Red Tip Photinia
Fraser’s Photinia
Photinia x fraseri

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Moderate
  • Mature Size: 5-15 ft. tall x 5-15 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (April)
  • Native to: Asia
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0-5°F

A beautiful transition of leaf colors tracks the growth of new foliage from red to bronze to deep green at maturity in the appropriately named Red Tip Photinia.

Red Tip Photinia is stunning in spring when its new growth flashes red at the tip of each stem. As the red foliage matures, it turns bronze, and then settles into a deep green. Additional pruning of branch tips encourages new red leaves from spring into summer. Continual trimming will sacrifice white flowers, which nearly cover the plant at peak bloom (some people dislike their odor). Avoid pruning in fall, since freezing winter temperatures damage new growth. While this ornamental evergreen shrub can be trained into a small specimen tree, it is usually used for hedges and privacy screens.  In dry climates, this shrub is hardy, carefree, drought-tolerant, and disease free, but it does appreciate afternoon shade in hot desert areas. Well-drained soil is vital to this attractive shrub. Smaller cultivars are available, growing only 2-3 feet tall and wide. Use as a hedge, background planting, espalier, or small single-stemmed tree. Cut branches are beautiful in arrangements.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for April


Plant of the Month – March

Lady Banks Rose
Rosa banksiae

  • Plant Form: Evergreen to semi-deciduous vine
  • Water Use: Low, moderate
  • Mature Size: 15-20 ft. tall x 10-20 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May), Early Summer (June)
  • Native to: China
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F

If you want to cover a bank, fence, arbor, patio, or even the ground with a vigorous climber, this is your plant! Lady Banks Rose is almost immune to disease, tolerates most soils, and is resistant to rabbits, deer, and aphids. This climbing rose is also thornless, and makes plenty of flowers for cutting.

Lady Banks Rose is a fast-growing, climbing vine that can easily cover a fence, trellis, arbor, or patio. Prized as a vigorous climber, this thornless vine explodes with clusters of slightly fragrant, yellow or white miniature flowers from spring to early summer. Even when not in bloom, the deep green leaves are attractive, retained all year in mild climates, while being semi-deciduous in colder climates. This rose provides plenty of flowers for cutting, is pet-friendly, and attracts butterflies. Flowers form on old wood, so don’t over-prune older branches. Requires support to grow vertically. Frequent pruning is needed during the growing season to keep it close to a wall or fence; otherwise only occasional pruning is needed. It is drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, rabbit- and deer-resistant, and tolerant of most soils when organic matter is added to the planting hole.  This old-fashioned rose makes an easy-care privacy screen, espalier, ground cover, or romantic cover for an arbor.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for March

Blue Chalk Sticks
Senecio mandraliscae

  • Plant Form: Succulent groundcover
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 1-1.5 ft. tall x 2-3 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (June – August)
  • Native to: South Africa
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F

Invite this succulent ground cover into your yard for year-round interest from its chalky blue color and sculptural leaves. Blue Chalk Sticks is especially attractive when nestled next to red-tinged foliage, orange flowers, or dark purple flowers or leaves.

Blue Chalk Sticks meets two prized landscape design features: color and texture. Creating a dense, sprawling mat of bluish foliage, its four-inch-long, fleshy curved spikes that angle upward look like they could be from the ocean floor. Prized for its chalky blue color, not its insignificant flowers, this succulent is striking alongside greens and dark purples, and really pops next to orange flowers and red-tinged foliage. Thriving in well-drained soils, this groundcover looks great in gravel beds, rock gardens, and containers. Tolerant of dry soils and any amount of heat, this beauty is also easy to re-root from stem cuttings. You can invite it indoors in a pot if you have hard frosts; all it asks for is bright sunlight, great drainage, and infrequent water to prevent root rot.  Perfect in borders, containers, rock gardens, as groundcovers, and in mass plantings.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for February

Olive Tree
Olea europaea

  • Plant Form: Evergreen tree
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 20-30 ft. tall x 15-25 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, part sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May)
  • Native to: Mediterranean Region
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 15°F
There are so many reasons to love olive trees, including their ability to withstand heat, poor soils, drought, and very little water. Put this tree in a special spot as a specimen, featured in a large pot, or in mass plantings such as a privacy screen.

Olive trees have been cherished since the time of the Roman Empire for their picturesque gnarled trunks and branches. Over the millennia, people have enjoyed the tree’s edible olives (which must be cured in brine before eating), and the valuable olive oil pressed from their fruit. Gardeners today appreciate the tree’s tolerance of heat, poor soils, drought, very low water, and ease of care, as well as the soft gray foliage that complements most other colors. Some people, however, are allergic to the tree’s pollen, and some disdain the olives dropping on their patios, causing stains. Hybrid varieties are available that produce little or no pollen and no fruit (like ‘Swan Hill,’ ‘Majestic Beauty,’ and ‘Wilsonii’). Fruiting varieties can be sprayed with a fruit-control hormone during flowering, but this is a yearly program. On patios, decks, or around pools, fruitless varieties are recommended. Olive trees are magnificent as specimen trees, planted in mass, or in large containers. Dwarf varieties are available.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for January


Plant of the Month

Heavenly Bamboo, Sacred Bamboo
Nandina domestica

  • Plant Form: Evergreen shrub
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 4-8 ft. tall x 2-4 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Part Sun, full shade
  • Bloom Time: Spring (May), Summer (June – Aug)
  • Native to: China, India, Japan
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 10°F
This lacy member of the barberry family is so reminiscent of bamboo with its cane-like stems and feathery foliage that it has been named after its look-alike.

Heavenly Bamboo provides year-round interest with very little care. Sprays of tiny white flowers in late spring and summer are followed by bright red berries in autumn (plant several for more berry production). Lacy new leaves emerge pink or a pale bronze, turning bright green when mature, and changing to bronze or fiery red in winter, the degree of color depending on cold, frost, and sun. Native to China, India, and Japan, this evergreen shrub grows moderately fast to 4 – 8 feet tall and 2 – 4 feet wide, and is cold hardy to 10°F (it loses leaves at 10°F, but recovers fast). While it appreciates regular watering, it can survive with low water and tolerates drought. Although not a real bamboo, its upright, cane-like stems mimic its namesake, making it effective as a screen or border. Its tall, thin growth habit allows its use in very narrow places, tight gateways, and entries. Versatile in courtyards, entry gardens, hedges, and containers. In mass plantings, it creates a colorful landscape effect as the foliage changes color seasonally. Happiest in our hot deserts with protection from afternoon sun and hot summer winds. This graceful plant excels in creating light, airy, vertical effects, and is dramatic with night lighting. 

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for December

El Toro Muhly Grass
Muhlenbergia emersleyi ‘El Toro’

  • Plant Form: Ornamental Grass
  • Water Use: Low
  • Mature Size: 1-3 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun
  • Bloom Time: Summer (July – Aug), Fall (Sept – Nov
  • Native to: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to -10°F
If you are looking for a dramatic grass, El Toro Muhly Grass fulfills that role with lots of other benefits, including being fast-growing, tolerant of drought, heat, and cold, while also being deer and rabbit resistant.

El Toro Muhly Grass offers up masses of airy, rosy-purple flower spikes in summer to mid-fall, which dry to a tan color in winter. Plant on the east or west side of your yard to collaborate with the morning or evening sun to help provide the dramatic backlighting that accentuates this plant’s seasonal color. This fast-growing, heat-tolerant, cold-tolerant, drought-tolerant ornamental grass is an easy-care, low-water-use plant that is also rabbit and deer-resistant (what more could you want?). El Toro Muhly can also tolerate full sun, reflected heat, and part shade, as well as almost any soils, including clay. Use this well-behaved, clumping native grass instead of the invasive Fountain Grass.  Prune vigorously in spring to remove spent flower spikes and dormant foliage, but avoid cutting back during the hot summer months. Use this southwestern native as an accent or border, in mass plantings for drama, or on slopes for erosion control or bank stabilization.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for November