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For those who live in the western half of the United States, water has always been a precious resource. In recent years, this has become especially true during a long-term drought has made its impact felt.

As a result, many of us find ourselves looking for ways to save water. The first place you should start is your landscape as that is the largest percentage of your water consumption.

Today, I’d like to show you examples of three different low water landscape options: 

Drought Tolerant Water Saving Landscape

Option #1

Drought Tolerant – This landscape is characterized by lush green, semi-tropical flowering plants. These include bougainvillea, lantana, oleanders, and yellow bells. All these do well in hot, arid climates in zones 9 and above. While most aren’t native to the Southwest, they are considered moderately drought tolerant and suitable for those who want more a lush look for the desert garden.

For best results, deep water approximately once a week in summer and every 2 weeks in winter.

Moderately Drought Tolerant Water Saving Landscape

Option #2

Moderately Drought Tolerant – Native, flowering plants make up this type of landscape.  Plants like chuparosa, damianita, penstemon, Texas sage, and turpentine bush are examples of this.

Because these plants are native to the Southwestern region, they need infrequent watering to look their best – a good guideline is to water deeply approximately every 10 days in summer and every 3 weeks in winter.

Extremely Drought Tolerant Water Saving Landscape

Option #3

Extremely Drought Tolerant – For a landscape to exist on very little water, a collection of cacti and succulents are the way to go. Columnar cacti such as Mexican fence post, organ pipe, saguaro, and totem pole add height to the garden. Lower growing succulents like agave, candelilla, and desert milkweed can be used for mid-level interest.

Golden barrel, hedgehog cacti and mammillaria fill in smaller spaces and look great next to boulders. Once established, they do best with watering approximately every 3 weeks spring through fall.

 
 
online-class-desert-gardening-101

Tired of struggling in the desert garden? Sign up for my online course, DESERT GARDENING 101.

 

It’s important to note that shrubs should be watered deeply to a depth of 2 ft., which promotes deep root growth, and the soil stays moister longer. Succulents do well at 12″ depth. 

**Watering guidelines can vary from region to region within the desert Southwest, so it’s wise to consult with your local city’s landscape watering guidelines.

Whichever option you select, creating an attractive water-saving landscape is within your reach that will thrive in our drought-stricken region.

Gifts for the Gardener: Books for Water Wise Gardening

Imagine finding yourself stepping back in time, surrounded by small adobe homes and extensive historic gardens – all in modern-day Phoenix.

neighborhood in Phoenix an Historic Garden

The Phoenix Homesteads District dates back to the 1930s and is the only adobe neighborhood in Phoenix.  Mature pine trees line the streets interspersed with Mexican fan palms creating a green tunnel that beckons you to explore further.

Small adobe homes sit on large lots with large, mature trees and shrubs.

Small adobe homes sit on large lots with large, mature trees and shrubs.  

The homes were built in the ’30s, and 40’s so residents could grow much of their food and own small livestock.

The purpose of my journey to this historic neighborhood was to visit a local artist and her picturesque gardens. 

historic garden jewel is located on 'Flower Street.'

This historic garden jewel is located on ‘Flower Street.’

I came to visit this special place at the recommendation of a client who told me about a resident artist, Suzanne Bracker, who not only had a beautiful garden but creates wonderful pieces of art.  

As I pulled up to her home, little did I know that the historic garden was just the beginning of the wonderful things I would see.

historic garden

Suzanne met me by the curb in front of her home to lead me on a journey of inspiration and discovery. 

The curved pathway at historic garden jewel is located on 'Flower Street.

Just a few steps into the garden, it’s apparent that Suzanne loves to repurpose items in her garden.  The curved pathway at historic garden jewel is located on ‘Flower Street.’ garden entrance is edged with broken concrete, often referred to as ‘urbanite’.

 adobe structure

The property consists of two 1/4 acre lots. The adobe structure that used to serve as a garage/shed, straddles the original property line. 

Queen’s wreath vine (Antigonon leptopus) and lantana grow on large river rocks within wire (gabion walls).  The bright blooms of bougainvillea provide a welcome pop of color.

gnarled tree root sits among vines

An old, gnarled tree root sits among vines and adds both color and texture contrast.

 Peruvian apple cactus in Historic Garden

Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus peruviana) grows through a giant bush lantana (Lantana camara) that is trained up as a small tree. 

After only 5 minutes in this artist’s garden, I could tell that I was on a journey of the unexpected and could hardly wait to discover more.

Historic Garden

The garage/shed is now an artist’s studio where pieces of Suzanne’s work are on display.

Historic Garden

The original adobe wall can be seen inside the studio.  Adobe walls (made from mud and straw) keep buildings cool in summer.

Historic Garden

You can see the bits of straw mixed in with the adobe as well as a small note in a crevice just waiting to be discovered and read.

Evidence of Suzanne’s interest in a variety of artistic mediums is immediately apparent.

Historic Garden
Historic Garden

From mosaics…

Historic Garden

To paper…

Historic Garden

 Clay…

Historic Garden
Historic Garden

And jewelry. Her talent is evident in almost everything she touches.

As we ventured back outdoors, Suzanne revealed a particular spot she affectionately calls her “graveyard”.

Historic Garden

Underneath the shade of a large carob tree, the ‘graveyard’ is an area where the broken clay heads from Suzanne’s clay art find a place to rest. 

Historic Garden

This is a novel way to repurpose items that otherwise would have found its way into the trash.

Historic Garden

Weights from old windows in the house now hang from metal trellises alongside snail vine.

Small crystals from old chandeliers

Small crystals from old chandeliers now decorate the trellis and cast small rainbows wherever they catch the sun’s rays.

carob tree.

Peach-faced parrots, who live in the wild, stop by the bird feeder under the carob tree.  

skyflower (Duranta erecta)

Sprays of delicate purple flowers from a large skyflower (Duranta erecta) shrub, arch over the garden path. 

Historic Garden

Along flagstone pathways, a flash of blue and green color catches my eye. Where most of us would throw out a few leftover glass beads, she uses them for a touch of whimsy.

Historic Garden

As I enter her home, the original kitchen catches my eye – there’s no granite countertops or stainless steel appliances here.

 kitchen is functional

Although small, this 1930’s kitchen is functional and very cute.

Back outdoors, there is still more to see in the garden.

An Historic Garden Jewel in the City
vibrant shades of blue and purple

Plants aren’t the only thing that provides color in this garden – the buildings are painted in vibrant shades of blue and purple.

An Historic Garden Jewel in the City

Old oil cans, a kettle, and creamers find new life as garden art.

old Lady Bank's rose

As I walk through the garden, we come upon a shady oasis, underneath the massive canopy of an old Lady Bank’s rose – this is the same type of rose as the famous Tombstone Rose.

olorful rooster and his chickens

A colorful rooster and his chickens enjoy the shade from the rose.

Gold lantana

Gold lantana grows among round step stones. The sizes and location of these step stones were poured in place. Their shape adds another artistic element to the landscape.

garden rooms

One of the many enjoyable aspects of this garden are the ‘garden rooms’ interspersed. 

old, antique, toy cars

Among the garden paths, there’s always something to discover like these old, antique, toy cars.  These were left by the previous owner and Suzanne put them on top of an old tree stump to add another fun element.

 jujube (Ziziphus jujube) tree

At the end of our garden journey, we pass by a jujube (Ziziphus jujube) tree, which tastes a little like apple.  

Sharon tree

The second house on the property has a lovely Rose of Sharon tree in front along with some interesting garden art.

True to the historical roots of this home, the concrete pipes that decorate the front are made from old irrigation pipes used for the flood irrigation This practice is still common throughout parts of Phoenix in older areas. 

flood irrigation

This garden still uses flood irrigation – the same as in the 1930s.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

The blossoms of a small, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) add whimsical beauty with its flowers that change color as they age. 

An Historic Garden Jewel in the City

Gardens that both surprise and inspire us are a real treasure – especially when found in the middle of a city.

Suzanne’s garden is a historic jewel. I am grateful for the opportunity to have met her and observe how her artistic talent extends to everything she touches.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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 desert 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 desert 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 desert 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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

To create the structure for the new desert 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 desert landscape.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation

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.

Desert Landscape Renovation
Desert Landscape Renovation

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!

Looking for Inspiration: Low-Maintenance Desert Landscapes

I am always on the lookout for unique landscape design, seeing how others create beauty in the garden so that I can help inspire you with your outdoor spaces. So, here are some design notes from the field that I found that I hope you will find useful.

REFLECTIONS:

unique landscape design

Often when walking through the garden, I find myself pausing to admire the view of a garden’s beauty reflected on a window.

unique landscape design

It is much like looking at a landscape in a mirror, which expands on its beauty while making it appear even more extensive.

SUCCULENT NOOK:

unique landscape design

On a visit to a client’s landscape, I noted a unique way that they display their succulents. Little nooks were created along the bare expanse of wall, where small pots filled with succulents were nestled inside.

unique landscape design

What a lovely way to break up what would otherwise be a bare wall.

CIRCULAR STEP STONES:

unique landscape design

Pathways are an essential element of the landscape, allowing us to move from one area to the other. Normally, you see square step stones, a continuous path, or flagstone in a variety of shapes forming the path. However, I like these circular step stones, which create a distinctive look. The concrete is poured into molds onsite to make these step stones.

COLORFUL PORCH:

unique landscape design

While strolling among the buildings of the La Villita Historic Village in downtown San Antonio, Texas, I spotted a delightful splash of color on a front porch. Vintage-inspired chairs in vibrant red and turquoise created a welcoming seating area in front of an old, historic home.

I hope that you enjoyed these design elements that speak to me. This is a series of design-inspired posts that I hope to feature from time to time with you. Have you seen any unique design that inspired you?

Revisiting a Newly-Designed Landscape Two Years Later

Cereus cactus, golden barrel cactus, and firecracker penstemon

Cereus cactus, golden barrel cactus, and firecracker penstemon

Is your outdoor space looking rather drab? If so, you aren’t alone – many landscapes can appear somewhat dull, especially if there is a lack of color. But, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

One of my favorite aspects of my job as a landscape consultant is to help my clients to transform their garden from drab to colorful and it is quite easy to do. 

I invite you to join me as I revisit with a client two-years after I created a planting plan for her existing, lackluster landscape. 

BEFORE - Corner of Driveway

BEFORE – Corner of Driveway

Initially, this area did little to add to the curb appeal of the home. Overgrown red yucca plants and a cholla cactus created a ‘messy’ and boring look to this high-profile spot in the landscape.

AFTER

AFTER

Removing the old plants and adding angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) and gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa), creates colorful interest while adding texture. Before, the boulders were hidden behind the overgrown plants, so now they serve as an excellent backdrop for the new additions. 

Landscape Transformation

The corners of the driveway are one of the most viewed spots in the landscape and are often the first part people see when they drive by. It’s important to anchor them visually with plants that look great all year and preferably produce colorful flowers or have an attractive shape or color. I always like to add boulders to help anchor both corners as well.

These areas are also critical in that they create symmetry, connecting both sides of the landscape, which is done by using the same types of plants on each side.

Landscape Transformation

Although there is no ‘before’ photo for the entry, here is an example of plants that will add year-round color because of their overlapping bloom seasons. ‘Blue Elf’ aloe blooms in winter and on into early spring while ‘New Gold Mound’ lantana will flower spring through fall, as the aloe fades into the background. A ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) brings a nice vertical element to this spot and will grow taller with age.

BEFORE (Landscape Transformation)

BEFORE (Landscape Transformation)

Along the front entry path, a tall cereus (Cereus peruvianus) cactus adds a welcome vertical element while the golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) creates excellent texture contrast. However, something is missing in this area, in my opinion.

AFTER (Landscape Transformation)

AFTER (Landscape Transformation)

A colorful element was what was missing in this area. A single firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) adds beauty while also attracting hummingbirds.

 BEFORE (Landscape Transformation)

BEFORE (Landscape Transformation)

On the corner of this lot was a palo brea tree with a large desert spoon and turpentine bushes. Overall, there was nothing exciting in this spot.

AFTER (Landscape Transformation)

AFTER (Landscape Transformation)

The turpentine bushes were removed to make way for a set of gopher plants, which served to tie in this corner of the garden with the areas next to the driveway. These succulents flower in spring and add nice spiky texture throughout the rest of the year.

Purple and white trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) serve to create a colorful carpet throughout the warm months of the year. This type of lantana can struggle in full sun in the middle of summer in the low-desert garden but, thrive underneath the filtered shade of a palo verde tree.

When working with an existing landscape, I relish the challenge of determining what existing plants still add beauty to the outdoor space, or have the potential to if pruned correctly. Sometimes an ugly, overgrown shrub can be transformed into something beautiful if pruned back severely. Often, it’s up to me to decide what goes and what stays. Then, the real fun part begins, which is selecting what areas need new plants and what ones will work best.

I find that many people think that to renovate a landscape, you need to get rid of most of the plants and put in a lot of new ones. But, this is rarely the case. All you need to do is keep the plants that will continue to add to the curb appeal or create a beautiful, mature backdrop for new plants and new plants should be concentrated in high-profile areas where their impact will be maximized.

What would you like to get rid of in your landscape and what would you keep?

Noelle Johnson ‘AZ Plant Lady’

Noelle Johnson, AKA, ‘AZ Plant Lady’ is a horticulturist, landscape consultant, and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. While writing and speaking on a variety of gardening topics keeps her busy, you’ll often find her outside planting vegetables, picking fruit from her trees, or testing the newest drought-tolerant plants. 

I have been dreaming of converting our backyard into a beautiful, low-maintenance desert landscape.

Right now, it has a large area of grass surrounded by large, flowering shrubs against the wall.  I would have loved to have taken out the grass years ago, but my husband and son protested since they would throw the football back and forth each evening before dinner.

low-maintenance desert landscape

low-maintenance desert landscape

But, now my son is almost 12 and often throws the football over the wall, so now I have been give permission to at least start thinking of converting the backyard.

Often, on my way home from a landscape consult, I will mentally design my new backyard garden.  I have some concrete ideas, but there is still a lot to be decided.

Whenever I see a landscape area that I like, I stop to take a picture.  I have quite a few pictures that I have taken of landscapes that inspire me.

Here are just a few…

Red flowering Chuparosa, growing underneath native mesquite and foothills palo verde trees.  A hedgehog cactus grows by a large boulder.  Mexican bird-of-paradise, trained as trees are growing in the background.

Red flowering Chuparosa, growing underneath native mesquite and foothills palo verde trees.  A hedgehog cactus grows by a large boulder.  Mexican bird-of-paradise, trained as trees are growing in the background. 

Goodding's verbena, chuparosa and brittlebush blooming with creosote bush in the background.

Goodding’s verbena, chuparosa and brittlebush blooming with creosote bush in the background. 

Desert ruellia provides an attractive background for golden barrel cacti.  This area needs to be pruned once every 2 years

Desert ruellia provides an attractive background for golden barrel cacti.  This area needs to be pruned once every 2 years. 

low-maintenance desert landscape

Young palo verde tree with potted artichoke agave. 

I am still in the “designing inside my mind” stage, but will soon need to put things down on paper.  I have my drafting supplies ready to go once I am.

Of course, the entire project hinges on having enough money for large containers, big boulders, trees, plants, dirt for mounds and paying someone to rip out our grass.

I would hope to be able to do this next winter, but we will see…

Which one of the landscape areas above do you like best?  

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

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.

drought-tolerant landscape

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.

drought-tolerant landscape

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.)

drought-tolerant landscape

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!    

Tips to Save Money When Shopping for Succulents

In my last post “A Long Forgotten Area Ready for Transformation”, I told you that I would share what plants I was going to have put in this neglected area.

The plants I chose are based on the following:

– I have grown them myself in either my home garden and/or in landscapes I have managed.

– They are relatively low-maintenance.

– Drought-tolerant.

– The plant palette will also ensure year round color, with at least one or more plants being in bloom at a given time.

So are you ready to see what I chose?

Let’s start with the trees…

The area has two large Foothills Palo Verde trees along with a Wolfberry tree, so I chose one other type of tree to add.

Desert Willow

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) is one of my favorite desert trees.  It is not a true willow, but is named for the fact that its leaves are willow-shaped.

Colorful flowers appear throughout the summer that add a vibrant punch of color to the landscape.

Hardy to zone 6, Desert Willow requires well-drained soil and full sun or filtered shade.

For more information on Desert Willow along with the different varieties available, check out my Houzz article about this lovely tree.

Now for the shrubs…

Valentine Bush

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is my favorite shrub of all time. I will never forget the day when I was first introduced to this red-flowering shrub, by Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.  It was 1999 and I was a horticulturist fresh out of college.

I was given 2 Valentine shrubs from Mountain States to plant in the landscape area I managed.  Ever since then, I have been hooked.

Trees and Shrubs

Red flowers appear on this shrub, beginning in January and lasting until April.  If you haven’t noticed it before, there isn’t much blooming in winter, which is one of the reasons I love Valentine.

The foliage is evergreen and Valentine are hardy to zone 8.  Better yet, they only need to be pruned once a year – in spring after flowering.

Plant in full sun and well-drained soil.

For more information about Valentine, check out my post about this great plant.

Baja Ruellia

My second choice for shrubs is Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis).

Now, this isn’t its rather invasive cousin Ruellia (Ruellia brittoniana), pictured below…

Trees and Shrubs

Baja Ruellia is what I like to think of as a smaller version of Texas Sage species (Leucophyllum sp).  It doesn’t get as large and has a longer flowering season then Leucophyllum.

Trees and Shrubs

The flowers of Baja Ruellia are tubular and appear spring through fall, with the heaviest bloom occurring in spring.

The foliage is light green and rarely suffers frost damage in our zone 9b climate.  Hardy to zone 9, Baja Ruellia should be planted in full sun and well-drained soil.

Silvery Cassia

The third shrub for this area will be Silvery Cassia (Senna phyllodenia).  This Australian native does very well in arid landscapes.

The silvery foliage will provide contrast to the darker greens present in the landscape.  Evergreen to 20 degrees, this shrub flourishes in zone 9 landscapes.

Yellow flowers appear in late winter and into spring.  Pruning is needed after flowering, to remove seed pods in managed landscapes.

Like the other shrubs, Silvery Cassia enjoys full sun and well-drained soil.

Autumn Sage

The smallest shrub for this area will be Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).  This plant is hard to zone 7, so remains evergreen during winter here.

Flowers appear fall through spring in the low desert.  The most common colors are red or pink, although there are other colors such as white, lavender and peach. 

I like to use Autumn Sage around trees like Palo Verde, where the filtered shade shelters it from the intense summer sun.  I first saw them planted around a tree at the Desert Botanical Garden and I really liked the way it looked, so I have repeated this design in many of my landscapes.

The Autumn Sage above, was planted by me around a Foothills Palo Verde about 12 years ago and they are still going strong.

I still have perennials and accent plants to show you that I have included in the design and I’ll share them with you next time.

*********************************

Life around our household has been busy lately….

School is back in session (for which I am extremely grateful for 😉

My son Kai, has ditched his wheelchair for a walker and will soon be able to walk without it.

AND

My daughter, will soon come home after leaving 5 months ago for the Navy.  She is graduating from her Equipment Operator School next week and will be an official ‘SeaBee’.  She will be on leave for 2 weeks before she reports for combat training in Mississippi, where she will be stationed for a month.

The BEST news is that her permanent base will be in Port Hueneme, which is where she wanted to be.  What is even better for us, is that it is in Southern California, just 7 hours from home!!!

We are getting ready to celebrate her homecoming, which I will share with all of you 🙂

Do you like butterflies and hummingbirds?  It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t.

Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden

Hummingbird at the Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA

Over 13 years ago, I was working for a golf course management company.  At that time, I created a butterfly garden and a separate hummingbird garden, adjacent to one of the golf courses.

A few years afterward, I created another hummingbird garden at another golf course.  It was so rewarding to see the little hummers visit the flowering plants and perch up high in the Palo Verde trees.

Hummingbird Garden

Hummingbird Garden

So you can imagine how excited I was when I was asked to help create a new butterfly & hummingbird garden.

In fact, the site was the same hummingbird garden that I had created over 10 years ago (above).

Over the years, the plants hadn’t been replaced and it didn’t look the same as it did.

Creating a Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden

I visited the site with the person who was spearheading the new garden and we started to determine what existing plants would stay and which ones we would have removed- because this garden is to be an educational garden for the community, we needed to keep only the plants that attracted butterflies and/or hummingbirds.

The woman I was working with is a retired horticulturist in Minnesota and we had so much fun talking about ‘gardening’ and past projects.

Then I went to work on the design.  The garden will have a path and benches on either end so that people can sit and enjoy watching butterflies and hummingbirds.

Because this was to be a combination Butterfly/Hummingbird garden, I incorporated plants that would attract both.

In fact, there are many plants that attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

Once the design and estimate was approved, it was time to come back out and mark out the path and flag for plant and boulder placement.

It was so much fun to see my old friends from my former landscape crew stop by and say “hi”.

A few days later, it was time to place the plants, which is my absolutely favorite part.

Creating a Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden
Creating a Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden

Later that same day, the landscape company came out to install the plants.

I can’t wait for you to see the finished project and show you the plant list.

**To see the finished project and plant list, click here.**

PS.  Thanks to all of you who so kindly voted for me for “Top Gardening Blog”(I came in 7th out of the 51 blogs that were nominated :-).

First of all, I would like to thank you all for bearing with me as I have taken a trip down memory lane recalling my adventures as a landscape designer.  Your comments have been so much fun to read.

Some of you may be wondering if I am still a landscape designer.  Well the answer is both yes and no.  I no longer work only as a landscape designer.  But, my work as a horticulturist does involve some design work from time to time which I love.

Why am I no longer working only as a landscape designer?  Well, there are a few different reasons.  

landscape designer

First of all, I did enjoy parts of my job, including meeting with so many different people and helping them to realize their goals for their landscapes.

I loved seeing the successful completion of a job.

And lastly, my fancy office with the black granite desk.

I know, you are tired of hearing about my fancy desk by now 😉

landscape designer

Now there were some aspects of the job that I really did not enjoy.

The first part was the emphasis on selling.  Now I have nothing against the sales industry.  But I found out that sales is not my strong point.  Ironically I did sell quite a lot, but that was largely because of my passion of beautiful gardens.  But, I do not like it when a salesperson tries to do a hard sell with me and I definitely did not like the emphasis placed on that in the company.  Besides, I was not good at it, so I rarely attempted it.

Secondly, hardscapes were highly prized by the company.  Now hardscapes are those items such as patios, built-in BBQ’s, seatwalls, firepits and fireplaces, just to name a few.  Sometimes, trees and plants never entered the equation.  I have nothing against hardscape, but I preferred gardens full of plants with just a few hardscape elements.

Thirdly, I would spend a lot of time working with a client, producing a landscape design, only to have them cancel later and have nothing to show for my effort.

Lastly, the recession hit and the home builder I worked for declared bankruptcy and eventually went out of business.  And so in one year, I had created over 200 designs and only 50 would ever be completed and so hours of work was wasted and I would not see any money from them.

So, by this point in my career, I was at a crossroads.  I was very burned out by the amount of time and effort my job required and I had very little to show for it at the end.

So, I took off a year from working.  I am embarrassed to admit that even my passion for plants was affected.  I did the minimum in my garden, but did not receive any joy from it.

About one year afterward, I began to feel my interest in my garden begin to return.  And so, I started my blog, which I have enjoyed so much.

At that time, I began working as a horticulturist again, but with myself as the boss.  Now, I work quite a bit as a garden writer, speaker as well as a landscape consultant.  

landscape designer

I do still create landscape designs from time to time. It works out perfectly for me because I can control how busy I am while ensuring that I have enough time for my family.

Do I regret my working as a landscape designer for a home builder?

No.  I learned so much from that experience.  It not only made sharpened my landscape designing skills, it helped me to learn me more about myself and what I really wanted.

So, one important thing I learned is that life is about the simple pleasures – like taking time to stop and take a roll in the grass…..  

roll in the grass

Thank you again for following my short-lived career as a landscape designer.

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I do plan on sharing stories of my early career as a horticulturist, working on golf courses.

Adventures with coyotes, snakes, destructive storms, monster grubs and being the only woman working in an all-male environment are just part of what is to come 🙂