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For those who live in the western half of the United States, water has always been seen as a precious resource – especially during recent years as long-term drought has made its impact felt with dwindling water supplies.  As a result, many of us find ourselves looking for ways to save water and as the largest user of residential water – the landscape is the first place to make significant changes. 


Let’s look at three different low water landscape options and how they can help you save water.  


Option #1: Drought Tolerant – This landscape is characterized by lush green, flowering plants such as bougainvillea, lantana, oleanders and yellow bells – all of which do well in hot, arid climates in zones 9 and above.  While most of these plants aren’t native to the Southwest, they are considered moderately drought tolerant and are suitable for those who want more a lush-appearing desert garden.  For best results, deep water once a week in summer and every 2 weeks in winter.

Option #2: Moderately Drought Tolerant – Native, flowering plants make up this type of landscape and include plants like chuparosa, damianita, penstemon, Texas sage and turpentine bush.  Because these plants are native to the Southwestern region, they need infrequent watering to look their best – a good guideline is to water deeply twice a month in summer and monthly in winter.


Option #3: Extremely Drought Tolerant – For a landscape that can 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 alongside lower growing succulents like agave, candelilla and desert milkweed, which can be used to create a landscape filled with texture and contrasts.  Golden barrel, hedgehog cacti and mammillaria fill in smaller spaces and look great next to boulders.  Once established, they can survive on natural rainfall, but will look best with deep monthly watering in summer when possible.

It’s important to note that plants should be watered deeply to a depth of 2 ft., which promotes deep root growth and the soil stays moister longer.  

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

Did you have the opportunity to get away for awhile this summer?


Our summer has been a bit tough this year.  The reason is that my son, Kai, had hip surgery (his 5th) and was confined to a wheelchair this summer.  He was in quite a lot of pain for the first few weeks, which thankfully subsided in July.


We were blessed to go on a family vacation toward the end of July before school started.  Every year, we go on a trip with my mother, my siblings and their families.  This year, we decided to go to Pinetop, Arizona.


We got on the road and started heading east from Phoenix.  The mountains of the high desert were beautiful along Salt River Canyon and we could see swimmers below.

Believe it or not, I have never been to the Eastern part of our state even though I have lived here for over 27 years.

Parts of the highway wound back and forth.

As we neared our destination, I began to see the pine trees that promised cooler weather.


We finally arrived at the cabin that my mother had rented for us all to stay in.

It was quite big – 7 bedrooms and plenty of bathrooms to go around for 5 individual families.

We stayed on the bottom floor so that Kai could get around easily.


A few of our mornings were spent going for walks.

We love to walk outdoors, but in the summer it is tough because of the heat.  So this was a real treat for us.  
If I were at home, I would be busy writing, gardening, managing the kids and/or consulting instead of taking a walk outdoors on a beautiful morning.  Pure heaven!


There were some beautiful gardens in the surrounding neighborhood.


This was my favorite garden. 
Did you know that you can grow these flowering perennials in the desert?  It’s true.  The only difference is that they will bloom in spring rather then in summer.


We didn’t see any wild animals, but did pet a friendly cat and saw a horse getting new shoes.


This kids favorite house had a model train track set up throughout the entire front yard.


The kids were interested in the model trains and small buildings while I like to observe the miniature landscape plants.



This is one vine that you probably will not find growing in the low desert.  This is a lovely Clematis vine and I have grown one before years ago when we lived in Phoenix.  The problem was – it never flowered because it was too hot.

I haven’t grown one since.  


We passed this bountiful vegetable garden.


I love this terraced garden, don’t you?


You don’t have to rely solely on flowers for color in the landscape.  I love the trailing ivy underneath these oak trees.

Besides our walks, there was fun to be had back at the cabin…


The kids had fun racing monster trucks down the driveway every evening after dinner.

It was nice for Kai to be able to participate in racing without having to run.


Gracie enjoyed sitting on the porch and reading her favorite book.


On rainy afternoons, grandma kept the kids busy with art projects.


During the week, each family was responsible for making dinner for everyone.  It was nice only having to cook once the entire week.

After dinner, the big kids would carry Kai and his wheelchair upstairs to play.

They would ‘charge’ the bad guy armed with a plastic gun and a cushion for a shield.


They usually triumphed over the villain.


Of course, we made sure to spend time fishing.


My husband kept our fishing line untangled and our hooks baited.


We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the peace and quiet of fishing.


Unfortunately, there was a little too much peace and quiet since we didn’t catch any.  Not even a nibble.


On our last day, we hiked around the lake enjoying the beauty of the woods.

We had a wonderful trip and 2 days after we returned home, it was time for the kids to start school.

**Thank you for letting me take you along on our summer vacation.**

NOW FOR THE WINNER OF THE “MINIATURE GARDEN BOOK” GIVEAWAY

And the winner is….

Junk Loving Girl!!!

Thank you all for entering.  If you didn’t win, head over to Timber Press where you can enter to win a copy of the book AND a miniature garden kit!

With warming temperatures, many of us begin to think about changing out our cool-season annual flowers for plants that can take the heat of summer.


Last week, I gave a potting demonstration for attendees of a local home tour.  


The pots were then to be raffled off.

I planned on creating two succulent pots and one using a combination of perennials and annual flowers.


My daughter, Rachele, came with me to help carry the bags of soil, pots, plants, etc.

It was also an opportunity to spend time together before she left for the Navy.

There were to be two different potting demonstrations.  I created one succulent pot ahead of time…


This container has pink-flowering Crown of Thorns, tall Lady’s Slipper, Variegated Elephant’s Food and a gray-colored cactus.

I like to create container plantings with a tall plant for vertical interest.  The Crown of Thorns provides striking floral color.  The Elephant’s Food will trail over the edge of the pot as it grows, which adds texture and softens the container’s lines.  

Lastly, the gray-colored cactus (I admit that I don’t know what kind it is), adds great color contrast with its gray/blue color.

Soon, it was time for the first demonstration.  My daughter took photos of me talking.  The lighting is terrible because I was in the shade and behind me was the sun, but you can still see what I was doing.

Looking down at my notes.  Can you tell  I use my hands when I talk?

Planting the orange Calendula.
Adding Purple Verbena and filling the spaces with Celosia.
I just need a bit more Celosia in the front, don’t you think?

For this container, the tall vertical interest comes from Mexican Feather Grass.  The bright color is from the Calendula.  The trailing plant is Purple Verbena and gray Lavender provides the color contrast.

I used Celosia to fill in the empty spaces.  I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

When planning on what plant combinations will look good in a container, I simply arrange the plants, while they are still in their containers at the nursery.


Now it was time for planting the second succulent pot.

First, adding the Elephant’s Food.

Ever wonder how to plant a cactus without getting pricked?


An old towel, folded into quarters (4 layers thick) works great.  I covered the top of the Golden Barrel Cactus with the towel as I turned it over to plant.  The towel came off easily once I was finished.

Newspaper is also helpful in planting cactus.

Almost done…


Finished!

The Blue Elf Aloe provides the height for this planting combination.  Elephant’s Food will grow to trail over the side.  The Golden Barrel cactus adds color contrast with its round shape and yellow spines.  Ice plant with brightly-colored red flowers adds a needed splash of color.


The pots each went to good homes and raised money for future community projects.

Do you like growing plants in containers?  

Or maybe, you haven’t tried before.

Well, it’s not difficult.  Come back for a visit in a couple of days and I’ll share with you my container guidelines.