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Red globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

Did you know that some flowering, desert perennials are grown easily from seed? It’s true. Many of the plants in my garden are volunteers that grew from seed from my established plants.

I have several ‘parental’ plants in my front garden along with their babies that have come up on their own with no assistance from me.

Pink globe mallow 

My favorite perennials that grow from seed are my colorful globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).  The most common color seen in globe mallow is orange. However, they also come in other colors such as red, pink, and white. You can purchase the less common color varieties, but they can be hard to find at your local nursery.

White globe mallow

When I first designed my garden, I bought pink, red, and white globe mallows. These plants are now over 17 years old and produce a large number of seeds once flowering has ceased.  Because these colors can be hard to find, people ask me to sell them seeds that I harvest each year from my colorful perennials.

Light pink globe mallow

Harvesting seeds from spent flowers is easy to do. Once the flowers begin to fade in spring, I look for tiny, dried out seed pods, which is where the seeds are contained. I then pick them off and place them in a little bag.  It’s important to keep the colors separate so if someone wants red globe mallow, they won’t be growing pink or white ones.

Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), and verbena (Glandularia spp.)

There are other desert perennials that come up easily from seed, such as the ones pictured above in a garden I visited a few years ago. 

So how do you grow these drought tolerant perennials from seed? Surprisingly, it’s not hard to do, and if you go to a lot of trouble and fuss over them, they probably won’t grow. So starting them in little pots and transplanting them isn’t the best way to go about it. Instead, sprinkle the seed throughout the landscape, allowing some to fall a foot away from a drip emitter or near rocks. You want to mirror the natural conditions where they sow their seed in nature. Warning: this only works in areas where pre-emergent herbicides are NOT used. 

Growing these perennials from seed is very inexpensive, but some patience is needed while you wait for them to sprout.  Not all will come up, but those that do, will add beauty to your garden and before you know it, you may be harvesting seed to share with your friends.

What type of plants have you had come up in your garden from seed?

It may seem rather strange to think of landscapes decorated with lilies in fall, but summer and fall rain bring on the lovely blooms of rain lilies (Zephyranthes species).



Rain or ‘zephyr’ lilies add beauty to the gardens throughout the Southern half of the U.S., including the Southwest.  While their apperance may make you think that they are delicate and needs lots of coddling, nothing could be further from the truth.


Like other types of lilies, they are grown from bulbs planted in fall and are surprisingly, moderately drought tolerant.


The white species (Zephyranthes candida) is my favorite and has evergreen foliage.  There are other species and hybrids in colors such as pink and peach.

Rain lilies deserve a greater presence in the landscape, given their delicate beauty that adds welcome interest to the fall garden.  They are also easy to grow.

For more information on this delightful plant, including the different species and how to plant and grow your own this fall, check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.

Do you grow vegetables in the winter?  Here in the low desert regions of the desert Southwest, we can grow vegetables all year. 


My winter vegetable garden is filled with a variety of cool-season vegetables and I have rarely had any problems growing any of them except for broccoli.


For some reason, in past years my broccoli has been rather lackluster.  Oh, the plant grows, but the broccoli heads are always small with no real central head forming.  


It’s been frustrating because my mother’s garden (just 2 miles away) always produces gorgeous heads of broccoli.  Every year, after harvesting a small amount of broccoli stalks, I decide that it is the last time I will grow it.

But come fall, I always relent and plant some more.  So, imagine my delight when I ventured out in to my garden this month and found two large heads of broccoli ready for picking!



Aren’t they beautiful?

So, what did I do differently?

I simply planted them in a different location (about 10 ft. away) in the vegetable garden – that’s it!

When planting them this year, I remembered that many people plant tomatoes in a different location from year to year to allow the soil enough time to replenish and I thought that I’d try it with my broccoli and it worked!

My entire family loves broccoli and nothing compares to the flavor of fresh broccoli.  But, you can also freeze it for later.  To do this, you need to ‘blanch’ it by cutting the broccoli into florets and then putting them into boiling water for 3 minutes.  Immediately afterward, dip the florets into cold water with ice cubes to stop the cooking.  Dry the cooled broccoli the best you can and place meal-sized portions into plastic freezer bags and freeze until you are ready to use!

So the lesson is, that if you grow a type of vegetable that does not seem to grow well despite doing everything right – try growing it in a different location.

Come back tomorrow, when I’ll share with you a new vegetable that I grew in my garden!
Did you know that one of the great things about living in the Southwest is the fact that we aren’t limited to just growing flowering annuals in our pots – succulents make great alternative container plants!
 
Last year, I replaced all of my flowering plants with succulents and I haven’t looked back.  They look great and take very minimal care, which fits into my busy life perfectly.  
 
Recently, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and saw some great examples of potted succulents, which I thought I’d share with you…
 
Victoria Agave ‘Compacta’
 
Agave parryi ‘truncata’
 
Mexican Fence Post (Pachycereus marginatus)
 
A trio of variegated agave
 
‘Blue Elf’ Aloe
 
As you can see, there are so many options when you decide to use succulents in containers.  
 
Whether you live near the Desert Botanical Garden or even if you don’t – you can visit your local botanical garden for some alternative ideas for filling your containers.
 
Growing succulents in pots is easy – the most important thing is that they are well-drained, so it’s important to use a planting mix specially formulated for succulents.
 
Do you have any succulents growing in pots?

I am sharing with you a few of my favorite close-up flower photographs this week.


Here is one that brightens up my garden summer and into early fall…

Sunflower
It is hard to find a flower that grows so large and that is easy to grow.
 
 
I plant mine from seed each spring and then plant a second crop in mid-summer.
 
Did you know that you can make a bird feeder and shade tomatoes using sunflowers?
 
*****************************
 
Now for the winner of the book, Hellstrip Gardening…
 
And the randomly picked winner is….


Liza who blogs at “Good to Grow
Congratulations!


Thanks to all of you who entered.  I highly recommend getting a copy for yourselves and transforming your garden.

Yesterday on Facebook, I showed you a photo of my latest project and encouraged you to guess what I was going to do next…


As you can see, I have two pots filled with potting soil.  In front of the pots are a head of garlic (grown in my garden) and onion sets (not grown in my garden 😉

So, what do you think I will do with the garlic and onion sets?

Hint: I am not planning on harvesting the garlic and onions in spring.


I am growing the garlic and onions in order to use the ‘green parts’ to flavor my favorite dishes.

Garlic ‘greens’ like a mild form of garlic while onion ‘greens’ have a mild onion flavor.

You can dice them, much like you would chives and sprinkle them onto garlic bread, on salads or on your favorite Asian or Italian cuisine.

After you snip off some greens, they will grow back.


You can grow them in pots in front of a sunny window or out in your garden.

In my zone 9a garden, I can grow them outdoors if I wanted to, but I like having some food crops growing on my kitchen windowsill in winter, where there are easily within my reach.



Other food crops that I like to grow in front of my kitchen windowsill include basil, parsley and chives.


When planting the garlic and onion sets, be sure to plant them with the pointed side upward and then cover with 1 1/2 inches of soil.


I like to use a regular spoon for planting small things like this.

Now all they need is some water.  *An easy to tell when to water them is to stick your finger into the soil, up to your first knuckle.  If it feels dry, then water.

Of course, you can steal out into your vegetable garden and snip off some of your onion and/or garlic greens now and then.  But, you don’t want to do that too often because these green leaves make the ‘food’ for the garlic and onions growing underneath the soil.


**Last winter, I had a real garden growing on my windowsill, using what most of us would call ‘kitchen scraps’.  You can read more about that gardening adventure here.


One of my favorite plants in my garden is Nasturtium.

 
I love their bright flowers.

Did you know that the name ‘Nasturtium’ literally means ‘nose-twister’?

It’s true.  
Nasturtium comes from the Latin words ‘nasus’ for nose and ‘tortum’ meaning twist referring to the mustard oil in the leaves.
If you haven’t grown Nasturtiums before here are some reasons that you should:
The entire plant is edible.  The leaves and flowers are often used in salads.  The leaves have a ‘peppery’ taste.

– They have large seeds, are easy to grow and are the perfect plant for kids to try growing.

– Nasturtiums are great in the vegetable garden.  They help to keep damaging insects away from your vegetables.

– Available in different colors and forms – climbing, dwarf, trailing and traditional forms.  Nasturtiums can grow up a trellis, drape over a container or the dwarf variety can be used as a bedding plant.

Plant Nasturtiums directly in the ground, in full sun, once the danger of frost is past.  They do best in non-fertile soil.  In my fertile vegetable garden soil, I get more leaves then flowers but that is okay as long as they help to repel damaging insects.
In hot summer areas, like mine, they will die off.  But, I simply let them go to seed and they often grow back in the fall.
You cannot find a better annual for your garden…..beautiful flowers and leaves, easy to grow, helps vegetables, edible AND it’s cheap!  
So for a couple of dollars for a packet of seeds, you can soon be enjoying the benefits of Nasturtiums.