• Get watering stakes Plant Nannies are attractive terra-cotta stakes that you bury next to roots. Simply attach water-filled soda or wine bottles to the top of the stakes, and the stakes will slowly release water into the root zone through wicking action. They’re a lifesaver for gardeners who travel frequently. Available from Southwest Gardener ($17 for four; 877/315-9301).
• See Santa Fe gardens Shop for ideas while touring some of the city’s best private landscapes. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden tour (1–4 May 31 and Jun 7; from $35; 505/471-9103), focused on the Camino del Monte Sol Historic District, features courtyard gardens, a beekeeper’s yard, information on wise water use, and more; at every location, experts answer questions.
Grow Mexican oregano Sunset climate zones 10–13: The wonderfully scented mint-family shrub (Poliomintha maderensis) has leaves that smell and taste like oregano, and can be used as a substitute. Look for the ‘Lavender Spice’ variety, a 3- by 3-foot plant with a particularly attractive and enduring display of light purple flowers from now through fall.
• Plant palo blanco trees Zones 12–13: For small courtyard nooks and crannies, try this petite Sonoran Desert tree with exfoliating white bark. Native to rocky hillsides in Sonora, Mexico, the palo blanco (Acacia willardiana) is durable and well adapted to harsh growing conditions including reflected heat; site the tree in the warmest location in the garden. Look for it at nurseries that carry native plants.
• Set out seasonal color Plant seed or seedlings of these tough flowers: ageratum, coreopsis, and gaillardia in zones 1a–3b; and Bright Lights cosmos, Eupatorium greggii ‘Boothill’, gaillardia, Mexican hat, portulaca, and zinnia in zones 10–13.
• Try a new prairie switch grass Zones 1a–3b, 10–12: Panicum virgatum ‘Cheyenne Sky’ is a striking ornamental grass with wine red leaves and flowering spikes. This North American native is suited for use in mini masses (groups of three to five). Available from High Country Gardens (800/925-9387).
• Collect flower seeds. Prune dried bloom stalks from penstemon plants, then shake them upside down inside a plastic garbage bag or over a tarp.
California poppy and Mexican gold poppy seed heads have a tendency to explode at the slightest touch. Before removing the pods, carefully place plastic bags over
them. After harvesting the seeds, rake up and compost the dried plants.
• Clean up wildflowers and collect seeds Prune the dried bloom stalks from penstemon, and turn stalks upside down inside a plastic garbage bag or over a tarpaulin to collect seed. For California and Mexican poppies, place plastic bags over the seed heads while separating the pods from the plant, as pods have a tendency to explode. After harvesting the seed, rake up dried plant remains and discard or compost.
• Feed citrus trees Fertilizing this month is important for good fruit development, and Memorial Day is the traditional date for doing it. Use a formula labeled for citrus and avocado, and apply according to -package directions.
Next: Grow a tower of flowers