Category: Tropical Style

Southwest Gardener's March Checklist

The American Southwest is a vast area, covering all of Arizona and New Mexico and Elements of California, Nevada, Texas and Utah. The areas of the Southwest are diverse and include non deserts, high deserts and mountainous areas, covering USDA zones 5 though 9.

It’s difficult to believe that winter is almost through and spring is just around the corner. Soon gardens will be awash in varying shades of green with brightly colored blossoms. In the desert areas, it is time to start pruning and dress up the landscape by adding some fresh flowering shrubs and vines. Gardeners in high elevations can get an early start on vegetable gardening by planting seeds indoors.

Desert gardeners should check their irrigation system for any leaks, broken sprinkler heads or drip emitters. With warmer temperatures on their way, plants will require reliable watering to grow their very best. Don’t wait until you start seeing dead plants in your landscape to realize you have a problem. Check your irrigation today. Grass will soon turn green, so it is time to ensure that your sprinklers are functioning. Replace any damaged heads and fix any leaks. Turn on the drip irrigation and then walk around, checking each emitter. If there isn’t any water coming out, or when there is too small, it is time to cut the old emitter away and add a new one.

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Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Low Deserts (up to 3,000 Trainers)

Spend some time evaluating your landscape. Is it looking colorless and boring? March is a good time to add color and attention by planting summer-flowering shrubs and vines.

Flowering vines are a great way to dress up an entryway or to add color to a weapon. Consider developing these pink-blooming vines: Queen’s Wreath (Antigonon leptopus), shown here;pink bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides) or pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana).

Red bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica), Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens), chaparral blossom (Salvia clevelandii) andArizona yellow bells (Tecoma stans stans) are big summer-flowering shrubs that add great color to the landscape.

Large footprints, 5 ft and higher, should be planted toward the back of the landscape. Shrubs are a great way to conceal a boring wall or fence. They are also effective at hiding air-conditioning components and pool gear from view. Plant lower-growing shrubs and perennials in the front of taller shrubs.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Do you love citrus? March is the best time of year to add a fresh citrus tree to the backyard. Any pruning your citrus needs must also be done this month. Citrus trees do not need much pruning. Focus on eliminating dead or crossing branches.

Whilst eliminating lower branches of citrus therefore they have a much more traditional tree shape is popular, try to avoid the temptation. Lower branches of citrus trees bear the sweetest fruit, and also the most of it. The branches also help to protect the trunk of this tree out of sunburn.

Revealed: Grapefruit

How to Maintain Your Citrus Trees Well Fed and Healthy

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Prune frost-damaged growth. Make sure to wait to prune before the danger of frost has passed. Not certain when your last frost date is? Check out your town’s average frost dates.

Frost-tender plants, like lantana (Lantana spp), look their best when pruned severely back to 6 inches. This sort of pruning rejuvenates the plant by stimulating new expansion, which will produce more leaves and blossoms than the old branches.

Revealed: Pruned ‘Radiation’ Lantana (Lantana camara ‘Radiation’)

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

When you’re pruning frost-damaged trees and shrubs, it can be difficult to tell which parts are dead and which parts are still living. Often when plants are frost ruined, they lose most of their leaves. But although a branch might be leafless, it doesn’t signify that the entire division is dead.

The hint to knowing which parts are living is to look closely at the branches, which will inform you where to make your pruning cut. The region of the branch that’s still living will start to leaf out, while the parts that are dead won’t. Make your pruning cut 1/4 inch above the point where the new growth occurs.

Wait until new growth appears prior to pruning.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Mid- to High Deserts (3,000 to 6,000 Feet)

Would you enjoy the notion of having new fruit growing in your backyard? How about growing apples, apricots, peaches or plums? This is a superb time to purchase bare-root or container fruit trees and plant them in your garden.

For many fruit trees (apples, apricots and plums), you will get the very best fruit production should you purchase at least two distinct varieties of each type of tree. This is due to the fact that fruit trees cannot pollinate themselves; they rely on pollen from the same type of tree but another selection.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Woody, overgrown shrubs will benefit from pruning. Focus on eliminating nonproductive old branches by pruning them off near the bottom of the tree — loppers or a pruning saw work nicely for this type of pruning. Since the temperatures warm, fresh growth will appear.

Revealed: New growth emerging from a severely pruned woody shrub.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Upper Elevations (Over 6,000 Trainers)

Before you know it, it is going to be time to go outside and start planting your vegetable garden. To acquire a jump-start, grow vegetables and flower seeds indoors approximately eight weeks before the final frost date in your area. By that time, you will have eight-week-old seedlings ready to plant in the backyard.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Prune deciduous trees. Pruning ought to be done before the leaf buds begin to swell. The exclusion is walnut and birch trees and shrubs that flower in spring. Don’t prune them today; wait until they have finished flowering.


Get your soil ready for planting in later spring by working 2 to 3 inches of compost into the top 6 inches of soil. The advantages of compost in the garden are many. Two major ones are that compost adds nutrients to the soil and enhances the feel of both sandy and clay soils.

Don’t worry if you do not make your own compost. You can purchase some at your local nursery.

Prepare for April. Warm spring temperatures are a great time to include succulents to your garden.

Tell us : How are you preparing your Southwest garden for spring?

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Pacific Northwest Gardener's March Checklist

March is an exciting time in the backyard. The birds sing, the borders become more colorful daily as shrubs and trees break bud, spring bulbs available up in the gentle sunshine along with the greenhouse extends into full production. Ultimately we believe we can start really gardening again. Sharpen your pruners, discover your hoe and prepare for some fresh air!

More regional backyard guides

Putney Design

Plan for apple pie with proper pruning. I am not certain if I love the apple blossoms or the actual apples more, but I do know that without proper pruning, the trees will not be as vigorous nor create as much fruit as they could.

Corona Tools

1-Inch Bypass Pruner – $31.57

This is the last month to prune fruit trees, so sharpen those pruners. Entire books are written on how to prune apple trees, but here are the fundamentals of pruning a mature tree.
Remove, dead, diseased or dying branches.Remove branches that are growing toward the trunk, straight up or straight down. Remove branches that are rubbing against each other. Thin out the canopy enough to allow light to filter even when it’s leafed out.

Putney Design

You will notice two different kinds of bud:
Sharp, pointed ones, which eventually become leaves and branchesFatter, darker buds, which form fruitIs your mouth watering yet?

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Watch out for more weeds. It’s a sad fact that weeds appear to be the fastest-growing plants in the garden this time of year. Make sure you spend some time each week removing them before they set seed.

Le jardinet

Plan for next year’s daffodils. After weeks of watching the stems get taller as well as the buds get fatter, we can finally see golden daffodils fill the backyard. If the flowers have faded, cut off the dead blooms but leave the foliage to die down naturally, so the bulbs will be even bigger and better next year.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Sow your seeds. This is the main month for beginning vegetables, herbs and summer annuals from seed. Milder places probably got a jump-start in February, but experience has told me I have to be patient till March arrives.

Renee’s Garden

Check the seed sticks. Read on the seed packets to see what the ideal temperatures would be for germination. I’ll often use heat mats to provide a gentle increase, but many times a sunny windowsill will do. Start basil, parsley, lettuce, brassicas and hardy annuals such as cosmos (shown) and marigolds this way.

Niki Jabbour

Add security for tender crops. Salad leaves and lettuces may also be grown outside in a cold frame or directly sown in the garden with protection against a floating row cover (shown), based on your climate.

Should you pay the soil with black plastic for a week or two prior to planting, it will be several degrees warmer and receive off your seeds to an even faster start.

Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design

Sow root plants out. Root plants don’t like disturbance and have to be sown directly into the ground. Carrots, parsnips and early beetroot have become this way. Radishes are fast and simple too and will be ready to harvest in just a few weeks.

Le jardinet

Harvest rhubarb. We’ve got a serious overabundance of rhubarb — or so my family tells me. Since deer and rabbits leave it alone, I comprise many clumps of it in the backyard border for its ornamental value alone.

For the most part I harvest and then freeze the stems from the end of this month through midsummer, but I like to let just one plant to go into seed. Who can resist this play?

Fight the slugs. It’s time to undertake these slimy backyard visitors.

A well-meaning friend once suggested I just select off the slugs and feed them to the birds. Sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? Except she had a very small pocket garden and I have 5 acres.

Niki Jabbour

My birds are well fed — trust me — but I get tired of playing hopscotch as I navigate my way from the rear door into the vegetable garden trying to not step on all the slugs. I am also interested in feeding my family than the overstuffed robins, so I resort to organic slug control.


Sluggo Plus Molluscicide – $25

My favorite method of slug control for ornamentals, edibles and containers would be Sluggo Plus. It’s safe around kids and pets but kills slugs, snails, earwigs, pill bugs and other molluscs.

Sprinkling diatomaceous earth on the ground and setting beer traps are popular methods for controlling slugs.

Le jardinet

Housekeeping for the birds. We love to encourage birds to see our backyard, particularly swallows, which help keep the mosquito population in check. March is the time to wash out their nesting boxes, to get them ready for the new brood.

Are you ready for spring? Watch more regional backyard guides

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Southwest Gardener's February Checklist

The American Southwest is a vast area, covering all of Arizona and New Mexico and parts of California, Nevada, Texas and Utah. The regions of the Southwest are diverse and include non deserts, high deserts and mountainous regions, covering USDA zones 5 though 9.

Temperatures at February can swing from below freezing on cold days up into the 70s on the others, based on what area you live in. In most regions of the Southwest, we’re blessed to be able to garden through the winter. This month enjoy the fruit from your citrus trees (and share some with your neighbors). Plant some fresh roses; include beautiful, cold-hardy flowering plants; and get your vegetable garden ready for spring.

More regional backyard guides

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Low deserts (around 3,000 ft). Plant cold-hardy flowering natives, including firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), chaparral sage (Salvia clevelandii), globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) and Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), that will add amazing color to a backyard.

Temperatures can still fall below freezing in February. Make sure you protect frost-sensitive plants, for example lantana (Lantana spp)and bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp)with freeze cloth. Old towels or sheets will even work in a pinch.

Towards the end of winter, sow seeds for basil, peas, tomatoes and peppers on your vegetable garden.

Revealed: Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua ‘Louis Hamilton’)

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Fertilize trees. February is the time to apply the very first dose of fertilizer into citrus trees (that need to be fertilized three times every year). An easy way to remember when to fertilize is by holiday: Valentine’s Day (February), Memorial Day (May) and Labor Day (September).

Citrus fertilizer must contain nitrogen, alongside the micronutrients iron, manganese and zinc, which are crucial for citrus wellbeing. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer bag carefully; they will tell you just how much to apply. Water the trees well after application.


Mid- to high slopes (3,000 to 6,000 ft). Gradually prune evergreen shrubs, such as boxwood (Buxus spp) and dwarf yaupon (Ilex vomitoria); it will stimulate attractive new expansion for spring.

Deciduous shade trees must be pruned in February too. Remove any diseased, dead or crossing branches.

Get a head start on spring by planting vegetable and flower seeds inside eight months before the last average frost date. Beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers do well when started inside. Check a vegetable planting calendar for information on when to plant on your own zone.

Revealed: Boxwood (Buxus microphylla)

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Upper elevations (over 6,000 ft). It is time to get started browsing your seed catalogs and choose what you will plant on your vegetable garden later in spring. Don’t have one yet? This is a good time to start planning to include edibles to your backyard. Select an area that receives at least half an hour or more of sunshine every day.

Deep water your lawn, trees and shrubs. Even though it is winter, they need water. This should be done on a day warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit so that the water doesn’t freeze. Water trees to a depth of 3 ft, shrubs into 2 ft deep and a lawn to 6 inches deep. Use a soil probe or a piece of rebar to help determine how profoundly you are watering.

See how to build a raised garden bed

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Start seeds in biodegradable containers. Did you know that lots of household items make great containers to start seeds inside? Consider using toilet paper rolls cut in half, cardboard coffee sleeves or perhaps eggshells.

After the danger of frost has passed, simply plant your seedlings, biodegradable container and all, at the floor. Both the cardboard and eggshells will decompose rapidly in the dirt.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Wait to prune frost-damaged growth. While it may be tempting to prune away nasty, frost-damaged expansion from your trees, shrubs or perennials — stop. Pruning too early in the summer stimulates new growth which makes your frost-tender plant more vulnerable to damage from the threat of prospective frosts. Wait till the threat of freezing temperatures has passed until you dust off your pruning tools.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Have fun with containers. Get creative when choosing containers for your cool-season flowering annuals. A metal bucket, an old watering can, a wheelbarrow or even an old pair of boots may add a touch of whimsy into the garden when stuffed with annual flowers. Just make sure you make holes in the bottom for drainage.

Try pairing violas using alyssum, petunias with snapdragons, or geraniums with Lobelias for amazing color combinations.

Fertilize annuals using a liquid fertilizer at least once a month to encourage continuous flowering.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Plant bare-root roses. Winter is the time to plant bare-root roses in the desert regions of the Southwest.
Select grade-1 roses, that have at least three big canes (branches). Dig a hole two feet broad and amend the soil with compost and bonemeal prior to planting. Cover the top of your freshly implanted bare-root rose with a mound of compost or wood shavings to keep the canes from drying out. Eliminate the compost as soon as you see new growth appear. Don’t fertilize fresh roses till they’ve flowered for the first time in spring. Revealed: Hybrid tea rose ‘Double Happiness’

Get ready for March. Spring is on its way. Sharpen your pruning tools and get ready to check your irrigation system.

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Why Are My Joseph's Coat Roses Not Blooming?

Eye-catching “Joseph’s coat” roses (Rosa “Joseph’s Coat”) attribute shades of pink, coral and yellow on one blossom. This scaling rose grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, where it can reach up to 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Bloom failure can result from many sources, however, a quick diagnosis and treatment program can help you avoid the disappointment of a terrible flowering period.

Cultural Issues

Deficiency of sunlight or inadequate soil can prevent a “Joseph’s coat” rose from producing flower buds or thriving efficiently. Check the website for appropriate drainage. If water stands on top the soil or if the soil feels muddy, then the rose might be a victim of the early signs of root rot. The soil must drain well but keep enough moisture that it doesn’t dry out entirely. Providing roses with 1 or 2 inches of water, or enough so that the soil remains moist to a 6-inch thickness, can enhance flowering. A 3-inch deep mulch layer helps conserve moisture. Supply the roses together with full, sloping sunlight, since “Joseph’s coat” will blossom weakly without enough sun.

Poor Nutrition

Roses need the appropriate nutrients to make flowers and buds. Too much hydrogen and not enough phosphorous in the fertilizer can cause healthy foliage growth but poor blooming. A high-phosphorous 9-18-9 formula, applied every three months from early spring during the summer, helps “Joseph’s coat” roses blossom better. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the fluid on top the soil, 6 inches away from the main trunk of this plant. Water following program so that the fertilizer soaks into the soil.

Pruning and Training

“Joseph’s coat” needs pruning in late winter, till it begins setting flower buds but following cold weather has passed. Pruning too late in the summer eliminates the developing flower buds and effects in few, if any, blooms. Wipe the jump pruning shears with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol to disinfect them before you prune. Cut diseased and broken wood back to your nearest healthy stage, making cuts in 1/4 inch of an outward facing bud. You may also head back overlong or crowded comes with the exact same pruning approach. As a climbing rose, “Joseph’s Coat” flowers best on horizontal divisions, therefore prune the plant to only two or three upwards canes and train the remaining posterior divisions horizontally along a trellis. The plant might have sparse leaves and leaf near its base. It is natural for “Joseph’s coat,” but it is possible to camouflage the bottom of the plant by surrounding it with summer flowering annuals.

Powdery Mildew

Serious infestations of powdery mildew, especially the year previously, can inhibit flowering. Mildew forms as a white, powdery growth on leaf surfaces, but it can spread to stems, unopened flower buds and blooms. In acute cases, the foliage dies from lack of sunlight and buds may fall without opening. It thrives in 60- to 80-degrees Fahrenheit in shady conditions. Good air circulation helps prevent mildew, so keep “Joseph’s coat” pruned and trained upright against a trellis to allow it to remain healthy. Prune out infected branches with disinfected shears and sprinkle the rose with water once daily in the morning to manage minor infections. Mix 1 teaspoon of neem oil and 1.2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap in a quart of water, and spray infected leaf till it is drenched to destroy more severe infections. Duplicate applications at 10-day periods may be necessary if the mildew persists.

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Why Does My Mandevilla Drop Its Buds?

Evergreen tropical vines, mandevillas aren’t shy about blowing their own trumpets — trumpet-shaped flowers, that’s. With blooms in shades of red, pink or white, the plants are often sold as potted annuals, because most species are only perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 to 11. The exception is the Chilean jasmine (Mandevilla laxa), which may survive outdoors in USDA zones 7 to 11, but will die back to the ground during winter at the colder end of the range. Although they churn out a lot of buds, mandevillas sometimes shed them too, for an assortment of reasons.

The Light of Day

Mandevillas need sunlight to bloom well, but full sun all day, every day may be too much of a great thing for some plants. Based on GrowerTalks magazine, “high light throughout the summer can lead to bud abortion .” If your plant looks somewhat bullied, shift it into a place where it receives full sun only in the morning rather than during the brightest hours of midday.

A Long Drink of Water

Too much water or too small may also lead to your mandevilla to discard buds. It’s tuberous roots which decay readily when compelled to endure constantly soggy conditions. In case your mandevilla is growing in a pot, be sure that container has drainage holes and is filled with a light and porous potting soil rather than heavy clay, so that excess water does not linger. On the other hand, you shouldn’t allow the soil to become parched either, or even the plant will cast off buds that it can no longer sustain.

A Chunk of Change

If you opt to bring your mandevilla inside in the autumn to preserve it to the subsequent summer, then it will almost inevitably lose buds due to the shock of this transition. The environment in most homes is much lower in both humidity and light than that which the plant will have experienced outside. As opposed to attempting to keep it growing under these conditions, you can force the plant to semi-dormancy over the winter. To accomplish this, cut it back to about 10 inches, then put it in a cool, dark area with temperatures in the 50s or even 60s Fahrenheit, and water it only enough to keep the soil barely damp until spring. Be sure to disinfect your pruning tool blades by wiping them off with alcohol prior to pruning. This will decrease the chances of infecting the mandevilla with any diseases still clinging to the blades from a previous pruning job.

Left Out in the Cold

Regardless of the shock your plant might need to endure when brought inside, it is not a fantastic idea to leave it out too late in the autumn, either. A sudden freeze will destroy most mandevillas, with the exception of Mandevilla laxa, and they aren’t fond of temperatures in the 40’s F, either. Most types will begun to sulk — and also possibly cast buds — once night-time temperatures fall below 50 degrees F., and they should be brought inside at the moment.

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7 Evergreen Wonders of the Plant World

The importance of green space in our urban environments, as far as in our personal lives, is at the forefront of our heads today more than ever. Street curbs are being turned into rain gardens; community plots are blanketing former parking lots; parks are popping up in the very incongruous postindustrial sites. On each square inch of those victories, it’s imperative to guarantee an inspired and durable plant selection.

I believe that such a vital goal in planting design starts by securing solid bones: evergreen plants that provide construction and year-round interest — because off-season soil, yet fertile, rather looks like mucky dirt. Past overplanted rhododendrons and pieris, vinca and nandina, let’s discover seven top-notch evergreen plants for discerning gardeners.

CYAN Horticulture

Bear’s Breech
(Acanthus mollis)

No need to build Corinthian columns and plinths to rightfully enjoy acanthus (Acanthus mollis) in the garden. The model where the Greek decorative element originated, the acanthus foliage provides a bold, clean and durable appearance. It may die down through the spells but will sprout back. Together with cast-iron plant, described next, I utilize acanthus in large planters deprived of sunlight.

USDA zones: 6 or 7 to 11 (find your zone)
Water demand: Wet to moist dirt
Light demand: Partial sun to dappled shade
Mature size: 4 feet tall and wide
Seasonal interest: Year-round
When to plant: Spring or summer

CYAN Horticulture

Cast-Iron Plant
(Aspidistria elatior)

A staple in the American South, cast-iron plant (Aspidistria elatior) is often sold as an indoor plant elsewhere. For me personally it is now essential for its darkest porches, in which it thrones year-round without flinching. It’s indestructible, so the common name was really well chosen.

The majority of the time it’s green all the way through, but some of the many collector’s selections occasionally trickle down to the trade, like this mesmerizing variegated one dubbed ‘Asahi’. Using its clearly upright growth habit and its compact, lush foliage, cast-iron is a standout.

USDA zones: 7 to 11
Water demand: Well-drained dirt
Light demand: Dappled to complete shade
Mature size: 2 1/4 feet tall and wide
Seasonal interest: Year-round
When to plant: Anytime

CYAN Horticulture

(Beesia deltophylla)

Dear buddy and plant explorer extraordinaire Daniel J. Hinkley is to thank you for the wide introduction and promotion of Bessia(Beesia deltophylla). This more compact grower deserves a prime place in unethical planters (as shown in this Vancouver garden) as far as in formal bedding and thoughtful woodlands.

Heart-shaped, its thick glossy leaves stay healthy appearing year-round. For extra cleanliness, I remove the gangly scapes produced through summer.

A few peeps will be left with such a green plant, but I rejoice in knowing that in spite of the weather ups and downs, my Bessia will tough it via. Loyalty, my buddy; that is what it’s all about.

USDA zones: 6 or 7 to 9
Water demand: Moist but well-drained soil
Light demand: Partial to full shade
Mature size: 1 foot tall and wide
Seasonal interest: Year-round
When to plant: Anytime

CYAN Horticulture

Upright Yew
(Taxus x press)

In comparison with broadleaf evergreens, coniferous evergreens are, generally speaking, that far hardier. From the warmer reaches of North America in addition to on the majority of its West Coast nicely into Canada, broadleaf evergreens abound.

In colder reaches, however, the selection is much thinner — boxwood, euonymus, hollies and leucothoes are a few of the more demanding contenders. Yet there is more to conifers than blue spruces and hedging cedars.

An all-time favorite is yew, upright (Taxus x press, shown here) or creeping. Its nice, dark green foliage has nothing to envy of almost any exotics.

USDA zones: 4 to 8
Water demand: Moist but well-drained soil
Light demand: Full to partial sun
Mature size: Variable
Seasonal interest: Year-round
When to plant: Spring to fall

CYAN Horticulture

Mexican Orange
(Choisya ternata)

Mexican strawberry (Choisya ternata) must be the one evergreen plant I use the most. While I strive to refrain from falling back into the same plants over and over, this enchanting and flexible shrub is hard to resist.

Obviously rounded and complete, easily maintained to a more compact size, generously covered in superbly fragrant clusters of white blossoms, Choisya is as near perfection as it gets. There is even a golden-leafed version named ‘Sundance’ and a filigree-leaved hybrid called ‘Aztec Pearl’.

USDA zones: 7 to 9
Water demand: Well-drained dirt
Light demand: Full to partial sun
Mature size: 5 feet tall and wide
Seasonal interest: Year-round
When to plant: Spring or summer

CYAN Horticulture

(Pachysandra axillaris ‘Windcliff’s Fragrant’)

It’s far from my intention to recommend infinite blankets of covers. A default design stroke of too many designers and architects, ground covers could be counterproductive and, yes, a pain to keep. There are, however, areas — at the foundations of shrubs, along paths — where ground covers are all welcome.

Of the more recent candidates is this gorgeous pachysandra (Pachysandra axillaris ‘Windcliff’s Fragrant’). Eons from the oh-so-common Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), this one is slightly taller, thankfully a bit looser and clad with diminutive yet exceptionally fragrant flowers in the fall and again in late winter. A must-have plant.

USDA zones: 6 to 9
Water demand: Moist to well-drained soil
Light demand: Partial sun to full shade
Mature size: Up to 1 foot tall; spreads
Seasonal interest: Year-round
When to plant: Anytime

CYAN Horticulture


In the past few years, there’s been an avalanche of newer winter-blooming hellebores. While some really represent a fantastic improvement, there is one older selection I profoundly cherish: Helleborus x sternii. For its compact habit, it has such outstanding foliar attributes and parsimonious purple-tinted blossoms I haven’t consigned this one to oblivion yet. Call me conservative if you will, but this hellebore is a keeper.

USDA zones: 6 to 9
Water necessity: Well-drained dirt
Light demand: Full sun to dappled shade
Mature size: 1 1/4 feet tall and 1 1/2 feet wide
Seasonal interest: Year-round
When to plant: Anytime

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Easy Green: Country vs. City for Ecofriendly Lifestyles

It’s easy to idealize the country as the ideal place for living a green lifestyle, with fresh, clean air and plenty of space to live off the property. And while these features are surely there (and quite appealing for some), the surprising part is there are good ecofriendly lifestyle options that go alongside urban and suburban or rural living. Learn here how to make the most of all your own area has to offer, wherever you reside.

B. Jane Gardens

Country living sounds green … but can it be? While there are many advantages to living in the country, one big negative from a green perspective is the fact that you probably need to get in the car to get just about anyplace. If you live in a rural or suburban area, try these measures to minimize auto use:

Carpool to work with neighbors
Send little ones to school on the bus
Work from home or telecommute part-time
Cluster errands to reduce time in the car

Amy Renea

Use your property to the maximum. With ample property and distant neighbors, in the country you can grow much of your own fruit and veggies, or perhaps (based on zoning laws) keep livestock. Having the ability to select beans and lettuces for supper and gather fresh eggs is eating neighborhood at its best.

John Hill

The green key of town living: walkability. Living in a dense urban area provides one distinct advantage over rural neighbors — especially, the ability to walk nearly everywhere. And where you can not reach by foot, it is likely you can utilize public transportation, virtually eliminating the need for a vehicle.

You can even get the Walk Score for your own neighborhood, that takes into account things like proximity to markets, parks, shops and restaurants. Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in which this house shown is, scores a 98: “Walker’s Paradise.”

Read more about neighborhood walkability

Rossington Architecture

Embrace a lack of space. Living in a very small city apartment makes it a lot easier to buy less material. So the next time you find yourself bemoaning the absence of a nice kitchen or full-size closet, you can at least be reassured that you do your part to conserve resources. After all, little spaces not just take less material to fill, but they also require less energy to heat and cool, and also use less water compared to larger homes.

Tobin + Parnes Design Enterprises

Get creative with urban gardens. City neighborhoods are seeing edible gardens springing up anywhere from rooftops and fire flows to postage stamp backyards and community spaces. Greening up town is a superb way to consume neighborhood, to be sure, but less obviously, it’s also a boost to air quality. Even in the event that you have space for just a few pots on the balcony or windowsill, opting to add some potted edibles are able to really make a difference, including fresh air to your house and fresh greens into your dining table.


Grow vertically in town. Thanks to innovations like wall sockets (displayed here), you can even develop a garden right in your wall, inside or outside.

The buzz on bees. Gardens need pollinators, which is exactly why some town dwellers are even choosing to add beehives for their gardens. Bees take up very little space and can offer fresh, local honey to boot.

Gardens from Gabriel, Inc..

Go green in the suburbs. Owning your own single-family house does hold a few advantages over residing in apartment buildings and condos: You are able to make more lasting structural modifications without asking permission from a co-op or homeowners association. For a quick addition, try using a rainwater collecting system to store water for use on your garden; or to get a larger investment, you could even have solar panels installed in your house.

Aloe Designs

Give up some yard space for a garden. The edible garden motion is increasing by leaps and bounds, and in many suburban areas it is no longer uncommon to see tomatoes and peppers growing in the front yard and expanses of grass given in favour of raised vegetable beds. A family of four does not require a massive garden to provide fresh, local food to supplement regular market trips, so why not give it a try?

Tour this efficient backyard edible garden in Vancouver

Amy Renea

Chickens in suburbia. Just because you do not have acreage does not mean that you can not do a bit of suburban farming right on your backyard. Local ordinances vary, so make sure you check with your town prior to bringing home a backyard flock — and educate yourself on the proper maintenance required to keep healthy hens.

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Expand your vision of the “homestead.” Even in the event that you reside in a town or do not want to garden, anyone can freeze and can clean, seasonal food by the farmer’s market. Widen your perspective and the range of changes that can be made right where you’re.

Tell us What do you love about where you live? What do you find is harder or easier about going green in your area?

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Central Plains Gardener's December Checklist

I bet you’re starting to overlook the garden just a little bit. You would give anything to feel dirt under your nails. Even a new scratch from a maple branch would be pleasant. As in love, it is all about the anticipation, and winter is the time to organize your spring and summer moves.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Have you been looking out your window in the “barren” landscape and needing for longer? The expression “winter interest” means something to people like us, who have four strong seasons. Winter interest we need. Start looking for structural variety so that following winter the snow produces a magical place for wildlife and you.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Perhaps you require a conifer to jazz up winter view with a few green — even one adaptable Thuja (Arborvitae) may get the job done.

Do not forget about leaving your dead-stemmed perennials status; their capacity to add winter interest is unmatched, and they provide cover for wildlife while grabbing snow to insulate their crowns and roots. Occasionally — in just the right sun — sparks of orange, rust, magenta and tan come living at a garden left up for winter.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Last year I had a sharp-shinned hawk visit my garden in winter, searching for songbirds which take shelter (and therefore escape) in my garden of winter interest. Things are very much living if you give a place for them.

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If you have a fantastic coat, a mild day gives you a chance to work outside. Hardscape and infrastructure chores get the blood flowing.

For instance, why not include a raised bed in December? You may create one out of almost any material (just do not use treated timber, which has chemicals that leach into the soil and poison plants). Raised beds may be used for optimal vegetable gardening, for dryness-loving plants or simply to create architectural interest — even sun interest.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

A simple rain string is something fantastic to have outside in winter, and it catches the crisp sunlight like an engagement ring’s diamond. You understand, it is that time of year. Perhaps a rain string would be a better option for your sweetheart?

Produce something amazing with the runoff from your roof

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Regardless of what you are doing, get outside. Simply because it’s cold does not mean there aren’t discoveries to be made. Get to know your garden in a season. The spent seed heads look more visceral, and the grasses more orchestral. Locate the world via the smallest and simplest pleasures. Let yourself be surprised.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Walk the garden and program out additions and subtractions throughout the bones, in which you want to add some depth, what is not functioning or is feeble. Make a few sketches. Take photographs to look at interior more than a cup of hot cocoa.

Upload the pictures to a photo editor and start drawing circles erase an entire bed and add an enviable inspiration photograph. It’s the best time of year to become interested in gardening — you can fall in love all over again as you get to understand the landscape afresh.

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Fantastic Design Plant: Sasanqua Camellia

I’m not certain if plant breeding, birth order or some thing else explains this, but at the camellia clan the Sasanqua camellia is your striving, adapting, hardworking sibling — compared to the hoity-toity Camellia japonica,using its perfect, almost waxen flowers and precious cultivar names such as’Debutante’ and’Swan Lake’.

There are scores of Sasanquas, plus they bloom earlier, with smaller flowers, than Japonicas. They can also perform far more landscape tasks in a garden, in sun or partial shade: floor cover, hedge, espalier, container plant, freestanding specimen. Plus they take considerably more sun (full sun except in hottest climates) and bloom before — in autumn and winter, when flowers are especially welcome. All in all, Sasanquas are one of the top tier of helpful evergreen landscape plants in California, the Southeast and similar light environments.


Botanical name: Camellia sasanqua. Many colours and varieties can be found;’Setsugekka’ is shown here.
USDA zones: 7 to 10 (find your zone)
Water necessity: Moderate; do not overwater.
Moderate requirement: Partial color, especially in hot climates. Will take more sun than Camellia japonica.
Mature size: As much as 10 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide, depending greatly on number
Tolerances: Generally trouble free if circumstances are appropriate; not as prone to petal blight (infection ) as Japonicas.


Distinguishing attributes. Evergreen leaves are deep green and fine annually. Flowers in shades of red, white and pink, double or single, are small (2 to 3 inches or so) but abundant. Shown here’s rose-red, double-blossom’Shishi-Gashira’ (also considered a Hiemalis camellia).


Bright red with a yellow center, Yuletide’ Sasanqua camellia blossoms in late autumn, just in time for the holidays. The plant is distintively upright, perfect for a container near the front door or other narrow place.


‘Pink a Boo’ is a offshoot of’Yuletide’ — note the similar bright yellow centre. The blossom is larger but this plant can also be a vacation bloomer. It shares the same upright habit, so it’s also great in a pot.

How to use it. Choose a Sasanqua selection based on colours you like plus growth habit. Some varieties have a tendency to disperse; others stand upright. It is possible to see tendencies in young nursery plants, for example as’Shishi-Gashira’ (revealed ), which is compact and fairly low growing by character. To get a floor cover, start looking for spreaders like’Mine-Yo-Yuki’ or’Bonanza’. To get a hedge, try out a more upright type, for example as’Jean May’ or’Setsugekka’.

Growing hints. Plant in partial shade or full sun except in hot climates. Be sure that the soil drains well. At planting time refill the hole or bed with at least 25 percent organic matter. Cover the soil with mulch, keep it moist and feed regularly with special camellia food. To prevent diseases from spreading, try to pick up dropped blossoms — although Sasanquas are not as susceptible to petal blight as Japonicas.

To grow a Sasanqua at a container, start with commercial camellia combination or create your own with as much as 50 percent organic matter. Pot size can also be important: choose a diameter of 12 to 14 inches for gallon-can-size crops, and 16 to 18 inches for 5-gallon size.

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Cool-Season Vegetables: How to Grow Lettuce

Lettuce is over the iceberg range of diner dinner salads. In reality, even iceberg lettuce (also known as crisphead) is no longer that recognizable. The family is huge and rapidly growing. Lettuce itself is still a standard for salads, but it may also be added to sandwiches, used as a wrapping for a filling or cooked. (Look for darker leaves to get the most nutrition from the leaves) And despite its incidence in summertime salads, it is an actual cool-season harvest.

Lettuces are generally divided into four distinct kinds:
Leaf lettuces are easy to grow and quick to mature; you might have greens as early as a month after planting. They’re also pretty in the garden, with leaves varying in color from bronze to red to dark green. Butterhead lettuces are little and cream coloured, with a delicate flavor. Romaine or cos lettuce forms are vertical instead of round and dispersing. Crisphead lettuces are the recognizable iceberg types and Batavian lettuces, which resemble a mix of iceberg and leaf lettuces. They withstand heat the very best, but iceberg types specifically can bolt quickly.Within all these groups, there are different rates of maturity and degrees of heat tolerance. Start looking for lettuces that will do well in your climate.

Amy Renea

When to plant: For spring crops, sow seeds set out seedlings in early spring. (See thinning recommendations for spacing.) Continue to sow or transplant each couple of weeks so you’ll have a constant crop, remembering that unless the garden is shaded, temperatures above about 75 degrees will lead to lettuce plants to bolt (flower and set seed). Start up again in late summer or fall, when the soil temperature has cooled. In cold-winter climates, plan your crop so you’ll have lettuce until the first frost. In mild-winter climates, you can continue to sow or transplant through the winter.

Days to maturity: 30 to 90

Light requirement: Sun to partial shade; to prevent it from bolting ancient, plant in which other plants can color it.

Water necessity: Provide regular, consistent water; the dirt should stay moist.

Batavian: Cherokee, Nevada, SierraButterhead: Bibb, Buttercrunch, Deer’ s Tongue, Marvel of Four Seasons, Rouge d’Hiver, Sangria, Tom Thumb, Winter MarvelCos: Blushed Butter Cos, Crisp Mint, Little Gem (a rainbow variety), Parris Island, Parris WhiteCrisphead: Great Lakes, Red Iceberg, Reine de Glace, SummertimeLeaf: Australian Yellow, Black Seeded Simpson, Lolla Rossa, Oak Leaf, Red Sails, Red Salad Bowl, Salad Bowl

Barbara Pintozzi

Planting and maintenance: Sow seeds in rows about 1/8 into 1/4 inch heavy or simply by broadcasting; cover lightly with soil. Thin leaf lettuces to about 1/4 to 3/4 of a foot apart. Butterhead and romaine lettuces should be 6 to 8 inches apart. Crispheads want the most space; let at least a foot.

Fertilize the soil once you plant and around a month and a half afterwards. Maintain the soil consistently moist and weed carefully around the plants. Pests and diseases are usually not a issue, but a number of the typical suspects aphids, leaf miners, snails, mildew and wilt — along with birds, deer and rabbits may make inroads on your harvest.

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Harvest: Though you usually view heads of lettuce for sale in grocery stores and in the markets, you can harvest individual leaves of leaf, romaine and Batavian lettuces. In reality, a common way is to sow a mix of those seeds, enable them to grow, then cut leaves about 1/2 inch above the crown. They’ll quickly regenerate, and you’ll have an ongoing source for lettuce. It is also possible to consume the thinnings and young leaves of butterhead and iceberg lettuce, then wait until the entire head forms and harvest the entire plant.

The way to grow arugula and other salad greens

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