Monday, September 16, 2013

Zucchini / Squash Contest Results

Congratulations to the winners of our Zucchini Squash photo contest!

#1 It takes two hands to handle these whoppers!! ~ Bobbie R
I planted just one zucchini plant this year. Even so, we have had zucchini for dinner almost every evening this last month and it still keeps going. This week’s haul is pictured… I guess they like Prescott’s monsoon season! ~ Claire H
‘First zucchini from new raised bed garden’ (not seen in this view) ~ Vickie
Giant Pumpkin from last October!! ~ Anonymous Zucchini / Squash Contest Results

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pansy Planting for winter

30 second plant tip of the day – Pansy  When and how to grow winter blooming pansy

YouTube Preview Image Pansy Planting for winter

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Flame Maple

Flame Maple Amur Acer ginnala

Ideally sized accent tree for smaller homesites in beds and borders or as a foundation planting stand out. Use as seasonal front yard attention-getter or for a long range view out back. Can be utilized in groves for creative color compositions. Adapts well to wild gardens providing big maple looks in limited spaces. An excellent plant for a Japanese-style garden, mixed with airy, deciduous small trees and dense conifers

YouTube Preview Image Flame Maple

Friday, September 13, 2013

Quaking Aspen

30 second plant tip of the day: Quaking Aspen – Populus tremuloides

This is a superior tree for cold northern regions. It is most attractive in groves, and as components in windrows and shelterbelts. It will stand alone as a columnar tree in the suburban environment. Tall narrow form is ideal for filling gaps between tall buildings. Somewhat adapted for street and boulevard planting. A great foreground tree against dark background of evergreen conifers. Ease of cultivation is suited to naturalistic plantings in prairies or open space habitat.

YouTube Preview Image Quaking Aspen

In September Plants Communicate with their Gardeners

RainbowThe mountains of Arizona usually are “spotty” when it comes to rainfall.  For example, when the weather service forecasts that “there is a 40% chance of rain”, 40% of our area will see rain.  What is frustrating is that we never know which 40% of our gardens will revel in moisture, and which will be left dry!  This year has been gratifyingly, damply different.  With much of the season still ahead of us, over 15 inches of rain have been measured in my gardens. This monsoon season reminds me of the rains this area received back in the 1970′s. It really is nice to be experiencing a strong monsoon cycle.

Traditionally, by the end of September we slip out of the monsoonal pattern and back to our normal, “spotty” rain cycles.  However, this year’s overabundant rains have made the next four weeks critical for gardeners.  This is the season plants are most ‘talkative’, and you should get to know their “language”.

Although October through November is our normal period for plants to show their exhilarating colors, some plants declare themselves earlier.  In doing so, they are “speaking” to alert us that they are struggling.  They are somewhat like the gardeners who care for them.  When we gardeners feel ill, we put ourselves to bed until we feel better, then indulge ourselves with appropriate sustenance until our aches and pains subside.  Sick plants will put themselves “to bed” earlier in fall, much earlier than their other, healthy, partners in the yard.

When a plant shows its fall colors weeks before any other plant in the neighborhood it is screaming for help from its gardener. Although grubs and pocket gophers can be the culprits that induce root loss and plant stress, root loss usually is caused from having been planted into very heavy, rocky soils that can’t breath properly during monsoon rains.  Plants in the yard can literally lose root mass because of very wet conditions.  Plants that show abnormally early autumn colors are most likely the victims of these plant stresses.  Seasoned gardeners know that the cure is administered in two easy steps.

Step one is “Soil Activator”, which encourages a plant to generate deeper roots as it repairs damage.  This is the equivalent to chicken soup for you and me.  This ‘chocolate for the soil’ fertilizer will regenerate dead soil around sick plants so they will want to send out new root hairs, those precursors to healthy roots.  Even plants that are not sick will enjoy this soil nutrient by showing off deeper, more vibrant autumn colors towards the end of the year.

All Purpose Plant Food2Step two is just as simple:  in one month follow up the soil activator with a natural plant food.  Please stay away from synthetic foods for sick plants.  They are much too strong for struggling plants and are dangerous to birds and pets.  I developed a fertilizer called “All Purpose Plant Food” 7-4-4 that really helps both newly planted and sickly plants.  Put plants to bed for the winter with this all natural food and you will have set the stage for some energetic spring growth next year.

Grubs and pocket gophers are more difficult to handle than too wet soil.  Gophers are easy to spot by their exit tunnels of mounded dirt. These underground rats live to eat the roots off of our plants!  For a personalized gopher solution contact me or revisit my February 22 column: “Keep Gophers from Devastating Landscapes”.

Grubs are white ‘C’-shaped insects that can attack and kill plants, trees, and shrubs by the dozens.  Because they eat new root hairs as they grow from a plant, grubs literally starve their victims to death.   Fortunately, the solution to eradication is very easy.  Kill grubs by applying “Grub Killer” during the next monsoon rain.  As the grub killer moves through the soil it eliminates grub activity and keeps this misery-inducing creature away for a year.  In one month follow up with the “All Purpose Plant Food” to set the stage for healthy, vibrant spring growth.

If you are not sure why a plant is stressed enough to be showing its autumn colors early, apply both Soil Activator and “All Purpose Plant Food”.  These two products will insure that better plant health will develop for the next spring season.

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mum Dazzling_StacyPlant of the Week – Dazzling Stacy mums are the best selling variety of mum. They deliver a super long bloom time and enjoy local garden hardiness. This garden mum glows yellow with a halo of fiery orange around each daisy-like flower. These big bold perennials are perfectly shaped and add color in autumn when few flowers are in peak bloom. Mums prefer an autumn planting into their gardens.   They also love showing off in containers that share their ground space with Purple Prescott Pansies.

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Zucchini PlantPhoto Contest!  Have you entered your garden prize into Watters’ FaceBook Photo Contest?  Time is running out to get your photo and votes in by from you and your friends – contest ends Sunday, September 15th!  There will be lots of winners who will receive a gift certificate from The Natural Healing Garden AND a Mum from Armstrong Growers :)

Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center. In September Plants Communicate with their Gardeners

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Butterfly Bush Buddleja

30 second plant tip of the day: Butterfly Bush Buddleja

A large rangy shrub useful for adding mid to late summer interest to shrub borders. Plant in the back of cottage or country garden perennial borders for mass with a casual look and feel. Use against over-long fence lines that need relief. Interesting airy filler for sideyards where privacy is needed at windows rewarded by flowers and butterflies. Essential large structural background for wildlife friendly compositions. A fast growing shrub for solutions to barren

YouTube Preview Image Butterfly Bush Buddleja

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass

Plant tip of the day: Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass Bouteloua gracilis

This rugged, cold hardy native grass features blue-green foliage and striking, flag-like summer flowers on stiff, weather resistant stems. Provides cool-season interest, as the long lasting blonde seed heads remain through winter. Tolerant of many soil types, this is a perfect choice for low maintenance landscapes.

YouTube Preview Image Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Aspen Tree Farm

30 second plant tip of the day: Quaking Aspen tree farm.  See the Watters tree-growing farm and the aspen groves.

YouTube Preview Image Aspen Tree Farm

Monday, September 9, 2013

Timeless Beauty® Desert Willow

30 second plant tip of the day – Timeless Beauty® Desert Willow Chilopsis linearis:

This unique selection is prized for an especially long flowering period, since it does not set seed. Large, fragrant bi-colored burgundy and pale lavender blooms appear in clusters at the ends of the branches. The tubular flowers are highly attractive to hummingbirds. This deciduous tree works well in borders, containers or firescaping situations.

YouTube Preview Image Timeless Beauty® Desert Willow

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Good Autumn Plantings

Wondering what autumn planting can be done in your high mountain garden for great color right now?  This video covers plants that prefer fall planting and look their best right through winter. Good Autumn Plantings

Friday, September 6, 2013

Aspens are Choice Trees for Mountain Landscapes

aspen tree bark“H-O-T” is the only word to describe the west walls of our homes during the afternoon hours in Arizona.  That baking sun can roast western exposure plants as it’s causing A/C bills to skyrocket. Best at coping with a western exposure are tall deciduous trees. Every spring, their fresh new leaves create much-needed shade from that afternoon fireball. Because they lose their leaves in fall, their bare branches allow penetration of winter’s sun to warm that side of a house.

Quaking aspen have a tall columnar form that can provide good shade in small backyards or between homes at the property lines, especially where that hot western sun bakes exterior walls.  Aspens also can effectively shade patios and will grow tall enough to eventually shade second story decks.

With their famous “quaking leaves”, aspens ornament windy hilltops, and the Arizona variety shows off with the best of them.  The slightest breeze causes the leaves to “dance”, their moving and swirling adding another dimension to the landscape that is unique to the mountains.

The aspen’s format, taller with less width, is perfect for framing vistas.  In landscape designs I like placing aspens at decks and patios, using them as a picture frame that guides the eye towards the perfect sunset, a mountain peak, or down toward a meadow view.  They don’t take over the yard after several years like so many other fast growing trees.

Garden centers are stocking up with autumn aspen, easily identified by their golden colors and paper white bark.  If you are looking for a really tall, up to 25-foot high, Aspen specimen, now through October is the only time you will find the largest sizes available.  I have several spectacular aspens in stock that are taller than the peaks of my tallest greenhouse!

To reduce transplant shock, some garden writers suggest planting aspens in autumn right after the leaves have fallen.  I prefer to plant aspen while the monsoon season still is delivering its liquid gold.  The rains increase planting success, and the landscape can enjoy established golden autumn colors through October.  Whether planted when leaves are still green or after leaf drop, this is an ideal season to be planting a new aspen.

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September is the month to install a new lawn, extend an existing yard, or over seed the grass in a tired lawn.  Whether you install grass by seed or sod, success hinges on your preparation of the soil.

LawnRemove rocks and kill the weeds in the area where you want to put your lawn. Remove any large dirt clods and correct any irregularities in the grade. Add about 2″ of mulch to the soil and then till to a depth of 6 inches. Settle the area with a roller or heavy application of water. Never plant grass seed on “fluffy” soil or you end up with an uneven, rolling lawn. Rake, or “scarify”, the surface to form a loosened seedbed.

Apply both Soil Activator and my specially blended “All Purpose Plant Food” 7-4-4 over the raked seedbed. Soil Activator stimulates deep roots; the plant food promotes fast development of those luscious green blades. Now you are ready to spread seed.

There are two varieties of grass that hold their green for most of the year. One is called the “Prescott Mix”, a blend of perennial rye and blue grass. The rich green color is soft to look at and even softer to walk on. While this old-timers’ favorite is the one seen in photographs and magazine covers, its negative aspect is the considerable amount of water required for successful up-keep.

Fescue is the second and tougher of the two varieties. It is deep rooted and requires far less water. It bounces back from heavy traffic and daily abuse from kids and dogs. I know because this is the lawn chosen for our homes, and it has stood up to heavy use every time. Fescue lawns have a wide yet soft blade, and it has that nice clean look after mowing. Irrigate no more than about twice a week even during the hottest days in June.

For over seeding do not spread grass seed directly onto thatchy areas; the seeds will float and never get a taproot down into the surrounding soil.  Rake out the existing lawn’s dead thatch areas to expose the soil beneath.  Sowing on bare soil gives the seed a place to germinate.

Roll the entire surface to press the soil around the seed or apply another heavy application of water. Cover the seeded bed with a light layer of mulch. This will regulate moisture, temperature, and keep the birds from dining on the seed. Right now our weather is so nice that the seed will germinate within days.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Aspens are Choice Trees for Mountain Landscapes

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Do you know what this is?

This guy (or gal, I didn’t askphoto) came to visit the Garden Center.  The first person to post a correct guess on our FaceBook page wins a gift certificate for a massage at Healing Gardens! Do you know what this is?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Shift from Summer Annuals to Fall Flowers

SnapdragonOrnamental grasses, thyme lawns, and fall flowers all love a good monsoonal rain. Plus, anyone working a garden knows that a shovel goes through soaked ground like butter.  Well, maybe not quite like butter, but undoubtedly more easily than the holes dug during the crusty, dry months. Trust me on this; during this monsoon season many new plants have gone into the soft ground at the Lains’ casa. Rain definitely is a gardener’s best friend.

Our part of the country is celebrated for its mild four-season climate, but gardeners new to the region often don’t realize just how nice it really is:  Gardens can be encouraged to bloom 10 months out of the year!

However, by the end of October the first frost will arrive, taking out summer flowers and leaving the yard looking rather decimated. That means that there are only two months of blooming left for our gardens’ summer flowers. However, a strategic planting of cold-loving bloomers can keep flower color in the yard right into next year.  September is the month to plant the hardy plants that will bloom through November and December. Garden centers have brought in their first crops of mums, dusty miller, fall marigolds, Johnny jump-ups, and pansies.  The available crops of winter bloomers only get bigger and better as we approach October.

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Any unhealthy plants that are struggling, out of bloom, are bug prone, or are mildew covered should be cleared out of our late summer landscapes.  This will make room for the flowering plants that will persevere well into those first cold months. Some summer blooming plants still look so good in September that it can be difficult to pull ‘em and toss ‘em. However, the secret to early winter flowers is in planting early enough to take advantage of rains and the warm ground. Cold hardy bloomers should be established before the soil cools in late fall. So buff up your inner courage and pull out those plants that have to go!

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September is the month to harvest most mountain vegetables and herbs. Although summer rains have increased the harvest, much rain brings the chance of blossom end rot.  Watch fruits for black spots showing up where the blossom was. The slightest calcium deficiency causes this phenomenon, but it is easily corrected.

To combat this rotting, while encouraging more flavorful fruit, spray plant foliage with ‘Rot Stop’.  This is the most effective form of liquid calcium, and it even prevents future fruit damage.  Spray problem plants once a week through September to increase production, flavor, and rot free fruits.

Tomato_cluster_on_the_-vineBaskets full of tomatoes are sitting on our kitchen counter waiting to be processed.  If you are overwhelmed by the bounty from your garden, don’t forget that fresh fruits and vegetables are a blessing gratefully received at our local food banks and soup kitchens.  Most fresh food donations are so few they are delivered and used the same day they are donated.

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Garden Alert – Spittlebugs have landed and are sucking plants dry. White slimy globs ooze from the outer new growth of plants as this tiny brown bug drains the life out of our plants.  Just run a hand through the foliage and if it comes out slimed, there is a problem.  Not only is the slime ugly, it also is dangerous to plants. Locally, recent damage has been found on grapes, autumn sage, and Virginia creeper.

Although any insecticide can kill spittlebugs, it’s difficult to get the bug killer through all that white slimy spittle. With some organic ‘Home Harvest’ spritzed on each infected area, the bugs soon are eliminated. As it can be sprayed up to the day of harvesting, it is an insect eliminator that is safe for human consumption, and is no threat to birds and pets.  With the grape harvest so heavy this year, we need to be especially careful to select and apply the appropriate bug killers.

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Only family and closest friends are allowed into my private gardens.  This is because, and fellow gardeners will concur, my gardens give me an escape from life’s pressures and guarantee some alone time.  They truly act as a sanctuary to me.  However, I don’t mind sharing my gardens through video.   All the recent new plantings going into my gardens provided the perfect opportunity to shoot another local video.  My latest YouTube production is “How to Plant for Local Success”, and it shares the steps needed for new plantings to thrive.  The six-minute garden tutorial virtually guarantees success in the landscape.  Check it out and if helpful, give it “a thumbs up” and share with family and friends who are interested in gardening:
YouTube Preview Image

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Free Class – The season’s first fall garden class will be next Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in Watters’ back greenhouses. The topic is “Autumn Colors Enjoyed at Home”. Each attendee of this free class will learn how to add beautiful color to their landscape.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.


Calling All Men!

Don’t miss out on the “Get Real” Men’s Expo Saturday September 7th @ Prescott Mile High Middle School Shift from Summer Annuals to Fall Flowers

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rains Insure Success While Gardening on a Dime

plant sale‘Monsoon Madness’, ‘Fall Sale’, ‘Sizzling Summer’, ‘Fall Planting Event’, however the sales are billed, this is the time to watch local garden centers for end-of-season bargains. These sales are necessary to clear out the passing season’s plants to make room for shipments of new fall stock. At our garden center we call this annual clearing-out our “Monster Monsoon Sale”. It lasts through a couple of weekends as the “new” trees and shrubs arrive. It’s the wise gardener who takes advantage of some irresistibly good bargains.

The best savings of the year are to be had through September. Expect at least 25% off, to as much as 65% off. (At my place I’ve been known to give away plants when I know they’re going to a good home!)

Keep a watchful eye on your favorite garden centers and scoop up the deals as early as possible. Because savvy gardeners know to take advantage of these between season sales, the limited quantities go fast.

If you’ve been considering a landscape addition to create more seasonal excitement in your garden, now is the time. Labor Day is the official start of our fall planting season, and that means that there are two months left of our growing season.  Whether planting some of the past season’s stock or new arrivals, the plants have plenty of time to develop extensive root systems. A perennial’s chance at success definitely is increased when planted in fall.  Many that bloom in late summer and autumn are especially happy when planted this time of year. With the exception of mums, nurseries DO NOT want any perennial plants left as they transition into the autumn planting season.  So, if the plant you want isn’t on sale, ask for a discount.  Nurseries are remarkably receptive to giving you “a deal”, especially when you offer to take home more than one plant.

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Sun-loving perennials that do really well in local gardens:merlot-coneflower

  1. Merlot Coneflower - A well-behaved plant with bold 5” merlot-rose flowers. Its natural home is with other perennials in a flower border, but this reliable plant also is good planted individually out by the mailbox. The character of this knee high plant is right at home in the mountains, so it does well in wild gardens with native plants. It’s an excellent source of cut flowers.

  2. Joe Pye Phantom – When in bloom, “impressive” is the only way to describe this 3’ perennial.  So sun-hardy it can be used in the native garden or as a backdrop to a rock garden. Sturdy and upright the plant is covered with lavender blossoms from summer through autumn. The delicious vanilla scent is attractive to people and a magnet to butterflies.

  3. Wall Germander – Rich rosy flowers are an attractive contrast against the dense, deep aromatic leaves of this easy-care plant.  It blooms all summer long in water-wise gardens and makes a good, care free informal filler around larger shrubs and perennials. Even where there’s a thick population of nosy deer!

Shade-loving perennials that are star performers in our area:

  1. autumn brilliance fernBrilliance Autumn Fern – One of the few ferns that grows well locally.  This handsome selection has coppery-red new foliage that is a brighter and significantly more dramatic red than other ferns. The bold leaves mature to deeply cut dark green.  Its spectacular autumn colors illuminate the landscape, and the plant comes back for another showing every spring.

  2. Grace Ward Lithodora – Iridescent blue flowers crown this tidy 12” perennial.  So tough it is used as a rock garden accent.  In extremely hot areas its slightly mounded form likes some shade.

  3. Crème Brule Heuchera – A breakthrough in Heuchera breeding! In both spring and fall, the chartreuse foliage has a heavy smattering of brick red coloration that radiates out from each leaf. During summer, the leaves lighten with a silvery overlay. Although it’s grown for the fantastic foliage there are cream-colored flowers that appear in midsummer.  It is one of the few evergreen perennials during milder mountain winters, but it also loves heat.

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Garden Alert – Swarms of black, one-inch long beetles are hitting gardeners in Paulden, Chino and Prescott Valley.  Reports of ‘Blister Beetles’ have attacked potato crops, birds of paradise, ash trees, and many other landscape shrubs.  My frustration with this pest led me to create a solution to combat this little eating machine.  Fight back by spraying this insidious insect with my, “Multi-Purpose Insect Spray”.  The death is immediate; you actually will see bugs dropping as they’re sprayed with it!

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facebookCongratulations to Jane, Jess, Jo, Jag, and Cindy for their winning entry in last week’s garden photo contest.  Everyone that entered received a free Heuchera courtesy of Monrovia Growers.  It is fun to see what other local gardeners are growing, so, although the contest is over, you may look at each Facebook garden entry on the web at

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Rains Insure Success While Gardening on a Dime

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to Plant a tree shrub or vine

This video demonstrates: Exact planting hole size, how to treat the roots, back fill, food and rooting stimulators and how to top dress a newly planted tree, shrub, or vine in 3-Easy steps!

YouTube Preview Image How to Plant a tree shrub or vine

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Photo Contest Results

Here are the winners are our photo contest:

Mighty WisteriaBackyard ColorMini Vineyard
 #1 Mighty Wisteria ~ Jane H Backyard Color ~ Jess B Mini Vineyard ~ Jag F


Pugtunias ~ Cindy M

Garden Oasis

Garden Oasis ~ Jo A

And here are the other submissions:

Moth on SalviaButterfly on Coneflower Sunflower ~ Nicole R
 Moth on Salvia ~ T. L. Butterfly on Coneflower Sunflower ~ Nicole R Photo Contest Results

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blonde Ambition Grama Grass

Blonde Ambition Blue Grama GrassIn plume now with long lasting blonde seed heads that hover above the rugged blue foliage. These unusual plumes decorate the plant right through winter adding interest to the garden 365 days of the year.  This super hardy knee high native is equal in cold and drought hardiness as our wilder blue grama, only better.  Striking, flag-like flowers rise above the blades. Tolerates any soil type and the perfect choice for low maintenance landscapes. Blonde Ambition Grama Grass

Friday, August 16, 2013

Six Keys to Hassle-Free Landscapes

fire resistant landscapeWouldn’t it be wonderful if you could enjoy an attractive, colorful garden without spending all your free time working in it?  Well, it can be done. All it takes is some knowledge about the right plants with the right mountain gardening techniques. Do your research for the best easy-care trees, shrubs, and perennials BEFORE you plant and you’ll save time and money now and for years into the future of your landscape.

When considering hassle-free landscaping, the six cardinal principles in order of importance are:

  1. Choose plants that are known to be reliable and problem free for your area and won’t outgrow their allotted spaces.

  2. Reduce the size of your lawn or eliminate it entirely.

  3. Prepare mountain soils before planting so plants get a strong start.

  4. Use shredded cedar bark to discourage weeds and bugs and to conserve soil moisture.

  5. Feed often with slow release organic fertilizers.

  6. Install an automatic drip irrigation system.

Use the right plant in the right place.  Considering the bewildering array of plants available at garden centers, choosing the right plants for the right places will require a little research.  Start by making a list of plants you like, even look around your neighborhood for interesting options. Consult gardening books and magazine articles to learn about the plants on your list, and ask the staff at your favorite garden center how well local conditions suit the plants that have caught your eye.  Take quick pictures of your landscape, the plants you like, the plants you dislike, and then share them with the horticulturalist working with you.  Keep in mind that a picture is worth a thousand words and helps to narrow down recommendations.

Allow enough space for the size of each plant at its maturity.  A common mistake is to choose plants that look just right on planting day and then rapidly outgrow their allotted spaces, creating a continual maintenance headache. Unlike an interior design that looks best the day it is installed, a landscape design should look its best when it’s about five years old.

coarl bell plant


Garden Photo Contest:  Submit a Photo, Get Votes and Win a Plant!  Contest ends soon, so don’t delay!


Some plant varieties have resistance to pests and diseases that plague their particular species. For example, ‘Prairie Fire crabapple’ is resistant to both apple scab and fire blight.  ‘Flower Carpet’ and ‘Knockout’ roses are rarely troubled by black spot, mildew, or thrips, problems that are common to other landscape shrubs. Choosing disease resistant varieties will result in fewer pests that ultimately will translate into less maintenance.

Dwarf varieties such as Alberta Spruce grow very slowly, as little as an inch per year. Such slow growers are more expensive initially because a plant that is 4-6’ tall may be 15 years old. Growers have invested as much time and materials in these as in faster growing varieties that are much larger. But the initial extra cost pays off over time because such plants need minimal if any pruning.  Other good dwarf varieties are petite blue butterfly bush, abbotswood potentilla, acoma crape myrtle, boulder blue fescue, crimson ruby barberry, flame maple, sand cherry, and gilded edge silverberry.

Amending the planting hole with composted mulch provides just the boost new plants need. Even if plants require only minimal maintenance, fertilizer and water still are essential to healthy growth. To make fertilizing a snap, use all natural plant foods that release over an extended period of time.  I created “All Purpose Plant Food” 7-4-4 specifically for mountain gardens.  It not only feeds the plants, but also feeds the soil so plants want to root deeper into our mountain soils.  Healthier, deeper roots translate into a healthier plant.

So there you have it. Follow these simple suggestions and you almost can ignore your garden and enjoy it, too.  My newly created “Preferred Plant Guide” is a list of the best local landscape plants. Of course, it’s free for the asking when you visit the garden center.

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Blonde Ambition Blue Grama GrassPlant of the Week – Blonde Ambition grama grass is in plume and looking summertime good, its long lasting blonde seed heads hovering above the rugged blue foliage. These unusual plumes decorate the plant right through winter adding interest to the garden 365 days of a year. Native, drought hardy, and really easy to grow, every garden should grow one.

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Gardening Class - ‘Vacation Landscapes with Less Work” is the topic of today’s free gardening class. We’ll cover the right designs, the right plants, and the right placement for a mountain landscape that doesn’t require a lot of care.  Bring pencil and paper for lots of notes, and don’t forget pictures of your landscape project for design advice.  We will have lots of local horticulturalists on hand to help during and after this class.  Class is free and starts promptly at 9:30 a.m. in the greenhouse at Watters.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Six Keys to Hassle-Free Landscapes

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Blaze Maple

autumn-blaze-maple treeExtreme growth of 3 feet or more each year. The fall color glows like embers in a blazing hot fire, thus the name. There is just no other maple to consider at this altitude. It loves mountain soils, extreme conditions, and takes our wind better than any other shade tree I know.  Perfect for patios, hot sunny walls, street and driveway trees or anyplace shaded relief is needed though summer. Plant now and watch these trees showing off their stuff in fall with spectacular blazing reds leaves. Blaze Maple

Friday, August 9, 2013

Preserve Summer Herbs for Winter Cooking

sphinx moth over lantanaThis week’s photo shows a sphinx moth enjoying the nectar of a Miss Huff lantana. Sphinxes are beautiful as adults, but as youngsters (in their worm stage) they devastate any and all tomato and pepper plants. During its caterpillar stage of life local gardeners know the sphinx as the dreaded ‘Green Horned Tomato Worm’! Moths have been laying eggs in our gardens for several weeks, and now local gardeners are telling stories of hoards of the green munching machines devouring their plants. This is serious stuff! If left unchecked these worms can strip all the foliage from their plants of choice. So, take a close look at your tomato and pepper plants TODAY!

Judging by the number of customers streaming into the garden center to see me about their ravaged gardens, worm despoliation has progressed to epidemic proportions. ‘Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew’ is the easy organic solution to deal with these nasty pests. Simply spritz tomato and pepper foliage with this non-offensive liquid. Then, later in the day as the caterpillars digest the leaves, they die, and their devastation stops.

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Garden HerbsIf you have herbs in your garden, you know that many are peaking. Although I’ve been harvesting like mad, quantities are exceeding consumption at our house; so it’s time to start preserving for later use. One of the easiest ways to preserve culinary herbs is to dry them. Drying is a quick process that effectively retains herbs’ essential oils and flavors.

Air-drying Method

  1. Cut only healthy branches from plants.

    Remove dry or spotted leaves.

    If necessary, rinse with cool water and pat dry with paper towels.

    Remove lower leaves from the bottom inch of the branch.

  2. Gather together 4-6 branches, and using string or rubber bands tie them into a loose bunch.

    Punch several holes in a paper bag and label it with the name of the herb.

    Place the herb bundle upside down in the bag.

    The bundle of herbs should not be crowded or cramped.

    Tie together the exposed stems of the herbs and the open end of the bag.

    Hang the bag away from direct sunlight in a warm, airy room like a garage or mudroom.

  3. In two weeks see how drying is progressing.

    Keep checking weekly until herbs are dry and ready to use.

    Dried herbs retain more of their flavors when the leaves are stored whole in airtight containers.

Not only is air-drying the easiest and least expensive way to dry fresh herbs, but slow drying doesn’t deplete the herbs of their oils. This process works best for herbs with a low moisture content like bay, dill, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, summer savory, and thyme. Um-m-m!

Frozen Leaf Method

  1. Harvest the freshest, healthiest leaves.

  2. Spread the individual leaves on a small tray or cookie sheet. Freezing the individual leaves flat and separated will prevent them from freezing together into an unwieldy brick.

  3. Put the tray of leaves into the freezer.

  4. When the leaves have frozen solid, gently place them in airtight containers, and return them to the freezer. Very tasty!

Ice Cube Method

  1. Stuff 2-3 individual leaves or a spoonful of chopped herbs into ice cube trays.

  2. Fill the tray half full with water. Make sure the leaves are submerged in the water. (They will tend to float, but we’ll fix that with the next step.) Put the half-filled trays into the freezer.

  3. Once the cubes are frozen, finish filling the trays with water. The leaves will no longer be able to float and can be completely surrounded with water. Now place the tray back into the freezer to freeze the cubes until solid.

  4. Once the ice cubes are formed, remove them from the tray and store them in zip-closing freezer bags.

  5. When ready to use, toss the whole ice cube into the dish you’re cooking. Yum!

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Autumn Blaze maple is the only maple tree to consider for planting at this altitude. There is no other maple that thrives in our mountain soils and extreme weather conditions. Critically important is that it stands up to our winds better than other shade trees. Maple trees are harvested in late summer, and because of generous rains, this year’s crop of Autumn Blaze maples is really nice. Expect an annual extreme growth of 3 feet or more from this shade tree. Its autumn colors glow like embers in a blazing hot fire, thus the name. This tree is perfect as a street and driveway tree, for patios, hot sunny walls, and any place that needs shaded relief from summer. Summer is the ideal time to plant a new shade tree. It will have time to establish a nice root system, and then, come autumn, it will be ready to show off its spectacular blazing red colors. There is no pest that is a problem to this tree.

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coarl bell plantGarden Photo Contest. First, submit your best garden photo at Then, have your friends (and yourself) vote for your photo. The entry with the most votes wins a free plant. Local growers have generously donated free plants for winners and the friends that vote for them. You could win a beautiful flowering perennial plant that will give you gorgeous blooms every year and have fun doing it! I encourage all local gardeners to upload garden photos including themselves and their friends in the gardens. Hint – Pictures with dogs, cats, and other garden wildlife always receive the highest numbers of votes.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Preserve Summer Herbs for Winter Cooking

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Plant Tip - Tiger Eye Sumac

30 second Plant Tip of the day on the Tiger Eye Sumac:

You can use this fern-like, palm-like plant as a water accent. And, it is also absolutely animal proof! Plant Tip - Tiger Eye Sumac

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Plant Tip - Balboa Sunset Trumpet Vine

30 second plant tip of the day on the Balboa Sunset Trumpet Vine:

Balboa Sunset Trumpet Vine – Bright orange to red flowers adorn this fast growing mountain vine Plant Tip - Balboa Sunset Trumpet Vine

Tiger Eyes Sumac

Tiger Eye SumacNew growth is a lively chartreuse green, quickly changing to yellow, both colors contrasting nicely with the rosy-pink stems. The branches angle upward while the deeply cut leaflets drape downward, giving an oriental look. As magnificent as the knee high summer colors are, the dramatic effect of yellow, orange and intense scarlet in autumn are unparalleled. Great companion plant with blues of Russian Sage. Absolutely animal proof! Tiger Eyes Sumac

Friday, August 2, 2013

Plant Tip - Brakelight Yucca

30 second plant tip of the day on Brakelight Yucca:

A compact new color selection of Hesperaloe parviflora! The vibrant, brake-light red color is wonderful contrast to the standard form which tends to be more pink or salmon in color. This compact grower reaches two feet tall and features a very long bloom season. Lovely in containers or massed into groups Plant Tip - Brakelight Yucca

The Key to Gardening Success? Plant It Right!

potting benchAs you might expect, I hear differing opinions on which of our local seasons is the best for planting and gardening success.  My suggestion is to check your weeds for the answer.  It’s a fact that, like the weeds coming alive in the rest of the landscape, monsoon-drenched gardens take off with new growth.  Rain is the best “natural” nurturer for all plant life

A full front yard remodel has taken over the Lain casa where patios, new irrigation, decorative walls, and soil preparation have been months in the making.  Now, with the arrival of the monsoon rains, plants are going into the ground “fast-and-furious”. Dozens of plants have gone into the gardens with confidence that none will fail.

Because of the harsh environment, mountain planting is not easy. That’s why short cuts to the planting process greatly increase a plant’s mortality rate. Plant success is completely in the hands of the gardener, and that success often is attributed to a “green thumb” which in turn breeds confidence.

You too can have a green thumb’s confidence with these six easy steps.

Step 1 – Mountain roots grow just under the soil’s surface.  Even taproots take a 90- degree turn soon after trying to send a taproot straight down.  Don’t fight nature; work with it! The width of your planting hole should be three times the size of the plant’s root ball and just a little bit deeper.  Remove rocks, old roots and other debris from the soil. Any detritus larger than a golf ball should be removed from the planting site.  A properly prepared planting hole is the second most overlooked step when planting.

Step 2 – Composted mulch is essential in the planting hole.  A plant bought from a garden center is grown in a soil-less mix and its roots will not take to a yuck-filled, sterile planting hole. Blend together one shovelful of mulch for every three shovels of native soil.  Use this mixture to back fill around the plant’s roots.  A new plant must adapt to the soil in its new landscape, but this blending ratio will insure that roots have a successful transition.

Aqua Boost main labelStep 3 – The most overlooked step in mountain gardening is guaranteeing new plants a consistent water source.  Sprinkle a few “Aqua Boost Crystals” at the bottom of the planting hole and add some to your blended mulch/soil mixture.  Water holding crystals will ensure water is accessible to the plant.  They also greatly reduce the amount of water needed to keep the plant going.  As the water boosting crystals shrink and swell with water they provide roots with the space they must have to breathe and grow.

Step 4 – Keep the roots exposed!  Roots must breathe, so the roots you see exposed in the grower’s pot should remain exposed after planting.  Do NOT cover them with any Step 2 planting mixture.  Do pack the mixture firmly around the roots to eliminate air pockets.

Step 5 – Happy plants are hungry plants, especially when first planted.  For your plant’s sake make sure to stay away from strong synthetic foods.  Each of my new plants receives a light dose of “All Purpose Plant Food” 7-4-4, about one tablespoon for each gallon size of plant. For example:  sprinkle 1 tablespoon of 7-4-4- food on top of a 1 gallon-sized planting, 5 tablespoons of 7-4-4 food sprinkled on top of a 5 gallon planting.  A simple step to acquiring gardening confidence.

Step 6 – Transplanting a plant from its commercial container, nurturing and caring for it its entire life in your landscape is much like the mending and maintenance following the stress of open heart surgery. ‘Root & Grow’ is like a liquid antibiotic for new plantings.  It minimizes the stress of transplanting and encourages healthy root growth. Add this rooting liquid to the plants’ normal water cycle at two-week intervals until new leaves and flowers make their debuts.

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Weed advice – ‘Weed Beater Complete’ is an amazingly effective product that combines weed killing and the prevention of subsequent outbreaks.  Simply spread like a dry fertilizer over weed colonies, it means certain death to the nastiest weeds. A weed free yard follows within days of application! This two-in-one product also kills weed seeds at the same time.  Most thorough results are noticed when it is applied while weeds are young, small, and tender.

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Tiger Eye SumacTiger Eyes Sumac – One of the many plants in my newly-planted gardens.  Its new growth is a lively chartreuse green that soon changes to yellow, both colors contrasting nicely with the rosy-pink stems. As eye-catching as these knee-high summer colors are, the dramatic effect of yellow, orange, and intense scarlet in autumn is unparalleled. The branches angle upward while the deeply cut leaflets drape downward, giving an oriental look. This great companion plant to the blues of Russian Sage is absolutely animal proof!

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. The Key to Gardening Success? Plant It Right!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Plant Tip - Akebia Vine

30 second plant tip of the day on the Akebia vine:

Great way to use Akebia in the landscape to hide unsightly fence, wiring, rocks, etc. Plant Tip - Akebia Vine

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Plant Tip - Pink Dawn Chitalpa

30 second plant tip of the day on the Pink Dawn Chitalpa Tree:

Pink Dawn Chitalpa tree is a new beanless variety that blooms all summer long. Only grows to 12 feet tall Plant Tip - Pink Dawn Chitalpa

Attract More Butterflies to Your Yard

Trumpet VineHuge clusters of 4″ flowers are deeper colored than any other vine.  Taylor made for climbing quickly with colorful coverage that masks unattractive wire fences and outbuildings and attracting more butterflies.


raspberry sparkle salvia

Raspberry flowers are erupting into ever-bloom summer color.  Flowers look as though garden fairies have dabbed each flower with lip stick so they blow kisses in the slightest mountain breeze.



butterfly bush

This royal red flower shows off better in the landscape than other shrubs that boast red as their favorite color.  Makes an interesting privacy screen between neighbors, or a driveway screen.



Berry beautiful and berry prolific, this ruby toned beauty produces a floriferous flurry of huge 4″ raspberry rosy flowers with a darker center Attract More Butterflies to Your Yard