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Have you ever found yourself driving through a neighborhood past landscapes planted with the commonly planted lantana and oleander shrubs when you see something completely different that catches your attention?

A few weeks ago, I was leaving a client’s home in North Phoenix and started on my way home, when I drove past this beautiful, drought tolerant landscape.


The corner of the landscape was anchored by an ocotillo whose graceful canes added needed height to the landscape.

Palo brea trees add year round green color and yellow flowers are so set appear later in spring.

Globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) adds a welcome spot of orange in late winter and into spring and will bloom again in fall.

Cacti and agave add great texture contrast with their unique shapes.  The Argentine giant cactus (Echinopsis candicans) will produce large, lily-like flowers in spring.


Several species of agave have been used throughout the landscape including Agave species americana, lophantha and victoria-reginae.  With so much variety in the color and sizes available in agaves, there is one for almost any landscape situation.
Several different cacti are tucked in here and there leading one to want to walk around and discover what else is growing in the garden.
The thin, upright succulent stems of candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) add great texture contrast when planted next to succulents and cacti with thicker leaves/stems.

The main planting area in the center is on a slightly elevated area, which offers a glimpse of the plants located toward the back.  Landscape design that creates areas that artfully take center stage and then recede into the background as you walk through, which creates intrigue and heightens the desire to see what else is present in the garden.

Aloes, which do best in light shade, are scattered throughout the landscape, which add color in late winter into spring.  

In the background, the orange, tubular flowers Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) attracts hummingbirds all year long.  

Variegated agave americana adds great color contrast with their bi-colored leaves while Indian fig prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) adds height in the background.  


I love this unusual pathway that zig-zags through the landscape.  Golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) are used to greatest effect by grouping them in 3’s.

Large boulders finish the landscape adding mass and texture while not needing any pruning or water. 
It’s important to note that large boulders like this may need heavy equipment to place.  If you want to avoid the hassle and expense of using heavy equipment, you can place 2 medium-sized boulders next to 
each other for a similar effect.

There are several things that I enjoyed so much about this landscape.  One is how they used a large amount of different plant species without it looking ‘busy’.  Also, instead of laying out the entire landscape where you can see everything from the street, this one leads you on a path of discovery when you are treated to glimpses at what is located further in.

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This past week was event filled along with some rather unexpected occurrences for me.  One was that for the first time since early January, my calendar was quite suddenly empty.  I had several landscape consultations scheduled that were cancelled at the last minute by clients and rescheduled for various reasons including a flooded house to a puppy eating a cigar.

It was rather disconcerting to go from trying to keep my head above water to having the gift of extra time on my hands, but I enjoyed it and got some gardening articles finished ahead of looming deadlines.


Last week was also a big milestone for my husband who turned 50.  We celebrated throughout the week, but one of our favorite outings was breakfast at Joe’s Farm & Grill with our granddaughter, Lily.

On a sad note, our friend, neighbor and vet passed away unexpectedly on Friday.  He had treated the furry members of our family for 18 years with love and respect.  We were also blessed to have been his neighbor for over 15 years.  

We will miss his loving care for our animals, seeing him and his wife walk their dogs in the evening and even the lemons he would leave at our door.

After hearing the shocking news of his death, I had a hard time focusing on anything else this weekend and even writing took a backseat – hence the lack of blog posts.  But, it was a blessing to be able to set work aside for few days and let the loss sink in.

My schedule is now filled up again with appointments and the desert is awash in spring color, which is a busy time in the garden. 

I hope your week is off to a good start.


Yesterday, doing several errands, I was driving through the parking lot of our local Walmart when I saw a sight that stopped me dead in my tracks.


Now, normally parking lots are prime examples of bad landscape practices with over-planted and excessively pruned shrubs.  But, what I saw was truly breathtaking.

Blue Hibiscus shrub Alyogyne heugllii
This fuss-free, shrub was awash with large, purple blossoms.   The color was so vibrant and it added a lot of needed color to the parking lot island.

So, do you know what type of shrub this is?


I’ll give you a few hints:

– It is native to Australia.

– It is drought tolerant and thrives in the low desert.

– It grows best in full sun and blooms in spring and occasionally throughout the summer.


This is a blue hibiscus shrub (Alyogyne huegelii). 

This shrub grows fairly large, growing 6 – 8 ft. tall and wide.


While I have only seen it in purple & dark purple, it is also found in pink and white.  
What really stood out to me about this shrub is not just its beauty, but the fact that it was thriving in an area where many plants struggle in the hot, reflected heat of a parking lot island.

**How about you?  Have you ever seen this shrub before or grown it in your landscape?  Please share your experience with this purple-flowering beauty.

Do you like discovering new things?


I do.  Particularly newer plant introductions.  New plant hybrids are always being discovered and I am always on the look out for new ones.  I like to use newer plant introductions in landscapes to help give them a new and updated look. 


Last week, I told you about my partnership with Monrovia plants and selecting two new plants for my garden. 


While shopping at the nursery for plants, there were many different plants to choose from.  As I walked through the nursery, I was tempted by lavender but then a display of Monrovia cacti and succulents caught my eye.


This tiny prickly pear grows 8 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

It looked so cute, I almost reached out to touch it, but stopped myself just in time.

Santa rita and purple prickly pear are among my favorite types of cacti.  I like their blue gray pads touched by purple.  ‘Baby rita’ (Opuntia basilaris ‘Baby Rita’) is a great alternative for smaller areas or you can group 3 of them together.


The next plant I was tempted by was ‘Lucky Crown’ agave (Agave Kissho Kan).  These are small agave that reach 18 inches high and wide.  They have beautiful, variegated leaves with maroon teeth along the edges.

I must admit that I was sorely tempted by both of these plants, but I decided on two different drought tolerant plants.

Have you seen any new plants that you have been tempted by?

To see what two plants I did come home with, click here.

What does your garden look like in early spring?  Does it somewhat boring?  How about adding some color and interest to your garden by adding some water-wise flowering plants?



This week, I had a fun project to work on – in partnership with Monrovia, I was asked to select two types water-wise plants for the landscape. So, I headed out to my local nursery with a mission to select from the different water-wise Monrovia plants available.


Once I arrived at the nursery, I was faced with a number of different Monrovia plant choices from succulents, cacti, shrubs and perennials.  After a some time going back and forth, I narrowed my choices down to these two water-wise, flowering beauties.

Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) has long been a favorite perennial of mine.  I love the ‘cottage-garden’ look it provides with its pink spikes that appear in late winter and on into spring.


It is quite versatile in the landscape where it can be used in wildflower gardens, planted in a perennial bed or simply placed next to a boulder.
My next plant choice was a flowering succulent. 

Blue Elf aloe (Aloe ‘Blue Elf’) is a newer aloe species that is perfect for small spaces.  It thrives in hot, reflected heat and flowers in late winter on into spring.  



I have been using this small aloe a lot in recent landscape designs (like the one above) including in narrow planting beds, in entries and also in pots.



Both of these flowering plants are water-wise choices and perfect for the drought tolerant garden.


I loaded my new Monrovia plants up and started home.


On the drive home, I could see the flowers from my new plants in my rearview mirror and I couldn’t wait to find new homes for them in my garden.


I played with a number of potential locations in the garden for my new parry’s penstemon, but decided on planting it next to a boulder.  Plants like this penstemon look great next to boulders where their different textures provide great contrast.


I didn’t have to try different spots for my new Blue Elf aloe – I knew that I wanted it for one of my containers in the front entry.  This area gets blasted with hot, afternoon sun, which this pretty little aloe can handle with no problem.

Monrovia plants can be found at Lowe’s garden centers as well as at many local nurseries, which is where I found mine.  You can also order Monrovia plants online.  The quality of their plants is excellent and the only problem you’ll have is choosing from the large variety available.


*This post is sponsored by Monrovia, but my plant choices and opinions are my own.  Visit their website for more water-wise plant choices for your drought tolerant garden.
I love to use plants that thrive in the desert Southwest.  

But, I won’t use just any plant – it has to be drought tolerant, low-maintenance and add beauty to the landscape.

One of my favorites for adding spiky texture and great color contrast is desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), also known as ‘sotol’.

It handles freezing temperatures, is evergreen and unlike agave, won’t die after it flowers.

I recently wrote about all the reasons that I like desert spoon along with ideas of how to use it in the landscape, which you can find in my latest article for Houzz.com


**By the way, there is just 5 days left to enter the giveaway I am hosting for Troy-Bilt’s most powerful, handheld blower.  Click here to enter!

Have you ever had something happen to you that was such a coincidence that it was hard to believe?  Recently, I had one such experience. 


It all happened on a beautiful, sunny morning in August… 

But first, a little background:

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time may remember me sharing about my past job as a landscape designer.  I wrote about my adventures that you can read about, here.


There were things that I enjoyed about my job and others things that I did not.

However, I did enjoy working with clients and helping design the landscape of their dreams.

*Okay, back to my amazing ‘coincidence’ story.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was on my way to an appointment for a landscape consult – (I work for myself now).

As I got off the freeway and started driving through the residential streets, I realized that I had designed a landscape there years ago when I worked for the landscape design company.

As I got closer to my destination, I saw that I was in the same neighborhood.  I promised myself that I would try to find the same house after I was finished with my appointment.

My GPS directed me down the street where my ultimate destination was and soon I found myself sitting in front of the SAME house that I had originally designed back in 2008.

Hard to believe?  

My first reaction was “I can’t believe it!” 

I had designed hundreds of landscapes and the chances of being called back to the same one by a different owner was so small.

The second reaction was, I hope they don’t hate their existing landscape – if they did, I wasn’t sure I would tell them that I was the original designer.

But then I remembered that my client had told me via email that she and her husband had just moved into their new home and wanted to learn about the plants in their landscape and how to take care of them – they had no idea that I was the original designer.

I knocked on the door and my client greeted me and proceeded to take me into their backyard.

Now

The first thing I saw was the pathway made up of broken concrete (called ‘urbanite’) that was had already been present the first time…

Then

I did have pictures of the landscape when it had been newly installed in 2008.

The new homeowner told me that she and her husband had bought the home because they loved the relaxing backyard landscape.

I then told her that I had been the original designer.  She couldn’t believe it either!

Now

As we walked into the backyard, the details of the design came flooding back.

Would you believe that there used to be a swimming pool in this backyard?  

Then
Back in 2008, we filled in the pool and added mounds, boulders, drought tolerant plants and a palo verde tree. 
Now
The original owners wanted to get rid of their pool, which they hardly used to convert it into a drought-tolerant landscape with a seating area underneath a tree.

I had designed a meandering path from the patio which ended in a seating area made from flagstone.

Then

You can really tell how much the tree and other plants have grown over the past 7 years.

Now

While the overall landscape looked good and I was happy with how the design turned out – but there was an issue.

Most of the plants were brown and straggly – not very attractive and showing signs of under watering.  

The new homeowner provided me with the irrigation schedule that the original homeowners had been using and it was easy to see why some of the plants were a bit small for their age and didn’t look great – they were getting too little water.

Then
I helped her adjust her irrigation schedule and assured her that her plants would soon improve in appearance.

Although some of the original plants had been lost due to under watering, I remembered what they were and was able to give her a list of replacements to buy.


As I got ready to leave, the homeowner told me that she couldn’t wait to tell her husband that by sheer coincidence, their landscape consultant turned out to be the original designer.

I drove away with a huge smile on my face because it isn’t often that a residential landscape designer gets to see their designed landscape a few years later.

It made my job feel very rewarding that day 🙂

**For information on watering guidelines for the low desert including how to avoid over & under watering, click here.

There are some plants in the landscape that are underused through not fault of their own.


This can be for a number of reasons, one of which, is that it isn’t stocked at local nurseries.  Customers often walk into their local nursery without any specific plant in mind and choose from what is in stock.

 
Another reason is that many southwestern natives aren’t all that impressive looking in their nursery container, where their root growth is restricted.  
However once they are planted and roots begin growing, they really take off and transform into a beautiful plant.
 
 
One underused plant in the southwest garden is little leaf cordia (Cordia parvifolia).
 
There are so many reasons to love this underused, native shrub…
 
– it is evergreen in zones 8 and above
– thrives in areas with full, reflected sun
– is drought tolerant
– needs no fertilizer
– rarely needs to be pruned
– and perhaps most importantly, it has beautiful, white flowers!
 
 
I recently wrote about little leaf cordia for Houzz.com and how to grow and use it in the landscape.
 
My hope that this underused shrub will soon become a much-used shrub in the southwestern landscape.
 
**Is there a plant that you think deserves a more prominent place in the southwestern landscape?  Please share it in the comments below!

Yellow is a great color to include in the garden.  


Why?


Yellow-flowering plants will help the other colors in your garden to ‘pop’ visually because it provides great color contrast.

Damainita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
 
One of my favorite yellow-flowering plants is damianita, which blooms in spring and again in fall.
It thrives in hot, sunny, desert gardens, is drought-tolerant and is almost maintenance-free.
 
I love how it looks like ‘yellow clouds’ sitting on the ground when in bloom.  
 
For more information on damianita as well as a few other desert perennials that I like to use in desert landscapes, click here.

Do you enjoy going out into the garden in summer?


I don’t!


I admit to sometimes neglecting my garden when the temperatures go above the century mark.  My aversion to gardening in a furnace is one of the reasons that I like to use desert-adapted plants that don’t need much attention.



One of my favorite fuss-free plants is chuparosa (Justicia californica).  

It has beautiful red, tubular flowers that decorate the garden in late winter into spring and sporadically throughout the year.  Hummingbirds can’t resist it AND it is drought-tolerant and low-maintenance.

Want to learn more?  Here is my latest plant profile for Houzz:




As a horticulturist, I have quite a few plants on my list of favorites.  So many in fact, that I cannot grow them all in my own garden.


But, this favorite has a prominent place in my home landscape – I have four of them.



This pink beauty is what I see when I look out my kitchen window.

I can also see another one growing when I look out my living room window.

And another one when I look out my bedroom window.

You get the idea…

Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana) grows in both humid and dry climates.  Believe it or not, it is drought-tolerant too!

To learn more about this beautiful, pink plant and why you will want to add one to your garden, check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.