The New Year Brings a Fresh Start for Plants

Happy New Year! At the beginning of every new year, I (like many others) resolve to change something or other in my life only to forget about it within a few short months. Fortunately, I have one resolution that I carry out year after year which always yields amazing results. It's not a fad or a diet; it only requires a little time; and the results will bring you much happiness for the rest of the year. I'm talking about pruning! The winter is a great time to prune trees, shrubs, and perennials. Plants are dormant now, and can tolerate losing some of their dead weight without interrupting their growth or blooming cycle. Pruning rejuvenates the garden by removing old growth that drains energy from the plant, thus allowing that energy to be put into new growth or bolstering smaller growth. Prune foliage back to the basal growth of the plant to encourage lush, new foliage in the garden. Plants that have a tendency to grow tall from the stem should be cut back, but no more than one third of it's total height. When pruning a tree, remove branches that are weak or have a V-shape. Next, remove shoots growing up from the tree's base. These little shoots will only compete for water and nutrition in the coming warmer months and prohibit stronger growth. And always maintain living branches on the top two-thirds of the trees' height to ensure good health for the tree.

Do you have a difficult tree or shrub in your garden that you aren't sure how to tackle? I'd love to help you with it! Leave me a post in the comments section or contact me for a complimentary consultation. La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora is committed to creating eco-conscious designs for the desert home. Let us help you transform your garden into the outdoor living space of your dreams!

Birds in the Garden: Naughty or Nice?

As a gardener rather than a birder, I admit it's hard for me to think of birds as feathered friends rather than feathered foes. When considering birds in my garden space, I usually spend most of the time devising ways to keep them away from newly planted seeds and young seedlings instead of finding ways to encourage their presence in my garden space. But let's face it: Birds are here to stay. Is there any way my garden and the birds can co-habitate peacefully? According to a recent article in January/February 2012 issue Hobby Farm Home magazine, growers can create "bird friendly" spaces in their gardens that provide sustenance for our pollinator friends, and deter them from tender new growth planted for us. The article suggested trying to intentionally create a "bird seed garden," with an emphasis on plants and flowers that attract birds like sunflowers, cereal grains, and even hops. Intentionally growing a bird-friendly space away from your other growing endeavors will help deter the birds from seeking food from your flower beds and vegetable patches; not to mention, reduce your carbon footprint. How? Well, if a bird can acquire nutrition through seeds, grains, and even insects from your garden, less commercial seed will have to be purchased. The less seed refined and trucked to stores, means less green house emissions for our environment.

I know inviting birds into our gardens is a new concept to those of us with a green thumb. But this season of giving coupled with the fallow ground puts me in a generous mood. Gardens are therapeutic because they are places of respite and refreshment. I think our feathered friends could benefit from this too.

Have you found birds to be friends in your garden? I'd love to hear about it! Leave me a post or contact me today. LaFleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora offers a complimentary consultation to help you achieve the garden of your dreams. Check out my website for a complete listing of the services we offer.

Winter Garden (part 3): Flowering Annuals

Now that we've covered what edible annuals will flourish against a hardy backdrop of winter perennials, let's discuss what flowering annuals work well in the Tucson winter garden. There is one flowering annuals I would like to focus on, although there are many other flowering annuals that will do well in our climate for winter growing: Pansies. Pansies are exceptionally colorful, cold hardy, can tolerate varied levels of sun without stress, and require minimal care to thrive. Though all pansies are technically violas, not all violas are pansies. It is common to hear the names "pansy," "viola" and "violet" interchanged in the world of gardening. True pansies are derived from the Viola family, Viola tricolor to be exact. Pansies are planted the world over, but have done particularly well in North America. Said to resemble a thoughtful human face, pansies come in a variety of colors such as gold, red, purple, white, and yellow. Normally, a pansy takes two years to bloom and produce seeds, but because of mass cultivation of this favorite flower, most pansies purchased at your local nursery will bloom the first year planted - some in as little as nine weeks! Pansies will tolerate freezing temperatures, but need well-drained soil and at least partial sun to thrive. Pansies are a perfect border for garden spaces, and fill gaps in container gardens with a pop of color quite nicely. And since there are multiple colors and varieties of pansies to chooses from, you can plant this beautiful flower for years and enjoy a new effect each time you plant it.

Have you had success planting pansies in your garden? What other winter flowers do you cultivate in your yard? I'd love to hear about it! Leave a post in the comments section or contact me. I'd love to give you a complimentary consultation to help you design the winter garden space of your dreams. Check out La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora for more information.

Winter Garden (Part 2): Perennials

Perennials offer greenery and color year round in the Tucson garden and are a convenient way to keep your garden lush during the cooler months in the desert. Perennials have a life cycle of 3+ years and a little planning ahead of time is well worth the effort to enjoy watching your winter garden come into it's own. Usually, it is recommended that you plant perennials in the fall to enjoy blooms in the spring. This is a good, general rule of thumb to follow. Your local nursery can suggest varieties that will tolerate late fall plantings (November- December). Perennials offer a great opportunity to experiment with local varieties for low maintenance and low water requirement. And let's not forget our pollinator friends. Desert common varieties of flowering perennials provide food for birds, bees, and bats. It's the next best thing to growing an edible garden for yourself!

Here are a few low water, desert-hardy varietals to consider when planning your winter garden: Blue Euphorbia, Chihuahuan Sage, and Desert Marigold. All of these plants really begin to flourish as the temperature drops, and they are a great way to add color and texture to your landscaping. They are commonly used in landscaping around the region and should prove easy to find at your favorite local nursery.

What are some of your favorite winter plants? I'd love to hear about it! Leave a post in the comments section or send me a message. If you'd like a complimentary consultation for your garden space, consider La Fleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora.

Winter Garden (Part 1): Edibles

One of the best parts of living in Tucson is the year round gardening. While our friends up north are shoveling snow and de-icing their windshields, we are busying ourselves in the garden for yet another season of veggies, herbs, flowers, and succulents. I wanted to focus this week on some great winter garden edibles that anyone can grow in their backyard, in a container, or even incorporate into their landscaping. Edibles are a wonderful way to introduce gardening to your kids and encourage healthy eating habits for all of us. Plus, it's another fantastic opportunity to experiment with native varieties of edibles to create some new favorites for your table. This list is by no means comprehensive - these are just a few of my favorites that are high yield and easy to grow. Enjoy! Carrots are a highly adaptable root vegetable that grows well, spring, summer, fall and winter. There are as many varieties of carrots as there are ways to prepare them. Consistent watering and soil temperature matched with the appropriate seasonal variety will yield sweet, tender, colorful carrots year round. A couple of varieties that are particularly good for cooler climates are Carnival Blend carrots (which are cold hardy up to twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit) and the Paris Market variety (which grow exceptionally well in containers and mature in about 50 days). I like both varieties because they are exceptionally cold hardy, mature quickly, and can be grown easily in containers. I have both varieties growing in my back yard right now and hope to be able to serve them with Christmas dinner. I'll keep you posted...

Onions are a culinary staple in the kitchen. Just try to prepare a savory stuffing, homemade stock, or garden fresh salsa without onion - it wouldn't be very tasty. I use onions for cooking so regularly that I decided to try growing my own. Onions take a couple of weeks to germinate, so make sure that you amend your soil with compost or manure before planting the seeds. Onions like their soil on the acidic side, so a trip to your local nursery for a pH kit is worth the investment. If you plant your onions in a container (like me), make sure the soil is well drained to prevent rot. Short day varieties of onions do best in our region; short days mean the variety needs less sun to grow. Some popular types are Texas Early Grano or Red Burgundy.

And finally, where would the winter garden be without a beautiful cluster of greens? Greens (like lettuces, collards, kale, and spinach) grow very well in the southern winter garden in both containers and in the ground. They are packed with nutrients and so delicious! Consider a new twist on an old favorite: Plant various varieties of kale and lettuce around the borders and in decorative containers instead of flowering annuals. Greens come in an array of colors and flavors to coordinate with any landscaping theme.

I hope today's post has inspired you to try a few edibles in your winter garden this season. If you have other ideas or success with any of the veggies listed above, I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment to share!