Jan
2
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Plant of the Month

Coffeeberry-plant-0723-RK

Besides being drought-resistant, fire-resistant, and resisting browsing by rabbits, this tidy, evergreen, California native is versatile as either a hedge, screen, border, ground cover, or bank stabilizer — and works in large containers.

Coffeeberry
Frangula californica

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 5-12 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Summer (May-July)
  • Native to: California, southwest Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, northern Baja (below 7000 feet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Coffeeberry is touted as looking “trimmed without trimming”, although this tidy evergreen does take pruning well. This long-lived California native, also known as California Buckthorn, grows naturally in a wide range of habitats, with many available varieties, so check with your local nursery to find the one that best fits your climate. While commonly growing in chaparral and woodland habitats just above our deserts, it performs well in high deserts if given filtered or afternoon shade, and water once a week for its first year. Coffeeberry’s fruits contain seeds that resemble coffee beans. Its light-green, 2 to 4-inch-long leaves mature to a leathery dark green. Inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers in spring produce showy berries that are green, then red, and finally ripen to black, when they are relished by birds. Coffeeberry is fire resistant, resists browsing by rabbits and deer, and makes a great hedge, screen, border, ground cover, or bank stabilizer, and performs well in large containers.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for January

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Little John Dwarf Bottlebrush
Callistemon citrinus ‘Little John’

 

What a perfect solution to hot, dry garden sites, as well as offering the added benefits of attracting hummingbirds while repelling rabbits and deer. Besides these practical uses, this compact bottlebrush gives months of showy, red flowers for your enjoyment.

  • Plant Form: Evergreen Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3 ft. tall x 5 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Fall (March – November)
  • Native to: Australia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

Little John Dwarf Bottlebrush is a hummingbird’s delight that is compact enough to fit into any garden. This slow-growing evergreen shrub holds up in hot, dry landscapes, and resists the browsing of rabbits and deer while attracting butterflies, birds, and pollinators. Flowers are heaviest in spring and summer, but can appear throughout the entire growing season. Prune only after the heaviest bloom is over so you won’t lose the majority of flower buds for the season. This dwarf bottlebrush can be lined up for a short hedge, massed like a groundcover, or used as a middle-border accent plant. Its small size makes it great in containers, which can be moved into protected areas during hard frosts. If winter temperatures dip below 20°F in your area, you might try Little John’s more cold-hardy cousin, Rigid Bottlebrush Tree (Callistemon rigidus), and keep this 6 to 8-foot-tall shrub pruned if you want a smaller plant.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for December

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Smoke Bush ‘Young Lady’
Cotinus coggygria ‘Young Lady’

Masses of pinkish, billowy hairs on spent flower clusters are what create the illusion of smoke from summer to fall on this intriguing shrub or small tree. Smoke bush has the added surprise of fall leaf colors from yellow, orange, and red to purplish-red foliage.

  • Plant Form: Deciduous Shrub or Tree
  • Water Use: Low, Moderate
  • Mature Size: 4-6 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer – Fall (June – October)
  • Native to: Southern Europe to Central China
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F

Smoke Bush ‘Young Lady’ will treat you with billows of “smokey” flower clusters from summer through fall. Smoke Bush gets its common name not from the tiny, yellowish flowers in spring, but from billowy hairs on the stalks of spent flower clusters, covering the plant with fluffy, hazy, smoke-like puffs from summer into fall. This new variety is noted for blooming early as a young shrub, with feathery blooms covering the plant’s blue-green foliage. Other varieties, such as Royal Purple Smoke Tree (12 – 15 feet tall), produce pinkish-purple, smoke-like airy seed clusters backed by reddish-purple foliage. Fall leaf colors vary from yellow, orange, and red to purplish-red. For the best bloom, prune very lightly in early spring. Hard pruning to the framework induces new growth with larger leaves, but compromises flowers. Useful as a single specimen, grouped or massed in shrub borders, or as an informal hedge or screen (a smoke screen!).

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for November

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Sparklette Trumpet Bush
Tecoma ‘Sparklette’

You will be amazed that this tropical-looking shrub actually thrives in our deserts. The showy trumpet-shaped flower clusters attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees…and admiring humans!

  • Plant Form: Evergreen or Semi-deciduous Shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 3-5 ft. tall x 2-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring – Fall (March – October)
  • Native to: Texas, Florida, W. Indes, Mexico, Central and South America
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 20°F

Sparklette Trumpet Bush is a drought-tolerant, heat-loving perennial that appears much too lush and tropical to survive in the southwest, but it performs beautifully here. All Trumpet Bush species love heat, but most have frost-sensitive leaves. Their roots, however, survive much colder temperatures, and plants recover very quickly if trimmed back to 12 inches when new growth starts in the spring. Related to our Desert Willow (notice the flower similarity), its lush, green leaves resemble those of elderberry. While other Trumpet Bushes grow to 12 feet high or more, this compact hybrid reaches just 3 to 5 feet tall. Showy clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers with yellow petals and maroon throats attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies from spring through fall. Trumpet Bushes are massed in gardens and shrub borders, planted as informal hedges or screens, and used as specimen plants — just remember they will need to be pruned back after frost.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for October

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Russian Sage
Perovskia atriplicifolia

Russian Sage tolerates all the challenges of southwestern landscapes: high heat, cold, drought, and poor soils–and even resists browsing by rabbits and deer.

  • Plant Form: Deciduous perennial
  • Water Use: Very Low
  • Mature Size: 3-4 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer – Fall (June – September)
  • Native to: Asia (Afghanistan to Tibet)
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -20°F

Russian Sage is a hardy, drought- tolerant, heat-loving perennial that is underused in southwest landscapes. Small but brilliant violet-blue flowers seem to float in an airy cloud above its foliage from summer until a hard frost. Neither Russian nor a sage, the gray-green leaves of this mint family plant are aromatic when crushed, which helps to repel rabbits and deer. It tolerates almost any soil, from clay to sand, as well as salty and highly alkaline soils. This finely-textured plant blends perfectly with our southwest natives, working equally well in dry desert landscapes, cottage gardens, and Mediterranean gardens. Cut back plants almost to the ground in late winter to early spring as soon as new growth appears. This sturdy plant is great as a background planting, in singles or in clusters. It also performs nicely in linear rows as small divider hedges, or as a large-scale ground cover. Russian Sage beautifully compliments succulents, ornamental grasses, and other perennials.

 

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for September

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Chaste Tree
Vitex agnus-castus

Chaste Tree offers abundant, fragrant lavender flowers in summer, and a magnet for butterflies, bees, and birds.

Chaste Tree offers abundant lavender flowers in summer, and draws butterflies, bees, and birds to its fragrant blossoms.

 

  • Plant Form: Deciduous shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 15-25 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June – August)
  • Native to: S. Europe, W. Asia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

Chaste Tree is a beautiful large shrub or small tree with a profusion of fragrant lavender flowers in summer that attract butterflies, bees, and birds. Deep green leaves are divided into 5-7 lace-like leaflets, and the foliage is aromatic. Medieval legends tell of monks grinding the seeds of Chaste Tree (also called Monk’s Pepper) to use like pepper to help them maintain their vows of chastity. Chaste Tree is heat and drought tolerant, pest resistant, and very easy to grow. Stimulate a second flush of flowers in late summer by removing spent flower spikes before they seed. Regularly prune all dead wood and lower limbs in winter to produce an attractive multi-trunked tree. This broad, spreading plant can be trained to make a screen, hedge, or border when in rows, or used singly as a multi-trunked shrub or small specimen tree. Can also be grown in containers.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for August

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