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Okay, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it October 1st just a few days ago? It’s hard to believe that November is already here. You know what that means – Christmas is just around the corner.

Last month was a busy one in the garden.  While there are not as many tasks to be done in November, there are still a few things to do.

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
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Continue planting cold-tolerant trees, shrubs, and perennials.  These include Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana), Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla), and Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata).  All of these plants do well in full sun.

Wait until spring to tropical flowering plants such as Lantana, Bougainvillea, and Yellow Bells since these frost-tender young plants are more likely to suffer damage from winter temperatures.
 
Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
 
Other shrubs to consider planting now include Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii) and Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera). Each of these do well in an area that receives filtered sun.
Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia mexicana)
 
Mexican Honeysuckle is one of my favorites because it thrives in light shade, is frost-tolerant AND flowers much of the year.
 
Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri)
 
Perennials are a great way to add color to the landscape and Penstemons are some of my favorites.  Parry’s and Firecracker Penstemons are seen in many beautiful landscapes, but there is another that I love. Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) is not often seen but is stunning. It grows up to 4 ft. tall blooms in spring and its flowers are fragrant.
 
It’s not always easy to find but is well worth the effort. Use it in an area that gets some relief from the afternoon sun.
 
‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’)
You may have seen this colorful ornamental grass blooming this fall. Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a lovely green, ornamental grass in spring and summer. Once cooler temperatures arrive, it undergoes a magical transformation.  Burgundy plumes appear in fall, turning this grass into a show-stopper.
 
‘Regal Mist’ in winter.
In winter, the burgundy plumes fade to an attractive wheat color.
 
 
There is still time to sow wildflower seed for a beautiful spring display. My favorites are California Poppies, California Blue Bells, and Red Flax.
 
My edible garden is usually filled with delicious things to eat in fall.
Herbs are easy to grow and most will thrive throughout the winter. The one exception is Basil, which will die once temperatures dip below freezing. Harvest your basil before the first frost arrives. You can dry it and put it into spice jars or freeze it into ice cubes.
 
 
Thin vegetable seedlings. This is easiest to do using scissors and snipping them off at the soil line so that you don’t disturb the roots of the remaining seedlings.
 
Check your seed packet to determine how far apart the seedlings should be.
 
 
Many vegetables can be planted in November. Leafy greens like bok choy, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, and Swiss chard can be added. Sow carrots and radishes.
 
 
I am so happy to be able to make salads from my own garden again instead of relying on a salad from a bag.
 
 
If you haven’t done so yet, this is the last month to plant garlic in your garden. It is easy to grow, and I grab a few heads of garlic from the grocery store to plant.
 
Broccoli and cauliflower transplants can still be added to the garden this month. Onions, peas, and turnips can also be planted in November.  
 
If you haven’t already done so, adjust your irrigation schedule to water less frequently then you did in the summer months. More plants die from over-watering than under-watering, even in the desert Southwest.
 
I find that monthly gardening task lists keep me on track in the garden. This book is a great resource for Arizona gardeners:
*What will you be doing in your garden this month?

If you find yourself driving through the neighborhood, chances are that you will see an abundance of particular types of plants.  

However, what you often do not see are a wide variety of plants.  Instead, you usually see the same kind of plants repeated from landscape to landscape.


For example, in the larger Phoenix metro area, many homes have at least one of the following plants, if not more:


Dwarf Oleander
Lantana
Bougainvillea
Texas Sage 

Now I have nothing against these particular plants (except for the fact that Oleanders are poisonous).  All are easy to grow, look beautiful when in flower and thrive in our dry desert climate.

What happens though is that there tends to be an overabundance of these plants.  Because of this, landscapes can tend to look a little boring because they look like their neighbor.
Have you ever thought about trying some different plants to spice things up in your garden?  Now I am not suggesting that you pull out all of your Oleanders, Lantana, Bougainvillea or Texas Sage.  I actually have the last three in my garden.  What I am suggesting is adding or replacing just a few plants with some lesser known plants.

Over the next few weeks I will profile a lesser known plant that I think that you should try out in your garden.  (Okay, this is where I refer you to my disclaimer at the bottom of this page – my recommendations are meant for those who live in a climate similar to my desert garden’s zone 9a).

 Are you ready?


 Let me introduce you to Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) also known as Palmer’s Penstemon I saw the Penstemon, pictured above, while driving to an appointment in Cave Creek, AZ.  It was so beautiful that it stopped me in my tracks and I rushed out to take a picture.

The first time that I had seen a Snapdragon Penstemon was while working for a golf course back in the 90’s.  It had been planted around the golf course which had a desert plant palette.  



Even though this Penstemon has been planted in a desert-themed garden, it will do just as well and look just as great in a more traditional front yard landscape.

When in bloom, it can reach heights of 6 ft. and sometimes higher.  In my experience growing Snapdragon Penstemon, they tend to bloom a little later in spring then the better known Firecracker and Parry’s Penstemons.  Flowering can extend into early summer depending on the location.

Maintenance is super easy…..cut of the flowering spikes when the flowers fade.  It is drought tolerant, but does best with a little supplemental water in dry, desert climates AND it thrives in our desert soil without amendments.  It is native to Arizona and New Mexico, which probably explains why it thrives in our conditions.


 The flowers have a lovely, light fragrance and attract hummingbirds.  Published literature states that it will grow in zones 4 – 9, but does not do well in humid locations or wet soils.

I do hope you decide to try out this lesser known plant.  Just plant it in full sun, give it a little water from time to time and watch it take off.  It can be a little difficult to find in your local nursery unless you visit a specialty nursery or a plant sale at your botanic garden.  But you can find them at High Country Gardens where they will ship them to you.

Who knows?  Maybe someone will stop in their tracks when they see this beautiful plant growing in your garden 🙂



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It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less then a week away.

We will be enjoying two Thanksgiving celebrations this year.  The first one, I will be hosting for my husband’s family.  

The second celebration will be at my sister’s house with my family.

How about you?  

What will you be doing for Thanksgiving?  

As I have mentioned before, I am not a desert native….I grew up near the ocean.  To me, the desert was a brown place where prickly cactus and coyotes lived.

Well, I have now lived in the desert for almost 24 years and I have found out that the desert is brown, there are cactus and I have seen my share of coyotes.  But, I have also discovered that the desert is so much more then what my previous stereotype was.


Last week, I was visiting a client in the outskirts of the Phoenix metro area.  Her home was located in the foothills of the desert.  The plants and scenery around there were just breathtaking. 

Thankfully, I had my camera with me that day and I would like to share with you some of what I saw….

The homes are set against the backdrop of beautiful mountains.
Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia floridium) were in full bloom against the blue sky.
Buckhorn Cholla were covered with unopened buds just beginning to open….
It sometimes hard to believe that something so prickly can produce such beautiful flowers.
I met a little friend, a Gambel’s Quail, perched atop of a mailbox.
One of my favorite shrubs, Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii), was beginning to flower.  The foliage is very fragrant and I have a small one in my own garden that I just planted recently.
The familiar desert shrub, Creosote (Larrea tridentata), was flowering along with their fuzzy covered seedpods.
Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) brightens the desert with their yellow blooms.  They self seed very easily and you can help the process by collecting the seed heads from spent flowers, like the one(s) above.
Many different types of Prickly Pear were in full bloom.
The tiny flowers clustered together of the Flat Top Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), are very pretty, especially when viewed close-up, below.
It never ceases to amaze me that the beauty of a plant is often in the small details.
The bright colors of Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) were on display.
Okay, I have save the best for last.  I was just about ready to pack my camera away and head for home when I saw a beautiful Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri).  Unlike the more common Parry’s & Firecracker Penstemon that are found in the landscape, Snapdragon Penstemon is not found often in our area although it does very well and is native to Arizona and other southwest states.
 It is a large perennial – it can grow 4 to 5 ft. tall.  Native to the desert southwest, it does best in areas with low rainfall.


 Unlike many Penstemons, this one is lightly fragrant.
Thank you for joining me in viewing some of the beautiful sights from my visit last week.  In closing, I would like to share with you my favorite photo, which is a close-up picture of Snapdragon Penstemon flowers.
Have a great day!