Nov
1
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Plant of the Month

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

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

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

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

Jul
3
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Plant of the Month – July

Butterfly Bush
Buddleja davidii
  • Violet-purple flower spikes provide spectacular summer color and attract butterflies and hummingbirds into the garden.

    Violet-purple flower spikes provide spectacular summer color and attract butterflies and hummingbirds into the garden.

    Plant Form: Deciduous shrub

  • Water Use: Low, Moderate
  • Mature Size: 6-8 ft. tall x 4-6 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June – August), Fall (September – November)
  • Native to: Asia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -20°F

 

Butterfly Bush is valued for its showy flowers in summer and fall, when most other shrubs are done blooming. Fragrant purple flowers grow in spikes from July to October on long, arching stems of this tough, bushy, fast-growing shrub. This prolific nectar plant attracts hordes of adult butterflies, but gardeners hoping to provide habitat for these winged jewels also need to install host plants that their larvae rely on to grow into new butterflies, such as milkweeds (butterfly larvae cannot survive on Butterfly Bush). While Butterfly Bush can be invasive in wetter parts of North America, it does not appear to spread in desert areas. Prune back hard in late winter or spring to stimulate vigorous new growth, maintain better shape, and produce superior flowering. Use as a background planting, specimen, or in containers in butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and in cottage or Mediterranean gardens. New compact cultivars are available for smaller gardens and borders.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for July

Jun
1
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Plant of the Month – June

For a dramatic statement in your landscape that takes very little water or maintenance, Desert Spoon offers a reliable option…either as a single accent or as a stunning mass planting.

Desert Spoon

Dasylirion wheeleri
  • Plant Form: Cactus/Succulent
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 4-6 ft. tall & wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring (May) – Summer (June – August)
  • Native to: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, northern Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0°F

Desert Spoon is beloved as an architectural workhorse in desert landscapes. This yucca-like plant has hundreds of long, narrow leaves edged with small, sharp teeth (so plant away from walkways and patios), each leaf starting from a spoon-shaped base, hence its name. Rosettes of younger plants are stemless, but older plants may develop a trunk up to 6 feet tall. Desert Spoon has both male and female plants, with flowering stalks up to 12 feet tall producing thousands of either male or female flowers. Both attract crowds of eager pollinators, including native bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies. Desert Spoons don’t flower every year, but happily, they do not die after flowering like many of their relatives. Dead leaves can be removed for a look reminiscent of pineapple, or left for a more natural-looking trunk. Dramatic as an accent in rock gardens or in large containers. Stunning if mass planted in larger landscapes.

Check out our  “Garden Tasks” for June