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Do you like spending hours pruning and fertilizing your plants?  Or maybe you are tired of having to spend money on monthly visits from your landscaper.



I have been asked to show some ‘fuss free’ plants for fall planting on Sonoran Living, which is a local lifestyle show on our local Phoenix ABC network. The show will air on September 10th at 9:00. (I must admit that I am a little nervous.  I am off to my favorite nurseries to select some plants for the taping this Sunday, after church).

So, enough about my nerves….

What if you could have a landscape full of beautiful plants that only need pruning once a year and little to no fertilizer? 

Now you may be thinking that I am talking about a landscape full of cactus, like the photo below – but I’m not.  

The key to selecting ‘fuss free’ plants is to choose plants that are adapted to our arid climate.

Here are a few of my favorite ‘fuss free’ plants that need pruning once a year or less…

Firecracker Penstemon

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) is great addition to any desert landscape.  It’s orange/red flowers appear in late winter and last through the spring.  Hummingbirds find them irresistible.  

Maintenance: Prune off the dead flower spikes in spring.

Hardy to -20 degrees.

Plant in full sun.

Damianita

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) is a low-growing groundcover that is covered with tiny green leaves.  Masses of golden yellow flowers appear in spring and again in the fall.

Maintenance: Prune back to 6″ in late February.

Hardy to 0 degrees.

Plant in full sun.  Damianita looks great next to boulders or lining a pathway.

Gulf Muhly ‘Regal Mist’

Gulf Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’) is a fabulous choice for the landscape.  This ornamental grass is green in spring and then covered in burgundy plumes in the fall.

Maintenance: Prune back to 6 inches in late winter.

Hardy to 0 degrees.

Plant in full sun in groups of 3 to 5.  Gulf Muhly also looks great when planted next to large boulders or around trees.

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)

Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) is the perfect plant for areas with filtered shade.  Tubular orange flowers appear off an on throughout the year that attract hummingbirds.

Maintenance: Little to no pruning required.  Prune if needed, in late winter.

Hardy to 15 degrees.

Plant in filtered shade such as that provided by Palo Verde or Mesquite trees.  Add Purple Trailing Lantana in the front for a beautiful color contrast.

Baja Fairy Duster

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) has truly unique flowers that are shaped like small feather dusters.  The red flowers appear spring through fall and occasionally in winter.

Maintenance: Prune back by 1/2 in late winter, removing any frost damage.  Avoid pruning into ’round’ shapes.  Baja Fairy Duster has a lovely vase-shape when allowed to grow into its natural shape.

Hardy to 20 degrees.

Plant in full sun against a wall.  Baja Fairy Duster can handle locations with hot, reflected heat.

Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis formerly, Hymenoxys acaulis) is a little powerhouse in the garden.  Bright yellow flowers appear throughout the entire year.

Maintenance: Clip off the spent flowers every 3 months.

Hardy to -20 degrees.

Plant in full sun in groups of 3 around boulders.  Pair with Firecracker Penstemon for color contrast.  Thrives along walkways in narrow areas that receive full, reflected sun.
These are just a few ‘fuss free’ plants that you can add to your landscape this fall, which is the best time of year to add plants in the Desert Southwest.

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

So, I will be heading to the television studio early Tuesday morning with my sister, who will help me set up and take photos of the whole experience.  I promise to share the video link for those of you who would like to watch it 🙂

**For more of my favorite ‘fuss free’ plants, check out my latest post.

Last time we ‘talked’, I was showing you a Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden that I was asked to work on.


“Creating a Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden”


As I promised, here is the photo of the finished project…


 Although the new plants are somewhat small and scraggly-looking, they will soon grow and produce many flowers.



We created a pathway throughout the garden and groups of plants will visually guide visitors along the curved path.

The pathway was made of 1/4″ stabilized decomposed granite, which is essentially decomposed granite that has been mixed with a stabilizer.  This creates a natural pathway that has a hard surface.

As I promised last time, here is a list of butterfly / hummingbird reflecting plants that we included:

Autumn Sage  (Salvia greggii)
Butterfly & Hummingbird

  Baja Ruellia  (Ruellia peninsularis)
Hummingbird

Black Dalea  (Dalea frutescens)

Butterfly / Hummingbird

Damianita  (Chrysactinia mexicana) 
 

Firecracker Penstemon  (Penstemon eatonii)
Butterfly / Hummingbird

Globe Mallow  (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Butterflies 

Lantana (all species)
Butterfly / Hummingbird

Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
Butterfly / Hummingbird


Red Fairy Duster  (Calliandra californica)
Butterflies / Hummingbirds 

These are but a few of the plants that will attract butterflies and/or hummingbirds.  So how about including some in your garden? 
 

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?

This past weekend, I was on a mission.

My mission was to replace the few plants that had died in my in-laws garden as well as replace their warm-season annuals with cool-season ones.

Unfortunately, I could not indulge my creative side and re-design the landscape that I had originally created 9 years ago because my mother-in-law wanted to keep everything the same as it was before.

My father-in-law was a meticulous gardener and was beautiful, perfectly pruned and very neat and tidy (very much unlike my own messy and untidy garden 😉

As his illness progressed, I started to take over care of his prized landscape.  Now that he has passed away, I still care for it.  Every Sunday night, we go over and have dinner with my mother-in-law.  We always arrive a bit early so that my husband can do miscellaneous tasks around the house and I help in the garden.

And so back to my mission – I had to find the exact same plants that had died over the summer.  Now for those of you who do a lot of planting – you know it can be hard to find everything you need at a single nursery.  

Well, I still harbored unrealistic hope that I would miraculously find all that I needed in one place.  I started at our big box store and found the geraniums that I needed (they had to be red). But, unfortunately, they had nothing else that I needed.

So, off to the second nursery, which is a locally owned chain.  I scored a bit “zero” there.  Then I drove on the a third nursery.


I love this particular local nursery.  It is very large, they have a huge selection and the staff is very knowledgeable.
You may be wondering at this point, why I didn’t start at this nursery first if it all that wonderful?
Well, the problem I find myself often being tempted to buy some of the unique and hard to find plants that they offer.

And so, I arrived at the nursery and started searching for the plants my mother-in-law needed – Angelita Daisy, Blackfoot Daisy, Firecracker Penstemon and Golden Barrel.

I did my best as I walked through the nursery to stay focused on my mission – to buy plants only for my mother-in-law and NOT for myself.


I found the Firecracker Penstemon, which is hard to find this time of year.  Now, I realize that it is not all that impressive looking in a small black container.  But, it looks fabulous once you plant it and it blooms in winter and in spring….


I also found the other plants that I needed except for the Blackfoot Daisy.

Now, I had all the plants that I needed.  But did I leave the nursery at this point?

No.  I decided that my resolve was strong and that I wouldn’t buy any plants for myself and so it was okay to stroll through the nursery and take some pictures.


They had many cool-season annuals to choose from, but I already had all I needed at home, so I wasn’t the slightest bit tempted.

Until….


I spotted this Black Petunia.


Aren’t the flowers just gorgeous?
I looked to find a plant tag to see what variety they were, but it was missing.

Well, I really liked these Petunias, but didn’t really have a place to put them, so I pressed onward.


I walked by a mini grove of Bamboo.  Many people are surprised to find the Bamboo can grow in the desert.  As long as they receive enough water, they do well in our zone 9 area.



Among the cool-season annuals, I spotted a bunch of Blue Salvia.  Normally, they are grown as warm-season annuals and they do very well.  I used to plant them in pots around golf courses, but I haven’t used them in years.  I’m not sure why, but I think I will try planting them late next spring.



As I pressed, on I noticed movement among the plants.  This rooster was busy eating the tops of the plants.  

You know, I think that roosters and chickens give a nursery a ‘homey’ feel, don’t you?  Kind of like a cat in a bookstore or knitting shop.


Of course, no nursery located in the desert is complete without its succulent collection.

Golden Barrel, Argentine Giant Cactus, Fishhook Barrel, Cereus, Saguaro, Agave and much more was available.


Here is a helpful hint….

Did you know that often Agave have more then one plant in the container?  That is because many species of Agave reproduce ‘pups’.  

So, when you are out to buy an Agave, look for one that has more then one plant in the container.  Then when you are ready to plant them, simply cut the smaller agave from the mother plant and plant them as well.


The nursery had a large collection of bare root Ocotillo.

I love Ocotillo and was given one by my kids on Mother’s Day a few years ago.

Ocotillo do leaf out off and on throughout the year and produce vermillion colored flowers….



As you can see, I was having a great time at the nursery.

There is more I would like to share with you.  I found some different ways to use everyday plants AND I have yet to show you two different plants that I was sorely tempted to buy.

At this point however, I think this post is long enough and I don’t want to bore you, so please come back for “Part Two”.

Okay, you may be wondering what these two things have in common with each other…..nothing really.  But this past week has been full of the unexpected, the expected and I also have some seeds to giveaway.

For those of you who may have been following my “Curing the Garden Blahs” posts (I do hope someone is reading them), I will return to them next week when we will focus on color combinations.

As I sit here writing this post, I am frankly surprised that I am not more worn out.  This past week was all planned out…..in addition to my normal responsibilities, I had two speaking presentations to prepare for, I had to replant my vegetable garden (more about that later), prepare the Sunday School lesson for 5th & 6th graders and get ready for the scheduled birth of my nephews on Thursday.

Well, we were on our way home from church last Sunday when we got the call…..my sister-in-law was rushed to the hospital because she had a placental abruption (basically her placenta detached) and although she was okay, the babies were being delivered right away.  We could hardly get there fast enough for me.  I was so thankful she was going to be okay, but I wanted to see my brother’s face when he came out to tell everyone about his sons.  **You know the expression that new fathers get?  I call it the ‘new dad face’ and I couldn’t wait to see my brother wearing that expression.  It had not been an easy path for them and now they were giving birth to twin boys.

 Meet Danny & Dean.  

Of course, my planned schedule went out the window because I was spending much of my time doing this….


 I was perfectly happy to make daily visits to the hospital to visit with my brother, my sister-in-law and my new nephews.  But life had another surprise in store for me .
I mentioned in my previous post that my son, Kai, was injured on the playground at school.  We got there when the paramedics did and helped to splint his hurt leg.  Wednesday afternoon was spent in the ER.  Thursday was spent taking care of Kai who could not walk and was in considerable pain.  Friday involved a visit to the orthopedist to check out his leg and then another visit to get a new prosthetic to add to the brace that Kai already wore on his leg.  Six hours later, it was so nice to return home and see that my mother had brought over dinner for all of us…..Joe’s Real BBQ rocks!
Unfortunately with all that life has thrown my way, I have not been able to visit my nephews since Tuesday.  But, I will soon be holding them in about 1 hour 🙂
Between caring for and carrying Kai, I was able to replant my vegetable garden and finished preparing for one of my upcoming presentations, so all things considered, I am pretty pleased that I am able to sit upright this morning 😉
Now for my second subject…..seeds!
 
Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) is absolutely my favorite plant.  There is so much to love about this beautiful perennial; it is hard to know where to start…. reddish orange flowers, attracts hummingbirds, blooms winter through spring, low-maintenance, drought tolerant and native to the desert.  Need I say more?  Well then, I will……

This particular Penstemon can be found growing in the Southwestern US deserts of Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.  It is hardy to -20 degrees F.  Beautiful orange/red flowers are produced in the winter and spring.  In zones 7 – 10, their leaves are evergreen.  Grown easily from seed, Firecracker Penstemon reaches a mature size of approximately 2′ x 2′ when in flower. 

USES: Firecracker Penstemon is a welcome asset to the desert flower garden.  Plant in full sun and keep away from the shade as they will grow leggy from lack of sunlight.  I particularly like the way they look when planted singly next to boulders.  They also look spectacular in bloom when planted in groups of three.  Place alongside other plants that are either yellow or white which will contrast nicely with the orange/red color of this Penstemon’s blooms.  Recommended companion plants include Damianita, Blackfoot Daisy, Prickly Pear Cactus,  Brittlebush, Agave, Angelita Daisy and Desert Marigold.  For maximum hummingbird viewing, be sure to plant Firecracker Penstemon where you will be able to see the hummingbirds feeding.

MAINTENANCE: This perennial is low-maintenance.  The main requirement is removal of spent flower stalks, which will often promote additional flowering.  Firecracker Penstemon is drought tolerant when established, but will require regular irrigation to look their best.  At the minimum, supplemental water will be required in the summer months.  Older plants can be be cut back to remove old, woody growth.  NO fertilizer is required.

Now for the seeds…..I have 5 beautiful Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) in my garden.   Last spring, I harvested some seeds from their spent flowers and would love to share some with you.
All you have to do is to leave a comment.  I will randomly select 7 people who leave comments to this post and notify you next Wednesday.  **Please make sure that there is a way for me to contact you, either through your blog or an email address (you can use my email link on the sidebar to send me your email address if you do not want to enter it in the comments section).
 **You still have time to submit your Monthly Garden Bouquet (MGB) before the end of the month.  I can’t wait to see what you create 🙂
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

  ***CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FOLLOWING WINNERS OF THE FIRECRACKER PENSTEMON SEED GIVEAWAY****

Rosey (Dung Hoe)
Liza (Good to Grow)
Diana (Scrappy Wonder Woman)
Rose (Prairie Rose’s Garden)
Ginny (Ginny’s Garden)
Nancy (Sun Lakes)
Johanna T.
Donna F.
Susan in the Pink Hat


I do have enough seeds for 8 winners.  If your name is on this list, PLEASE email me your mailing address so that I can get the seeds in the mail to you.


Congratulations!




 

What a wonderful, busy weekend we had.  I always enjoy the coming of Easter and what it signifies – rebirth.  

When I first started this blog, I promised myself that I would not create a post solely about my family – I didn’t want to bore anyone and although my family is wonderful, we aren’t terribly interesting.  

And so, I will keep my promise and show you a garden, sandwiched between two separate family Easter celebrations.  That way, you can skip over the family photos and just look at the garden if you like.

 You can see my two youngest with their cousin, planning their strategy on how to get the golden egg in the middle of the field.

Saturday morning found me with the kids at the Sun Lakes Annual Easter Egg Hunt.  It is a fun event for the kids and they always look forward to it.  I love to watch the joy on their faces as they anticipate the hunt and plan their strategy.  I don’t particularly like having to get up really early on a Saturday though.
They both did pretty well and got quite a few eggs, but alas….the golden egg was found by someone else.
After the hunt for eggs was over, we settled ourselves to watch the Easter parade, which consists of golf carts decorated for Easter.  
I will not show all of the entries, but I will show you the one that the kids selected as the best one.
After the parade was over, we went back to my in-law’s home.  I am very fortunate that I have very wonderful in-law’s – (and they occasionally read my blog 😉  My favorite thing about their home is their landscape.  It is a wonderful mixture of succulents, shrubs and perennials.
I was fortunate to have been asked by my father-in-law to design their front and back landscape when they had their home built.  Prickly Pear Cacti, Agave, Golden Barrel Cactus, Pygmy Date Palm, Palo Brea Tree, Baja Ruellia, Katie Ruellia, Damianita and Firecracker Penstemon are all part of the front garden.
My father-in-law has a green thumb, especially when it comes to growing annuals, like these geraniums.
Our gardening styles differ in that he is more of a formal gardener.  His plants are carefully pruned and his garden is the ‘cleanest’ garden I have ever seen.  I am a more carefree gardener and prefer more naturally shaped plants and I do not mind loose leaves in the garden.
Last fall, my father-in-law asked me to re-design the corners of the backyard.  The new Firecracker Penstemon and Blackfoot Daisy are growing in nicely.  The original Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), were kept in the background as they offer texture and a great color contrast.
After a wonderful Easter lunch of my mother-in-law’s lasagna and the ice-box cake that I made, I was ready to go home and take a nap, which I did.
The next morning, we went to church and then prepared to go to my mother and sister’s home on Double S Farms.  My brother and his wife, my cousin and her family were to join us all there for Easter lunch and another Easter egg hunt.  As my son put it, you can never have enough Easter egg hunts.
My two oldest daughters.
I had a great time catching up with my cousin and her daughters.
We had a great lunch and then it was time for the hunt.  Tradition in our family holds that the men of the family hide the eggs.
   
The vegetable garden at Double S Farms made a great place to hid eggs, along with the fruit trees and the chicken coop.
Little & Littlest Farmers got a head start on the Easter egg hunt with assistance from their mother, Chicken Farmer.  Little Farmer, figured that since he was hunting for eggs with candy that his Halloween pumpkin would work just fine.
 
I think this is the cutest Easter bunny I have ever seen 🙂
There were a lot of places to hide eggs, but the kids soon found them all.
Including my youngest daughter, who was so happy because she absolutely LOVES chocolate candy.
Well, I hope I have not bored you with our exploits over Easter weekend, but we had a wonderful time being outdoors enjoying the springtime weather and being with family.  I do hope that you all had a very blessed Easter.
My next post will be a guest post by my sister, Chicken Farmer.  You don’t want to miss it….
Today was a beautiful, crisp day.  Temps are in the upper 50’s and there are still flowers present in the garden.
Firecracker Penstemon
Hummingbirds just love the flowers.  Blooms will continue until late April.
**I will have some seeds available this spring.  Click here to see if this perennial will grow where you garden.
Stolk
Flowering in my children’s pool garden.
See earlier post about planting this garden.
Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)
This bright perennial will bloom all year.
This particular flower is from my neighbor’s garden.

Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)
My Valentine shrub is really starting to bloom.  
Blooming peaks in February, but continues into late April.
Rio Bravo Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)
Surprisingly, my Sage is still blooming, although there are not many left.
**Look closely at the little hairs covering the flower…this helps to protect the flower from the intense heat and sunlight in the summer months. 
Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’)
This perennial blooms spring through fall.  It is slowing down, but I was able to get some pictures of the last blooms.
My neighbor’s yellow rose.
Roses continue blooming through December and into January.  
We actually have to cut them back severely in January to force dormancy.  It just kills me to prune off the beautiful rose blooms of my roses….
My Purple Violas are blooming beautifully.
Goodding’s Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)
A few blooms remain.  
Next to the flowers is a volunteer Victoria Agave that has sprouted from the parent plant.
Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Blooms fall through the spring.
Unfortunately, they do self-seed prolifically and I have to do a bit of weeding.
**If any of you are interested in seeds, I should have quite a few available this spring.
Click here to see if Globe Mallow will grow in your area. 
Purple Lantana (Lantana montividensis)
A few blooms remain, but a lot of Lantana has been burned by frost.
This one is located underneath a tree, which gives some protection from the frost.
Bougainvillea
The colorful ‘petals’ are actually not the flower.  They are called ‘brachts’.
The actual flowers are the tiny cream colored flowers in the center.
*I realize I include photos of my bougainvillea often, but it has done very well. Most Bougainvillea have been damaged by the frost, but this one is located underneath a tree in my backyard, which has protected it from the cold.
Thank you for joining me for December’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Please visit May Dreams Gardens for more sites to visit.
Coming up soon…..A Desert Christmas Celebration.  More specifically, how we decorate our homes and gardens for Christmas.   You may be surprised at what we cover with lights…..  
I got asked, what my favorite plant is. 
 
Well, asking a horticulturist to tell you what her favorite plant is, is rather like asking a mother to tell you who her favorite child is – it’s impossible.
 
But when pressed, I breakdown and admit to liking one particular plant slightly more than all the others.
 
 
Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) is my favorite plant.  There is so much to love about this beautiful perennial; it is hard to know where to start…. reddish-orange flowers, it attracts hummingbirds, blooms winter through spring, is low-maintenance, drought tolerant and native to the desert.  
 
Need I say more?  Well then, I will……
 
This particular penstemon species can be found growing in the Southwestern United States.  Heat and cold don’t bother it.  It can grow in 100+ temperatures and is hardy to -20 degrees F.  
 
Beautiful orange/red flowers bloom in the winter and spring.  Grown easily from seed, Firecracker Penstemon reaches a mature size of approximately 2′ x 2′ when in flower. 
 
 
Firecracker penstemon is a welcome asset to the desert flower garden.  Plant in full sun and keep away from the shade as they will grow leggy from lack of sunlight.  I particularly like the way they look when planted singly next to boulders.  They also look spectacular in bloom when planted in groups of three.  
 
Place alongside other plants that are either yellow or white which will contrast nicely with the orange/red color of this Penstemon’s blooms.  Recommended companion plants include damianita, blackfoot daisy, prickly pear cactus,  brittlebush, agave, angelita daisy, and desert marigold.  
 
For maximum hummingbird viewing, be sure to plant firecracker penstemon where you will be able to see the hummingbirds feeding.
 
MAINTENANCE: This perennial is low-maintenance.  The primary requirement is the removal of spent flower stalks, which will often promote additional flowering.  Firecracker penstemon is drought tolerant when established, but will require regular irrigation to look their best.  At the minimum, supplemental water will be needed in the summer months.  Older plants can be-be cut back to remove old, woody growth.  NO fertilizer is required.
 
Now you know why firecracker penstemon is my favorite plant!  I encourage you to try this beautiful plant in your zone 5 – 10 garden.  I am sure you will love it as much as I do.