed On?

There were trees, but not as many as I was used to.  Areas of grass were more limited and were bordered by concrete curbing.  The rest of the ground was covered by small rocks, called gravel which came in different kinds of colors.  And people placed large boulders in the landscape on purpose.

Strangely shaped cactus

Strangely shaped cactus

Once my eyes had adjusted, I realized that the desert was quite green.  But the green colors were much more subtle with hues of gray and blue mixed in.  Coming from an area with dark green plants had made me temporarily blind to the green beauty of the desert.

My oldest daughter in our backyard

My oldest daughter in our backyard – 1992

I had dabbled a bit in gardening in California while growing up, but nothing serious.  What made me a gardener was the purchase of our first house in Phoenix.  We bought a home with a large yard which included 3 mature citrus trees, 3 roses and 10 California Fan Palms and I had no idea what I was doing.

My second oldest daughter

My second oldest daughter and friend playing in the irrigation water as DH watches. Berms along the edges keep the water from running out into the street. 

Even more interesting and this is an Arizona thing – our front and backyard was irrigated by flood irrigation.  We would open a valve in the backyard and water would fill the backyard to a depth of about 4″ high and then flow into the front yard.  My children loved playing in the water, especially in the summer.  I loved the price – only $56 for an entire year back in the 90’s.

My neighbor's garden

My neighbor’s garden.

With my newly inherited garden, I wanted to learn all I could and bought gardening books only to learn that they really did not apply to gardens in the desert.  For example, just because a book, (written and published on the east coast), says that a particular plant can be grown in zone 9, does not mean it can survive the heat of our summers.  I learned the hard way.  So, I decided to go to our local library and read all I could on desert gardening.  After that, I was hooked.  I took out some grass and planted a perennial garden in the front and also planted 40 roses as well.

My thirst for knowledge did not end and I was at a crossroads in terms of deciding what I wanted to do in terms of a career.  I had two years of college under my belt, but needed to figure out what to major in.  It was then that I decided to get my degree in Horticulture.  I have never looked back and absolutely love what I get to do.  And the rest they say is history…. 

Strangely shaped cactus

Hiking through the desert with my four youngest children.

They love the desert as much as I do.