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Have you ever renovated the interior of your house? Seeing the old, outdated elements peeled away and replaced with new paint, flooring, etc. can leave you feeling refreshed and even excited. Well, I get to do that with outdoor spaces, assisting clients with already established landscapes, create an updated look. The key to this is NOT to tear everything out and begin from scratch – instead, it’s a delightful puzzle deciding what should remain and what is best removed and replaced.

I get so much satisfaction helping people create an attractive landscape, and even more when I get to see them several months later once the plants have a chance to begin to grow. Last week, I was invited to re-visit a new landscape that I designed, exactly one year after it was completed and was very pleased with the results.

I’d love to show you photos of the finished product, but first, let’s look at what I had to work with.

As you can see, the interior of the house was also undergoing renovation when I first visited. The front yard consisted of two palm tree stumps, a few agave, overgrown gold lantana, and boulders.

The landscape rock was thinning and mixed in with the river rock while the asphalt from the street was crumbling away.

The parts of the landscape that I felt could be reused were the boulders and the gold lantana. Also, the river rock could be re-purposed. All of the rest was removed.

To create the structure for the new landscape elements, additional boulders were added, and the existing contouring was enhanced by elevating the height of the mound and a swale in the front center. The circular collection of rip-rap rock serves to mask the opening of the end of a french drain which helps to channel water from the patio.

A saguaro cactus and totem pole ‘Monstrose’ (Lophocereus schottii ‘Monstrose’) were placed for vertical interest and the gold lantana that were already present were pruned back severely to rejuvenate them and others were added to create visual continuity. Along with the cactuses, other succulents like artichoke agave (Agave parrying var. truncata) and gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa) were incorporated to add texture with their unique shapes.

The existing river rock was removed, washed off and replaced along with the crumbling edge of the street, helping it to blend with the natural curves of the landscape.

Anchoring the corners with a grouping of plants is a very simple way to enhance the curb appeal of a home. This collection of volunteer agave and old palm tree stumps weren’t doing this area any favors.

This corner was built up slightly, creating a gentle rise in elevation. A large boulder joined the existing one, and a beautiful, specimen artichoke agave was transplanted here from the owner’s previous residence. Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) will add year-round color as they fill in. ‘Blue Elf’ aloe were planted to add a welcome splash of color in winter and spring when they flower.

Moving into the front courtyard, the corner was filled with an overgrown rosemary shrub. The dwarf oleander shrubs were also taken out as they were too large for the smaller scale of this area.

Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus) helps to anchor the corner and will grow at a moderate rate, adding more height as it grows.

Year-round color is assured with angelita daisies and ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, which won’t outgrow this area.

Moving toward the front entry, this area is somewhat underwhelming. The natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa) adds a pleasant green backdrop and is thriving in the shade, so should stay. However, the Dasylirion succulent should never have been planted here as it needs full sun to look its best.

The solution in this area is quite simple. Pruning back the natal plum to a more attractive shape makes them an asset. A lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) adds height and texture contrast and will grow in the bright shade. We kept the trailing purple lantana (Lantana montevidensis), for the color that it provides. Rip rap rock was placed to add some interest at the ground level.

Moving toward the backyard, another old rosemary shrub was removed from the corner in the background and replaced with ‘Blue Elf’ aloe and angelita daisy, repeating the same planting from the corner area in the courtyard, helping to tie these separate areas together.

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) were added along the shady side of the house where their spiky shape creates interesting shapes. The key to keeping them attractive is to remove new growth around the base as it occurs.

The corner of the backyard is a very high-profile spot and faces the golf course. The homeowner’s wanted to get rid of the dwarf oleander hedge to improve their view. Clumps of agave look slightly unkempt as volunteer agave were allowed to remain and grow. The gold lantana does add ornamental value as does the small ‘Firesticks’ (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’) and can be reused.

One of the clumps of agave was removed, which opened up this area and allowed us to add two aloe vera, which will decorate this corner with yellow blooms in winter and spring. The existing gold lantana provides beautiful color spring through fall. The centerpiece of this group of plants is the water feature.

It’s been over 20 years that I’ve been doing this, and I never get tired of seeing the transformation. I love being a part of it and combining the old with the new for a seamless design.

Thank you for allowing me to share this particular project with you!

Have you ever had a ‘substitute’ teacher?  As most of you know, a substitute teacher doesn’t do things the same way our regular teacher does.

A few years ago, I was asked to step in as a ‘substitute’ for my father-in-law’s landscape.

Meticulously pruned desert ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)
 
My father-in-law had always been a meticulous gardener and took a lot of pride in his landscape.
Have you ever seen rounder shrubs?
 
A few years earlier, I had designed the landscape around his new home and tried to convince him to allow his plants to grow into their natural shapes.  But as you can see from the photo above, he didn’t follow my advice.
 
He eventually took out his backyard grass and replaced it with artificial turf and whenever flowers or leaves would fall on the grass, he would vacuum them up – I’m not kidding.
 
We would often joke with each other about our very different styles of gardening – especially when he would come over to my house for a visit and see my plants growing “wild and free” as he would say.  
 
But despite our differences, we shared the same love for plants and the garden.
 
Unfortunately, his gardening days were numbered and he asked me to come over and help him with the gardening tasks that he could no longer do.
 
My father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in October 2010 and it progressed very rapidly.
 
So, I became his ‘substitute gardener’ and I was happy to be able to help out so that he could still enjoy the beauty of his garden, even if he could not care for it himself.
 
 
In early August of 2011, I lightly pruned back his gold lantana.  At this point, my father-in-law spent most of his time indoors sitting down. But, as I was pruning, I saw him slowly make his way out, with his walker, so he could watch me prune his plants.
 
At this point, he could no longer talk due to ALS and I’m certain that if he could have spoken, he might have asked me to make the lantana ’rounder’.
 
After this light pruning, the lantana would grow back to its original size before stopping during winter.  If they had not been pruned, they would have look quite overgrown for my father-in-law’s taste.
Light pruning involves removing 1/3 or less.  The timing of this light pruning is crucial – prune too late and your plants will be extra susceptible to damage from frost.  Don’t prune after early August in zone 9 (July in zone 8) gardens. Pruning in fall should not be done for this very reason. 
 
 
Another part of the garden that my father-in-law took a lot of pride in was his flowering annuals.  Every year, he would plant the same red geraniums and white-flowering bacopa in winter.  Once spring rolled around, he would plant red and white vinca. He never deviated by trying out newer colors or varieties.
 
I found myself taking over this job as well and when I came home and see all there was to do in my neglected garden – I didn’t mind.  It felt so good to be able to control how his garden looked because ALS had taken control of everything else.
 
My father-in-law died in September 2011, just 11 months after being diagnosed with ALS.  
 
It’s been almost 3 years since he passed away, but whenever August comes around and I find myself lightly pruning back my gold lantana – I enjoy the memory of one our last moments together in the garden as I pruned his lantana.

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When I am driving about town, I tend to look at the landscapes that I pass by.  Usually, I tend to see some “landscape no-no’s”, which I like to share with you now and then.


But, I also take pictures of what I like to call “landscape do’s”.  I realized the other day, that I tend to share with you bad examples of landscapes much more then the good ones, so here are a few that I saw the past couple of weeks…



I love Gold Lantana and how it flowers non-stop spring through fall.  When planted next to boulders, you get a great contrast in textures.

What is even better about this arrangement, is how easy Lantana is to grow.  Unlike many tropical climates, Lantana is not invasive in arid climates.  Just water it regularly and prune it back hard in spring (6″ high), after the last frost.  Periodically prune it back every 2 – 3 months, stopping pruning 3 months before the first frost date in your area.  



Sometimes, I see great examples of desert trees that are properly pruned.


This Texas Ebony (Ebanopsis ebano formerly Pithecellobium flexicaule) is beautiful tree that is prized for its dark green foliage that is evergreen.


It does have thorns and gets seedpods, but it highly prized by those who live in the Southwest.



This nicely designed landscape was located next door to a house where I was visiting a client.


I like how the columnar cacti flank the entry on either side.  Totem Pole (Lophocereus schotti ‘Monstrosus’) is on the left and has the bonus that it is thornless.  Another favorite of mine, Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus), which is one of the few cacti that I have in my own garden.


The yellows of the Golden Barrel (Echinocactus grusonii)with their rounded shapes contrast nicely with the spiky fans of Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri).


**Another bonus about this landscape is that it is extremely low-maintenance.



While stopped at an intersection in Scottsdale, Arizona, I noticed this distinctive landscaped area with contrasting spokes of a wheel fanning out from the sign.


Different sizes of gravel are often used to add interest to the landscape by the contrasts in size.


Agave and Aloe vera make up the plantings in the lighter colored spokes while Golden Barrel are used in the darker rip rap.


Well, these are just a small sampling of the “landscape do’s” that I have seen lately.


I hope you enjoyed seeing them and maybe will be inspired to replicate a couple of these plantings in your own landscape.










Every year, I hope to avoid a certain malady that always pops its head up in mid-August.

I was pretty sure I had skipped it this year, but early this week – it hit me.

What is this malady?

“I don’t want to venture out into my garden.”

 Shocking, isn’t it?  Now, there is nothing wrong with my garden.  In fact, it looks its best this time of year.
My summer-flowering shrubs are absolutely covered in blooms, my trees are growing beautifully and my lawn is thick and green (thanks largely to increased humidity and monsoon rains).
Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’
Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans)
Orange Jubilee
The fact that I haven’t spent much time out in the garden is rather obvious from the photos of my slightly overgrown plants below…
Rio Bravo Sage
Gold Lantana
So, why on earth don’t I want to go out in the garden?
Well, I must admit that I get a little ‘burned out’ on gardening.  It has to do with the fact that I get a bit tired of the summer heat and living in the Desert Southwest, means that there is always something to do in the garden 12 months of the year.  
Sometimes, I just need a little break.  I don’t think this makes me a bad gardener or horticulturist – do  you?

So, maybe some of my plants are a bit overgrown and need a little pruning.  Well, they can grow for a couple more weeks and I’ll get to it in early September.  

Besides, I would rather have a overgrown plant covered in flowers then one that is over-pruned and ugly, wouldn’t you?
I will shake off this seasonal ‘malady’ and be out in the garden, eager to plant seeds for my winter vegetable garden the beginning of September.
**How about you?  Do you suffer from the same malady from time to time?  Please tell me about it – it will make me feel better 🙂

A couple of weeks ago, we were spending our weekly visit with my husband’s parents.  Because my father-in-law is suffering from ALS, he can no longer do anything around the house or the garden for that matter.

My father-in-law always did his own landscaping chores.  He took great pride in having a meticulous landscape.  And yes, that included pruning his shrubs into round, green balls 😉


We would often tease each other, because I love the more ‘natural’ look as opposed to his more formal landscaping.  
Now that I help out in his garden, I am very careful not to leave any debris behind such as fallen leaves or leaf for that matter.  You see, his garden is so clean, you would almost think that he vacuumed it.
In my garden, I feel like my garden is clean if I use a leaf-blower once a year 😉
Well, back to our visit with my in-laws.  My father-in-law asked me if I would prune back his flowering Gold Lantana.
Oh boy, this was a big deal.  You see, I do not like to prune any plants that are flowering.  In fact, I get up on my soapbox often, preaching against it.
But, you know what I did?
 I pruned it…..
You can see how much I removed in the pile to the left.
My father-in-law even came outside with his walker to see how it looked, which as a big deal since he has a lot of difficulty walking now.
So why did I do it?  
Well there are two reasons.
First, it is okay to lightly prune plants that are growing large this month.  Now, my father-in-law’s Lantana really did not need to be pruned, but I knew it wouldn’t hurt them.

When pruning in August, I would avoid pruning more then 1/3.  The reason is that as fall approaches (I know it’s hard to believe with temps still in the low 100’s), plants will continue to grow until the cooler weather arrives.  So that nice-sized flowering plant can become too big by the time November comes around.

So if possible, I wouldn’t prune unless your plant is outgrowing its space.  But, if you prune lightly in August, you should be okay until spring, when you can prune your plants back more severely.

The second and most important reason that I pruned back my father-in-law’s Lantana is because I love him and I know how much his garden means to him.  I realize how hard it must be for him to not be able to do much of anything now.

After I was finished pruning back his Lantana (which really didn’t need it), I could see in his eyes how happy it made him.  He typed “Thank you” on his iPad, which is how he communicates now.  The software he uses actually ‘speaks’ whatever he types in.

Sadly, even now that is now hard for him to do.  It is harder for him to type with his one finger, which is the way he has always typed.

Yesterday was my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary.  My father-in-law ‘texted’ my husband asking him if he could arrange to have roses delivered to my mother-in-law. 

The words he asked to be put on the card were simple, yet communicated everything:
“Thank you, my love.”

That simple phrase brought tears to my eyes.

I know that none of us wants to admit to procrastinating…..but in my case the evidence is getting more clear with each passing day.

The pathway to my front door, is getting narrower and narrower and soon, there will be no pathway visible and guests will have to wade through my Lantana.
Now, I may be guilty of procrastinating occasionally, but I am also a “glass half full” kind of girl as well.  And my procrastination does show how beautifully my Gold Lantana is growing 😉
To be completely honest, it is hard to make myself venture outside to do any type of gardening in the month of August with hot and sometimes humid temperatures.  And so, I patiently (impatiently) wait for September to arrive with cooler and drier weather before I start working in the garden again.
Now if your garden is anything like mine, you have lush green shrubs covered in blooms that are growing like crazy.  This makes early September a great time to prune them back a bit……NOT severely, just a bit (1/3 or less).  
By pruning your plants lightly, they will have time to grow back a little before the cooler temperatures of winter bring a stop to most growth.  That way you will not be stuck with overgrown shrubs all winter.
The reason NOT to prune severely this time of year is that your plants will produce lots of new, tender growth that will be extremely susceptible to frost damage and can cause their death during a hard freeze which we sometimes experience.  Do NOT wait until October to prune because it may be too late for some of the growth to come back and you may be stuck with some ugly plants until spring arrives.  **Do not prune winter flowering shrubs such as Valentine (Eremophila maculata) since you will have greatly reduced flowering.
And so, this procrastinator is ready to head out into her garden to lightly prune her Lantana, AZ Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans),  Texas Sage (Leucophyllum species) and Bougainvillea.
What will you be pruning this month?

Hello Everyone…..I hope you are all enjoying your summer so far.  My August has been quite busy and filled with kids back in school, preparing to teach a vegetable gardening class, planning my fall vegetable garden, a baby shower (more about that later), knitting class, baking and writing for a magazine.  

But, I did venture out into the garden to create my Monthly Garden Bouquet and this is what I came up with….

My ‘Rio Bravo’ Sage is in full bloom and I love the light fragrance of the lavender flowers.  I decided to add a cluster of Gold Lantana flowers since they have been blooming in my entryway for the past 6 months.  I love their bright colors.
I must admit that I sometimes overlook my Lantana.  They do so well and are almost always blooming.  They require no fertilizer or special attention except for twice annual pruning.  I think gardeners tend to pay more attention to the plants that take more care,  and ignore those that work hard and look beautiful without much effort, don’t you?
Before I went out into the garden to create my bouquet, I searched for a suitable vase or container to place it in.  I have used the same containers more then once for previous MGB posts and was determined to find another one.  It was then I remembered a special vase that I bought on a visit to Ireland over 9 years ago.

My vase pictures a farm cat and her kitten.  It is from the ‘Landscape’ collection from Nicholas Mosse Irish Pottery.  I have other pieces of the ‘Landscape’ collection and they are beautiful,  painted with farm animals, flowers, and much more. 

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If you would like to participate in August’s Monthly Garden Bouquet (and I hope you do), here are the guidelines.

1. MGB begins on the 21st of each month and runs until the end of each month. Bouquets can be submitted during this time (or even later 🙂
2. Create your own garden bouquet as fancy or simple as you like.
3. I would appreciate it if you would provide a link back to my post inside of your MGB post, but it is not required 🙂 
4. Add your link to Mr. Linky below and that’s it!

I cannot wait to see what bouquets you create from your August gardens.

Have a great week!

I have been enjoying the weather very much this June.  Now for those of you who do not live in the desert, this is not a ‘normal’ statement.  June is a month that is spent indoors, hibernating with the air-conditioning and looking outside at the garden.

But, we have had a cooler then normal June so far.  Saturday’s temperature was 17 degrees below normal.  I was looking forward to this day because I had planned to spend time pruning and weeding.  As I worked outside, the breeze felt cool…..again, NOT normal for this time of year.

Today, the temperatures are about normal for this time of year and I did venture outside to get some work done in my vegetable garden, but once the clock hits 10:00, I tend to go back inside.

Even though it is hot outside in June, there is a riot of color in the garden.  This is normal for this time of year.  So, many desert residents spend their time indoors, viewing the beauty of their gardens through the windows 🙂

 This is my first time growing sunflowers.
They look so pretty in my vegetable garden.

My Bougainvillea is absolutely glorious this time of year.

Pink Bower Vine lines the front entry to my house.
They thrive in the afternoon sun.
Gold Lantana also lines the walk up to my front entry.
I love their bright blooms.
Warm summer temperatures are perfect for my Texas Sage shrubs.
Their purple blooms will come and go through the fall months.
Orange Jubilee takes center stage in my side yard.  
I love the lush green foliage, but the flowers are my favorite part.
A relative of Orange Jubilee, is my Yellow Bells shrub. 
 It is covered in yellow blossoms, which brighten an otherwise boring expanse of a brick wall.
My last submission, Radiation Lantana.
Blooms appear March through November…..I am so blessed!
Please visit May Dream Gardens for more GBBD posts.  I love seeing what is blooming around the world.
On another note, life since my son’s surgery has been busier then usual.  Whereas I used to blog 6 times a week, I now feel accomplished if I write 3.  But, I don’t feel too badly about it.  I am enjoying my time with my son, who is wheelchair bound for at least 3 more weeks.
We play cards, watch movies, read books together.  He also has fun playing with his army men, Wii, his Legos and reading books on his own.  We suffered a little bit of a setback yesterday.  Kai was signed up for our church’s Vacation Bible School this week and my husband went with him to help out.  Unfortunately, there was too much physical activity that Kai could not participate in and he was often left on the sidelines.  He hip was also bothering him with the extra activities that he could participate in, so we spoke to him and agreed to not continue with VBS this year.   
The great news is that Kai will start physical therapy in 3 weeks, which means that he can start putting weight on his leg 🙂  Right now though, we are busy keeping him happy when all he can do is sit and lie down.
I am so thankful for the comments that I continue to receive.  I apologize that I have not had the time to respond as much as I would like too.  But, I am trying my best to carve out a little time each day to visit all of you and leave a little note 🙂