Encore Azalea thegardensleuth.com

Name: Encore Azalea

Latin: Rhododendrom

Height: 2'-6'

Width: 2'-4'

Their bright green leaf color throughout most seasons followed by some change of colors in the fall make them a welcome addition to your landscape with exposure to morning sun or high filtered shade.  Their multi-season flower display makes them one of the most popular landscape shrubs available.    Easy to grow but does need regular watering and thrives in rich organic soils. Encore Azeleas are not deer resistant.

Encore Azalea 4

Encore Azalea

An investment in your landscape pays great dividends. Proper landscaping adds up to 15 percent to a home's value.  The cost of landscaping pays for itself five to ten times over the maturity of a landscape.

Shrubs are considered one of the best investments in a landscape, so why not plant a shrub that will add beautiful color through out multiple seasons.  Encore Azalea offers many colors and sizes to choose from. The only hard part will be deciding which one to plant!

Wintertime Interest- Berries
A popular way for adding winter interest to gardens is using plants with fruits or berries  that continue throughout  winter — or at least part of the winter.  Many of the shrubs that will have berries are Hollys.  There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, some are dwarf and others are small trees.  Great for a splash of color in the dreary months.

Dwarf Burford Holly- A dense growing evergreen shrub that will grow to about 4'.  In the winter it has bright red/ orange berries. Grows to zone 6 so check your local garden centers for the best varieties for your area.
Burford Holly Burford Holly

Yaupon Holly Tree- Small specimen tree that grows to about 15'.  If you want berries make sure you get the female varieties. Very hardy and drought tolerant.  Grows to Zone 7.  So best in southern states, however there are many other Hollies that grow further North so check what grows best in your area.

Christmas 2013 008 Yaupon Holly tree 1 my landscape design

Winter Interest?
Look over your garden for the next few months and determine if your garden has winter interest. If not, add to your landscape these exciting additions.  Exfoliating Bark is the perfect characteristic for winter interest to look for when choosing plants.  Trees and large shrubs with exfoliating bark add visual interest all year long, but during winter, when branches are bare, is when exfoliating bark captures our attention. Peeling and curling bark, which often reveals a different color below, adds a sophisticated touch to any garden.
Lace Bark Elm- Large Shade tree that is fast growing and very drought tolerant.



Crape Myrtle -Small specimen tree that blooms, pink, purple,  and white, all summer long and has great fall color.

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winterizing_CUWinter is fast approaching and we all think about wrapping pipes, protecting potted plants, and of course our pets.  However most people don’t realize that landscapes need to be protected as well. Proper winterizing of your landscape will help plants survive the gray cold days ahead, and be better prepared for the “spring rush”.  There are several ways to protect your landscape for the winter ahead.

Most areas in the United States have four seasons and fall allows plant the time to prepare for winter, whereas here in the south we have basically summer and winter.  When you live in an area that has four seasons, plants have the opportunity to “harden off”.  This process is when plants began to prepare themselves for the colder weather, very much like animals prepare for the colder months.  Plants know winter is coming because the nights began to cool down and daylight becomes less.  Gradually they began to “winterize” themselves. In the south it may be 85 degrees one day and freezing the next.  Plants have not had the time to prepare for the cold and so they are susceptible to freeze damage.

The best way to protect your plants from freeze damage is to water, water, water.  I know this goes against what most people think to do, because we associate water with winter_landscapeice and ice means damage. But the opposite is true.  If you water 12 to 24 hours before a hard freeze the roots absorb the water and release it as heat to protect their own root system. It’s a long scientific explanation, I won’t bore you with the details, but it works. So if we don’t get any rain ahead of a freeze, then go ahead and water thoroughly and help protect your landscape from freeze damage.  This one simple step will save you from having to replace plants in the spring which is very costly and will keep your landscape healthy for next season.

ChristmasTreeA few years ago,  I broke down and bought an artificial Christmas tree.  For years I fought the temptation of buying one, because I loved the process of buying the perfect tree and bringing it home to decorate.  As soon as Thanksgiving was over I was looking for my tree.  I’m one of those who loves Christmas and if I go to all the trouble to decorate everything, I want to enjoy the season for as long as possible. After going out to buy a real fragrant Christmas tree, I decided to check out the artificial trees one more time.  I finally found one I really liked, so I decided to go ahead and get it.  I have enjoyed the ease of it much these last few years, but the one thing I miss the most, is the wonderful smell you get from a live Christmas tree. I have bought the Spruce air sprays and Fir fragrant hangers and they help, but it’s just not the same.  Last year as I was buying some fresh garland I noticed a pile of Christmas tree branches in a pile that ChristmasDecorationshad been removed from trees. I asked the sales person what they were going to do with the branches and was told they sell them.  I bought several branches from several different types of trees.  When I got home I cut them into 10” pieces and added them to my Christmas tree. Now this helped bring some of the Christmas tree fragrance I had been missing back into my home.

I then began to think about all the ways I could incorporate fresh greenery into my artificial decorations and so I added live branches to the artificial greenery on my mantel and it blended in so well that it's hard to tell whats real and what's not except that the wonderful smell of Christmas permeates my home.

HollyThere are several standard landscape shrubs that also work great in holiday arrangements this time of year.  The first is Holly. Now there are several varieties of Holly out there, so I think the best ones have big shiny green leaves along with red berries.  Some varieties of Holly shrubs with berries are Dwarf Burford Holly, Dazzler Holly and Berries Jubilee. NandinaThen there are tree varieties like the Yaupon Holly tree, Nellie R. Stevens Holly and Savannah Holly that also will have red berries. So if you want the Holly look, think about varieties with berries, not only are they fun to use at Christmas but they provide good color in your landscape when most plants are dormant.  There are a few other shrubs that have red berries during the winter months and they are Nandina and Pyracantha.  Although less conventional they would still add great color to any Christmas arrangement.

winterizing_CUA few other plants that are used for greenery in Christmas arrangements are Boxwood, Cedars, and Junipers, And if you have a Magnolia tree, they are used in garland and wreaths.  So look around your yard and see if you can’t add a little "real" to your artificial Christmas.


fall_garden_2013_040Fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  Summer in Central Texas is very hot and we have had several days above one hundred degrees.  So goodbye to those 100 plus temperatures and hello to the cool mornings and wonderful mild afternoons. You know, the kind of days when you open every window and sometimes the doors, we call these days “Chamber of Commerce” days.

There are many plants that are at their best during the fall.  They are  ornamental grasses, Mexican Bush Sage and Mexican Mint Marigold.  Most perennials bloom during late spring through the first freeze, but not grasses.  They are at there best during the fall months.  However, one of the best reason I love fall is that most garden centers are clearing out plants, trees and garden necessities so they can make room for Christmas.  I know, it’s barely fall and already we see Christmas, but it is true.    So the next concern most people have is…
“It’s going to be cold soon, so should I wait until spring to plant?” And the resounding answer is NO.

Pond1Fall is one of the best times to plant shrubs and trees.  Now I would be careful about planting perennials because they will freeze back and may not have enough time to establish before the cold of winter, but shrubs and trees are in a whole different category.  The main reason I think fall is perfect for planting is because the roots of the shrubs and trees continue to establish over the winter months.  And by “establish”, I mean, their roots continue to grow.  So if you plant in  October or November, you have between six and seven months before it gets hot.  Just think, for that length of time your landscape has several months to grow their root system.  There will be little to no action above ground, but below ground is where your plant is working on growing it’s roots.  So if a plant needs about a year to establish, than half that time is during the coolest and wettest part of the year.  That means a lot less work for you.  But the best part is when spring does come your plant is ready to impress you with all it new growth.

MxBushSage_WSAnother good reason for fall planting is much less stress on plants.  It’s sometimes hard to believe that plants get stressed, but they do.  When you disrupt the roots, removing them from their containers, it causes the plant to stop growing and put all it’s energy into the protection of it’s root system.   Without a healthy root system there will be no healthy plant.  So while the weather is cool there is less stress on plants.  In the late fall and winter the plants will become dormant and will continue to establish without the added stress of putting out new growth.  Whereas in the spring they may have four to six weeks and then they must start to put new growth out.  So next time you are shopping and fall is here, look for big sales on plants and don’t hesitate to do some landscaping in your yard.  Come spring you will be way ahead of the curve with plants healthy and thriving.  And the best part, you will have spent a lot less money!

Fall In Love with Fall


potm_knockout_rose_1I love all the seasons and always look forward to each of them. Fall is just around the corner even though we still have summer temperatures.  Over the last few weeks we have had a few nights in the 50's and beautiful weather during the day. I know that in a day or two another cool front will arrive and fall will officially be here.  I love the fall season for many reasons: the Texas A&M football, my fall decorations and most of all my fall garden. So one of my favorite things to do is to visit my local garden center.   Believe it or not, most garden centers are clearing out for Christmas merchandise.  That means really good sale prices on many garden necessities and not just the plants.  The other day I was shopping at a local store and all the bag items, like soil, mulch, gravel were 75% off.  Wow!!!  Now that’s a great sale.

Fall_vegi_gardenI bought 45 bags of potting soil, which was everything left on the pallet.  Not the 3 cubic foot bags but small enough to handle easily. After two trips to the store to get all my new potting soil, I could hardly wait to get home and use it.  I have a vegetable garden area that was struggling mostly because it needed new soil.  And not just dirt but good nutrient rich potting soil.  I filled up all my raised bed areas with this wonderful soil.  I had several tomatoes plants that were struggling due to heat exhaustion and drought conditions.  Remember, I live in central Texas. I also had one lonely summer squash plant left.  I decided to just add three to four inches of soil around each plant.  They were looking pretty sad and I thought if they lived great, but if not no big deal.  Three days later it rained about 3”. A beautiful soaking rain along with the cool front. What perfect timing!  So I thought here is the test…will my struggling plants live or die?  If they die then adding too much soil was not a good idea.  It is never recommended to add soil to plants or trees for fear of smothering the roots, but here, in my vegetable garden the roots were very close to the surface of the dirt, what little dirt there was, had been washed away from watering.

Squash_plantWell this gardening story has a happy ending.  All of my existing vegetable plants are not just alive but are thriving.  In the last month the tomato plants have doubled in size and are full of blooms.  The lone summer squash plant is four times the size it was and is also blooming like crazy.   So if you have a vegetable garden that looks hopeless you might think about adding some good soil around the vegetable plants and see if they won’t go through another season.  It was a great find, not only did I save about four dollars per bag, but I saved my plants and did not have to buy all new vegetable plants for my fall garden.  So go shopping and see what great bargains you can find this time of year and fall in love with fall all over again.

In preparing my vegetable garden for spring planting,  I did what I thought were all the right things. I turned all the beds to remove the weeds.  I added good organic compost and, good soil and tilled everything in together.  I must have spent a good two or three days preparing my garden beds so that I would get a bumper crop this year. I even used theFarmers compost_pile3Almanac, and planted my vegetable seeds by the moon.  Again making sure I did everything I could to insure I would  have a bountiful crop. Everything started out good.  I had all my vegetables plants on a drip irrigation system.  And for the most part everything looked OK, not great but I had high hopes anyway.  Some plants were struggling a bit but, I hung in there making sure they were being watered properly.  I knew they were getting the right amount of sun as my garden is in the perfect place with morning sun, a little shade for an hour and then full sun until about three in the afternoon.  Perfect garden location for those hot Texas days. I  now decided that all I had to do was to sit back and watch it grow and soon I would be enjoying beautiful home grown vegetables.

About a year and half ago I started a compost pile next to my garden area. Throughout the year I have put everything from banana peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, leaves and grass clipping in it. Over the winter months I threw into the pile some cucumber peels and half a cucumber that had gone bad.  Not thinking that the seeds would still be good.  The compost was not quite ready to use in the rest of my garden.  I continued to add matter to my compost pile and noticed a plant start to germinate.  Wouldn’t you know it, the one plant that I didn’t plant, wasn't on the drip irrigation and, I did not even know it existed, was the best plant in the garden.

cucumber_plantThat’s right, a cucumber plant!  So here is this beautiful cucumber plant thriving away in my compost pile, which is fine except, the rest of my garden is looking much less impressive. So now the cucumber plant has become my favorite child in the garden. I water it everyday and hope soon to be harvesting great cucumbers from my renegade plant.  To say my pride was tested is an understatement.  I did all this hard work to provide a perfect environment to grow all my other vegetable plants and the best plant in the garden was a mistake!  Next year… I think I will try watermelon and cantaloupe seeds in my pile, but I think I will need a much bigger compost pile!!

A few years back I bought this beautiful ceramic strawberry pot.  Now strawberry pots are just that, a pot to grow strawberries. They come is several sizes and in several colors.  Most of the time they are made from terra cotta clay, but this one was special, it was ceramic.  There is one StrawberryPotopening on top and five to six openings going down and around the pot.  Each opening should have one plant per spot and then one or two in the top spot.  So with my new purchase I immediately went out and bought new strawberry plants and organic potting soil just for fruits and vegetables.  I just knew that this was the pot that would solve all my failed strawberry attempts of the past. I filled my new pot with the best organic potting soil, and followed the planting directions perfectly for my new strawberry plants. I had for a short time visions of beautiful, succulent strawberries dancing in my head.  I just love it when I come home from the nursery with all my new plants and have such high hopes for success.  How could it not work out?

Well I guess sometimes Mother Nature has other plans. As the season progressed and my strawberry plants did not, my dreams were slowly fading along with my plants.  There would be no fresh homegrown strawberries this year for all the wonderful recipes I would have tried.

I don't know about you, but I have yet to figure out the secrets to growing strawberry plants in a strawberry pot.  As my beautiful strawberry pot sat empty I began to think about other plants that would grow in my pot. So for the past few years I have tried a few different plants and I finally found the perfect plant for my strawberry pot.

MossRose_CUPortulaca or Moss Rose as it is know by it's common name.  Moss Rose will grow in full sun or slight shade.

It has small flowers in bright colors of pink, orange, yellow, and white.  These flowers are about an inch across and look somewhat like a rose.  Moss Rose is extremely tolerant of high temperatures and drought conditions. In the south this plant will re-seed itself. So plant it somewhere you want it to grow year after year.   And that is what is happening to my pot. I planted the Moss Ross last year and the plants are coming back this year!!

Moss Rose comes in solid colors and/or mixed as shown.  You can break off a piece and add it to soil and it will root in very easily. Once they fill in the pot it just overflows with this burst of color. And Moss Rose will bloom non stop until the first freeze.

moss_rose_2And the number one reason Moss Rose is becoming my favorite annual plant.....it really loves to grow in my beautiful strawberry pot!!!

Zilker Park 6 mylandscapedesign.comA few weeks ago My Landscape Design participated in the Zilker Park Garden Festival in Austin, Texas.  It turned out to be a beautiful weekend with lots of people who were interested in gardening and all in one location.  This was the perfect opportunity for My Landscape Design team to explain how the mylandscapedesign.com website and design program work.  We spoke to hundreds of people each day.  Once people understood how they could create their own landscape design easily and that it was free, the response was overwhelmingly positive!

There were several booths with plants and fun gardening items but my “booth neighbor” had what I think was one of the most unique gardening items at the festival…

Zilker Park 3It was The Amazing Above Ground Garden.  Keith Simmonds said he created his above ground garden for an Aunt who could no longer garden in typical beds.  Once Keith saw how amazing his creation was he perfected it and now sales them online and at garden shows.  Keith makes gardening fun and easy with no more back breaking gardening chores like pulling weeds, tilling beds, dead heading or watering. The best thing about The Amazing Above Ground Garden is, that anyone can garden anywhere.  This product is perfect for balconies where you want to grow flowers or vegetables, and space is limited. It is also perfect for people who have disabilities or people who can no longer garden in the ground.  I have a deck and I think this would be perfect for herbs.  The close proximity to my kitchen makes this very convenient and I know I would use my herbs much more than having to go down steps to my vegetable garden. 

Considering all the pros and cons, Keith developed a system that would reuse one of our most valuable resources, water.  Not only does his system capture water, the water is rich with nutrients and minerals, it can replenish the plants without using additonal water. And of course you never have to worry about water stains on your surface or water runoff to neighbors who may live below you.

Zilker Park 2This gardening system comes in three sizes.  Eighteen inch, thirty six inch and fifty inch.  You can buy more than one and mix or match the sizes to fit any space you have. The elevated garden beds are lightweight and durable and these planters use less than two cubic feet of soil.  A friend of mine who bought several said they were very easy to put together and took very little time.  He has had amazing results and He is NOT a gardener.

Keith’s new found gardening system takes gardening to new heights!  The Amazing Above Ground Garden provides ease to all ages and levels of abilities.  It is great for compact gardening and will prevent water stains and runoff.  To learn more about Keith’s brilliant gardening systems go totheamazingabovegroundgarden.com