Seasonal residents are back up to their mountain summer homes and gardens. It has been so nice in the deserts that they stayed an extra few weeks to enjoy spring at the lower elevations.
Many of our summer-only neighbors try to keep their predominantly cactus-based winter landscapes as the dominant themes of their mountain yards. This is difficult to do at the higher elevations of Arizona. However, there are attractive, low-maintenance, low-water-using alternatives. Here are some fun mountain plants to expand your summer gardening palette:
It's fun to watch customers react to the fragrance of Spanish broom. This plant is in bloom now and fills the landscape with a fragrance so sweet that it really is comparable to the scent of lilacs. Clumps of quill-like erect green stems form this interesting, practically leafless shrub. The showy pea-shaped flowers remain solar yellow long into summer. Spanish broom is an excellent choice for dry locations, hillsides and where an interesting specimen is needed in full sun.
Used frequently in low-water landscapes, Spanish broom does well on a drip system. Russian sage, salvias, barberry, ground cover juniper and yuccas are good complements to this consistent bloomer. Each of these companion plants is unique in its foliage and texture, and the varying bloom cycles deliver season-long color to the landscape.
Prescott purple locust offers flowers, shade and low maintenance all in one tree! Although it loves sub-zero winters and blistering hot summers, this stunner is in bloom from May through the first of June with fragrant purple flowers that cluster together like wisteria blossoms. Its sweet-scented blooms are wonderful additions to indoor bouquets. It's the perfect mountain plant for profuse, cooling shade on a back patio, or in a west-facing courtyard and west walls where it supplies summer-long color. It is fast growing, so you can buy the smaller size and wait for it to grow. Of course, you can choose the larger size for instant shade.
Manzanita is the classiest of the low-water-use natives. Its dark glossy leaves contrast against the bright red stems and dainty white flowers, making for year-round interest. The only way to kill this bush is to over-water it, or to plant it in clay soil with inadequate drainage.
Hummingbirds dream at night of the sweet nectar from the rich red flowers that form on autumn sage. Every landscape should have at least one of these knee-high mountain beauties. Flowers bloom from May through November, which is an amazing feat for such a tough little plant. This salvia's red blossoms and airy branching are a perfect contrast to the violet flowers, gray leaves, and upright stems of the Russian sage.
For more mountain gardening ideas, ask for my free Yavapai Friendly plant list the next time you visit us. Most varieties listed can be viewed, touched and smelled in our garden center's new native and drought hardy displays. Also included are all the cacti that are right for the higher altitudes of Arizona.
My summer series of gardening classes begins next Saturday. The free classes take place in Watters' upper greenhouse, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and lasting about an hour. The first class, on June 9, is "Bountiful Vegetable Gardens." Its focus will be on the best care, feeding and watering for the most generous harvest possible. The June 16 topic is "Containers that Bloom Like Crazy!" We will explore techniques that will keep container gardens' blossoms vibrant and colorful all summer long. The complete schedule of June's class topics can be viewed on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/watters1815events, and at http://wattersonline.com/classes.php.
Garden Tour: This is your chance to visit the gardens of some of the best gardeners in the region! The Alta Vista Garden Club sponsors local garden tours every other year, and this year's event on Saturday, June 9, promises to be one of the best.
This is a self-guided tour of six different gardens for only $10 per ticket. I have just shy of 30 tickets left here at Watters Garden Center. On the day of the tour, purchased tickets are swapped for the tour map under the gazebo at the Sharlot Hall Museum. Join in the fun and take home many inspiring ideas for your own gardens and landscapes. Hope to see you there.
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 Rd, 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."