Topiaries are a gorgeous addition to any garden. They give a garden a more constructed look which I find attractive next to wild natural plants. I recently came across some tall spiral topiaries in Home Depot. I have never seen them before. I was quite surprised that they have tiny leaves, what was more surprising was the price. About $80.00 for a 36” plant!!! I wanted 2 of them, but now I just don’t know. They are so expensive. I am wondering if I am better off getting two fakes for my front door instead. I really like the look a lot. Maybe I should wait until next year. I am not sure yet. Plus I will have to maintain their shape, which I am sure will not be too bad if I keep up with it. I am also thinking it would be nice to have one or two around my pond area. It would be a different vertical element besides the basic tree.

Another type of topiary I admire is the small shrub that is cut into various globes of different sizes. I really like how they look as well. I have seen them at Sam’s last year prices at $50.00. They were small plants. I guess it is expensive to cut and care for these plants. These may be the last things I add into my yard due to their cost and I would want to see everything else grown in first before adding them.  Unless! I keep them in pots and can move them around at will.

Trees in Containers

Lately I have become obsessed with planting trees in container and keeping them in container. This is a way I fill in my garden with more vertical interest and I really like the way large pots look dispersed about a garden. Another advantage is that the roots are contained. I have some places where roots can possibly become a problem but by having the trees in container I avoid that hassle. My courtyard is an area where I need to plant trees in containers for space and foundation reasons and limitations.

I did a lot of researching online before potting my own trees. I have found out that rooftop gardens have a lot of potted trees and they are kept that way. I found some images of impressive roof top gardens with some impressive sized trees in what looked like small pots. I also observed this when I went to a new nursery here in El Paso. The large trees hade small pots by comparison. The owner told me he starts them in the ground then plants the trees into pots. Little by little the trees are transplanted into larger pots.   Some trees grow out of their container but you can take steps to keep them in the container you have choosen. You can remove the container every so often and clip the roots back. You can also clip back the crown. I currently have a patio peach tree, which obviously is a container plant. I am also experimenting with two pink flowering Cherry Willows and a Bradford Pear. The Bradford Pear was supposed to go into the ground. However I love the way it looks in my courtyard amongst the two cherry willows. So I will pick another tree for where I was going to plant this one. I need to pick a container for the Bradford Pear. The two cherry willows are in pots because I want them in my courtyard but I cannot plant them into the ground due to my house.  I have also seen an illustration of a cherry willow being added to a rooftop garden. It was a huge tree with a small root ball so I am pretty confident this will work out just fine. Once the trees get larger I hope the effect will be breathtaking. Another venture I will be trying out is keeping palms in pots. Palms do not like me too much and although you can see them all over El Paso, this really is not the climate for them as our winters are too cold and our air is too dry. Yet people plant them anyway. I am thinking of trying a Chinese fan palm in a pot, I like the way they look with the many leaves and I can move it inside if needed in the winter months.

As far as pots go, I have some gorgeous pots made of plastic but look like cermanic. They can be found in a variety of colors and sizes. I have choosen the largest pots in red.

El Paso’s Cold Snap of February 2011

This year, 2011, in early February El Paso experienced a cold snap which drove out temperatures down into the single digits and below zero at night.  As a result many plants in the area severely suffered. Palm trees lost all of their leaves; many Mexican elders and Palo Verde are only coming back up from the roots. I have seen quite a few Mesquite die including my own, although some have simply been incredibly slow to resprout. Some palms have grown leaves again while others are being removed by home owners. I also lost two pyracantha vines completely and the other two are coming back up from the root. I had a beautiful four year old star jasmine growing around one of the posts of my patio, I thought it had completely died but it did eventually start coming back from the roots, as did one I had just planted the previous summer. Nearly every oleander in the area froze down to the roots so they are all coming up from the ground as well. It was a lot of botanical devastation. I am sure local nurseries, gardeners and outdoor contractors are experiencing a boost in business. There is a new plant nursery close to my home which has large trees for sale. They are costly but their sizes are impressive and you can quickly achieve a mature look in your garden. Since my son is so heartbroken over the loss of the mesquite he spent hours climbing in, I am seriously thinking about buying a larger tree so he can start climbing again sooner than later. It was a place of comfort for him. For me it will be well worth the money spent and the tree I have my eye on is a marvelous specimen.

Tree Spacing

When I go to Lowes nearly every tree has a tag (unless it fell off) that tells me how far I should space the tree. I suppose this is valuable information so you know how much room your tree needs in order to establish a good root system. I have many questions though about this spacing.

Before buying a tree I also go online to do some research I end up finding out that not everyone has the same idea of how much spacing a particular tree needs, nor the size it can eventually get. Living in the desert southwest I know that many trees will not reach their extreme maximum as they would in a milder climate, however the tree tag can give me some sort of idea of what to expect.

My first question about tree spacing is, why do we have to follow all these rules when trees in nature just grow without following restrictions?

This is an important question for me. I want a lush backyard. I want areas where trees are close together but further apart in others. I want my garden to have a natural and only slightly constructed feel simultaneously. Plus I would like a variety of trees to look at so I can see different sized foliage in a variety of colors. Tree spacing sort of cramps my ideas up.

Another question I have is whether or not trees need to have all that space for a root system? I came to this question because of container gardening. Many people throughout the ages have grown fantastic tree specimens in containers. (I am also experimenting with trees in containers to help add more trees into the yard.) If you can grow a good size tree in a container then why do they have to have so much room in the ground? Nature doesn’t seem to need it either judging by how closely spaced trees can be.

So my final question is, what will happen if I push things a little? We will find out. I am planting what I want where I want, and although there is a little nagging voice of fear in my mind, I will ignore it for now and see how things fall into place.

Brainstorm about pond liners

After researching many different sites and raking my own brain I have discovered a large array of pond liners and ideas. Originally I was simply going to line my pond with hand poured concrete. However, after lining my streambed and experiencing the immense amount of labor, I decided not to. But I did not change my mind because of the labor; I changed my mind due to its permanency. I have been thinking that if all goes well with my pond I may decide to create a natural swimming pool in my backyard once my children are older. A natural swimming pool has many similarities to a pond except that it is large enough to swim in. A natural swimming pool uses NO CHEMICALS!!!! Plants are used to filter the water and keep it clean.

Now back to pond liners. Most home improvement centers carry the basic black plastic pond liners. Some also carry the premade pond forms. You can also check places like craigslist and the freecycle groups to see if anyone is giving them away. A good friend of mine lives between Indiana and Kentucky. She used the basic pond liner, she told me her father on the other hand is using an old swimming pool liner and it has lasted many years. Another idea occurred to me was to get the roof liner and simply glue it together to make it the size I need.

I have not made my final decision yet as cost is a factor. I want a beautiful long lasting pond as cheap as possible. I would rather invest in plants, rocks and the pump than the liner. I have made a decision regarding the underlayment, I will use newspaper. I have read that newspaper is one of the best. I am currently collecting newspaper now.

My house is basically on a sand dune. I literally have beach sand in my yards with some rocks, but they are not a big deal as with homes located closer to the mountain. In fact once I have dug about 13 – 16 inches there are no longer any rocks. Based on the natural soil composite of my yard I have read that I can by a thinner pond liner, but I would like it long lasting so I will continue to think about what I will do.

Another factor determining my decision is the color. I really do not want a black pond. I want my backyard to be an oasis with a greenish blue pond. I did run across a site yesterday that sparked some an idea. I will write about it in another post.


I am so happy summer has arrived. What a great way to start the season with a teeny tiny bit of rain. LOL I know we had a long drought this year and although the rain did little more than dirty our vehicles it was a nice sight to see some clouds in the sky. I want to apologize for not posting for a while. I had some gardener’s mourning because my mesquite has died. It has been removed. I should probably call it my son’s mesquite. He spent ours in it every day. It had a space in the middle that was a hideout for him. Every day he asks me if I am going to buy him another big tree to climb in. AWWWWW!! I did find a nice replacement. It is large but expensive so hopefully I can eventually buy it.

I have a lot of ideas swimming around my head for my various yards. I have a backyard, a tiny courtyard, some front yard areas, a side yard and a passage way to the backyard on one side of the house. Each of these areas need some attention and garden design. I also have a deck that is above my sunroom, which too needs to be finished so I will post my goals for my home. I do not have a timeframe on these projects but they are what I would like to see happen for my outside living areas.

1. Create a pond with water fall.

2. Finish streambed, install pump.

3. Get cobblestones for front and backyards.

4. Space stepping stones in courtyard for grass to grow between them.

5. Fountain for courtyard and backyard patio area.

6. Buy a large tree to replace the mesquite.

7. Do more container gardening with trees.

8. Buy two spiral topiaries for front door.

9. Buy a permanent dining set for backyard patio.

10. Add two chairs or a conversational set for the courtyard.

11. Get side yard gates repaired.

12. Pave the area in front of side yard for a basketball court, both left and right side of house.

13. Add more desert tolerant yet lush plants everywhere.

Ok so these are goals I have. I will add and remove or rethink them as needed.