Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Drought Tolerant & Beautiful: Texas Olive (Cordia)

Do you like plants that flower throughout most of the year?

How about a plant with foliage that is evergreen throughout the year in zone 9-11 gardens?

Would you prefer a plant that requires very little pruning?



If you answered "yes" to these questions, than Texas olive may deserve a spot in your garden.

This beautiful southwestern native deserves a spot in our 'Drought Tolerant & Fuss Free' category.


Despite its common name, this is not an olive tree.  However, it can be trained into a small tree or large shrub depending on your preference.

In my opinion, it deserves to be seen more often in the landscape with all of its outstanding qualities mentioned earlier.

My favorite characteristics are its large, dark green leaves and white flowers that decorate the landscape.

Want to learn more about Texas olive and how you can use it in your landscape?

Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.

If you want more ideas of great plants to add to your drought tolerant landscape, you can check out my other plant profiles here.


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As you can see, it's back to regular blog posts after my Northwestern road trip posts.  I hope you enjoyed them and were able to share in our adventures.

However, I still have more to share with you about the some very special gardens we visited. I promise to share with you soon!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Road Trip Day 8: City Traffic, Border Crossings and a Farm House Garden

The last full day of our Northwest road trip began with a ferry ride yesterday.



The ferry was to take us from Victoria to Vancouver.

When we arrived for the ferry, approximately 60 minutes early, we got in line with our car - it looks like a bunch of cars stopped on a freeway.  You then turn off the engine and sit in the car or lock it up and head over to the rest stop, complete with restaurant and shops until you are notified to start boarding the ferry.


We felt a bit more experienced this time with the process of bringing our rental car onto the ferry (as it was our second time) and walking upstairs to the passenger levels.

What we weren't prepared for was how huge this ferry was.  There were 3 levels for cars, busses and even semi-trailer trucks.



Food options consisted of a large cafe and coffee shop.



There was a very large gift shop AND a video arcade - my kids would love this!


You could also venture outside to see the beauty of the islands we passed by.

After docking just outside of Vancouver, we promptly headed toward the city.


We were somewhat surprised at how much traffic there was and it took a very long time to arrive at our hotel downtown.


This morning, after a quick breakfast, we were going to take the city trolley tour so that we could hop on and off to see the many attractions of this vibrant city.

However, we were informed because of the ongoing transit strike, that the tour was delayed.  So, we decided to go out on our own.

We headed toward Granville Island Public Market, which is located in the downtown area.


It is a fun and creative place with artist studios where you watch art being created before your eyes - a definite draw for both locals and tourists alike.


Stores offering unique wares are scattered throughout the small island.


If you have pets, this shop in a railroad car likely have just the right thing for your 4-legged friend.


When I travel, I like to find stores that sell handcrafted items made from local residents.  I found a beautiful Christmas ornament in this little store made by an 80-year old woman.


As we walked through the streets of the public market, there was a small dog that was walking about in its own.

He was obviously at home and comfortable with his surroundings.  He paid no mind to us or any other passersby.


Now before you think that this is a lost dog - think again.  He belongs to one of the local vendors and has free reign of the market.


Our attention was drawn to a nearby lake where a family of Canadian geese were swimming.


On shore, we met up with another feathered family.  I found it symbolic that on our last day in Canada, that we would see Canadian geese.

We had hoped to see more of this beautiful city, but there was so much traffic due to the transit strike and it took a very long time to travel small distances, so we made the difficult decision to cut our visit short by a few hours and head back toward the States.


On our way out of the city, we spotted this community garden.

Vancouver is quite close to the U.S. border and we  soon found ourselves sitting a long line to cross over the border.  We settled ourselves in for a long wait.


As we inched our way closer, we saw this archway at the actual border.  I like this wonderful statement about our two countries.


People anxious to visit the United States took turns taking pictures next to this sign while waiting for their cars to go through the border crossing.


It's almost our turn!

While we had a wonderful time in Canada, I didn't like having to pay for an international phone plan, which had extremely limited data (which I went over).  

While waiting in line to cross, once we got within feet of the border my phone suddenly got a  'No Service' signal and then once we crossed, my regular carrier took over and I was so happy to be able to use my normal cell phone allowances again.


Since we had some extra time to fill due to our shortened visit to Vancouver, we stopped by the Fairhaven historic downtown neighborhood in Bellingham, WA.  


Many of the stores had garden themed products and while I have no plans on seeing the 'Fifty Shades of Gray' movie, I may need to read this book :-)


We spent about an hour shopping, spending time in a clothing boutique, checking out the local bookstore and admiring some really lovely handmade woodwork.

The last night of our road trip is to be spent in Mount Vernon, WA before we leave in the morning for Seattle where we will fly home.

Mount Vernon is known for being the largest producer of flower bulbs.  They also have the Skagit Tulip Festival every April.

Choosing Mount Vernon for the last stop of our trip was largely due to its proximity from the Seattle airport AND a small garden that we wanted to visit.


LaConner Flats Farm & Garden is an 11-acre display garden of a large family-owned farm.

The gardens are free to visit and you are welcome to walk around on your own.


The centerpiece of the garden is made up of circular beds of rose bushes surrounding a gazebo - an ideal place for a wedding.


The backdrop for the roses and gazebo are formally shaped shrubs underplanted with flowering perennials.


However, it was what was behind the formal garden space that really interested me...


Behind the formally-pruned shrubs were the more informal areas of the garden.


Trees, shrubs and perennials were planted in a carefree mixture, tied together by pathways of green grass.


To be honest, there were plenty of weeds intermixed with the flowering shrubs and plants.  But, it is this untamed, natural type of garden that I like best.




Several, large flowering shrubs provided vivid displays of color.

As we were admiring the flowers, we rounded the corner and came face to face with four little goats...


They were busy eating the fresh green grass and initially paid no attention to us.


A little robin stood in our path and was quite friendly.



He didn't move until we got quit close and then hopped to the fence. Robins are rare in my neck of the woods, so I always look forward to seeing them when I travel.


The goats finally noticed our presence and came over to see if we had any food to share.  Sadly, we didn't.


I crouched down to take a picture of the friendliest goat and didn't realize how close I was until he licked my camera's lens.


Even though we didn't have any food for them that didn't stop one of them from following my mother as we walked along the path.


The pathway along the goat's enclosure was just on the other side of the formal garden, which was separated by large shrubs.


Alongside the pathway, I saw a plant that I have rarely seen before - holly!


As we neared the end of our tour of the garden, I looked back toward our cute little friends and was trying to figure out how I could possibly talk my husband and HOA into letting us have goats ;-)


This garden is surrounded by fields of wheat and the Cascade mountain range can be seen in the distance.


It is well worth the visit if you ever find yourself traveling in Northern Washington State.

We have had so many wonderful adventures during our fifth annual road trip.  But, I am excited to come home and see my husband, kids, grandkids, dogs, garden - you get the picture...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Road Trip Day 7: The Beauty of Butchart Gardens

Our last day in Victoria was reserved for a visit to a very famous garden.  Butchart Gardens is the place to go for visitors to Victoria.

Years ago, my in-laws took me and my husband, as a college graduation gift, to Seattle and Victoria.  The year was 1998, and I was finishing up the last semester of my horticulture degree.

Flush with my new knowledge of plants and horticultural practices, I was especially looking forward to visiting this beautiful garden.  Fast forward 17 years later, I was excited to go back.



My mother and fellow travel companion.
Immediately upon leaving the parking lot, we were faced with fragrant, yellow wisteria that draped over an arbor.


Walking a few steps further, was another splash of color with anemone flowers in pinks, purples and white.

I hadn't even gone through the entrance and I had already taken a number of pictures - it was going to be a veritable photographic feast!


Like most areas in Victoria, colorful hanging baskets could be seen all over the garden.

Butchart Gardens are over 100 years old and were created by the Butchart family.  Almost one million visitors come to visit this special place, which sits about 30 minutes outside of Victoria.


Today, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite areas in the garden.


Garden art is tastefully spread throughout the garden, usually in the form of animals.





One of my favorite color combinations is the bright green, spiky foliage of iris and its vibrant, purple flowers.


One of the many things that I liked was that the trash receptacles had plants growing on top.


I really think that this was a great idea.  Imagine trash cans acting as the base for plants that add beauty.  I love it!

Here are a couple more...



The garden is separated into several smaller gardens.  My favorite is the Sunken Garden.


This spectacular garden was created in a former quarry.

A long stairway leads to the bottom of the garden and winding paths invite your to explore more.



It was interesting to watch the people exclaim over the beauty of the gardens many were from other countries including Australia, China, Great Britain, Japan and Spain plus the good old U.S.A.


Because I had visited the gardens before, I didn't feel as if I had to hurry in order to be able to see everything.  Today, I decided to walk slowly through my favorite parts.  As a result, I spent most of my time in the Sunken Garden.




At the end of the Sunken Garden is a lake with a 'dancing' fountain.



Different variations of spray patterns made onlookers stop for a few minutes to enjoy the dancing waters.  

After climbing out of the Sunken Garden, I strolled through other areas of the garden on my way to the Rose Garden.




Blankets of flowers surround, what I believe are crab apple trees.


Love the black bearded iris, don't you?


Brightly-colored dahlia.


Clematis growing up on an old stump.


There is one flower in the Butchart Gardens that is a favorite of many.  This is the Himalayan blue poppy.


You can find them scattered throughout the gardens and their vivid blue flowers attract everyone's attention.


They aren't easy to grow.  To get them to germinate, you need to place the seeds in a moist paper towel and put in a Ziploc bag.  Then you place the bag with the paper towel and seeds and stick in the refrigerator (in the vegetable crisper) for 4 weeks before planting.

There are blue poppy seeds available in the and I bought two packages to try to grow them in my own garden.


There are several water features scattered throughout the gardens and I liked this one with the three fish, encircled with colorful anemone flowers.


The Japanese Garden is not to be missed.  I love the varying shades of green and contrasting textures.


As you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to take care of many garden spaces within Butchart Gardens.


Watching these young girls working, planting new annual flowers, reminded me of the years spent as a horticulturist on golf courses.


These are but a select few of the 319 photos I took of these truly stunning gardens.  

I hope you enjoyed them!

Before leaving Butchart Gardens, a visit to this special place isn't complete without rubbing the nose of the 'mascot'.


This is 'Tacca', which is a bronze replica of a wild boar - the original was created in 1620 in Italy.  'Taco' is named for the sculptor who made the original.


It is said that if you rub his snout, you will have good luck.  So, millions of visitors have rubbed Tacca's snout over the years.

After leaving the gardens, we drove onto get on the ferry to Vancouver, where we will embark on the next adventure of our trip.

More to come tomorrow!

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