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Moving Schipka Laurel for Rhododendron 'Loderi King George'

Picture it - a 6 ft. tall Schipka Laurel used to stand here (I forgot to take a "before" shot and don't feel like searching for one).  I knew when I planted it that it was probably a bad idea but thought it would be good for a fast-growing screen along the back fence-row. I'm sure all gardeners do this, especially if you have a new garden and are eager for greenery. In all fairness to the laurel, it is a useful plant and I would argue even a beautiful one when nicely maintained. Before I dug this one up, I stood back and admired it and felt the guilt pangs stabbing at my heart.  I removed a much larger laurel than this a few years ago and they are not the easiest plant to dig out. I was determined to save this one and I believe I was successful.  Here is a thought and you can take this to the bank - the pot you choose to hold a plant that you dig up will ALWAYS be too small. Always!  So, after finding the largest pot I could, here it is, after being cut back pretty dr

Book review - Desert Gardens of Steve Martino

I have always said that I would be unhappy living in the desert because it is not green enough for me. I still adhere to that belief but I do enjoy looking at photos of desert gardens and the plants that inhabit them are certainly dramatic.

I was recently sent the book "Desert Gardens of Steve Martino" by Caren Yglesias to review for Library Journal and I really loved the book.

Martino, a Phoenix-born landscape architect, calls himself "an accidental landscape architect". He was fascinated by the desert from a young age when he would explore the surrounding Sonoran Desert on horseback. Later, he majored in architecture and found himself more interested in the outside spaces between buildings and how to use them as expansions of the interior. He became highly interested in native desert plants at a time when other landscape architects considered them nothing but weeds. He questioned why they were using plants that relied on water instead of local plants that thrived on practically none. 

His work, which he describes as “weeds and walls” pairs native plants alongside boldly painted stucco walls, water features, and custom outdoor furnishings.

This book showcases twenty-one of Martino's artistic gardens in Arizona and California which dramatically capture the light, colors and shadows of the Southwest. The book is illustrated by spectacular photographs by Steve Gunther. 

Martino says that he is a fanatic about privacy and creates it by using walls and plants.

He started out as a photographer and composition and shadows are a focus in his work.

Courtyards are often used in his designs as a way to bring people out of their houses and into the garden.

I love walls and we had a purple wall in our previous garden. I have been thinking about how to incorporate a wall in our new garden and this book gives me ideas.

Water features and pools are also important elements in a desert garden.

This is a beautifully designed book that will appeal to gardeners and designers interested in Southwest gardens. The book is published by Monacelli Press and will be available April 3.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. The photos look beautiful.

    I do wonder though about the sustainability of using water in gardens in deserts - especially in the last photo where it looks like quite a large body of water... But the idea of using desert plants (especially natives) that don't need too much supplemental water sounds like a fantastic idea! :)

  2. I enjoy visiting the desert but like you I don't want to live there. These photos are gorgeous. I bet it is a nice book to peruse.

  3. I could live and garden in the desert southwest because I love desert plants and arid landscapes. I think the colored walls lend themselves to those kind of plantings. A few sculptural plants placed in front of the walls. The photos make me want to try something like that myself but you do have to have the right setting. Thanks for the review.

  4. Photos and gardens are gorgeous. That is where our climate seems to be heading, so perhaps mine will be something like those one day (just not as well designed).

    Purple wall! Oh that sounds good!


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