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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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My Abraham Darby shrub rose and my little dog, Tobey.
If you live in a hot arid climate like me, chances are that your roses are feeling the heat and aren’t looking their best right now. While gardeners in cooler climates celebrate summer with beautiful rose blooms, the opposite is true for those of us who live in the desert. 
 
Roses actually grow quite well in hot, southwestern zones, and even though mine has a somewhat sunburned appearance – I’m not worried because this is normal.
 
You see, roses that are grown in the low desert regions, don’t like the intense sun and heat that summer brings. As a result, the flowers become smaller and the petals literally burn in the sun and turn crispy.  By July, you will likely not see any new roses appearing until October once the weather cools.
 
The rose blooms themselves aren’t the only parts of the roses affected by the summer heat – the leaves can come away sunburned as well.
 
When faced with brown crispy petals and leaves, you may be tempted to prune away the damaged leaves, but don’t.  
 
There are two reasons why you shouldn’t prune your roses in the summer.  The first is that pruning will stimulate new growth that will be even more susceptible to sunburn damage.  Second, the older branches and leaves will help to shade the growth underneath from the sun.
 
I know that is very hard not to prune away the browning leaves, but once September comes around, you can get out your pruning shears and prune back your rose bushes by 1/3. This will remove the sun-damaged flowers and leaves, stimulating new growth. 
 
 
Before you start lamenting the less than stellar appearance of your summer roses and feel that it is easier to grow roses in other regions, you would be wrong. Oh, certainly we have to deal with our roses not looking their best in the summer.  But, compare that with gardeners in other areas who have to deal with the dreaded Japanese beetle that shows up every summer and eats their roses. Or, how about those people who live in more humid climates and are having to deal with severe cases of blackspot or powdery mildew (white spots on the leaves).  
 
And lastly – we are fortunate to enjoy two separate blooming seasons for our roses.  In fall, when many other gardeners are putting their roses to bed for the winter, ours are getting ready to bloom a second time that year.
 
 
And so, I will ignore my less than beautiful roses this summer, because I know that they will look fantastic this fall 🙂
 
How about you?  Do you grow roses in the desert?
 
 
 

Summer is a season filled with warm weather (or hot if you live in the desert) and brightly colored blossoms.


While I usually enjoy the view of my summer garden from the comfort of my air-conditioned house, this year I’ve experienced a twist in my summer gardening experience.  


I have spent time gardening this summer in an entirely different state.


It all started back in 2007 when my daughter, Brittney, met a handsome geologist and got married.  Fast forward to 2015 and that same geologist finished his Ph.D. and got a job offer in Michigan.  So, they packed up and moved to the picturesque town of Petoskey, which is located at the ‘top of the mitt’ as Michiganders like to say.


In June, they bought their first home, and I was on hand to help them with their new garden.  Now, to be honest, my oldest daughter has never shown any particular interest in gardening to this point in her life, despite my best efforts.  But, that was before she had her very own house and garden.


These next few posts will highlight our garden adventures, including me learning some new things about gardening in a climate where temperatures dip to -20 degrees in winter.

Planting roses for my daughter.

Whether you live in the desert southwest, Michigan or anyplace where you have a small area in which to garden – many of the same gardening guidelines apply, and I invite you to join me on a summer gardening adventure where I promise, you’ll learn a few helpful tips for your garden.


Forecasts of a heatwave in the desert may seem a rather foreign concept when temperatures in summer are routinely over 100 degrees.  However,  when temps are predicted to be 110 degrees and over, plants in landscapes that normally handle hot weather without complaint, can suffer. 

The best preparation for heat-proofing your landscape begins before summer.  However, with the imminent arrival of a heatwave, here are two tips that will help your plants survive.
 
 
1. Provide extra water by irrigating shrubs and groundcovers in the early morning hours for an extra 1/2 hour when temperatures are forecast over 115 degrees.
Plants can uptake water more easily in the early morning as opposed to being watered during the day.  During the heat of the day, plants have to devote much of their resources to handle the stress of the heat and cannot uptake water efficiently.  Therefore, it’s best to water early in the morning so that they are replenished with water and ready to face the excessive evaporation that will occur with temperatures over 115 degrees.  
*It’s important not to overwater plants, so if the heatwave lasts more than three days, skip a day between providing extra water.
 
2. Provide temporary shade for heat susceptible plants such as hibiscus or roses.
The sun’s intense rays are even more focused during a heatwave and can cause stress to the plant itself, including sunburn damage.  This is especially true for plants that receive hot, western sun or in areas that receive reflected heat.
 
For shrubs and groundcovers, leaves may wilt and turn brown in response to a heatwave.  Even cactus and other succulents can suffer sunburn or other heat stress, which often reveals itself as yellowing.
 
Temporary shade can be provided using sections of shade cloth.
 
 
In a pinch, a lawn chair can work to add a welcome spot of shade for a plant.
 
Old sheets tied to posts, chairs or trees can also provide temporary shading until the heatwave subsides.
 
 
As I mentioned earlier, the best way to handle a desert heatwave is wise planning including using native plants, mulch and the use of trees to provide shade.  
 
In the meantime, escape the heat by hibernating indoors as much as possible 🙂
 
**You can read more about how to create a heat-proof garden in an earlier blog post.  
At first glance, violet silverleaf (Leucophyllum candid) may look like a nice gray shrub with a smattering of purple flowers.

BUT, when you crank up the humidity and add some summer rain into the mix and it really explodes with color…


These shrubs literally stop people in their tracks with their purple beauty.

Violet silverleaf is easy to grow in arid climates and when not in flower, its gray foliage provides great color contrast in the landscape.

Find out more about this Texas native and why you’ll want to include it in your garden in my lates plant profile for Houzz.com:


Have you ever seen this shrub growing?  Do you have one in your landscape?

Have you ever had a ‘substitute’ teacher?  As most of you know, a substitute teacher doesn’t do things the same way our regular teacher does.

A few years ago, I was asked to step in as a ‘substitute’ for my father-in-law’s landscape.

Meticulously pruned desert ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)
 
My father-in-law had always been a meticulous gardener and took a lot of pride in his landscape.
Have you ever seen rounder shrubs?
 
A few years earlier, I had designed the landscape around his new home and tried to convince him to allow his plants to grow into their natural shapes.  But as you can see from the photo above, he didn’t follow my advice.
 
He eventually took out his backyard grass and replaced it with artificial turf and whenever flowers or leaves would fall on the grass, he would vacuum them up – I’m not kidding.
 
We would often joke with each other about our very different styles of gardening – especially when he would come over to my house for a visit and see my plants growing “wild and free” as he would say.  
 
But despite our differences, we shared the same love for plants and the garden.
 
Unfortunately, his gardening days were numbered and he asked me to come over and help him with the gardening tasks that he could no longer do.
 
My father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in October 2010 and it progressed very rapidly.
 
So, I became his ‘substitute gardener’ and I was happy to be able to help out so that he could still enjoy the beauty of his garden, even if he could not care for it himself.
 
 
In early August of 2011, I lightly pruned back his gold lantana.  At this point, my father-in-law spent most of his time indoors sitting down. But, as I was pruning, I saw him slowly make his way out, with his walker, so he could watch me prune his plants.
 
At this point, he could no longer talk due to ALS and I’m certain that if he could have spoken, he might have asked me to make the lantana ’rounder’.
 
After this light pruning, the lantana would grow back to its original size before stopping during winter.  If they had not been pruned, they would have look quite overgrown for my father-in-law’s taste.
Light pruning involves removing 1/3 or less.  The timing of this light pruning is crucial – prune too late and your plants will be extra susceptible to damage from frost.  Don’t prune after early August in zone 9 (July in zone 8) gardens. Pruning in fall should not be done for this very reason. 
 
 
Another part of the garden that my father-in-law took a lot of pride in was his flowering annuals.  Every year, he would plant the same red geraniums and white-flowering bacopa in winter.  Once spring rolled around, he would plant red and white vinca. He never deviated by trying out newer colors or varieties.
 
I found myself taking over this job as well and when I came home and see all there was to do in my neglected garden – I didn’t mind.  It felt so good to be able to control how his garden looked because ALS had taken control of everything else.
 
My father-in-law died in September 2011, just 11 months after being diagnosed with ALS.  
 
It’s been almost 3 years since he passed away, but whenever August comes around and I find myself lightly pruning back my gold lantana – I enjoy the memory of one our last moments together in the garden as I pruned his lantana.

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I love the color purple in the garden because the color, helps to visually ‘cool’ the garden.

‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

Have you ever wondered how some plants handle our hot temperatures and intense sunlight?

Look carefully at the flowers, above.  Note the small hairs covering the petals?  They help to reflect the sun’s rays.

I like using large shrubs to screen the back wall of my garden, so I have quite a few ‘Rio Bravo’ sage shrubs.

They put on a spectacular show off and on throughout the summer when they bloom.  (Leucophyllum langmaniae) is just one species of Leucophyllum (Texas Sage).

Of course, if you insist on pruning your sage shrubs into round ‘blobs’ – you will never see the flower show.

For guidelines on how to prune your desert, flowering shrubs correctly, click here.

June is here, which marks the official beginning of hot, dry weather throughout the southwest.

While most of us can be found indoors in the comfort of air-conditioning – your plants can be suffering from the heat and intense sunlight.

May and June can be some of the most difficult months for plants in the garden until the summer rains arrive in late June.

Need some helpful tips for your June garden?

Here is my June “to-do” list that I wrote for Houzz.com.
Last Friday, my mother came over for dinner and brought with a box full of sweet, tart goodness…


Don’t these plums look delicious?

There is a single plum tree on the family farm that is incredibly prolific.


Every year, I look forward to making jam ever since my mother taught me how 3 years ago.

I usually have enough jam to last our family an entire year plus more to give as gifts to teachers and friends over the Christmas holiday.


After my mother left that evening, I got right to work and made my first batch of plum jam.  

This time, I left the peels on the plums, which dissolve during the cooking process and create the beautiful ‘plum’ color.

Other years, I have peeled the plums by boiling them first for 40 seconds.  It is a rather tedious process, but some people prefer plum jam without the peels.

For me, I like to make things simple – so the peels stayed.

Every summer brings a wonderful fruit harvest.  First are the peaches followed by the plums.  In a couple of weeks, I will be busy with the apple harvest.  I got a new recipe for apple caramel jam that I can’t wait to try out.

For more information on how to make your own jam, check out my post “A Harvest of Peaches and Jam”.

**It may be hot outside, but there a lot growing in the garden.  Join me every day this week as I post what is happening in my garden.

About this time of the year, I am busy helping my vegetable gardens transition into summer.  


That means pulling any remaining leaf lettuce.  Yes, it hurts to know that I now have to buy lettuce until next fall when I can grow it again.


Even though not all of my lettuce had bolted, none of it was edible.  Once the temperatures get up to 90 degrees, the lettuce turns bitter.



For the past 4 months, I have been harvesting a few carrots every few nights to include in salads or soups.

Now that it is getting hotter and some of the carrots are beginning to flower, it was time to harvest the rest of the remaining carrots.

I didn’t use the carrots that had flowered, since they had become woody inside.

You know, one of the things that I like about gardening is how unpredictable it can be.  The two carrots, above, were growing just 1 ft. away from each other.  

The garlic was already harvested and I concentrated on pulling out cool-season annuals that were serving as companion plants.


I love my crocs!
These nasturtiums were still blooming, so I will leave them until they begin to fade.


A quick check of my warm-season vegetables showed that my zucchini plant has its first fruit (yes, zucchini is technically a ‘fruit’).

You really have to check carefully for zucchini because they can be hard to spot.

I will have to get my mother’s famous zucchini bread recipe.


Tomatoes are hanging from the vine and will soon be turning red.

In my side garden, I have two new peach trees growing.


This one has 18 peaches on it.

I planted this peach tree in January.  Now, normally, you would want to ‘thin’ fruit so that there is only one fruit every 6 inches – this creates larger fruit.  But, I was so happy to see so much fruit on my new tree, that I just left them.

Since I won’t have enough to make peach jam, this year, I will use them to make peach vinegar.

I don’t just have peaches growing in my side garden…


My blackberry bush has ripe blackberries!

Originally, I hadn’t planned on growing blackberries in my garden, but my mother had an extra blackberry plant that she gave me last year, so I planted one.

I decided to go ahead and add more this year and planted 5 more bushes.

I only have the original blackberry bush covered in fruit because blackberries form on 1-year old growth.


My family wants me to use some of our blackberries to serve over ice cream.  

I was thinking of using them for making blackberry vinegar, which I’ll use to make salad dressing.

What do you think?  Ice cream topping or fruit-flavored vinegar?