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While fall color may be somewhat lacking in the Southwest landscape in comparison to areas with brilliant fall foliage, we do have several plants that wait until fall to begin to color the landscape with their blooms.



Turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia) is a desert native that has lovely, dark green foliage year round.  With the arrival of fall, they are transformed by the appearance of golden yellow flowers.

It’s hard to find a plant that needs less attention than this drought tolerant beauty – pruning every 3 years and monthly watering in summer is all it needs.

Learn more about why you should add turpentine bush to your landscape including how to use it for greatest effect and what plants to pair it with in my latest article for Houzz.com


Do you use any lotion that contains aloe vera?


While most of us think of the medicinal qualities of aloe vera – particularly how they provide relief from burns, it’s beauty and drought tolearance makes it well worth adding to our “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful” category.



Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) thrives in drought tolerant gardens and produces lovely, yellow flowers in spring, much to the delight of hummingbirds everywhere.

Want to learn more about this succulent beauty?  Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.



How about you?  
Have you ever grown aloe vera?

Have you ever come upon an unexpected discovery?


I did.


Last week, my husband and I flew to Southern California for a visit with our second-oldest daughter, Rachele, who is stationed at a Navy base there.


The purpose for our trip was to be there when she got her 20-week ultrasound to see what sex her baby was (more about that later).



Of course, a trip to California wasn’t complete without visiting some of the places I grew up in.  We decided to take a trip up north to the small beach town of Carpinteria, which has a fun and funky downtown area.  


My family and I used to camp there every fall next to the beach and it was and still is one of my favorite places to visit.


Every time we visit Carpinteria, we have to stop by our favorite cupcake place – CrushCakes.
Can you tell that my husband is excited about our new grand baby?

My favorite cupcake is Vividly Vanilla and I have it every time we visit.  I should branch out and try the other flavors, but I have never gotten past this one 😉

After we had eaten our cupcakes, we ventured out and past not one but two plant nurseries.  Talk about good fortune!

I am always on the lookout for new plants, unique gardening ideas as well as photographs to share with you and also in articles I write.

While I didn’t have my regular camera, I did have my phone and was eager to discover what the first nursery had to see.

Butterflies were flying from flower to flower and the nursery was awash in beautifully blooming plants.


While walking through the nursery, my attention was caught by a lovely flowering perennials including Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) and Echinacea (purple coneflower).

Rudbeckia

Echinacea purpurea 

For those of you familiar with both of these plants – what do you think a ‘baby’ from these two plants would look like?

Well, wonder no more.  Let me introduce a new perennial that is garnering a lot of attention – ‘Echibeckia’

Echibeckia

What do you think?

Aren’t they gorgeous?


As you can see, they have golden yellow petals with orange centers.  Once the flowers begin to age, the petals turn to a darker orange.

The flowers last 2 – 3 months and make great cut flowers.  Echibeckia is hardy to zones 6 and up and would make a great addition for any perennial garden.

Echibeckia along with its parents.

I have purple coneflower and black-eyed Susan growing in my desert vegetable garden where they enjoy the fertile soil and regular water.  I may need to try Echibeckia too!

I toured through the rest of the nursery and took lots of great photos and then stopped at the nursery next door, which was very unique.  I’ll share more of my nursery visits next time.

But, back to the real purpose of my visit to California.  


We came to visit our daughter and to be there when she found out whether she was having a little boy or girl.

The ultrasound technician was showing us the baby’s heart, head and spine, which all looked great.  But, when he started to concentrate on the legs and arms – I was frankly, dying for him to get to the big question we all had – boy or girl???


I was expecting him to build up to the announcement or at least say, “Do you want to know what it is?”  But no – there was no build-up to his announcement.  In the middle of talking about the arms and how much the baby was moving he casually said, “By the way it’s a boy.”

I was looking at my daughter at that moment and she was so happy to finally know what she was having.  None of us had a preference besides a healthy baby, but it is so nice to be able to know the sex.

After the ultrasound, we drove to the nearest Target store and I helped her with deciding what items to add to her baby registry.

It never ceases to amaze me how interesting things like bottles, cribs, high chairs, mobiles and strollers suddenly become once you are expecting.

Our grandson is due in January and we couldn’t be happier.  Now our granddaughter, will have a little cousin to play with 🙂

Yellow is a great color to include in the garden.  


Why?


Yellow-flowering plants will help the other colors in your garden to ‘pop’ visually because it provides great color contrast.


Damainita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

One of my favorite yellow-flowering plants is damianita, which blooms in spring and again in fall.



It thrives in hot, sunny, desert gardens, is drought-tolerant and is almost maintenance-free.

I love how it looks like ‘yellow clouds’ sitting on the ground when in bloom.  

For more information on damianita as well as a few other desert perennials that I like to use in desert landscapes, click here.
The back wall along my backyard is covered in yellow blossoms spring through fall.

Every year, I find myself pleasantly surprised that such this lovely, yellow-flowering shrub is native to southwestern deserts on into Mexico.

Most of the flowering plants in my garden have a long flowering period.  I tend not to waste time on plants that flower for less then 2 months.  

My yellow bells (Tecoma stans) provides me with beautiful, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers spring through fall.  

Hummingbirds love the flowers too!

Want to learn more about this lovely shrub?  I invite you to check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.com


What is your favorite yellow-flowering plant?

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

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Use the help of top home decorators to select matching bedside tables and a new lamp shade for your own bedroom design.
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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!


Every year, without fail, my thoughts tend to stray away from the garden and begin to focus on the upcoming holidays.


I start to think about out how many people we will be hosting for our annual Thanksgiving feast along with a host of other things… 

Will I be roasting a whole turkey or try to get away with just cooking turkey breasts like we did last year?

Can I ask my oldest daughter into making the trip to Costco and braving the line for their famous pumpkin pie?

Is my mother-in-law up to making her famous stuffing this year or will my sister-in-law be able to help her?

Of course, there are quite a few other Thanksgiving matters on my mind, but I will spare you any further details 😉

Every year when these questions are foremost in my mind and rather far away from my garden, is when my Cascalote tree begins to undergo a beautiful transformation.  Although it is a nice-looking tree throughout the entire year – it gets all dressed up for fall and winter when yellow flowers cover the entire tree canopy.


I bought my Cascalote tree when I was a horticulture student in college.  We took a field trip to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum where they were having a plant sale.

I came back with a 5-gallon Cascalote that I first planted in a large container because we were still in the process of building our house.

Once we moved in, I planted it in our front yard.

That was over 14 years ago and it has grown into a beautiful tree.

You can read more about this uniquely Southwestern tree and why you may want to plant one in your own garden in my latest article for Houzz…

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From Shabby Chic home decorations to contemporary furniture and the perfect wall mirror, browse thousands of decorating ideas to inspire your next home project.
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I hope your week is off to a great start!

You know how some people are described as ‘natural beauties’?  They look great without makeup and their hair only pulled up into a ponytail.  Well, I am not describing myself.  It takes some work in front of the mirror before I will venture outside 😉

But, I absolutely love using plants that are what I would call ‘natural beauties’ because they look great without having to fuss over them.  Now, I do love to be out in the garden, but I do not particularly like digging, dividing, pruning and deadheading often – especially in the summer months.  And so, many of the plants in my garden are ‘natural beauties’.  They look fantastic with minimal effort.  

I would like to share with you, periodically, some of my favorite ‘natural beauties’.  Today, I would like to introduce you to Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans var. stans).

 One look at this picture and it is easy to see why I love this shrub so much.  They are covered with gorgeous yellow flowers from April to October.  

Yellow Bells grows into a large shrub (6 ft. high and 4 ft. wide), with beautiful leaves and clusters of yellow, trumpet shaped flowers.


Interestingly, even though hummingbirds usually flock to flowers with red, orange and purple flowers….they can’t get enough of my Yellow Bell flowers.


I do not fertilize my Yellow Bells shrubs or give them any special treatment.  They have not been bothered by pests of any kind.
You can find them growing in many tropical and semi-tropical areas such as the southeastern areas of the United States, Central America and in the Caribbean.


They are somewhat susceptible to frost (hardy to zone 8), and mine suffers damage to the tips of the branches.  As a result, the only maintenance that I perform is an annual pruning in spring, once the threat of frost is over.
 
A plant like this has a prominent place in my garden and provides beautiful color throughout the summer, when I tend to hibernate inside within the comforts of my air-conditioned house.  I do venture out into the garden in the mornings and evenings when the temperatures are cooler to do some work.  I much prefer looking through my window at my ‘natural beauties’.
I hope you enjoyed my first ‘natural beauty’ post.  I will be featuring more in the future.
What ‘natural beauties’ do you have growing in your garden?
Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida)

When people think of the Sonoran desert, hillsides studded with saguaro cactus and cholla often come to mind.   But interspersed between the cactus, you will find the iconic palo verde trees with their beautiful green trunks and branches.

The word “Palo Verde” means “green stick” in Spanish, referring to their green trunk, which is a survival mechanism in response to drought.  
 
Palo verde trees are “drought deciduous,” which means that they will drop their leaves in response to a drought situation.  Their green trunks and branches can carry on photosynthesis, even in the absence of leaves. 

‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde (Parkinsonia hybrid ‘Desert Museum’)

Palo verde trees act as a “nurse plant” to young saguaro cacti by protecting them from the cold in the winter and from the intense sun in the summer.  Beautiful, yellow flowers are the product in the spring.    

  ‘Desert Museum’ Flower
There are three species of palo verde that are native to the desert Southwest; blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida), formerly (Cercidium floridum), foothill palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla), formerly (Cercidium microphyllum) and ‘desert museum’ palo verde (Parkinsonia x ‘Desert Museum’)
 

Another species of palo verde that is prevalent in the landscape are called palo brea (Parkinsonia praecox), formerly (Cercidium praecox).  They have a dusty green trunk and branches that twist and turn.  Their cold hardiness range is around 15 to 20 degrees F.

Palo Brea
PALO VERDE USES: Palo verde trees serve as beautiful specimen trees where their green trunks, branch structure, and flowers serve as an attractive focal point in the landscape.  They are drought tolerant, once established and provide lovely filtered shade year-round.  
 
When deciding where to place your tree, be sure to take into account that they need a lot of room to grow, mature sizes are listed below.  
 
Palo Verdes don’t do well when planted in grass and will decline over time.  Locate away from swimming pools due to flower litter in the spring.
Because of their more massive thorns and branching tendency to point downwards, palo brea trees aren’t recommended in areas close to foot traffic.  
  
Mature Sizes:
Blue Palo Verde – 30 ft x 30 ft
‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde – 30 ft high x 40 ft wide
Palo Brea – 30 ft x 25 ft
Foothills Palo Verde – 20 ft x 20 ft
As with many desert trees, Palo Verde trees have thorns, except for the ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde.  

Foothills Palo Verde
PALO VERDE MAINTENANCE:  Prune to elevate the canopy and maintain good structure.  Avoid hedging and “topping” trees as this stimulates excess, weak growth.
 
MY FAVORITE: As a landscape manager, horticulturist and arborist, I have grown and maintained all of the palo verde species mentioned, and I truly enjoy them all.  However, at home, I have 4 ‘Desert Museum’ trees.  In comparison to the other species, their trunks are a deeper green; they produce larger flowers, are thornless and grow very quickly in the desert.  Also, they require little, if any, tree staking when planted. 
This beautiful plant is one of my favorite shrubs in the garden – so much so, that I have three.  Yellow bells produce bell-shaped flowers beginning in spring and lasting through the fall months until the first frost.
 
 Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the flowers.  The vibrant green foliage and colorful flowers make this shrub a welcome addition to any desert landscape. 

Yellow Bells is a large shrub that grows to a height of 4 – 8 ft. and spreads 3 – 8 ft. wide.  You can find its native habitat in the Americas.  There are two different types; Tecoma stans angustata and Tecoma stans stans.  Visually, the most significant difference is in the shape of the leaves.  Tecoma stans stans had a broader leaf and are pictured above and below.

USES:

Because of its size, this large shrub makes a great backdrop plant.  I have used it to screen fences, sheds and also planted it up against the house.  Yellow Bells works well as a tall, naturally-shaped hedge.  This shrub thrives in full sun to filtered shade.  They do best in warm-winter areas but can be successful as a summer annual in colder regions.

MAINTENANCE:

This shrub is relatively low-maintenance.  It will freeze back in the winter months when temperatures go below 28 degrees F.  Since it blooms on current season’s growth, all that is required is to prune back the frost damage in early spring.  Seed pods are produced and can be removed if desired, which will extend the bloom period and improve the appearance, (the seed pods do not bother me, and I do not remove mine).   After an initial application of slow-release fertilizer when planting Yellow Bells, I have not needed to fertilize further. 

**Occasionally, caterpillars will appear but can be easily removed by spraying some BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) which is an organic pesticide.

 
 

COMMON NAMES: 

There are many familiar names for these beautiful shrubs.  Tecoma stans angustata is native to the Southwestern US and northern Mexico and goes by the names Arizona yellow bells, yellow bells, and yellow trumpet bush. 
 
Tecoma stans stans are native to Florida, the Caribbean and parts of South America and also goes by the name of yellow bells and sometimes yellow elder.  Because of the overlap of familiar names, be sure to purchase plants based on their scientific name.