Virtual Garden Tours

Atlanta-Inspired Arizona Garden Tour

Written by Cricket

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Welcome to this beautiful Atlanta-inspired garden created by Carol Cole. I’m sure you will be awed by the lush green landscape she has has achieved using soil-building techniques to sustain all of her plantings. To begin the Virtual Garden Tour, I thought it would be fun to do a little Q & A to get to know the gardener behind the garden. Here is what Carol has to say about her Atlanta-Inspired Arizona Garden:

How long have you had your garden?

I purchased this home May 2013 when I moved here from Atlanta, Georgia. The entire property was a blank canvas. There was only a nice Palo Verde in the front yard. The balance of the property was dirt and cat litter. I was drawn to the home because it is about the same age as I am. It is a “grandma” home. Not fussy or “modern.” I envisioned plants and gardens everywhere. I have had many new properties during my life. Each time I created an oasis of beautiful gardens. All of my female relatives had beautiful gardens, so every time I plant it brings me closer to my roots.

Front Yard 2013

Front Yard 2016


Did you use any particular method, design, or example?

I design by observations. I walk through the land and envision what I would like to see, a tree here and particular flower or shrub there. My sister says I “paint” my garden with colors and textures

I am on a budget, Social Security income. I would love hardscaping but the bender board allows me to design islands at very little expense.
Also, I am an elderly women, living alone and have very little help available. My gardens are created, one plant at a time. The end result is only 3 years in coming. Visualization that is what it is all about.

My property has very good agricultural soil. At first, I did not amend much. I soon realized that amending even good soil was very important. Plants put in without amending struggled. Plants and trees put in with amendments did much better.

Backyard before and after

Here is what is in my front yard


Sweet potato vine, ornamental. There is only 1 plant here!
It died back over the winter and came back strong in the spring. I have flood irrigation every 2 weeks and that plus the shade of the Palo Verde tree is all the front plants receive.

Dwarf Ruella, from cuttings, blooms nearly all year, is very hardy

Tall red canna. I love the red leaves, it multiplies rapidly and does not require much water.

Ferns: These are SWORD ferns. This is the only one like this that lives through the heat and cold of AZ. They like acid soil and I water them a little every day, they have shallow roots.

Fox Tail ferns do great here and like afternoon shade.
They stay nice year round.
Asparagus ferns do wonderfully.

Split Leaf Philodendrons do wonderfully in the shade. They get burned leaves in the summer if they get the sun. Mine are huge, 3′ leaves on some

I am adding Nandina here and there in the shade. It has wonderful color and red winter berries once established.

I have some mint started in the front shade of the flower bed.
I did have Aloe Vera but tired of it and pulled it all up.

Yellow Tacoma took a while to establish but is doing very well now. I remove the seed pods to keep it blooming.

Cape Honeysuckle is everywhere. It provides quick shade for other plants and the hummingbirds love it.

Here is what is in my Backyard


In the back corner I have Red Oleander, Russian Sage, Mexican Bird of Paradise and Blue potato bush/tree and more Yellow Tacoma along with yellow Lantana. I have the pink Lantana around the banana to shade the roots.


Orchard along south side of shed. High-density planting, Banana, Lemon, Asparagus, Apricot, Plum, Peach, Lime and strawberries.

Pink Trumpet Vine blooms heavy nearly all winter

Plumbago blooms most of the summer, has a little heat stress In August. I have it on a trellis and it does better if I keep it trimmed back in the heat.

Zinnias bloom all summer. One tiny plant will cover a 2′ area. Very drought tolerant and doesn’t mind the heat. Reseeds a little.

The roses bloom best in cooler weather, all fall and winter and heavy in the spring.


Purple Vine – Hardenbergia viel, Happy Wanderer. Blooms heavy In spring. This is a little hard to get started. I lost the first two I planted. It needs to be watered deeply to get established. It is a fast growing evergreen vine once it is established.

Plumerias bloom during the summer and go dormant in the winter. They are not cold hardy and must be protected during the winter.

Tropical Hibiscus bloom best in spring and early summer. I have not found the perfect spot for mine yet. They struggle in the heat.

Hardy Hibiscus die back in the winter but come back full speed in the summer and bloom all summer. They seem to do best with some late day shade.


Rain Lily blooms when it rains or they receive some water. They like to be somewhat dry most of the time. They bloom off and on all summer.


Stephanotis blooms in the spring. I also have a lot of Star Jasmine and Arabian Jasmine which bloom in the spring.


Dutch Iris bloom in the spring
Tall bearded Iris bloom in early summer.
Day lily’s bloom in early summer.

Clematis bloom in spring and early summer. They like to have their roots cool and shaded, tops in the sun. They do better each year and will bloom a longer period once established. They need acid soil. Wildflowers are planted here by spreading 4” of bagged wood mulch over the area, then broadcasting the wildflower seed over it in late November. They come up when they are ready.


The wildflowers start blooming in the early spring.
The Nasturtiums come up during the winter and start blooming very early spring. The rest of the wildflowers bloom soon after that and continue until it starts getting hot. They all re-seed. I do not have to replant any of them.


My goal is to have gardens and plants which are self-sufficient after 3 years. Any plants which require too much attention and die are not replaced. Many of my gardens do not require much work. Pruning and cleaning up at the end of the season are the only requirements. I add composted steer manure and alfalfa pellets several times a year to keep building on the soil health.

I am particularly fond of perennials. Unfortunately, the variety is limited in Arizona. Our low humidity and very high air temperatures are not suitable for perennials grown in other areas. I had tall bearded Iris but with the flood irrigation, they have not been happy. I want to build a raised area for them in the future.

Changing the ph of the soil is important for plants which like an acid environment. There are numerous methods. Gardening Sulphur can be added for quick results. I also incorporate the bagged pine bark and composted steer manure to give the soil a forest floor atmosphere. I have built a fern bed which loves this combination. I am working on establishing Azaleas, Hosta and Gardenias.

My favorite amendments

  • Lots and lots of composted Steer manure
  • A lot of Alfalfa Pellets
  • Pine bark mixed in with the soil to hold water
  • Some gypsum
  • Some Azomite
  • Some Epsom Salts

I will be adding Sulphur here and there this year. Many plants want a more acid environment and the Sulphur will make them healthier.

Seeds or Transplants?

Other than wildflowers, I primarily buy 1 gallon plants. Some of the trees were 10 gallon pots. I have done most of the gardening alone and 1 gallons are easier to plant plus they cost less.

How I water

I am fortunate to have flood irrigation. I noticed this was available when I first viewed the property. I supplement with hand watering. Every plant is hand watered the first season after it is planted. The heat here is hard on new plants. I have a sprinkler system but it is very inefficient and I just turn it on now and them for more humidity.

About the author


Welcome to my blog! I’m Cricket (yes, my parents named me that!) and I’m a natural homesteader. Growing up in rural Idaho with a garden, a horse, and lots of canned food, I like to bring those sensibilities to my suburban home in Phoenix, Arizona. Add a little dose of cottage garden flavor and permaculture tendencies, and you’ll see why GardenVariety.Life is a reflection of everything I do.

I truly enjoy sharing the skills that promote a meaningful and practical connection to our gardens and environment. Because so many residents of the metro phoenix area are transplants, I find that the area’s unique desert climate is often misunderstood and underestimated in terms of what is possible. That’s where the fun begins. Arizona is a burgeoning permaculture haven with homesteading written all over it, and there is nothing I enjoy more than encouraging others to jump in and give it a try.