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What do your plants look like in the middle of summer?  Do they thrive despite the hot temperatures?  


Or do they look more like this?

 
Throw in a heatwave, and your lovely, attractive plants may be suddenly struggling to survive.
 
Whether you live in the desert Southwest or more temperate climates, this can happen to you if your garden is not prepared for the heat of summer.
 
So, how do you know if your plants are handling the summer heat?  
 
Take a walk through your garden during the hottest part of the day and look for signs of wilting leaves as well as yellow or browning leaves.  All of these can indicate heat stress.
 
The good news is that you can heatproof your landscape and enjoy a garden filled with attractive plants that thrive despite the hot temperatures that summer dishes out.
 
Here are 5 tips to help you heatproof your garden:
 

#1. Use native or plants adapted to your climate.

 
 
This is perhaps the most important tip for having an attractive, low-maintenance landscape filled with beauty that thrives throughout the entire year.
 
Native (or adapted) plants have unique characteristics that help them to handle the local climate, including the heat of summer AND the cold of winter.
 
All too often, we find ourselves with landscapes filled with plants (often with large leaves) that struggle to survive the hot, summer months.  This results in unattractive plants that we work hard to help sustain them until cooler temperatures arrive.  Usually, these plants are best meant to grow in climates with less extreme heat.
 
Langman’s Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae)
 
Let’s look at an example of an adaptation that this Langman’s sage has that enables it to handle full sun and 110+ temperatures without undue stress.
 
Notice that the flowers have small hairs.  So do the leaves, giving them a slightly grayish cast.  These tiny hairs help to reflect the sun’s rays, which lowers the temperature of the leaves and flowers.
Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and Shrubby Germander ‘Azurea’ (Teucrium fruticans ‘Azurea’)
 
Another way that plants have to handle the heat is by having small leaves, which limits the amount of water lost, which helps them to deal with hot, dry temperatures.
 
Here in the desert Southwest, there are many native plants that are used as well as plants from Australia and other arid regions, which have similar climates.
 
To find out what types of plants are best adapted to your area, check your local cooperative extension office for a list of plants.  A visit to your local botanical garden can also be helpful.
 

#2. Provide shade

 
 
Adding shade to the garden can provide relief from the hot sun as well as cooling air temperatures.  The shade benefits plants and can provide cooling to the house as well.
 
*It is important to note that it can be hard to grow many plants in dense shade – especially flowering ones.  However, using trees that provide filtered shade provide just enough shade while allowing enough sun through for plants.
 

#3 Water deeply and infrequently

 
 
Plants need water to survive, and not surprisingly, they need the most in the summer.  However, we often water them too often and shallowly for it to do much good.
 
Shallow watering keeps roots close to the surface of the soil, where the soil temperatures are hot, and the water dries up quickly.
 
Deep watering is the proper method for irrigating plants because encourages deep root growth where the soil is cooler and stays moister for longer.  As a result, you do not need to water as often.
 
“Plants that are watered deeply and infrequently are better able to withstand the heat.”
 
Shrubs should be watered to a depth of 2 feet and perennials and groundcovers to 18 inches.  You can determine how deeply you are watering by inserting a piece of rebar down into the soil (right after you have finished watering) to see how long you need to irrigate.  On average, 2 hours is the length of time to irrigate to the desired depth.  
 
Almost as important as watering deeply is the time of day that you water. The best time to water is early in the morning.  Watering plants in the afternoon is not as useful since plants allocate their resources at that time toward surviving the stresses of the heat and so they do not take up water as efficiently.  
 
Click here for watering guidelines for the Phoenix metro area.
 

#4 Mulch around your plants

 
 
Not surprisingly, mulch has a variety of benefits and not just in regards to heat proofing your garden.
 
Mulch serves to help cool soil temperatures in summer while helping to conserve moisture – all important in helping plants thrive despite hot temperatures.
 
A bonus is that they also help to prevent weeds from taking root.
 
 
Let’s take a minute to rethink our definition of what makes an excellent mulch.  
 
While shredded bark and wood chips may come to mind, did you know that fallen leaves, pine needles and even fallen flowers can also serve as a mulch?  That is how nature does it.
 
So, the next time you are tempted to whip out your leaf blower, how about directing it toward the base of your plants where the leaves and flowers can serve as a mulch?  They will also help to improve the soil around your plants as they decay.
 

#5 Ditch flowers in favor of succulents in containers

 
While growing pretty flowers in containers are relatively simple in fall, winter and spring-summer can be another matter entirely.  Often, it can be hard to grow flowering annuals in pots throughout the hot summer.
 
The reasons for this is that the soil around the roots of container plants is hotter than if grown in the ground.  This is especially true for the outer 6 inches of soil which heats up in response to air temperatures and the hot container.  As a result, annuals can wilt and struggle to produce flowers in summer.
 
Succulents are a great way to enjoy attractive container plantings throughout the year, not just in summer.  Their ability to store water is what makes them an excellent choice for containers.
 
 
If you want to grow something else besides succulents, how about trying heat-tolerant shrubs? Bougainvillea does great in pots as does lantana.
 
 
Another tip for containers is to leave them empty in the summer months and wait until fall to plant them.  
 
When thinking in terms of growing plants in containers in hot climates, bigger is better – at least 2 feet wide at the top.  The larger the pot, the more soil and therefore, more insulation for the roots from the hot outer zone.
 
 
**So what can you do if you do have plants that are struggling in the heat – particularly during a heatwave?  Other than replacing them, you can provide them with temporary shade such as a patio chair strategically placed so that it protects it against the afternoon sun.  A light spraying of water over the plant and surrounding area in the evening can help reduce the temperature – don’t do this when the sun is out, or you may burn the foliage.

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Do you grow garlic in your garden? If so, you know that it takes a long time to grow with planting in October and harvesting it in May.  During the long growing period, the leafy green tops of the garlic plant are all that is visible while the garlic bulb is growing below ground.

But, did you know that the garlic greens can be used in some of your favorite dishes? Here is how I use them…

It’s always fun to find new ways to enjoy the vegetables in your garden. Have you ever tried garlic greens or other non-traditional parts of vegetables?

For tips on how to grow your own garlic, click here.

Life has been awfully busy lately.  So much so, that it has affected me from doing blogging as regularly as I like to do.  So, I would like to take a little time to let you know what I have been up to this past month.

Work has seen me driving me from one corner of the Phoenix metro area to the other, meeting with clients and helping them to create beautiful outdoor spaces.  In fact, I broke my record for the most landscape consultations in a single month.  Now that the holidays are here, work has slowed down a little.

A beautiful succulent, Euphorbia trigona

A beautiful succulent, Euphorbia trigona

One thing that I enjoy about visiting new clients is that I get to see impressive specimen plants like this Euphorbia trigona that flanked the entry of the Phoenix home.

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This is a truly beautiful succulent that lends a tropical look to the landscape.  It is very frost tender and must be protected when temperatures dip into the 30’s.  I’d say it’s worth the effort for a plant like this.

Coyote

Coyote

Encounters with wildlife happens often during my work.  However, seeing a coyote in the middle of the day is rather rare.  As I was driving home from a consultation, I saw this beautiful coyote walk across the street.  I stopped my car and it stood off to the side of road while I took a few pictures with my phone.

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While I’ve seen a number of coyotes over the years, most often their appearance reflects the hardship of living in the desert.  However, this coyote was the healthiest one that I’ve encountered.

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I think that it enjoyed the attention that I was giving it as it stood still for several seconds before walking off into the desert.

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Christmas is my favorite season of the year.   I enjoy shopping for the perfect gift, decorating the house, baking my favorite desserts, singing along to Christmas music in the car, and rejoicing in the reason for Christmas.

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Earlier this week, we filmed a video segment for our church’s upcoming Christmas Eve services.  We were asked to share the story of our daughter Ruthie’s adoption along with her cousin Sofie.  They were best friends in the orphanage when my sister and her family adopted Sofie back in 2006.  One year later, my husband and I went to China and adopted Ruthie.  So, they are not just best friends, but cousins.

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We taped the video at my sister’s house, which took over 3 hours.  The segment will probably only be 3 – 4 minutes in length, but I can hardly wait to see their story shared and hope that it will inspire others.  I will be sure to share it with all of you at that time.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying this holiday season.

 

 

Landscape Renovation Project

Landscape Renovation Project

As a mom, grandmother, and horticulturist, the fall season is a very busy season for me.  Whether I’m busy on the work site, hosting a Halloween party, or helping out my mother as she recuperates from a broken leg – there is never a dull moment.

I thought that I would show you just a snippet of the events of the past few weeks.

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My mother’s orthopedist knows how to decorate his office for Halloween.

Over a month ago, my mother suffered a very badly broken leg that required surgery.  My very active and independent mother has been working hard with physical therapy and her recovery, but still has a few weeks left in a wheelchair.  As a result, my siblings and I have stepped in to help her where we can.  One of my favorite ways to help out is to take her shopping wherever she wants to go.  Of course, it helps that she and I like the same types of stores.  We got into a lot of trouble in Target’s dollar section buying Christmas decorations and gifts last week.

My granddaughter Lily enjoyed talking to our desert tortoise, Aesop, during her visit to Arizona from Michigan.

My granddaughter Lily enjoyed talking to our desert tortoise, Aesop, during her visit to Arizona from Michigan.

Visits from my oldest daughter and her family are always a highlight for us.

My 3-month old grandson, Leo, slept through most of his first visit to Arizona.

My 3-month old grandson, Leo, slept through most of his first visit to Arizona.

Every year on October 31st, my siblings and their kids come over for a fun night of Halloween-themed food and trick-or-treating.  It is so much fun to see the little kids get all dressed up for Halloween, including my grandson, Eric.

Eric dressed up like a 'Minion'

Eric dressed up like a ‘Minion’

While my two youngest kids are almost too old for trick-or-treating, they enjoyed dressing up and going with Eric.

Gracie was a 'bag of ice'

Gracie was a ‘bag of ice’

Kai was a 'computer error code'

Kai was a ‘computer error code’

Life hasn’t slowed down in November, which is the busiest month of the year for me as a horticulturist.

Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

Mountain States Wholesale Nursery

A highlight of this month was a visit to an open house at one of the pre-eminent nurseries of the Southwest.

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While you may not have heard of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, you have undoubtedly seen plants that they have developed, many which may be in your own garden.  Flowering shrubs such as ‘Valentine’ and ‘Blue Bells’ have their origins in the fields of this nursery as do many of the newest tecoma and desert willow species.

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I spent a fun-filled day with friends and colleagues touring the facilities and getting a sneak peek at their newest plants in production.  The perfect way to cap off our visit was being gifted with a new plant!

Next up on my agenda was overseeing the installation of one of my landscape projects.

Before

BEFORE

My clients, who live in New York City for most of the year, spend their winters and spring in Arizona.  They recently purchased a home with overgrown, excessively pruned shrubs as well as artificial grass with a putting green that they wanted to get rid of.

I initially met with them in April and put together a plan for a landscape that would reflect their style.  Once they came back to Arizona in November, they asked me to come out and oversee the installation.  

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A mixture of pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and artichoke agave (Agave parryi ‘truncata’) are being planted in the area formerly covered by artificial turf.

Many of the old shrubs were removed as was the fake grass.  Contouring was added to help add height and interest to the formerly flat backyard landscape.


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Matt, is the landscape contractor, who I refer many of my clients too.  He has the uncanny ability to find the biggest, best plants – he holds his sources close to his chest, but as long as my clients are happy, so am I.

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I must admit that I am sorely tempted to grab one of his specimen cactus or succulents for my own garden.

BEFORE

BEFORE

The client wanted an area for a cactus garden.  So, we took out the shrubs in this corner and added cactus.

AFTER

AFTER

The saguaro cactus isn’t in place yet, but soon will be.  Our goal was to add several different types of cactus and succulents that the client liked, including beavertail, candelilla, golden barrel, Moroccan mound, and torch cactus.  An ocotillo anchors the corner and will eventually leaf out and flower, which usually occurs about a year after planting.

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A palo blanco (Acacia willardiana) tree will soften this area without outgrowing this area.

It is so rewarding to be a part of the process of homeowner’s landscape be renovated into a space that will provide them with years of enjoyment.

Despite the busyness this fall season, I am getting excited for the upcoming holiday season.  How about you?  What is keeping you busy this fall?

Anna’s Hummingbird sitting in front of my kitchen window.

Hummingbirds are arguably the most popular birds in our gardens.  It’s not unusual to find hummingbird feeders hanging, enticing these flying jewels to come and drink of the sweet sugar water.

Of course, there are a large number of plants that promise to lure hummingbirds into your outdoor spaces as well so that you can sit and enjoy their antics.

But, what if you don’t have much space for gardening or maybe you simply want to create a special place for hummingbirds to visit.  


Well, a container hummingbird garden may be just the solution for you.

I am very fortunate to have hummingbirds in my Arizona garden throughout the entire year.  Early last year, I decided to create my own hummingbird haven in some old plastic pots.  I gave them each a new coat of paint and got started.



My son and dog, Polly, came out to help me add the new plants.


At first, the plants looked rather small and straggly.  But, I knew that it would only a matter of a few months and they would fill out and look great.

It’s been about 20 months since I planted my hummingbird containers and I am treated to the view of these tiny birds sipping from the flowers with their long tongues.  

I created a short video to show people what my garden looks like now and how they can create their own hummingbird haven with only a container.  I hope you enjoy it. 

For a list of plants that I used in my containers, click here.

**What are your favorite plants that you use to attract hummingbirds? 

Have you ever driven by a newly-planted landscape?  If you have, you probably noticed that many of the plants were quite small.  

I like to joke that sometimes you need a magnifying glass just to see the new plants.  But, within a short amount of time, those plants start to grow.  


After three years or more, the plants are well-established and look great.  

Fast forward five additional years, and you may start to see signs of some plants becoming overgrown and unattractive.

When this happens to shrubs, we can often push a ‘restart button’ and prune them back severely in spring, and that solves the problem.  However, there are some plants where this approach doesn’t work.

Let’s identify a few of these plants and how to deal with them once they outgrow their allotted space or become filled with old, woody growth.

Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Desert spoon is one of my favorite plants.  I love how its blue-gray, spiky leaves add texture to the garden and contrast with plants that have darker green foliage.  


After ten years or more in the landscape, desert spoon can start to take on a ragged, rather unattractive appearance, as well as grow quite large.

When this happens, I recommend that they be removed and a new desert spoon planted in its place.  

Now, some of you may think that may seem wasteful, but I invite you to take another look at your landscape and the plants within it.

Your outdoor space isn’t static and unchanging.  Its appearance changes with the seasons, plants blooms at different times of year, trees extend the amount of shade they provide as they grow, and plants change in size.  

A newly planted garden doesn’t look the same through the years, it changes.  

Trailing Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’)
Rosemary is a good choice for those who want rich, dark green color in the garden.  Bees love the light blue flowers that appear in late winter and spring, and the aromatic foliage can be used to flavor your favorite dishes.  


But, as time passes, it does get bigger, outgrowing its original space.  


When this happens, people start to shear their rosemary, which is stressful for the plant and contributes to sections of branches dying.

For those who don’t like the formal look, pruning rosemary back severely would be a likely choice.  But, the problem with rosemary is that they often don’t respond well to severe pruning.

So again, in this case, it’s best to pull out the old rosemary and add a new one, which will provide beauty for several years.

Rosemary hedge
To avoid having to remove and replace rosemary, allow them plenty of room to grow to their mature size.

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)
Red yucca is prized for its succulent, green leaves that resemble an ornamental grass and its coral flowers, which appear spring through fall.


Once it has been growing seven years or more, red yucca may overwhelm the landscape visually, particularly if the area it is growing in isn’t very big.

Occasionally, some people will try to remove the outer leaves at the base, but this is laborious and only serves to stimulate red yucca to grow back faster.

In those situations, I tell people that they have had a nice life, but it’s time to start over with new ones.

Newly-planted red yucca

The question that may come to mind is why use plants that you’ll only have to replace after seven to ten years?

Well, all three of these plants add beauty to the landscape and are low-maintenance.  Another way to think of it is to compare your landscape with the interior of your home.  Do you make small changes to the decor of your home every few years to keep it looking fresh and attractive?  The same should be true of the outside.

Replacing a few plants after seven years or more isn’t expensive, and the beauty that these plants offer to your outdoor space makes them worth it.
Do you like colorful flowers and hummingbirds?   If so, you may want to consider adding flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii)  to your garden.

This is a fairly new addition to my garden and the local hummingbirds are so happy to see it in my garden.

It blooms from late spring into fall and I love its airy, bright green foliage.

If you would like to learn more, I invite you to check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.




One of my favorite things as a horticulturist and consultant is to help people discover the new plant introductions that they may have never heard of.


I like to tell them that they can be the first on their block with the latest plant that all their neighbors will want to add in their landscape.  

Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’

Many of you may be familiar with the large, orange-flowering shrub Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’ with its clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers.  Its long bloom period and up to 12-foot height makes it a favorite for screening out a block wall or unfavorable view.

While the flowers and lush foliage are a plus, Orange Jubilee is too large for many smaller areas, which is why this new shrub is one of my new favorites. 


This Tecoma hybrid has bi-color flowers and is affectionately named ‘Sparky’ after Arizona State University’s popular mascot.  This hybrid was created by a horticulturist and professor at ASU.


‘Sparky’ is about half the size of ‘Orange Jubilee,’ which makes it suitable smaller spaces.  It also has smaller leaves and a slightly more compact growth habit.

Both types of Tecoma have the same requirements – full sun and pruning away frost-damaged growth in March.  ‘Sparky’ is slightly more cold tender than ‘Orange Jubilee’.

While I have an ‘Orange Jubilee’ shrub screening the view of my A/C unit, I believe that I need to find a spot for a ‘Sparky’ shrub – especially since I’m an ASU alumni.  
For those of you U of A alumni, there isn’t any word of a red, white and blue hybrid yet – but, I’ll be sure to let you know if they create one 😉

**Would you consider adding a ‘Sparky’ Tecoma shrub to your garden?

Do you have a list of favorite plants?  I do.  Mine is made up of about 12 plants, and they change from time to time.

One of my recent additions to my favorites list is anacacho orchid (Bauhinia lunarioides).



This lovely plant can be trained as a small tree or a large shrub.


Fragrant white flowers appear in spring, and the foliage adds beauty throughout the year.


While I don’t have this plant in my landscape, yet – I have been using it in a few of my latest designs.

If you would like to learn more about this beautiful plant, I invite you to read my latest plant profile for Houzz.



How about you?  Have you ever seen or grown an anacacho orchid?

One of the most rewarding things about my job is having the opportunity to revisit areas that I have designed.  Despite designing landscapes for over 17 years, I never tire of having the opportunity to explore them again to see how the landscape has matured.  When touring the landscapes, I take time to look at what worked and sometimes what didn’t.  I take these lessons with me and implement them in future designs.


Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) and feathery cassia (Senna artemisoides)
Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of a landscape that I designed for a church two years ago.  
I was asked by the landscape committee to create a landscape that would be filled with color during the cool season since that is when the majority of the members are attending.  

BEFORE:




The landscape was filled with over-pruned shrubs, many of which flowered in summer.  In addition, there were a large number of frost tender plants in the landscape that were unsightly when much of the residents were in town.

AFTER:


After removing the shrubs, I added feathery cassia (Senna artemisoides), which blooms in late winter and spring, along with the newer Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) which flowers all year long while staying at a rather compact 3 feet tall and wide size.
BEFORE:


When working with an existing landscape, I always try to keep mature plants that are healthy and fulfill the design criteria.  In this case, a Mexican (Yellow) Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana), that had been trained into a tree, which has evergreen foliage and flowers in spring and fall.

AFTER:


Blue Bell shrubs and golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) completed this planting area.

BEFORE:


In this area, a few shrubs, a barrel cactus and a lonely red yucca hang on from the previously designed landscape, all of which add little interest to the landscape.


AFTER:

Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine) and desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri)

Contrasting textures and color add interest to the landscape throughout the entire year.  Seasonal blooming creates an entirely different look to the landscape as well.

BEFORE:


As landscapes age, plants can become overgrown and to some, unattractive as was the case with this old desert spoon.  The lysiloma tree was in good shape and the decision was made to keep it.

AFTER:

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis syn. Hymenoxys acaulis)

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) is one of my favorite small perennials as its bright, sunny flowers appear throughout the entire year.

Valentine bush and feathery cassia serve as foundation planting.

BEFORE:


Pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) had been used to create a hedge.  However, while pink fairy duster does flower in winter and spring, it isn’t a suitable choice as a formal hedge.  Rather, it belongs in a natural desert landscape and untouched by hedge trimmers.

AFTER:

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) in winter.


Pink muhly was added for welcome fall color when its plumes turn a vibrant burgundy color, which fade to an attractive wheat color in winter.  After being pruned in early spring, bright green growth quickly fills back in.

BEFORE:


This is a high-profile corner as it is one of the entries into the church parking lot.  As you can see, there was little to attract the attention of passersby.

AFTER:


Adding a combination of plants that will ensure year round interest no matter whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter.

Even though the purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) can die back to the ground in winter, the bright colors of the Valentine bush and feathery cassia will draw attention away from it.

BEFORE:


Three Agave americana were all that sat in this area, which offered little color and virtually no interest.  


I took the existing agave and spread them throughout the landscape, where they can create both texture and color contrast when paired with the softer shapes and darker colors of shrubs.  

One thing that I wish I had done differently was to space the shrubs in this area a little further apart.  This can cause landscapers to excessively prune shrubs into poodle shapes in an attempt to keep them from touching.  Pruning them severely once a year can keep them from outgrowing their space OR removing every other shrub once they become too large can take care of the problem.  

I hope that you enjoyed seeing the transformation of this landscape to one filled with cool season color.