‘Plant Lady’ helps people grow a green thumb - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

‘Plant Lady’ helps people grow a green thumb

November 9th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
‘Plant Lady’ helps people grow a green thumb

By Josh Ortega
Staff Writer

Noelle Johnson didn’t set out to do any of this but the fruits of her labor have really paid off.

Over the last 20 years, the Chandler woman has watched Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting blossom. With her first book set to hit store shelves early next year, Johnson said it all started with her own gardening faux pas.

“In fact, all the plants I added when I had my first garden – they all died,” Johnson said. “And so that’s what kind of inspired me to go back to school.”

Johnson said that inspired her to go back to school and earn her bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Arizona State University in 1998.

Starting her career in January 1999 as a horticulturist, Johnson said her first jobs at Eagle Mountain Golf Club and Rio Verde Country Club became like “a playground to learn.”

Though she worked on everything but the grass, Johnson said residents still admired her work and asked for her help with their own gardens.

“I didn’t set out to do this,” Johnson said. “I was just hired because of people knowing the work I did around the golf course.”

After losing her job as a horticulturist in the Great Recession, Johnson started a blog in 2009 because “that’s what everybody was doing.”

“I saw a need for showing people how to garden the right way in the desert,” she explained. “Because we’re different from all other parts of the country.”

Johnson said her interest in landscape consulting came from the amount of misinformation and gardening advice out there that doesn’t apply to Arizona’s climate.

“There’s a lot of misleading information out there,” Johnson said. “And the typical gardening rules that apply to other parts of the country don’t really apply here.”

Over the last 36 years of living in the desert, Johnson said she has come across many misconceptions about growing a beautiful garden in the desert.

One of those fallacies is that the dry landscape means there is a lack of beautiful flora to build out a desert garden.

“There’s a lot more variety in the types of plants available to us that will thrive in our hot, dry climate,” Johnson said.

Before the City of Mesa enacted the Stage One Water Shortage awareness in May, Johnson said she had already seen a dramatic shift in many people’s efforts to reduce their water usage.

Along with not wasting time and money, Johnson said drought-tolerant plants also don’t waste on looks.

“There is this myth that landscape lower water-use plants are ugly,” Johnson said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Johnson said one of the best resources to find gorgeous low water-use plants are local plant nurseries.

Like most of her gardening advice, Johnson said she looks to dispel some other common misconceptions, including that what may work in other parts of the country may not work here in Arizona.

“If you read a plant label and it says full sun, it doesn’t mean it can handle full sun in the desert necessarily,” Johnson said.

For that reason, Johnson said every fall brings an onslaught for her consulting business because cooler temperatures help create ripe conditions for gardening.

“But that way it gives plants three full seasons in which to establish a good root system so that it can handle the heat and stress of the coming summer,” Johnson said.

In 2019, Johnson said she saw such an increase in customers, she decided to start an online class, called “Desert Gardening 101,” on her website.

In the three years since starting the class, Johnson said she’s had nearly 1,000 people go through the course.

Her biggest tool since starting has come from social media, where she’s known as “AZ Plant Lady.”

Johnson said she constantly posts on her website and social media because she enjoys showing people what’s possible for people to grow in the desert landscape they live in.

“It’s so fun to dispel the myth that the only thing that you can have in a desert garden is cactus and rocks,” Johnson said. “It’s so rewarding to show people, and very easy to do with pictures.”

Along with her other outreach efforts across the East Valley including for the City of Mesa, Johnson said there’s a heap of resources for people interested in desert landscape for their own yards.

That includes her book “Dry Climate Gardening: Growing beautiful, sustainable gardens in low-water conditions” debuts on February 7, 2023 on Amazon, but is currently available for pre-order for $28.99.

Information: azplantlady.com, amwua.org/plants.

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