Posts

February is what I like to call a ‘bridge’ month.  In regards to work, it is a transition month for me.  It is the month between January, when work slows down as it’s cold with not much is growing and March, when the weather is delightfully warm and everybody seemingly wants to redo their landscape.  If I could choose the perfect month in terms of work load, it would be February.

Last week, I was visiting one of my favorite clients whose landscape has been a work in progress.  The backyard was finished last year and now, it was time to pay attention to the front.  Of course, I took a few minutes to see how things were doing in the back and my attention was immediately drawn to this colorful container filled with colorful succulents.  The orange stems of ‘Sticks on Fire’ Euphorbia adds welcome color to the garden throughout the year while elephant’s food (Portulacaria afra) trails down the side of the pot.  

I am a strong proponent of using colorful pots filled with low-maintenance succulents in the garden.  Why mess with flowering annuals if you can enjoy vibrant color without the high maintenance?  

Full disclosure: I do have a couple of pots filled with petunias, but the vast majority are filled with succulents 😉

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is assisting my clients with their landscape dilemmas.  Often, the solution is much simpler than the client imagined.  Last fall, I visited this home which had a large, shallow depression that wass filled with dying agave.  The interesting thing was that there was no obvious reason for its presence as no water drained into it.  It definitely wasn’t what the client wanted in this high-profile area.

So what would be a good solution for this area?   The client wanted to plant a large saguaro cactus in this area, but didn’t want to add a lot of plants.  My recommendation was to get rid of the dying agave and turn the depression into an attractive feature of the garden. 

This is what it looks like now.  Filling the area with rip-rap rock, adds both a texture and color contrasting element to the landscape.  Well-placed boulders with a century plant (Agave americana), Mexican fence post (Stenocereus marginatus), and golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) help to break up the large expanse of the shallow depression with their spiky and globular shapes.  Finally, a saguaro cactus was added, which stands sentinel over this renovated area.  

One would never imagine that this part of landcape hadn’t been planned this way when it was first planted years ago.

Lastly, February is all about Valentine’s Day.  I sent my granddaughter a care package filled with goodies for Valentine’s Day.  Dinosaur cards for her classmates, a little craft, a hanging mobile, stickers, and of course chocolates – all with a Valentine theme.  

For me, Valentine’s day comes with mostly great memories.  As a child, I looked forward to handing out Valentines to my classmates and getting them in return.  During teenage years, there was one particularly memorable one when I was 17 years old.  My boyfriend didn’t get me anything, however, another boy gave me a card and a flower, which was some consulation.  And to finish off that infamous Valentine’s Day, I came down the chicken pox that very day.  Guess who also got the chicken pox?  The boyfriend who forgot Valentine’s Day.  Now, I look forward spending the 14th with the main man in my life, who after 31 years, still makes me feel special.

*What do you do to celebrate Valentine’s Day?  

Have you ever met someone whom you felt an instant bond with?  If so, you know that it isn’t an everyday occurrence.

Last year, I attended the Garden Writer’s Association Conference for the first time.  I went to the conference not knowing anyone else there, but was excited for the classes, garden visits, and hopes to meet other people who loved and wrote about gardens like I did.

At this point, I should mention that going up to people and introducing myself isn’t easy for me to do, but another garden writer was also attending for the first time who had come all the way from Oz (also known as Australia 😉.  Well, I decided that I needed to go up and introduce myself to Andrea – after all, we had some things in common – she lived in a dry climate and Arizona landscapes made use of many plants native to Australia.  

Well, we formed an instant friendship and found out that we shared numerous similarities – including the fact that we both had recently turned 50, worked as garden consultants as well as garden writers.


Over the next few days, we shared storied about our work and memorable clients while strolling through gardens viewing plants that we both use, despite living on two different continents.  


We would also talk to each other about new plants to try all while sharing the trials and tribulations of gardening in a dry climate.

All too soon, the conference was over, and I headed home with a suitcase of free plants while Andrea flew back to Australia.

After that, we conversed back and forth while making plans to attend the next year’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  I thought that it would be a fun to invite Andrea to come and visit Arizona on her way to the conference.  So earlier this week, I found myself at the airport, anxiously waiting for her.  I couldn’t wait to show her my favorite garden spots around Phoenix.

At this point, I should mention that while most people spend time cleaning their house and getting it ready for a special guest, for those of us who are in the landscape business, also have to get our gardens ready for our gardener friends to visit as well.  As a result, my garden was neatly pruned, weeded, and cleaned in preparation for Andrea’s visit.  

The first day, there was no question that the Desert Botanical Garden would be our first destination.  We were blessed with a partly cloudy day with a light breeze to take the edge off of the heat.  Walking along winding paths with stunning examples of cacti, palo verde trees, flowering shrubs, and ground covers, I showed her the beauty of the desert landscape.


Of course, we had to get a picture in front of a saguaro cactus.

Craft Beer in a Jar
After the garden, it was off to get a taste of American food.  So, good BBQ with a jar of local craft beer was next.

Delicious BBQ

Evenings were spent at my house having dinner and allowing Andrea and my kids time to get to visit.


Andrea bought a lovely collection of gifts, not just for my younger kids, but also for my grandchildren.  Eric looks adorable in his Australia hat.

The next day, we visited the Heard Museum and explored the Native American history and artwork, eating delicious smoked hamburgers at a downtown restaurant that is frequented by locals.

Hamburger Works Restaurant

We enjoyed event-filled days and great food, but one of my favorite parts was watching her try her very first Rice Krispy treat.

Now, we are off to the second part of Andrea’s visit – attending the conference where we first met one year ago.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the story of a gardener from Arizona and Oz.  We have plans to write a book together highlighting our experiences and lessons learned gardening in dry climates, 9,667 miles apart.

The next several days will be filled with garden visits, informative classes, a trade show and much more.  I’ll be sure to share the newest and latest garden products with you once I return home next week.

**Click here for Andrea’s blog.**
 

In the past, people have asked me how long does a saguaro cactus arm take to grow back. The commonly held belief is that it takes 100 years before they will develop an arm.

However, as with much plant information, this answer is not always correct, it actually takes less time for a saguaro cactus to grow its arm back in a landscape setting than it’s native habitat.  

The most critical factor in determining the timing of when a saguaro will start to grow an arm is the availability of water. Put simply, the more water a saguaro receives, the more quickly it grows. In a landscape setting where irrigation is present, a saguaro will grow much more rapidly then they do in their natural desert habitat. Saguaro cacti that grow in southern Arizona (near Tucson) grow more quickly than those in the western areas of the Sonoran desert because there is more rainfall in southern Arizona. 

A saguaro growing in its native habitat can take 50 – 100 years to grow arms. In a landscape setting, arms often appear much earlier.