- Your Voice
I have to confess, I love my job as a garden writer. I may work 60 or so hours a week, and my fingernails are always short and hands dry due to digging in the dirt, but market research is a blast. Walking into a nursery or garden center at any time of the year is a treat in my book, but in the winter it is especially wonderful. The sight, scent, and even subtle sounds of so many healthy growing and flowering plants in one small space is delightful. The idea that I get to take some home with me is dazzling. Flowers, flowers, and more flowers! And living flowers no less – they will last far longer than any bouquet.
This time of year is holy to many religions, celebrating as it does the turning of the world from short dark days to longer ones filled with light. As many of us turn our thoughts to events that occurred long ago and half a world away, I thought I might address a topic that has long fascinated me: plants of the Holy Land that can be grown here in Tucson.
Bulbs produce some of the most beautiful flowers in the garden palate (think iris, tulips and daffodils). Bulbs provide brilliant splashes of cheerful color in the winter and spring months. To top it off, you can even plant them in large containers on the patio. Plant some calendula or pansies in the pots to cover the soil with color until the bulbs come up. They will know when it is time to emerge.
If you are new to the area, you may not know a wide variety of herbs and vegetables grow well here in the winter months ahead. The only secret to growing a great winter garden is to plant the right kinds at the right time. And the time is now!
The nose knows. Scent is one of our most basic senses, yet it is often ignored when planning a landscape. Last month I spoke of layers for the landscape. Along with layers of plants that appeal to our eyes, it is good to include plants that appeal to our sense of smell.
Hard as it is to believe, the autumn equinox is drawing near, and thus fall is just around the corner. This means it is time to get ready to plant. Fall is a great time of year for planting for a number of reasons. From a human standpoint, it is cooler and easier to work outdoors. From a plant standpoint, it is cooler and easier to live outdoors.
June was National Pollinator month, and folks got to help pollinators by planting flowers. Easy sell. Now, here is another beneficial insect that is a tad harder to find popular support for – ants. Some people are of the belief that the only good ant is a dead ant. While it’s true that there are some troublesome ants out there, there far more kinds of beneficial ants doing their part to actually help the soil and improve growing conditions for plants.
Summertime is basil-time in the Old Pueblo. As the nights stay warm, the sun shines for hours on end and the soil temperatures rise - all conditions that basil love. Originally native to India, basil is now grown around the globe wherever (and whenever) it is warm enough.
Vines, any vines, are great in the landscape. Three reasons. First, vines need little root space to flourish, thus they can fit in even the smallest yard. Second, many vines have beautiful flowers, and the bloom period can last for months, offering an opportunity to fill your yard with color. Third, and in my book best of all, vines produce food, fiber, and other usable products (grapes for wine, hops for beer, I could go on). Tops on my vine list for this area, with trouble-free growth, ample fruit production, and amazing blooms for months, not to mention butterflies galore - passion vine, or Passiflora.
Would you like to be able to watch flocks of butterflies flutter by? Now is the time and Southern Arizona is the place. Late spring and early fall are peak butterfly viewing times throughout the area. There are over 250 species of lepidoptera that call the southwest home, so there are many to look for. For ease of viewing, entice these “flying flowers” into your yard. There are five simple steps to creating a habitat for them (and you) to enjoy.
People like to personalize their “stuff.” You see it everywhere, things like family stickers on cars, unique cell phone ring tones, stylized computer covers, etc. Many different ways to personalize your possessions. So how about taking it one step further and personalize the space around your home? Your yard should have a theme that makes it personally yours, even if, or maybe especially if, you live in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. With a judicious use of plants and landscaping, you can turn your yard into your own personalized theme yard.
At first, the concept of eating flowers may seem somewhat unusual, but if you have ever had broccoli or cauliflower then you’ve eaten flowers! Humans have been eating flowers for millennia, in many different cultures and in some truly tasty dishes. Desert peoples are no exception. They found many ways to use the desert plants around them.
Southern Arizona is blessed in many ways. We have spectacular sunsets, majestic mountains, and a generally salubrious winter climate. Despite the occasional cold front that touches down, withering any tender plants, winters are, on the whole, great for growing all the plants we can’t have in the summer.
When it comes to cut Christmas trees, the choices are usually pine, spruce, or fir. But, if you want a living Christmas tree for our area, the choice is narrowed to pines. Well, there are also miniature “trees” sculpted out of rosemary, but let’s look at the big trees.
Recently, I overheard someone complaining about the lack of seasonal color in Tucson. Having grown up here, I see color change all around. It is subtle and gentle and you have to pay attention. But if you want bright and showy, here are five trees you can plant right now, to enjoy brilliant color next autumn.
When it comes to Arizona wildflowers, most folks immediately think of the showy golden poppies that appear around Picacho Peak. You can have that - and more.
Water water everywhere. Good monsoons this summer and the good news is - with all the free water from the sky, you can reduce your use of expensive water out of pipes. The bad news is - with all the free water from the sky, the weeds abound.
In the past I have written about fertilizer in July in these Explorer pages because ample summer rains wash can nutrients out of the soil, and leave landscape plants lacking. The rains have not started yet, so hold off on fertilizer. Encouraging growth by fertilizing your landscape plants will just make them thirstier for water you will have to provide.
By now, most folks have heard the term “xeriscape.” Xeriscape doesn’t mean a dry, barren landscape, it refers to a landscape that requires minimal additional water, and is the best way to landscape in our dry climate.
Several themes are evident in the newly announced UApresents 2013-2014 season, with more shows being offered in the Tucson community and many presentations geared toward young adults and families.
Bulbs produce some of the most beautiful flowers in the garden palate. They can provide brilliant splashes of cheerful color in the winter and spring months.
Happy November! Yikes, how did that sneak up on us? Next thing you know it will be Thanksgiving, and then the holidays where we celebrate the gift of light (in it’s various forms) by giving gifts and sharing time with family and friends.
For a charming plant that produces cheerful daisy-like flowers all winter long, and, to top it off is useful and animal resistant, try growing some chamomile.