Garden Notes

The Tucson Botanic Gardens, known to the locals as a “tranquil oasis in the heart of Tucson”, tells the story of the people and place, while developing awareness and appreciation of their native surroundings. With a vision of creating an oasis, and a mission promoting, demonstrating and educating responsible use of regionally appropriate plants,Tucson Botanical Gardens strives to become America's best small public garden.

In the Southwest, nearly nothing will make as dramatic a statement as one of the large mature agaves. Their imposing thick succulent leaves stare you down and dare one to come look closer. Virtually untapped as a means of winter green and winter interest, our native evergreen (or ever-blue, ever-gray) succulents can easily be incorporated into native, low water-use, Western cottage and rock garden designs and styles.

Yuccas, the under used and under appreciated genus of plants. Yuccas make terrific multi-purpose evergreen plants for the home landscape of the Texas High Plains with many species integrating well into many areas of the home landscape. The arborescent, or tree-like yuccas, are natural architectural focal points. And many of both cold hardy and non-hardy yuccas make great container specimens, when properly protected in the winter months inside.

According to the just released global pollinator assessment, 16% of vertebrate pollinators (increasing to 30% for island species) and more than 40% of invertebrate pollinating species are threatened locally, across the globe. Home gardeners can most positively and directly affect the problem of pollinator shortages through a different gardening paradigm than is currently being practiced in home landscapes. Read about our main pollinators and how to install a pollinator-friendly garden.

A visit to the desert can help one understand and appreciate the great diversity and versatility of plants, matching their requirements for growth to their environment. Join me on my day trip of eleven of the plant alliances within Joshua Tree National Park.

This summer I visited a familiar garden I watched grow and change over my adult life. Like my brother-in-law, Gene Dees, who creates and tends it, the garden has grown and matured over the decades. This year I realized a new appreciation for his decades of imagination, creativity and skill. What was once a typical northern garden, Gene's landscape has been transformed into an eclectic garden of depth and whimsy with the power to draw one in and sustain one's curiosity and interest.

Quietly nestled among the narrow, winding streets of East Alameda and Canyon Road not far from the Santa Fe River, a four acre garden displays some of the best features drawn from English and xeriscape garden styles. This is the garden of Elspeth Bobbs. Set among adobe buildings, her English Garden beautifully marries British gardening tradition with xeriscape principles in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Monarch butterflies serve as an indicator of the health of pollinators and the American landscape. The eastern monarch population has recently been assessed as critically imperilled due to its rapid decline from nearly one billion down to 57 million at the beginning of 2015. The are ways to help insure that the migrating monarchs don't become just a pleasant memory.

Winter is a barren season, frequently bereft of even a single flower. When planning a garden, many gardeners design for spring and summer. Fall, though often neglected, shines the brightest and winter is just plain ignored. It is odd that less attention is paid to how it looks in the off season, winter being the one season gardeners can enjoy the garden without being absorbed in its maintenance. A garden designed and composed of plants for winter interest will shine throughout the year.

Wind is an ever present condition gardeners know they have to live with. Amarillo had been name the windiest city in the United States, according to a report last spring.This came as no surprise to Panhandle gardeners, who have long thought the area is excessively windy, and it is. Amarillo consistently is ranked in the top 10 of windiest city. How does the wind affect the garden, and is wind related to temperature and moisture patterns. I explore this topic comparing weather data from 1892 to 2013.

Plant breeders, growers and nurserymen have been hard at work these past several years hoping to match environmental conditions with gardener's choices for this coming gardening season. What are the trends they've prepared for? I describe several and offer some predictions of my own for 2015, as well as possible resolutions for the new year.

The facts and stats -- not excessively hot, nor bracingly cold. Windy, but not extreme. The highest temperature recorded was 104º on August 31st and the coldest temperature was 1º on February 6. Between these two bookends lies a lot of weather, most pleasant and some nasty. Here's a look back on the weather for 2014 and it's effect on the garden.

Brilliant autumnal displays quickly turns smiles to frowns once they fall. But gloom not. Recycyling leaves into a valuable product for plants and soil is nearly as easy as mowing or bagging the leaves themselves. Here are a few tips in performing this sustainable function.

Last year I wrote about the Denver Botanical Gardens after visiting in July, 2013. I've seen the gardens in various years in May, June, July, August and September. Each visit is special and different from each other. Each year Denver Botanical Gardens features a display of art throughout the gardens. This summer, DBG is featuring the art glass creations of Dale Chihuly.

Scientists are discovering the complex world of plant communication, mostly centered around plant scents, volatile organic compounds. Volatiles are used to beckon pollinators, fend off herbivores and pathogens, summon helpful insect predators and alert other parts of the plants, as well as other plants to the presence of danger.

The Missouri Botanical Gardens – Shaw's Garden, as it's informally known – represents and exceeds the vision and mission started by Henry Shaw, a center for science and conservation, education and horticultural display. As all gardens, the Missouri Botanical Gardens evolved since Henry Shaw opened the gardens to the public in 1859, yet it has remained true to the purpose and style envisioned by Shaw 155 years ago.

Amarillo Botanical Gardens has announced that the proposed Plant Select® Demonstration Garden has received notice of funding from the Amarillo Area Foundation, Sybil B. Harrington Living Trust. Plant Select® ( is a regionally recognized program familiar to gardeners throughout the Rocky Mountain West and Southwest. Plant Select® plants are plants that are either native to the west or non-natives from similar floristic regions of the world that are superior performers in the Western half of the U.S.

Ah, spring. The season we look to with the greatest anticipation. If there are holes in your beds and borders, fill them with plants from Canyon's Edge Plants, our local grower and plant provider since before the beginning of this millennium. Canyon's Edge Plants has conveniently located to the square in Canyon, with greatly expanded hours, larger selection and bigger smiles than ever before.

When the word tulip is mentioned or thought, our natural association is with Holland, windmills and low-lying marshy land in a cool, overcast and rainy climate. Yet it’s origins are in a climate just the opposite a continent away. There are very few plants that have captured the love, passion and folly of gardeners, and held it, century to century, as tulips have. From the study of the history of the tulip, one follows the history of gardening, floriculture and horticulture science in both the eastern and western world.

Prior to the mid-sixteenth century, there were no records of tulips in western European literature or history. When Europeans finally took note of this unusual, variable and beautiful flower, word spread like wildfire, matched only by the wild and hot passions of the Dutch.

Tulips enjoyed a heady life in France and England with mini-mania and obsessions. The French were quicker to move on to other extravagances. Like any love story, the English had their ups and downs with the tulip, suffering through keen competition from other flowers. The tulips prevails today as a much loved flower.

Tulips came to the new Dutch colony of New Amsterdam during the seventeenth century. Just as with European gardeners, the American gardener adapted to the tulip as it changed through the centuries under the Bulbmasters, the Dutch.

Many gardeners have given up on growing tulips, mostly because they fail to return the next year, or return without much vigor. The Texas Panhandle is ideally suited to gardening with hybrid tulips and nearly all of the wild species tulips available on the market today. With a little information, gardeners are better able to make informed choices that lead to beautiful, long lasting results.

Most of the tulips we're familiar with are the hybrid tulips developed in England, France and the Netherlands, mostly in the Netherlands. This are tulips on tall sturdy stems with large flowers used in mass plantings. Oftentimes, they're not known for their longevity. By choosing the right tulip for the right purpose, we can herald in spring with the elegant, majestic flower loved for centuries.

Has the drought in California caught your attention? Near daily stories in the major national newspapers about water shortages in the Central Valley have been shouting at me. Will the cost of vegetables, fruits and nuts become prohibitive? Sure, the Central Valley is only one region, but it is a major region of food production for the United States. The cost and quantity of vegetable, fruits and nuts is bound to be impacted. What can we do?