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Did you know that you can have plants blooming in your landscape every month of the year? In the desert garden, this is definitely true!

One of the most popular programs that I teach at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix is ‘Flowering All Year’. During the presentation, I teach students how to incorporate plants in their gardens so they can enjoy colorful blooms all year long.

Sadly, many desert dwellers miss this opportunity. Drive down a typical neighborhood street in winter, and you will have a hard time finding plants in bloom except for colorful annual flowers. As you’ll note, the focus in our gardens is typically on plants that flower through the warm season.

So, how can we change that? It’s quite simple – add plants that will flower in winter. Believe it or not, there are quite a few plants that fit the bill. 

I invite you to come along with me on a virtual tour of the plants I showed to the students in the class as we walked through the garden in mid-February.

*Before we embark on our walk, I have a confession to make. Usually, I arrive early before my classes to see what’s in bloom so I can plan our route. But, my daughter’s bus arrived late that morning, so I was running a bit late. As a result, I didn’t know what we would see. Thankfully, there was plenty to see.

Plants for Cool-Season Color:

 

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)

The vibrant, blooms of Purple Lilac Vine never disappoint. Blooms appear in mid-winter, adding a welcome relief to colorless winter landscapes. Here it is planted in a tall raised bed and allowed to trail downward. In my garden, it grows up against a wall with a trellis for support.

Whale’s Tongue Agave and Mexican Honeysuckle underneath an Ironwood tree

 

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)

Several perennials and small shrubs do best in the desert garden when planted in filtered sunlight. Desert trees like Ironwood, Mesquite, and Palo Verde are excellent choices for producing filtered sunlight. Mexican Honeysuckle doesn’t do well in full sun. As a result, it thrives under the shade of this Ironwood tree. I love the texture contrast in this bed next to the Whale’s Tongue Agave.

Weber’s Agave (Agave weberi) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Desert Marigold is a short-lived perennial that resembles a wildflower. Yellow flowers appear throughout the year on this short-lived perennial. I like to use them in wildflower gardens or natural desert landscapes because this yellow bloomer will self-seed.

Firesticks (Euphorbia ‘Sticks on Fire’) and Elephants Food (Portulacaria afra)

Shrubs, vines, and perennials aren’t the only plants that add winter color in the landscape. Colorful stems of the succulent Firesticks add a splash of orange all year. I am a fan of the use of blue pots in the garden, and here, it adds a powerful color contrast with the orange.

‘Winter Blaze’ (Eremophila glabra)

 

Lush green foliage decorated with orange/red blooms is on display all year long with this Australian native. Several types of Eremophilas add cool-season color to the landscape, and this one deserves more attention. There must be a blank space in my garden for one… 

Blue Bells Eremophila and Mexican Fence Post Cactus

 

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana)

Blue Bells is arguably one of my most favorite plants. It resembles a compact Texas Sage (Leucophyllum spp.) but doesn’t grow as large AND blooms throughout the year. For best results, plant in full sun, but well-drained soil is a must.

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)

My favorite choice for winter color is Valentine Bush. Red/fuschia blooms begin to appear in January and last into April. For maximum color impact, use them in groups of 3 – 5. They are low maintenance – prune back to 1/2 their size in mid-April after flowering. No other pruning is required.

Aloe ferox

Winter into spring is a busy time for Aloes, and many species do well in the desert garden. Most require filtered sunlight to do their best, but ‘Blue Elf’ Aloe does well in both full sun and bright shade.

Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

People from colder climates are often surprised to note that rosemary flowers. In the desert, we are fortunate that we get to enjoy their blue flowers from winter through spring – the bees like them too!

Shrubby Germander (Teucrium fruiticans ‘Azurea’)

Toward the entrance to the garden, I was delighted to see Shrubby Germander. A star in my own garden, this shrub has flowered all winter long and will continue to do so into spring. The blooms are a lovely periwinkle color.

Chuparosa (Justicia californica)

As our walk was wrapping up, the bright red blooms of a Chuparosa shrub caught our eye. A hummingbird was busily drinking as much nectar as he could. I like to use this shrub in landscapes with a natural theme as it has a sprawling growth habit. It flowers through winter into spring and an important nectar source for hummingbirds.

Of course, blooming plants aren’t the only way to add color to the garden. Garden art can play a vital part in adding interest. The Desert Botanical Garden is host to a traveling art exhibit with various animals made from recycled plastic. This group of meerkats greets visitors to the garden.

I hope that you enjoy this virtual tour of winter color in the garden and will add some to your own.

What plants do you have that flower in winter?

One of the many blessings of living in the desert is that you can garden all year.  That means that you can have beautiful color all year, even in the winter (above).

Drive down the street during the summer, and you will see flowering plants in the common areas and gracing the front yards of everywhere you look.  Texas Sage, Bougainvillea, Lantana, and Tecoma species dot the landscape as shown in the photo above.

 Why, then, do people not include plants that will provide color in the winter?  You can take the same drive as you did in the summer and see nothing but green blobs and nothing else (below).  The landscape below is an unfortunate victim of ‘poodle’ pruning.  We are so fortunate to live in an area with relatively mild winters, so why not take advantage of that fact in your garden?

I mean, who thinks that this looks nice?  Countless times, when I am meeting with clients, they ask, “My landscape is so boring.  What can I do to make it look better?”  The majority of the time, I hear this from winter residents.  Their landscape is a riot of color in the summer when they are gone.  But, in the winter when they are there, they have green blobs and little else.

The landscape (above) has potential.  The solution to a somewhat dull landscape is easy.  Add plants that bloom in the cool-season to the landscape.

 
When I create a landscape design for a brand new landscape, I make sure to include a variety of plants that flower at a different time of the year.  This ensures year-round color.  If you have an established landscape, add a few winter-flowering plants.  That is all it takes.
 
For beautiful winter color,  I recommend trying the following:

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)
Flowers late winter to spring and again in fall

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)  Flowers winter into mid-spring

 

 

 
purple flowering vine

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae) Flowers in mid-winter

 

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) Blooms winter, spring, and fall

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) Flowers winter into spring

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) Flower mid-winter into spring

 

 

yellow flowering shrub

Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisoides) Blooms mid-winter into spring

yellow flowering perennial

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) syn. Hymenoxys acaulis Blooms off and on throughout the year

 

As you can tell, there are countless plants that you can use for winter color. If you are only a winter-resident, you may choose to primarily have plants that flower in winter. As for me, I love lots of color year-round.  My favorites are Purple Lilac Vine, Firecracker Penstemon, Valentine, and Angelita Daisy.

 
Whether you live in the Tropics or Canada, this same principle is true for any climate you live in – make sure your garden provides color for you when you are there.
What are your favorite winter-bloomers?

Valentine bush and feathery cassia

One of the things that I enjoy about living in the Southwest are the beautiful outdoor spaces. In particular, I am struck by the color and beauty in the winter landscape.

Now, for those of you who follow, know that I often take photos of ‘problem’ landscapes I drive by.

Well, not this time!  I was so distracted by the beauty around me that I didn’t notice any landscape mistakes.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and are inspired to create your own!

 
Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is hands down, my favorite shrub.  I love its bright red color, which decorates the landscape from January through April.  Even when not in bloom, the foliage looks lovely.
 
Golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) with their sunny yellow color are a great choice. I use them often in my landscape designs due to their drought tolerance, low maintenance (they need none) and the yellow color they add throughout the year.
 
Large desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) add great contrast with their spiky texture and gray-blue coloring.
 
This is a great pairing of plants that I plan on using in future designs.
 
 
The yellow, fragrant flowers of feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides) are famous for their winter color. Nothing else brightens a dreary winter’s day as much as the color yellow. The silvery foliage of this cassia adds great color contrast and give off a silvery glow on a breezy day.

In the background, you see the pink blooms of pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla). Their uniquely shaped blooms look like a feather duster and hummingbirds find them irresistible. 

Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea) is a native groundcover that needs little water and provides nice color contrast.

 
This combination was well done but planted too closely together.
 
Against the backdrop of yellow-flowering feathery cassia, a pair of boulders are decorated with blue bells (Eremophila hygrophana). These shrubs have lovely gray foliage and produce purple/blue flowers all year long.  This is a newer plant introduction getting a lot of attention. 
 
A golden barrel cactus offers great contrast along with a pair of agave.
 
 
Here is one of my favorite landscapes in this particular community.  I like the combination of cacti, flowering shrubs, and perennials that create a pleasing landscape.
 
A trio of flowering firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) easily catches your eye. They are one of my favorite perennials in my own garden and flower January through April in the low desert.
 
 
In another landscape, firecracker penstemon is used as part of a wildflower planting, backed by desert spoon and purple trailing lantana.
 
 
Ornamental grasses add great interest to the winter landscape and pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is one of my favorites. Their burgundy plumes, which appear in fall fade to an attractive wheat color in winter. Soon, they will be pruned back to 3 inches in preparation for a new growth cycle.
 
 
Some landscapes look attractive using a minimum amount of plants.  The key is to use a variety of different plants – not just shrubs or cacti.  In this one, a blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida) overlooks a planting of purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) and desert spoon.  While the lantana is frost tender, the canopy of the tree provides it some protection from frost.
 
 
It’s important to anchor the corners in your landscape – particularly those next to the driveway. Here is an example of how to combine plants that look great throughout the year. When warmer temps arrive  ‘New Gold’ lantana (Lantana ‘New Gold’), bursts forth with colorful blooms that last until the first frost. In winter, golden barrel cacti attract the attention and keep you from noticing the frost damaged lantana. 
 
 
This street planting also attracted my attention with the row of little leaf (foothill) palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla) trees, Valentine shrubs and purple trailing lantana. I should note that lantana doesn’t usually flower much in winter, but in mild winters, they do.

An almost leafless mesquite tree stands sentinel over a planting of red-flowering chuparosa (Justicia californica). This shrub has lovely green foliage and tubular flowers that drive hummingbirds crazy with delight.

As you can see, the Southwestern landscape is filled with beauty and color, even in winter.  Unfortunately, many homeowners only use plants that bloom spring through summer. This leaves them with a boring landscape through the winter months for several months. So, celebrate the winter season by adding a few of these cool-season beauties to your garden!

Do you enjoy seeing “before and after” photos?


I do – especially with landscapes.


Just over a year ago, I was asked to help renovate a local church’s landscape.
  



As you can see their landscape had become rather bare as plants had not been replaced over the years.  In addition, there were some old plants that needed replacing.

So, I got to work on a new design.  When renovating an existing landscape, it’s important to determine which existing plants to keep.  I rarely get rid of all the plants since mature plants help anchor a new landscape while the new plants take time to fill in and grow.  Also, why waste a perfectly good plant as long as it is still attractive and can fit into your design?  You can always create a design to go with an existing plant.

A year after being installed, I was asked to come back to work on a different area of the church,  During that time, I took some “after” pictures of what the landscape looks like now.  


This area was filled with two old shrubs, which we elected to keep.


Some contouring (mounding) was added for elevation and river rock washes were added for drainage.


And this is what it looks like 1 year later.  Flowering feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides) adds color in winter and spring.  Year round color is supplied by angelita daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis) and ‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana).

Agave and boulders will add texture contrast.


In this area, I tagged two struggling shrubs with paint for removal along with a yucca plant that the church landscape committee wanted removed due to it poking people with its sharp leaves as they walked by.

The Mexican bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) tree would remain in this area.


The small wash was redone, which serves double duty – it adds a decorative element to the landscape and helps channel water from the roof.

Golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) were planted in the corner where they will lend sunny yellow color all year long.  ‘Blue bell’ shrubs complete the planting in this area.


While pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) is a beautiful desert shrub in spring, it makes a poor hedge.  In addition, it does not flower 9 months of the year.  A plant that would look great throughout the majority of the year was needed in this area.


Ornamental grasses fit the bill perfectly in this area.  Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is green from spring through summer and puts on a show in fall when burgundy plumes appear that fade to an attractive wheat color in winter.  Instead of a hedge, which would need pruning throughout the year, pink muhly needs pruning once, in spring.


This area had a few sage shrubs, a single red yucca and a barrel cactus.

I had everything removed in this bed except for the barrel cactus.  The church had a large number of old Texas sage shrubs (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’).  The reason that I had many of these taken out was because a the majority of the members of this church are winter visitors.  Texas sage flowers in summer and early fall when they are gone.  I was asked to add plants that would provide winter and spring color.


Now this area is filled with feathery cassia and Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine), both of which flower in winter and spring.  Desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) adds both color and texture contrast and ‘Blue bell’ shrubs will add colorful flowers throughout the entire year.


This corner section of the landscape was filled with formally pruned shrubs that offered little beauty to the area.


The ocotillo and yucca remained and angelita daisies, ‘Blue Bell’ and feathery cassia were added.

I must admit that I was quite pleased at how everything looked.  It’s one thing to create a design on paper and another thing entirely to see it growing in beautifully.

On a slightly different note, I also took time to check on the streetside landscape by the church that I had designed 2 years ago.


In the beginning, there was nothing there but an old cactus or two.


What a difference 2 years makes!  A young palo blanco tree (Acacia willardiana) grows among feathery cassia, Valentine and purple trailing lantana.

The plant palette for the church mirrored that of the street landscape for a visually seamless transition.


Along this section fo the street, all that was present were 3 Agave americana and utility boxes.


The agave were relocated along this stretch of road with trees and colorful shrubs.  You can hardly see the utility boxes now.

Thank you for letting me share with you some of my favorite “before and after” photos.  Learn more about the plants that I used in this project by clicking their names: ‘Blue Bell’ shrubs, feathery cassia, Valentine bush and pink muhly grass.

*Do you have an area in your landscape that needs a little help?  Take some time and drive around and take pictures of landscapes that you like.  Then take them to your local nursery or landscape professional and have them help you renovate your landscape.

As you read this, I am busy helping to build a community garden along with the Saturday6 and  Troy-bilt in Miami, Florida.
 
So, while I am “out of the office”, I thought that I would share with you links to the blog posts that are most often ‘clicked’ on.
 
I hope you find them helpful and I promise to tell you about my trip when I get home!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Best wishes for a fabulous weekend!

Have you ever wondered how sustainable your landscape is?


Earlier this week, we began our series of posts on sustainable landscaping and talked about what a sustainable landscape is.  You can find the first post here.

Most of us like the idea of having an attractive landscape without wasting resources such as fertilizer, excessive pruning and water, time and gasoline unnecessarily.  But, oftentimes we do things in our gardens that create the need for additional resources.

Today, we will look at one of the major problems that I see which often goes wrong and prevents people from having sustainable landscapes.

MISTAKE #1:

Most people fail to take into consideration how large their new plants will grow.

For example:


This young ‘Green Cloud’ Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’) measures roughly 1 foot high and wide.

But, just a few years after planting, it does grow quite a bit…


This ‘Rio Bravo’ sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’), which is similar in size to ‘Green Cloud’ Texas sage reaches sizes up to 8 feet tall and wide.

It’s hard to believe that such a small shrub can grow so much in just a few years time.


This trailing rosemary was initially quite small when planted next to this boulder.  However, the homeowner did not allow for the fact that the rosemary would grow and eventually ‘swallow’ the boulder.


This small ficus tree looks rather innocent, doesn’t it?  But, it is harboring a secret…


It will grow absolutely huge!
This ficus tree absolutely dwarfs this house.  

The mistake of not allowing for the mature size of plants when planting, leads to…

MISTAKE #2:

Over-planting.


At first glance, there appears to be nothing wrong with this landscape area.  There are some larger dwarf oleanders in the background and nine young Texas sage shrubs.

But, do you think that the Texas sage shrubs will fit in this area once they start to grow toward their mature size of 6 – 8 feet?

I don’t think so.

Over-planting occurs when people don’t allow for the mature size of the plants.  Of course, new plants look rather small and somewhat straggly once first planted, which often leads to over-planting to make the new area look more attractive.

That is what happened to this area below…


Would you believe that the shrubs planted above are actually the same as those shown below?


It’s true.  The only difference is that in this space, the mature size of the shrubs was taken into account, so there was no over-planting taking place.

Think about how much less money and maintenance this area uses compared to the previous area?  There are fewer plants, less maintenance and it looks much nicer!

Mistakes #1 and 2 lead us to…

MISTAKE #3:

Excessive pruning.


So, what do you think people do if their plants are planted to closely together – they prune them…a lot!

Drive-thru’s are places that you can usually find over-planted landscapes.  The one above is filled with 2/3’s more plant material then is needed.

The over-pruned shrubs in the forefront are actually Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) shrubs, which look much more attractive when not over-pruned.


There are 3 Valentine shrubs in the photo above that are allowed to grow to their natural shape after their annual pruning in May.


These silver sage shrubs at our local Costco store have also been over-pruned due to the fact that they were planted too closely together.

Over-pruning often leads to artistic expressions…

‘Abstract Art’


‘Mushrooms’


‘Cupcakes’

Words fail me attempting to describe the pruning 
of these sage shrubs.

Here are some interesting facts about over-pruning that you may be surprised to hear.

Over-pruning…

– makes plants grow faster (as they attempt to re-grow the leaves lost)

-creates more maintenance (faster growing plants tend to be pruned more often)

– uses more water (in their attempt to re-grow lost leaves pruned away).

– creates green waste (branches/leaves head to the landfill)

– leads to unhealthy plants (from the stresses of too much pruning).

– wastes time used for un-needed pruning.

Have you ever seen the inside of shrubs that have been excessively pruned for years?

I warn you, it isn’t pretty…




Not too pretty, is it?

Over time, flowering shrubs that have been excessively sheared, can develop large dead areas and eventually decline.  This leads to old shrubs being removed and a new ones put in.

MISTAKE #4

Growing plants that aren’t adapted to your climate.


Plants that are not well-adapted to your local climate require excessive resources such as extra water, fertilizer and other maintenance.  

Queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffianum) are just one example of a plant that often struggles in our southwestern, desert climate.  No matter what we do, they will never look as nice as the queen palms growing in more tropical climates.
The lesson to be learned from this is that not planning for the mature plant size, over-planting, over-pruning and wrong plant selection uses up a lot of resources.

1. Excessive amounts of water are used due to over-planting, over-pruning and for plants not well-adapted to our arid climate.

2. Money is wasted on buying more plants then are needed.

3. The costs of maintenance used for excessive planting and pruning include another resource – gasoline.

4. Declining health of plants that have not been pruned properly or those ill-suited for our dry, hot climate.

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

So how does your landscape compare with examples, above?

If you see some similarities – don’t worry.  There are things that you can do to decrease the amount of resources that go into maintaining your landscape.  

My goal is to help you toward not only a more sustainable landscape, but one that is also beautiful and attractive.

In my next post, we will start to talk about 

“Small Steps Toward a Sustainable Landscape”.


This past week, I have been sharing with you my latest landscape project that is located next to a golf course.


I shared with you the tree and shrubs that I had chosen and not it’s time to show you what perennials and succulents that will be going in.


*All the following perennials are drought tolerant and require full sun with well-drained soil.



Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) is a fabulous flowering ground cover.  

It thrives in locations with hot, reflected heat and handles cold temperatures (down to 0 degrees F) just as well.  

In spring and again in fall, masses of bright yellow flowers cover this low-growing perennial.  When not in bloom, it has dark green needle-like foliage.



Newly planted landscape with Purple Trailing Lantana, Parry’s Penstemon, Desert Spoon, Palo Blanco trees and Damianita.
I have used Damianita in other landscapes that I have designed in the past (shown above), with great results.  

*The trick to keeping Damianita looking great is to shear it back in late spring.


Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) is my favorite flowering perennial.  The one pictured above, is in my own garden.

I am often asked about this brilliantly colored plant in spring when it is in bloom.

One of the reasons that I love this Penstemon is that is begins flowering in winter, in zone 9b and continues on into spring.  In cooler zones, it begins flowering in spring and lasts into summer.  It handles cold temperatures easily and is hardy to zone 5.

Hummingbirds find the flowers irresistible.  To prolong bloom, prune off the flowering stalks once the flowers begin to fade and you will be rewarded with another flush of bloom.

Angelita Daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis formerly, Hymenoxys acaulis) are what you could call one of my ‘signature’ plants, because I use them often, like the landscape I designed, above.

I find them invaluable in the landscape because they flower off and on throughout the year, with the heaviest bloom occurring in spring.

They easily handle full sun and reflected heat and look great in pots.  I like to plant them next to boulders in groups of 3 or 5 for best effect.   Cold temperatures are no problem either because they are hardy to zone 5.

Maintenance is easy – simply shear the flowers every 8 weeks or so. 

Now, so far I have shown you the trees, shrubs and perennials planned for this area.  But, I want to add succulent plants, which are also used as accent plants.  These types of plants add texture to the landscape because their unique shapes contrast well with the softer, more rounded shapes of the shrubs and perennials.


Weber’s Agave (Agave weberi) is a large agave that can grow 5 to 6 ft. high and up to 8 ft. wide.

In large landscape areas, I don’t want to use small succulents because it will be hard to see them unless you mass a lot of them together.  My budget won’t allow for that with this project.

I love how this large agave can stand up on its own.  I like to plant flowering ground covers underneath them.

Plant in full sun or light shade.  Weber’s Agave is hardy to zone 7.  *Agave need supplemental water in our climate to look their best.  I recommend watering twice a month in summer and once a month in spring and fall.  


You can’t get much more unique in shape and coloring then Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa-rita).  

I love the gray pads with shades of purple.  
The purple color deepens in cold temperatures or in times of drought.


In spring, yellow flowers cover this beautiful cactus.  

Hardy to zone 8, plant in full sun and well-drained soil.

**If you notice white cottony masses on your prickly pear, simply spray it off with a hose.  They are caused by an insect.

Okay, are you ready for my last plant selection for this new project?


It is hard to find a succulent that works harder then Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora).  Despite their common name, they aren’t a yucca.

The lower, succulent leaves resemble ornamental grasses.  In spring coral-colored flowers are borne above the grass-like foliage.


Hardy to zone 7, Red Yucca thrives in full sun.  While drought-tolerant, they do best with supplemental water.  

Maintenance is easy – just remove the flowering stalks as they begin to fade.  

*There is a common mistake that landscapers often make with this succulent plant.  To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, check out my previous post, “Do This NOT That”.

The last element for my newest project isn’t a plant at all, but it adds height and texture to the landscape without requiring any water or pruning…


Boulders!

I will use boulders interspersed throughout this flat area to add height.  The boulders will have either a succulent and/or flowering perennials planted next to them.

Well, I must say that I am excited to get started on this project.  We will wait until this fall for the planting.

I’ll be sure to take you all along as it progresses.

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7 days until my daughter, Rachele, comes home from the Navy!!!







In my last post “A Long Forgotten Area Ready for Transformation”, I told you that I would share what plants I was going to have put in this neglected area.


The plants I chose are based on the following:


– I have grown them myself in either my home garden and/or in landscapes I have managed.


– They are relatively low-maintenance.


– Drought-tolerant.


– The plant palette will also ensure year round color, with at least one or more plants being in bloom at a given time.


So are you ready to see what I chose?


Let’s start with the trees…


The area has two large Foothills Palo Verde trees along with a Wolfberry tree, so I chose one other type of tree to add.

 

 

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) is one of my favorite desert trees.  It is not a true willow, but is named for the fact that its leaves are willow-shaped.
 
Colorful flowers appear throughout the summer that add a vibrant punch of color to the landscape.
 
Hardy to zone 6, Desert Willow requires well-drained soil and full sun or filtered shade.
 
For more information on Desert Willow along with the different varieties available, check out my Houzz article about this lovely tree.
 
Now for the shrubs…
 
 
Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is my favorite shrub of all time.
I will never forget the day when I was first introduced to this red-flowering shrub, by Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.  It was 1999 and I was a horticulturist fresh out of college.
 
I was given 2 Valentine shrubs from Mountain States to plant in the landscape area I managed.  Ever since then, I have been hooked.
 
 
Red flowers appear on this shrub, beginning in January and lasting until April.  If you haven’t noticed it before, there isn’t much blooming in winter, which is one of the reasons I love Valentine.
 
The foliage is evergreen and Valentine are hardy to zone 8.  Better yet, they only need to be pruned once a year – in spring after flowering.
 
Plant in full sun and well-drained soil.
For more information about Valentine, check out my post about this great plant.
 
 
My second choice for shrubs is Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis).  
 
Now, this isn’t its rather invasive cousin Ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana), pictured below…
 
Baja Ruellia is what I like to think of as a smaller version of Texas Sage species (Leucophyllum sp).  It doesn’t get as large and has a longer flowering season then Leucophyllum.

 

 
The flowers of Baja Ruellia are tubular and appear spring through fall, with the heaviest bloom occurring in spring.  
 
The foliage is light green and rarely suffers frost damage in our zone 9b climate.  Hardy to zone 9, Baja Ruellia should be planted in full sun and well-drained soil.
 
 
The third shrub for this area will be Silvery Cassia (Senna phyllodenia).  This Australian native does very well in arid landscapes.
 
The silvery foliage will provide contrast to the darker greens present in the landscape.  Evergreen to 20 degrees, this shrub flourishes in zone 9 landscapes.
 
Yellow flowers appear in late winter and into spring.  Pruning is needed after flowering, to remove seed pods in managed landscapes.
 
Like the other shrubs, Silvery Cassia enjoys full sun and well-drained soil.



The smallest shrub for this area will be Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).  This plant is hard to zone 7, so remains evergreen during winter here.


Flowers appear fall through spring in the low desert.  The most common colors are red or pink, although there are other colors such as white, lavender and peach. 


I like to use Autumn Sage around trees like Palo Verde, where the filtered shade shelters it from the intense summer sun.  I first saw them planted around a tree at the Desert Botanical Garden and I really liked the way it looked, so I have repeated this design in many of my landscapes.
The Autumn Sage above, was planted by me around a Foothills Palo Verde about 12 years ago and they are still going strong.


I still have perennials and accent plants to show you that I have included in the design and I’ll share them with you next time.


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Life around our household has been busy lately….


School is back in session (for which I am extremely grateful for 😉


My son Kai, has ditched his wheelchair for a walker and will soon be able to walk without it.


AND


My daughter, will soon come home after leaving 5 months ago for the Navy.  She is graduating from her Equipment Operator School next week and will be an official ‘SeaBee’.  She will be on leave for 2 weeks before she reports for combat training in Mississippi, where she will be stationed for a month.


The BEST news is that her permanent base will be in Port Hueneme, which is where she wanted to be.  What is even better for us, is that it is in Southern California, just 7 hours from home!!!


We are getting ready to celebrate her homecoming, which I will share with all of you 🙂

The other evening, my husband and I got away for a few hours to go and see a movie.  On our way, we stopped by for dinner at El Pollo Loco.


As we were leaving, I looked toward the drive-thru and saw numerous Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) shrubs.

 
As you can see, the shrubs are planted very closely together, so they do not have room to grow to their natural size.
 
So, landscapers come in and prune away the attractive natural shape of these shrubs along with their colorful, winter flowers.
 
The problem with this area is over planting.
 
 
You can really see it on the other side of the drive-thru lane.
 
Often, landscape architects and designers add more plants then needed because when first planted, plants look scrawny and small.  Not necessarily something their client wants to see.  They want immediate impact from plants.
 
But, just 2 years later, you have unattractive green blobs because there just isn’t enough room for them to grow and they require frequent visits from the landscaper.
 
So, what can be done?  Well, if I were managing this property – I would pull out every other shrub in order to allow the remaining shrubs more room to grow.
 
 
This not only will create a more attractive landscape, but one that requires less maintenance, thereby saving money.
 
Valentine shrubs need to be pruned once a year in May.  
 
That’s it!
 
Prune them back to 1 – 2 ft. wide and tall and you are done for the year.
 
 
For more information on Valentine shrubs and why they are one of my favorite plants read:
 

Have you experienced a warmer then normal winter this year?

I certainly have, although I’m not complaining because my garden loves it.  I took a walk around the garden and was so pleased to see quite a few plants blooming….

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)
My purple lilac vine blooms this time every year, which makes it a great vine for the garden.  The foliage is evergreen in my zone 9a garden through out the year, which is also a plus.
It can be hard to find this flowering vine in the nursery later in the year.  So, grab it now if you want one.
Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)
 
Firecracker penstemon is my favorite plant.  I starts blooming in January and goes until May.  Hummingbirds love it too!
Pink Beauty (Eremophila laanii)
My pink beauty shrub has grown tall 8 ft.), which I love because it covers an expanse of bare wall in the garden.  This Australian native is evergreen in my garden.
Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)

This is my second favorite plant.  Valentine flowers from December through May in my garden, with the peak bloom arriving on Valentine’s Day!  Hardy to zone 8.

Purple Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)

Normally, my purple trailing lantana is brown and crispy from frost – but not this year.  Butterflies just love this plant.
Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana)
My pink trumpet vine blooms next to my vegetable garden.  I just love this plant too!

How about you?  Do you have anything blooming in your garden this month?