Saturday, April 27, 2013

Succulent Gardens

Bowls of easy-care succulents are guaranteed conversation starters at outdoor gatherings.

In hues ranging from pale blues & greens to deep oranges & reds, these live succulents display an amazing array of nature’s colors. An ideal gift for a garden enthusiast, they are artfully arranged in a clay planter . An impressive Mothers Day gift or simple pleasures for your own backyard. Mature, stunning and in limited supply for the coming holiday – hurry! Succulent Gardens

Friday, April 26, 2013

”Early-Bird” Gardeners can plant Tomatoes NOW ! !

Tomato_cluster_on_the_-vineIn fear that a late frost would damage young plants, we’ve been holding back our spring stock until now.  That’s no longer the case.  It’s time to update flowerbeds and containers and time to get after the vegetable garden! This is the week that garden centers are at full plant capacity. You will find a glut of plants overflowing into parking lots and greenhouses, just waiting to be ‘taken home’.

Among the most sought-after plants of the season are tomatoes, the stars of most kitchen gardens. Because tomatoes can be planted now, they have taken over garden centers’ display benches. Whether you are a first-time tomato gardener or had some problems last year, here are some tips for tomato harvest success.

Best Varieties – Choosing climate-appropriate varieties is a must. To guarantee crop success, be sure to select from medium-sized tomatoes like Champion, Celebrity, Early Girl, and Better Boy. Also, any of the smaller varieties like yellow pear, cherry tomatoes, and Sweet 100′s perform exceptionally well in our area. Because of cold night temperatures at this altitude, varieties bearing larger tomatoes tend to struggle, but with a bit more TLC it is possible to grow tomatoes the size of your fist.

Composted Mulch – Tomatoes enjoy a rich garden soil that drains well. Be careful not to add too much manure, which has a high content of nitrogen.   Tomato plants in nitrogen-rich soil result in huge vines with little fruit growth. You want to starve tomatoes of nitrogen and give them plenty of phosphorus, the element indicated by the middle of the three numbers shown on a fertilizer bag. Phosphorus helps plants produce more roots and fruits, which is exactly what we want for productive tomato plants.

Nutrition Supplements – Along with compost and mulch consider turning into the soil some bone meal, 0-10-0, or super phosphate, 0-18-0. These additives encourage larger, better tasting fruits. Gypsum is also recommended to produce superior tomatoes. Gypsum is made of calcium sulfate, which reduces blossom end rot and fruits that split open. Sprinkle a little gypsum in the bottom of the planting hole, cover it with just a little dirt, then top dress with a “Tomato & Vegetable Food”.

Plant Deep – Always plant a tomato as deeply as possible. Tomatoes are one of the few plants that will root from the hairs on the vine. Prune off the side shoots and leaves from the bottom of the plant, 2-6 inches above the root ball. Then plant the vine as deeply as possible, but don’t bury the attached leaves. Roots will begin to grow quickly from up and down the buried stem. This will develop a larger, deeper root structure, which is exactly what a tomato plant needs to contend with the arid months of May and June.

Warm the Soil – Right now soils can be cool for these first summer vegetable plants.  To plant tomatoes now,  we must warm the soil quickly and protect the plants by surrounding them with an ‘Early Season Plant Protector’.  The water-filled tubes of these protective structures surround new plants and form mini greenhouses promoting deeper, stronger root formations for this early planting.  They really work.  frost_protectorTruly, in the past I’ve had snow hit my garden, and plants surrounded by these protective barriers have kept on fruiting!

Another quick and easy plant protector is the ‘Nuvue Frost Cover’. These spring-loaded mini pop-up greenhouses are made of green frost blanket.  Plant the garden and then cover it with these protectors against cool temperatures and early spring bugs.

Either the ‘Early Season Plant Protectors’ or the ‘Nuvue Frost Covers’ are worthwhile investments, as they are reusable for years.  Either of these products will enable you to plant your tomatoes now and expect your harvest a full month ahead of the neighbors’!

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Bowls of easy-care succulents are guaranteed conversation starters at outdoor gatherings.

Bowls of easy-care succulents are guaranteed conversation starters at outdoor gatherings.

Plant of the Week – Unrelated to tomatoes, this week’s photo is a decorative bowl of succulents grown with Mother’s Day gifting in mind. The leaves of these somewhat exotic-looking plants grow in an amazing array of colors ranging from pale blues and greens to deep oranges and reds. Most have a cactus-like bloom in vivid florescent colors.

Succulents come in both long-living perennials, like ‘Chicks-and-hens’ that are well known for their durability and easy care, as well as annual “showboating” varieties.  Selecting from both varieties offers a long list of choices. The perennial varieties enjoy a winter hardiness that no cactus ever could muster; many can tolerate temperatures well below zero and remain evergreen throughout winter.  Succulents are excellent rock garden plants in places where neglect, summer heat, wind, and winter cold are commonplace. They are easy plants to use in those all-too-familiar and deadly hot spots of our yards.  An ideal gift for garden enthusiasts, I also find that a container of these unusual plants makes an excellent conversation starter at backyard gatherings.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. ”Early-Bird” Gardeners can plant Tomatoes NOW ! !

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Moonshine Yarrow

Moonshine YarrowThis Arizona native is as soft as a baby’s bottom and glows gold under the ray of the moon. Day or night, no other native blooms longer. Works beautifully in Western dryland gardens where it naturalizes much like a wildflower, and once established requires little, if any, care. The blooms rise up knee high under the full moon and as cheery as a yellow canary during the day. Part of Watters ‘Western Native’ collection. Moonshine Yarrow

Friday, April 19, 2013

Free Design Fridays with Rich Olson

Landscape DesignOur first Free Design Friday was tremendously popular!  So much that designer, Rich Olson, is asking that you send an email with a photo of your landscape area in advance to minimize wait time.  Please email your photo and dimensions of the area to: by Thursday.

Rich Olson


Rich was such a huge hit teaching our Design and Raised Bed Gardening classes, that we’ve invited him back for more.  Join us for free one on one professional design sessions with Rich Olson, using his 3-D design software.

Free Design Fridays, each Friday starting April 19, 2013, from 10 AM to 2 PM in front of the greenhouse. Free Design Fridays with Rich Olson

Use Low Care Natives for Stylish Local Gardens

The Mexican Primrose blooms pink most the year

The Mexican Primrose blooms pink most the year

The romance of the arid western part of our country has attracted visitors for decades. Of course, these days the Southwest with its bright sunny days, a desirable quality of life, and very reasonably priced homes is irresistible to those looking for a new place to live. But I still am surprised at the number of new residents moving to the high country of Arizona.

This week alone I met newbies from Ohio, New York, Alaska, Oregon, Virginia, and Texas, and those are only the states that I can call to mind “right off the top of my head”.  Gardeners new to the area often try to bring their landscapes with them, including the plants they loved back home. Admittedly, we have such a mild climate that our plant selection is greater than that in other parts of the country.  However, not all plants from other states do well in our extreme climate.

I find most gardeners new to the area want to landscape with natives but the choices seem too few, and sometimes too stark for adapting tastes. But, new-to-the-area gardeners can have fun designing with all the plants, textures, and styles new to them. Just include most Rocky Mountain natives with a few super- tough transplants from abroad and gardening choices can be equally Arizona hardy and interesting. Of special consideration should be Western native plants. I have a list of my preferred ‘Western Native’ selections, but there are far too many to list in this column. The in-depth list, entitled “Yavapai Friendly Plants”, is free for the asking the next time you visit the garden center.

For today’s column I’ve put together an abbreviated list that features a couple of native trees, a few shrubs, and some super blooming perennials.

Native Trees – Most of us don’t think of Arizona Aspens as local plants, but bear in mind that Aspen creek is within a local walking trail. With their famous paper white bark these tall trees are striking plants.  Nature has designed them to take on local thick soils and our extreme winds.  Make sure to stay away form the European or Swiss varieties; they don’t grow well here.

Although shaped much like the east’s most famous low water user, the Eastern redbud, Desert Willow is 100% Arizonan. This summer-loving tree grows wild throughout the region with deep-throated purple-and-white flowers that show all summer.  Hummingbirds flock to our area just for its nectar!  Encourage this 12′ tree to grow up to size, then cut it completely from all irrigation and watch it thrive.

Native Shrubs – These are fun to play with because of their great variety of textures, shapes, and sizes.  The most famous is the Apache Plume.  This tough local native forms small white flowers resembling single rose blooms; they are followed by attractive fluffy white plumes that persist throughout the fall. This hip- high bloomer is often covered in white flowers and white plumes at the same time.  Use it in the most hot, dry, and inhospitable places, around landscape boulders, rock gardens, and behind drystone walls.

Gray Leaf Cotoneaster is an equally hardy evergreen shrub that boasts classic Arizona blue foliage year round.  With its white spring flowers that form red berries, it guarantees interest throughout the year.  Very tough and perfect for windy hilltops, it’s also suited for areas troubled by javalinas. They despise the texture and flavor of this Western native!

You can’t mention Arizona shrubs without suggesting an agave or yucca.  The Artichoke Agave grows on most hilltops in the area.  These spiny, knee-high plants require virtually no care when fully rooted.  This variety forms the 10′ tall white flower that is so impressive.  It also is a striking sight in containers in a classic Southwest courtyard.

Brakelights Yucca – Vibrant, brake light red blooms cover this plant from summer through autumn.   This compact new selection rarely sets seedpods, meaning more prolific flowering over an exceptionally long season. As many other Western Natives it’s spectacular as a container specimen.

Native Perennial Flowers – Starting to bloom vigorously is the ‘Red-Headed Beauty’ penstemon.  It is so happy in the garden it frequently reseeds and multiplies.  Hummingbirds are distracted from their bickering antics when this unique, deep red flower begins to bloom.

Moonshine Yarrow – this Arizonan is as soft as a baby’s bottom and glows gold under the rays of the moon. Day or night, no other native blooms longer. Works beautifully in Western dry land gardens where it naturalizes much like a wildflower, and once established requires little if any care. The knee-high blooms are visible under a full moon and are as cheery as a yellow canary during the day.  This is a very easy to grow plant that blooms pink most of the year.  Look for more photos on my Facebook page at .

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Free Gardening Class – April 20th’s class, “How to Grow and Use Native Plants”, will start promptly at 9:30 am in Watters’ back greenhouse. Take in this class if you’d like more ideas for the wilder parts of your landscape.  On April 27 the class subject will be, “Growing Easy Care Flowers and Roses this Spring”.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Use Low Care Natives for Stylish Local Gardens

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raised Bed garden advice by Jamie Durie

Great garden advice from Raised Bed garden advice by Jamie Durie

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Frost Warning above 4500' elevation tonite

frost warning alert

frost warning alert

Severe Frost Alert! 

Tonite in the Prescott areas will drop to 27 degrees.  Make sure to hydrate plants, cover new garden plants and the fruit trees you want to save.  Use frost cover, NuVue plant covers, sheets and blankets.  Do NOT use plastic this evening.

Looks like beautiful spring weather after tonight. Frost Warning above 4500' elevation tonite

Friday, April 12, 2013

Berry Swirl Geranium

Berry Swirl GeraniumAmong the most vivid flowers in the geranium world. Astro pink blooms accented in purple last longer than most. Loves to share soil in containers or raised beds and blooms even longer in a partly sunny spot at the front door. Makes a great indoor plant for apartment dwellers that want easy to grow color. An exceptional Mothers Day gift. Feed with Watters “Blooming & Rooting” plant food for over-the top buds, bloom & fragrance. Berry Swirl Geranium

Free Design Fridays with Rich Olson

Landscape DesignDesigner Rich Olson has been such a huge hit during our Design and Raised Bed Gardening classes, that I’ve invited him back for more.  We’re offering Free Design Fridays, which will run each Friday from 10 AM to 3 PM starting April 19th in front of the greenhouse.

Rich Olson

Just bring in your photo and dimensions of the area to be designed.  You will receive a free personal 30 minute professional design session with Rich Olson, using 3D design software. Free Design Fridays with Rich Olson

Blooming Shrubs – the Super Eight of Spring

Few shrubs in spring show off with the simple elegance of pink flowering almonds

Few shrubs in spring show off with the simple elegance of pink flowering almonds

Shrubs, especially flowering ones, are in greater demand as homeowners seek dynamic landscapes that provide four seasons of interest and require less maintenance. Shrubs are the bones and building blocks of a great landscape. By combining shrubs with long bloom periods, flashy foliage, striking shapes, colorful winter berries for foraging birds, and evergreen qualities, homeowners can truly have gorgeous, easy care gardens any time of the year, especially in spring. Here are my favorite eight to show off this spring.

Ballerina Indian Hawthorne is a shrub for all seasons. This outstanding low evergreen blooms profusely in spring then often repeats with an equally impressive fall show. Super fragrant rosy pink flowers produce small, dark berries. A perfect selection for low maintenance gardens, with a neat, compact habit that rarely needs pruning. Growing to just knee high with equal width this hardy shrub is both heat and drought tolerant when established. This tidy little plant is tough enough to be planted along the driveway, and handsome as a container accent right at the front door.

Home Run Roses are the the never ending bloomer. This 3 foot shrub blooms in spring and won’t stop until autumn transitions into winter. No other shrub blooms longer. Those new to mountain gardening should start with these native shrubs roses that require no pruning to re-bloom and are disease and pest resistant, so their value is assured. The new stems and leaves have purple hues that mature to a deep green for a non-stop show all season long. It is so difficult to kill even proper investment companies are now planting this blooming run away wonder.

Flowering Almond for frothy pink flower in spring. Be ready for a breath taking explosion of double ruffled flowers each and every spring! Petite blooms cover the branches from March through April. Because of their small size, they’re perfect as a focal point along a pathway, in groupings or even in containers. The simplicity and charm of this early bloomer is the perfect companion plant with the sunshine golds of forsythia and equally hardy in local landscapes.

Minstead Scotch Broom says, “I’m from the Southwest, with style.“ An ideal background shrub that is large enough to block out offending views. The leaves are as inconspicuous as rosemary, but the spring flowers truly show off in splashes of lilac and purple with an equally impressive fragrance that fills the air. Perfect as a filler in corners, or enclosing water features with its open spreading habit. The dense branching forms an impenetrable shrub for perfect privacy, or as an accent in a courtyard.

Orange Rocket Barberry tops the list for rugged style. Graceful, with arching, spiny branches that make it very durable. Plants reach 3 feet tall with equal spread. This seemingly inconspicuous little shrub will amaze you. It leaps into spring with a blaze of rocket orange color when the leaves first appear. Dainty yellow flowers form tiny red berries that butterflies and songbirds cannot resist. You will definitely enjoy watching as they flit in and out of your garden to visit.

Dark Knight Butterfly Bush is summer’s perennial lilac. This vigorous growing shrub boasts dark purple flowers summer through fall. It is more than attractive; it’s a magnet for all the butterflies that pass through your garden seeking nectar. This variety naturally grows to head height, but is easily cut back to keep its neat and tidy form.

Goldfinger Potentilla is a burst of precious gold through-out the growing season. A versatile small shrub producing large two inch buttercup shaped flowers. The foliage has a fine texture that is a good replacement for ferns in the inhospitable spots of the yard. Use as a true perennial or as a fast growing shrub. The taste is equally inhospitable to both deer and javalina, so use where animal pressure seems to destroy all other plant life. Requires little, if any, maintenance when mature in the landscape.

Wild Thing Autumn Sage is so hardy it thrives on neglect. Aromatic mounds of dark, semi-evergreen foliage are covered with flushes of hot pink flowers from May through October. Hummingbirds and butterflies love the bright color and plentiful nectar. Because of its herbal nature the rabbits, javalina and deer turn their nose up at this season long bloomer. Thrives on limited water, hot locations and those gardeners with dark thumbs that border on black.

Garden Centers organize their plants according to use, sun or shade, height, water use, and weather they bloom or another evergreen. Department signs might read: bloomers growing under 4′, evergreens that grow head high, bloomers for the shade, topiary, and perennials happy in the sun. Measure the size you want your plant to grow, whether evergreen or bloomer, and peruse the wide selection. Spring is a great time to plant something new.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Blooming Shrubs – the Super Eight of Spring

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Lemon Spice Calibrachoa

Calibrachoa Lemon SpiceA new pinwheel pattern of lemon yellow-and-white flowers are a stylish accent that blooms spring through fall. Grows fast and thrives in full sun with hundreds of, Petunia shaped flowers that form a well groomed mound perfect for hanging baskets, containers and raised beds.  The plant cleans itself for easy care, heat loving, constant blooming and only found at Watters Garden Center. This big bold plant also comes in all the other petunia colors of spring. Lemon Spice Calibrachoa

Friday, April 5, 2013

Water, Water, Water . . . when to turn on the water.

Drip IrrigationOnce again our spring planting season is moving into full swing! As gardeners are putting new plants into the ground the question most asked at the garden center this week has been, “When do I turn on the water?”  The answer is simple:  Our growing season is from April though October and irrigation systems should be activated during this time.

Here are the watering practices I have used over the years:  This week I just set my irrigation clocks to water trees and shrubs once every 7 to 10 days. In June the weather heats up so that is when, delivering the same volume of water, I bump up frequency to every 5 to 7 days. The key to efficient, effective use of water is occasional long, deep irrigation rather than a more frequent and shallow watering. A drip system should run for 2 – 3 hours at a time to properly penetrate a plant’s entire root zone.

As I said, these are just guidelines but they provide a good starting point. They seem to work well with heavy soils, but you might need to increase the frequency if you live in areas out towards Granite Mountain or if you garden in faster draining soils. Because water requirements are contingent upon the soil bands going through each yard, these are only general guidelines. Ultimately, your yard will be slightly different from anyone else’s. Even your back yard can be different from the front yard!

For years now, I have been in the habit of taking a morning stroll through my garden just to keep tabs on how things are growing and monitor soils so that irrigation can be adjusted to the best schedule.  A simple visual inspection can be tricky because the soil surface can be dry and crusty while the soil just a few inches deeper can be wet. A water meter is a handy and sure way to test soil moisture five inches below the surface. I found a really good digital meter, Rapitest with moisture probe, to use on my houseplants and in the landscape. Although it is specialized, it’s a simple tool carried by most garden centers.

Also useful is the excellent, but compact, water guide I created that is sized to tape inside the cover of an irrigation timer.  This simple guide instructs on both the summer and winter suggested irrigation schedules. It’s at Watters free for the asking.

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Aqua Boost Crystals – These are polymer crystals that hold 200 times their weight in water right at the root level and then release moisture back to the plant during the heat of the day. They easily double the length of time a gardener can go between irrigation cycles.  Even better, the crystals have been laced with seven different beneficial mycorrhizae fungi that stimulate plants to root into their surrounding soils.  What we have is a soil additive that holds water at the root level and promotes deeper roots! I find it so helpful that, as I plant it, every plant in my raised beds and container gardens gets a generous dose of these crystals.

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GARDEN ALERT!  Local gardeners have begun bringing pine scale samples into the garden center.  This annual scourge has taught us to treat pines right away.  Scale is such a problem that we created a bug control specifically to combat this pest; it’s called “Plant Protector”.  It is so easy to use that anyone, working alone, can treat several large trees; yet it is so effective that one application is effective for an entire year.  I received the inside scoop from the scientist that created this fabulous product, so I know exactly how to use it. Feel free to stop by the garden center for detailed instructions on how to use this liquid to prevent scale on your pines.

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Calibrachoa Lemon SpicePlant of the Week is the Lemon Spice Calibrachoa. The new pinwheel pattern of lemon-and-white flowers is a stylish accent that grows fast and thrives in full sun.  Producing hundreds of petunia-shaped flowers, it’s perfect for hanging baskets and raised beds. Each fragrant plant spreads an impressive 24” across.  Best of all, this new variety cleans itself for easy care and constant blooms!  Most of us know calibrachoa as a family of plants that produces striking mountain blooms, so make sure to check out this one with its lemony-stripe patterned flowers.

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

Water, Water, Water . . . when to turn on the water.