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I am always on the lookout for new and different ways that gardens are designed and the materials that they use. Recently, I was scheduled to teach a class at the Desert Botanical Garden, and as I headed toward the classroom, I admired the modern design of the building but, it was the vine-covered wall that caught my interest.

This unusual wall was made up of masonry block, like many garden walls in the desert Southwest, but this one was decidedly different. It was made from broken masonry blocks repurposed from a wall that had been removed elsewhere. Some brilliant person realized that instead of filling up landfill space, that the broken blocks could still function as a garden wall. 

The salvaged wall provides the perfect surface for queen’s wreath (Antigonon leptopus) vines to crawl up on with their twining tendrils taking advantage of the nooks and crannies within the wall.

The sprays of flowers, leaves, and stems create beautiful shadows along the pavement below. Shadows are an element of garden design that is often overlooked. However, don’t underestimate the effect that the shapes of the shadows from cactuses, succulents, and even vines can add to a bare wall, fence, or even on the ground.

Years ago, I used to carry a small digital camera in my purse for unexpected opportunities to take pictures of a particular plant, or design idea. Nowadays, this is just another reason that my smartphone is perhaps my most valued tool.

 

Like many women, I have not outgrown my teenage love affair with the color pink. However, instead of painting the walls of my room a vibrant shade of pink or wearing a fluorescent t-shirt, I now content myself with using it in the garden.

Queen’s wreath vine (Antigonon leptopus) lazily climbs its way up the trunk of my cascalote tree where it sends forth sprays of pink blossoms. I love that its buds are heart-shaped as are the lush green leaves. 

Although it will die back to the ground in winter, I look forward to it re-emerging in spring as it begins its ascent up the trunk of my tree.

*Have you ever grown a queen’s wreath vine? For more information, you can read my earlier post about this pink beauty.

 

Tangerine Crossvine
Vines are a wonderful way to decorate vertical surfaces with lovely shades of green as well as colorful flowers.

Queen’s Wreath

This is especially valuable in southwestern gardens where vines can help moderate the heat that re-radiates from a wall or used to create filtered shade when they are grown up on a pergola or patio roof.

Pink Bower Vine

I have grown several types of vines during my years living and gardening in the desert southwest and have shared my 10 favorite vines in my latest article for Houzz.


Do you have a favorite vine?

A few days ago, I received an unexpected gift.  This gift was a morning where I had no appointments, I didn’t have to babysit my granddaughter, the kids were in school and I was caught up with all of my garden writing.

So, what should I do with this gift of time?

I spent it in my garden, taking pictures of the plants that make me happy right now.

I’d love to share my favorites with you if you have a few minutes of time…

Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana)

One of my favorite plants growing in my gardens is Pink Trumpet Vine.  It stands at the corner of one of my vegetable gardens.  It is in full bloom right now as you can see.  Gorgeous pink flowers appear in spring and fall.

It can grow as a vine, with support, or as an open, sprawling shrub, which is how I like to grow it.

Pink Trumpet Vine does suffer frost damage and has even been killed to the ground in winter, but quickly grows back.  It is hardy to zone 7.

Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco)

Bright-yellow flower spikes cover my Cascalote tree in fall.  I love this small tree for so many reasons.

It is slow-growing, so there is not a lot of pruning required.  I love the round leaves that stay on the tree all year unless we get a cold spell of temps in the low 20’s.

Best of all, are the yellow flowers that appear in fall when most plants are beginning to slow down.

*Cascalote are very thorny and I personally think that the thorns are very cool-looking as long as you don’t get pricked.  There is a new variety called ‘Smoothie’ that is thornless.

Queen’s Wreath Vine (Antigonon leptopus)



Despite my best attempts, my Queen’s Wreath Vine insists on growing up the trunk of my Cascalote tree instead of up on the nearby garden wall.


But, I love this vine no matter where it chooses to grow.  It has heart-shaped leaves and stunning pink flowers that appear in summer and fall.


This is a tough vine that can handle reflected heat and does not need support to grow upward.  In winter, it will die back to the ground, but grows back in spring.  Hardy to 20 degrees F, or zone 9 gardens.

Gold Lantana



I know that Lantana can seem like a rather boring plant to some – but I wouldn’t write it off, if I where you.


Lantana is not fussy and it’s hard to find a plant that will bloom more throughout the warm months of the year.  I have it growing up along my front entry and I really like how it looks.


Maintenance is simple – prune back to 6 inches once the danger of frost is over (early March in my garden), removing all frost damage.  Lightly prune back by 1/2 in August and that is all you need.


Lantana are frost-tender and hardy to 10 degrees (zone 7).



My side garden is filled with another vegetable garden, apple and peach trees, blackberry shrubs and herbs.


Because I do not like looking out at bare walls, I have Pink Trumpet Vine, Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans), ‘Summertime Blue’ (Eremophila x ‘Summertime Blue’) and Pink Emu Bush (Eremophila laanii) planted along the wall.


These large shrubs are pruned once a year and that is all they need because I have given them enough room to stretch out.  


While these flowering shrubs make my bare wall disappear, they also benefit my edible garden in the side yard.  First, they help absorb the heat that the walls re-radiate out, keeping temperatures down.  Secondly, they also attract pollinators which pollinate my vegetables, fruit trees and blackberries.


Hummingbirds and other feathered visitors like to take shelter in their branches and I get to watch from my kitchen window.



In this garden, the vegetables are still rather small. But there is a collection of broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots and Swiss chard.



An newly-planted artichoke is growing nicely next to some young carrot seedlings.  This vegetable doesn’t just produce delicious artichokes – they are also quite ornamental.



Just one month after sowing radish seeds, I am harvesting radishes already.  



In the corner of my vegetable garden is a Mexican Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) that I grew from seed.



They are irresistible to butterflies and bees like them too 🙂



I have a rusty watering can that I just love.  Every fall I fill it with flowering annuals that will last through spring.


I poked drainage holes in the bottom of the can and put a drip emitter next to the flowers.  Once temperatures heat up into the 90’s, it gets too hot for the roots to survive in the pot, so it sits empty during the summer.  But even empty, it adds a touch of whimsy to my garden.



In front of my vegetable garden sits my herb container garden.  Chives, parsley, sage and thyme are growing nicely.  I like to throw in some petunias for additional color.



This young peach tree was planted back in January and is doing very well.  


That little plant next to it is a volunteer basil plant.   It will die once our first frost appears, so I will harvest it soon.



In front of my other edible gardens sit three brightly-colored pots filled with an assortment of flowers and edible plants.


This one is filled with a jalapeño pepper plant, garlic, ornamental kale and cabbage, bacopa, petunias, violas and red nasturtiums. 



Along the back is a small trellis that has sugar snap  peas growing on it.  They are just beginning to flower.



This is my daughter, Ruthie’s, vegetable garden.  She has leaf lettuce, strawberries, carrots and garlic growing in her garden.



This is my youngest daughter, Gracie’s, garden which has celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, malabar spinach and radishes growing in it.


*One of my fondest childhood memories was of my dad giving me a raised garden in the backyard of our Southern California home.  I was allowed to grow whatever I wanted, which was usually vegetables, violas and cosmos.



Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day, allowing me to share my favorites in my fall garden.


What is growing in your garden right now?

Who doesn’t like ‘natural beauty’?  I have a renewed appreciation for my ‘natural beauties’ out in the garden during the summer months.  Now, I realize that there are some who do enjoy the satisfaction of working hard with their plants and being rewarded with a beautiful display and I think that is great.  But for me, the last thing I want to do is have to fuss over a plant in the middle of the summer heat so that it will look beautiful for me.  I would much rather enjoy the ‘natural beauty’ of my summer plants looking through the windows from the comfort of my air-conditioned home.


Earlier this summer, I wrote about one of my favorite ‘natural beauties’ in the garden, Yellow Bells.  Today, I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite summer vines which is a wonderful example of ‘natural beauty.’

Queen’s Wreath vines grace the Arizona State University campus.
 
Queen Wreath Vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a colorful asset to my garden This ‘natural beauty’ is a vine that is native to Mexico and Central America.  Stunning pink sprays of flowers appear in spring and last until the first frost.  *In tropical areas, it can be considered invasive, but here in the desert, it is easily managed.
 
 
In our desert climate, they do require supplemental water, but no fertilizer is needed.  Bees are attracted to the beautiful flowers, and I love the pretty heart-shaped leaves. 
 
 A wall of Queen’s Wreath at ASU
 
Queen’s Wreath is a robust vine.  It can grow in full sun including areas of reflected heat.  It will also grow in light shade although flowering will be reduced.   
 
The only maintenance required in my garden is pruning it back in winter once it dies back after the first frost.  However the roots are hardy to 20 degrees F, and in the spring, it quickly grows back with a trellis, fence or an arbor for support.

**My first experience with queen’s wreath was in our first home in Phoenix, where there was a support made up of twine tied between two palm trees.  We had no idea why it was there, but it sure looked ugly.  Well, before we had time to remove the twine, beautiful, light green, heart-shaped leaves began climbing up the support and quickly covered it.  Gorgeous sprays of pink flowers rapidly followed, which was a pleasant surprise.  




What natural beauties are enjoying in your garden this month?  
I will be sharing another favorite ‘natural beauty’ from my garden soon.

I want to share with you three amazing plants that I encountered on Saturday, each with pink flowers, yet each one so different from the other.  I spent the afternoon at the Arboretum at Arizona State University (my alma mater).  Many people are surprised to find out that they have a wonderful arboretum that encompasses the entire main campus.  I had a wonderful time just walking around and taking pictures of beautiful trees and plants, my husband patiently trailing behind me with the kids.

OK, first the pretty…

 Queen’s Wreath, Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus)
Queen’s Wreath is a beautiful vine that is native to Mexico and Central America.  Stunning pink sprays of flowers appear in spring and last until the first frost.  The most common variety has vibrant pink blossoms.  However, there is a scarlet variety ‘Baja Red’ and also a rare white variety as well.  Bees are attracted to the flowers, and the leaves are an attractive heart-shape.

Queen’s Wreath can grow in full sun including areas of reflected heat.  It will also grow in light shade although flowering will be reduced.

This beautiful vine will die back at the first frost, but it’s roots are hardy to 20 degrees F.   In the spring, it quickly grows back and requires a trellis, fence or an arbor for support.
**When we bought our first home in Phoenix, there was support made up of twine tied between two Palm trees.  We had no idea why, but it sure looked ugly.  Well, before we had time to remove it, beautiful, light green, heart-shaped leaves began climbing up the twine support and quickly covered it.  Then gorgeous sprays of pink flowers promptly followed, which was a pleasant surprise.
Next, the amusing…..
 

Chinese Lantern Tree, Sickle Bush (Dichrostachys cinerea)

I had to laugh when I saw this flower.  I think it looks like it is having a bad hair day.  You can see why some people call it Chinese Lantern tree because the flowers do resemble them and it sounds better than calling it “Bad Hair Day Tree.” 

The tree itself is relatively unremarkable.  The flowers are not distinct.  It is native to the tropical areas of Africa, parts of Southeast Asia and Australia.  It grows well in full sun or filtered shade.  In wet, tropical areas, it can be invasive.  However, in our dry climate, that is not a problem.

 Seed Pods

**Okay, I have to admit, that I had to look up information on this Chinese Lantern tree – I hate admitting that.  I do not profess to know about every type of plant; this is easily evidenced by my travels to colder climates where I know about only a fraction of what the plants are there.   But this one was in my backyard.  I had never seen this type of tree before and had never learned about it either.  So, I went through my countless dry climate plant books hoping to find what type of tree this was, and only one book had it listed, (which made me feel better).  It is not common here in Arizona, but I guarantee that I will never forget it.

Now finally, the unique
Floss Silk Tree (Ceiba speciosa, formerly Chorisia speciosa)
The flowers of this tree make you stop in your tracks – they are that beautiful and unique.  Unfortunately, the flowers were all gone except for the one above, which was almost ready to fall.  The flowers are produced primarily in fall and winter months.  Some trees will produce flowers once they drop their leaves in winter, while other varieties flower both with and without the leaves being present.  Although the flowers are a striking feature, there is more

Their trunk is covered with cone-shaped thorns.

This beautiful tree does well in full sun or part shade.  They do grow quite large, up to 40 ft. Wide and 50 ft. Tall.  Silk Floss trees are native to Brazil and Argentina.
**So, I was done for the day.  I had two memory cards full of photos, sore feet, and a patient husband and kids, walking with me to the car.  I was about to get in when I saw the Silk Floss tree next to the parking garage.  So my husband, who knows me all too well, wordlessly unpacked the camera so I could take the last few photos.  Occasionally see these trees around the Phoenix area, but rarely, so I was thrilled to get these pictures.
I hoped you enjoyed my visions of pink.  I will post more of my expedition at a later time.  I’m pretty sure it will take me a long time to catalog all of the photos I took.