"The right plant in the right place"

Frequently Asked Questions

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When is the best time to put in my garden? 


If you want the best chance for a successful garden, summer is probably the least optimum time to put in your plants. A few exceptions include heat-lovers such as bougainvillea, orange bells, and bird of paradise.


Even cacti and succulents—when newly-planted during the summer months—need some afternoon shade to avoid sunscald.

 

Planting in spring and fall yields the best results. Fall planting allows plants to establish healthy root systems over the cool winter months. With a few exceptions, such as the desert willow, trees, shrubs and perennials all benefit from going into the garden September through October, and once established, they better withstand our summertime heat and dry conditions. 


Planning ahead is key for a beautiful , thriving landscape. Now is the time to have your yard professionally evaluated if you've been thinking of making changes to your yard!

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What does "designing with plants" mean?


Put simply, each plant serves a purpose in Perennial Garden Consultants' thoughtfully-created designs.


Designing with plants means using the right plants to frame views and screen views. It means using plants to achieve effects, such as making a small space seem larger, or creating intimacy in a large space, or giving a particular “feel”—for example, tropical, Mediterranean, desert-cottage, etc.


We also use plants for seasonal interest. Not just spring or summer flowers which bloom and harmonize with other colors and textures in the garden, but shrubs and trees that offer something in the fall and winter months, when forms and branching patterns become exposed, and colorful foliage and berries can be appreciated.


Designing with plants softens hardscapes, and plants in containers make wonderful accents.


Finally, when designing with plants, whatever we choose must fit within the scale of the property, which encompasses two rules: 1. We don’t recommend plants that will outgrow their space in a few years and cause maintenance woes, and 2. The plants’ ultimate size must harmonize with the size and scale of both the home and yard.  


So, at Perennial Garden Consultants we don’t simply plop a lantana here and a petunia there. We carefully select plants that unify a design and are part of a cohesive plan that takes into consideration the home within its surroundings.



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Will plants really grow in this dirt? 


I have to answer your question with another question—what kind of plants?

 

If you’re looking to plant hydrangeas and Japanese maples my answer is no. But wouldn’t woodland plants look strange growing in the desert anyway?

 

Fortunately for us, we can enjoy beautiful native desert plants which are right at home in our lean, alkaline “dirt,” and not just cacti either (although in my opinion you’d be hard pressed to find a more strikingly beautiful, low-maintenance plant than a cactus!). From trees—such as the palo verde, with its photosynthesizing green bark and stunning yellow flowers in spring—to perennials and shrubs, such as globe mallow and creosote, there are plenty of plants that thrive in Las Vegas soil.

 

All these desert plants ask for in the home landscape is sharp drainage, regular drip irrigation to become established, and a rock mulch. If your soil has been the victim of compaction (most yards are), it needs to be loosened to a minimum depth of 8 inches before planting.  


Please note: Other types of plants commonly grown in Las Vegas require soil preparation to look their best. Working in compost increases the amount of organic matter in the soil but as it decomposes and plants use up the nutrients, replenishment at least once a year is recommended.

 

Ammonium sulfate is often added before planting time to temporarily lower the pH and provide nitrogen. However, remember that working with the soil by using plants already adapted to alkaline soil and high summer temperatures will save money, time, and effort in the long run.

  

When preparing the soil be aware that unhealthy plants can result when amendments are mixed into backfill soil or put only into the planting hole. You want your plants to develop an extensive network of roots into the surrounding soil, not remain in a sort of “comfort zone.” (This can be particularly detrimental to trees.) Thus, compost and other amendments should be mixed in throughout the entire planting area.

 

A vegetable and herb garden does best in a raised bed, where, once constructed, you can fill it with purchased soil, or (dare I imagine) your own fabulous homemade compost.  


Quick word regarding fertilizer: Indiscriminately spreading fertilizer around does not benefit the environment or home garden. The type of plant, the time of year, and other factors determine what kind of fertilizer to use and when to apply it.  

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Why is it so hard to grow tomatoes in Las Vegas?

It's not that difficult to grow tomatoes in our desert climate—it’s just a matter of getting the timing right!


Most people associate these sweetly acidic, juicy fruits with summer, and if you’re a gardener or tomato-lover who has relocated here from another part of the country, you may have memories of enjoying tomatoes all summer long.


You also probably noticed summers here are a bit different--long days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees! 


In our desert climate, timing is everything. The trick is to start early. Hot days, when temperatures reach the mid-90’s and above, combined with hot nights cause blossom drop in tomatoes plants.  And since they take around 85 days to reach maturity (more or less, depending upon the variety), it’s easy to see that tomatoes planted in May will be fried by July.

Get your transplants into the ground (with well-amended soil rich in compost, of course!) by the end of February or early March. Tomatoes grown from seed should be started indoors in January.
 

The variety of tomato also plays a role. Early fruiting varieties do well. ‘Early Girl’ is readily available and commonly recommended; however, I think it’s fun to experiment with other short-season varieties available through catalogs such as Territorial Seeds (based in Oregon where the tomato season is short and cool). Growing from seed is easy and always offers a wider spectrum of varieties to choose from.

Beefsteak types struggle in our climate. Try the small-fruited varieties.  ‘Celebrity' is a small but delicious tomato that is also a local favorite.

Cherry tomatoes, including the popular grape types, are easy and prolific, both in the ground and in pots. Provide them with some shade during the hot summer months, then when temperatures subside in the fall, apply a low-nitrogen organic fertilizer and your plants will resume producing fruit that usually continues well into November. One of my favorite cherry tomatoes, the heirloom ‘Yellow Pear,’ yields copious amounts of tasty fruit!

  


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Can you recommend some types of trees that won't blow over in the wind?

Even if you've never had your poolside umbrella snap like toothpick during a storm here in Southern Nevada, you know that we experience some very high winds from time to time. 


The good news is, when selecting varieties of trees that stand up to the wind, it's not so much the kind of tree as it is how it's planted and cared for. 


Avoiding the most commonly made mistakes, such as improper planting, staking, and watering, is fairly simple.  


Preparation-- The recommendation is to dig the planting hole no deeper than the container the tree comes in and 2 to 3 times as wide. Why? This practice encourages roots to spread out as the tree grows and allows it to better anchor itself.  


Staking-- Remove the stakes the tree came with. These stakes are only meant to support the tree while it's in the container.  Here's a link that details proper staking technique:

http://www.amwua.org/landscape/landscape_staking.html
 

Please note, trees aren't meant to be staked forever. Remove the stakes within one year so the trunk becomes strong on its own. 
 

Watering-- Desert trees in particular benefit from deep and infrequent watering once established. An overabundance of water encourages rapid growth and the resulting weak wood is more susceptible to wind damage.  
 

Pruning-- Hiring a certified arborist to thin out the crown as needed helps prevent heavy top growth from breaking in strong winds.  

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