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Do you have vines in your garden? 


What type of trellis do you use for them?  Is it your basic (somewhat boring) wooden trellis?


What if you could make your own trellis that not only looks better but costs next to nothing?


*I have been sharing some of my favorite garden blog posts that I have written recently for Birds & Blooms magazine where I serve as the garden blogger – including this one about how to make your own ‘natural’ trellis.



I have seen quite a few trellises made from branches, but I thought this one that I saw while visiting the Green Bay Botanical Gardens in Wisconsin, was especially nice because you could see how it was made because the vine had not yet grown up on it.

With all of the stormy weather, I’m sure you have your share of branches that have blown down from your tree that you can use.  I shared how to create your own trellis using branches in a recent post for Birds & Blooms…


You’ll not only save money by making your own, but I think that it looks nicer and is a more sustainable option.

Is your garden looking a bit lackluster and in need of more color than green?  While colorful flowering plants can help, it is hard to find a plant that will flower all year long.  


*Some of you may know that I am the garden blogger for Birds & Blooms magazine.  I have been going through some recent blog posts that I have written for them and thought that I would share some of my favorites with you.


As part of a two-part series, I shared some creative ways to add color to the landscape without relying on plants alone.  This is especially helpful during the winter months when not many plants are in flower.

Most of the photographs in these posts were taken during a recent trip to Southeastern Arizona including Bisbee, Tombstone and Tucson.



I hope that you are inspired to use a few of these colorful ideas in your own landscape!

There are some plants in the landscape that are underused through not fault of their own.


This can be for a number of reasons, one of which, is that it isn’t stocked at local nurseries.  Customers often walk into their local nursery without any specific plant in mind and choose from what is in stock.



Another reason is that many southwestern natives aren’t all that impressive looking in their nursery container, where their root growth is restricted.  
However once they are planted and roots begin growing, they really take off and transform into a beautiful plant.


One underused plant in the southwest garden is little leaf cordia (Cordia parvifolia).

There are so many reasons to love this underused, native shrub…

– it is evergreen in zones 8 and above
– thrives in areas with full, reflected sun
– is drought tolerant
– needs no fertilizer
– rarely needs to be pruned
– and perhaps most importantly, it has beautiful, white flowers!


I recently wrote about little leaf cordia for Houzz.com and how to grow and use it in the landscape.

My hope that this underused shrub will soon become a much-used shrub in the southwestern landscape.

**Is there a plant that you think deserves a more prominent place in the southwestern landscape?  Please share it in the comments below!

Do you like using fresh herbs when you cook?


I do.  But, I don’t like buying herbs from the store because they can be expensive and often aren’t very fresh looking.


Purple basil and chives
I enjoy growing herbs outdoors in my garden, but I also grow herbs indoors on my kitchen windowsill.

Whether you have a garden, a balcony or a windowsill, you can grow herbs inside.


Many people grow herbs indoors during the winter time, but you can grow them inside all year long.

So, are you ready to grow your own fresh herbs?
Let’s get started…

1. Select a place to put your potted herbs that has a sunny window. – 
A window that faces south is best, but east facing will also work.  West facing windows may be too hot in if you live in the desert, but you can experiment with it.  
Herbs need at least 4 – 5 hours of sun.


It’s important to note that herbs grown indoors won’t look as compact or lush as those grown outdoors, which is due to the fact that they don’t get as much sun indoors.

2. Choose plastic or glazed containers with holes for drainage.  
It’s best to avoid terra-cotta pots, which can dry out – especially during the winter when the air in our homes can be dry from heating. 


You can also use cans as recycled containers.  I have grown herbs in tomato cans as well as coffee cans.  

A row of cans with their labels removed, filled with herbs would add a real contemporary look to the kitchen, don’t you think?  


3. Use potting or planting mix.  
Avoid using potting soil, which is not formulated for containers and can become soggy.
4. Select what herbs you want to grow.
There are many different herbs that will grow well indoors, which include basil, chives, lemon balm, mint, parsley, sage and thyme. 

You can buy herb transplants from your favorite nursery or sometimes at the grocery store.




Another way to grow certain herbs is to start them from cuttings.


I ran out to the garden to grab two types of basil and some apple mint to show you how to do this.  
Basil and mint are both easy to start from cuttings.


Remove the leaves from the bottom as shown, above.  Place the cuttings in a glass of water so that most of the stem is submerged in water, but take care that no leaves are in the water.




Place in a window with bright, indirect sun.  Change the water every other day and watch for roots to develop.  Once roots have grown 1/2 – 1 inch, transplant each cutting into a container filled with potting mix and your are done!
I told you it was easy.


5. Water your potted herbs when the top of the soil feels dry.
Herbs don’t like soggy soil, so it’s best to allow the top of the soil to dry out before watering deeply until the water runs out the bottom.  

An easy to tell when it’s time to water is to stick your finger into the soil till you reach your first knuckle – slightly less than an inch.  If it feels barely moist, then it is time to water again.

6. Fertilize your herbs.
When plants are grown in pots, they need to be fertilized and herbs are no different.  You can apply organic fertilizer granules and work into the top inch of soil OR you can use an organic liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion.  

Follow directions on the granular fertilizer package when applying and guidelines for frequency.  In general, liquid fertilizer can be applied every 2 weeks.


Soon you will have fresh herbs close at hand and ready to use in your favorite dishes.

I recently made herbs salts from my herbs, which is fun and easy to do.  The flavor that they add to food is just delicious!


Click the links below to learn how to make:


Basil Salt


Herb Salt


For more information on how to grow herbs and how to preserve them, click on the following links:


Preserve Herbs By Freezing Them Into Ice Cubes


Preserve Herbs By Drying Them



Earlier this week, I mentioned I was being interviewed about drought tolerant gardening for several radio stations throughout the country.  

This morning, I am doing a live interview for the public radio station, KERA in Dallas, Texas.  I will be taking viewer questions throughout the program.  
*You can listen to it here, if you like. 

I must admit to being a little nervous, but am mostly excited to talk about a subject that I am passionate about and have a lot of experience with having lived in California and now Arizona.


 In my last post I talked to you about 10 steps toward a drought tolerant garden.

As I promised, it is time to decide what to plant in your water wise garden.

Today, let’s talk about one of my favorite group of plants – perennials. 

The perennials I am sharing with you can grow in a variety of climates throughout the United States and I will note their USDA planting zones.

*For best results, the following guidelines should be followed when planting these or any drought tolerant plants:

– Plant in well-drained soil.
-Amend the existing soil with compost at a ration of 1:1.
– The planting hole should be 3X as wide as the root ball to allow the roots to grow outward more easily and the plant to establish more quickly.

White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)

White gaura has a central place in my drought tolerant landscape.  I have three growing underneath my front window where I can enjoy their delicate, butterfly-shaped flowers that appear in spring and fall where I live in the low desert.

In cooler locations, it blooms spring through summer. This white-flowering native grows approximately 2 ft. tall and wide.

Hardy to zone 7 – 10, plant gaura in well-drained soil.

Penstemon species
The arrival of spring is heralded by the flowering spikes of penstemon.  There are many different species of native penstemon and all have a place in a drought tolerant garden. 

Hummingbirds will flock to your garden to enjoy the nectar from its blooms.  The base rosette of penstemons are approximately 1 foot high and 1 – 2 feet wide when not in flower.

The species you choose depends on your region and their cold hardiness ranges from zone 4 – 10.  Plant in full sun to filtered shade in well drained soil.

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

If you like white daisies, than this is a drought tolerant perennial that deserves a place in your garden.

Blackfoot daisies are a native, mounding plant that grow 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide.  Don’t let their straggly appearance fool you when you see them at the nursery – once they are planted and have a chance to grow roots, they will fill in and look great.

I like to plant blackfoot daisies next to boulders where their soft texture provides beautiful contrast.

Plant in full sun, well-drained soil.  Hardy to zone 5 – 10.

Angelita Daisy / Perky Sue (Tetraneuris acaulis – formerly Hymenoxys)

Here is one of my all time favorite perennials.  I use it often in my designs and landscapes that I have managed in the past.

Angelita daisies are native to the United States, which add a welcome spot of color to the garden.  Don’t let their delicate appearance fool you – they are very tough.

Plant them in groups of 3 or 5 for best effect in areas with full, (even reflected) sun to filtered shade.  Gardeners in zones 5 – 10, can grow this pretty little perennial that reaches 1 foot high and tall.

In zone 8 gardens, it is evergreen and will flower throughout the year.  For those who live in zones 5 – 7, it can die back to the ground, but will quickly grow back in spring and provide yellow blooms throughout the summer into early fall.

In zones 4 and below, angelita daisy is often grown as an annual.

Tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)

The flowers of tufted evening primrose open at night where their white blooms illuminate the garden.  As flowers fade, they turn pink.

Plant this native alongside boulders or at the base of spiky plants such as sotol (desert spoon) where you can show off the contrast in textures.

Plant in full sun to filtered shade in well-drained soil for best results.  Hardy to zones 8 – 10.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

It’s hard to find a native plant that can compete with the golden yellow blooms of damianita.  

This shrubby perennial grows 1 foot high and 2 feet wide.  Masses of yellow flowers appear in spring and fall covering the bright green needle-like foliage.

Hardy to zones 7 – 10, damianita needs full sun and well-drained soil.  Prune back to 6 inches in spring after flowering has finished to keep it compact and reduce woody growth.

Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)

While not a native, trailing lantana is a plant that is well adapted to arid climates and is a popular choice for drought tolerant gardens.  It also is a butterfly magnet.
*Lantana can be invasive in warm, humid climates but in arid regions, this is not a problem.

Trailing lantana grows up to 1 foot high and 3 feet wide.  Plant in full sun or filtered shade.  

Although lantana is not cold hardy (it grows in zones 8 – 10), it is often grown as an annual in colder climates.  Flowers appear quickly after the danger of frost has passed that last until the first frost in fall / winter.  Shear back to 6 inches in spring once the freezing temperatures have ended.

Any of these beautiful perennials will add beauty to your drought tolerant garden.  

Do you live in an area that has been affected by drought?


You may be surprised at the answer.  Periods of drought aren’t uncommon for those of us who live in the Western United States, but more recently drought has expanded to some other areas that may surprise you.


Drought tolerant gardening is rapidly becoming a very popular way to garden.  Contrary to what some people may think, drought tolerant gardens are low-maintenance, easy to care for, use far less resources and can be beautiful.

Agave, mesquite and salvias.

Drought tolerant gardens are a great choice for any landscape because they are much more self-sufficient and sustainable than other landscapes. Even if drought has not affected your area, that doesn’t mean that it won’t in the future. 


*This week, I will be doing a series of radio interviews about drought tolerant gardening for radio stations in Oregon, Texas and Alabama. 
I must admit to being a little nervous since I have not done a radio interview before and I have four to do this week.  I think that it should be easier than being on TV since I don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing or if my hair is messed up 😉 

Agave, saguaro, wildflowers and yucca.
No matter if you live in California where many areas are experiencing exceptional drought, the Southwest or wherever you live, the principles of drought tolerant gardening are the same.

Landscape filled with drought tolerant plants and limited amount of grass.
I recently shared 10 tips for drought tolerant gardens in an article for Birds & Blooms where I serve as the garden blogger, which you can read here.

Whether you implement 1 or all of the 10 tips, you will be increasing the sustainability of your landscape.


I encourage you to take a little time to read the 10 tips and then come back later this week, when I will share with some of my favorite drought tolerant plants.

Wish me luck on my first radio interview tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes…

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


For more information on drought tolerant gardening, click here.

Have you ever seen shrubs that have been planted too closely together?



At first glance, it looks like the new plants in the landscape above fit just fine into this area.

But, what if I told you that those small shrubs grow 6 feet high and wide at maturity?

As they grow, out come the hedge trimmers and over pruned, ugly shrubs are the result.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that has reached almost epidemic proportions in areas throughout the Southwest.

Why else would people prune beautiful flowering shrubs into something that resembles anonymous, green blobs?

The good news is that you can avoid this from happening in your landscape.  Even if you currently have overcrowded shrubs, you can solve the problem.

I recently wrote an article for Houzz.com on how to avoid overcrowded and the resulting overpruning…

I hope that you find this article helpful – I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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 have a list of favorite plants for your Southwestern garden?


I do.


Today, I’d like to share with you about one of my favorite shrubs, desert ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis).


It has beautiful, light-green foliage and purple flowers that appear off an on throughout the year, with the heaviest bloom occurring in spring.

Unlike its cousin (Ruellia brittoniana), desert ruellia does not take over the garden space.  

It needs little maintenance, and looks great with a variety of other flowering plants.

For more information on where this lovely shrub grows, how to plant it and how to use it in the landscape, check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.com

To see my other plant profiles for Houzz, click here.

Have you ever taken out an area of grass and added plants in its place?


I have – numerous times.


My past was filled with grass – acres and acres of it, when I worked as a horticulturist for golf courses.  Nothing made me happier then when areas of grass were being removed and I was able to design a new landscape area.


It’s been 8 years since I worked as a staff horticulturist for golf courses, but the past few weeks have found me spending a lot of time back on the golf course.  

Earlier this week, I told you about my most recent project – creating landscape designs for up to 30 acres of former grass area.  Two golf courses, that I have worked with in the past, are removing large areas of turf in favor of a more natural, desert-scape.

The plants that I have chosen are extremely drought-tolerant, need very little maintenance and are native to the deserts of North America.  

Another important criteria for my choices of plants was that I have to had experience growing them myself, either in my own garden or professionally in landscape areas that I have managed.

Here are the plants that I am using in this first area:

Desert Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)

Desert Ruellia is a favorite shrub of mine.  It is incredibly drought-tolerant.  I like to use it as a smaller substitute for Texas sage.

In this first landscape area, I wanted a shrub that could survive with intermittent deep-watering, limited maintenance while still looking attractive.  The purple flowers that appear spring through fall will add color to the area.

Chuparosa (Justicia californica)

This flowering native, will find a place underneath the filtered shade of the large mesquite tree already present.  

Chuparosa explodes with color off an on throughout the year, attracting every hummingbird in the neighborhood.  It does well in full sun or filtered shade.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeler)

Succulents are a vital part of the plant palette for all of these new areas.  Their unique colors and shapes add texture to the landscape and contrast well with the more softly-shaped plants.

Desert spoon will be interspersed throughout this first area where its gray color will contrast with the darker greens of the shrubs.

Santa-Rita Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia santa-rita)

Santa-rita purple prickly pear is also high on my list of favorites.  You just can’t beat the purple coloring that appears toward the tips of gray/blue pads.

Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)

Often grown as a annual, Desert Marigold is a short-lived perennial that flowers throughout the year.  

Cold and lack of water don’t bother these tough little perennials.  They require little to no maintenance – but I cut them back severely to 3 inches once a year to improve their appearance and promote more flowering, although you don’t have too.

Whether you or not you are a fan of yellow – it is an important color to include in the garden because the color yellow helps the other colors in the landscape to ‘pop’ and stand out more vividly.

Although short-lived, desert marigold self-seeds, ensuring that they remain a presence wherever they are planted.

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

If you are a fan of penstemons, this is one to consider adding to your list.  Firecracker penstemon has a long bloom period in the low-desert.  It starts blooming in late December and continues into spring.  

You can often prolong the bloom period by removing spent flowering stalks, which will promote a second flush of bloom.  I have several of these growing in my own garden – some are 15 years old and still going strong – although that is uncommon.

Bursage (Ambrosia deltoidea)

I’ll be the first one to admit that this low-growing shrub is not exciting – one may even call it ‘boring’.

But, bursage is seen carpeting the ground throughout the Arizona portion of the Sonoran desert.  Its gray/green foliage serves as an understory plant that helps to tie the separate elements of this ‘natural landscape’ together.

Example of bursage use in a natural desert landscape planting.
The key to keeping bursage attractive is to prune it back severely to 6″ tall and wide every 2 – 3 years in early spring.

So, this is the plant palette for the first of many ‘natural desert landscape areas’.  I do have a few more plants that I will show you as I create designs for the other areas on the golf courses.

Do you grow any of these plants in your garden?