I thought that I would share with you my observations on various landscape practices that I viewed over a one week period last month.

As a horticulturist (or a plant lady as my kids call me), I have a hard time “turning off” and not looking at landscapes as I go by.  I am always looking for a beautiful garden 🙂

So here are my observations, in no particular order.

Got floppy agave?

This is the time of year where you will see agave that seem to have suddenly flopped over.

I saw both of these agave on my way home from my mother-in-law’s house.

There was one year when I was working as a horticulturist for golf courses and we had quite a few of our agave flop over.  Now, I had a fairly good idea what had happened to them, but to confirm my diagnosis, we had to dig them up.
Once we did, we were hit with a truly horrible odor, which confirmed that we were dealing with agave snout weevils.

You can read more about agave snout weevil and how to recognize an infestation and how to prevent them here.
Okay, my second observation came courtesy of a facebook follower who asked me if gray Palo Verde trunks were normal.

I explained to her that as Palo Verde trees age, it is common for their trunk to turn gray.  

Her question reminded me again of how much I didn’t know when I started on horticulture course work and all the questions that I had.  There are way to many things like this that I overlook and need to remember so that I can assist new desert gardeners.

Speaking of Palo Verdes, I saw this beautiful ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde tree in front of the hospice facility where my father-in-law was.

You may be surprised to find that there is a serious problem with this tree.

Can you see what it is?

Here it is a bit closer.

The tree has been staked, but the cable wire used was not covered where it comes in contact with the tree trunk.

As you can see, the cable wire is digging into the trunk and starting to cut off the vascular system of the tree, which is located around the outer portion of the trunk.
Unfortunately, I see this quite often.  Usually in parking lot trees.  There is still time to remove the wire in this case.

When staking a tree, always cover the portion of the cable wire that touches the tree with a piece of drip hose or a regular hose and make sure that you can adjust it as the trunk grows larger.
When Ocotillo are sold and transported, their canes are often tied up for safety for both the handler and the ocotillo itself.

However once planted, you do not need to keep it tied up.  Remove the ties and soon you will be enjoying the beauty of your Ocotillo as it grows and spreads out its beautiful canes.

Aren’t they so beautiful?

My last observation occurred as I traveled to the outskirts of the Phoenix metro area where I was to meet with an organization regarding a landscape service project.

As I drove, the suburbs began to melt away and I was surrounded by farmland.  As I turned down the street where my meeting was located, I saw that it was lined with mature pecan trees and large farmhouses sitting a few acres each.

It was just so beautiful…

I bet you didn’t think that places like this existed in the desert, did you?

Well, there are actually many areas like this.  As I left, I could just picture myself living in a large farmhouse with acres of land to garden in.  But then I reminded myself that I have a hard enough time keeping up with my 1/3 of an acre 😉


I hope your week is going well.

My younger sister (not my youngest sister, Chicken Farmer), and her family are coming out for a visit tomorrow.  Her husband is interviewing for a job out here and I am very hopeful that they will be moving out here shortly.

Believe it or not, I was the first of my family to move out to Arizona from Southern California 25 years ago after I married my husband.  Then 5 years ago, my youngest sister and my brother and their families moved out here.  My parents followed a year later and now perhaps my other sister will soon move here.

I hope it all works out.

Oh by the way…..11 days until my daughter’s due date.  
I am beginning to get just slightly excited!

Earlier this week, we were enjoying our weekly dinner at Double S Farms, where my mother, sister and her family live.  I must admit that I always look forward to these nights.  I get to enjoy being with my family, plus I don’t have to cook dinner 😉

Usually after dinner, we take a stroll out in the back garden and check out what is going on in the vegetable garden – cucumbers, corn and tomatoes this week.  The fruit trees are heavily laden with fruit – apple and plum trees will soon be ready pick.  

What drew my attention this week was the young Sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo) tree that had suffered frost-damage from our severe cold snap last winter.  The entire top of the tree had died.

For a few months, my brother-in-law and mother had waited to see if the tree was still alive and if any new growth would occur.
Well, the entire tree above the ground, was killed by the frost.
However, at the soil surface, by the tree trunk, there was new growth.  There was vibrant new growth occurring.
So, I recommended that they keep the tree and remove the dead part of the tree.  This was easily done using a pruning saw.
There were numerous new branches growing from the base and we selected the strongest one to keep and pruned off the others. 

We kept the stakes and simply readjusted downward to help hold up the new growth, which will help to train it upright.
Of course, the other option was to remove the entire tree and start over with a new one.  However, there is a well-established root system already in place.  So why not take advantage of that?  When you first plant any type of plant, there is transplant shock and then it takes time for the roots to establish themselves.
By simply selecting the new growth, we have a huge head start.  Yes, it is short, but with an established root system, it will grow very quickly.
Plus, just think of the $ saved – I just love a good bargain 🙂

A few days ago, I talked about the proper way to dig a hole for a tree.  Now I realize that it may seem like a boring subject, but you would be surprised at how many people get it wrong and their trees suffer problems afterward.

So I am determined to go forward and talk about another fascinating subject, which is how to and how not to stake trees 😉

Okay, before we get into staking, we need to get our tree into the hole.  It can seem a bit daunting when you have to figure out how to get the tree out of the container.  For trees that are in 15-gallon containers, cut down one side of the container until you reach the bottom and do the same on the opposite side.  Then cut along the circumference of the bottom between the two vertical cuts.  Get the tree as close as you can to the hole and as you carefully grab the root ball, have another person slide the container back away from the tree.

Hasn’t this been incredibly so exciting so far?  Well, there is more….

When planting a tree that has been in a wooden box, first tilt the tree and have someone take out the wooden bottom.  Then place the entire box, with the tree, inside of the hole.  Then cut the metal strips that are bound around the box and lift out the sides of the box.  That’s it!  You can now fill the hole in around the tree, while gently packing in the dirt around the tree.  Water in well.

Okay, now some trees need to be staked while others do not.  If your tree does not stand upright on its own, then you probably need to stake it.

Now there is a right way and a wrong way to do this and many trees are staked the wrong way.

A single trunk tree should be staked, using two stakes that are tied to the tree at one point.  That’s it!

Well okay, there is a bit more.  First off, make sure that the part that is tied to the tree is covered cable or wire.  You can cut a piece of hose or drip tubing to cover the wire where it ties to the tree.

**If your tree came with a stake that is tied right up against the trunk – REMOVE IT!  This stake does not help your tree and actually keeps branches from growing where the stake covers the tree trunk.  It also limits the movement of your tree that is necessary to develop trunk strength.

The point where the cable or tie should be attached to the lower half of the tree.  

Stakes should not hold up a tree so tightly so that the tree cannot move.  Trees need to move in the wind.  They build their trunk ‘muscles’ that way.  The goal is for your tree trunk to flare out at the bottom, which is an indicator of strong root growth and trunk strength.

If you have a multi-trunk tree, then you may need to use more then two tree stakes, above.

Tree stakes are not meant to be permanent.  Think of them like your kid’s braces – they are temporary.  From time to time, check the tree cable (tie) and adjust if necessary to allow for tree growth.

A good goal is to try to remove the stakes one year after planting.  I have seen quite a few large trees that are still attached to their stakes.  It often looks more like the tree is holding up the stake.  

Removing tree stakes is very easy and you don’t have to dig them out.  You can usually break them off at the soil surface.
Unfortunately in some cases, people do not remove the stakes  and damage occurs….

This can actually kill your tree.
So remember, stakes are temporary and should be used to keep your young tree from falling over until it can increase its trunk strength.  So, be sure that your tree can move about while still staked and be sure to remove your stakes AND ties once your tree is able to stand on its own.


I hope all of you are having a good April so far.  For me, life has been extra busy with consults as well as with writing.  I wanted to share with you that I have been asked to become a garden columnist for another magazine and I am very excited about it.  I will let you know when my first article for this newer magazine is published 🙂