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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 Seeing the old, outdated elements peeled away and replaced with new paint, flooring, etc.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 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 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 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.

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.

To create the structure for the new 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 landscape.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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


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

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

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

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


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

Cereus peruvianus with golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

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

Ironwood tree (Olneya tesota)

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

Fragrant flowers of Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora)

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

Pink bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides)

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

I spent that Wednesday working on designs and reports.

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

January is off to a busy start.  We have gone from a house bursting at the seams to one that seems suddenly spacious after my two oldest daughters left for home with their children.  While I do miss them, I must admit that I never thought a house filled with 3 teenagers would seem quiet.

Enjoying last minute cuddle time with Lily before she flew back to Michigan.

As I drove my oldest daughter and her family to the airport, I felt that familiar tickle in my throat and knew that I was getting sick.  I wasn’t too surprised with all of the busyness of the holidays that my resistance was low.  

A few days later, I was due to make an appearance on the television show, Arizona Midday, which airs on our local NBC television station.  The topic was to be about winter gardening tasks.

While I have been on television a few times before, this was my first time on this particular program.  

As with the other times, I made a trip to the nursery for plants and other things for the television spot since the producers like a lot of props to make things look more interesting.

I came away with a bare root rose (my favorite Mr. Lincoln red rose), leaf lettuce and kale, parsley and cool season annuals for color.  Other props included different types of frost protection including frost cloth, old towels, and sheets.

Unfortunately, as the date of my television appearance neared, my cold got worse and evolved into a full-blown sinus infection.  


So on a brisk winter morning, loaded up with cold medicine and a pocket full of kleenex, I loaded up my plants and other props and headed to the TV station along with my mother who came with me to help me stage the table and provide moral support.  

We spent a delightful time waiting to be escorted to the studio in the green room with a pair of chili cooks who were talking about an upcoming chili cookoff.


Finally, it was time for the gardening segment, which went quite smoothly – I didn’t cough or sneeze once.  The host was kind, gracious and most importantly – laid back and relaxed.

After returning home, I got on my favorite pair of sweats and got back into bed.  I am determined to kick this cold!

If you would like to see the garden segment click here.

I hope that your January is off to a great start!

Do you enjoy visits from butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden?

How about creating their own mini-wildlife habitat in a container where you can view them close up without using a lot of garden space?

It’s not hard to do and the rewards are seeing your favorite flying visitors coming to visit your garden.

Learn how to create your own butterfly and/or hummingbird wildlife habitat in a container in my latest article for Houzz.

What plant in your garden is most visited by butterflies and hummingbirds?

*For an in depth tutorial on creating a mini-hummingbird garden in a container that I presented at the 2015 Hummingbird Festival, click here.


Do you like the look of ornamental grasses?


One of my favorite plants has the appearance of an ornamental grass, but isn’t.  



Bear grass (Nolina microcarpa) has lovely, evergreen foliage that mimics the look of grasses.  But, my favorite part are the curlicue ends of the leaves.


Aren’t they neat?

Like the other drought tolerant and beautiful plants that I profile, bear grass thrives in hot, dry locations with little attention.  Another bonus is that they easily handle 100+ temperatures in summer and can also survive winter temps down to -10 degrees F.

Want to learn more?  Check out my latest plant profile on Houzz.

Do you like flowering perennials?

I do.  I enjoy their soft texture, flowers and the pollinators that come to enjoy their flowers.

Today, I’d like to share with one of my favorite perennials that I have growing in my garden.


Gaura lindheimeri is a drought tolerant perennial that produces small, delicate flowers that resemble butterflies floating on the air.

Available in white and pink colors, they are grown as a perennial or used as an annual in colder climates.  This is one of the few plants that you can find growing in a desert garden and in more temperate climates such as the Midwest and Northeast.

This lovely perennial deserves to be seen more in the garden and I’d love to share more about gaura with you and why you’ll want to add it to your landscape in my latest Houzz article.




Do you like plants that flower throughout most of the year?


How about a plant with foliage that is evergreen throughout the year in zone 9-11 gardens?


Would you prefer a plant that requires very little pruning?


If you answered “yes” to these questions, than Texas olive may deserve a spot in your garden.


This beautiful southwestern native deserves a spot in our ‘Drought Tolerant & Fuss Free’ category.


Despite its common name, this is not an olive tree.  However, it can be trained into a small tree or large shrub depending on your preference.

In my opinion, it deserves to be seen more often in the landscape with all of its outstanding qualities mentioned earlier.

My favorite characteristics are its large, dark green leaves and white flowers that decorate the landscape.

Want to learn more about Texas olive and how you can use it in your landscape?

Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.

If you want more ideas of great plants to add to your drought tolerant landscape, you can check out my other plant profiles here.



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As you can see, it’s back to regular blog posts after my Northwestern road trip posts.  I hope you enjoyed them and were able to share in our adventures.

However, I still have more to share with you about the some very special gardens we visited. I promise to share with you soon!

Do you ever go on road trips?


As a child, we traveled almost everywhere by car. My parents would load up our station wagon complete with its ‘faux’ wooden panels and my sister, brother and I would argue about who would have to sit in the middle first.


Tanaya Lake in Yosemite.  I’m on the left 🙂

Most of our road trips involved camping throughout the state of California.  I have great memories of sitting by the campfire, my mom making chicken and dumplings on the camp stove, dirty feet that had to be washed before walking into the tent and most of all, just having fun.

Now that I am grown, road trips are still a part of my life.  While I take many with my own family, I also go on a special road trip each year with my mother.


For those of you who have followed my blog for awhile, you have undoubtedly participated in our road trip adventures.  In fact, I am often asked where our next destination will be.

Every year, we both sit down and decide where our next adventure lies.  The goal is to explore different regions of the United States by car.

We typically fly into one city and days later, end up several states away.  Our road trips have taken us to a variety of fun places and experiences including:


Touring a horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky.


Walking through the grounds of an old plantation in Savannah, Georgia.


Observing an old Amish farmer, throwing manure onto his corn field.


Strolling through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina and admiring the lovely window boxes.


Touring Mackinac Island in Michigan and coming back with several pounds of fudge.


Visiting some beautiful botanical gardens like Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin.


Exploring lighthouses, including the one at Point Betsie, Michigan.


Of course, wherever we go, I am always on the lookout for new gardens to visit, which I love to share with you.

As we hit the road, I blog about each day’s adventures – usually daily.

My bag is almost packed and I am finishing up a few things before I go, which leads me to the question that many of you have been asking:

“Where are we going?”

Earlier this year, I asked you for some suggestions and mentioned five different options we were considering, which you can read here.  

I’ll be back on Wednesday, to let you know what region we decided to visit!

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

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


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



To this…

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

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

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

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

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