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After a seemingly endless summer, we have finally made it to the finish line.  This is the season where we experience a ‘second spring’ and venture out into the garden again.

Soil is ready to be amended, citrus fertilized, and some light pruning can be done.

Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings.
September is the gateway to a busy time in the garden, but there are a few things that it is still too early to start on yet.

I’ve made a video of what you should do and shouldn’t do this month:


What is your favorite season of the year?

After a record-setting February, I think that it’s safe to say that spring has officially arrived.  Plants are waking up a bit early with flower buds bursting forth with glorious blooms.


‘Sierra Star’ Fairy Duster (Calliandra ‘Sierra Star’)

Of course, an early spring means that people are anxious to get out in the garden.  I always say that spring for horticulturists is like tax season for accountants as we get very busy helping others with their gardens.

This has certainly been true for me the past couple of weeks.  Staying up until 1 a.m. in the morning and then up early the next morning for the next appointment and afternoons spent designing landscapes and writing articles – I can hardly see straight at the end of the day.

I thought that I would give you a snapshot of the past 10 days.


It all started with an early morning meeting with a landscape committee regarding adding come color to the entry areas of a community.  An hour later, I was standing in the middle of a busy street, dodging traffic while taking multiple photographs of sixteen different corner landscapes.

Cereus peruvianus with golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Later that morning, I met with some clients who had a lovely home and a landscape with ‘good bones’, but that needed some more color according to the clients.

Ironwood tree (Olneya tesota)

The property was situated along a golf course and had lovely specimen trees that offered welcome filtered shade.

Fragrant flowers of Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora)

As I walked around the landscape taking photographs for my report, I took some time to stop and smell the fragrant blossoms of their Texas mountain laurel, which smelled like grape candy.

Pink bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides)

The next day, I visited a family who needed help redesigning their backyard.  However, as I approached the front door, my attention was caught by the beautiful pink bower vine that was blooming in the courtyard.

I spent that Wednesday working on designs and reports.

The next day, I visited a lovely ranch style home.  The backyard was wall-to-wall grass and the homeowner wanted to create a border around the entire yard filled with flowering shrubs and perennials.

‘Heavenly Cloud’ sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Heavenly Cloud’), yellow bells (Tecoma stans stans) and bougainvillea in my backyard.

As a flower type of girl myself, this was a fun design to get to work on.  I created a plant palette that included white and pink gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)purple lilac vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana), and angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) among others to ensure year round blooms.


Friday found me at a beautiful home in the foothills where the client had recently moved in.  She wanted help adding more color as well as symmetry to the landscape.  This was a large project that was split up into four separate designs/reports.


Saturday morning was spent attending the SRP Water Expo, where I bought my discounted Smart Irrigation Controller.  


There were numerous displays, each with a focus on saving water in the landscape.  

I saw many people I knew and walked away with my new irrigation controller, which will save water in my landscape.  You can learn more about this controller and the Expo here.


After such a busy week, I indulged myself with getting a pedicure 🙂

This week was spent working on creating designs and reports for all of my consults the week before.   I did have a few appointments, one of which, involved issues with problems with the turf areas in HOA common areas during which, I spotted more suspected cases of oleander leaf scorch.


This area of Phoenix is seeing a lot of cases of this bacterial disease for which there is no known cure.  Affected oleanders typically die within 3 – 4 years from when they first show symptoms.

Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) and Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) in my front garden.


At home, my own landscape is having some work done.  Our 15-year-old drip irrigation system is being replaced.  The typical life span of a drip irrigation system is typically 10 – 15 years, so when ours started developing leaks and the valves also began to leak, we knew it was time.  So, my garden currently has trenches running through it with PVC pipe everywhere.  It will be nice to have it finished and working soon.

On another note, my little grandson, Eric, is now 13 months old.  He is a bright ray of sunshine in my life and helps me to keep life in perspective when the busyness of life threatens to overwhelm me.  


I am so blessed to have a front row seat as he is learning and discovering the world around him.  

I think he would like his own pair of cowboy boots, don’t you?

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the television camera?  



What we often see is just a small portion of what goes on behind the scenes as I have learned during my occasional appearances on television.

Today, I thought that I would let you see what goes on behind the scenes getting ready for a gardening segment on television. I documented what went on behind the scenes of my television appearance last Friday.

You may be surprised to find that appearing on camera is the easiest part.  Here is how it all happens…

– Typically a week ahead of time, I am contacted by the producer of the show I am being asked to appear on.  They give me a general gardening topic and then send me a guest sheet to fill out.  On the guest sheet, I list general questions for the host to ask and send in photos for them to use in the segment as well.

– Two days before my scheduled appearance, I visit my local nursery to get the plants and other ‘props’ that I will need.

– The day before, I am busy ‘cleaning’ up the plants – removing any dead leaves and/or flowers and wiping down the nursery containers with a wet rag to remove any dirt.  Often, I plant some of the plants in decorative pots.  Believe it or not, I have a stash of ‘props’ that I only use when I appear on television, which I will show you later.



The next day begins with an early arrival at the television station.  Plants are unloaded onto large plastic carts located in the television station’s lobby for transporting props.

I usually bring someone with me to help me set up.  For me, it’s usually a family affair with various members of my family accompanying me. This time, my nephew came along to help.  He recently graduated from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences and I thought that he would like to experience the workings of a television studio.


There is security in the lobby and only those on the list are allowed to enter.  Guests are expected to arrive 1 hour before the show airs.

After entering, you are shown to the ‘green room’ where you wait with others who will also appear on the program.


Most often, I bypass the green room as I am shown directly to the outdoor area in back of the studio where I will set up.  Along the way, we pass the newsroom.


In the outdoor area there is typically a rectangular table set up for me and I get to work on setting up my props.


When selecting props, color is an important element, so I always try include colorful flowers whenever possible.  


In this case, I was asked to talk about what to plant in winter, so I picked out the most colorful annuals that my local nursery had – in this case, primrose.

Earlier, I mentioned that I have a stash of ‘props’ that I use when I am to appear on television.  Well, I used three of them; a hand shovel, a hand rake as well as a galvanized steel container.  I don’t use them in the garden so that they will always look nice and I’m not having to clean them.  A nice pair of leather garden gloves usually appear alongside my other props as well.


Setting up my props is called ‘staging’ and I must admit that it’s not my strongest suit.  In general, tall plants go in the back with smaller ones in front.

My sisters and mother are very good at staging and have been especially helpful when they have come with me when appearing on television.


However this time, I was on my own when it came to arranging my plants and props.


This is the perspective from where I will stand when talking in front of the camera.  The small TV shows a live feed of what is currently being broadcast and is helpful when being interviewed since I can see what the viewers see – especially when the photos I sent in are shown on screen so I can speak directly about them.

About a half-hour before my segment, a producer comes out and sets up my mike, which is threaded through my clothes and clipped to my collar.


After a busy morning of getting up early, loading plants, driving to the studio, unloading plants and staging plants and getting ‘miked’ – it’s time to sit and wait until it is time for my segment to go on.

Since my segment is being filmed on the back patio and not inside the studio, I usually spend my time in the break room waiting until the television host comes to find me to talk about the upcoming segment.

It’s interesting to note that I never know before I get to the station, when I will be on.  I’ve been on at the beginning, middle and end of the show – I prefer to be on at the beginning instead of waiting.


Shortly before my segment, a ‘teaser’ is shown with close-ups of my plants being shown after which, a commercial is shown.


During the commercial, the host talks to me about what I brought and we both go over what I will talk about.

Finally, it is time for my live segment.  At this point, everything goes very fast.


My four minute garden segment feels like it only takes one minute to do.  I admit that this is the part that I like best – helping people learn how to enjoy their garden and hopefully inspiring them to try something new.  In this case, we talked about adding lettuce and other leafy green alongside colorful annuals in pots.

If being on camera makes you nervous, it helps to just talk directly to the host and try to ignore the camera.  I do that most of the time, but I do try to talk directly to the camera a few times as well.

After the segment is over, I load my things back onto the plastic cart and leave.  Sometimes, I make it home before the program is over.

Later in the day, I receive an email from the producer with a link to my garden segment.  I don’t like to watch myself on TV a lot, but I do watch it once to make sure that I didn’t make any mistakes.  Every time I go on, I find myself becoming a little more comfortable with the process.
And so, that is a behind the scenes look to filming a garden segment on television.  I hope that you enjoyed it.  

**If you would like to view this particular garden segment, click here.

Spring is here and it is a busy time in the garden.

Did you know that spring is a great time to prune your summer-flowering shrubs?  


But, do you know the ‘right’ way to prune so you don’t go from this…



To this…

Believe it or not, these are the same type of flowering shrub (Leucophyllum langmaniae).

So, how do you get from an overgrown shrub and avoid pruning it into a ‘gumdrop’?

The good news is, is that it isn’t hard to prune shrubs correctly – you just need the right information.

I recently wrote an article on how to and how NOT to prune flowering shrubs for Houzz.

Simply click the photo below and you’ll be on your way to gorgeous, flowering shrubs. 


Last week was a busy one for me.  I had several appointments scheduled, and then I got the ‘mother’ of all colds.  


I don’t get sick colds very often. So, that is probably why when I do get them every few years – I get a severe one.  

My constant companions the past week.
I am finally among the living after a week of fighting through all that this cold could throw at me, and I feel weak and drained – BUT, I can now walk through the house without carrying a box of tissues.  *Being able to breathe through your nose is so delightful when it has been stopped up for a week (cold medicine just doesn’t seem to work all that well for me).
 
Despite this terrible cold, I was able to make it through my appointments, although I prayed that my nose wouldn’t start dripping in front of my clients.  Whenever I started to feel weak or faint, I would come up with an excuse to sit for a minute or two by saying, “Let’s sit for a minute and see what the view of the landscape looks like from this perspective.”
 
I promise that I used a lot of hand-sanitizer before shaking hands with everyone 😉
 
Alright, enough complaining about my cold.  I am excited to show you my latest project.
 
 
Okay, I admit that it doesn’t look too exciting right now.
 
As you can see, the project is on a golf course.  This particular course is removing 50 acres of turf and planting drought-tolerant landscapes in their place in their attempt to save water.
 
The area pictured above is just one of many that I will be working on throughout the summer.
 
As part of the turf removal, the golf course will be re-designing its entire irrigation system. (It hasn’t happened yet in this area, which is why it is wet.)
 
 
Along the entire length of this area, will run a river-rock lined wash, which will help to channel stormwater.
 
I have been working on a plant palette that includes native, drought-tolerant succulents, shrubs, and groundcovers that will require minimal water once established.
 
Railroad ties, that separate homeowner properties will be removed to help the transition toward the golf course landscape visually.  To that end, I will include a few of the same plants already present in the adjoining properties to create the illusion of a seamless landscape.
 
The goal is to create a beautiful landscape area that has minimal water and maintenance requirements.  To say that I am excited about working on this project is an understatement.
 
Interestingly, my first job out of college was working as a horticulturist for a golf course.  Although I had unlimited opportunities to golf for free – I never did.  Other than indulging in an occasional round of miniature golf – I don’t play golf at all.
 
I may not play golf or completely understand the passion for the game – I have come to know the unique challenges that landscaping around golf courses entail – overspray from sprinklers, carts driving through landscape areas when they aren’t allowed, knowing what plants to use in areas that are in play, etc.
 
Next time, I will share with the plant palette of drought-tolerant natives that will be used in these areas.  Who knows?  You may be inspired to use some of these plants in your landscape!
 
 
 

Years ago, there was a rather bare landscape area next to a golf course.  


Now, it wasn’t completely barren.  It had a couple of trees, some creosote shrubs and a prickly pear cactus.

But, there were plans to design a butterfly garden in this area. A certain horticulturist I knew, was eager to get started on the project and introduce mostly native, drought-tolerant plants for this garden.  


The horticulturist had been busy transforming other formerly bare areas along the golf courses, adding mostly native, drought-tolerant plants and couldn’t wait to tackle this newest project.

Eight years have passed since then and do you know what happened to that area?

Nothing.

Whether it was due to the recession that hit around that time or the fact the horticulturist no longer worked there – the area had largely been forgotten.


Fast forward to present day and this area is not longer forgotten.  In fact, it is slated to have a newly designed landscape installed this fall.


The horticulturist who had had great plans for this area was called back into to create the design and oversee the installation of the new landscape.

You may have guessed that the horticulturist I have been talking about, is me.

I have been working on the design for this long neglected area and am excited to share with you my plans along with the plants I have chosen and why.


Later, I will bring you along as the landscape is installed and then give you periodic updates as it grows.

I will give you a little preview of my plans, which I will detail in my next post:

– I am keeping the 2 Foothills Palo Verde trees (Parkinsonia microphylla) and most of the Creosote shrubs (Larrea tridentata).


– The Wolfberry tree (Lycium palladium) will also remain since it is a wonderful habitat for birds and you can always hear a lot of birds talking away whenever you approach it.  It is “the place to be” if you area bird and live nearby 😉


– A few Creosote shrubs will be taken out along with a huge, overgrown Prickly Pear, which can be a haven for pack rats.

I hope you will come along with me and see the transformation of this formerly ‘forgotten area’.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a regional guide for things to do, places to stay and great places to eat?


The EastValleyGuide is a great resource for those who live in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe.


I was asked to write an article for them about the challenges of desert gardening and some simple tips for growing a beautiful, low-maintenance landscape.



I hope you’ll take a minute or two to read it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the article 🙂

I am always telling people that….

“Gardening in the Desert Isn’t Hard, It’s Just Different.”

I don’t know about you, but I really value regional gardening information.


Whether you live and garden in the Southwest (like me), or the Northeast, Midwest, Great Lakes, the Rockies, the deep South, etc. – gardening tips tailored to your area are vital to your success in the garden.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Where else can you go to learn when to plant your vegetable garden or prune back your shrubs?  

When to you start planting your containers with flowering annuals?  

What type of plants do well in your area and what ones don’t?

For example: I can’t tell you how often I am asked how to grow gardenias in the desert.  

I tell them that although you can grow them here – it is very hard.  They struggle with our alkaline soils and dry heat.

Arabic Jasmine
I tell them that if they love fragrant flowers and dark green foliage like the gardenia’s – then how about trying Arabic jasmine, which does well here, instead?

For me, the plant that I would most love to grow in my garden is hydrangeas…

Not from my garden.  I did enjoy seeing these hydrangeas growing in C.S. Lewis’ garden in Oxford, England.
But, I know better then to even try planting them in my garden, (even though I sometimes see them for sale at our local big box store’s nursery now and then).

They will not grow here in the desert Southwest.

In March, my vegetable garden is ready to be planted with warm-season vegetables such as corn, cucumbers and bush beans, while my winter vegetables are still ripening.

Cauliflower, green onions, nasturtiums and hollyhocks.
But, in cooler climates – gardeners are still busy starting their seeds indoors.

So, what can a gardener do to get the right advice for their garden?

Jerome, Arizona
Check out a gardening guide for their region.  

I enjoy reading the regional gardening guides from Sunset magazine as well as Phoenix Home & Garden magazine.

Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden, I designed next to a golf course.
I have been privileged to write regional, monthly gardening guides for a national big box store, in newsletters, for magazines and for blogs for years – representing the Southwest.

The tips that I give in my regional gardening guides have been accumulated from my career as a horticulturist and include lessons learned from both successes and failures. 

*Believe it or not, I’ve also written regional gardening guides for the Rockies, the Great Lakes region, Florida and California – which I enjoy because I get to ‘stretch’ my gardening knowledge by going outside of my local gardening region.

Some of you know that I write the gardening content for the Birds & Blooms magazine’s blog.

Well, I am excited to share with you my latest writing project. 

I am now the regional gardening writer for the Southwest for Houzz.com

Houzz is a great site that focused on helping people improve their homes and gardens with inspiration and advice.  They also have great gardening content including plant profiles, how-to projects as well as regional gardening guides.

I hope you’ll visit from time to time and hopefully come away with new information on how to make your garden even better.

However, regardless of whether you live in the Southwest (like me) or all the way up in Alaska….
find a regional gardening guide for your area.  Local magazines, newspapers are a good start as well as online gardening help like Houzz.com


Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time having my picture taken.
I must admit, that I don’t like having my picture taken much.  I end up feeling self-conscious and start thinking about how ‘weird’ my expression must look (which is why I didn’t mind posing for the photo, above 😉
Unfortunately, I did need some photos for articles and my other blog that I write for.  I had put it off for a long time But I needed to get my kids annual photos taken AND I had obtained the services of a very talented, up and coming photographer for their photos.  So, it made sense for me to get my pictures done at the same time.
You may be wondering what photographer I was able to engage.  Well, I am blessed that my youngest sister, Grace, is a fabulous photographer.  

She takes photos for other families and for some businesses as well.  She also posts great pictures on her blog FinleyandOliver.com
At this point, I should mention that we haven’t gotten our kids pictures taken at school for a long time.  I got tired of their ‘fake’ smiles, messy hair and the fact that they looked nothing like their normal selves.  So, I have taken ‘school’ pictures of them every year.
This year was going to be the best because my sister was going to take their pictures instead of me…
  
 I love this photo of my three youngest.  This will be the photo we give to the grandmas for Christmas.
They each had their picture taken separately and it was so fun to see my sister in action – she is so good posing the kids and making them feel relaxed.

Then, it was my turn...
  
My sister knows me so well – especially all my ‘quirks’ and hang-ups and the fact that I don’t feel all that comfortable as the sole subject in a picture.  So, she kept talking to me while I was posing – making me feel much more comfortable.

My sister’s dog, Soda Pop, came over to visit while we were taking pictures(Soda is the daughter of my dog, Missy.) 

I had brought some props over from my garden.  An old watering can that I planted annuals in, an antique blue bottle with cosmos from my garden and some gardening tools.

At this point, I was getting more comfortable and we were almost finished; when my sister said, “We need to get a picture of you holding a chicken.”
So, she rushed off to find her friendliest chicken, “Francie”, who is a ‘naked-neck’ chicken.

 I think Francie did better then I did posing for this picture 😉
I am so thankful for my sister’s great photography skills and her ability to work with a ‘difficult’ subject (me).  I might just schedule another photo shoot next year :-)

Well, there I was….in my new job, working only as a landscape designer for a large home builder.  My surroundings had definitely changed since I left my small and sometimes dirty maintenance office and traded it in for a beautiful office on the 14th floor in downtown Phoenix (you can read more in my “Part 1” post if you like).

Now you would think that with as a horticulturist, I was more then ready to get started……well not exactly.  Before I was allowed to meet with home buyers by myself, I had to learn how to design a whole host of custom structures.  And so, I spent 4 weeks learning how to design built-in BBQs, firepits, seatwalls, arbors, fountains, raised patios, etc.  

 Built-in firepit

It was harder then you may think because I had to design these structures from the ground up, which I found challenging.  Trying to factor in gas lines, how many bricks, did it need to be reinforced, how much material was needed, water lines, paint, stucco finishes, etc. was exhausting. I soon learned that visualizing these structures, much less drawing them out, was quite hard for me.  My brain just does not work well that way.  But, I did learn how….but I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed the process.

 
 With my new knowledge, I was soon ready to meet with clients in my fancy new office.  I had traded in my work gloves and boots for manicured fingernails and a business professional wardrobe.  Did I already mention my black granite desk in my previous post?  I know I did….but it was just so beautiful 😉
In addition to the fancy trappings of my office, I had a variety of samples to show new home buyers.  Pieces of flagstone in all sorts of colors, pavers, cultured stone, colored concrete and I even had a clear glass box with fake grass inside.

I still have a couple of flagstone samples…..I’m not sure why I kept them.  

I think my favorite prop was my ‘rock box’.  Doesn’t that sound exciting?  I still have it and so I dug it out of my stuff in the garage just to show you how cool it is….

Okay, maybe it isn’t the most exciting thing you have seen, but wait until I open it up….





Still not too interesting, is it?

Personally, I found the subject of landscape rock selection quite boring, but clients needed to see samples of what type of landscape rock (gravel) they could chose to use in their landscape.  (It was surprising how many people get hung up on choosing landscape rock.  Throw in a couple who have differing opinions, and it would take forever.)

So I was finally trained and ready – after all I had my rock box ;-).  But, I was so nervous.  
Did I mention that I had to actually draw out the landscape design in front of the client, price the entire landscape and get a signed contract within a period of 1 hour? 

Believe it or not, I gradually got used to designing on the spot.  I enjoyed meeting so many different people and most of them were very nice to work with.

 Over the course of my two years working with the home builder, I met with many wonderful people.  I also met with some unusual people as well.  Here is just a small sampling of some client meetings that stick out in my mind…..

CLIENT #1:
This particular client did not want any trees or plants in his front yard.  NONE!  Now for the horticulturist and plant lover in me – I just couldn’t fathom someone not wanting plants in their yard.
 I did my best trying to describe the benefits of having trees and plants in his front yard.  I told him that I could design his landscape using low-maintenance plants.  But, he was not swayed in the least….not even when I whipped out my photos of beautifully landscaped areas.
Well, who do you think got their way…..me or him?

I did!  

I wish I could say that I persuaded him by showing him examples of my landscape designing expertise….but that would be a lie.
I got my way because the community where his new home was to be built, required trees and plants in the front yard.  Actually, 2 trees, 10 large shrubs and 12 smaller groundcovers.
The expression on his face was just priceless because he just couldn’t believe that he had to have plants.
CLIENT #2:
I had a wonderful time meeting with this client.  She was moving into a beautiful community located in the upper desert surrounding Phoenix AND she loved plants.

All except for this one…..
Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
I’m not sure why she did not like this plant.  It is quite beautiful, low-maintenance as well as being drought-tolerant, all of which are good things. 
Now the fact that a client did not like a particular plant was not unusual and did not usually present a problem; I would create a design using other plants.
However, the community she was moving into had some strict guidelines in regards to what types of plants could be planted.  Every home had to have one particular plant in the front yard.
Guess what plant she absolutely had to have planted in her front yard?
Yep…..you guessed it,  Red Yucca.
The client couldn’t believe it, but she was quite nice about it.  Together, we figured out where we could have it planted in her front yard where she would not have to see it.  We put it on the side of her house where only her neighbor would be seeing it.
CLIENT #3:
This client was building a home in a gorgeous part of the desert, called Gold Canyon.  It is located by beautiful mountains and the views from her new home were going to be stunning.
This particular community required a quite a few plants in the front yard – I love plants so designing for this community was always a treat.
We spent our time creating her landscape design together.  I suggested plants and their placement and I could see that she was getting excited about how beautiful her landscape would look.
I loved working with clients who could ‘see’ what the finished landscape would look like.  They were very easy to work with.
I remember her discussing her plans for inside her new house and she couldn’t wait to move in.  
Because it was a corner lot, there was a 1 ft. wide strip of land between the block wall of her backyard and the sidewalk.  
As we were getting ready to wrap things up, I mentioned that little strip of land was hers and that she was responsible for maintaining it.  Now, maintenance for that area was easy.  There were no plants there, just landscape rock.
Well, she was not happy about owning that little strip of land.  In fact, she was so upset that she walked up to the front desk and canceled her house purchase.  She wouldn’t even want to consider building her house on a typical lot.  




You know, I soon learned to expect the unexpected.  Each person is unique as are their preferences.  Who would have ever guessed that someone would back out of a house purchase over a little 1 ft. wide strip of land……
**********************


I hope my stories are not too boring.  I have had fun recalling some of the more memorable moments.


If you are not completely bored to death……come back for Part 3 in a few days 🙂