Friday, August 28, 2015

Drought Tolerant and Beautiful: Sandpaper Verbena

I like to use plants in my garden that add a lot of color and the drought tolerant and beautiful, sandpaper verbena certainly doesn't disappoint.


Its blossoms are a vibrant, deep purple that carpets the ground in a mass of glorious color spring through fall.

The deep green leaves add a visually cooling element to the landscape as well.

Butterflies find the flowers irresistible too.  

See where this colorful ground cover gets its name and why you'll want to include it in your drought tolerant garden where it will add beauty to your outdoor space in my latest plant profile for Houzz.com



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer in Review: Unplugged, Far Away Friends, Outer Space and Hummingbirds

As summer begins to wane, my thoughts start to turn toward fall planting and upcoming holidays.

But, before I put summer "to bed", I thought I'd give you a glimpse of our summer adventures.




The highlight of our summer was spending a week in Williams, AZ.

Every year we head up to this small Route 66 town, which is the known as "The Gateway to the Grand Canyon".

We travel up to this special place along with my mother, siblings and their families.  A collection of small, rustic cabins house us for the week.

This small mound of dirt is called "Danny's Mountain" by the boys (Danny is my little 4-year old nephew to the right).


It's a place where smartphones and video games give way to playing outdoors with cousins finding new places to explore.


My niece Sofie and my daughter, Ruthie.


Teenage girls discover the delights of pushing each other on a tree swing.


Little army men toys replace video games as battle strategies are discussed and put in play.

5-month old Eric having fun with his grandpa.

As a grandparent, it is also a special time for my husband and I to spend with our two grandchildren.

Lily

My granddaughter, Lily, was busy picking flowers for her 'collection'.  She loves flowers and keeps them in her jewelry box.  
Dare I hope that she follows in her grandma's footsteps and becomes a horticulturist?


Of course, what's summer vacation without delicious food!

Before, you ask...no, I didn't eat all these pies myself - I shared with them with 15 other family members ;-)


Fourth of July found us in the pool, waiting for fireworks to begin.

My daughter Rachele, who is in the Navy, was able to come visit with our newest family addition, Eric.  This was his first time swimming and he loved it!

Ruthie, Sofie and Gracie

At the beginning of our summer season, we had a special visitor.

My daughter, Ruthie, was adopted from China when she was 9 years old.  Her cousin, Sofie, came from the same orphanage and so did their friend, Gracie.

These girls spent their early childhood together, creating special, sisterly bonds with each other in the absence of having parents.

Now that they are all adopted and living in the U.S., they have kept in touch.  Gracie flew in to spend a few days with her 'orphanage sisters' and we had so much fun with her.  

Pillow fights, baking sweets, enjoying good Chinese food and playing board games filled much of their time together.

Walking along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, CA

A quick trip to Southern California was taken in the beginning of June to visit Rachele.  We were able to stay in her townhouse on the Navy base.  

Whenever we visit her, we take time to travel up to picturesque Santa Barbara, CA, which is where my husband and I met almost 30 years ago.


Ruthie learned how squirmy little babies are when you try to get them dressed...


This summer, we went through a truly wonderful experience together.

We traveled to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.  Both adults and kids were looking forward to seeing planets in our solar system.


While I did expect to see some great things through the telescopes, what I didn't expect was the beautiful flowering perennials growing throughout the grounds of the observatory.

My brother, kept teasing me as I kept stopping to take pictures of the flowers.

My son, Kai, looking at Venus

Outdoor telescopes focused on Jupiter and Venus.  

I don't know who was more excited, the kids or the adults.  It was almost incomprehensible that we could view these faraway planets.

My nephew, Dean, loves flowers and kept asking me what the names of them were.

I must admit that I enjoyed the flowers almost as much as I did the planets.

My mother, helping my daughter as she looks at Saturn.

Believe it or not, we were able to see Saturn and its rings!


We had a wonderful time at the observatory and learned so much.  I highly recommend visiting this or any observatory near you.  It was an unforgettable experience!


The last part of our summer fun occurred at the Hummingbird Festival, where I was asked to be a presenter.

I have two separate talks on small space hummingbird gardening and had a great time meeting new people.


One of my favorite parts of the festival was touring many beautiful gardens in Sedona where the festival was held.


I came home from the festival inspired to create a garden space dedicated to plants that attract hummingbirds.  I can hardly wait to get started this fall, which is the best time to add new plants to the garden.

In the meantime, we have increased the amount of hummingbird feeders in our backyard and have seen three hummingbirds at a single feeder :-)

************************

Well, that was our summer fun in a nutshell.  The kids are now in school and my eyes are focused on  the fall including the upcoming Garden Writer's Conference in Pasadena, CA in September.

 **What did your 'summer in review' look like?  Did you travel to any new places, see old friends or have any new experiences?**


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

DIY In The Garden: Making Fruit Vinegar

I am always looking for new ways to make things from what I grow in my garden.

Fruit vinegars are an easy and fun way to use fruit you may have growing in the garden. 


What can you use fruit vinegars for?  I use them to create vinaigrettes, marinades and glazes, where they add delicious and unexpected flavor.


Making fruit vinegar is simple to do - all you need is the fruit of your choice (chopped) and white wine vinegar.  Fruits that can be used include apple, berries, peach, pear, plum and strawberries.

I recently made some strawberry vinegar that is so good, my husband has been making his own salads - it tastes that good.

The process is the same for whatever type of fruit you choose.  Are you ready?

1. Dice fruit into 1-inch size pieces.


2. Fill a glass jar 1/3 of the way full of copped fruit and then pour white wine vinegar until it reaches the top.


3. Store your fruit/vinegar jar in a cool, dark place such as a pantry for 4 weeks.

4. Once a week, shake the jars, to help mix up the contents.


After a month has passed, your fruit will have taken on a colorless appearance while the vinegar will have beautiful, color, which means lots of delicious flavor.


5. Place a strainer over a bowl and put a paper towel inside.  Pour out the contents of the jars.


6. Pour the strained liquid into a clean jar.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Congratulations!  You now have a jar filled with delicious fruit vinegar ready to use to flavor your favorite dishes.

You may wonder how I used my latest batch of strawberry vinegar.  Well, I have a top secret family recipe for salad dressing that my kids and husband love.  

It's from my grandma, who coincidentally, was NOT a great cook - but she certainly made a delicious salad dressing.

I'm sure that she would be tickled pink to know that I am sharing it with all of you - just click the link below for the recipe.


I hope you decide to make some fruit vinegar too! In addition to strawberry vinegar, I also like to make it from peaches from our fruit trees - you can see how I made this earlier, here.

How about you?  What fruit would you choose to make vinegar from?


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Unique Garden Art Out and About

Do you have pieces of garden art in your outdoor space?

I have a few pieces and am always on the lookout for unique examples of artwork to use in my garden.

The past few weeks, I saw some great examples while out and about that I would love to share with you.



You may have seen the popularity of large clocks being displayed indoors, but I would love this one hanging on my outdoor patio.  

The clock face was made out of plywood, painted and textured with antique garden tools arranged around it.


Who knew that old horseshoes could be used to make barrel cactus?

I must confess that at first, I didn't know that these were made from horseshoes at first glance - but, I would certainly love one in my garden.


Javelina may be the bane of many southwestern residents when they come and eat their plants.

However, I think that some people wouldn't mind having this one hanging around.  

Can you tell what it is made out of ?

An old palm tree root!
The roots were used to mimic the rough coat of a javelina.


Lastly, rusted metal art is all the rage and you can find it in the shape of plants and animals.

I did love this group of jackrabbits and could just picture one sitting underneath my palo verde tree.

How about you?

Do you have any unique pieces of garden art? 

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