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Red-Hot-Tecoma-Shrub-Nursery-Container

Tecoma Red Hot

I am always on the lookout for new plants to the desert plant palette. Growers experiment with new varieties of more common plants in an attempt to find new colors, sizes, and more desirable characteristics.

This past fall, I was invited to visit Civano Nursery Farm, located in Sahuarita, 20 miles outside of Tucson. The main reason for the visit was to introduce me to their new Tecoma shrub hybrid called ‘Red Hot.’ This new plant is closely related to yellow and orange bells, which are both ones that I like to use when designing.

At the time of my visit, ‘Red Hot’ was not yet available to the public but was being grown throughout the Southwest as a test plant.

Civano Nursery Farm tour AZ Plant Lady

I met with Jackie Lyle, their Brand Development Manager, who plays an integral part in the introduction of new plants to the Southwest region.

Our tour began in the greenhouses where we explored their state-of-the-art automated systems and massive amounts of plants in all stages of growth. I was in heaven!

Civano Nursery Farm Tour AZ Plant Lady

I have never worked in a nursery or for a grower, so it was fun to see how they propagate plants from cuttings.

Greenhouse with Red Hot Tecoma shrubs

While touring the greenhouses, I got my first view of ‘Red Hot’ Tecoma. Instantly, I could see why there is so much excitement about this new variety. The foliage has the characteristic color of most Tecomas, but the leaves were somewhat smaller than yellow bells and more compact.

Red Hot Tecoma flowers

The vibrant red blooms are simply stunning and sure to draw hummingbirds to drink the nectar from their flowers.

Plant tag Red Hot Tecoma

‘Civano Select’ are plants created by the grower, which have slightly different characteristics than the more common species that they are a welcome addition to the desert plant palette. I was thrilled to view several of their ‘Select’ plants during our tour.

Bougainvillea-Civano-Nursery

As you can imagine, this is a bustling nursery, and there were shipments of plants headed out to job sites and other nurseries.

Red-Hot-Tecoma-Shrub-Nursery-Container

Whoever is getting these ‘Red Hot’ shrubs are in for a treat!

new-plants-desert-garden

And, guess who came home with her own ‘Red Hot’ shrubs? Me!

I am honored to receive two of these new shrubs, so I can share with you how they do in my Phoenix area garden. They are doing very well along the south-facing side of my house underneath the window by my kitchen eating area where I see them every day.

Oh, and of course, I also brought home other plants – autumn sage (Salvia greggii), Mt. Lemmon marigold (Tagetes lemmonii), ‘Mr. Liko’ pink gaura (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Mr. Liko’). Getting free plants is like Christmas to this horticulturist!

The great news is that ‘Red Hot’ Tecoma is now available at many local nurseries.

Want to see if this is the right shrub for your garden? Here are the stats:

‘Red Hot’ Tecoma

Size: 4 feet tall and wide

Exposure: Full sun, reflected sun

Bloom Season: Spring through Fall

Cold Hardiness: 15 degrees

Attracts: Hummingbirds

I will share the progress of my new ‘Red Hot’ shrubs and I encourage you to add this vibrant beauty to your garden!

Do you love hummingbirds?  Maybe a better question would be, who doesn’t?

Hummingbird feeding from an ocotillo flower.
Attracting hummingbirds to your garden isn’t hard to do by simply adding flowering plants, rich in nectar that they are attracted to.
 
Female Anna’s hummingbird at my feeder.
 
But, what if your garden space is small or non-existent?  Is a hanging a hummingbird feeder your only option?
 
 
Well, I’m here to tell you that space needn’t keep you from having your own hummingbird garden – all you have to do is to downsize it creating one in a container.
 
If you have a small patio, stoop or even a balcony, you can create your own mini-hummingbird garden in a container.
 
 
For those of you who have think you have no space at all, look up!  
 
 
Hanging containers or window boxes are a great option for those short on garden space.
 
Whether you have small garden space or simply want to increase the amount of hummingbirds visiting your existing garden – creating a mini-hummingbird garden in a container is a great way to do it.
 
Let’s get started.
 
Here are the elements of a hummingbird container garden:
 
LOCATION:
 
 
– Select a location that receives at least 6 hours of sun a day.  
 
Group containers together for greater color impact, which increases the chances of hummingbird visits.
 

– Place containers in areas where you can view the visiting hummingbirds such as an entry, near a window or a back patio.

– Make sure that the containers are visible and allow easy access for hummingbirds to fly in and out.

 
CONTAINERS:
 
 
– The type of container isn’t important – but drainage is.  Make sure pots have holes for drainage.
 

– Select colorful pots for a welcome splash of color (optional).

– Larger pots will stay moister longer, therefore needing to be water less frequently.

 
SOIL:
 
 
– Use a planting mix (not potting soil), which is specially formulated for container plants since it holds onto just the right amount of moisture without becoming soggy like potting soil can.
 
 
– For large containers, save money on expensive planting mix (soil) by filling the bottom third of the container with recycled plastic water bottles and/or milk jugs.
 
WHAT PLANT WHERE?
 
 
While hummingbirds don’t care how you arrange plants in your mini-hummingbird garden – you can certainly arrange plants.
– Place the tallest plant in the center, surrounded with medium-sized filler plants interspersed with trailing ground covers. 
 
 
This planter has the tallest plant (Salvia) located in the center with mid-sized purple coneflower  next to it with ‘Wave’ petunias spilling over the outside.
 

COLOR:

A hummingbird’s favorite color is red, although they will visit flowers of all colors as long as they are rich in nectar.

However, let’s explore color in regards to creating a beautiful container and figuring out what color combos look best.



To this, we will need to visit our friend, the color wheel.

– To achieve a soft blending of colors, select plants with flower colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.

– For a striking contrast, pair flowers with colors that occur on opposite ends of the color wheel.

HUMMINGBIRD ATTRACTING PLANTS:

Salvia coccinea

– Hummingbirds are drawn to flowers that have a tubular shape.

Hummingbird feeding from the yellow flower of aloe vera.

– The color red is their favorite, but as stated earlier, they will visit flowers of all colors.

Young hummingbird feeding from a lantana flower.

– They tend to prefer flowers with little to no fragrance since their sense of smell is poor.

– Plants belonging to the Salvia genus are all very popular with hummingbirds and are a safe choice when creating a hummingbird container garden. 

Soap aloe flowers.

– Flowering succulents are also often visited by hummingbirds as well.

Rufous hummingbird feeding from the flower of a red hot poker plant.

– There are helpful online resources with lists of plants that attract hummingbirds.  Here are two helpful ones:

The Hummingbird Society’s Favorite Hummingbird Flowers

Top 10 Hummingbird Flowers and Plants from Birds & Blooms Magazine

– Other helpful resources are your local botanical garden, master gardener or nursery professional.

Another bonus to planting hummingbird attracting plants is that many of the same flowers attract butterflies too.

CARE:

The key to maintaining healthy container plants lies in proper watering and fertilizing.

Let’s look at watering first:

– Water containers when the top 2 inches of soil are barely moist.  You can stick your finger into the soil to determine how dry the soil is.  

– Water until the water flows out the bottom of the container.

– The frequency of watering will vary seasonally.

Fertilizing is important for container plants – even plants that don’t normally require fertilizer when planted in the ground will need it if in a container.

– Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer, which lasts 3 months.

– Supplement, if desired, with a liquid fertilizer monthly.

– For succulents, use a liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength every other month spring through early fall.

UNIQUE TWISTS FOR CREATING HUMMINGBIRD CONTAINERS:

Don’t be afraid to look outside the box when it comes to what can be used as a container.

An old wheelbarrow makes a great container after a making a few holes in the bottom for drainage. *While marigolds don’t attract hummingbirds, there are a few dianthus in this planter that do.
Hummingbirds love water!

Add a water feature in a container that will surely attract nearby hummingbirds.

Add places for hummingbirds to perch nearby or within the container itself.  

This little black-chinned hummingbird was perfectly at home perching on a lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) stem that was growing in a container.

You can always add a small, dead tree branch within the container itself for a convenient perching spot.

As you can see, the amount (or lack of) garden space doesn’t need to limit your ability to attract hummingbirds using beautiful, flowering plants.

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I spoke about small space gardening at the Hummingbird Festival 2015, and it was an unforgettable experience, filled with educational talks, beautiful gardens and observing hummingbirds up close – I even got to hold one!  To read more about my adventures with hummingbirds, click here.

I hope that you are inspired to create your own mini-hummingbird habitat in a container.

**Do you have a favorite plant that attracts lots of hummingbirds?  Please share them in the comments section.

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Do you use any lotion that contains aloe vera?


While most of us think of the medicinal qualities of aloe vera – particularly how they provide relief from burns, it’s beauty and drought tolearance makes it well worth adding to our “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful” category.



Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) thrives in drought tolerant gardens and produces lovely, yellow flowers in spring, much to the delight of hummingbirds everywhere.

Want to learn more about this succulent beauty?  Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.



How about you?  
Have you ever grown aloe vera?
Have you every thought of a nursery of more than just a place to buy plants?

How about one with secret corners where visitors are invited to sit and eat their lunch or read a book?
Or have you visited a nursery that is nestled underneath a 50 year old, flowering tree that shades everything below?
On a recent visit to California, I came upon a most unique plant nursery.

I hadn’t planned on visiting a nursery on this particular day, but I noticed a large floss silk tree (Chorisia speciosa) dominating the blue skyline with its dark pink flowers.  It took me a moment to notice the nursery tucked underneath the branches.
The gate leading into the nursery, had decorative wooden signs describing what was yet to be discovered within.

I was greeted by a large jade plant, which if you’ve ever traveled to California, must be the ‘unofficial’ succulent plant of this beautiful state – everyone seems to have one growing in a pot somewhere in their garden.
Walking a little ways in, I immediately noticed a small pathway leading into the depths of the nursery, beckoning the visitor to discover where it led.

Flanking the shady path were a variety of tropical plants, succulents and garden ornaments.

A galvanized container held a variety of wooden garden signs. 

 I decided to take the signs literally and to be on the lookout for gnomes 😉
Reaching the end of the pathway, visitors discover worn, yet comfortable garden furniture, inviting you to take a break and enjoy the shade on a warm summer’s day while being surrounded by the beauty of the plants.
Throughout the entire nursery were hidden corners filled with chairs and comfortable cushions.  

Visitors are encouraged to bring their lunch and eat in the garden or bring along a favorite book.

If I lived near this nursery, I would be tempted to spend a lot of time here where I would be able to enjoy two of my favorite things – plants and books!

The branches of the floss silk tree extended their shade over a large number of plants.

Floss silk trees have a very unique trunk.  It is green, much like the palo verde, but they have very large thorns.

As I continued my journey of discovery through the nursery, I found that it was hard to reconcile this place as your typical nursery.
Oh, they did have basic gardening supplies such as organic fertilizers, peat moss, compost and pots – but it was the lack of obvious organization and the randomness that I found throughout.

Small garden rooms were filled with an assortment of succulents, palms and unusual flowering plants.

White icicle lights were strung throughout the nursery, which made me wish that I had a chance to visit in the evening hours.

Plants could be found in a variety of sizes.  There was no plant signage or pricing information that could be easily seen.


Everywhere you would turn, there would be something new and unexpected to discover.

A row of old cowboy boots sat, ready to be used as planters.


A container made from grape vines in the shape of a swan held a variety of succulents.

A pair of rusty enamelware bowls sat empty on a plastic crate – maybe they will be filled with some succulents someday?  Hopefully sooner than later before the bottom rusts out.

While enjoying the unusual things throughout out the nursery, there were some more traditional areas with flowering plants available for sale.

Colorful begonias and fucshia plants beckoned California gardeners.

I found a corner filled with adeniums, which I must admit that I am fascinated by.

I just love this delicate, pink adenium flower, don’t you?

I must admit that there were so many different things that I loved about this little nursery – it’s lack of organization, the fact that it looked more like a garden than a nursery, the hidden seating areas where you could read a book, the unique garden art (junk) and perhaps most of all was that the focus was on enjoying your visit to the nursery whether you bought anything or not.

The roof of the little garden shop was decorated by a row of potted Yucca gloriosa and more icicle lights.  

As I got ready to leave, I took a few minutes to talk to the woman who worked there.  She directed my attention toward the flowering canopy of the floss silk tree and told me that 5 hummingbirds make their home in its branches.

Male hummingbirds are extremely territorial, but the tree was so large that they all are able to live in it somewhat peaceably.  I was told that each hummingbird has a specific section of the tree that belongs to them and if one oversteps his section, than there are little arguments.  

I enjoyed my visit to this 50-year old, unique plant nursery/garden and can’t wait to have a chance to come again.

**If you are ever near Carpinteria, California, I encourage you to take some time to visit the Carpinteria Landscape Nursery – but, be ready for a rather unorthodox nursery experience.

I am excited to show you two pictures of one of my favorite perennials.


Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

Isn’t this a cool picture of a bee, ready to pollinate the flowers of this penstemon?

I must confess that I did not take this photo (or the other one below).  My husband took both of these beautiful pictures.


This firecracker penstemon is happily growing in my garden and is now over 14 years old, which is rare.  

Every winter, it sends up spikes covered in red, tubular flowers, much to the delight of the resident hummingbirds.

The blooms last through spring in my desert garden.  In cooler climates, it will bloom in spring through early summer.

To learn more about this red beauty and how easy it is to grow in your garden, click here.


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I hope you have enjoyed my favorite flower photos.  Starting tomorrow, I will begin posting a series of my favorite DIY blog posts, so please come back for a visit!

Do you enjoy going out into the garden in summer?


I don’t!


I admit to sometimes neglecting my garden when the temperatures go above the century mark.  My aversion to gardening in a furnace is one of the reasons that I like to use desert-adapted plants that don’t need much attention.



One of my favorite fuss-free plants is chuparosa (Justicia californica).  

It has beautiful red, tubular flowers that decorate the garden in late winter into spring and sporadically throughout the year.  Hummingbirds can’t resist it AND it is drought-tolerant and low-maintenance.

Want to learn more?  Here is my latest plant profile for Houzz:




Do you like red-flowering plants?

I do.


Many of the landscape plants in the southwestern landscape tend to be found in shades of purple and yellow.  As a result, I tend to include plants with red flowers whenever I create a design to help balance the purple and yellows in the plant palette.

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) is one of my favorites because it has such unusual flowers.  

They do look like ‘fairy-dusters’, don’t they?  The unique shape of the flowers is due to the fact that the showy part of each flower is actually a bunch of stamens grouped together – you don’t see the petals.

You can learn more about this beautiful, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance shrub including what zones it will grow in, in my latest plant profile for Houzz

Which red-flowering plants is your favorite?




One of my favorite shrubs is Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).  I have used it in countless landscapes and I like how well it does when planted around trees where they can enjoy the filtered shade.


Now that fall is just a couple of days away (SUPER excited about that by the way), my thoughts drift toward plants that bloom in fall, which include Autumn Sage.


For more reasons why you may want to add this delightful plant to your garden, check out my latest article for Houzz.com

Architecture, interior design, and more ∨

Hire residential landscape architects to help with all aspects of landscape design, from selecting or designing outside patio furniture, to siting a detached garage or pergola.
As you get ready to host an event, be sure you have enough dining room chairs and dishes for dinner guests, as well as enough bakeware and chef knives for food preparation.

*Disclosure: I was given this book, free of charge, for my honest review. 

Anyone who likes to garden knows that birds are naturally attracted to many types of plants – especially native plants.

Costa’s Hummingbird visiting the velvety flowers of Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
I particularly enjoy watching the hummingbirds visiting my garden.  
 
The blooms of Ocotillo are irresistible to hummingbirds.
As I visit other gardens, I enjoy seeing the feathered visitors and note what it is about that garden space they find attractive.
As a garden writer, I am often given the opportunity to review books by the folks at Timber Press -especially those that marry gardening with birding.
 
So, I was thrilled to see their latest book on my doorstep…
 
 
This is a fabulous book filled with all you need to know to attract birds to your garden.
 
For example, what if you could create a bird-friendly garden that attracted birds that you don’t always commonly see in your neighborhood?
 
 
One winter, this small blue bird found its way onto my garden wall.  I had never seen any type of blue bird visit my garden, so I was thrilled.
House finches gather for a quick bite of bird seed.

For many people, our efforts to attract birds consists of hanging out a bird feeder and filling it with seed.

 
While you are providing food for birds by doing this, they require more then bird seed.  They need water, shelter and native plants to feed upon.


Gardening For the Birds by George Adams, will help you to create a sanctuary in your own garden filled with beautiful plants that will attract feathered visitors.

Inside this book are lists of plants, separated by region, that will help to attract birds to your garden.  In addition, many of these plants have over-lapping bloom cycles, which are there to provide a year-round source of food for birds.
 
I am not a black & white type of girl – I don’t like books about gardening (or birding) that only have black & white photos.  That is why I love the colorful photos of plants and birds in Gardening for Birds.
 
So are you ready to move beyond your bird feeder?  Get this book and learn how to add shelter, water, nesting sites AND native plants to your garden.  You will soon be rewarded with a wide variety of birds visiting your garden.
 
Roadrunner checking out the front patio.
Now, I am not going to let go of my copy of this book.  BUT, I AM HOSTING A GIVEAWAY WHERE YOU CAN WIN YOUR OWN COPY!
 
If you only own one book about birds and gardening – this is the one!  It would also make a fabulous gift for the bird-lover in your life (Christmas is just around the corner).
 
All you need to do is to add a comment, below, to this post.  For an extra entry – ‘like’ me on Facebook or ‘follow’ me on Twitter.
 I will pick a winner 1 week from today.  
 *I was provided a copy of this book for free, for my honest review.


Enjoying the beautiful birds of summer!

This past week, I have been sharing with you my latest landscape project that is located next to a golf course.


I shared with you the tree and shrubs that I had chosen and not it’s time to show you what perennials and succulents that will be going in.


*All the following perennials are drought tolerant and require full sun with well-drained soil.



Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) is a fabulous flowering ground cover.  

It thrives in locations with hot, reflected heat and handles cold temperatures (down to 0 degrees F) just as well.  

In spring and again in fall, masses of bright yellow flowers cover this low-growing perennial.  When not in bloom, it has dark green needle-like foliage.



Newly planted landscape with Purple Trailing Lantana, Parry’s Penstemon, Desert Spoon, Palo Blanco trees and Damianita.
I have used Damianita in other landscapes that I have designed in the past (shown above), with great results.  

*The trick to keeping Damianita looking great is to shear it back in late spring.


Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni) is my favorite flowering perennial.  The one pictured above, is in my own garden.

I am often asked about this brilliantly colored plant in spring when it is in bloom.

One of the reasons that I love this Penstemon is that is begins flowering in winter, in zone 9b and continues on into spring.  In cooler zones, it begins flowering in spring and lasts into summer.  It handles cold temperatures easily and is hardy to zone 5.

Hummingbirds find the flowers irresistible.  To prolong bloom, prune off the flowering stalks once the flowers begin to fade and you will be rewarded with another flush of bloom.

Angelita Daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis formerly, Hymenoxys acaulis) are what you could call one of my ‘signature’ plants, because I use them often, like the landscape I designed, above.

I find them invaluable in the landscape because they flower off and on throughout the year, with the heaviest bloom occurring in spring.

They easily handle full sun and reflected heat and look great in pots.  I like to plant them next to boulders in groups of 3 or 5 for best effect.   Cold temperatures are no problem either because they are hardy to zone 5.

Maintenance is easy – simply shear the flowers every 8 weeks or so. 

Now, so far I have shown you the trees, shrubs and perennials planned for this area.  But, I want to add succulent plants, which are also used as accent plants.  These types of plants add texture to the landscape because their unique shapes contrast well with the softer, more rounded shapes of the shrubs and perennials.


Weber’s Agave (Agave weberi) is a large agave that can grow 5 to 6 ft. high and up to 8 ft. wide.

In large landscape areas, I don’t want to use small succulents because it will be hard to see them unless you mass a lot of them together.  My budget won’t allow for that with this project.

I love how this large agave can stand up on its own.  I like to plant flowering ground covers underneath them.

Plant in full sun or light shade.  Weber’s Agave is hardy to zone 7.  *Agave need supplemental water in our climate to look their best.  I recommend watering twice a month in summer and once a month in spring and fall.  


You can’t get much more unique in shape and coloring then Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa-rita).  

I love the gray pads with shades of purple.  
The purple color deepens in cold temperatures or in times of drought.


In spring, yellow flowers cover this beautiful cactus.  

Hardy to zone 8, plant in full sun and well-drained soil.

**If you notice white cottony masses on your prickly pear, simply spray it off with a hose.  They are caused by an insect.

Okay, are you ready for my last plant selection for this new project?


It is hard to find a succulent that works harder then Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora).  Despite their common name, they aren’t a yucca.

The lower, succulent leaves resemble ornamental grasses.  In spring coral-colored flowers are borne above the grass-like foliage.


Hardy to zone 7, Red Yucca thrives in full sun.  While drought-tolerant, they do best with supplemental water.  

Maintenance is easy – just remove the flowering stalks as they begin to fade.  

*There is a common mistake that landscapers often make with this succulent plant.  To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, check out my previous post, “Do This NOT That”.

The last element for my newest project isn’t a plant at all, but it adds height and texture to the landscape without requiring any water or pruning…


Boulders!

I will use boulders interspersed throughout this flat area to add height.  The boulders will have either a succulent and/or flowering perennials planted next to them.

Well, I must say that I am excited to get started on this project.  We will wait until this fall for the planting.

I’ll be sure to take you all along as it progresses.

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7 days until my daughter, Rachele, comes home from the Navy!!!