Ready...Set...Summer!

We're definitely feeling that summer desert heat here at WDG! The summer season is ramping up and now is a good time to take preventative measures to help your landscapes survive the intense heat. Good news is that the National Weather Service Tucson office and the Climate Prediction Center project that the upcoming monsoon season will be wetter than average, and we're only a few weeks away!

Here are some quick summer survival tips:

patio-pots-desert-01.jpg

1. Rearrange

Rearrange plants and structures that can provide shade. Aside from the increase in heat intensity, the winter sun angle is quite different from the summer sun angle. Some plants, especially succulents, are easily burned by the summer sun. Take a good look at sun exposure in your landscape throughout the day and move pots to areas where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. If you can't move plants, consider shade cloth or a shade structure. (photo credit: Lowe's)

5-install-drip-irrigation.jpg

2. Reset

Reset your watering schedules. Yes we want to conserve as much as we can, but your plants will need a little extra help these next few weeks. If you have irrigation, take a moment to reevaluate your controller settings - the frequency of watering during the winter months may need to be increased. Don't forget about trees too! If you're watering pots, be careful with standing water in saucers, which can breed mosquitoes. Typically plants consume water about 10 minutes after watering, so dump out excess water after that time period (and definitely keep an eye on this during monsoons). Water during cooler times of the day (morning and after sun down) to avoid higher evaporation rates. Here are some tips from the City of TucsonAZ Department of Water Resources and UA's Cooperative Extension. (photo credit: Power of Plants)

Minioasis2.jpg

3. Redesign

Redesign. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. How can you decrease your summer watering with better rainwater harvesting designs, especially during monsoons? How can you better group plants with similar watering needs? Are you planting the right types of plants for your microclimates? Do you have enough variety? You can make your summer landscape jobs easier on yourself if you design smartly and think about each plant's overall contribution to the "system." (photo credit: Xtremehorticulture of the Desert)

Stay Cool!

Habitat for Humanity Women Build Week 2018

A few of our staff from WDG recently participated in Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build Week 2018. It was a blast! Women Build Week is a national event that happens every year and encourages women to come together to help build affordable homes for local families.

Habitat7.jpg

DRYWALL PROS.

Not only did we get to learn some new skills, but more importantly we were able to help out a family in need of a home. It was great to actually meet the family who will eventually own the house we worked on. We spent the morning installing drywall in of the daughters' bedrooms. It was a special moment when she walked in and was thrilled to see the progress!

 Credit: Habitat for Humanity

Credit: Habitat for Humanity

 Learning construction skills!

Learning construction skills!

Giving back to our community is something we really value at WDG. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning with like-minded individuals helping to make Tucson a better place to live. It was also a fun way to bond with each other as a team. We look forward to volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and other organizations in the near future! More pictures from Tucson's Women Build week can be found here.

Habitat.jpg

ASLA Nursery Tour: A Plant-astic Time Beyond Be-Leaf

What do you get when you combine 30 Landscape Architects, a party bus, 5 nurseries, 1 compost facility, plant trivia, and awesome prizes? A really awesome nursery tour of course!

And what a blast it was! ASLA Southern Section recently went on a tour of nurseries in the Tucson metro region, and it was quite a success. WDG helped organize and sponsor the event. Over 30 local professionals joined in on the fun, and we stopped at 5 nurseries and 1 composting facility. Our very own Nate Ritchie and his colleague even put together plant trivia for the bus ride, so we all left with some unique new knowledge of plants. Our tour included: Desert Trees, Tank's Green Stuff, Green Things, Mesquite Valley Growers, Desert Survivors, and the Pima County Native Plant Nursery.

All aboard! Here's the group at the start of the day on the way to our first stop at Desert Trees.

 Nursery managers and propagators were all very excited to share their knowledge on plant growing processes behind the scenes. One common theme: patience is key.

Nursery managers and propagators were all very excited to share their knowledge on plant growing processes behind the scenes. One common theme: patience is key.

Check out the photos above for some shots of the nurseries we visited and the awesome prizes that people won (yum compost) from plant trivia.

Thank you to all of those who helped make this nursery tour happen, including the organizing committee and all of the sponsors. We look forward to another one!

WDG Designer Nate Ritchie wins EPA 2017 Campus RainWorks Challenge with student group!

Wheat Design Group is happy to announce that our designer, Nate Ritchie, and a group of his fellow landscape architecture students (Fei Yu, Yuheng Zhang, and Dan Zedick) won Honorable Mention in the 2017 EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge, Master Plan Category! There were 87 projects submitted for this award. Well done!

The team also won an AZASLA student collaborative Honor Award for the project this year. 

Check out more about Nate's team and their project, A River Runs Through It, at the links below.

Congrats Nate!

 

https://www.epa.gov/green-infrastructure/2017-campus-rainworks-challenge

http://www.azasla.org/award-winners/a-river-runs-through-it/

d13-designboard_508.jpg

February Plants of the Month - Wildflowers!

The rain finally came. After a very warm and dry winter, we finally have some significant rainfall and moisture. And along with spring rain comes wildflowers!

GONZALES PASS 233.jpg

Wildflowers provide a pop of color to your yard while also providing nectar for pollinators. Most wildflowers will do well with only rainfall, but for best performance they should be watered during extended droughts, like the one we had this winter.

Wildflowers are very easy to add to your own yard. There are some nurseries that sell small wildflower plants, but the best way to create a wildflower garden is to start from seed. Seeds need to be planted a few months in advance. While it's a little too late to plant spring wildflower seeds, now is a great time to prepare your yard for monsoon wildflowers. Wildflowers generally prefer full sun. Most will die off or drop leaves during the hottest part of the year. Fortunately most of these will reseed and return to your yard anually.

Here are four quintessential Sonoran Desert Wildflowers:

 Parry's Penstemon

Parry's Penstemon

 Desert Marigold

Desert Marigold

 Mexican Gold Poppy

Mexican Gold Poppy

 Desert Globe Mallow

Desert Globe Mallow

Native Seed Search is a great place to purchase these and many more wildflowers. We recommend buying a variety pack of seeds to get a variety of flowers.

 Brittlebush is another great wildflower

Brittlebush is another great wildflower

Early Spring Planting at the Wheat Design Group Office

With temperatures in the mid 80's, it certainly doesn't feel like winter anymore. We have decided to do a spring cleaning of the planters outside our office. Thanks to a donation from Jean at Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, you can now see some beautiful new plants as you enter our office.

Dwarf Elephant Food

Old Mexico Prickly Pear

We have added:

Hesperaloe nocturna - Night-blooming Hesperaloe

Opuntia gomei 'Old Mexico' - Old Mexico Prickly Pear

Portulacaria afra minima - Dwarf Elephant Food

Acalypha monostachya Raspberry Fuzzies - Rasberry Fuzzies

The pots were looking pretty sad before...

The midway point. We replaced all of the soil.

 

Our planters are in a north facing exposure, which can be tricky for plants. These will get plenty of shade so stay tuned for a future post that will evaluate how they are doing in their shady homes.

January Plant of the Month: Agaves

We often find our landscapes looking a bit sad this time of year due to lower precipitation and colder temperatures. This year is especially rough on our plants because of the La Nina climate pattern, which forecasts drier than normal conditions here in the Southwest.

But have no fear!

There are many great plants that look wonderful year-round, even when conditions get a little tough. Some of our favorites are those of the agave species, which consistently provide interesting sculptural structure to our landscapes. 

 AGAVE GARDEN | harmonyinthegarden.com

AGAVE GARDEN | harmonyinthegarden.com

Weber's Agave (Agave weberi) is one of the larger and faster growing agaves that is often seen around town. It has gray-green leaves and can reach a size of 5' tall by 5' wide. Weber's agave is very easy to take care of as it loves heat and is drought-tolerant. Pairs nicely with aloe and red yucca.

 WEBER'S AGAVE | monrovia.com

WEBER'S AGAVE | monrovia.com

Blue Glow Agave (Agave 'Blue Glow')  is a more medium-sized agave that has stunning yellow and red-edged leaf margins. The coloration on the leaf margins actually makes this plant "glow" in the sunlight. One of the nice aspects of the Blue Glow Agave is that it does not produce pups, so it is convenient for tight spaces or containers.

 BLUE GLOW AGAVE | latimes.com

BLUE GLOW AGAVE | latimes.com

The Queen Victoria Agave (Agave victoriae-reginae) is a beautiful accent agave that has a tight rosette with a delicate white lining along its leaves - its structure resembles that of an artichoke. This is a slower growing agave, and will stay small at 12" tall by 18" wide. Because of its small size, plant the Queen Victoria Agave in areas that are more visible, and in groupings of three or more. Try it in a container!  

 QUEEN VICTORIA AGAVE | worldofsucculents.com

QUEEN VICTORIA AGAVE | worldofsucculents.com

We're lucky to have one of the leading experts on agaves right here in our Tucson community, Greg Starr, who is the owner of Starr Nursery. Follow Greg's blog for more information on the wild world of agaves. 

Smarter Streets & Safer People

Wheat Design Group is excited about all of the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy in Tucson recently. Cyclovia and El Tour de Tucson both happened in the last couple of months, bringing out thousands of riders and enthusiasts. The World Day of Remembrance for Victims of Traffic Violence also happened a few weeks ago, and local organization Living Streets Alliance and their partners held a memorable vigil for the lives lost in Tucson due to traffic violence.

A large part of our work here at WDG is transportation, and we are always looking to improve the ways pedestrians and cyclists safely use transportation routes. We are happy to see organizations in Tucson also on board with this vision.

An exciting new bicycle program also just came to Tucson, and to our office's neighborhood in Sam Hughes: TUGO Bike Share!

Municipalities across the world have embraced bicycle share programs, and Tucson is now part of that group of cities that support alternative transportation. TUGO currently has 36 stations across Tucson and offers daily, monthly, and annual passes. We're thrilled to have a station at our office - what a great way to take a lunch break, commute to a meeting, or get to and from work.

Our staff member Alex attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for TUGO and brought the inaugural bike to our office's nearest station at 6th St and Tucson Blvd (see photos above from the launch - volunteers were the first ones to ride the bikes to various stations).

Visit tugobikeshare.com to learn more about the program. Don't forget your helmet!

YARDS

At WDG, we value service to our community and our profession. This weekend our designer Nate had the opportunity to teach a group of at-risk youth about Landscape Architecture and the design process at a program called YARDS. YARDS provides vocational training in desert landscape and maintenance for youth at risk involved in the Pima County Juvenile Court System. The students learn a range of skills, including Tools and Safety, Desert Plant ID, Soils, Water and Plants, Water Harvesting, Pruning Techniques, Irrigation Systems and more. 

Nate introduced the group to the profession of Landscape Architecture and the design process. The students got an opportunity to re-design a parking lot and turn it into their ideal backyard. 

Check out some of the student's very creative designs below!

 Hard at work

Hard at work

 A lot of sports in this backyard. Looks great!

A lot of sports in this backyard. Looks great!

 Great spot for a spa.

Great spot for a spa.

 Snack shop, DJ booth, and a charging station? I'm in!

Snack shop, DJ booth, and a charging station? I'm in!

 Nate teaching about final design graphics.

Nate teaching about final design graphics.

 A very nice flower garden.                                     

A very nice flower garden.                                     

 Great presenters!

Great presenters!

Could be some future Landscape Architects in this group!

More about the YARDS program here: tucsoncleanandbeautiful.org/yards-youth-landscape-maintenance-training/

Take time to smell the...Stapelias

What’s that rotting flesh smell you ask? It’s the flower of a Stapelia plant of course! August and September are flowering season for Stapelias, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to catch a Stapelia in bloom, and better yet, get to experience it’s pungent smell.

 Don't get too close!   Credit: alchetron.com

Don't get too close!

Credit: alchetron.com

Stapelia is the genus of over 50 different species of this succulent plant that has spineless, clump-forming stems. Stems are toothed, have four angles, and branch from the base into a larger mass.  Stapelia flowers are red, purple, or yellow, and can get up to 18” in diameter (Stapelia gigantea has the largest flower). Flowers can be polished or hairy, and there are only two species of Stapelia that are pleasantly scented.

 The four-sided geometric stems of the Stapelia plant.   Credit: wikipedia.org

The four-sided geometric stems of the Stapelia plant.

Credit: wikipedia.org

Stapelias make great container plants as long as soil remains well-drained. They can handle full sun, but will be happier in an area that receives light shade. The geometric stems of Stapelias bring interesting structure and texture to gardens, and the stinky starfish-like flowers that emerge during bloom season are an added bonus.

 Stapelia flowers just before they bloom.   Credit: davesgarden.com

Stapelia flowers just before they bloom.

Credit: davesgarden.com

Can YOU guess the Plant of the Month?

UPDATE: The answer is Firecracker Bush, Bouvardia ternifolia. See you back here next month for September’s Plant of the Month!

This month we’re changing things up a bit, and we want YOU to guess the Plant of the Month for August! If you’ve been out in the rocky upland areas around Tucson lately, especially Madera Canyon, you most likely spotted this plant. This attractive species is a great addition to native plant gardens, and will be sure to attract hungry pollinators.

  Source: fireflyforest.net

Source: fireflyforest.net

  Source: polyploid.net

Source: polyploid.net

Our Plant of the Month blooms between April and October, and the flower is tubular, bright red, and very showy. Flowers grow in clusters, and each blossom splits into tiny lobes. The entire plant generally grows to three feet tall and prefers partial shade. Leaves are lance-shaped and can be up to three inches in length. If you touched a leaf, you’d feel tiny soft hairs.

  Source: Greg Lasley Nature Photography

Source: Greg Lasley Nature Photography

We are not the only ones who love this plant; hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths eagerly pollinate this plant when it’s in bloom. Some species that love feasting on its nectar include the Cloudless Sulphur and Southern Dogface butterflies, and the Falcon Sphinx moth.

Do YOU have a guess for our Plant of the Month?

Leave your answer on our Facebook page!