Friday, October 9, 2015

An Historic Garden Jewel in the Middle of the City

Imagine a visiting a place where you find yourself stepping back in time surrounded by small adobe homes and large gardens. 

The Phoenix Homesteads District dates back to the 1930's and is the only adobe neighborhood in Phoenix.  The streets are lined with mature pine trees interspersed with Mexican fan palms creating a green tunnel that beckons you to explore further.

Small adobe homes sit on large lots surrounded by large, mature trees and shrubs.  

The adobe homes and their large lots were built so residents could grow much of their own food and own small livestock in the 1930's and 40's.

The purpose of my journey to this historic neighborhood was to visit a local artist and her picturesque gardens. 

This historic garden jewel was located on 'Flower Street'.

I came to visit this special place at the recommendation of a client who told me about a resident artist, Suzanne Bracker, who not only had a beautiful garden but creates wonderful pieces of art.  As I pulled up to her home, little did I know at the time that the garden was just the beginning of the wonderful things I would see.

Suzanne met me by the curb in front of her home and I began a journey filled with inspiration and discovery. 

Just a few steps into the garden, it was apparent that Suzanne loved to repurpose items in her garden.  The curved pathway at the garden entrance was edged with broken concrete, often referred to as 'urbanite'.

Suzanne's property consisted of two 1/4 acre lots.  The adobe structure that used to serve as a garage/shed, straddles the original property line. 

Queen's wreath vine (Antigonon leptopus) and lantana grew on large river rocks enclosed in wire (gabion walls).  The bright blooms of bougainvillea provided a welcome pop of color.

A old, gnarled tree root set among the vines added both color and texture contrast.

Against the wall a Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus peruviana) could be seen growing through a giant bush lantana (Lantana camara), which had been trained upward.

After only having spent 5 minutes in this artist's large garden, I could tell that it would be a journey of the unexpected and I could hardly wait to discover more.

The garage/shed had been converted into an artist's studio where pieces of Suzanne's work was  displayed.

The original adobe wall could be seen inside the studio.  Adobe walls (the ultimate sustainable building material made from mud and straw) kept buildings cool in summer.

You could see the bits of straw mixed in with the adobe.  There was also a small note stored in a crevice in the wall just waiting to be discovered and read.

Evidence of Suzanne's interest in a variety of artistic mediums was immediately apparent.

From mosaics...

to paper...


 and old jewelry - her talent was evident in almost everything she touched.

As we ventured back outdoors, Suzanne showed me a special spot that she affectionately called her "graveyard".

Located underneath the shade of a large carob tree,  the 'graveyard' was an area where the broken clay heads from Suzanne's clay art, found a place to rest. 

This was definitely a novel way to repurpose items that otherwise would have been thrown in the trash.

Weights from old windows, from her historic house, hung from the metal trellises alongside snail vine.

Small crystals that used to decorate chandeliers now hung from the trellis where they cast small rainbows wherever they caught the sun's rays.

Peach-faced parrots, who live on their own in this area of Phoenix, stopped by the bird feeder underneath the carob tree.  

Sprays of delicate purple flowers from a large skyflower (Duranta erecta) shrub, arched over the garden path. 

Walking along flagstone pathways toward the house, I noticed a flash of blue and green color.  The talent of Suzanne was so evident to me in the small touches in her garden - where most of us may have simply thrown out a few leftover glass beads, she used them in between flagstone for an unexpected touch of whimsy.

Entering her home, my attention was caught by the original kitchen.

Although small, this 1930's kitchen is functional and very cute, in my opinion.

Walking back outdoors, there was more to see in the garden.

 Plants weren't the only thing adding color to this garden - the buildings were painted in vibrant shades of blue and purple.

 Old oil cans, a kettle and creamers found new life as garden art.

Continuing on through the garden, we came upon a shady oasis, created by the huge canopy of an old Lady Bank's rose.  This is the same type of rose as the famous Tombstone Rose.

A colorful rooster and his chickens were enjoying the shade from the rose.

Gold lantana grew among round step stones.  The variety of sizes and location of these step stones, that were poured in place, added another artistic element to the landscape.

One of the many enjoyable aspects of this garden is the many 'garden rooms' interspersed among the two homes and garage/shed on the property. 

Walking through the winding garden paths, there is always something to discover like these old, antique, toy cars.  According to Suzanne, they were found in the garden when she moved into the house.  She simply put them on top of an old palm tree stump where they add another fun element to the garden.

Nearing the end of our garden journey, we passed by a jujube (Ziziphus jujube) tree, which fruits taste a little like apple.  

The second house on the property has a flowering Rose of Sharon tree in front along with some interesting garden art.

True to the historic roots of this home, the concrete pipes that decorate the front are made from old irrigation pipes that were used for the flood irrigation that was common throughout parts of Phoenix and is still used in some areas.

In fact, this garden is still watered using flood irrigation as it was back in the 1930's.

As I got ready to leave, I passed by the blossoms of a small, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) whose flowers change color depending on their age.

Gardens that both surprise and inspire us are a true treasure - especially when found in the middle of a city.

Suzanne's garden is an historic jewel and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met this special woman and observe how her artistic talent extends to everything she touches.


Earlier this spring, I happened upon another garden in a historic district, blocks from downtown Phoenix, which was bursting with blooming flowers.  Click here to discover more about this hidden jewel.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fall Foliage for the Southwestern Garden

Does it look like fall where you live?

If you live in the West or Southwestern regions of the U.S. you answer may be "no".

Fall foliage we enjoyed on a trip to Williamsburg, VA several years ago.

Many of us find ourselves traveling elsewhere to find colorful fall foliage.

But, what if you could have fall color in your own landscape?

There are several plants that can offer some fall color for those of us who yearn for signs of autumn.

I recently shared 6 of my favorite plants for adding shades of fall to the Southwestern landscape in my latest article for Houzz.

Do you have a favorite plant that gives you fall color?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Beautiful, Desert Pots & Book Giveaway Winner

In the desert, we are fortunate to be able to grow plants in containers throughout the entire year.

Of course, living in the desert does bring along its special challenges when it comes to gardening and growing plants in pots is no exception.

However, with the right pot, location, planting mix and plants - it is possible to grow a perfectly lovely container filled with thriving plants.

I like to think of potted plants as a way to decorate your outdoor space with both color and texture.  They also offer the flexibility to change out plants easily for a different look as well as the ability to move the pots around to new locations.

A pot filled with plants is nothing short of a miniature garden in a confined space.

I hope that these photos of lovely potted gardens help to inspire you to get out there and create your own.

To help get you started, I highly recommend the book, "Getting Potted in the Desert", written by Marylee Pangman, Tucson resident who has over 20 years of experience growing potted plants in the desert.  She is a certified Master Gardener and ran her own company, "The Contained Gardener", where she designed and maintained container gardens for clients for years.

**Now it's time to announce the winner of our giveaway for a free copy of "Getting Potted in the Desert"**

Susan aka 'Gardening Granny', you are the winner of this fabulous book!


Thank all of you who entered and let us know what you like to grow in containers.

If you didn't win, you can still order a copy of this book for yourself or a friend who loves to garden.
Click here to be directed to the ordering page.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New, Innovative Products for Your Garden

For those of us who love to garden, we are often looking out for new inventions and products to decrease the amount of time we need to maintain our garden while also increasing our enjoyment. 

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual Garden Writer's Conference, which was held in Pasadena, CA.

In addition to informative seminars and tours of beautiful gardens, there was also a tradeshow connected to the conference.

The tradeshow was made up of vendors connected to the garden industry.  Their goods ranged from newly invented tools to make gardening tasks easier, unique garden items as well as the new plant introductions.

Today, I'd like to show you a few of the garden products that I felt would interest you.  
(My next post will involve some of the newest plants on the market.)

Soft-sided garden containers were a prevalent item at the show.  I particularly liked these colorful options offered in small to large sizes by Bloem Living

'Bloem Bagz' are made from recycled water bottles and can be used for growing flowers, herbs,  vegetables or whatever type of plant you like.

They even have a raised bed with bamboo supports that begins flat and easily folds out.  I can just picture growing herbs in this container.

Along the same line, Smart Pots, offers larger fabric raised beds that are ideal for creating raised vegetable beds.

Also offered are bags that you can be used to create your own compost bin.  Imagine not having to build a compost bin out of wood?

As you can see, the bags come folded flat.

They then easily unfold to create a portable and inexpensive container.

According to their literature, Smart Pots have excellent drainage, last for years and decrease the amount of heat retained inside the soil during summer.

Before we leave the innovative garden container products, I'd like to show you 'Ups-A-Daisy'.  

These are planter inserts that fit inside of containers, decreasing the amount of expensive planting soil that goes into pots.

I really enjoyed myself in this booth with its rainbow-colored products.

The Dramm display was largely dedicated to devices for watering plants.  

From long and short watering wands in any color you could imagine to innovative hose-end spray nozzles that have a multitude of settings from watering plants, washing your car or even your dog.

There was even a chocolate colored spray wand, which lent a somewhat elegant look to a garden tool.

The folks from Greenview Fertilizer had a variety of organic fertilizers.  

For Southwest gardeners, the citrus, palm, rose and all-purpose plant food would be a welcome addition to the garden.

I was given samples of the citrus fertilizer, which I can't wait to use for my lemon and orange trees.

Stretch Tie is an expandable plant tie.  This innovative tie expands and moves with plants as they grow, instead of girdling them as inflexible ties can do.

You can use these plant ties for houseplants, tomatoes, trees, and vines.  I will be giving some to my mother for helping her train her gourd vines.

Another garden tie product that I found interesting was Garden Connects.  I met the woman who invented them and it was easy to see how these silicon connectors could be used to canes and small stakes such as those used to create teepees  for vegetable vines to crawl up on.

While the sight of a rack filled with many different varieties of flower and vegetable seeds may not look out of the ordinary...

One that has seeds free for the picking isn't something you see every day.

Not surprisingly, this was a popular display - not just because the seeds were free, but because the types of seeds offered.  Many new or hard to find varieties of seeds were offered through Renee's Garden Seed Company.

I can't wait to grow the white, pink and pale yellow California poppies seeds that I got as well as some new varieties of nasturtium and poppy flowers.

Botanical Interests and Irish Eyes Seed companies also had impressive seed displays, several of which, made their way into my suitcase for the trip home. 

I hope that you are intrigued by many of these garden products as much as I am.

Next time, I will share with you some of the new plant introductions that were on display and my attempt to bring many home in my suitcase :-)

**If you haven't had a chance yet, I invite you to enter the giveaway for a great gardening book called "Getting Potted in the Desert".  The drawing is this coming Monday!


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