Saturday, June 29, 2013

PowWow Wildberry Echinacea

Echinacea - PowWow WildberryBerry beautiful and berry prolific, this ruby toned echinacea beauty produces a floriferous flurry of huge 4” raspberry rosy flowers with a darker center. This outstanding new variety is the winner of the garden acclaimed AAS award. Taking the ribbon by the skin of its pedals for the continuous flower show even through the heat of summer. Full-bodied, wellbranching 20” plants require little deadheading or upkeep and loves the heat.

Plant now and enjoy the perennial show right through fall. PowWow Wildberry Echinacea

Friday, June 28, 2013

Landscapes that Resist Threats from Wildfires

firewise-landscaping2Residents new to the mountains are seeking solitude and escape from the rat race. They want some of the services of urban living but they also want to live near the forest to get “back to nature”. Locally we call this the urban-wildland interface. Many who are new to the woodland lifestyle often are unaware that it comes with some risks. As we saw this past week, the primary hazard is the danger from wildfire.

Gardeners new to wildfire awareness can be cautious to the extreme. Many tend to fall in love with their chainsaws, cut down most plants in their yards, and then spread ‘em over with rocks! As a diehard gardener I take the middle ground on firewise landscaping. My years of wildfire training and teaching support the notion that landscapes can be safe, sane, and pretty. I believe that it’s possible to have a woodland landscape design that is both beautiful and safe.

The top priority of a fire-dissuading landscape is to create a “defendable space”, that is, an area that will serve as a buffer zone should fire approach that home. The goal is to keep a fire moving “slow and low” until it can be extinguished. Some plants are more flammable than others, so, especially if really close to the house, these varieties should be kept thinned. This simple strategy will keep fire “low” to the ground and moving “slow”.

Evergreen conifers are high in resins and waxes, the properties that keep them evergreen and durable; unfortunately, they also are highly combustible substances. Closest to the house it is wise to reduce the number of juniper, pine, spruce, and cedar. Each of these varieties, high in plant resins, will burn easily. Replace them with deciduous plants, that is, plants that lose their leaves in winter. Deciduous plants retain more water in their foliage, which makes them much more difficult to ignite and burn. They also drop their foliage during the cool months. If shed leaves are left on the ground they dry into a significant amount of combustible material. Picking up and discarding freshly fallen leaves removes a source of ignition from the yard.

Water and feed any landscape to keep its denizens healthy. During summer water your existing natives once per month until the monsoons arrive. Ornamental landscape plants appreciate a deep soak once each week. A layer of composted mulch is money well spent; it helps suppress weeds and keeps moisture around healthy plants, which is especially helpful in June.

ladder_fuel2Avoid “ladder fuels”. An example of this scenario is a dry grass that ignites a taller shrub that catches the pine trees on fire, and then jumps to the roof. Remember, our goal with a firewise landscape is to keep a fire on the ground, out of trees’ canopies, and off the roof. Ideally, design garden islands in the yard with an interesting plant mix separated from the next garden island by a driveway, patio or rock lawn. This firewise technique allows firefighters some precious space between gardens should they have to fight flames.

Clean debris from gutters and roof. Needles and leaves on the roof and in gutters provide tinder for blowing sparks. Chip piles of brush for use as compost or completely remove it from your landscape.

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Echinacea - PowWow WildberryFire wise plants can be very pretty and as wildly striking as this week’s pictured Pow Wow Wildberry Echinacea. This ruby toned beauty produces a floriferous flurry of huge 4-inch wide raspberry hued flowers with dark centers. Very difficult to ignite in a wildfire, this outstanding new variety is the winner of the garden acclaimed AAS award. It won the ribbon ‘by the skin of her petals’ for continual bloom right through summer’s heat and into fall. This full-bodied, strong branching, 20-inch tall plant requires little deadheading and only modest upkeep. It is proof that it is possible to have a pretty, firewise garden that blooms summer through fall.

Characteristics of a firewise plant are fivefold:

  1. Supple leaves

  2. Water-like sap

  3. Thick bark

  4. High moisture content

  5. Low resin content (like the Pow Wow Wildberry Echinacea)

There is not enough space in this column for additional plant suggestions, but there are many more choices. I have composed a list of firewise landscape plants. Entitled, “Planting a Firewise Landscape”, it is free for the asking.

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The right landscape design is critical when planting in the urban-wildland interface. Creating a firewise balance between existing trees, and evergreens is tricky. It’s too easy to get it wrong. With this in mind, I have called in a favor from a landscape design buddy of mine, Rich Olsen. Rich is a master designer and really knows how to create designs that are firewise.

Landscape DesignRich has agreed to work for free every Friday to help local gardeners figure our how to make their landscapes safe. He will be glad to look at a digital photo of your landscape and suggest firewise modifications. As he only will be at our garden center on Fridays from 9-3pm, you may email a garden photo to him at We have to love generous people who actually care enough about their communities to contribute freely of their skills. :) Once you’ve had a taste of his work I’m certain that your thanks will join with my thanks to Rich.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Landscapes that Resist Threats from Wildfires

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stella Dwarf Daylily

Dwarf Daylilly 'Stella de Oro' thrives on summer's heat and blooms through fall.Winner of many garden awards this dwarf daylily cousin will repeat bloom in waves of 2 ½” deep yellow flowers through fall. It’s definitely the best re-bloomer for the region and these two year old specimens are celebrating the start of the summer bloom season. Mass into a sea of color that functions much like ground cover, or arrange in rows as a mini hedge. A lot of perennial flowers for the garden dollar. Stella Dwarf Daylily

Friday, June 21, 2013

Colors of Perennials in the June Garden

watters garden center in bloomPerennial colors RULE at the garden center! In the past, annual flowers have stolen the show every year with their flashy colors of neon orange, screaming reds, and rich purples, but the times they are a-changing. Because perennials are endowed with colors that come back bigger and better every year, they’ve hooked many gardeners away from routine annuals. Increasingly, perennials are appearing in more landscapes and gardens with the yearly investment in annuals becoming smaller and smaller.

Although I like the color touches that my pockets of annuals give my gardens, I blend them in with lots of perennials. Perennials provide a permanent but ever-changing character to landscapes and gardens. Because a towering lilac bush is as much a source of perennial color as a robust coneflower or a hardy gaillardia, to my mind, shrubs are super-sized perennials on steroids!

If you incorporate any of these perennials into your landscape, you’re in for an ever- better blooming summer garden year after year. They are the hardiest of the blooming perennials and, fortunately, seem to be of little interest to nibbling animals. When planted in clay soils I’ve found that watering them about twice a week is plenty. Pinching back the spent blossoms generates continuous blooms beginning in June and continuing through fall. I’ve been gardening for years with perennials and have compiled a list of my favorite tried-and-true performers:

Favorite #1Commotion Frenzy Gaillardia. The many different gaillardias all love heat and are really drought hardy. Commotion Frenzy is so hardy that it’s used in hydro-mulch at the end of road construction projects, like that on Iron Springs Road. I fell in love with this particular variety because instead of petals it has tubular flowers coming off the center to form its striking orange and red 4-inch blooms, and because “my” birds love the seed this plant produces. It’s a must-see the next time you’re at the garden center.

Daylilly 'Stella de Oro' thrives on summer's heat and blooms through fall.Favorite #2Stella De Oro Daylily. Winner of many garden awards this dwarf cousin will repeat bloom in waves of 2 ½” deep yellow flowers through fall. It’s definitely the best re-bloomer for the region. The two-year-old specimens on sale now are celebrating the start of the summer bloom season. Mass them into a sea of color that functions much like ground cover, or arrange in rows as a mini hedge. This stunner really delivers a lot of perennial flowers for the garden dollar.

Favorite #3Pincushion Flower. Purple, purple, and more shades of purple. This is one of my favorites of the low-growing flowers that love sun and heat. I like to plant it towards the front of the garden and watch as each plant produces dozens of flowers all summer. Expect butterflies; they love these pincushions!

Favorite #4Big Sky Echinacea. The entire family of coneflowers does great at this altitude, but this one is a newcomer to our neck of the woods. Its spectacular bright pink, orange, and gold flowers stand a foot above the clump of dark green foliage. Watch out, ’cause this one is going to reseed like crazy!

Favorite #5‘Flying Saucers’ Coreopsis. This orange perennial is a good substitute for annual marigolds; it’s the same color and of similar shape.  It’s the choice for ‘wanna be’ gardeners with black thumbs because it is tough as nails and reseeds for a natural wildflower look. Oh, and yes, the flowers do look like flying saucers.

Favorite #6 - Petite Indigo Butterfly Bush. Known as the summer blooming lilac because its spectacular, fragrant, cone-shaped flowers resemble lilac blossoms. Scores of butterflies frequent the nectar-filled flowers. Easy to grow in tight spaces, this 5-footer is perfect as an accent or border planting and can be grown in containers.

pink mexican primroseFavorite#7Mexican Primrose – Actually, this is a weed with profuse pink flowers the size of silver dollars. Just don’t plant it in the middle of your garden or this low ground cover will take over and choke out any other plants. I put this one out in the dry edges of my gardens, and abuse it. The worse treatment it gets, the better a primrose blooms. Tromp on it, mow it, and forget to water this perennial for summer-long color. Tough, tough, tough!

As the monsoon season approaches more and more perennials begin to bloom at local garden centers.  It’s a pleasure to watch the selection changes as the different varieties come in and out of bloom. Stop in often at your favorite center and enjoy the changing parade put on by these beautiful, dependable plants. Put them in your garden this season and you’ll enjoy them for years to come.

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Saturday’s gardening class will go into great detail about container gardens.  We’ll discuss the best containers, the best soil to use, and the local perennial plants that are the best choices for container success. The class is free and starts at 9:30 a.m.  Next week’s class, June 29th, was our most popular session this spring so we’re running it again: “Gardening for Newcomers”.  Customer feedback tells us that our classes are very informative and lots of fun.  But don’t just take our word on this; stop in and judge for yourself.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Colors of Perennials in the June Garden

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Press Release - Grapes 4 Grades

raising money for the math & reading clinicA press release on the Grapes 4 Grades benefit held at Watters Garden Center was published by the Daily Courier on June 18, 2013:

‘Grapes 4 Grades’ will benefit PUSD summer programs

Area residents can help the Prescott Frontier Rotary Club raise money for the Prescott Unified School District’s summer math and reading program by attending the “Grapes 4 Grades” event from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 23, at Watters Garden Center, 1815 Iron Springs Road, Prescott. All proceeds from the event benefit this summer reinforcement program for … continued

More information on the event can also be found here: Grapes 4 Grades! Press Release - Grapes 4 Grades

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sycamore Tree

30 second plant tip of the day – Sycamore Tree Sycamore Tree

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Jubilee Blueberry

30 second plant tip of the day – Jubilee Blueberry Jubilee Blueberry

Friday, June 14, 2013

Red Yucca

30 second plant tip of the day – Red Yucca in the landscape Red Yucca

Low Maintenance Plants for Easy Care Landscaping

waterwise-landscapeWouldn’t it be wonderful if you could enjoy an attractive, colorful garden without spending all of your free time working at it? It can be done, and all it takes is some knowledge about the right plants to use and employing a few simple tips and techniques for easy care landscaping. A little homework before you plant will pay off in time and money spent, both now and into the future.

4 Low Care Principles – The principles listed will help you reach your goal of an attractive, low maintenance garden.

1.) Choose plants that are known to be reliable and problem free for your area, and varieties that won’t outgrow the space you’ve allotted to them.

Considering the bewildering array of plants available at the garden center right now, choosing the best for your needs will require a little guidance. Start by making a list of plants you like. With camera phone in hand look around the neighborhood and photograph plants that appeal to you.  Take along the pictures when you ask your favorite garden expert for proper identification. Consult gardening books, magazine articles, and the web to learn about the plants on your list.  Enlist the help at a garden center to learn how well local conditions suit each plant.

A common mistake is to choose plants that look just right on planting day, and then rapidly outgrow their 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 several years later.

goldflame spirea compact shrubLook for compact varieties of plants. For instance, many traditional favorites, such as spirea, spruce, and butterfly bush are now available in compact forms that are much more likely to suit the scale of today’s smaller gardens. Most often these plants have parts of their names in single quotes, and are referred to as “named varieties”.  Examples of some named, compact plants are ‘Goldflame‘ spirea, dwarf ‘Serbian’ spruce, ‘Indigo Blue’ butterfly bush, and dwarf ‘Yetti’ hawthorn.

Named varieties offer resistance to pests and diseases that plague the common species. Examples include ‘Prairifire‘ crab-apple which is resistant to both apple scab and fire blight, and ‘Knockout‘ rose which is rarely troubled by powdery mildew, a common rose disease. Choosing disease resistant varieties will result in fewer pests, which ultimately translates into lower maintenance and less care.

Some dwarf conifers, such as ‘Globe’ spruce, grow very slowly, as little as one inch per year. Such slow growers are more expensive initially because a plant that is only 4 to 6 feet tall may be 10 to 15 years old. Growers have invested as much time and materials in these as in plants that are much larger.  The initial extra cost pays off over time because such plants need minimal if any pruning.

2.) Prepare the soil well before planting so plants get a strong start.

Mulch is a very effective weed deterrent. Spread a 2-3” inch layer of shredded cedar bark around plants. Cedar bark, as opposed to nuggets, chips, or additional rock provides the best coverage and, in my opinion, looks the best. As mulch breaks down it adds organic matter to the soil; it also shades roots in summer and acts as insulation in winter. I put down a fresh layer of mulch each spring with a light top dressing at the beginning of the season.

3.) Mulch and use soil moistening polymers to reduce weeds and conserve soil moisture.

Aqua Boost CrystalsReduce water usage by amending your plants’ soil with my specially formulated ‘Aqua Boost Crystals’.  These mycorrhizal infused crystals hold 200-300 times their weight in water and keep the soil moist at the root zone of each plant.  The mycorrhiza fungi added to this formula infuse the soil and encourage plants to root deeply into the soil.  These crystals are so effective that plants’ demands for water can be cut in half . . . or more.

4.) Use an automatic clock to run your drip irrigation lines.

Even for plants requiring only minimal water, a drip-irrigation system on a timer eliminates standing in the yard with a hose to water plants.  Since drip irrigation delivers most of its water underground, it really cuts down on the amount of water used and on weed growth, particularly during the dry summer months.

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Brake light red yuccaA Notable Low Care Plant is the ‘Brakelights Red’ yucca.  Vibrant, brake light red blooms tower above this improved variety. This compact new selection rarely produces the ugly seedpods found on other yuccas; the result is more prolific flowering over an exceptionally long season. No other yucca blooms like this one does. For a dramatic effect plant it en masse in xeriscapes and other water wise gardens. This bountiful bloomer thrives with little to no care.

Many more low care planting ideas are available by asking for my list of ‘Mountain Friendly Plants’ the next time you visit the garden center.  Regular readers of this column know that it’s free for the asking.

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balboa sunset, orange flowering, trumpet vinePlant of the Week is the ‘Balboa Sunset’ Trumpet Vine.  Huge 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. Snake it up posts or columns to overhead gateways and entries.  Drape over courtyard walls or let it cascade off retaining block. An excellent blooming ground cover for erosion control.  Add to wildlife friendly settings where hummingbirds find it absolutely irresistible.

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Free Gardening Classes – The summer class schedule has been posted and starts today, Saturday, June 15 @ 9:30 a.m.  Today’s free class is entitled “Bountiful Vegetable Gardens Sure to Produce”.  On June 22 students will learn how to create “Containers that Bloom like Crazy”. Check out the entire summer class schedule at

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Low Maintenance Plants for Easy Care Landscaping

Friday, June 7, 2013

Calling All Butterflies!

Monarch butterflies love the taste of purple Ramblin' Petunias.Butterflies have been magnificent this spring.  I believe that these creatures are God’s gift to gardeners, and some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures in any garden. The reason so many butterflies are appearing in our gardens is that they are losing their natural habitats.  The building of homes, roads, and farms in Arizona all contribute to the increased butterfly population in cultivated gardens. A butterfly garden is any area that is attractive to butterflies.  Creating a piece of “butterfly bait” is an easy way to attract more butterflies for our enjoyment while improving their environment.

Gardening for butterflies is not only fun, but is the source of something beautiful and rewarding. It is easier than you might imagine to get these fairy-winged creatures to flutter your way. Butterfly larvae and caterpillars need plants for food, and adult butterflies need plant nectar.  So, the ideal butterfly garden fulfills both of these requirements. It is simply a matter of choosing the right plants to attract them and then to encourage them to stay.  Then you can sit back and let them entertain and amaze you.

Most inviting to butterflies are gardens with sunny areas sheltered from the wind, areas with garden mulch, rock crevices, brush piles, and yes, even some weeds. Because of the many different flowers in a good butterfly garden, it soon becomes a place of beauty.  A butterfly garden can be any size:  a window box, part of your landscaped yard, and even a wild untended area on your property.

Among the plants irresistible to butterflies and gardeners are:

Shasta Daisy – This perennial bloomer produces HUGE white flowers that are irresistible to anything with wings, and butterflies cannot stay away!  The blossoms of this season-long bloomer have been exceptional this spring.  A bonus characteristic of this popular plant is that rabbits, deer, and pack rats don’t care for this beautiful butterfly magnet.

Coreopsis yellow flower, also known as calliopsis or tickseedCoreopsis – The yellow flowers of this lush plant seem to glow in the garden even in the brightest light. This perennial never stops showing color all summer long. Hint: Shear the plant back with hedge clippers after each flush of blooms start to fade; it will spring into bloom all over again several times a year.

Phlox – Throughout the summer its large beautiful clusters of red, pink and lavender flowers will enhance its surroundings.  Delivering years of perennial enjoyment the blooms bring their fragrance and sweetness to the delight of butterflies and humans.

Echinacea – If you have a sunny spot that needs planting, there are lots of reasons to grow a purple coneflower. Butterflies of many varieties love sipping its nectar, and it is very heat and drought tolerant. Also, because it blooms all summer long it’s the perfect addition to a cutting garden.

Anise Hyssop – There also are lots of reasons to grow anise hyssop.  Deer and rabbits leave it alone.  Like the echinacea it is heat and drought tolerant, and blooms for weeks in late summer.  Also, it’s a good source of cut flowers, and, of course, butterflies love it.

Salvia – There’s a salvia for every garden: some salvias are tall, others are short; some salvias have blue or purple blooms, and others have red, orange, or pink flowers. While you might have trouble choosing a salvia, the butterflies won’t – rest assured that whichever salvia you plant they’ll flock to it every summer.

mounding lantanaMiss Huff Lantana – Colorful is the definition for the flowers of this lantana.  It blooms all summer long in glowing shades of lavender, pink, red, orange, yellow, cream, and white. A versatile plant, it looks perfect in containers or beds or borders. Butterflies will agree – this lantana is an outstanding addition to your garden.

Pentas – An all-around garden champion, pentas bears clusters of star-shaped blooms in bright shades of pink, red, and white. It loves hot conditions, holds up to drought pretty well, and is a sure bet for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds looking for a snack.

Zinnia – Just about everyone loves zinnias, which is why they’re favorites of butterfly gardeners, cottage gardeners, and beginning gardeners. It blooms in an almost endless range of colors and, whether outdoors or in a vase, it looks good all summer long.

Black-eyed Susan – This tough perennial blooms in late summer.  Its big, yellow, daisy-shaped flowers are as perfect for bouquets as it is for butterflies.

Fennel – This is the plant for adding texture to a garden. It’s also a surefire way to attract swallowtail butterflies, whose caterpillars munch on the fennel’s ferny foliage.

Verbena – This plant is perfect for cut bouquets because its blossoms will not be depleted. The more you cut, the more it blooms, guaranteeing a supply of lavender-purple blooms at the ready for butterflies to enjoy, too.

facebookThe entire list of butterfly attractor plants will be posted on my Facebook page at  If you are not a Facebook fan, a one page hard copy version will be available free for the asking when you visit the garden center  this week.  :)

Gardening Class – June 15 is the first of a series of free summer classes for gardeners.  Held in the comfort of Watters’ greenhouse, classes begin at 9:30 every Saturday morning.  On the 15th the topic will be:  “Bountiful Vegetable Gardens Sure to Produce”.  At the June 22 class students will learn how to create “Containers that Bloom like Crazy”.  Check out the entire summer schedule at

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center. Calling All Butterflies!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Timeless Beauty Desert Willow

Check out this amazing drought hardy native flowering willow for the mountains of Arizona.  This large shrub is not thirsty like the typical willow. Timeless Beauty Desert Willow

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fragrant Spanish Broom

Fragrant Spanish Broom is blooming around town. Fragrant Spanish Broom