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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.

This morning, I was on my way to a landscape consultation for my fellow Arizona gardener, Claudette, who blogs over at Gilbert Garden Girls.


As I always do before driving to an appointment, I entered the address into my car’s GPS and was pleased to see that it would only take 20 minutes to get to her house from mine.
  
However, as I drove down her street, the addresses did not match up with hers.  So, I took out my phone and brought up my trusty Google Maps app and found that my car’s formerly reliable GPS had misdirected me.  Luckily, I was only 1 mile away and so I was only a couple of minutes late, which truth be told, is normal for me.


My unanticipated detour did have a silver lining, though.

I drove by a house that had a beautiful hop bush shrub (Dodonaea viscosa).  


 This evergreen, drought tolerant shrub does wonderfully in our southwestern climate, and it is a frequent addition to landscapes that I design. 

Hop bush is quite versatile and relatively fuss-free, especially if maintained by pruning every 6 months or so, as shown above. 


Here is another example of a hop bush shrub that has been pruned more formally, which it handles well.


 Of course, you can always let it grow into its more natural form as a large shrub.

For more information on hop bush including what its flowers look like and why it’s becoming a popular substitute for oleanders, you can read my earlier blog post – “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Hopbush the Alternative to Oleanders.”


Have you ever seen this shrub where you live?  How was it maintained?  As a shrub, hedge or small tree?

Agave are my favorite succulent of mine in my own garden and also finds itself a prominent addition to many of my landscape designs.


There is so much to love about agave, from the unique, rosette pattern of their succulent leaves to the dramatic flowering stalk that they send up toward the end of their lives.



While I have several species of agave, whale’s tongue is one of my favorites.

This agave first drew my attention when my friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, wrote about the one growing in her garden, where it takes center stage in her backyard.

Since then, I have seen several throughout the greater Phoenix landscape as well.  


There is so much to like about this agave including how its blue-green color adds great color contrast to the landscape.


I also happen to like the unique shape of its leaves, that really do resemble a whale’s tongue.

Do you think this lovely agave deserves a place in your landscape?

Learn more about how and where to plant this agave as well as what plants to pair it with for maximum impact in my latest Houzz plant profile.  



Have you ever seen this agave in the landscape?  What would you plant alongside it?

I have had a love affair with roses for over 23 years.




It all began when we bought our first house.  I was a young mother with two girls who was giddy with the possibilities of having her very own spot of garden to grow roses in.

We would take our girls around to the local rose gardens where so could see what types of roses to pick for our new rose garden.

The rose garden was located in the front yard along the side of the driveway.  At the time, money was tight so we ended up purchasing twenty different ‘grade 1 1/2’ roses for $3 each at Home Depot.
‘Grade 1’ roses are considered to be the cream of the crop and the best type to purchase based on the their size and number of canes (stems).

A few months later, my roses were in full bloom and the talk of the neighborhood (we definitely stuck out from the surrounding neighbors since we had taken out a large chunk of lawn to grow a LOT of roses).


Many people ask if I had a favorite rose and the answer is “yes”.  Mr. Lincoln with its deep red blossoms which were incredibly fragrant always stands out in my memory of our first rose garden.  At one time, it reached almost 6 ft. tall and had over 30 blossoms covering it.

Three years later, we had gone from 20 rose bushes to 40 – all a different type of hybrid tea or shrub rose.  I realize that I maybe went a little overboard, but I loved growing roses – no two roses were the same.  

Whenever we were traveling, if there was a rose garden nearby – we would visit it…

The rose garden at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.

That’s me posing by the roses and the castle.

Santa Barbara Mission rose garden in California

After we sold our home in Phoenix, we moved to the suburbs to be closer to my husband’s job.  As we built our new home, I knew that I did want room for a few roses.


After adopting our three youngest kids, I was eager to share my love for roses with them.  They each picked out their own rose from a rose catalog and helped plant them.  It was a fun experience, complete with finding earthworms in the soil and more.

While their roses did grow, they didn’t have the best location, which was rather shady and so they turned out rather straggly.  Needless to say, they were pulled out a couple of years later.

Even though I didn’t have roses growing in my garden, I still went out of my way to enjoy them whenever I found myself on the road.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.
Stopping to smell the roses in Santa Barbara, CA.

A few months ago, I realized that my love affair with roses never ended and that it was time to think seriously about growing a few again.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you about my decision to grow a few roses in a former vegetable garden that I could see from my kitchen window.  I promised to let you know what type of roses I would plant.

The first one was just planted yesterday.


Not surprisingly, it is a Mr. Lincoln hybrid tea rose.  

While it looks rather humble right now, I have visions of a tall rose busy covered with fragrant roses whose scent comes through my kitchen window.

This is but the first rose in the garden.  There are two more that have been ordered from mailorder rose companies.  I will be sure to share what those are when they come!
I am so happy that I have returned to growing the plant that inspired my passion for gardening years ago.

**Have you ever grown roses?  Do you have a favorite type? If you find yourself overwhelmed by the different types of roses there are to pick from, I have written an article for Houzz, which looks closer at several of the most popular roses in order to help people select the best type of rose for their garden.


I love flowers.  In fact, it was my love affair with flowers that inspired me to get my degree in horticulture.  I figured that life is too short to not do what you love, so working as a horticulturist allows me to be around blooming plants throughout much of the year.


As the weather begins to cool, blossoms begin to lessen, but one of the many benefits of living in the Southwest is that there are always some plants showing off their flowers.


Today, I’d like to share with you just a few of the flowering plants that I saw during the past couple of weeks, which are decorating the fall landscape.


Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) flowers in spring and fall, is extremely drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F.

Creeping Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii) is a groundcover, which flowers in spring and fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F.
The Cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco) flowers in fall and on into early winter, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 20 degrees F.  While thorny, there is a new variety with a smooth trunk, called ‘Smoothie’.
Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is an ornamental grass that flowers in fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 0 degrees F.

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) flowers all year long, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 17 degrees F.  

These are but a few plants that are still in bloom in November in my zone 9 climate.

How about you?  What is blooming in your garden or neighborhood?

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.  

The beginning of fall is only a few weeks away as the long summer winds down.  Fall is a wonderful time in the garden and is the best time of year for adding new plants, allowing them a chance to grow before the heat of next summer arrives.


Turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia) in bloom

When deciding what plants to add to your garden, many people concentrate on incorporating plants that bloom in spring and summer, but there are a number of attractive plants that bloom in fall.

Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Using plants with overlapping bloom periods ensure year-round beauty for your landscape.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Many plants that flower in fall also flower at other times of year as well such as damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and autumn sage (Salvia greggii)

Early October is a great time to start adding new plants, so now is a great time to decide what type of fall-blooming plants to add.

I recently shared 10 of my favorite, drought tolerant fall bloomers in my latest article for Houzz.  I hope you’ll include some of these in your landscape where they will help to decorate your fall landscape.

Do you have a favorite fall-blooming plant?

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. 


A few years ago, while visiting my sister in the Palm Springs area in California, we visited the Living Desert Museum.  This is a combination botanical garden and zoo.



We had a great time exploring along with our kids and I enjoyed taking pictures of the different plants that I saw.


While walking through the gardens, I noticed a small shrub, which at first glance, I assumed was a small species of Leucophyllum (Texas Sage).




I took a quick photo and then walked on.

Fast forward 2 years later, where I found myself learning about a newer plant on the market that thrives in desert heat, is drought-tolerant, flowers all year and needs little to no pruning.

Now any plant that looks great but isn’t fussy in desert gardens is one that I definitely need to get to know better.  

I found out that this particular shrub was supposed to look a lot like a gray Texas sage.  That was when I remembered taking the photo, above.

I was thrilled to find out that I had been introduced to this plant earlier, but hadn’t known it.

There is so much that I can say about Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana ‘Blue Bells’) and I have written an article about this beautiful, yet tough shrub, which you can read in my latest Houzz plant profile…

Kitchen designs, bathroom designs, and more ∨

Hire residential landscape architects to help with all aspects of landscape design, from selecting or designing outdoor patio furniture, to siting a detached garage or deck.
A home remodeler or residential architect will see the potential in the architecture and building design of your home.

I strongly encourage you to be a trendsetter in your neighborhood by planting this lovely shrub in your garden!

If anyone asks me what is on my list of succulent favorites, Santa-rita prickly pear would be near the top.


Santa-rita prickly pear with new pads.

This beautiful prickly pear is also often referred to as ‘purple prickly pear’.  

I love how the its gray/blue pads become gradually tinged with purple as the temperatures get cold.

To learn more about this particular prickly pear and why you’ll want to plant one in your garden, check out my latest article for Houzz.com

Architects, interior designers, and more ∨

Use the help of top home decorators to select matching bedside tables and a new lamp shade for your own bedroom design.
Find a wall shelf, customizable closet organization and stylish furnishings to whip your closet into shape.


I hope you enjoy my latest plant article for Houzz.  I’ve been working on profiling plants that thrive in the desert southwest.


Stay tuned later this month for another great plant!