Posts

Red globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Did you know that some flowering, desert perennials are grown easily from seed? It’s true. Many of the plants in my garden are volunteers that grew from seed from my established plants.

I have several ‘parental’ plants in my front garden along with their babies that have come up on their own with no assistance from me.

Pink globe mallow 

My favorite perennials that grow from seed are my colorful globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).  The most common color seen in globe mallow is orange. However, they also come in other colors such as red, pink, and white. You can purchase the less common color varieties, but they can be hard to find at your local nursery.

White globe mallow

When I first designed my garden, I bought pink, red, and white globe mallows. These plants are now over 17 years old and produce a large number of seeds once flowering has ceased.  Because these colors can be hard to find, people ask me to sell them seeds that I harvest each year from my colorful perennials.

Light pink globe mallow

Harvesting seeds from spent flowers is easy to do. Once the flowers begin to fade in spring, I look for tiny, dried out seed pods, which is where the seeds are contained. I then pick them off and place them in a little bag.  It’s important to keep the colors separate so if someone wants red globe mallow, they won’t be growing pink or white ones.

Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), and verbena (Glandularia spp.)

There are other desert perennials that come up easily from seed, such as the ones pictured above in a garden I visited a few years ago. 

So how do you grow these drought tolerant perennials from seed? Surprisingly, it’s not hard to do, and if you go to a lot of trouble and fuss over them, they probably won’t grow. So starting them in little pots and transplanting them isn’t the best way to go about it. Instead, sprinkle the seed throughout the landscape, allowing some to fall a foot away from a drip emitter or near rocks. You want to mirror the natural conditions where they sow their seed in nature. Warning: this only works in areas where pre-emergent herbicides are NOT used. 

Growing these perennials from seed is very inexpensive, but some patience is needed while you wait for them to sprout.  Not all will come up, but those that do, will add beauty to your garden and before you know it, you may be harvesting seed to share with your friends.

What type of plants have you had come up in your garden from seed?

Have you ever taken out an area of grass and added plants in its place?


I have – numerous times.


My past was filled with grass – acres and acres of it, when I worked as a horticulturist for golf courses.  Nothing made me happier then when areas of grass were being removed and I was able to design a new landscape area.


It’s been 8 years since I worked as a staff horticulturist for golf courses, but the past few weeks have found me spending a lot of time back on the golf course.  

Earlier this week, I told you about my most recent project – creating landscape designs for up to 30 acres of former grass area.  Two golf courses, that I have worked with in the past, are removing large areas of turf in favor of a more natural, desert-scape.

The plants that I have chosen are extremely drought-tolerant, need very little maintenance and are native to the deserts of North America.  

Another important criteria for my choices of plants was that I have to had experience growing them myself, either in my own garden or professionally in landscape areas that I have managed.

Here are the plants that I am using in this first area:

Desert Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)

Desert Ruellia is a favorite shrub of mine.  It is incredibly drought-tolerant.  I like to use it as a smaller substitute for Texas sage.

In this first landscape area, I wanted a shrub that could survive with intermittent deep-watering, limited maintenance while still looking attractive.  The purple flowers that appear spring through fall will add color to the area.

Chuparosa (Justicia californica)

This flowering native, will find a place underneath the filtered shade of the large mesquite tree already present.  

Chuparosa explodes with color off an on throughout the year, attracting every hummingbird in the neighborhood.  It does well in full sun or filtered shade.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeler)

Succulents are a vital part of the plant palette for all of these new areas.  Their unique colors and shapes add texture to the landscape and contrast well with the more softly-shaped plants.

Desert spoon will be interspersed throughout this first area where its gray color will contrast with the darker greens of the shrubs.

Santa-Rita Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa-rita)

Santa-rita purple prickly pear is also high on my list of favorites.  You just can’t beat the purple coloring that appears toward the tips of gray/blue pads.

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Often grown as a annual, Desert Marigold is a short-lived perennial that flowers throughout the year.  

Cold and lack of water don’t bother these tough little perennials.  They require little to no maintenance – but I cut them back severely to 3 inches once a year to improve their appearance and promote more flowering, although you don’t have too.

Whether you or not you are a fan of yellow – it is an important color to include in the garden because the color yellow helps the other colors in the landscape to ‘pop’ and stand out more vividly.

Although short-lived, desert marigold self-seeds, ensuring that they remain a presence wherever they are planted.

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

If you are a fan of penstemons, this is one to consider adding to your list.  Firecracker penstemon has a long bloom period in the low-desert.  It starts blooming in late December and continues into spring.  

You can often prolong the bloom period by removing spent flowering stalks, which will promote a second flush of bloom.  I have several of these growing in my own garden – some are 15 years old and still going strong – although that is uncommon.

Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea)

I’ll be the first one to admit that this low-growing shrub is not exciting – one may even call it ‘boring’.

But, bursage is seen carpeting the ground throughout the Arizona portion of the Sonoran desert.  Its gray/green foliage serves as an understory plant that helps to tie the separate elements of this ‘natural landscape’ together.

Example of bursage use in a natural desert landscape planting.
The key to keeping bursage attractive is to prune it back severely to 6″ tall and wide every 2 – 3 years in early spring.

So, this is the plant palette for the first of many ‘natural desert landscape areas’.  I do have a few more plants that I will show you as I create designs for the other areas on the golf courses.

Do you grow any of these plants in your garden?

What comes to mind when you think of wildflowers?  Maybe beautiful splashes of colorful flowers throughout the desert?  Well, how about growing them yourself instead of driving somewhere to view wildflowers in the spring?  Wildflowers are easy to grow and you have the added benefit of being able to view their beautiful blooms outside your window throughout the spring.  Butterflies and hummingbirds will be drawn to your wildflower garden as well.


Wildflower demonstration garden on a golf course
The wildflower garden above was planted by me about 9 years ago on a golf course.  It was one of three demonstration gardens that I designed.  My goal was to inspire people to grow wildflowers at home.  I planted Red Flax and Arroyo Lupine which are blooming in the photo above.  California Bluebells as well as California Poppies were also planted, but had not bloomed yet.  


Brittlebush is blooming in the background.  (I learned from this experience, that wildflowers should be thinned once they germinate, obviously I did not do that – one of many gardening mistakes that I have learned from over the years).


One of my favorite wildflower combinations are California Bluebells (Phacelia campanularia) along with California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica or mexicana) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata).  


I also like this combination – Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus) with California Poppies and Red Flax (Linum grandiflorum ‘Rubrum’).  The possibilities are absolutely endless….

Scarlet Flax

The ideal time to sow most types of wildflower seed is October through December, so it is time to plan your wildflower garden now.  The Desert Botanical Garden has excellent information on how to grow wildflowers which can be found at Desert Botanical Garden Growing Wildflowers.


*The source that I have used for wildflower seed is a small company called Wild Seed.  They can be reached at 602-276-3536.  They will mail you a catalog of the wildflower seed that they have available. 


 

 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 😉

You know what?  I just love this time of year.  The garden is full of colorful, blooming plants and all the brown, crispy frost-damaged growth has been pruned away.

That was what my husband and I did yesterday.  We finished pruning off all of the frost damaged growth and everything now looks so much better.

I spent some time out in my vegetable garden, which has some winter vegetables still growing as well as summer vegetables.  I will show you more about my vegetable garden soon.

Alyssum, Marigold and Bachelor’s Button growing in the vegetable garden.
What really caught my eye were my beautiful, flowering companion plants in the vegetable garden.  What are companion plants you may wonder?  Well, basically they are plants that attract beneficial insects to your garden and/or repel damaging insects, which decrease or even eliminate the need for pesticides.
Alyssum growing beneath a San Marzano tomato plant.
 I just love the fragrance and delicate beauty of alyssum.  It also attracts bees to my garden, which help to pollinate my summer vegetables.

Marigolds

 Marigolds are a powerhouse in terms of repelling damaging insects.  The fragrance of marigolds is just fine with me and I just love their bright flowers.
Finally, I have a new flowering plant in my vegetable garden, which is not listed on any companion plant list, but it is just beautiful and was given to me by my fellow blogger Grace, who lives in Oregon, and has a fabulous blog called Gardening With Grace.  She was kind enough to send me some after I admired it in her garden.

I planted it in the corner of my vegetable garden last October and it started flowering just a few weeks ago.

Pink Oxalis

I just love how the little pink flowers are borne on top of clover-like leaves, don’t you?  I’m not sure how it will do with the summer heat, but the unknown is something that has always attracted me to gardening.  I do hope that it does well.  

In the meantime, whenever I look at this beautiful little plant, I am so thankful for Grace’s generosity.

If you would like to learn more about companion plants, you can check out this earlier post, where I list quite a few beautiful, companion plants.
**************************
I hope your week is going well.  I had a bunch of consults earlier this week, but now I have a chance to catch my breath and have fun writing again 🙂


Please check out my latest blog post over at Birds & Blooms.

First of all, I would like to apologize for not coordinating a Monthly Garden Bouquet for February.  I wish that I had a great excuse for not doing one such as maybe not having any flowers in my garden.  But, that would not be true.

The reality was that I was just awfully busy last month and I did feel a bit guilty about it.  So, even though I am still recovering from pneumonia, I drug myself outside, (in my pajamas I might add), to find flowers to cut.


It really wasn’t hard to venture outside.  A clear blue sky and temperatures in the 70’s…..it was so beautiful.

Here is what I came up with…..

 
The blue flowers are Bachelor’s Button, which I have growing as a companion plant in my vegetable garden to help attract pollinators.  This is the first year that I have grown them and I just love their vibrant blue color.
The yellow flowers are from my Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) perennials that I have dotting my front garden.  They survive on rainfall alone and are flowering off and on all year.  I do give them a ‘haircut’ three times a year to help them look their best.
Lastly, are some pink flowers from my potted Dianthus, which have done so well throughout the entire winter in my front entry.
I ventured outside in my PJ’s because I was sure that I would only take 2 minutes and no one would see me.  But no….. my wonderful neighbor saw me and I spent a delightful 1/2 hour talking with her in my front garden in my pajamas 😉
**I would like to thank you all so much for your kind comments and well wishes for my recuperation from this awful pneumonia.  I have a lot of medicine to take and am feeling much better.  I am just feeling tired and weak now, which is hard when I see the spring pruning that needs to be done in my garden.  Thankfully, my husband is more then willing to help out.
******************************
Okay, so maybe some of you are wondering about this Monthly Garden Bouquet.  Well, here are the details below…..
If you would like to participate in this month’s MGB, here are the guidelines:
1. MGB begins on the 21st of each month and runs until the end of each month. Bouquets can be submitted during this time (or even later 🙂 
2. Create your own garden bouquet as fancy or simple as you like.
3. I would appreciate it if you would provide a link back to my post inside of your MGB post, but it is not required 🙂 
4. Add your link to Mr. Linky below and that’s it! 

It can be as simple or fancy as you like.  Each month, I cannot wait to see what you all come up with.

**Please stop by and read my latest blog post about “Welcome Residents in the Vegetable Garden” on Birds & Blooms.  Your support means a lot to me and the editors 🙂


Okay, so how are you all doing in getting ready for the holidays?  Are you sipping apple cider in front of your Christmas tree and enjoying seeing all of the gifts you bought, already wrapped and ready for Christmas morning?

OR are still shopping and trying to find the perfect gift for that person who always seem to be so hard to buy for?  For me, my mother-in-law – who I love dearly by the way, is very hard to buy anything for.  But this year I do have a perfect gift – I made her a ………  (I had better not say.  She does not normally read my blog too often, but I don’t want to take any chances).

This year, I am done shopping –  as in finished and everything is wrapped.  Well…..all except for the two gifts that are in the mail and I hope get here before Christmas.  AND I have more baking to do this week.


But, I did not forget this month’s Garden Bouquet.  Okay, I almost did until I looked at the calendar this morning.  So after church, I took my clippers and went searching for flowers out in my front garden.


Even with our relatively mild winters, it is not always easy to find December flowers, but I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find more then a few.



I filled my Polish pottery jug with a combination of flowers from my Cascalote tree which is in full bloom right now.  In the front are the pretty daisy-like flowers from my Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata).  

In the middle are the dainty, purple flowers of my Trailing Purple Lantana (Lantana montevidensis).  Now normally my Lantana is somewhat brown and crispy due to being affected by our occasional freezing temperatures.  But this year, I covered them and I am really glad I did because they look great out in the garden with not much else in bloom.

I had a bit of trouble figuring out where to take a picture of my bouquet because there is a lot of brown in my garden (as in my dormant bermuda grass lawn).  But there is an area in the garden with is absolutely beautiful and green….my vegetable garden.



I think it made a great backdrop, don’t you?  

I can see my carrot tops, spinach as well as my companion plants – the nasturtiums and marigolds which have done a great job at repelling bad bugs away.

*************************************
Now for my delicious treat……

I love to bake and I do keep it simple but delicious.  I do get quite a few requests for my recipes and thought that I would share some with you from time to time.


Yesterday my daughter, Gracie and I made pumpkin bread.  

If you would like to see the fruits of our labors and get the recipe, please click here.


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

Okay, now back to December’s Monthly Garden Bouquet.  I realize that it can be a bit challenging to do during the winter months, but that is where creativity comes in.

Maybe you have some dried seedheads, which would make a beautiful bouquet.  

Or maybe you have some beautiful poinsettias or amaryllis.

I also think that a bouquet of evergreen foliage is beautiful.

If you would like to participate in this month’s MGB, here are the guidelines:
1. MGB begins on the 21st of each month and runs until the end of each month. Bouquets can be submitted during this time (or even later 🙂 
2. Create your own garden bouquet as fancy or simple as you like.
3. I would appreciate it if you would provide a link back to my post inside of your MGB post, but it is not required 🙂 
4. Add your link to Mr. Linky below and that’s it! 

It can be as simple or fancy as you like.  Each month, I cannot wait to see what you all come up with.




One of the many things that I love about living in the desert southwest, is the ability to grow vegetables 12 months of the year.  Now I have mentioned before that I grew vegetables during college as part of required classwork out in a field owned by the school.  I have instructed clients how to grow vegetables and have planted vegetable gardens for others.  But I had never grown vegetables in my own garden.  I had not experienced the excitement and wonder of checking the garden each day to see my plants growing bit by bit, see the flowers form and leaves grow and culminate in vegetables ready for harvesting.  I did not know how much better vegetables taste when they are from your own garden. 

And so, I had not experienced any of this…..sad isn’t it?

Well, early last spring we decided to plant a vegetable garden.  The kids were so excited, but I must admit that I was even more so.  My husband, always supportive of my gardening endeavors, was not quite as excited as I was, but was more then willing to do a lot of the grunt work.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, any woman whose husband shovels manure for his wife, is blessed!
I won’t go into more detail about our spring/summer garden because I have written about it before and I don’t want to bore those of you who have already read it 😉  But for those of you who have not seen it,  you can read about our early adventures in the vegetable garden here.
Once September came, I was eager to plant winter vegetables.  Visions of broccoli, carrots, lettuce and cauliflower filled my head.   Before we planted our seeds, we added additional bagged compost and aged steer manure -both available at our local big box store.
Then it was time for planting.  Now a common problem for many gardeners, including me, is that my eyes are bigger then my gardening space.  So, I had to cut my list of desired vegetables to the following: broccoli, spinach, carrots, romaine lettuce, garlic, basil and bunching onions.
My daughter Ruthie and I planted the seeds and then eagerly waited to see tiny green leaves break through the surface.  They did within a few days and then the unexpected happened….birds got to them.  So we began again and spread bird netting on the top, which thankfully worked.
My tiny vegetable plants were growing beautifully, but they faced another hurdle.  I was leaving for two weeks on vacation and my 18 year old daughter was staying at home and therefore responsible to take care of my garden, including watering my vegetables.  Now those of you who are gardeners understand my trepidation.  House-sitters are not always super reliable when it comes to caring for your garden.  Couple that with the fact that my daughter has not shown any inclination towards gardening….at least not yet.  Between college, church and her job, she has little spare time.  I was worried that she my not take her watering responsibilities seriously.  I might have mentioned to her ahead of time that you can always tell if a vegetable garden has been watered correctly by the taste of the lettuce.  If the leaves are bitter, then there were periods of dryness.  I think that maybe made the difference, because when we returned from our vacation, my garden was absolutely thriving.
I was so thankful for how wonderfully my daughter cared for my garden.  The one thing in the garden that really surprised me was how tall my tomato plants had grown….they were over 4 ft. tall.
I had planted Marigolds throughout the garden to help ward off any undesirable bugs and so far they are working – doesn’t my lettuce look beautiful?.  I also planted some Nasturtiums for the same reason as well.  I am fast becoming a firm believer in companion planting.
I love carrots and will thin them soon once they grow a little larger.
I do not like cooked spinach.  But I love putting baby spinach leaves in my salads.  It is hard to not to grab some and eat them when I am out in the garden…..I just know that I will succumb to temptation soon 🙂
My broccoli is coming up too.  They may be too close, but I will wait and see for sure before I pull any out.

My basil is growing in front of my tomato plants.  Whenever I look at the two together, it makes me want to go and make marinara sauce.

In front of my lettuce is bunching onions (scallions) and the taller one is garlic.  Did you know that you plant garlic from garlic cloves?  You can even plant cloves or garlic you buy at the grocery store.  My kids thought that was so cool.
As hard as I try to have straight, neat rows of vegetables, I always fail.  But, that is really not the point is it?  Vegetables respond to fertile soil, sun and water….not whether or not they are perfectly straight 🙂
It may seem like the rows are too close together….I did follow the instructions of the seed packets, but I can always pull something out if it gets too close.  I would rather fit all I can in my vegetable garden then have large bare spots which contribute nothing to my table.
**I am somewhat proud to say that everything in my vegetable garden, with the exception of the tomatoes, marigolds and the garlic, were all grown from seed.**  I personally have nothing against buying transplants at the nursery and growing them, but your options of picking out certain varieties of vegetables is limited and it does cost more.  I recommend growing vegetables from seed and if some do not, then by all means….buy the transplants 🙂
*************************
Today, we are celebrating my daughter Gracie’s 9th birthday.  She wanted to have her party at our local pizza restaurant where she and her friends can enjoy all of the games.  I love the fact that I don’t have to have a sparkling clean house (I seldom do), I don’t have to prepare the food or clean-up afterward.  I did make the cake, which is something I do love to do.  

Happy 9th Birthday Gracie!

This past spring, I was pleasantly surprised to find some previously lost plants growing again in my front garden.  How did I lose them in the first place?  Well, when I first designed and planted our garden, over 10 years ago, I included quite a few different flowering perennials.  Like many flowering perennials, they were short-lived and I did not replace all of them.  I don’t really have a good reason for not replacing them, but at the time, I was busy managing other gardens and landscapes and did not have the energy to focus on my own….sad wasn’t it?

Well, here is how I found my plants……last winter and spring, we received much more rainfall then usual.  In late March, I was checking around the garden for weeds when I saw some tiny leaves starting to poke their way through.  I looked closely at them before ripping them out and discovered that they were the offspring from my original plants.

Paperflower (Psilostrophe cooperi)
Paperflower was the first of my lost perennials to return.  The seeds from my original plants had laid dormant for 8 years until the copious rainfall caused them to germinate.  I love this little plant with its gray-green leaves but the coolest thing is that as the flowers die, they become papery in texture.  You can see the spent flowers above towards the right lower corner.  
This plant makes a great groundcover and has bloomed for me spring through fall.
  Goodding’s Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)
Although I have grown many different types of Verbena, this one is my favorite.  I love the delicate, tiny purple flowers and the way the plant spreads out on the ground.  Definitely not a fussy plant, it will flower like crazy throughout the spring and off and on during the rest of the year. 
 
Like many flowering perennials, it is rather short-lived but does self-seed.  It looks fantastic when placed next to boulders.

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
The last plant that has made it’s reappearance in my garden was my Desert Marigold.  This flowering perennial grows very well in the southwest and can be seen lining the roadways during the spring, especially when we have had sufficient rain.  It does very well in the residential landscape as well and is sometimes treated as an annual wildflower.
The sunny, yellow flowers can be seen off and on, year round.  They are very easy to grow from seed, but can be purchased in 1-gallon containers.  However, it has been my experience that my Desert Marigolds last longer when I grow them from seed, rather then transplant them from containers.  
I am so happy to have all of these plants back in my garden 🙂
Don’t you just love the feeling you get when you find something that you thought you had lost?

I just love wildflowers….their delicate blooms in all colors of the rainbow that grace our landscape in the springtime.  Well, it is not spring yet, but I can at least show you pictures of two of my favorite wildflowers.

The vibrant blooms of Scarlet Flax (Linum grandiflorum ‘Rubrum’) make this my favorite wildflower.  Each bloom only lasts for one day, but the profusion of blooms means that their colorful display lasts from spring until summer.  I took this photo at the The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  They have a spectacular wildflower display in the spring and I am planning on going back then to take more pictures of the different types of wildflowers they grow.

You can see Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) growing throughout the deserts of the Southwest.  Although, a perennial, you will find it included in many wildflower seed mixtures as it blooms over a long period of time and combines beautifully with other wildflowers.

I am joining Gail from Clay and Limestone for Wildflower Wednesday.   Come springtime, I will have many more pictures of wildflowers and how to care for them.