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Lookin’ Fly – More Spring Flowers

Lookin' Fly - More Spring Flowers

 

With the rain this weekend everything in the yard is looking fluffed and happy.  All the flowers I talked about last week are still blooming, plus tons more!

 

Clockwise from top left:

 

Parry’s Penstemon - I consider these a staple for any desert garden.  They have beautiful blooms, which can range from light to dark pink/purple, plus they have some incredible hybrids now that have pink/peach/orange gradients.  Every spring when they bloom I end up wanting to plant about a dozen new pots of them so I have a mass of color.  Hummingbirds love them, and the cool thing is that they remember to come back to your yard every year once they know you’ve got some food on hand.  To add a cherry on top, they readily re-seed themselves.

 

Firecracker Penstemon – Again, a garden staple.  These guys have been in bloom for about two and a half weeks already and probably have another week left to go.  They are super showy and also re-seed.  I don’t see the hummingbirds checking them out much, but the honeybees go wild for them.  I want my yard packed with bees!  I bought a couple of these a few years back and now the clumps are about three times the original size, so the show gets better each year.

 

(Neon Pink) Globe Mallow - Globe mallow in the spring is a desert essential.  Normally you see both the medium and light orange around town, but I found this hot pink cultivar last spring and couldn’t resist.  They don’t seem to flower as profusely as the orange, and they also don’t re-seed as far as I can tell, but the color is amazing.  Globe mallow usually puts on a huge show in the spring and then the whole plant turns crispy brown by May or June, so you can just trim it all the way back (almost to the ground) and wait for it to make a reappearance with summer or fall rain.

 

Indigo Bush (Dalea pulchra) – I think this shrub usually blooms more towards the middle of the winter, but for some reason mine is just waking up.  When mature they can grow to be an extremely low maintenance 4’x4′ shrub with small silvery leaves, and will be covered in flowers that resemble common clover for weeks (maybe months?).  They’re evergreen and work well when mixed in with things that have more structure, like agaves and desert spoons.  Also, bees love ‘em!

 

As I was poking around the web this morning I found a great native plant list from a fellow landscape designer here in Tucson.  I’ll probably spam you with this at least 100 more times because native plants are totally the way to go – and we have so many options.  Plus, this list is actually from the Tucson basin – other lists stretch as far west as California and east to Texas, which leaves a lot of room for  things that might not do so well here (and may not support our native bees/birds/butterflies/lizards, etc).  Have a look, whydontcha: http://www.gardeninginsights.com/html/articles/totallyTucson.htm

The Sunday Snatch featuring Yellow Striped Agave

The Sunday Snatch featuring Yellow Striped Agave

 

Ah, Sunday.  I love Sundays.  I like to keep the whole day free from plans so there’s plenty of time to drink coffee, go on a walk, read a magazine and laze around.  My lovely girlfriend, unfortunately, has piles of homework to do on Sundays, so I’m generally left to my own devices.  Thus, the Sunday snatch.  She does studious stuff and I come home with armfuls of “harvested” plants.

 

This week’s plant is an agave –  Agave americana var. marginatus to be specific.  I think sometimes they’re called “yellow ribbons” agave, but honestly there are so many types of this plant that it’s hard to tell what’s what when you’re down to the nitty gritty of varieties.  Basically you’re just looking for one that has green and yellow stripes with razor-like edges and sharp rust-colored barbs at the tips.  Don’t let all that stabbyness scare you off, though.  These guys are low water, make a huge aesthetic statement, and survive cold-snaps and intense heat equally well.  No pain no gain, right?

 

As you see in the photo above, I found a mothership host plant that had tons of babies ready to be whisked away.  Actually there were about 20 mothership plants in this same area, so if you’re jonesing to get some of these for your outdoor space just let me know and I’ll reveal the top secret location.

 

agave_2

 

Adding these to your landscape is no biggie at all.  I recommend using a mini pick, seen above, to scratch the surface dirt away and then to rip at the roots.  Sometimes you’ll get a small section of root, like one inch, and sometimes you’ll get a ten inch length.  Either way is fine –  I’ve had both versions survive nicely.  Just like with the prickly pear from last week, you’ll want to give the freshly-yanked roots a day or two to scab over before planting them in a pot or the ground.   If anyone asks you what you’re up to, you can say you’re thinning the small ones out so the biggie has room to grow (and that won’t be a lie – they can get all clumpy/squeezed/claustrophobic if you let all of those babies continue to grow).  I came away with 16 small agaves from this one plant!

 

agave_3

 

agave_5

I think these pair really well with yellow barrel cactus, purple prickly pear, and something vertical like Mexican fencepost cactus.  In my own yard I’m hoping to establish a mass planting of these in and around a row of desert willow trees.  Someday I’ll have my very own version of Lotusland.  Have you been?  It looks dreamy.

 

Have a splendid day, everyone.  Happy planting!

 

agave_4

Photo: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/43065740156907092/

Don’t let the sun go down on Squee

Don't let the sun go down on Squee

Photo Credit: B. Sapienza (she also lays claim to the millions of dollars this post will bring in)

 

This is a fun game called “replace the word ‘me’ with ‘Squee'” in any song title or lyric.  Try it, you’ll definitely like it.  My current favorite is “Don’t cry for Squee Argentina,” which I sing as loudly as possible around the house (though I only know the one line…maybe just two thirds).

 

It’s going to be a rainy day here, finally!  This means you’ll find Squee tucked up into this lamp, baking his brain directly against the very hot light bulbs.  I’ve told him this may cause some permanent damage, or a burn at the very least, but he has his own ideas about safety and whatnot.

 

I’d love to be basking in the lamp light with him, but I’m heading out to pour concrete footers around steel poles to prepare for that shade sail I was telling you about, followed by pulling weeds in my own garden while the soil is soft.  Hooray!  I might even throw in a 9th trip to Home Depot for the week to add a real twist.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to start high-fiving certain employees who also seem to be there around the clock.

 

Happy Saturday everyone, and see you tomorrow for the second round of the Sunday plant-snatch.  Enjoy the weather!

Craigslist Patio RoundUp

Craigslist Patio RoundUp

 

Please say hello to handsome man-in-a-box, First Mate Squee.  He enjoys longing looks, sitting 3 inches in front of the heater, and playing banjo on the screen door.

 

Onward.

 

I love looking around craigslist for fun outdoor additions to the patio.  So far I’ve found a simple and sturdy wrought-iron table set (painted it a really nice deep blue – there are some amazing spray paint shades at the craft store these days), some fun hanging lights with amber glass shades, and large concrete planters for herbs and annuals, all at great prices.  It’s enjoyable to come across things you might not have picked from a store and try them on for size.  If it doesn’t work out, you can always stick things back on craigslist and not feel bad for a second.  I keep an eye on outdoor rugs, lamps of all sorts – usually vintage stuff (I have a lamp problem), umbrellas, and plant stands to name a few.  The best stuff is sprinkled in between dozens of other ads, so it pays to click through a bunch of listings (like maybe 200…300?  a lot).  I always make sure I look at owner ads rather than dealer ads because the dealers seam to have the same 3 patio sets plastered over 70 or 80 ads.

 

So, without further ado, here are my findings from the Tucson area!

 

Hip, retro aluminum shorty rocking chair.  So cool.  Needs a mod fabric cushion and it’ll look great.

chair

 

 

Clean lines with curves, wrought iron sofa (also with 2 chairs and a cocktail table!).  Add sleek cushions + simple rug + wine-tasting party.

couch

 

Mid-Century hanging genie lamp.  I want this!  Create a dark and moody nighttime patio with this lamp, some candles and comfy floor cushions.

genie lamp

 

Ice cream social/tea time set.  Sweet and simple for your kitchen garden.

polka dot chairs

 

 

Ornate Spanish-style hanging lamp with amber glass.  I’m totally into this, especially the colored glass.  Pair it with your adobe architecture or set it off against more contemporary furnishings.

spanish lamp

 

This set has so much potential.  Love the delicate metal work on the chairs and the heavier industrial look of the table put together.  I’m picturing some fun paint options – canary yellow chairs + white table, two shades of aqua, cherry red on the whole works.  Place it under a mesquite tree and you’re ready for the weekend (but not this weekend, because we’re getting some RAIN!!!!).

table 3

 

 

 

Well, that’s the whole show for now.  You should go get some of these things!  Paint them, shine them up, decorate them with your swag and send me a picture.  We could do a fun before and after series.  Or actually, have you already done something like this?  Send it in!  I’d love to see what you’re up to in your outdoor space.

 

Craigslist ads from top:

http://tucson.craigslist.org/fuo/4312257219.html

http://tucson.craigslist.org/fuo/4324900280.html

http://tucson.craigslist.org/clt/4329928569.html

http://tucson.craigslist.org/fuo/4330420246.html

http://phoenix.craigslist.org/wvl/for/4340621953.html (oops, this one’s in Phoenix)

http://tucson.craigslist.org/fuo/4310520289.html

Shade Sails on the Brain

Shade Sails on the Brain

 

Good morning everyone!

 

So I’m working with a client right now who is interested in having a shade sail installed over a portion of the driveway.  While I’ve definitely been a fan of how they look and function, I had no idea how much there is to learn about these things!  I tend to do a heinous amount of research with most things in life, but the shade sail investigation is really burning strong.  Small things noted so far: sizable footers are mandatory – potentially 400 lbs of concrete each, connecting hardware can be assembled in many different arrangements with varying parts, and the price of a 12’x12′ sail can range from $50 to $1000+ depending on the manufacturer (!).  Also, they come in rectangles, squares, and totally custom shapes, and can be installed horizontally, vertically and “hypar” style (twisted).  This weekend I’ll be installing 4 steel poles into footers and then I’ll hang an accompanying 18′ square sail in a couple weeks, so I plan on posting more detail about how it all goes in the near future.  Have you thought about installing a shade sail but got bogged down by the construction details?  I think it could be a really great DIY project given a simple set of instructions.

 

For now I’ve rounded up a few examples I think look great.  Enjoy!

 

 

“I can smell that you’re good at this” and other Salesperson Schmooze

"I can smell that you're good at this" and other Salesperson Schmooze

 

I am not a salesperson by any stretch.  I can hardly stand a sales pitch, even when I know I want the item or service being sold.  I once worked the gem show here in Tucson where sales are key.  For the most part I wanted to tell people they should put their money towards something fun, like a cannoli or a house plant, but instead I said “this is a really fun piece that works well with your facial features, why don’t you grab a few different colors so you have a nice selection at home.”  Yikes.  That gig gave me extreme anxiety.  I’ll pass on sales, please.

 

Often times I end up gathering quotes for clients after I draw up a design, which means I hear a whole bunch of sales pitch doozies.  A recent version involved a man selling concrete block for driveways, and is one that will go down in my personal book.  In the first 3 minutes he asked my age, inquired whether I was married, and told me I have the most beautiful eyes he has seen (huge groan – also, I had sunglasses on).  Then, get this, he leans in real close and says “I can smell that you’re good at this…I sense that we’re going to work well together.”  Pardon me, dear sir.  What you smell is B.O. rightfully earned from having moved 2 tons of dirt, and while we’re at it, I would rather not smell your breath against my cheek if it’s not too much trouble.  He never got a call back.

 

If you are in the process of getting bids – for irrigation, concrete, or whatever – sometimes it’s nice to have a buffer, especially if you’re prone to caving in to such cringeworthy tactics merely to end the conversation.  I find that when I’m working as an intermediary with clients I have no problem keeping the sales talks limited to a couple minutes and challenging prices/features/add-ons that seem unreasonable.  If you’re interested in managing things yourself, just make sure to do a good amount of research and asking around so you can see through the sales haze.  And try not to fall for the “everyone else is doing it, so you should too” stuff – there’s a lot of that.  Last week I was told that concrete is totally uncool, nobody does it anymore.  Now that’s just silly.

Making your own Seasonal Desert River

Making your own Seasonal Desert River

 

Okay, listen.  When I first conjured up this post, I thought “I’m going to make the coolest graphic showing how your roof can boost your landscape power.”  Then I came up with what you see above and below, which is a bunch of nonsensical arrows and squiggly lines and other crap.  So I’m sorry about that.  I really meant for it to be a work of art.  Maybe next time.  What you see above is the creation of a “rain water course”, which simply means a fun and useful path that water will take when it falls from the sky and moves from a gutter into a garden.  You should do this.  Especially while it’s not 110 degrees and digging is something you can do without hallucinating (more on that real soon).

 

This much is definitely true: your roof harnesses a lot of power here in the desert.  You probably have 1000+ square feet of roof that gathers our infrequent rain and then promptly spits it out into a healthy strip of weeds when the water falls off into the dirt.  I imagine you have some specimens that reach 3+ feet in the summer.  Way to go!  Those weeds love you, and they’ll come back until the end of time.

 

If you’d rather use the roof/rain water for a better purpose, your first step is to get gutters and downspouts.  I’m about to add some to our house, so more on that when I install them.  Here’s why I’m going to do it: my 1000 square foot roof can gather 600+ gallons of water in a 1 inch rainstorm.  Rather than let it land in a tidy strip of weeds, I prefer to channel it into a recessed basin containing (native) trees, shrubs, and flowers.  They’ll get a nice deep drink that can sustain them for a long time – potentially months.  And it means you (and I) can be that much more hands-off with your landscape – everyone loves that part.

 

So that’s what this drawing actually shows.  I’m working with a client that is interested in using water as smartly as possible, so we’re adding gutters, downspouts, “pop-up” drains (another post on that), and the water will flow through a course that sustains lots of different cacti, shrubs and trees.  Brad Lancaster has written a boatload about this subject, so I suggest looking up his work if you want to know more.  Or, give me a call and we can start designing a water course that sustains your desert landscape.    I promise it will make a huge difference in the livelihood of your plants, and you’ll feel super accomplished about not having that weed strip.

water from roof-02

Pajama Man + Mexican Feather Grass

Pajama Man + Mexican Feather Grass

 

This is actually just an excuse to work Squee into the blog from the very start, which is going to continue until the day he drops dead from a heart attack.  Awww, Squee!

 

Really though, I have an actual point.  If you need a small “wildlands” patch for your pajama’d friend, Mexican Feather Grass is a total hit.  You don’t need to trim it back to the ground like other ornamental grasses (in  fact, it looks worse if you trim it) and it reseeds readily, meaning your savanna will expand year after year.  I have mine planted in some 3″ deep pecan shell mulch (really cheap at certain times of the year – 1 cubic yard for $18) and I water it about every 2 weeks now that they’re established.  Squee enjoys jumping out of this fine patch and snagging me as much as possible.  Love that guy.

 

squee_2

Lookin’ Fly – Spring Flowers

Lookin' Fly - Spring Flowers

In this weekly bit we’ll talk about plants that are looking great.  Sometimes it’s nice to remember what blooms or looks its best at specific times of the year – that way you can plan ahead for those barren spots in the yard.  Nearly everything I’ll talk about is low water and either native, semi-native or arid-adapted.

 

Clockwise from top left:

 

California Poppies – I bought a big baggie of these at Home Depot in the fall and threw them down when we had a two-day rainstorm.  Sometimes I give them a small drink so they bloom nicely and make new seeds.  You really only need to spread the seeds once and they’ll come back for years.  Love that part.  After blooming they turn brown and crispy and you can leave them alone or cut them back to the ground.

 

Desert Marigold – This one pictured was a volunteer that established itself between the curb and a paver path.  Three years ago I bought four $6 containers of these flowers and now they pop up all over the yard and flower like crazy multiple times a year.  Super bang for the buck, and very low-water.  Once in while they need an extreme haircut – like take 3/4 of the plant off the top.  They’ll perk back up pretty quick.

 

Gooding’s Verbena - I’m a total sucker for gradients, and this purple-to-blue is pretty fantastic.  This is another one planted by seed with huge success.  After two years they’re multiplying and getting to be much more substantial.  I’ve even seen butterflies checking them out which is super fun.

 

Snapdragons – Okay, this isn’t a plant I would normally cover, but they’re just so pretty and they came up in my pot of oregano as a February surprise.  As far as annual flowers go, snap dragons are lovely.  I especially like the 2-3′ tall ones when layered with other flowers and foliage.  They seem to handle our intense sun and temperatures pretty well, and could be very nice as part of a vibrant focal point where they can get an extra drink now and again.

 

Happy Planting!

Inaugural Post! The Sunday Snatch featuring Purple Prickly Pear

Inaugural Post!  The Sunday Snatch featuring Purple Prickly Pear

Hello world!  And by world, I mean my mom.  Hi Mom!  I’m glad you’ve tuned in to this new and exciting venture.

 

I’m starting this tiny little bit of daily writing to go along with my tiny landscape design and installation endeavor.  I don’t necessarily just do tiny landscapes, though (some big, some small, always a lot of digging).  Mostly, I want to share with you some gardening and landscape ideas fit for the West and Southwest, with a smattering of other thoughts/articles/cat photos/whathaveyous.  So, enough of an intro, onto the good stuff.

 

I’ve been dreaming up this weekly segment for years.  We’re going to call it “The Sunday Snatch”, and it’s sort of like it sounds.  You have a free hour on Sunday?  Time to snatch some plants.  And I’ll show you how.  We can even review some tips on how to look legit while doing it.  Honestly, who doesn’t love a free plant, especially here in the desert where you’ve probably killed quite a few non-free specimens already.

 

To be clear, I’m not talking about digging up your neighbor’s saguaro in the middle of the night – nothing quite that brazen.  But there are plenty of ways to add some gusto to your yard with limited (or no) bucks.  So today we’re going to start with an old standby that gives color and structure to any space – the Santa Rita prickly pear.  I love these guys!  Especially when they’re paired with lots of other structural and colorful stuff like blue agave and barrel cactus.  Bonus – the less water they get the more deep purple their pads become.  They also have lovely flowers and grow quickly.  Perfectly low-fuss.

 

prickly pear_2

 

All you’ll need for your Sunday mission is a box and a pair of snippers.  You simply snap off a section at the joint, let it scab over for a couple days, then plant in some soil.  Super easy!  I’ve been impatient and planted them immediately, and have also forgotten about some in a box for 4+ months, and both approaches have been successful.  Just make sure you keep your hands and clothing away from the pads, or you’ll be pulling glochids (mini spines) out with tweezers for days.  I found my “donor” plant on a main drag, public property, mid-day, no troubles whatsoever.  You’ll find that throwing on a big sun hat and some gardening clothes gives you an invisibility cloak when it comes to plants.  Good luck and happy Sunday!

 

prickly pear_3

 

 

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