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For those who live in the western half of the United States, water has always been a precious resource. In recent years, this has become especially true during a long-term drought has made its impact felt.

As a result, many of us find ourselves looking for ways to save water. The first place you should start is your landscape as that is the largest percentage of your water consumption.

Today, I’d like to show you examples of three different low water landscape options: 

Option #1

Drought Tolerant – This landscape is characterized by lush green, semi-tropical flowering plants. These include bougainvillea, lantana, oleanders, and yellow bells. All these do well in hot, arid climates in zones 9 and above. While most aren’t native to the Southwest, they are considered moderately drought tolerant and suitable for those who want more a lush look for the desert garden.  
For best results, deep water approximately 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.  Plants like chuparosa, damianita, penstemon, Texas sage, and turpentine bush are examples of this.
Because these plants are native to the Southwestern region, they need infrequent watering to look their best – a good guideline is to water deeply approximately every 10 days in summer and every 3 weeks in winter.
 
 

Option #3

Extremely Drought Tolerant – For a landscape to 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. Lower growing succulents like agave, candelilla, and desert milkweed can be used for mid-level interest.  
Golden barrel, hedgehog cacti and mammillaria fill in smaller spaces and look great next to boulders. Once established, they do best with watering approximately every 3 weeks spring through fall.
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Tired of struggling in the desert garden? Sign up for my online course, DESERT GARDENING 101.

 
It’s important to note that shrubs should be watered deeply to a depth of 2 ft., which promotes deep root growth, and the soil stays moister longer. Succulents do well at 12″ depth. 
**Watering guidelines can vary from region to region within the desert Southwest, so it’s wise to consult with your local city’s landscape watering guidelines.
 
Whichever option you select, creating an attractive water-saving landscape is within your reach that will thrive in our drought-stricken region.

Does it look like fall where you live?

If you live in the West or Southwestern regions of the U.S. your answer is probably “no”.

Fall foliage we enjoyed on a trip to Williamsburg, VA several years ago.
 
Have you ever traveled somewhere else to find colorful fall foliage?
 
What if you could have fall color in your own landscape?
 
Believe it or not, there are several plants that can offer some fall color for those of us who yearn for signs of autumn in the desert garden.
 
I shared 6 of my favorite plants for fall color in an article I wrote for Houzz.
 
Do you have a favorite plant that gives you fall color?
 

Do you ever find yourself pulling into the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant?


I do.


Lately, I have been very busy with landscape consults as well as working on a large golf course re-landscaping project, which have resulted in more than my share of visits to the local drive-thru.  Add to that my preparations for a local craft fair in November (along with my sister and mom where I am making basil salt, seed bombs and air plants mounted on creosote roots), preparations for an upcoming family reunion as well as hosting my daughter’s baby shower – we will probably be making quite a few more visits to the drive-thru.


Normally, drive-thru restaurants are places where you can see examples of poor design showcasing overplanted and over pruned shrubs that are too large for the narrow landscape spaces by the drive-thru lane.  However, I was truly surprised during one trip through at my local fast food restaurant.


First, let’s look at the landscaping you normally find as you visit the drive-thru…



Over pruned feathery cassia shrubs (Senna artemisioides)
These shrubs would actually work well in this space if you reduced the amount down to three and allowed them to grow to their natural size and form…

Feathery cassia in bloom

Do you think that those overpruned shrubs ever have any flowers appearing in late winter and spring, like this one?

I didn’t think so.


In the Southwest, the types of shrubs that you are most likely to see growing along drive-thru landscapes are oleander and Texas sage species.  

Lately, Valentine bush, which is one of my favorite shrubs, has also been showing up more often in these areas.  

Again, the problem is too many plants in not enough space.  Couple that with the compulsive need to strip the natural beauty from these beautiful, flowering shrubs in an attempt to create anonymous green shapes and you have the perfect scenario for drive-thru landscapes.

With so many bad examples of landscaping while visiting the drive-thru, I must admit that I’ve become somewhat de-sensitized and purposely ignore it.

However, a recent visit to the drive-thru made me take a second look as I drove past this…


Notice anything different?

The plants actually fit into this space and without over pruning!

There is room for the bougainvillea against the wall to grow and while the lantana could use a little more room – it is looking great too.  

What I really liked about this landscape was the use of banana yucca.  Its leaves added great spiky texture and the flowers are just lovely.

*I did notice the overpruned dwarf oleanders in the background, but I’m ignoring them.

Using fewer shrubs and allowing them room to grow is a great start to rethinking the drive-thru landscape.  

The next important part is to stop the frequent pruning of flowering shrubs.

I’d love to see a mix of shrubs and succulents in drive-thru landscapes for more interest, less maintenance and that is more water efficient.

For now, I will keep trying to keep my eyes open for another great example of a drive-thru landscape.


But, I think it may be awhile…

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For other examples of drive-thru landscapes, click here.

If you have shrubs that resemble this and would like to have beautiful shrubs with a pleasing natural shape that actually flowers as well as see some other examples of bad pruning – click here for some of my favorite pruning posts.

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.
 
 

Are you familiar with Texas sage, also referred to as Texas ranger?

 
If you live in the Southwest, you have undoubtedly seen these beautiful shrubs.
 
Believe it or not, these purple flowering beauties are a fuss-free plant.  
 
Unfortunately, some people over prune them…
 
 
The one on the left has been pruned into a ‘ball’ while the one on the right hasn’t been pruned as severely.
 
Want to learn more about this native shrub and how to care for it properly?  Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.com

Yesterday, I asked you on my Facebook page, what was blooming in your garden right now?


March is a glorious time in the desert garden and also time for some needed garden maintenance. 


We don’t have a landscaper, so we gather our kids together for a day of yard work each spring.  


My son helping me prune several years ago.
I can’t honestly say that working out in the garden is my kids favorite activity.  But, if you promise them their favorite dinner and dessert afterward, they usually don’t complain.

I started teaching them at a young age how to prune shrubs, using hand pruners.  My son is a lot taller then when this photo was taken.

Normally, I do the pruning using loppers and hand pruners.  The kids then carry the branches into a large pile on the driveway to be picked up later.

Branches and clippings from the late summer’s pruning.

Once the danger of frost is passed, it is time to prune away all frost-damaged growth and see what else may need pruning.


Every few years, I prune my Texas Sage shrubs back severely.  This rejuvenates them and stimulates the formation of new branches and gets rid of old, woody unproductive branches.  

I allow them to grow out naturally after pruning.  Of course, you can lightly shape them using hand pruners, if desired.

For more information on pruning flowering shrubs, click here.


A few years ago, my Yellow Bells shrub died back to the ground during a severe frost.  I pruned back all of the frost-damaged growth and it soon grew back.

While most of the day was spent pruning, I did take some time to walk around and take pictures of what is currently blooming.


I love my Hollyhocks.  This old-fashioned flower can grow in most climates and mine self-seed each year, giving me new plants!


Normally this time of year, I am pruning away the frost damage from my Pink Trumpet Vines.  But, this year we had very little frost, so they are already flowering.


I have several colors of Globe Mallow growing in my garden.  I will soon be pruning them back severely once it has finished flowering.  Pruning keeps them from looking straggly and also helps keep too many seeds from coming up later.
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Like my Pink Trumpet Vine, my Purple and White Trailing Lantana did not get hit with much frost.  So, they look beautiful right now.  Normally, I prune them back to 6″ in March.


The alyssum and violas are still happily blooming away in their old, rusted watering can.  In about a month, they will start to die once the temperatures begin to rise.

I leave my watering can empty in the summer because it gets too hot and other plants won’t survive if planted in it.



My young apple trees are in bloom.  It takes a few years after planting for apple trees to produce apples.  We planted the trees last winter and I don’t really expect to see the blossoms turn into apples, but secretly I am hopeful!



This is the first year that I have planted ‘Cherry Red’ nasturtiums.  I love their vibrant, red color!



My vegetable garden is in transition this month.  Cool-season vegetables such as leaf lettuce, carrots and radishes are still growing.  I have planted warm-season vegetables such as bush beans, gourds and cucumbers already.

The garlic will soon be ready to harvest.


Some of the leaf lettuce planted last fall has begun to ‘bolt’, but I have younger leaf lettuce still available to eat.


Fall is the best time to add new plants to the garden, but spring is the second-best time.


My husband and son are always so nice about planting things for me.  
*You can see our puppy ‘Penny’ sitting in the shade watching them.  She is now 8 months old and we just love her!  I’ll post an updated picture of her soon.


I will most likely have more for them to plant after I visit the Desert Botanical Garden’s plant sale this weekend (March 13 & 14th)

Well, this has been a small snapshot of what is going on in my garden.

What is happening in yours?

Which type of shrub would you prefer in your garden?


This one?


Or, this one?

Believe it or not, these are the same type of shrub. 
Did you know that over-pruning causes a lot of problems in the landscape that affect the shrub, water usage and your wallet?

I was recently asked to write an article for the folks at Water Use It Wisely, which is a water conservation campaign created by cities in the greater Phoenix metro area.   

The article I wrote talks about the specific problems that over-pruning causes along with ways to avoid over-pruning.


You can read the article by clicking, here

I hope you find it informative.  **If you have a friend or neighbor who has an over-pruned landscape, you may want to forward the link to them 🙂

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take another photo of a landscape I passed by in a neighborhood where I had just finished up a landscape consultation.


Sadly, I often see examples of truly ‘interesting’ or should I say ‘bad’ pruning.  I drove by this landscape and then made a U-turn so that I could take a quick photo…

 
I don’t know about you, but these Texas sage shrubs look like mushrooms, don’t you think?
 
Sadly, pruning these beautiful flowering shrubs this way, robs them of their flowers, increases maintenance, creates dead wood and shortens their life.
 
While there are quite a few shrubs that take well to repeated formal pruning – doing this to flowering shrubs should be avoided.  
 
I must admit that I have seen Texas sage shrubs pruned into many different shapes…
 
 
How about you?  
 
What interesting shapes have you seen flowering shrubs pruned into?

Many of us are familiar with how over-pruning can take away much of the beauty of flowering shrubs, in addition to contributing to their early death.


But, have you ever wondered what they look on the inside?


I found this ‘ugly’ example alongside the drive-thru of Taco Bell.


It isn’t pretty, is it?

The side of the ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage was sheared away because it was growing over the curb.  
The result of planting the shrub too close.

You can see the thin layer of leaves that cover the shrub and the dark, interior where sunlight seldom reaches.  

If this resembles your shrub(s), you can fix them.

Below, is a link to a previous blog post of how to do ‘renewal pruning’ on your desert flowering shrubs and what they look like as they grow back.


You can still do this in April for your Cassia (Senna species), Sage (Leucophyllum species), Ruellia, Fairy Duster (Calliandra species) and Lantana shrubs.

Earlier this week, I stepped outside to receive a delivery and was quite surprised at the sight that greeted me…


There were two men and a BIG hole in my landscape.

Of course, I knew that we had utility boxes for the phone and cable companies on our property.  But, in the 14 years that we have lived here, no one has ever paid any attention to them.

Some of you may wonder if I was angry that I had a huge hole in my front yard.  

Well, I wasn’t mad.  You see, even though we own the property, I knew that utility boxes have an ‘easement’ that allows the utility companies to dig on your property without your permission.
In my work out in the field, I have encountered this often and when I design landscapes, I am careful to keep plants at least 3 ft. away from utility boxes AND keep a clear route to them from the street.

Now, utility boxes are ugly and no one likes to look at them.  But, you can add shrubs and other plants to screen them from your view.


BUT, be careful!  If plants are in the way – the utility company can pull them out.  The Red Yucca, above, would most likely be removed if work had to be done since they are in the way.

Be sure to keep a clear route to the street when hiding utility boxes.


A few of these Purple Ruellia are also in trouble if work needs to be done.

I would advise decreasing the lawn area by 3 ft. and planting the Purple Ruellia there and leaving free access for utility work that may be needed.


Utility workers will make reasonable attempts to protect your plants as long as they are not in the way.  They put a nylon tie around my Globe Mallow to keep it out of their way an put plastic down to protect the gravel.

It is normal to ignore the utility boxes, if you have them on your property and screening them out using plants is often, the first thing homeowners do when installing a landscape.

But, be careful where you place your plants.  Try to keep them at least 3 ft. off to the side of the utility boxes and NOT in front.
Because sooner or later, the utility company will have to dig a hole to repair and/or upgrade their wires.

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Yesterday, we received a box of my daughter, Rachele’s civilian belongings.  You see, as soon as she arrived at basic training for the Navy, she had to put all her clothes, shoes and other belongings into a box that was sent home.

It was a clear sign of her leaving behind her civilian life and the beginning of her military career.

In the box was also her cell phone charger.  But I couldn’t find her cell phone.  

Of course, leave it to my street-smart oldest daughter, Brittney, who simply looked inside one of the shoes where it was safely tucked away.

We are hoping to get our first letter from Rachele this week.  We can’t send her any letters until we receive a letter from her because we don’t get her address until she sends us that information.

We all have written her letters and I just bought a lot of stamps – so I am ready!