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If I had to pick the busiest month of the year, it would be November.

Life is filled with the kid’s school activities, plant sales, speaking engagements, and a lot of WORK helping people update their outdoor spaces. But, is also a time where my garden is reveling in the cooler temperatures of fall and I start to make some tweaks to it. I love the quote, “That a garden is never finished” and that is certainly true of mine, hence the little green flags indicating new plants that need irrigation run to them.

Earlier this month, I was a special guest expert at a local plant sale that raises money for community services. I enjoyed coming up with creative combinations for those who were shopping and answering their questions about the best exposure for the different plants offered for sale.

A few days later, it was all about creative container gardening as I spoke to a group of interested gardeners at a local branch of the Phoenix Public Library. While I like to talk about gardening to groups, there is always a little fear before it begins when you stare at a sea of empty seats and pray that they will be at least half filled by the time it starts. I must say that I was thrilled when they had to bring in extra chairs for my talk. Yeah!

Fall is my favorite time of year in the garden when the summer bloomers are still producing colorful flowers and my cool-season plants are beginning to show off as well. 

You know what else I like about November? It means that Christmas is just around corner! I wonder how early I can get away with putting up Christmas decorations?

I am busy putting the finishing touches on my presentation for an upcoming speaking engagement this Monday evening…


The women’s ministry at Cornerstone Church in Chandler, AZ asked me to speak about desert gardening.

Now, I love talking about how easy it is to have a beautiful and low-maintenance garden in the desert – yes, I said easy.

We are the ones that make our landscapes high-maintenance by making the following mistakes:

– Not allowing plants enough room to grow, which leads to over-pruning.
– Pruning plants more often then they need it.
– Selecting plants that aren’t well-adapted to our climate.
– Using fertilizer on plants that almost never need to be fertilized.


The event begins at 7:00 with the main speaker and afterward, attendees are given the choice of going to one of several ‘labs’ being offered at 8:00 pm.

I will be heading up the lab, “Creating a Beautiful, Fuss-Free Garden”.


The main speaker, is Lysa TerKeurst, who is fabulous.

And, did I mention that the entire event is FREE???  There is no need to register.  Just show up.  Here is a link for more information.

I’d love to those of you who live in the greater Phoenix area!

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On another note, I have been talking about attending plant sales and sharing with you about new varieties of some popular plants available along with a few of the newest plant introductions.

I had mentioned that I had come away with 3 new plants from the Desert Botanical Garden’s Spring Plant Sale.

So today, I thought that I would share with you the plants I chose and why…


1. The first plant I chose is one that I have never grown before – Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephla).  As indicated on the plant sign, it is new to the market.  

It is related to Red & Pink Fairy Duster shrubs, (which are great plants for the desert landscape, by the way).

I was entranced by the photo of large, puff-ball flowers.  I also liked that I could grow it as a small tree, if I wanted too.  

I like that is hardy to 20 degrees, which should make the occasional dips into the low 20’s in my garden no problem.

I planted it along the eastern side of my backyard, against a patio pillar.  It will receive morning sun and afternoon shade.  Growing to its right is a 15 ft. tall Mexican Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) that I’ve pruned into a tree form.  So, I think that they will look great next to each other.


The next plant I chose is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha).

Years ago, I planted this shrubby perennial in a parking lot of a golf course I worked at.  It did beautifully and attracted hummingbirds.  It would die back to the ground every winter, but quickly grew back in spring.

I have also seen Mexican Bush Sage grown in a variety of other areas during my travels, including Santa Barbara, CA and Miami, FL where it is grown as a perennial.

During a tour of the White House in Washington DC, I saw it grown there as well, where it is treated as an annual.

As much as I have liked this plant, I’ve never grown it in my own garden.

I planted it against the outside of one of my vegetable gardens where it will get morning and early afternoon sun.  Two other factors were important in choosing this area for my new Mexican Bush Sage – I didn’t have to add drip irrigation for it because it will get residual moisture from the vegetable garden AND it will also attract pollinators to my vegetable garden.


The last plant that I chose is one that many of you may be familiar with, just with a different flower-color.

Purple Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Purple’) was evidently a very popular plant at the sale because there was only one left, which went home with me.


It will grow much like the red variety, pictured above, enjoying filtered shade or afternoon shade.

Flowers will appear in fall, winter and spring in low-desert gardens.

Other varieties of Autumn Sage are available with different-colored flowers like white, pink and  salmon.

My new Purple Autumn Sage is also happy in its new home outside the vegetable garden where it will receive afternoon shade.

I will keep you updated on how well they grow in my garden.

Do you know what ‘sustainable landscaping’ is? 


Would you be able to identify a sustainable landscape if you saw one?


Last weekend, I spoke to a large group about “New Ideas for Sustainable Landscaping”.  The community that I spoke to are in the process of becoming an Audubon International Sustainable Community, which would make them the first one to do so, west of the Mississippi.


There a lot of people who turned out to learn more about how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.  I was thrilled to talk to them about what sustainable landscaping is and small steps that they can take toward that goal.

Maybe you are curious about sustainable landscaping and want to implement some strategies toward having a more sustainable landscape.  

This is my first post talking about this important subject in the hopes that I can inspire you to take steps toward a more sustainable landscape.

WHAT IS A SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE?

First, let’s look at an example of what I am NOT talking about in regards to a sustainable landscape…


Do you remember when green gravel was in style in the 70’s?


Or how about this one with the fancy gravel design and two lonely cacti?

Technically speaking, both of these landscapes are sustainable, but they are not the model of sustainability we are looking for.


Here is a great example of a sustainable landscape.


So is this one.

Both of these landscapes are planted with arid-adapted plants that thrive in our hot, dry climate with minimal care. What you may also notice is that they are not ugly – they are all quite beautiful.


The next time you find yourself near the natural landscape, wherever you live – notice how nature does a great job creating and maintaining a beautiful landscape.  
Nature does this without any help – no pruning, supplemental water, chemical fertilizers (nature does fine with natural sources of fertilizer) and pesticides. 


So, what exactly is a ‘sustainable landscape’?

“A SUSTAINABLE LANDCAPE IS ONE THAT IS IN BALANCE WITH THE CLIMATE, WHICH REQUIRES MINIMAL ‘INPUTS’.”
What are ‘inputs’?  They are resources that we use to create and maintain our landscapes such as fertilizer, supplemental water, pruning, gasoline and pesticides.

Would you like to decrease the amount of ‘inputs’ in your landscape, without having to sacrifice beauty?

Well you certainly can and it isn’t hard to do.  In fact, you can save yourself time and money in the process!

Next time, we will discuss what we are doing wrong in our current landscapes, which is important to know so that we can avoid these mistakes on our quest toward more sustainable landscapes.