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Unfortunately, there are times when unwelcome visitors make a visit to any garden.

Even mine….

Can you see my unwelcome visitors on my Lantana leaves?
Well, if you guessed that I have whiteflies, you would be right.
Whiteflies absolutely love Lantana.  Now, I also love Lantana and have quite a bit of it growing and every year, I get whiteflies.
Whiteflies are soft-bodied insects that are related to aphids and scale.  They suck the juices from the plant’s leaves, which can lead to yellowing leaves, stunted growth and even dead leaves.
Whiteflies are not particular.  They enjoy many different types of plants and vegetables. 
So, how can you tell if you have whiteflies?  Just lightly brush your plants and if you see tiny, white flying insects, then it is a good guess that you have whiteflies.

So, what can you do if you have them?

1. You can a ‘sticky trap’ by smearing petroleum jelly over bright, yellow colored cardboard or  poster board (you can always color the board yellow  yourself).  Attach the yellow sticky trap to short garden stakes throughout the area in your garden, affected by whiteflies.  They are attracted to the color yellow and will become stuck in the petroleum jelly.  One yellow board per two plants is recommended.
2. Using insecticidal soap can often help.  There are other insecticides that can are effective such as neem oil, pyrethins and more.  Read the label before you purchase a product to see if they help to control whiteflies.  Be sure to spray both the top and bottom of leaves, since whiteflies lay their eggs on the underside of leaves.
3. You can use plants that repel whiteflies such as Marigolds, Nasturtiums or Calendula.
What do I do?  Well that would be number 4…..
4. I do nothing.  
Why?  Because my Lantana flourish despite having whiteflies.  They suffer no visible ill-effects.  So, I ignore the whiteflies.
Now, if had whitefly problems with my vegetables, I would use a combination of methods #1 – #3 in my vegetable garden.  I would have yellow, sticky traps scattered throughout my vegetable garden along with judicious spraying of insecticidal soap.  I would also plant Marigolds and Nasturtiums throughout my vegetable garden as well, (I already do that).
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I wish that whiteflies were the only unwelcome visitors in my garden, but sadly, that is not true.  The other day, I discovered a severe infestation of……..?
Stay tuned 😉

I spent last week visiting with a client who was worried that he had lost 80% of his plants to the hard freeze that we had experienced earlier this winter.

I must admit that there was more brown then green in his garden, like the majority of homeowners in our area.  Countless homeowners are anxiously waiting until it is time to start pruning back their frost-damaged shrubs and perennials (myself included).

Personally, I can’t wait to prune back my Bush Lantana, which is not only ugly, but acts like a magnet for trash on a windy day.

 
Drive through any neighborhood in the Phoenix metro area and you will see a lot of brown, crispy-looking plants.
Dwarf Oleander…….
 
Bougainvillea….
Natal Plum….
I think that I will stop here with showing photos of brown, crispy plants because it is getting a bit depressing.
Okay, so here is the big question that I am being asked a lot lately.
“When can I start pruning back this ugly brown stuff?”
The answer is that you can start once the last average date for frost has passed for your area.
Where I live, in the Phoenix metro area, this is usually the beginning of March.  
Soon you will see scores of homeowners digging out their loppers and hand pruners and joyfully start pruning off the ‘brown stuff’ off of their plants.
So, this leads to the next question,
“How can I tell if my plants are even alive?”
Well, this is usually quite easy to figure out.  Remember the client who thought that they had lost 80% of his plants to the hard freeze?  Well, after looking at all of his plants, I only discovered 3 young  lantana that probably did not make it.

This is what I do to tell if a plant is still alive:

Go towards the base of the plant and bend the stems/branches.  If they snap off easily, then that part of the plant is dead.  However, if the stem/branch is flexible and ‘bendy’ then there is live tissue inside.  Even if the branch/stem does break off, look to see if there is live growth inside.  

Below, is a photo of a frost-damaged Bush Lantana that I broke off a small stem off of to see if there was live tissue inside.


If you look carefully, you can see the light-green interior of the branch.  So, this Lantana will recover, but should have all frost-damaged growth removed.
Another clue to look for to be able to tell if your plants are still alive is to look underneath, towards the bottom.  Below, is a photo of a severely frost-damaged Dwarf Oleander that has green leaves underneath.  So, it will recover from the frost-damage.

Okay, now for our last question,

“How do I know how much to prune off of my frost-damaged plants?”

The simple answer is that you prune back to where you see new leaves emerging OR where the branches have live tissue inside.


This Bougainvillea branch (above) has suffered frost damage.  However, look closely.  Can you see the change in color in the branch, from the left side to the right side?

The brown-colored part of the branch on the left side is dead, while the green-color on the right side of the branch indicates that that part is alive.  So, prune where the live part of the branch begins at the closest leaf bud.

If you wait a few weeks and let your frost-damaged plants have a chance to leaf out, that is an even easier way to tell what parts of your plants are alive and what parts are not.

Want more information on how to prune back frost-damaged plants?  Check out “Spring Cleaning In The Garden”.

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Well, the day of my ‘big announcement’ is almost here!

Please come back to visit this Tuesday, March 1st.  
 I can’t hardly wait to share with you what I have been working on lately.

 I hope you all have a wonderful week!
 

You would think that living in the larger Phoenix area means that we do not get cold weather.  That is what I thought….before I moved here.  I was surprised to find that we get quite a bit colder in the winter then Southern California where I grew up.

Well, the cold weather has certainly arrived at my house.  Last night it dropped into the 20’s with two more nights of the same temps to come. 

I do like an excuse to pull out my big sweaters, but I must confess that I just love the comfort of wearing old jeans, slippers and a hooded sweatshirt around the house.  

Right now in my closet, I have two sweatshirts….one from my first college, Westmont (they have some of the most beautiful landscaping).  The other is my USC (University of Southern California) sweatshirt that my dad bought for me 4 years ago.  I did not attend USC, but my dad did and he was a die hard SC fan until his death 3 years ago.   I always feel closer to him whenever I put on my USC sweatshirt which is why I am wearing it now.

What I do not have in my closet is a ASU (Arizona State University) sweatshirt.  It is kind of sad really…..I mean I graduated from ASU and it is only about 30 minutes from my home.  **I think I need to add this to my Christmas list – what do you think about a zip-up sweatshirt with ASU across the front?

This morning as I drove through my neighborhood, I found an interesting assortment of items from my neighbor’s linen closets decorating their front gardens.

Most of us know what happens if you do not cover your frost-sensitive plants when temps dip into the lower 30’s….they turn brown.  
Bougainvillea and Lantana are some of the most common plants that will suffer from frost damage if not protected.  To be honest, it is no big deal if you do not want to cover your plants.  You just have to be okay with them looking crispy and brown until spring begins warmer temperatures.

Frost Damaged Lantana, north of Phoenix
 
Most years, I do not bother to cover my Lantana and I never cover my Bougainvillea and Yellow Bells shrubs.  But for some reason, this year I decided that I did not want to look at brown Lantana and so I covered them.
I covered the parts of my Gold Lantana that are not protected by the overhang of my house.  It is so nice to find a purpose for my mismatched towels in addition to using them for washing our cars.
Can you tell that I borrowed my son’s old bedroom sheets as well?  Kai had progressed from Superman sheets up to Transformers.
You will probably not be surprised to find that I have emptied much of my linen closet.  I have not included photos of my other covered shrubs, where I even brought out some old blankets.
Ideally, you should take off the coverings in the morning and put back on in the evening, but I am too lazy to do that and it really doesn’t hurt my plants to have them on for 2 – 3 days in a row.  Any longer then that though, I take them off during the day.   Phoenix averages 15 days of frost, but in outlying areas – including where I live, it can be more. 
 
 Right now, I like the idea of protecting my Lantana, but if we get a lot of freezing temps, I may give up and make my peace with having brown plants for a few months ;-).
Do you ever wonder why some plants go through what I like to call the “Ugly Stage” of winter when they are covered with frost-damaged growth, while the exact same plant(s), located close by do not?  Is their any possible way to avoid this “ugly stage” besides covering your plants during freezing nights?  
My frost-damaged Bougainvillea.  Not too pretty, is it?
It can be cumbersome to cover your plants each night when freezing temperatures are forecast…you have to pay attention to the forecast, rush out in the freezing cold to cover them and hope you have enough old sheets and towels to do the job….or rush to the nursery to buy frost cloth.  And, if you forget to do it for one night, all your hard work the previous nights, was for nothing…
 Luckily, there are some easy solutions you can implement in order to avoid this “ugly stage”.
 
Isn’t it amazing that there is beauty in dead leaves?
Bougainvillea grow very well in the desert, but will suffer from frost damage in the winter months.  Now, I am okay with that….Bougainvillea look beautiful 9 months out of the year and I ignore them for the other 3.  I thought this was just the way things were, until I was driving down a residential street about 10 years ago and saw a beautiful Pink Bougainvillea surrounded by frost damaged ones.  What was so different about this one I wondered?  Well, it was obvious as I looked at it’s surroundings.  This particular Bougainvillea was located underneath the canopy of a Mesquite tree, which protected it from the cold.
This is what my protected Bougainvillea looks like.  The canopy of my Palo Verde tree provides protection from frost damage.
How simple the solution was, I thought.  So, I decided to put this into practice whenever I designed landscapes, including my own.  I would place frost-susceptible plants under trees and underneath the eaves of a house where they would be protected from freezing temperatures.  I would use trees that provided light, filtered shade such as Palo Verde and Mesquite, because many plants will not bloom under heavy shade trees.
This Bougainvillea enjoys protection from the eaves of the house.
Frost damaged Lantana
The same holds true for Lantana.  Out in the open, Lantana does get damaged by the frost.  However, by placing them under the eaves or underneath a tree, they usually escape frost damage.
I designed this area and had the Lantana placed underneath the overhanging eaves of this building.  This photo was taken in January.
So, if you love Bougainvillea, Lantana or other frost-susceptible plants but have avoided using them because you can’t stand their “ugly stage” in the winter – there is hope!  Try planting them underneath the protection of a tree or under the eaves of your home and enjoy year-round green leaves and beautiful flowers.  Or just accept that they will go through their annual 3 month “ugly stage” and focus instead on your winter-flowering plants instead 😉
As this year ends and a new one begins, I would like to thank those of you who have taken the time to read what I write and have left comments as well.  

I wish for all of you a very 
Happy New Year.