Monday, September 22, 2014

A Snapshot of My Crazy, But Happy Life...

For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I sometimes write about the goings on in my life.  And so I begin the post with fair warning- if you are looking for gardening content - there will be some, but not a lot.

Do you ever look back at your calendar for the past month and wonder where the time went?

I did just that and was pleasantly surprised to see how much went on.  I thought that I'd share with you a small snapshot of the past month in the life of 'az plant lady' (me)!



The most exciting event was visiting my daughter in California and being there for her ultrasound when she found out that she was having a little boy.

I am so excited and can't wait for January to get here so that I can hold him in my arms!

Surf shop in California
While visiting my daughter, who is in the Navy and stationed in California, we stopped by the small beach town of Carpenteria, which is just south of Santa Barbara.  

We visited a couple of nurseries in Carpenteria where I discovered a new flowering perennial introduction and enjoyed a very unique experience at another nursery.

It was fun to stop and watch the surfers.  *Did you know that surfing is a really big deal in California?  My high school had a surf club and I had many friends and family who were surfers.  As for me, I've never set foot on a surfboard ;-)

Santa Barbara Mission and rose garden.
We stopped off to visit the beautiful mission of Santa Barbara, which was founded in 1786.  I always enjoy visiting the mission, but I must confess that my attention was diverted by the adjoining rose garden that was in full bloom.

I'll share more about my visit to another special rose garden later this week.

My husband and I both enjoy visiting this area since we spent time there when we attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, which is where we met.

The college has beautiful grounds and I recently shared some photos of our most recent visit there, which you can see here.  



Back home, homecoming at our local high school arrived early this year.  Our daughter, Ruthie had fun getting ready and had a great time!


Earlier in the month, Ruthie took part in the ice-bucket challenge for ALS on behalf of her grandpa who died from this truly horrible disease 3 years ago.

I was so proud of her.


Has your husband ever had a dream of owning a certain car or motorcycle?

Mine has wanted a Harley Davdison motorcycle for over 9 years.  He has stacks of old motorcycle magazines dating back from 2006 that he has kept hidden away in a huge Rubbermaid plastic tub.  

I am married to someone who is so giving and self-sacrificing and it was so nice to see the joy as his dream was finally realized.  

He has been walking around with a smile on his face for weeks now and he looks forward to driving to and from work on his new bike.


Surprisingly, my granddaughter, Lily, has been quite taken with her papa's new motorcycle and asks to see "the Harley Davidson" when she visits.

It is really kind of funny since her parents aren't into motorcycles at all.  But, she adores her papa and his new bike.

While at our local Harley Davidson dealer, my husband saw kid tattoos and picked up one for her that had a scorpion on it.

Lily likes to wear little tattoos of Minnie Mouse or other cartoon characters, but I was shocked when she wanted to wear the one her papa bought her with a scorpion on it.

If my granddaughter turns out to be a 'biker chick' when she gets older - it will be her papa's fault ;-)


Two weeks ago, we received record-breaking 5 1/2 of rainfall within a few hours time!!!

My husband had to delay going to work in order to sweep water off of the patio to keep our house from flooding.  When he did finally get on the road to get to work, it took 30 minutes to drive 4 miles!

The garden loved the rain and now all the weeds are beginning to come up, so I'll mix up a batch of my homemade weed killer.  

So what will the coming month bring?


Right now, I'm busy designing landscape for four different areas on a golf course, where they are removing large areas of turf, in favor of a drought tolerant landscape.

My dining room table has been taken over by large sheets of vellum (what I draw my designs on), drafting supplies and the like.

I tend to get involved in creating designs this way and can easily spend an entire day in my own little world.


This month also brings another first for us.  My husband and I are both alumni of Arizona State University and have season tickets this year.

We are so excited and hopefully, our team will do well this year.

Next week, we will be adding a new member to our family.


Meet Polly!

We recently said "goodbye" to our 15 year-old golden retriever and decided to welcome a new dog into our lives.

Although Polly is not ready to come live with us yet, we were able to visit her and her litter mates.

It will be hard to wait a whole week to hold her again.  In the meantime, I'll stock on doggy toys, puppy food, dig out the baby gates again and be sure to have a lot of pet/floor cleaner on hand ;-)

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Well, that is a snapshot of the past month and some of what will be happening soon.

Thank you for taking a little time out of your day and allowing me to share a little of my life.

I appreciate it so much!




Friday, September 19, 2014

Coincidence? Hard to Believe!

Have you ever had something happen to you that was such a coincidence that it was hard to believe?  Recently, I had one such experience. 

It all happened on a beautiful, sunny morning in August... 

But first, a little background:

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time may remember me sharing about my past job as a landscape designer.  I wrote about my adventures that you can read about, here.


There were things that I enjoyed about my job and others things that I did not.

However, I did enjoy working with clients and helping design the landscape of their dreams.

*Okay, back to my amazing 'coincidence' story.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was on my way to an appointment for a landscape consult - (I work for myself now).

As I got off the freeway and started driving through the residential streets, I realized that I had designed a landscape there years ago when I worked for the landscape design company.

As I got closer to my destination, I saw that I was in the same neighborhood.  I promised myself that I would try to find the same house after I was finished with my appointment.

My GPS directed me down the street where my ultimate destination was and soon I found myself sitting in front of the SAME house that I had originally designed back in 2008.

Hard to believe?  

My first reaction was "I can't believe it!" 

I had designed hundreds of landscapes and the chances of being called back to the same one by a different owner was so small.

The second reaction was, I hope they don't hate their existing landscape - if they did, I wasn't sure I would tell them that I was the original designer.

But then I remembered that my client had told me via email that she and her husband had just moved into their new home and wanted to learn about the plants in their landscape and how to take care of them - they had no idea that I was the original designer.

I knocked on the door and my client greeted me and proceeded to take me into their backyard.

Now

The first thing I saw was the pathway made up of broken concrete (called 'urbanite') that was had already been present the first time...

Then

I did have pictures of the landscape when it had been newly installed in 2008.

The new homeowner told me that she and her husband had bought the home because they loved the relaxing backyard landscape.

I then told her that I had been the original designer.  She couldn't believe it either!

Now

As we walked into the backyard, the details of the design came flooding back.

Would you believe that there used to be a swimming pool in this backyard?  

Then

Back in 2008, we filled in the pool and added mounds, boulders, drought tolerant plants and a palo verde tree. 

Now

The original owners wanted to get rid of their pool, which they hardly used to convert it into a drought-tolerant landscape with a seating area underneath a tree.

I had designed a meandering path from the patio which ended in a seating area made from flagstone.


Then

You can really tell how much the tree and other plants have grown over the past 7 years.

Now

While the overall landscape looked good and I was happy with how the design turned out - but there was an issue.

Most of the plants were brown and straggly - not very attractive and showing signs of under watering.  

The new homeowner provided me with the irrigation schedule that the original homeowners had been using and it was easy to see why some of the plants were a bit small for their age and didn't look great - they were getting too little water.

Then


I helped her adjust her irrigation schedule and assured her that her plants would soon improve in appearance.

Although some of the original plants had been lost due to under watering, I remembered what they were and was able to give her a list of replacements to buy.


As I got ready to leave, the homeowner told me that she couldn't wait to tell her husband that by sheer coincidence, their landscape consultant turned out to be the original designer.

I drove away with a huge smile on my face because it isn't often that a residential landscape designer gets to see their designed landscape a few years later.

It made my job feel very rewarding that day :-)

**For information on watering guidelines for the low desert including how to avoid over & under watering, click here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Tale of Three Landscapes and a Drought

Are you experiencing drought where you live?

You may be surprised to find that it is not only the West that is dealing with below average rainfall and its effects.

If you take a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor's most recent drought map, you'll see a lot of dark reds scattered about, particularly in California.


But, if you take a closer look, you can also see ares in the Northwest, Southeast and Northeast showing signs of drought as well.

Last month, I did a series of radio interviews on drought tolerant gardening.  Of course, you'd expect that one of the radio stations would be in California and it was.  But, other interviews were for radio stations in other areas that may not immediately come to mind when it comes to drought or abnormally dry conditions - Alabama, Oregon and Texas.

As a child growing up in California, I remember other times when drought was affecting this beautiful state.

On my most recent trip to California, I was struck by the brown hills with scattered trees that were showing the effects of drought.  

In a neighborhood setting, you could see some houses where the residents let their lawn die due either to strict water restrictions or voluntarily letting their lush green lawn turn brown.  Some landscape companies are now offering lawn painting services where they will come out and paint your brown lawn, green.

I decided to drive through my old neighborhood to see the house where I spent my teenage years.  I do this every few years whenever I am in town.  As I drove down the street, I saw three different examples of how the residents were dealing with the drought conditions.

I'd like to show you each of these examples and let you in on a secret - I grew up in one of these houses.

See if you can guess which one was my house...

Example 1:


When I was growing up in this neighborhood, everyone had a lawn.

However, the owners of this home ripped out their lawn in favor of a contemporary, drought tolerant landscape filled with succulents, ornamental grasses and a few arid adapted shrubs.  

I like the step stones leading up to the entry, don't you?

The entire landscape had a layer of mulch to help conserve water and in this climate could survive on very little supplemental water.

Example 2:


This house with the 'thirsty landscape' is located just a few houses down from the drought tolerant landscape.  As you can see, the owners have kept their high water use landscape without any regard for the severe drought conditions present.

Large areas of lawn (including the parking strip), along with high-water use shrubs seemingly mock those who are trying their best to save water.

I sometimes wish that I had a parking strip.  I'd plant some beautiful, drought tolerant plants.  Maybe I should send the homeowners the book, "Hellstrip Gardening"?

Example 3:


This landscape is certainly not drought tolerant, but there are reduced lawn areas and even though the planting beds are not filled with drought tolerant plants - they do take less water than if they were taken up by a lawn.

I must admit solely on looks alone, that I prefer this landscape over the other two as long as rainfall amounts are normal.  But, in times of drought, I'd remove all of the lawn, add mulch and some drought tolerant ground covers like bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum) or trailing lantana.

So, have you been able to guess which of these homes that I grew up in?



The home with the 'thirsty landscape'!

The landscape has not changed from what it looked like throughout the 80's.  

This was a great house to grow up in with its 6 bedrooms and large backyard filled with blackberry bushes, citrus trees, a large pine tree and two palm trees.

If you look carefully, you can see three maple trees in the middle of the backyard, just peeking above the roofline of the house.  My brother, sisters and I planted those trees in 1978.

How about you?

Are you experiencing drought where you live?  What do you do to save water in the landscape?

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Unique Nursery Nestled Under a Huge Tree



Have you every thought of a nursery of more than just a place to buy plants?

How about one with secret corners where visitors are invited to sit and eat their lunch or read a book?

Or have you visited a nursery that is nestled underneath a 50 year old, flowering tree that shades everything below?


On a recent visit to California, I came upon a most unique plant nursery.

I hadn't planned on visiting a nursery on this particular day, but I noticed a large floss silk tree (Chorisia speciosa) dominating the blue skyline with its dark pink flowers.  It took me a moment to notice the nursery tucked underneath the branches.


The gate leading into the nursery, had decorative wooden signs describing what was yet to be discovered within.



I was greeted by a large jade plant, which if you've ever traveled to California, must be the 'unofficial' succulent plant of this beautiful state - everyone seems to have one growing in a pot somewhere in their garden.



Walking a little ways in, I immediately noticed a small pathway leading into the depths of the nursery, beckoning the visitor to discover where it led.



Flanking the shady path were a variety of tropical plants, succulents and garden ornaments.



A galvanized container held a variety of wooden garden signs. 

 I decided to take the signs literally and to be on the lookout for gnomes ;-)


Reaching the end of the pathway, visitors discover worn, yet comfortable garden furniture, inviting you to take a break and enjoy the shade on a warm summer's day while being surrounded by the beauty of the plants.


Throughout the entire nursery were hidden corners filled with chairs and comfortable cushions.  

Visitors are encouraged to bring their lunch and eat in the garden or bring along a favorite book.

If I lived near this nursery, I would be tempted to spend a lot of time here where I would be able to enjoy two of my favorite things - plants and books!


The branches of the floss silk tree extended their shade over a large number of plants.


Floss silk trees have a very unique trunk.  It is green, much like the palo verde, but they have very large thorns.


As I continued my journey of discovery through the nursery, I found that it was hard to reconcile this place as your typical nursery.

Oh, they did have basic gardening supplies such as organic fertilizers, peat moss, compost and pots - but it was the lack of obvious organization and the randomness that I found throughout.


Small garden rooms were filled with an assortment of succulents, palms and unusual flowering plants.

White icicle lights were strung throughout the nursery, which made me wish that I had a chance to visit in the evening hours.

Plants could be found in a variety of sizes.  There was no plant signage or pricing information that could be easily seen.



Everywhere you would turn, there would be something new and unexpected to discover.



A row of old cowboy boots sat, ready to be used as planters.



A container made from grape vines in the shape of a swan held a variety of succulents.



A pair of rusty enamelware bowls sat empty on a plastic crate - maybe they will be filled with some succulents someday?  Hopefully sooner than later before the bottom rusts out.

While enjoying the unusual things throughout out the nursery, there were some more traditional areas with flowering plants available for sale.




Colorful begonias and fucshia plants beckoned California gardeners.



I found a corner filled with adeniums, which I must admit that I am fascinated by.



I just love this delicate, pink adenium flower, don't you?


I must admit that there were so many different things that I loved about this little nursery - it's lack of organization, the fact that it looked more like a garden than a nursery, the hidden seating areas where you could read a book, the unique garden art (junk) and perhaps most of all was that the focus was on enjoying your visit to the nursery whether you bought anything or not.



The roof of the little garden shop was decorated by a row of potted Yucca gloriosa and more icicle lights.  



As I got ready to leave, I took a few minutes to talk to the woman who worked there.  She directed my attention toward the flowering canopy of the floss silk tree and told me that 5 hummingbirds make their home in its branches.

Male hummingbirds are extremely territorial, but the tree was so large that they all are able to live in it somewhat peaceably.  I was told that each hummingbird has a specific section of the tree that belongs to them and if one oversteps his section, than there are little arguments.  




I enjoyed my visit to this 50-year old, unique plant nursery/garden and can't wait to have a chance to come again.

**If you are ever near Carpinteria, California, I encourage you to take some time to visit the Carpinteria Landscape Nursery - but, be ready for a rather unorthodox nursery experience.


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