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Do you have friends with whom you share a common interest?


I do.


My friend and fellow blogger, Amy Andrychowicz of Get Busy Gardening loves gardening as much as I do.  Amy and I have spent time together in Arizona and later in Florida.



Last week, while on a road trip through the Midwest, I made sure to make a stop in Minneapolis to visit with Amy and see her garden in person.




You may be wondering what a gardener from a hot, dry climate would have in common with one from a cold, temperate climate?  


My winter temps can get down to 20 – 25 degrees in my desert garden while Amy’s goes all the way down to -30 to -25 degrees.  That is up to a 50 degree difference!

But, believe it or not, there are a large number of plants that can grow in both climates.


Entering Amy’s back garden, my attention was immediately drawn to her large beds filled with colorful perennials.


I love iris!

I am always taking pictures of iris throughout my travels.  While they can grow very well in Arizona, I have never grown them myself.  


The major difference between growing irises in the Southwest and the Midwest is the time that they bloom.  Iris will bloom earlier in the spring while their bloom won’t start until late spring in cooler regions.


After seeing Amy’s in full bloom, I may need to rethink planting these beautiful plants in my own garden.


Succulents aren’t just for the warmer regions.  I have encountered prickly pear cacti in some unexpected places including upstate New York.

Here, Amy has a prickly pear enjoying the sun flanked by two variegated sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ that produces reddish flowers in late summer to early autumn.

This plant also can grow in desert gardens, but does best in the upper desert regions or in the low desert in fertile soil and filtered shade.


You might not expect to see water harvesting practiced outside of arid regions. But you can see examples of water harvesting throughout the United States.

This is Amy’s rain garden.  The middle of the garden is sloped into a swale that channels and retains rainwater allowing it to soak into the soil.  Plants are planted along the sides of the swale who benefit from the extra water.


A water feature was surrounded by low-growing plants including one that caught my eye.


This ground cover had attractive, gray foliage covered with lovely, white flowers.  I wasn’t familiar with this plant and asked Amy what it was.


I love the name of this plant, ‘Snow in Summer’ (Cerastium tomentosum).  While it thrives in hot, dry conditions, it does not grow in warmer zones 8 – 11.



Enjoying the shade from the ground cover was a frog.


I always enjoy seeing plants that aren’t commonly grown where I live.  I have always liked the tiny flowers of coral bells (Heuchera species).  It blooms throughout the summer in cooler climates. 


Do you like blue flowers?  I do.  I first saw Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ growing on a visit to the Lurie Gardens in Chicago.

This lovely perennial won’t grow in my desert garden, so I’m always excited to see it during my travels.



Amy had two beautiful clematis vines just beginning to bloom.  

I must admit to being slightly envious of her being able to grow these lovely, flowering vines.  Years ago after moving to Arizona, I tried growing clematis.  While it did grow, it never flowered.  Clematis aren’t meant to be grown in hot, dry climates.

Aren’t these single, deep pink peonies gorgeous?

While I am usually content with the large amount of plants that I can grow in my desert garden, peonies are top on my list of plants that I wish would grow in warmer climates such as mine.

Amy’s garden was filled with beautiful, flowering peonies of varying colors.


I took A LOT of pictures of her peonies. 




There was even a lovely bouquet of peonies decorating the dining room table.


Amy’s back garden is divided up into individual beds and one entire side of the garden is filled with her impressive vegetable garden.



You may be surprised to find that growing vegetables is largely the same no matter where you live.  The main difference is the gardening calendar.  For example, I plant Swiss chard in October and enjoy eating it through March.  In Amy’s garden, Swiss chard isn’t planted until late spring.  


Swiss chard


The raised vegetable beds were painted in bright colors, which contrasted beautifully with the vegetables growing inside.  Even when the beds stand empty, they still add color to the landscape.

Green Beans

Kale



Young pepper plants took advantage of a hot, sunny location in which they will thrive.


One thing that is different in vegetable gardening is the practice of ‘winter sowing’.  When Amy first told me about this method of sowing and germinating seeds, I was fascinated.

Basically, seeds are planted in containers with holes poked on the bottom for drainage.  The containers are then covered with plastic tops also covered with holes.  

In mid-winter, the containers are set outside.  Snow and later, rain water the plants inside the containers and the seeds germinate once temperatures start to warm up.

Amy has a great blog post about winter sowing that I highly recommend.

As we got ready to leave, we walked through the side garden, which had a wooden bridge.



Different varieties of thyme were planted amount the pavers for a lovely effect.  


Thyme can make a great ground cover in areas that receive little foot traffic.


In the front garden, I noticed the characteristic flowers of columbine growing underneath the shade tree.

I don’t often see red columbine.  Amy’s reseeds readily, so she always has columbine coming up.



This is a sweet, pink columbine that has smaller, but more plentiful flowers.

I had visited Amy’s garden through her blog, Get Busy Gardening for a long time and it was so wonderful to be able to see it in person.  It is beautiful!


I encourage you to visit Amy’s blog, which is filled with a lot of helpful advice – even for those of us who live in the Southwest.

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.

Have you ever made a discovery that was literally under your nose?  

I did.

Earlier this month, I embarked on a tour of low-water gardens that displayed sustainable design throughout the greater Phoenix area.  

The earlier parts of our tour showed examples of water harvesting using cisterns along with man-made arroyos.  Then we viewed a creative example of sustainable design for a beautiful parking lot that needed no supplemental water and little to no maintenance.


I mentioned last week that I had saved the best for last and I can’t wait to share with you this jewel in the midst of a desert city.

The last stop on our tour of low-water and sustainable gardens was the Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden.
 
The garden is just over 5 acres and sits hidden from the street next to Chaparral Park in central Scottsdale.

Over 200 different types of plants are used throughout the garden, all of which are drought-tolerant and well-adapted to our hot, dry climate.
 
My friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, came with me to this beautiful garden (you can see her at the top of the terraced planters).
 
One of my favorite parts of the garden included this innovative design, called the ‘Terraced Cascade’ which creates the appearance of water traveling down between terraced planters filled with Palo Blanco trees (Acacia willardiana) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata).  
 
 
 Water does flow down discretely hidden steps between the terraces during times of heavy rainfall toward the water harvest basin where it waters existing plants before flowing underground toward the nearby lake.
 
 
Raised planters were filled with flowering Ocotillo  as well as Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides).
 
Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) in the foreground and Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlanderi) growing against the Ocotillo.
I must admit that I was surprised to find this garden in an area that I used to spend a lot of time in.
 
Years ago, before the garden existed, my husband and I would take evening walks around the nearby lake with our daughter.  Believe it or not, before there was a garden, there used to be a miniature golf course in this location. 
 
 
I love stone walls and would have some in my own garden, if I could afford them.  The stone walls were capped with flagstone and had rows of round stones, which added an unexpected touch of texture.  
 
 
From our vantage point, we could see to the other side of the garden where a tall, dead tree stood.  Trees like this are called a ‘snag’, which is a dead or dying tree.  This tree provides a home for hawks, which help keep the rabbit population down. 
 
Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
Gabion walls were used along pathways to created terraces to help slow down storm water in order to reduce flooding while watering the plants.
 
The demonstration garden is located next to a water treatment plant and part of the garden sits on top of a reservoir that contains 5.5 million gallons of treated water.
 
Deer Grass in the foreground.
 
One of the things that I enjoy about demonstration gardens is that they ‘demonstrate’ different gardening methods as well as showcasing plants.
 
In this case, I was impressed with the collection of plant species used, which aren’t typically seen in residential or commercial landscapes, which is a shame.
 
 
As we walked down the main path, we came upon a man-made, mesquite ‘bosque’.  The word ‘bosque’ is used to refer to stands of trees nearby rivers or washes throughout the southwestern United States.  Usually, you’ll find these bosques made up of mesquite trees.
 
This bosque was planted with Honey Mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa), which is simply stunning in spring when it’s bright-green leaves reappear.  A warning though – it has thorns.
 
Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox) trees and gabion walls line the main walkway.
 
Plants are maintained just the way I like them – no shearing or over-pruning.  
Gold Mound Lantana, Orange Bush Lantana and Pink & White Globe Mallow.
 
The main pathway parallels the local dog park.
 
 
There is little that can compare to the beauty of the  new spring leaves of mesquite trees.  I love how the coral-colored variety of Bougainvillea and the yellow flowers of Aloe Vera look like brightly-colored jewels along with the leaves of the mesquite.
 
 
Nearing the end of the trail, I couldn’t help but marvel at this beautiful garden and its creative design.
 
Throughout the garden were educational signs talking about a myriad of gardening subjects that were clearly illustrated by the garden itself including planning and design, plant care and desert habitat.
 
 
A large cistern was located on one end of the trail, which was filled with the average amount of water that a household uses in 1 week.  
 
Around the outer border of the cistern is an American Indian saying that says:
 
“THE FROG DOES NOT DRINK UP THE POND IN WHICH HE LIVES”
 
Those are words that all of us who live in the dry, southwest should all ponder…
 
*******************
 
The Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is located at Hayden and McDonald Roads in Scottsdale.  It is open from sunrise to 10:30 at night.
 
I hope you have enjoyed these posts of our tour of sustainable, southwestern landscapes in the greater Phoenix area.
 
Pam and I drove about 170 miles in one day and we weren’t able to see all of the great examples of sustainable landscaping.  However, if you are interested in seeing examples of sustainable gardening, then I would recommend starting at the Desert Botanical Garden, which is filled with arid-adapted plants that thrive in our climate with minimal water and fuss.
 
If you haven’t visited Pam’s blog, Digging, I encourage you to do so.  Many of the plants that she grows in Austin do well in our climate too.  Did I also mention that she is an author?  She has a fabulous book called Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard, which I highly recommend.

What do you think of when someone mentions ‘sustainable landscaping’ to you?  


Do visions of stark landscapes with a few dried out plants and cactus come to mind?  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Sustainable landscapes are beautiful, low-maintenance and drought-tolerant.

Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden
Last week, I spent an entire day visiting some great sites throughout the greater Phoenix area, which have some great examples of sustainable landscaping.  

Now if you are thinking that I did this all by myself, you would be wrong.  My friend and fellow southwest-blogger, Pam Penick, came up for a visit from Austin, Texas to see how we do sustainable landscaping here in Phoenix.

Our first stop was a visit to Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Campus in the East Valley.  

A row of Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana) trees stand along the side of an arroyo that catches rain water.

The campus is located on a former Air Force Base and it was decided that the lackluster appearance of the location needed a huge facelift.

The new academic complex consists of several buildings connected by separate courtyards – each with great examples of sustainable landscaping.

Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) trees, Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) shrubs and potted Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)

Each courtyard had inviting, shady areas along with sunny spots so that whatever the season, students were drawn to enjoy the outdoors.

All the plants were arid-adapted and relatively low-maintenance.


Concrete cisterns collected sporadic rainfall and the overflow is directed toward a swale that collected excess storm water.  Plants along the swale benefit from the extra water.

Most of the area within the courtyards was covered in stabilized, decomposed granite (DG) that allows rainwater to permeate and keeps the ‘heat island’ effect away in the absence of excess concrete.

Gabion wall with Lady’s Slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)

Gabion walls are filled with river rock that had been saved from the previous site and were used throughout the complex to create low walls.  One of my favorite succulents, lady’s slipper, looks great when planted against walls like this one.

Aloe Vera planted in rows underneath Palo Blanco trees.

I must admit that I have not been a huge fan of aloe vera plants.  But, after seeing how effectively they were used throughout the courtyards, I have changed my mind.

They are so striking when used in masses like this.  Of course, I realize that this is their best season and soon they will be done flowering, but even when out of flower, the striking texture of the leaves would still look great in this area.

Aloe Vera

Here is another photo of the aloe vera – I’m really loving this plant now.

Anna’s Hummingbird and Aloe Vera flower.

The hummingbirds were very busy feeding from the flowers of the aloe.

The concrete that was removed during construction was repurposed into step stones, benches and retaining walls.

Called ‘urbanite’, this recycled material is becoming increasingly popular and is one great choice for hardscapes.

If you are renovating your landscape and concrete removal is part of that – think about reusing it in the landscape.  Want to use ‘urbanite’ and don’t have any broken concrete?  You can sometimes find it available on Craigslist.


Palo verde trees were in full bloom and used to great effect with the straight, modern lines of the building.


One of the reasons that I love palo verde trees so much (I have three in my own garden), is that they have great branch architecture – meaning that they shape of the branches and how they grow is beautiful.


During heavy rainfall, excess water runs from the cistern down the swale, watering the plants alongside it.

River rock removed during construction was saved and reused for the cisterns and the swales.


The outside of the buildings were covered with grape ivy, which help to keep the building cooler as it helps shield the building from the sun’s rays.


The walkway the ran alongside the buildings was planted with Sonoran desert natives such as Palo Verde and Creosote.


Along the walkways, arroyos were created to help channel storm water in this area that was previously covered in concrete and would flood frequently.


Mesquite trees were salvaged for use in this area and smaller shrubs and cacti were planted along the arroyo.

There are many different elements of this landscape that contribute to its sustainability – the use of recycled plants and materials, areas formerly flooded now direct storm water toward cisterns and plants, reduced concrete areas decrease the heat island effect, and finally arid-adapted plants decrease the need for supplemental water.

*I attended school at the main campus of ASU in Tempe.  Since then, my major (Urban Horticulture) has been moved to the Polytechnic Campus.  How I wish that I had had the opportunity to study at this beautiful campus!

This landscape was designed by Ten Eyck Architects who won an ASLA award for the sustainable design of the landscape.  To learn more about this well-designed landscape, click here.

Pam and I had a wonderful visit and this was just the first stop on our tour!

Next time, I will show you the next spots along our journey including some innovative landscapes that need no supplemental water, while still looking beautiful.