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The Garden Guy: Plants for Arizona mountain landscapes

Ken Lain/Courtesy photo<br>

Ken Lain/Courtesy photo<br>

The first few paragraphs of this week's column are about the two topics most discussed at the garden center this week: watering techniques and thrip damage.

If your plants have curled leaves that appear damaged and wind whipped, you have thrips eating your plants. You must get rid of these chewing microscopic killers or risk the loss of their hosts. After treatment with the all-natural "Fruit Tree Spray," the plants' new growth will emerge pest free and looking like healthy plants should.

Watering is a more complicated issue, much less cut and dried (pun intended). Established plants are happy with water once a week, but they require a LOT of water each time. It's important to soak the entire root zone and then a little deeper.

Water requirements for new plants are an entirely different story. Large or small, they need water at least once a day until they have well-established root systems. Newly planted trees and shrubs should be watered twice a week. Plants that are in hanging containers or plants in the ground that are exposed to a lot of wind must have really generous, frequent watering. If these plants are allowed to dry out they risk a quick Saharan demise. The soil will have shrunk and water will flow around the roots instead of into them. Try to re-hydrate dried-out roots by soaking them in a bucket or tub full of water until the leaves plump back up and the root ball swells back into place. If you need more details on proper watering techniques visit me at the garden center and I will give you an in-depth watering guide.

My staff and I enjoy introducing mountain plants to gardeners new to our area. It's fun to watch their reactions to the variety of choices available. For instance, many newcomers are surprised by the fragrance of Spanish broom, Spartium junceum. This plant, in bloom now, fills the landscape with a fragrance so sweet that I enjoy it even more than the scent of lilacs. Clumps of quill-like erect green stems form this interesting, practically leafless shrub. The showy pea-shaped flowers remain bright yellow well into summer. Spanish broom is an excellent choice for dry locations, hillsides, and in full sun where an interesting specimen is needed.

Manzanita is the classiest of the low-water-use natives. The dark glossy leaves contrast against bright red stems and its dainty flowers make for year round interest. Just be careful where you buy your manzanita. Over the years I have seen manzanitas freshly dug from the wild and transplanted into five-gallon containers; they looked really good at first, but then quickly died. Wild manzanitas rarely, if ever, transplant successfully. Look for plants that are fully rooted; they are most likely started from a seedling, not freshly transplanted from the wild. The only way to kill this bush is to over water it or plant it in clay soil. Otherwise, stand back and watch it take off!

Red salvia, aka autumn sage, is the photo this week. Hummingbirds surely dream about the sweet nectar from the rich red flowers covering this plant. I believe every landscape should have at least one of these drought tolerant mountain beauties. I have several in my own landscape, their flowers blooming from May through November, which is amazing for such a tough little plant that grows only knee high. The red blossoms of this salvia are the perfect contrast to the violet flowers of a Russian sage. Even the salvia's airy branching form complements the sage's gray leaves and upright stems. They truly are the best companion plants in our local landscapes.

Apache plume and red flowering yucca are two other companion plants that look and work well together. Apache plumes have season-long tiny white flowers and an interesting tassel that distinguishes this true native. An undeniably classy effect is created when a white-flowered Apache plume is planted against the deep-red-flowering yucca. The dramatic yucca blooms hover at the three-foot mark and dance in every monsoon storm. In flower through autumn until the flower stalks fade, the yucca moves into winter with striking evergreen foliage. Only the mountains of Arizona could produce such interesting plant companions that are such low water users and so low maintenance.

You can find me this weekend at the Home & Garden show located at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. You can't miss me; I was given the best spot of the entire event - right at the main entrance of the venue! Bring your samples of plants and/or bugs, photos and ideas to help my garden pros and me answer your questions. This biggest home and garden show of the year runs both Saturday and Sunday. My staff and I hope that you will drop by and say "hi."

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

Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, and can be contacted through his website at www.wattersonline.com. Ken says, "My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes."

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