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

Williams, AZ.

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.

Williams, AZ.

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)

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

My niece Sofie and my daughter, Ruthie.

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

Hummingbird Festival

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

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.



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?

delicious food

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 😉

My daughter Rachele

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

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

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.  

Hummingbird Festival

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

Hummingbird Festival

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.  

Hummingbird Festival

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

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.

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.

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

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

Hummingbird Festival

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!

Hummingbird Festival

Hummingbird Festival

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.

Hummingbird Festival

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

Hummingbird Festival

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?**  

A Few of my Favorite Things……Hummingbirds

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
5 replies
  1. RobinL
    RobinL says:

    You've had a busy summer for sure, and how lucky you are to have family time like that! I sure hope that Lily does follow in your footsteps. I knew I had my son when he was living in an apartment and trying to grow a cucumber vine in a pot on his balcony. He know has a little veggie garden at his home where his wife fills the backyard full of flowers. Now to hope if my daughter ever gets hooked on gardening!

  2. says:

    Thank you for your kind comments, Lorraine and Robin!

    Robin, so far none of my kids have shown any indication of following in my horticultural footsteps, but I'm hopeful maybe my granddaughter may 😉

    How wonderful that your son is know enjoying gardening in his own backyard.

    Noelle 'az plant lady'

  3. Luisa
    Luisa says:

    I love your blog and am catching up on posts — love the desert tortoise posts with all the great info on that species, crazy about the Sedona and hummingbird posts — but wanted to comment here just to thank you for the wonderful photo of your mother helping your daughter look at Saturn. Made my eyes puddle up a bit, that one. Happy memories! Multi-generational families are so blessed. Thanks again for the terrific blog!

  4. says:

    Hello Luisa,

    Thank you so much for your kind words! They mean a lot. We are so blessed to have most of our family close by. We are still adjusting to having our two oldest daughters living out of state, but have plenty of plans on traveling to visit them. I will keep posting on family happenings 🙂


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