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winter-blooming-shrubs

Let’s face it, a winter landscape filled with frost-damaged plants isn’t the most attractive. During this time of year, I often find myself itching to grab my pruners and get rid of the ugly, brown growth on my bougainvillea, lantanas and yellow bells shrubs. But before I do, I keep repeating to myself, just a few more weeks…

Perhaps you have a similar urge to prune away all the brown too early. What helps me to stop grabbing my pruners is remembering that the dead outer growth of my summer-flowering beauties is protecting the inner part of the plant AND the fact that freezing temperatures are still a distinct possibility.

winter-blooming-shrubs

Feathery cassia and Valentine bush

And so, I will focus my attention on the winter-flowering plants that are adding beauty to my cool-season garden for now. If you don’t have any, I recommend Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana), Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’), and Firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatoni), and feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides).

If you would like more information on this subject, I invite you to read “Got Brown Crispy Plants?”

So, what are you dying to prune back in your winter garden?

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!

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) before pruning

We had experienced a delightful spring with hot temperatures staying away for the most part. The weather has been so lovely that I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the garden. One garden task that has needed to get done is pruning back my winter/spring flowering shrubs.

What are winter/spring flowering shrubs you may ask? Well, they are those that flower primarily in late winter and on into spring. In the Southwest garden, they include cassia (Senna species), globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), and Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata)

The time to do this varies depending on the plant and the region you live in, but generally, you want to prune them back once flowering has finished. 

I’ve decided to show you how I have pruned my cool-season shrubs and I find that using hedge trimmers make quick work of this job. Yes, I realize that I preach against using hedge trimmers for ‘poodling’ flowering shrubs into formal shapes, BUT they are very useful for corrective pruning for the health and beauty of your shrubs. I only use them ONCE a year.

Above, is a photo of my red globe mallow shrubs before I pruned them. They put on a beautiful show for several weeks, but have gone to seed, and they aren’t particularly attractive in this state. 

Newly pruned globe mallow shrubs

This is what they look like after pruning. As you can see, they have been pruned back severely, which is needed to keep them attractive and stimulate attractive, new growth. Don’t worry, while they may look rather ugly, in a few weeks; they will be fully leafed out.

Valentine bush before pruning

Here is one of my Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) shrubs. This is one of my favorite plants, and it adds priceless winter color to my garden. One of the things that I love about it is that it needs pruning once a year when the flowers have begun to fade.

Valentine bush after pruning

I prune mine back to approximately 2 feet tall and wide, but you could prune it back even further. This pruning is necessary to ensure a good amount of blooms for next year. Don’t prune it after this as you will decrease a number of flowers that will form later.

Finally, it was time to tackle pruning my feathery cassia shrubs (Senna artemisoides). I love the golden yellow flowers that appear in winter and last into early spring. They add a lovely fragrance to the garden as well. However, once flowering has finished, they produce seed pods that will turn brown and ugly if not pruned.

I’ve created a video to show you how to prune these shrubs. Unlike the others, I only prune them back by 1/2 their size.

*As you can see in the video, my grandson, Eric was having fun helping out in the garden.

That is all the pruning that these shrubs will receive, which will keep them both attractive and healthy.

It’s worth noting that hedge trimmers aren’t a bad tool to use – rather, the problem is when they are used incorrectly to prune flowering shrubs excessively throughout the year.

I hope that this post is helpful to you as you maintain your shrubs. If the video was helpful, please click ‘Like’ and subscribe to my YouTube channel as I will be making more garden videos to help care for and maintain your Southwest garden.

*What do you prune in mid-spring?

One of the most difficult places in the landscape to grow plants is in areas that receive full sun as well as reflected heat.

Reflected heat occurs when sidewalks, walls, and patio decks absorb the heat during the day only to  re-radiate that heat back out.

As you can imagine, when you couple the intensity of areas that get full sun AND reflected heat, it can be hard to find plants that can not only survive, but add beauty to these spaces.

Thankfully, there are a number of attractive plants that will thrive in these hot spots.

I recently shared 10 shrubs, in my latest article for Houzz, that can handle full sun as well as reflected heat.


Do you have a plant that you like that does well in full, reflected sun?


**For additional shrub suggestions, I recommend Mary Irish’s book, Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest.





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.

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.

Do you ever find yourself pulling into the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant?


I do.


Lately, I have been very busy with landscape consults as well as working on a large golf course re-landscaping project, which have resulted in more than my share of visits to the local drive-thru.  Add to that my preparations for a local craft fair in November (along with my sister and mom where I am making basil salt, seed bombs and air plants mounted on creosote roots), preparations for an upcoming family reunion as well as hosting my daughter’s baby shower – we will probably be making quite a few more visits to the drive-thru.


Normally, drive-thru restaurants are places where you can see examples of poor design showcasing overplanted and over pruned shrubs that are too large for the narrow landscape spaces by the drive-thru lane.  However, I was truly surprised during one trip through at my local fast food restaurant.


First, let’s look at the landscaping you normally find as you visit the drive-thru…



Over pruned feathery cassia shrubs (Senna artemisioides)
These shrubs would actually work well in this space if you reduced the amount down to three and allowed them to grow to their natural size and form…

Feathery cassia in bloom

Do you think that those overpruned shrubs ever have any flowers appearing in late winter and spring, like this one?

I didn’t think so.


In the Southwest, the types of shrubs that you are most likely to see growing along drive-thru landscapes are oleander and Texas sage species.  

Lately, Valentine bush, which is one of my favorite shrubs, has also been showing up more often in these areas.  

Again, the problem is too many plants in not enough space.  Couple that with the compulsive need to strip the natural beauty from these beautiful, flowering shrubs in an attempt to create anonymous green shapes and you have the perfect scenario for drive-thru landscapes.

With so many bad examples of landscaping while visiting the drive-thru, I must admit that I’ve become somewhat de-sensitized and purposely ignore it.

However, a recent visit to the drive-thru made me take a second look as I drove past this…


Notice anything different?

The plants actually fit into this space and without over pruning!

There is room for the bougainvillea against the wall to grow and while the lantana could use a little more room – it is looking great too.  

What I really liked about this landscape was the use of banana yucca.  Its leaves added great spiky texture and the flowers are just lovely.

*I did notice the overpruned dwarf oleanders in the background, but I’m ignoring them.

Using fewer shrubs and allowing them room to grow is a great start to rethinking the drive-thru landscape.  

The next important part is to stop the frequent pruning of flowering shrubs.

I’d love to see a mix of shrubs and succulents in drive-thru landscapes for more interest, less maintenance and that is more water efficient.

For now, I will keep trying to keep my eyes open for another great example of a drive-thru landscape.


But, I think it may be awhile…

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For other examples of drive-thru landscapes, click here.

If you have shrubs that resemble this and would like to have beautiful shrubs with a pleasing natural shape that actually flowers as well as see some other examples of bad pruning – click here for some of my favorite pruning posts.

Last month, I asked you on my Facebook page, which plant I should profile in my upcoming article for Houzz.com  (Every month, I write a plant profile on plants that grow well in the Southwest.)  


My blogger friend, Becky, who lives in Tucson, mentioned that Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisoides) would be a good choice.


Surprisingly, I hadn’t thought to feature this great shrub considering that I have used it in landscape designs in the past.



In 2012, I was asked to design the plantings along a street in Rio Verde, AZ.

In addition to succulents, trees, perennials and other shrubs – Feathery Cassia was one shrub that I wanted to be sure to include due to its low-maintenance, drought-tolerance and gorgeous winter color.


In just over a year, Feathery Cassia has a good start, but will grow much larger.

I love pairing this shrub with Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) with its red flowers.


I like this shrub so much, that I have planted 5 of them along in my own garden, along a long block wall.  I can’t wait until they start growing.

If you want to learn more about Feathery Cassia, like why do people call it ‘feathery’ or learn about the surprise the flowers harbor – check out my latest article from Houzz…

Architecture, interior design, and more ∨

Before you throw your next party, browse a wide selection of bar ware, bar glassware and serving platters.
For small bathroom ideas, browse photos of space-saving bathroom cabinetry and clever hidden mirrored medicine cabinets.


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I hope you are all enjoying your week.  I am getting ready to head to Florida next week in order to participate in a fun gardening project.  I’ll let you know more soon…

My family has a tradition of gathering together at Costco (of all places) for dinner once a month. (For those of you who don’t know what Costco is – it is a lot like Sam’s Club).

You see, we all love Costco and their pizza is pretty good.  So, my mother, sisters, brother and their families all gather together with mine at Costco.  We take up about 3 – 4 tables in the eating area and eat our pizza, hot dogs or chicken rolls.  What makes it even more fun is that we find that our families intermix with each other.  I often find myself eating with one of my sisters, my niece or one of my nephews.  My kids take the opportunity to sit with their cousins, aunts and uncles.

After eating dinner, we all go shopping.  Costco has lots of things that we like, but my big weakness is the book section.  I absolutely love to read….especially fiction.  So, I always budget a little money for spending on books.

As we pulled into the Costco parking lot, I noticed a bunch of shrubs planted too close together.  Unfortunately, a very common occurrence – especially in parking lots.

 
The landscapers prune these Texas sage shrubs into ‘cupcake’ shapes’ to keep them from growing into each other.
You would have a hard time telling that these are actually flowering shrubs, wouldn’t you?
In a nearby parking lot island, there were other crowded shrubs….
These Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisoides) have been planted very closely together and the landscapers are doing their best to keep them pruned so that they don’t touch each other.
The problem is, is that it is ugly and isn’t all that healthy for the shrubs.
So, here is my solution….
How about letting the shrubs grow together and form an informal, flowering hedge?
That would mean less maintenance and more attractive shrubs.
**If you have a similar problem, try letting your shrubs grow together.  You’ll appreciate the lower maintenance and your shrubs will actually flower.
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Last night, I made 6 dozen Snickerdoodles using one of my favorite recipes.  I got the recipe for my wedding shower almost 26 years ago.  They are very easy to make and taste delicious.
I’m going to a cookie exchange party today and I can’t wait to see what types of cookies I come home with.  If I can keep my husband and kids from eating the Snickerdoodles first 😉
Here is my Snickerdoodle recipe:
1 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cream together the butter, sugar and eggs.
Add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and mix well.
Roll the cookie dough into small balls, about 3/4″ and then dip into cinnamon sugar.  
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 8- 10 minutes.
Makes 5 – 6 dozen.
I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do 🙂  

Well anyone who knows me well, would definitely have a hard time believing that I actually wrote a title like this one.

For those of you who may not know me personally….I will let you in on a secret – I love getting a good deal and living simply.  My mother (Pastor Farmer) is very good at this as was her mother, so I guess it is in my DNA.  I love shopping sales and coming home with items that normally would have cost much more.

When I quit my full-time job as a landscape designer, we had to make some cuts to our household budget which was a challenge that I actually enjoyed, especially at the grocery store.  My daughter Ruthie is always asking me how much I saved each week at our local grocery store.  I think she is on her way to becoming a saver as well.

I am also a huge proponent on saving money in the garden as well and it is really not difficult to do while still having a beautiful garden.  Now you would expect that the best way to save $ in the garden is by downsizing and you would be partly right.  You can definitely save money by downsizing, but it does not always save you money.
I am going to share with you a great way to add beauty to your garden, decrease your maintenance and save money.  It is really so simple that I hope you are inspired to try this in your own garden.
Okay, are you ready?  All you need to do is to purchase shrubs that will grow to a large size.  You may be asking, is that all?  YES!  
Many shrubs will grow to a large size, which takes up space in the garden.  The more space covered equals fewer plants needed.  Large shrubs also are great at covering up bare walls, hiding pool equipment / air-conditioning units while adding beauty, particularly if you select a flowering shrub.
My Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans) shrub easily grows to 7 ft tall and wide.  Mine covers approximately 30 sq. ft. of area in my garden while providing beautiful flowers 9 months out of the year.  It also helps to cover up my bare wall.
Want more examples?
This is a ‘Torch Glow’ Bougainvillea that I placed along my father-in-law’s back garden wall.  Paired with two others, their unique branching habit along with their bright colors really provided a great focal point.
Now people either love or hate Oleanders (Nerium oleander).  For the average garden, I do NOT recommend planting the large varieties.  But, the dwarf forms of Oleanders do grow to a good size and can reach heights of 6 ft.  Since Oleanders are so easy to grow, many people have them in their gardens.
So, if you would like to include some in your garden, I recommend trying a red flowered variety since most Dwarf Oleanders seen in landscapes are the pink and salmon colors.  (Be aware that all parts of Oleanders are poisonous).
 When you talk to newcomers to the desert southwest, they often ask about the beautiful large shrubs with orange/red flowers are planted along the freeways.  
Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is beautiful in the summer landscape and as you can see, hides a bare wall very well.  Maintenance in my zone 8b area is very simple – just prune back to 1 ft. in January and they will soon grow back to 6 ft. high in the summer months.  **Another helpful tip to help prolong bloom – prune back lightly (by 1/4) in August to extend the bloom period throughout October and early November.
I just love the unique flowers of Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica), so do hummingbirds.  I love both the beauty and low maintenance of these shrubs.  Please do not prune them into ‘balls’…..they are so beautiful in their natural form 🙂
If you prefer more green then flowers, then the following shrubs may be more to your taste….

 
Hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa)
 You could easily put 5 small shrubs along with 3 groundcovers in this area….where just 2 Photinia (Photinia fraseri) fit very well in the area above.
 
Many of you may be surprised to find out that many of the shrubs you already have in your own garden can grow quite a bit larger then you let them.  The solution to the problem is quite easy…..stop over pruning them and let them grow.  The alternative is to plant multiple shrubs in a given space and as they grow,  you are forced to keep pruning them back to keep them from crowding each other.
 
Well how about buying a single 1-gallon shrub (you don’t need to spend extra for a 5-gallon) and give it space to grow?  You will be rewarded with more $ in your pocket, a large beautiful shrub and fewer plants to prune and maintain.
Yes, your new 1-gallon Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) will look scrawny – but not for long….
Other suggestions for shrubs that will grow large:
Littleleaf Cordia  (Cordia parvifolia)
Orange Jubilee  (Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’)
 Pink Beauty  (Eremophila laanii)Feathery Cassia  (Senna artemisioides)
Chaparral Sage  (Salvia clevelandii)
 
You may be wondering where my next post on our trip to the east coast will come.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if they were becoming somewhat boring – especially for those who read my blog for gardening topics.  So, I thought that I had better write a gardening post.  I promise that I will write more about our trip  – our visit to Amish country was just fabulous.
Have a great week everyone!