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One of the most rewarding things about my job is having the opportunity to revisit areas that I have designed.  Despite designing landscapes for over 17 years, I never tire of having the opportunity to explore them again to see how the landscape has matured.  When touring the landscapes, I take time to look at what worked and sometimes what didn’t.  I take these lessons with me and implement them in future designs.


Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) and feathery cassia (Senna artemisoides)
Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of a landscape that I designed for a church two years ago.  
I was asked by the landscape committee to create a landscape that would be filled with color during the cool season since that is when the majority of the members are attending.  

BEFORE:




The landscape was filled with over-pruned shrubs, many of which flowered in summer.  In addition, there were a large number of frost tender plants in the landscape that were unsightly when much of the residents were in town.

AFTER:


After removing the shrubs, I added feathery cassia (Senna artemisoides), which blooms in late winter and spring, along with the newer Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) which flowers all year long while staying at a rather compact 3 feet tall and wide size.
BEFORE:


When working with an existing landscape, I always try to keep mature plants that are healthy and fulfill the design criteria.  In this case, a Mexican (Yellow) Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana), that had been trained into a tree, which has evergreen foliage and flowers in spring and fall.

AFTER:


Blue Bell shrubs and golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) completed this planting area.

BEFORE:


In this area, a few shrubs, a barrel cactus and a lonely red yucca hang on from the previously designed landscape, all of which add little interest to the landscape.


AFTER:

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine) and desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Contrasting textures and color add interest to the landscape throughout the entire year.  Seasonal blooming creates an entirely different look to the landscape as well.

BEFORE:


As landscapes age, plants can become overgrown and to some, unattractive as was the case with this old desert spoon.  The lysiloma tree was in good shape and the decision was made to keep it.

AFTER:

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis syn. Hymenoxys acaulis)

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) is one of my favorite small perennials as its bright, sunny flowers appear throughout the entire year.

Valentine bush and feathery cassia serve as foundation planting.

BEFORE:


Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) had been used to create a hedge.  However, while pink fairy duster does flower in winter and spring, it isn’t a suitable choice as a formal hedge.  Rather, it belongs in a natural desert landscape and untouched by hedge trimmers.

AFTER:

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) in winter.


Pink muhly was added for welcome fall color when its plumes turn a vibrant burgundy color, which fade to an attractive wheat color in winter.  After being pruned in early spring, bright green growth quickly fills back in.

BEFORE:


This is a high-profile corner as it is one of the entries into the church parking lot.  As you can see, there was little to attract the attention of passersby.

AFTER:


Adding a combination of plants that will ensure year round interest no matter whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter.

Even though the purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) can die back to the ground in winter, the bright colors of the Valentine bush and feathery cassia will draw attention away from it.

BEFORE:


Three Agave americana were all that sat in this area, which offered little color and virtually no interest.  


I took the existing agave and spread them throughout the landscape, where they can create both texture and color contrast when paired with the softer shapes and darker colors of shrubs.  

One thing that I wish I had done differently was to space the shrubs in this area a little further apart.  This can cause landscapers to excessively prune shrubs into poodle shapes in an attempt to keep them from touching.  Pruning them severely once a year can keep them from outgrowing their space OR removing every other shrub once they become too large can take care of the problem.  

I hope that you enjoyed seeing the transformation of this landscape to one filled with cool season color.

A few years ago, while visiting my sister in the Palm Springs area in California, we visited the Living Desert Museum.  This is a combination botanical garden and zoo.



We had a great time exploring along with our kids and I enjoyed taking pictures of the different plants that I saw.


While walking through the gardens, I noticed a small shrub, which at first glance, I assumed was a small species of Leucophyllum (Texas Sage).




I took a quick photo and then walked on.

Fast forward 2 years later, where I found myself learning about a newer plant on the market that thrives in desert heat, is drought-tolerant, flowers all year and needs little to no pruning.

Now any plant that looks great but isn’t fussy in desert gardens is one that I definitely need to get to know better.  

I found out that this particular shrub was supposed to look a lot like a gray Texas sage.  That was when I remembered taking the photo, above.

I was thrilled to find out that I had been introduced to this plant earlier, but hadn’t known it.

There is so much that I can say about Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana ‘Blue Bells’) and I have written an article about this beautiful, yet tough shrub, which you can read in my latest Houzz plant profile…

Kitchen designs, bathroom designs, and more ∨

Hire residential landscape architects to help with all aspects of landscape design, from selecting or designing outdoor patio furniture, to siting a detached garage or deck.
A home remodeler or residential architect will see the potential in the architecture and building design of your home.

I strongly encourage you to be a trendsetter in your neighborhood by planting this lovely shrub in your 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.

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

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.






Have you ever been on television before?


I hadn’t until 2 weeks ago.  To be frank, the idea was a bit scary to me.  

Do you remember way back, when you were in school and had to present a report in front of the entire class?  That is what I imagined it would feel like – except worse.


I have done work before cameras doing how-to videos, but it wasn’t quite the same since they can retake the video every time you mess up. 


This was going to be live TV…


So, how did this all come about?  I assure that I don’t have an agent looking to book TV shows for me 😉


The producer of our local ABC television station contacted me about appearing on their morning show, called Sonoran Living (we live in the Sonoran desert, hence the name).


She asked me to do a segment on plants for fall.



So, I came up with a list of a few of my favorite ‘fuss-free’ plants and headed out the nursery.

I visited 3 different nurseries to see which ones had the best looking plants.  Then I waited until 2 days before my appearance to pick them up.

You know what true love is?  It is when your husband traipses through the nursery with you without an umbrella in the pouring rain 🙂


It was so rainy for the next couple of days that I kept the plants on my patio and took some time to do a little ‘window dressing’ pruning away dead flowers and branches so that they would look their best.

My youngest sister, Grace, volunteered to come with me to the studio and help me set up for my segment.  So, I loaded up the plants and my little cart and we headed out to downtown Phoenix and the television studio.

When we arrived, the security guard let us in and showed us the studio and then led us to the green room.


I did walk through the studio before anyone got there, to see what it looked like because I knew I wouldn’t see it again since my segment was to be filmed out on their patio.


 My sister, who is a professional photographer, told me to pose up front where the hosts of the show come out every morning.


We headed to the green room where we saw the order of the upcoming segments.  

I must admit that I was both more nervous and yet relieved that mine was to go first, so that I could get it over with more quickly.


We were led outside to the patio, which had a golfing green.  I’m not sure why there was a green – maybe the news anchors like to golf during their breaks?

Another reason I was so glad my sister came with me was that in addition to moral support, she is great at staging.  So she did the plant placement for me along with some of the props that I brought.


She will tell you that she has no particular talent in staging, but she is wrong!  Just look at how well the plants look together.


I brought gardening tools and my leather gloves because I was told to bring props.


I posed for a few pictures while waiting.  The plants next to me are Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) and Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera).

It was so humid that morning because of all the rain, that my carefully curled hair was rapidly becoming UN-curled 😉


I was told to prepare for a ‘teaser’ before my segment, so I tried to look busy putting a plant marker in my pot of chives.

One of the hosts (Terri Ouellette) of Sonoran Living came out early to meet me and go over what I was going to talk about.  She was very nice and I told her that I had been watching her on TV since the 90’s.

It was almost time to go and they wired me up with a mike and they put a monitor outside so we could see what the television audience saw.  


Instead of beginning the show inside the studio, they started it outside and then it was time for my segment.

The segment went smoothly and while my nerves showed a little, I actually enjoyed it.  I did mess up by saying “All of these shrubs need pruning one year”, when I meant to say that they need pruning once a year.

After it was over and the commercial was running, our host Terri said that she wanted me on again – so I guess I didn’t mess it up too badly.


Before we left, my sister asked if she could take a picture of me with the host.  I was too embarrassed to ask myself, so I was glad she did 🙂

So, would I do this again?

I received an email the day after from the producer saying that she wanted me back in 3 months.  I’d told her that I’d be happy too.


I think that I will enjoy it more next time and have fewer nerves.


If you haven’t had a chance to see the video, here is the link – “Ready? Fuss Free Plants for Fall”.



What if you could have a landscape filled with beautiful, flowering plants that needed pruning only once a year?




Better yet, what if these beautiful plants needed little to no fertilizer and thrived in our desert climate?  

Would you want to include some of these plants in your garden?

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by the producers of Sonoran Living, a locally produced lifestyle show, to show some ‘fuss free’ plants suitable for fall planting.  

I shared a few of my favorites in my previous post, “Fuss Free Plants for Fall Planting”.

Today, I would like to show you the plants that I profiled on the show



Coral Fountain

Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis) has a lovely cascading form and produces vibrant red flowers spring through fall.

Maintenance: Prune back in March, removing frost-damaged growth.

Hardy to 15 degrees.

Plant in full sun or in light shade.

Desert Ruellia

Desert Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) is a medium-sized shrub with light green foliage and purple flowers that appear spring through fall.  This shrub is a great alternative for Texas Sage because it does not grow as large.

Maintenance: Prune back to 1 1/2 ft. in early March.  Avoid repeated pruning during the year.  Allow it to grow into its natural shape.

Hardy to 25 degrees.

Plant in full sun and allow room for it to grow to its mature size of 4 feet wide.

‘Phoenix’ Bird-of-Paradise

Phoenix Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima ‘Phoenix Bird’) is the yellow form of Red or Mexican Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  Gorgeous yellow flowers appear all summer long on these tropical shrubs.

Maintenance: Prune back to 1 ft. in winter.

Hardy to 15 degrees.

Plant in full sun, along a bare wall.

Blue Bells

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana ‘Blue Bells’) is a relatively new plant introduction.  Gray foliage is covered with blue/purple flowers off and on throughout the year.


Maintenance: Little to no pruning required.


Hardy to 17 degrees.


Plant in full sun and pair with shrubs with dark green foliage such as Valentine (shown below).



Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is a superstar in the landscape.  The reason for this is its red flowers that appear all winter long and into spring.  Better yet, the foliage is evergreen.


Maintenance: Prune back to 1 1/2 ft. high and wide in late spring, after flowering finishes.  Don’t prune more then this or flowering will be reduced later in the year.


Hardy to 15 degrees.


Plant in full sun in groups of 3 to 5 for best effect.  Pair with yellow flowering plants such as Angelita Daisy or Brittlebush.



Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigid) is a uniquely shaped succulent that produces chartreuse flowers in spring.



Maintenance: Prune back flowers after they dry in late spring.


Hardy to -20 degrees.


Plant in groups of 3 around boulders.


I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my favorite ‘fuss free’ plants.  


What are some of your favorite low-maintenance plants?

I love color in the garden.  My garden is full of flowering shrubs and perennials.  I am blessed to live in an area where it is possible to have flowers in my garden 12 months of the year.  My favorite way to accomplish this is to include plants that flower most, if not all year long.

Today, I would like to share with you some of my favorites….

 
Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)
Flowers year-long with heaviest bloom occurring in spring and fall.
Red Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica)
This shrub has beautiful flowers 12 months of the year.  Blooming does slow down in winter, but flowers are still present.

 
Pink Bower Vine (Pandorea jasminoides)
Two of these vines grace the front entry to my house.  They produce flowers all year, but do slow during the hot summer months.
‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana)
Resembles Texas sage, yet stays compact at 3 feet tall and wide.  Purple flowers are produced all 12 months of the year.

Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)
One of my absolute favorite shrubs.  Purple flowers are present all year, but blooming slows down in winter.

 
Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)
Reliable bloomer throughout the year.  Hummingbirds flock to the beautiful orange flowers.  Winter temperatures slow down blooming.
Mexican Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana)
This versatile shrub can be trained as a small tree.  I have 4 in my landscape.  Yellow flowers are produced off and on all year.

 
Purple Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
In a protected area (under an overhang or underneath a tree), this groundcover can bloom all year long.  The lantana pictured above, was located underneath an overhang which is why is still looked wonderful in January when I took this photo. 
I live and work in zone 9a and so the plants bloom times are affected by our highest and lowest temperatures.  As a result, many of the plants that do flower all year long will slow down in the winter and fewer blooms will be produced.  But, in my experience, there are still flowers even in January.  

Plants such as the lantana and cape honeysuckle will produce more blooms in the cold winter months if planted in protected area.  Examples of protected areas are up against a house, underneath the eaves or underneath a tree.  I have a bougainvillea that has stayed green all winter and still has flowers on it because it is located underneath a tree.

I hope you will try some of my favorite flowering plants.  For those of you who live in different climates, look for plants that will provide you with color for as long as possible.  If you cannot have blooming flowers year-long, then try incorporating plants with beautiful foliage and textures so that there is always something beautiful to see in your garden every single month of the year.

**For more suggestions for colorful plants for your arid garden, I recommend Arizona Gardener’s Guide, which lists hundreds of trees, shrubs and perennials that add beauty while thriving in our often challenging climate.