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Sweet potato vine trail underneath a planting of lantana and ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia.

I’ve spent a busy week on the road traveling back and forth throughout the central and northern parts of Arizona. 

While my road trips were for pleasure, there were some work elements involved, viewing the newest trends of high desert landscaping, and taking photos of pretty plants.

Planters filled with green and black sweet potato vines trail over the railing at Tlaquepaque with Mark Twan (Samuel Clemens) sitting underneath.

During the first part of the week, I spent a few days in Sedona. This colorful, high desert town holds a special place in my heart. It is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, and we make a point of coming back up to visit every few years.

A must stop destination for us are the shops are Tlaquepaque, which is modeled after an old Mexican village. Fountains and courtyards are scattered throughout the stores, inviting visitors to sit and enjoy the dappled shade while listening to the gentle sounds of water features.

To be honest, I do enjoy perusing the galleries and shops, but the main draw for me is the beautiful container plantings. Sweet potato vine, lantana, ‘Katie’ ruellia, and salvia are artfully arranged within the containers.

A ‘Painted Lady’ butterfly drinking nectar from a lantana.

Butterflies and hummingbirds are also frequent visitors to Tlaquepaque.


Area hotels also feature lovely examples of plants that thrive in the dry heat like the trumpet vine and yucca, above.

While in Sedona, we made side trips to Flagstaff and Cottonwood before it was time to travel back home.

After one night home, it was back into the car and off on another journey. This time, we brought our kids with us for a destination wedding in Skull Valley, which is a half hour outside of Prescott.

The wedding was held in the middle of the wilderness, reached by traveling over 20 minutes on a curving, unpaved road. Wildlife was plentiful as we spotted a coyote, deer, and a roadrunner, while also smelling a skunk along the way.

It was dusk when the wedding began, and the setting couldn’t have been more beautiful. A cool breeze welcomed guests to the venue that backed up onto the Prescott National Forest. 

The ceremony was beautiful, and the groom got all choked up in the midst of his vows. Guests spent a great time celebrating at the reception, held in an old barn, and we got back to the hotel late.

We took a back way back home, which involved driving some curvy mountain roads, but we traveled through little towns that we had never heard of such as Wilhoit and Peeble Valley. 

I love the fact that even after living here for over 30 years, I still enjoy the beauty of our state and yet encounter new places.

**Do you have a favorite place to visit in Arizona?

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Do you ever find yourself wishing that you had flowers to give to a friend or to decorate your table?


Instead of heading out to the store for a generic bouquet, how about creating a lovely bouquet straight from your garden?


Now before you say that you don’t have any flowers suitable for a bouquet, think again.  


Here are several bouquets from my garden and a few from the family farm….


Isn’t this a lovely arrangement?

Believe it or not, the flowers in these vases all came from plants that many of you probably have in your own garden.

My mother created this arrangement using gold lantana (Lantana ‘New Gold Mound’), orange jubilee (Tecoma x Orange Jubilee) and Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) flowers.  As you can see, it is beautiful, didn’t cost her anything and took minutes to create.


This is a bouquet that I created using flowers from my late winter garden.  Pink and white globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) coupled with Goodding’s verbena (Glandularia gooddingii) are a vision of pinks and purples.


I used a small pitcher to put cuttings of purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis), angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) and flowers from my cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco).


This antique milk of magnesia glass jar makes the perfect vase for sweet white alyssum (Lobularia maritima) , purple violas and pink bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides) flowers.


Flowers aren’t the only thing from the garden that you can use to create a bouquet with.  

A mason jar filled with cut branches from a kumquat tree looks lovely on this table in winter.


Maybe your winter garden has no flowers.  Well, don’t let that stop you.  A small vase filled with seedpods and dried leaves from a Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) looks great on my mother’s diningroom table.


Perhaps you’ve never thought that petunias could look be used in a vase.  But, if you use a small, shallow bowl, they can add a beautiful spot of color on your table.


Of course, roses always make a lovely bouquet.

Bouquets created from items in your garden are a great way to add a personal touch of beauty to your space.

So, are you inspired to create your own unique garden bouquet?  Step outside in your garden and take a new look at your plants – you’ll probably be surprised at how many would look nice in a vase.

**How about you?  What plants would you use to create a bouquet with?
Firecracker Penstemon
While much of the country is suffering from a truly awful winter season, those of us who live in the Southwest are having the exactly opposite problem.

This has been a very warm winter season, with the exception of a few freezing nights back in December.

With temps 10 – 15 degrees above normal, we have been enjoying temps in the 70’s.  

I have seen some signs of our warm winter including the fact that I have ditched my slippers and am going barefoot every chance I get.  Plants have begun to emerge from their winter dormancy and people are asking me if they can prune their frost-damage plants early.

In regards to the pruning question, there is still a chance of Southwestern residents getting a spell of freezing weather before we approach the average last frost date.  So, pruning too early can actually hurt your plants if by some miracle temps dip below 32 degrees.


But, that may not stop everyone from grabbing the pruners.  If you happen to be one of these impatient pruners, make sure that you cover your recently pruned plants if temps dip into the low 30’s.

In the meantime, enjoy the glorious weather!

Do you enjoy winter?


I do.  Surprisingly, the desert Southwest has definite seasons and winters can get cold with temps dipping into the 20’s.  

Frost-damaged natal plum


Unfortunately, the cold temperatures can wreak havoc on our frost tender plants such as bougainvillea, lantana and yellow bells – to name a few.

Let’s face it, no one likes the sight of brown, crispy, frost-damaged plants in the landscape.  Often, our first impulse is to prune off the ugly growth – but, did you know that you can actually do more damage by pruning it off too early?


Learn what plants are most commonly affected by frost damage, when to prune and how in my latest article for Houzz.com

I hope your week is off to a great start!


Freezing temperatures are coming tonight and forecast to last for the next several days.


Take a drive down the street in your neighborhood, you will probably see landscape plants covered with assorted sheets, towels or frost cloth.


Those that don’t protect their frost-sensitive plants such as lantana, bougainvillea, yellow bells, orange jubilee or hibiscus will soon have plants that look like this…


In most cases, you do not have to cover your frost-sensitive plants when temps dip into the lower 30’s.  

There is nothing wrong with allowing the top growth of your ornamental plants to get frost damage.  You just prune it away in spring.

For those of you who don’t like the look of frost-damage, then you will need to protect your plants from the cold.

**If temperatures are predicted to dip into the 20’s – then I do recommend protecting them from frost because temps this cold can kill a plant.  

I wrote a blog post earlier this year when temps hit the low 20’s.  It talks about how to protect plants from frost (and how NOT to) along with the types of plants to protect.

You can read it here…


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I hope you are having a great week.  I must confess to being a little behind on writing blog posts this month with all the Christmas goings on 🙂

Many of us are familiar with how over-pruning can take away much of the beauty of flowering shrubs, in addition to contributing to their early death.


But, have you ever wondered what they look on the inside?


I found this ‘ugly’ example alongside the drive-thru of Taco Bell.


It isn’t pretty, is it?

The side of the ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage was sheared away because it was growing over the curb.  
The result of planting the shrub too close.

You can see the thin layer of leaves that cover the shrub and the dark, interior where sunlight seldom reaches.  

If this resembles your shrub(s), you can fix them.

Below, is a link to a previous blog post of how to do ‘renewal pruning’ on your desert flowering shrubs and what they look like as they grow back.


You can still do this in April for your Cassia (Senna species), Sage (Leucophyllum species), Ruellia, Fairy Duster (Calliandra species) and Lantana shrubs.

 It’s about to get really cold…

Well, cold for this area of the Desert Southwest.  Temperatures are predicted to dip into the 20’s for a few days, which is quite cold for zone 9a.

As a result, I am being asked by quite a few people about what they should do to prepare their semi-tropical plants for the cold temperatures.


The best thing you can do is to cover your frost-tender plants.  Do this in the evening and don’t uncover them the following day until temperatures are 50 degrees or above.  Recover them later in the day if another freeze is expected.

Earlier this week, I wrote about how to protect your plants during a normal winter freeze (30 degrees and above).  You do have the choice to protect your plants or not.  I mentioned that I only protect my high-profile Lantana near my front entry.

BUT, when temperatures are forecast to fall into the 20’s for a few days, I start pulling out all my old linens, including my kid’s old character bed sheets…


I cover most of my semi-tropical plants including my other lantana, young citrus tree, yellow bells, bougainvillea and pink trumpet vine.

The reason for this is that I don’t want my plants killed to the ground by the frost, which can happen when temperatures dip into the 20’s for a few days.

You see, frost damage can be cumulative with each additional night of freezing temps, creating more damage to plants.

So, if you have frost cloth – use it.  If you don’t, then start raiding your linen closet and pull out towels, sheets, tablecloths, etc.  Believe it or not, even newspaper can provide some protection.  Just anchor it down with rocks to keep it from blowing away.  (I once used canned foods from my pantry to anchor frost blankets 😉

What you shouldn’t use is plastic.

Also, if you want to protect your plants – you have do better then this person did…


What they ended up with was plants with green areas, surrounded by brown, crispy frost-damaged growth.  You need to cover the entire plant with no gaps.

Watering you plants at dusk also helps because water releases heat into the night.


If you have columnar cacti, then protect the ends using styrofoam cups.

Young citrus trees should also be protected….


So what do you do if you didn’t protect your plants and they look like this afterward?


Relax, first of all.  More then likely, it is still alive at the base and will grow back once spring arrives.

Whatever you do, DON’T prune them now!  That can damage or even kill your plant.  I know it is ugly, but it is only until spring when you can prune all the frost-damaged foliage away.

**Even if you protect your plants from frost, there can still be some frost damage that occurs.  It all depends on the severity and duration of the cold.  But, covering them increases the chance that they will recover once temperatures warm up in spring.

The other day, I was driving home from a landscape consult and as usual – I was on the lookout for examples of good and bad landscaping.

This particular day, I saw some great examples that  I would love to share with you.  

First the good…

 Isn’t this landscape grouping, attractive?

There is great texture and color.

The Mexican Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) is one of my favorite flowering shrubs, which can be trained as small trees – I have 3 at home.

The spiky foliage of the Red Yucca help to provide contrast with the softer edges of the tree and Lantana.

Speaking of which, you cannot beat Lantana for summer color.

Here is another good example of landscaping…


Although, the Texas Sage, above, is planted a bit too close together, the homeowner has solved the problem by pruning them back severely to approximately 1 ft. using loppers.  Notice that they did NOT use hedge shears or trimmers, which is a good thing!

What this does is to keep the shrubs within bounds, but since they weren’t sheared, the flowers and natural shape of the shrubs can be enjoyed.

You can really tell the difference when you see the photo below from the house next door – which is a bad example by the way…

The same shrubs, planted too close together.  But, the homeowner elected to shear them back with hedge-trimmers.  
The flowers and absence of the shrubs natural shape make these look like green ‘cones’.
Finally, I saw this really bad example of landscaping… 

Isn’t this terrible?
Believe it or not, this is a Mesquite tree that has been ‘poodled’ – meaning sheared into a round shape.
Pruning trees this way is very unhealthy for them for many reasons:
– Shearing trees actually stimulates excess growth meaning that you will need to prune them more often then a properly pruned tree.
– Sunlight has difficulty penetrating the interior, which can lead to the eventual death of interior branches.
– New branches will grow at a ‘weak’ angle, which makes them more susceptible to breakage.
These are but a few of the reason of why not to ‘shear’ or ‘top’ trees.
**How about you?  What examples of good and bad landscaping have you seen this summer?
You can learn more about why it’s wrong to ‘top’ trees in this article from the International Society of Arboriculture.

Last time we ‘talked’, I was showing you a Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden that I was asked to work on.


“Creating a Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden”


As I promised, here is the photo of the finished project…


 Although the new plants are somewhat small and scraggly-looking, they will soon grow and produce many flowers.



We created a pathway throughout the garden and groups of plants will visually guide visitors along the curved path.

The pathway was made of 1/4″ stabilized decomposed granite, which is essentially decomposed granite that has been mixed with a stabilizer.  This creates a natural pathway that has a hard surface.

As I promised last time, here is a list of butterfly / hummingbird reflecting plants that we included:

Autumn Sage  (Salvia greggii)
Butterfly & Hummingbird

  Baja Ruellia  (Ruellia peninsularis)
Hummingbird

Black Dalea  (Dalea frutescens)

Butterfly / Hummingbird

Damianita  (Chrysactinia mexicana) 
 

Firecracker Penstemon  (Penstemon eatonii)
Butterfly / Hummingbird

Globe Mallow  (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Butterflies 

Lantana (all species)
Butterfly / Hummingbird

Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
Butterfly / Hummingbird


Red Fairy Duster  (Calliandra californica)
Butterflies / Hummingbirds 

These are but a few of the plants that will attract butterflies and/or hummingbirds.  So how about including some in your garden? 
 
Today was a beautiful, crisp day.  Temps are in the upper 50’s and there are still flowers present in the garden.
Firecracker Penstemon
Hummingbirds just love the flowers.  Blooms will continue until late April.
**I will have some seeds available this spring.  Click here to see if this perennial will grow where you garden.
Stolk
Flowering in my children’s pool garden.
See earlier post about planting this garden.
Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)
This bright perennial will bloom all year.
This particular flower is from my neighbor’s garden.

Valentine (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)
My Valentine shrub is really starting to bloom.  
Blooming peaks in February, but continues into late April.
Rio Bravo Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)
Surprisingly, my Sage is still blooming, although there are not many left.
**Look closely at the little hairs covering the flower…this helps to protect the flower from the intense heat and sunlight in the summer months. 
Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’)
This perennial blooms spring through fall.  It is slowing down, but I was able to get some pictures of the last blooms.
My neighbor’s yellow rose.
Roses continue blooming through December and into January.  
We actually have to cut them back severely in January to force dormancy.  It just kills me to prune off the beautiful rose blooms of my roses….
My Purple Violas are blooming beautifully.
Goodding’s Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)
A few blooms remain.  
Next to the flowers is a volunteer Victoria Agave that has sprouted from the parent plant.
Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Blooms fall through the spring.
Unfortunately, they do self-seed prolifically and I have to do a bit of weeding.
**If any of you are interested in seeds, I should have quite a few available this spring.
Click here to see if Globe Mallow will grow in your area. 
Purple Lantana (Lantana montividensis)
A few blooms remain, but a lot of Lantana has been burned by frost.
This one is located underneath a tree, which gives some protection from the frost.
Bougainvillea
The colorful ‘petals’ are actually not the flower.  They are called ‘brachts’.
The actual flowers are the tiny cream colored flowers in the center.
*I realize I include photos of my bougainvillea often, but it has done very well. Most Bougainvillea have been damaged by the frost, but this one is located underneath a tree in my backyard, which has protected it from the cold.
Thank you for joining me for December’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Please visit May Dreams Gardens for more sites to visit.
Coming up soon…..A Desert Christmas Celebration.  More specifically, how we decorate our homes and gardens for Christmas.   You may be surprised at what we cover with lights…..