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Do you have plants that need extra water this summer? 
Many of us have a few plants that aren’t connected to an irrigation system. Some people don’t have an irrigation system and use a hose to water plants, which is time-consuming and inefficient.
 
While you can certainly haul out your hose and water each of your thirsty plants, it is not the best way. The main problem is the hose puts out water quickly and the soil can’t absorb it fast enough. As a result, much of the water runs off and doesn’t benefit the plant as much as it should.
So, if the time-consuming task of watering plants by hand isn’t your cup of tea, I’m here for you. You can make life easier by creating your own portable drip irrigation system with a recycled milk jug
This solution is very easy and will have you digging through your recycle bin collecting your used milk jugs.

To get started, you will need an empty plastic milk jug and a nail.

1. Heat the nail using a lighter or stove burner. Then use the nail to pierce 3 – 4 small holes in the bottom of the milk jug.
2. Fill the milk jug up with water, put the cap on and carry it upside down to the plant. Turn it right side up and set it down to the plant that needs irrigation. *You can also set the empty milk jug(s) next to your plants, bring the hose to them and fill with water that way.
3. Slightly loosen the cap, which will allow the water to drip out of the holes at the bottom – this allows the water to penetrate the soil slowly, instead of running off.

Once the water has drained out of the bottom of the jug, pick up your milk jug and move it to the next plant. After you are done, bring the empty jugs inside and store until the next time you need them.

If you live in a windy area and worry the milk jug will blow away, weigh them down with an inch of small rocks in the bottom of the jug – the rocks won’t interfere with the water dripping out.
I usually recommend this method of irrigating cacti monthly in summer.
This portable drip irrigation system is a great aid for those who live in areas that are suffering from drought or where an irrigation system may not exist.
**A semi-permanent variation of this method is to create holes along the sides instead of on the bottom. Then bury the entire jug next to the plant, leaving just the top exposed. To water plants, remove the milk cap and fill with water and replace the cap.
I hope you find this DIY garden project helpful. Please feel free to share it with your friends by clicking the “Share” button below. 

In the past, succulents were valued primarily for their drought tolerance and found their way into gardens in arid regions. Today, while they are still a great choice for water-wise plants are wise, they offer many other benefits to outdoor spaces including adding colorful flowers and solving common garden problems.

Elk Horn (Cotyledon orbiculata)

I’ve written a series of articles for Houzz focusing on succulents and how you can add beauty to your garden with these versatile plants that will thrive in arid climates. 

I hope you find inspiration through them and look at succulents in a new way.

 

10 Spectacular Flowering Succulents

 

How Succulents Can Solve Your Garden Problems

 

How do you like to use succulents in your garden?

Echeveria and aloe planted in an old water fountain in Santa Barbara, CA.

Water features have long had a prominent spot in the landscape, where the both the beauty and sound of water help to create an enjoyable outdoor atmosphere.

However, water features can be high maintenance, messy to clean, and can be problematic in arid climates where water is a precious resource. Because of these reasons, it’s not unusual to see an empty water feature sitting empty without purpose.

In both my garden travels and work as a landscape consultant, I like to discover new uses for water features or ways to mimic the appearance of water, which succulents can fulfill beautifully.

A sink full of succulent plants spill out in the Barrio Garden section of the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Water features and succulents can add welcome interest, from simulating the movement of water with their shapes to taking the place of water in the basin.

Plumbing hardware can be used, along with succulents, to create an artistic arrangement in the garden such as these galvanized buckets and water pipes.

Succulents can also add a lovely planting around water features like the example above with lady’s slipper (Euphorbia macrocarpus), and it’s unique ‘Medusa-like’ growth habit adds an unexpected design element. It is important to keep succulents far enough away from getting any over splash from the water as they need dry soil to grow in.

Containers filled with succulents can make an attractive backdrop for a water feature as they are low-maintenance and their distinctive shapes add welcome texture.

Visit any nursery, and you’ll notice how popular succulents are, as they make up a larger percentage of the plants on display, tempting people to add them to their gardens.

So go ahead and give your water feature new life with succulents!

The popularity of fairy or miniature gardens is evident with whole Pinterest boards dedicated to them as well as nurseries having entire sections filled with fairy garden furniture and accessories.

During a recent visit to California, I visited the J. Woeste Nursery, which had taken a slightly different direction with fairy gardens.  Theirs were decidedly drought tolerant and planted with succulents.




Each fairy garden was well-designed, each with their own unique mixture of succulents and moss for grass.


I was told that the nursery had a specific designer who created these miniature succulent worlds.


No two were alike.  From the houses used to the combination of succulents and the container itself – each was a truly unique creation.


I must admit that I had a hard time tearing myself away in order to look at the rest of the nursery, as I was so captivated by these miniature, drought tolerant gardens.



Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit one in my suitcase.


However, if I decided to make my own, there were a lot of different fairy succulent gardens to be inspired by and the nursery had a large selection of succulents available to assist in my endeavors.


Besides miniature succulent gardens, the nursery was filled with other unique examples of succulents being planted in unexpected ways.

A large variety of succulents were available for customers to use to in their own gardens, whether planted in the ground or in a favorite container.


If you ever find yourself in the charming town of Los Olivos, California, you must stop by J. Hoeste Nursery to see the fairy succulent gardens along with its other treasures.


Have you ever thought of planting a fairy garden? If so, I recommend the book, Gardening in Miniature.  It teaches you how to make your own miniature garden, in easy steps.  There are also a number of inspiring ideas to help you on your way to make your own.  I reviewed this book in an earlier post, which can read here.


Did you ever read the book, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett?  It was one of my favorite books as a child, and I always imagined myself exploring a hidden garden.



Well, on the second day of our road trip, I was able to explore a very secret garden that very few people have seen.

To be honest, this hidden garden wasn’t on our original itinerary.  We were to travel by boat to the Channel Islands and explore Santa Cruz Island for the day.  But it was canceled at the last minute due to the high winds.  So, we had to find something else to fill our do for the day.  What better than to find a garden to visit?

We did some searching for gardens near the town of Ojai, which was near our hotel and found a reference to the Taft Garden, which is a 265-acre garden that couldn’t be found on a map and wouldn’t come up on a GPS search.


We were given a map with landmarks provided such as a cluster of mailboxes, creek crossings, forks in the road and a big white barn.  With my reliance on GPS, it was somewhat surreal to navigate the way most people used to a long time ago.


The bottom of the map had large, bold print that advised us against sharing the location of the garden with anyone else, so I won’t spill the beans.

Our route meandered through the foothills of the mountains outside of Ojai, and we passed large homes that sat on large acreage.


Three peacocks were perched on a corner watching us drive by.

The road was so little traveled that we only saw one car on our way to the garden.


Groves of oak trees stood in natural areas along our route, which took us across two creeks, pass a large barn and finally to our destination.


The entry to the garden is unassuming so as not bring attention to the fact that it is there.


Our rental car was the only vehicle in the parking lot as we were the only visitors.


Walking toward the visitor center, I was filled with anticipation for what discoveries awaited us along the meandering paths of the garden.  I also like to learn about new plants and how I may be able to incorporate them in my garden as well as in those of my clients.

Stepping inside the small visitor center, you are asked to give a donation of $5.


Then you sign the guestbook.  

Believe it or not, we hadn’t seen anyone else in the garden at this point.


Near the visitor’s center, a lovely bed of colorful plants was on display.  The plants in this garden are primarily from Australia and Africa, and I was familiar with many of them, although a fair few were somewhat foreign to me.


The main path ran along one side of the garden with smaller, winding pathways branching off, encouraging exploration.

Aloe arborescens
This aloe was enjoying the dappled sunlight.


On the right side of the path was a nice collection of agave and prickly pear cacti.  The other side was filled with shrubs native to Australia and many different species of aloe, which are mostly native to South Africa.

Yellow Protea flower

Elk Horn (Cotyledon orbiculata)

One of the things that strike you right away about this garden is that this isn’t you typical botanical garden filled with beds of flowering annuals and perennials.  While there was plenty of plants flowering, many were somewhat unusual, although most could be grown in California as well as many other arid climates.


Scattered throughout the garden were bright red benches, which guests to stop and rest, to enjoy the beauty around them.



Agave is my favorite type of succulent, and they had several varieties including Agave angustifolia and Agave parryi ‘truncata’.  


Toward the center of the garden, is a large group of majestic oak trees that stand amidst an expanse of St. Augustine grass.  Interspersed throughout the lawn were small islands of I believe, clivia plants.


As I mentioned earlier, this Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata) is not your everyday plants – but very interesting – I’d say almost like a plant out of a Dr. Seuss novel, don’t you think?



There were so many lovely vistas as well as unusual plants and combinations; I was very busy taking a lot of photos.  However, my legs were quite sore the next day from bending and squatting down for the perfect photo shot – at least I don’t have to feel guilty for not being able to visit the gym on our trip 🙂


Mexican Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii)

Toward the back of the garden stood a large guest house.

A floss silk tree is surrounded with a variety of succulents.

Bright orange aloe blooms around the house.
The house was planted with a large variety of succulents, which were in full flower on this lovely spring morning.
Bougainvillea, yellow iris and a container filled with succulents add welcome color toward the entry.

Artichoke agave (Agave parryi ‘truncata’) and ‘Blue Glow’ agave


Across the lawn from the house, a desert area filled with several agave species, columnar cacti, golden barrels and yucca create a lovely contrast to the darker green plants surrounding them.



The dark pink flowers of rock purslane (Calandrinia spectabilis) grab your attention along with the bright orange flowers of soap aloe (Aloe maculata).

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) with Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima)

This was by far my favorite combination of plants.  The contrast of textures with the grasses waving in the breeze and the upright purple flowers of the salvia was just breath-taking.



I took a video of how it looks with the wind blowing, which it was quite a lot that day.



In a nearby field, the bright orange flowers of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) were in full bloom creating a carpet of color that could be viewed from the house.



Up the hill from the house stood a Japanese garden.  The raised terrace was built around a large oak tree, which I appreciated the shade it offered since I didn’t wear my hat 😉



Japanese statues and a Zen area completed this section of the garden.  


In the back of the raised terrace, was a vine-covered walkway with arches that looked out into an enclosed outdoor area.



Between the two arching oak trees was a circular stage.  Majestic oak trees were used to great effect throughout the entire garden.



As I walked back toward the house, I could see one of the gardeners hard at work, pulling weeds from around the succulents.



As we walked back toward the entrance, we took another route along a gravel path lined with tall tree aloes, pink flowering ice plant along with daisies of all colors blooming.



Despite the high winds, it I had a fabulous time in this very secret garden.  It is without a doubt one of my top 5 gardens of all time with its use of beautiful, drought tolerant plants from around the world.


If I had to pick my favorite vista of the garden, it would be the one pictured in this photo…



This is how I envision what heaven will be like.  I hope that God has a nice little garden cottage prepared for me next to a lovely garden like this one.


If you would like to learn more about this secret garden, here is a link to an article written about a few years ago with more photos.


Visits to the garden are by invitation only, and you can contact the garden through their Facebook page here.

Well, it’s that time of year again – time for our annual road trip.  Each year, my mother and I dust off our suitcases and embark on a trip where we enjoy the culture, food, history and of course, the gardens of a different region of the U.S.  

Each road trip takes 8 – 10 days to complete and we have a lot of fun planning the trip and the places we will see.  I also blog daily during our road trip sharing our adventures.



In the past, we have traveled throughout many regions of the country, starting out in one state and ending up several states away at the end.  We typically spend one day in each area before going on to the other.  So, we pick out one of two things that we want to do in each place we visit.


This year we decided to visit our native state of California.  Now, you may be wondering why we decided on going on a road trip through a state that we are intimately familiar with.  Our thought was to visit some of our favorite places that we had not seen in years while also seeing new places.



Our first day began early – my alarm woke me up at 3:30.  My dear husband got up to take my mother and me to the airport to catch an early flight to Los Angeles.

At this point, I must admit that it was very nice only to spend an hour on an airplane instead of 3, 4 or even 5.  The first destination of our trip was to The Getty Center, which consists of a world-famous art museum and beautiful gardens.  

As sculpture of a boy holding a frog greets visitors to The Getty Center

Once you arrive, you park and wait to get on a 5-minute tram ride that takes you to the top of the hill where the large museum sits.


Once we made it to the top, the large white buildings stood before us, filled with all priceless art.  Of course being a horticulturist, my attention was focused on the planting area filled with large London plane trees.  At this point, my mother knew the likelihood of me stepping indoors to view art was remote, so she said “goodbye” and headed indoors to look at the art exhibits while I headed out toward the gardens.


The London plane trees that caught my attention were planted amidst star jasmine, also known as Confederate jasmine, (Trachelospermum jasminoides).  In this area, it is grown as a groundcover instead of a vine.

Variegated elephant’s food (Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’) takes center stage in this part of the Stream Garden.
The first part of the garden is known as the Stream Garden and runs along the sides of a narrow water feature, which runs through the top of the garden.



Echeverias of all types showed off their assorted shapes, sizes, and colors that gave the space a distinctive, yet attractive look.


In this area of the garden, a 
‘Sticks on Fire’ Euphorbia showed off its bright orange tips.


The water from the Stream Garden emerges out into the Central Garden, which consists of a shallow basin with a living mosaic design made out of neatly clipped shrubs.



Around the sides of this area of the garden are terraced beds that create the appearance of a ‘bowl’.

Red and yellow kangaroo paw were starting to bloom.


A lovely variety of shrubs and perennials grew within the terraced beds and pathways lead visitors through, allowing them to see the beauty up close.


Archways covered in a combination of potato and snail vine break up the pathways that line the terraced beds and frame vignettes of garden spaces left to be discovered.


Walking through the terraces, there were so many wonderful contrasts in both texture and color.


Purple leaf plum trees

Variegated nasturtium alongside the regular form of nasturtiums.
As you walk toward the top of the Center Garden, there is a more formal planting arrangement.

The top terrace is lined with trees underplanted with ‘Silver Lace’ society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea ‘Silver Lace’) whose purple flowers adds a nice cooling element to the garden.
Iconic towers made of rebar where bougainvillea grow up toward the blue sky.


Here is another view of the bougainvillea towers from up above.


Scattered throughout the wide expanse of the travertine tile-covered grounds stand groups of containers filled with creative combinations of drought tolerant plants. 

My favorite was this one filled with pink gaura and echeveria.


Many of the container plantings had succulents planted underneath the larger plants.


Located on a promontory, is a garden that inaccessible to visitors, but visitors can view it from above.  Behind the garden, panoramic views of the city of Westwood and UCLA can be seen. 

At this point, you may be wondering if I ever ventured indoors to view any art on display.  While I do love gardens, I also enjoy looking at art.  As a child, my parents would take us to art museums and I made sure that I had time to see some famous works of art at The Getty Center.

Now before you say that I shouldn’t have taken pictures of these two paintings, shown below, I want to say that it was okay to take pictures as long as you didn’t use flash photography.

Here were my two favorites – you will probably recognize them:

‘La Promenade’ by Renoir

‘Irises’ by Vincent van Gogh

After a wonderful time at The Getty Center, we continued on our journey through Los Angeles.  On the way, we stopped off to look at the house where I spent the first ten years of my childhood.


The house looks much the same as when we lived there.  The white picket fence is a newer addition, but the birch tree and large ash tree are still there.


There were roses growing in the garden, which made me remember those that my dad had always planted in that very same garden.

After leaving Los Angeles, we drove north to Ventura, which is about an hour away.  Before heading to our hotel, we drove by a place where a momentous event occurred.


This is the church where my husband and I were married almost 30 years ago.  My mother was a pastor there at the time and married us.

As you may have guessed, California is a very special place to me.  

I can’t wait to share our upcoming adventures with you tomorrow, which includes a visit to a VERY secret garden.


**I invite you to revisit some of our previous road trip adventures from the Midwest, Northeast, South and Northwest.

Most of the time when you walk through a parking lot, you are often greeted by the appearance of islands scattered throughout overplanted with badly maintained shrubs.

Last month, I drove into a parking lot that was quite unusual in that it was planted with attractive succulents and not ugly shrubs.



Instead of shrubs, the medians were planted with beautiful agave specimens.


In addition to different types of agave, were gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) succulents, which added a welcome respite to the crowded and over-pruned shrubs that usually characterize most parking lots.


In addition to the agave and other succulents were  flowering shrubs such as Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica), which was allowed to grow into its natural shape.


This parking lot was located in front of a hospital where my husband had an appointment for a routine procedure.  Our walk through the parking lot took twice as long as it would normally take with me pausing every few seconds to take pictures of the plants.


It was so refreshing to see succulents such as these  in parking lot islands instead of struggling shrubs.  They thrive in the hot, reflected heat while needing very little water.

Maybe we should rethink what we plant in parking lot islands and ditch the high-maintenance, thirsty shrubs?

For those who live in the western half of the United States, water has always been seen as a precious resource – especially during recent years as long-term drought has made its impact felt with dwindling water supplies.  As a result, many of us find ourselves looking for ways to save water and as the largest user of residential water – the landscape is the first place to make significant changes. 


Let’s look at three different low water landscape options and how they can help you save water.  


Option #1: Drought Tolerant – This landscape is characterized by lush green, flowering plants such as bougainvillea, lantana, oleanders and yellow bells – all of which do well in hot, arid climates in zones 9 and above.  While most of these plants aren’t native to the Southwest, they are considered moderately drought tolerant and are suitable for those who want more a lush-appearing desert garden.  For best results, deep water 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 and include plants like chuparosa, damianita, penstemon, Texas sage and turpentine bush.  Because these plants are native to the Southwestern region, they need infrequent watering to look their best – a good guideline is to water deeply twice a month in summer and monthly in winter.


Option #3: Extremely Drought Tolerant – For a landscape that can 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 alongside lower growing succulents like agave, candelilla and desert milkweed, which can be used to create a landscape filled with texture and contrasts.  Golden barrel, hedgehog cacti and mammillaria fill in smaller spaces and look great next to boulders.  Once established, they can survive on natural rainfall, but will look best with deep monthly watering in summer when possible.

It’s important to note that plants should be watered deeply to a depth of 2 ft., which promotes deep root growth and the soil stays moister longer.  

Whichever option you select, creating an attractive water saving landscape is within your reach that will thrive in our drought-stricken region.

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.

Do you like to visit California?


I do.  I spent the first 20 years of my life in the Golden State before getting married and moving to Arizona.


Since then, California was a frequent destination for visits with my parents, siblings and their families.  


But, now since my family all has moved to Arizona, visits were infrequent.  


That is, until my daughter was stationed at a Navy Base in CA.  We have just finished up a trip visiting with my daughter and our 3-month old grandson.


It’s times like these, that we live only 7 1/2 hours away.

During our visit, we stopped by one of our favorite little beach towns, Carpinteria, which is located about 90 miles north of Los Angeles.

Fuchsia dependens

While there, we stopped by our favorite cupcake store, Crush Cakes, and then took a stroll through Carpinteria Landscape Nursery, which is always filled with a great variety of plants.

Fuchsia dependens

As I walked into the entrance, a bright-red flowering plant caught my eye.  Fuchsia dependens is a great choice for the California climate.

Hydrangea

A group of hydrangea made me lament again that fact that they cannot grow in the desert climate.  But, that doesn’t stop me lusting after them.

Foxglove (Digitalis)
Whenever I see foxglove, I imagine myself standing in an English garden. I’ve even seen them offered for sale at our local big box store in AZ, but they would die soon after planting in the desert climate.


A wire container was filled with purple trailing lantana and coreopsis, which I thought was a great example of cool and warm color contrast.

Whenever I find myself near a plant nursery or nice-looking garden, my family knows that I whatever we are planning on doing, will be delayed for a few minutes while I take time to look around.

Because of that, I try my best to hurry as I did this day.  But, when I had finished, I couldn’t find them.  It turns out that they had found their way to the attached hardware store next to the nursery.

Mt. Lemon Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii)

This shrubby perennial grows great in the Southwest, drought tolerant garden.  Mt. Lemon marigold produces sunny, yellow flowers and looks great, but its foliage does have a strong fragrance when it is touched.  I don’t care for the fragrance, so I would be sure to plant it in the background where the fragrance won’t be an issue.


I wish that I could say that Eric was enjoying all of the plants as much as I was, but he slept through the entire visit.

Verbena lanai series

I’m always on the lookout for new plant colors and varieties.  Here was a verbena, which was labeled ‘Verbena lanai series’.  I liked its unique purple/white flowers.


This particular nursery has a variety of garden art items.  This bunny is the only one you would want to see in your garden.


I loved this flower pot with the drought tolerant kangaroo paw plant growing inside.


News of the severe drought in California is everywhere you go.  People are tearing out their lawns and forgoing flowering annuals in favor of succulents.  Many drought tolerant plants were featured throughout the nursery.  I loved the colorful variety of succulents.


What more is there to say?  I would love to have a ‘head planter’ planted with a kalanchoe.

Our trip was short, but fun-filled.  We will return again this summer to spend more time visiting and exploring.