Posts

No matter where you live, you often see five types shrubs being used over and over in landscape after landscape.  While the shrubs themselves may be attractive, their overuse throughout neighborhoods can create a somewhat ‘boring landscape’.

 
In California, Nevada and Arizona oleanders have held a prominent spot in the landscape due to their lush evergreen foliage, ability to withstand drought and pretty flowers.
 
However, they have been overused in many areas which makes their beauty less impactful and frankly, almost forgettable.
 
At a recent conference that I attended, the head of horticulture for Disneyland said,
“”When things are expected (in the landscape), they become less powerful and impactful”.
 
 
Another issue with oleanders is that they are susceptible to a fatal disease called, oleander leaf scorch that is slowly spreading from California.  I have seen several cases affecting large, mature oleanders in the greater Phoenix area. 
 
From an objective point of view, I’d like to make it clear that there is a lot to like about oleanders; they do extremely well in hot, dry climates with minimal fuss, they have attractive dark green foliage and add color to the landscape when in flower.  
 
My main issue is with the overuse of them in the landscape when there less common plants that do equally as well in the landscape while also adding beauty.
 
 
When I am asked for another option for the large, tall forms of oleanders, hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa) always comes to mind first.
 
This native desert shrub has attractive, evergreen foliage and a similar growth habit to oleander.
 
 
They can be used in the same ways that oleanders can in providing an attractive green hedge and/or screening.
 
Hop bush flower
 
They don’t have colorful flowers; their bright green foliage is their strong point.
 
 
Hop bush can be allowed to grow into their natural shape or pruned into a formal hedge.
 
Want to learn more about this oleander alternative?  In my latest Houzz article, I share what types of plants look nice next to hop bush, how to care for them and show a purple-leafed form.
 
I hope that you find a spot for this lovely shrub in your landscape.
 
**There are still a couple of days to enter the giveaway for the book Grow For Flavor.  Enter now for your chance to win!**
 
 

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the television camera?  



What we often see is just a small portion of what goes on behind the scenes as I have learned during my occasional appearances on television.

Today, I thought that I would let you see what goes on behind the scenes getting ready for a gardening segment on television. I documented what went on behind the scenes of my television appearance last Friday.

You may be surprised to find that appearing on camera is the easiest part.  Here is how it all happens…

– Typically a week ahead of time, I am contacted by the producer of the show I am being asked to appear on.  They give me a general gardening topic and then send me a guest sheet to fill out.  On the guest sheet, I list general questions for the host to ask and send in photos for them to use in the segment as well.

– Two days before my scheduled appearance, I visit my local nursery to get the plants and other ‘props’ that I will need.

– The day before, I am busy ‘cleaning’ up the plants – removing any dead leaves and/or flowers and wiping down the nursery containers with a wet rag to remove any dirt.  Often, I plant some of the plants in decorative pots.  Believe it or not, I have a stash of ‘props’ that I only use when I appear on television, which I will show you later.



The next day begins with an early arrival at the television station.  Plants are unloaded onto large plastic carts located in the television station’s lobby for transporting props.

I usually bring someone with me to help me set up.  For me, it’s usually a family affair with various members of my family accompanying me. This time, my nephew came along to help.  He recently graduated from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences and I thought that he would like to experience the workings of a television studio.


There is security in the lobby and only those on the list are allowed to enter.  Guests are expected to arrive 1 hour before the show airs.

After entering, you are shown to the ‘green room’ where you wait with others who will also appear on the program.


Most often, I bypass the green room as I am shown directly to the outdoor area in back of the studio where I will set up.  Along the way, we pass the newsroom.


In the outdoor area there is typically a rectangular table set up for me and I get to work on setting up my props.


When selecting props, color is an important element, so I always try include colorful flowers whenever possible.  


In this case, I was asked to talk about what to plant in winter, so I picked out the most colorful annuals that my local nursery had – in this case, primrose.

Earlier, I mentioned that I have a stash of ‘props’ that I use when I am to appear on television.  Well, I used three of them; a hand shovel, a hand rake as well as a galvanized steel container.  I don’t use them in the garden so that they will always look nice and I’m not having to clean them.  A nice pair of leather garden gloves usually appear alongside my other props as well.


Setting up my props is called ‘staging’ and I must admit that it’s not my strongest suit.  In general, tall plants go in the back with smaller ones in front.

My sisters and mother are very good at staging and have been especially helpful when they have come with me when appearing on television.


However this time, I was on my own when it came to arranging my plants and props.


This is the perspective from where I will stand when talking in front of the camera.  The small TV shows a live feed of what is currently being broadcast and is helpful when being interviewed since I can see what the viewers see – especially when the photos I sent in are shown on screen so I can speak directly about them.

About a half-hour before my segment, a producer comes out and sets up my mike, which is threaded through my clothes and clipped to my collar.


After a busy morning of getting up early, loading plants, driving to the studio, unloading plants and staging plants and getting ‘miked’ – it’s time to sit and wait until it is time for my segment to go on.

Since my segment is being filmed on the back patio and not inside the studio, I usually spend my time in the break room waiting until the television host comes to find me to talk about the upcoming segment.

It’s interesting to note that I never know before I get to the station, when I will be on.  I’ve been on at the beginning, middle and end of the show – I prefer to be on at the beginning instead of waiting.


Shortly before my segment, a ‘teaser’ is shown with close-ups of my plants being shown after which, a commercial is shown.


During the commercial, the host talks to me about what I brought and we both go over what I will talk about.

Finally, it is time for my live segment.  At this point, everything goes very fast.


My four minute garden segment feels like it only takes one minute to do.  I admit that this is the part that I like best – helping people learn how to enjoy their garden and hopefully inspiring them to try something new.  In this case, we talked about adding lettuce and other leafy green alongside colorful annuals in pots.

If being on camera makes you nervous, it helps to just talk directly to the host and try to ignore the camera.  I do that most of the time, but I do try to talk directly to the camera a few times as well.

After the segment is over, I load my things back onto the plastic cart and leave.  Sometimes, I make it home before the program is over.

Later in the day, I receive an email from the producer with a link to my garden segment.  I don’t like to watch myself on TV a lot, but I do watch it once to make sure that I didn’t make any mistakes.  Every time I go on, I find myself becoming a little more comfortable with the process.
And so, that is a behind the scenes look to filming a garden segment on television.  I hope that you enjoyed it.  

**If you would like to view this particular garden segment, click here.

The true test for many plants in my humble opinion are how they perform during extremes.  If a plant looks great in the blistering heat of summer as well as when temps dip below freezing in winter, than it deserves a prime spot in the landscape.


Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)
Thankfully, there are quite a few drought tolerant, flowering plants that do well with both the heat and cold for those of us who want a beautiful, fuss-free landscape filled with colorful plants.

I shared 10 of my favorite cold and heat tolerant, flowering plants in my latest article for Houzz.  


Hopefully, you will find some new favorites to try in your own garden.



January is off to a busy start.  We have gone from a house bursting at the seams to one that seems suddenly spacious after my two oldest daughters left for home with their children.  While I do miss them, I must admit that I never thought a house filled with 3 teenagers would seem quiet.

Enjoying last minute cuddle time with Lily before she flew back to Michigan.

As I drove my oldest daughter and her family to the airport, I felt that familiar tickle in my throat and knew that I was getting sick.  I wasn’t too surprised with all of the busyness of the holidays that my resistance was low.  

A few days later, I was due to make an appearance on the television show, Arizona Midday, which airs on our local NBC television station.  The topic was to be about winter gardening tasks.

While I have been on television a few times before, this was my first time on this particular program.  

As with the other times, I made a trip to the nursery for plants and other things for the television spot since the producers like a lot of props to make things look more interesting.

I came away with a bare root rose (my favorite Mr. Lincoln red rose), leaf lettuce and kale, parsley and cool season annuals for color.  Other props included different types of frost protection including frost cloth, old towels, and sheets.

Unfortunately, as the date of my television appearance neared, my cold got worse and evolved into a full-blown sinus infection.  


So on a brisk winter morning, loaded up with cold medicine and a pocket full of kleenex, I loaded up my plants and other props and headed to the TV station along with my mother who came with me to help me stage the table and provide moral support.  

We spent a delightful time waiting to be escorted to the studio in the green room with a pair of chili cooks who were talking about an upcoming chili cookoff.


Finally, it was time for the gardening segment, which went quite smoothly – I didn’t cough or sneeze once.  The host was kind, gracious and most importantly – laid back and relaxed.

After returning home, I got on my favorite pair of sweats and got back into bed.  I am determined to kick this cold!

If you would like to see the garden segment click here.

I hope that your January is off to a great start!

Imagine a garden with containers filled with a variety of colorful flowers, herbs, ornamental grasses, succulents and even vegetables.



Wouldn’t you love to have pots that look like this, overflowing with beautiful plants?

But, what if you live in the desert?  Can you grow plants in pots that aren’t just beautiful but that can thrive in our hot, dry climate?  

Believe it or not, you can.  Whether your container garden is limited to one pot or several – you can grow plants in pots in the desert garden.


Now before you say, “I’ve got a black thumb…everything I plant in pots die”, I have a great resource for you.  

“Getting Potted In The Desert” is a wonderful resource that shows you step-by-step instructions on how to create beautiful potted gardens that will thrive in our desert climate.


While you can find other books that offer helpful advice on how to create potted gardens, “Getting Potted In The Desert” speaks specifically to those of us who live and garden in the desert Southwest where our hot, dry summers bring about special challenges.

Beyond the helpful advice on selecting containers and the right location, the book also talks about plant choices including flowering annuals, perennials, grasses, herbs, succulents and vegetables.


Clear and easy to understand guidelines are given on how to water, fertilize and how to adjust to changing weather conditions including freezing temperatures.  

What’s even better, the guidelines are broken up into monthly guides, making growing plants in pots, easy.

Lists of plants that do well in the desert container garden are also given along with lovely photographs of pots filled with plants, which will inspire you.

Herb Container Garden

The author, Marylee Pangman, has over 20 years of experience growing potted plants in the desert.  In fact, she is a certified Master Gardener and had her own company, “The Contained Gardener”, where she designed and maintained container gardens for clients.

In addition, she has taught numerous classes on growing potted gardens that can withstand hot summers and desert winters.

Flower and Vegetable Container Garden

As a horticulturist who has planted and maintained container gardens over the years, I can tell you that Marylee’s book is a godsend for those who love container gardening and need practical guidance.  

*****************************

So, now for the giveaway…

Marylee has graciously offered to send a free copy of “Getting Potted in the Desert” to the winner of this giveaway.

1. To enter, simply leave me a comment about what plant you would like to grow in pots or what you like about container gardening.  
(Be sure to leave your email address if it’s not on your profile, or I won’t have any way to contact you.)

2. For a bonus entry, like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter – (be sure to let me know in your comment).

Let your friends know about this great giveaway and I will pick a random winner on October 5th.

You can also order your own copy of “Getting Potted In The Desert” and find out more about Marylee at  www.potteddesert.com


*I was provided with a free copy of this book for my honest review.

Fall is finally here and it’s time to get busy in the garden.  Did you know that fall is the best time of year to add new plants?  It doesn’t matter where you live, planting in fall gives plants three seasons to grow a healthy root system before summer arrives.



Today, I’d like to share with you another drought tolerant and beautiful plant – shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans).

While it’s name may not be impressive, this shrub certainly has a lot to boast about.

Shrubby germander planted alongside Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera)

First, it has blue flowers that add welcome color that contrasts with other colors such as orange and red.

Young shrubby germander growing alongside red autumn sage (Salvia greggii)

The silvery foliage also adds great color contrast to the landscape when paired near plants with darker green foliage.


Shrubby germander can grow 5 – 6 ft. tall and wide, however, there is also a more compact variety ‘Azureum’ that only reaches 3 ft.

For more reasons why you’ll want to add this attractive shrub to your landscape, check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.com.

As summer begins to slowly fade and the heat begins to dissipate, the Southwestern garden comes alive.



Plants perk up in the absence of 100+ degree temperatures and people begin to venture outdoors  (without their hats!) to enjoy their beautiful surroundings.

When people talk about their favorite season, many will tell you that spring is the time that they enjoy the most as their gardens come alive, spring forth with new green growth and colorful blooms.

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

While spring is a glorious time in the desert landscape with winter blooms overlapping with spring flowering plants along with cactus flowers – it isn’t the only ‘spring’ that the desert experiences.


Fall is often referred to as the “second spring” in the desert Southwest as plants take on a refreshed appearance due to the cooler temperatures with many still producing flowers.  Many birds, butterflies and other wildlife reappear during the daytime hours in autumn.

Desert residents often find themselves making excuses to spend more time outdoors whether it’s taking a longer walk or bringing their laptop outdoors where they can enjoy the comfortable temperatures and surrounding beauty of the landscape.


Fall is also a time where we take a look around our own garden setting and decide to make some changes whether it is taking out thirsty, old plants replacing them with attractive, drought tolerant plants or creating an outdoor room by expanding a patio or perhaps adding a pergola.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) 

No matter where you live – the East Coast, Midwest, Northwest, etc., fall is the best time of year to add new plants to the landscape as it provides plants with 3 seasons in which to grow a good root system before the heat of the next summer arrives.

What do you enjoy most about fall?  

**Thinking of making some changes to your landscape?  Click here for a list my favorite drought tolerant plants that provide fall blooms.  

Spring is here and it is a busy time in the garden.

Did you know that spring is a great time to prune your summer-flowering shrubs?  


But, do you know the ‘right’ way to prune so you don’t go from this…



To this…

Believe it or not, these are the same type of flowering shrub (Leucophyllum langmaniae).

So, how do you get from an overgrown shrub and avoid pruning it into a ‘gumdrop’?

The good news is, is that it isn’t hard to prune shrubs correctly – you just need the right information.

I recently wrote an article on how to and how NOT to prune flowering shrubs for Houzz.

Simply click the photo below and you’ll be on your way to gorgeous, flowering shrubs. 


Yesterday, doing several errands, I was driving through the parking lot of our local Walmart when I saw a sight that stopped me dead in my tracks.


Now, normally parking lots are prime examples of bad landscape practices with over-planted and excessively pruned shrubs.  But, what I saw was truly breathtaking.

Blue Hibiscus shrub Alyogyne heugllii
This fuss-free, shrub was awash with large, purple blossoms.   The color was so vibrant and it added a lot of needed color to the parking lot island.

So, do you know what type of shrub this is?


I’ll give you a few hints:

– It is native to Australia.

– It is drought tolerant and thrives in the low desert.

– It grows best in full sun and blooms in spring and occasionally throughout the summer.


This is a blue hibiscus shrub (Alyogyne huegelii). 

This shrub grows fairly large, growing 6 – 8 ft. tall and wide.


While I have only seen it in purple & dark purple, it is also found in pink and white.  
What really stood out to me about this shrub is not just its beauty, but the fact that it was thriving in an area where many plants struggle in the hot, reflected heat of a parking lot island.

**How about you?  Have you ever seen this shrub before or grown it in your landscape?  Please share your experience with this purple-flowering beauty.
Firecracker Penstemon
While much of the country is suffering from a truly awful winter season, those of us who live in the Southwest are having the exactly opposite problem.

This has been a very warm winter season, with the exception of a few freezing nights back in December.

With temps 10 – 15 degrees above normal, we have been enjoying temps in the 70’s.  

I have seen some signs of our warm winter including the fact that I have ditched my slippers and am going barefoot every chance I get.  Plants have begun to emerge from their winter dormancy and people are asking me if they can prune their frost-damage plants early.

In regards to the pruning question, there is still a chance of Southwestern residents getting a spell of freezing weather before we approach the average last frost date.  So, pruning too early can actually hurt your plants if by some miracle temps dip below 32 degrees.


But, that may not stop everyone from grabbing the pruners.  If you happen to be one of these impatient pruners, make sure that you cover your recently pruned plants if temps dip into the low 30’s.

In the meantime, enjoy the glorious weather!