As summer begins to slowly fade and the heat begins to dissipate, the Southwestern garden comes alive.



Plants perk up in the absence of 100+ degree temperatures and people begin to venture outdoors  (without their hats!) to enjoy their beautiful surroundings.

When people talk about their favorite season, many will tell you that spring is the time that they enjoy the most as their gardens come alive, spring forth with new green growth and colorful blooms.

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

While spring is a glorious time in the desert landscape with winter blooms overlapping with spring flowering plants along with cactus flowers – it isn’t the only ‘spring’ that the desert experiences.


Fall is often referred to as the “second spring” in the desert Southwest as plants take on a refreshed appearance due to the cooler temperatures with many still producing flowers.  Many birds, butterflies and other wildlife reappear during the daytime hours in autumn.

Desert residents often find themselves making excuses to spend more time outdoors whether it’s taking a longer walk or bringing their laptop outdoors where they can enjoy the comfortable temperatures and surrounding beauty of the landscape.


Fall is also a time where we take a look around our own garden setting and decide to make some changes whether it is taking out thirsty, old plants replacing them with attractive, drought tolerant plants or creating an outdoor room by expanding a patio or perhaps adding a pergola.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) 

No matter where you live – the East Coast, Midwest, Northwest, etc., fall is the best time of year to add new plants to the landscape as it provides plants with 3 seasons in which to grow a good root system before the heat of the next summer arrives.

What do you enjoy most about fall?  

**Thinking of making some changes to your landscape?  Click here for a list my favorite drought tolerant plants that provide fall blooms.  

The beginning of fall is only a few weeks away as the long summer winds down.  Fall is a wonderful time in the garden and is the best time of year for adding new plants, allowing them a chance to grow before the heat of next summer arrives.


Turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia) in bloom

When deciding what plants to add to your garden, many people concentrate on incorporating plants that bloom in spring and summer, but there are a number of attractive plants that bloom in fall.

Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Using plants with overlapping bloom periods ensure year-round beauty for your landscape.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Many plants that flower in fall also flower at other times of year as well such as damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and autumn sage (Salvia greggii)

Early October is a great time to start adding new plants, so now is a great time to decide what type of fall-blooming plants to add.

I recently shared 10 of my favorite, drought tolerant fall bloomers in my latest article for Houzz.  I hope you’ll include some of these in your landscape where they will help to decorate your fall landscape.

Do you have a favorite fall-blooming plant?

It’s hotter than he**  (dare I use the word “hell”?) outside in June and while most desert dwellers can be found hibernating indoors enjoying air-conditioned temperatures in the 70’s – you’ll find a few of us darting outdoors to pick apples.



While parts of the country wait until late summer and on into early fall to harvest apples – June is apple harvesting time in the desert.


Many people don’t realize that apple trees can grow in the desert Southwest – so do apricots, peaches and plums.

The key to growing these types of fruit trees is our relatively cold temperatures.  They need a certain number of “chilling hours”, which are when temperatures are within 32 – 45 degrees F.

When summer temperatures are hovering in the 100+ range, it’s hard to recall what cold winter temperatures feel like, but it’s those chilly temps that make it possible to grow apple trees.


In the past years, I have harvested my apples from among the several apple trees located on the family farm.

But, not this year.


Three years ago, we transformed our side garden, creating a “potager”, which is a French term for a kitchen garden filled with fruits, herbs, vegetables alongside ornamental plants.

In the potager, we have the largest of our vegetable gardens, blackberry bushes, two peach trees, an orange tree and two apple trees.


The apple trees are located toward the end of the garden with the blackberry bushes growing against the wall.

This was what they looked like 1 1/2 years ago.  Since then, they have grown quickly and are filled with apples, ready for us to pick.


Today, we will head out in the morning and pick our apples.  There are so many growing, that I won’t need any from the family farm.

Normally, I make applesauce and an apple pie from apples.  This year, I will make those but will add to it.  We will also be making apple chips and apple sugar.  Who knows?  If we get a ton of apples, I may need to find more things to make with them.

My daughter, Ruthie, and niece, Sofie, will help me along with a very special friend who is their “orphanage sister”.  

**Next time, I’ll share their special story along with all the goodies we make along with helpful links so you can make them yourself with apples from the supermarket.
April in the desert garden is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful time of year.  Winter and spring-flowering plants (damianita, penstemon and ‘Valentine’) are just beginning to fade and summer blooms are beginning to appear (coral fountain, Texas sage and yellow bells)

But perhaps, the most colorful event in this month  is the flowering of palo verde trees.

Did you know that each species of palo verde has a different shade of yellow?

It’s true.  The differences may not be obvious unless you see them next to each other, but I’ll make it easier for you and show you some examples below.

Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida)

Foothills (Littleaf) Palo Verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)

‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde (Parkinsonia hybrid ‘Desert Museum’)

Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox)

Every year, the arrival of the yellow flowers are met with delight by many and to the dismay of others.  Those that like unnaturally, pristine landscapes, without a stray leaf or fallen flower, don’t like the flowers that they leave behind.

As for me, I like things mostly natural and the golden carpet that my ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees leave behind, area welcome sight.

Yesterday, I went on Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine’s Grand Tour of Gardens.  The gardens we visited were spectacular, but we also passed by equally impressive landscapes.

This one in particular caught my eye, so my husband stopped the car and patiently waited while I took a few photos – this tends to happen often, so he is used to it.


While I liked the contemporary entry to the front flanked by desert spoon and with the columnar cardon cacti surrounded by golden barrels, it was the majestic ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde trees that caught my eye.


The plant palette was limited, which works well with contemporary design.  The flowers from the palo verde trees along the street decorated the grass and sidewalk, although they were badly pruned.


While my personal style is more informal, I do appreciate good, contemporary design and I really liked this pathway, although I believe a better species of agave that can handle full, reflected heat without growing too large would have been better – maybe Victoria agave?

I’m still loving the flowers.


My favorite picture is this one of the entryway which is covered with a solid carpet of golden yellow flowers, which contrast beautifully with the gray-blue walls and red door.

How about you?  Do you like the way flowers look on the ground once they have fallen?  Or do you feel the overwhelming impulse to blow them away?

**I’ll be sure to share about my experience on the Grand Tour of Gardens, but I need time to sift through the hundreds of photos I took.**

I hope your week is off to a great start!


Do you like to decorate your home with natural objects?  


I do.


Recently, I’ve been busy creating items using things found in nature.  



For example, these may seem like regular pieces of wood from a tree – but what if I told you that they were actually old roots from a cresote bush?


You may not know what a creosote bush is, but if you live in the desert – you’ve seen them.  They are the shrubs scattered throughout the desert.  

The roots that I used for my project came from one of the creosote shrubs in the picture, above.


This creosote shrub was in an area that I was asked to design next to a golf course.  While I kept most of the creosote, I had one removed to make room for new plants.

You can see the pile of creosote roots left over after the shrub was pulled out.  

I came up on these roots after placing the new plants and thought that they would be great for a future project.  They were woody, twisted and had great character.  I loaded them up in my truck and stored them in my side yard until I could find the right project in which to use them.


I decided to pair my old wooden roots with air plants.

My mother, who is extremely creative, introduced me to air plants and I immediately fell in love with their unique shapes.

Air plants are unique in another way in that they do not need soil.  All they need to grow is air, water and a sunny window, which makes them perfect for using in home decorating projects since you don’t have to worry about soil.
You can read more about air plants and how to care for them, here.

So what do you get when you pair air plants with pieces of natural wood?


A very attractive centerpiece that looks great on the coffee table.

I was so excited about how nice it looked that I decided to try using smaller pieces of wood and different air plants.


Because each piece of wood was unique and had been twisted over time by nature, each pairing looked different.


I must admit that I had so much fun playing with different combinations.

So, what am I going to do with so many creosote wood / air plant combinations?

Earlier this year, my mother proposed going together with my sister and create items for the home that are made from natural elements for a large holiday boutique.

My sister and I both agreed and have been working on making different items focused on using natural and/or recycled elements, along with my mother.

Here are just a few of the items we will be selling:

Gourd Bird Houses

My mother and I have both grown gourds in our gardens and transformed them into bird houses and feeders.

Seed pod Christmas ornaments

Can you tell what type of tree/shrub this seed pod comes from?


 If you guessed Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), you’d be right.

My sister has made a variety of Christmas ornaments using seed pods.  I love the idea of transforming natural items and using them to decorate your home for the holidays!

Terrariums with air plants

Do you like terrariums?  I think of them as small worlds enclosed by glass.  There will be quite a few terrariums with air plants, including hanging ones.

Lavender sachets made from antique seed bags.

During a trip to Winona, Minnesota – we bought quite a few old seed bags from antique stores.  My mother, who is an excellent seamstress, made them into sachets, glass cases and aprons.

Reading glass cases made from antique seed bags.

‘Sparkly’ white Christmas seed pod ornaments
My sister has made a variety of Christmas ornaments using seed pods.  I love the idea of transforming natural items and using them to decorate your home for the holidays!

Basil Salt

I love using basil salt on my favorite Italian dishes.  The basil came straight from my garden 🙂

Mini air plants on antique wooden spools

Seed Bombs
Have you heard of seed bombs?  I wrote about this fun garden trend last year.  I first saw these at the Sustainability Festival last year.
 *Can you tell that they are wrapped in ‘recycled’ packaging?

Air plants mounted on driftwood sitting on top of wooden plants ready for hanging.

My mother and I collected much of the driftwood during our trip to Lake Michigan this summer.


In addition to what I’ve shown you above, we will have aprons, totes made from seed bags, terrariums made from light bulbs and fairy garden houses made from wood and moss.

Our goal was to create items using natural and/or recycled items. 

If you live in the greater Phoenix area, we would love to see you!  

We will be selling our natural items at the Believe Boutique, which is a large holiday boutique with over 125 vendors.  It is being held at Cornerstone Church in Chandler, Arizona on Friday, November 7th from 4:00 – 9:00 and again on Saturday, the 8th from 10:00 to 3:00.

**We’ll be located in the main lobby in the ‘Sustain’ booth.  I’d love to meet you, if you have time to stop by!

Have you ever visited a place that took you a long time to get to?


I’m not talking about how long it takes to travel there but the length of time that you had wanted to visit a place before you finally got there.



I have lived in Arizona for 28 years and during that time have visited the southwestern, western, northwestern, northern, northeastern, eastern and southern areas of our beautiful state.  

However, I am embarrassed to say that I have never visited the southeastern part of Arizona.  I had wanted to visit Bisbee, AZ for years.  So, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Bisbee for our 28th wedding anniversary.

So, we packed our bags and headed out.  Our route took us through Tucson and then toward Tombstone, AZ where we had some fun adventures including viewing the “World’s Largest Rosebush”.
You can read about our Tombstone adventures, here.

After leaving Tombstone, we soon arrived in Bisbee.


Bisbee is an old copper mining town.


It has been often described as an old mining town with a European flair.


 Bisbee is situated within the Mule Mountains and built into the hillsides.


100 year old buildings have been converted into art galleries, hotels, restaurants and shops.


Bisbee’s existence is due to the now-closed, open-pit copper mine.

As you drive into the historic section of Bisbee, you can view the enormous open pit where they mined for years.  
*To get an idea of the scale, look at the buildings to the left of the mine.  


It is obvious, after spending a few minutes in Bisbee, that it is a community with many artists.

Concrete walls throughout the town displayed a variety of murals.


This mural was just outside our 100-year old hotel, Canyon Rose Suites, which I highly recommend.


I liked this garden mural of potted succulents along the Cochise County Cooperative Extension Office, which had gardening tips up in the window.


As you walked past some of the art galleries, you could see examples of unique art, like the colorful doorway, across the street.

I walked across the street to see what was used to create this unique doorway…


It was a collection of colorful, plastic shopping bags and recycled bottles.

*Plastic bags are banned in Bisbee and stores charge you 5 cents for paper bags.  So, it’s easier to bring your own recyclable shopping bag with you.


We didn’t buy anything for our kids, although I was tempted to buy this ‘zombie miner’ shirt for my son.


I enjoyed seeing the old buildings – some were a bit quirky like this storefront covered in bottle caps.


We passed by this interesting figure made from recycled materials.  His body is made from an old propane tank, his legs are made from rebar inserted into coils, the arms are made of rebar with plastic forks stuck to the ends and his head is an old bucket with washers for his eyes.


An empty lot along the main street had some unique pieces of artwork as well with an outdoor living room depicted.

As you can see, it is wise to expect the unexpected when walking through the historical sections of Bisbee.

One evening, we were walking along the main road after dinner, when I noticed something strange on the mountainside…


Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting a skull and crossbones.  The hotel across the street, had a special light that shone onto the mountainside across the street.

*The next night the skull and crossbones had been replaced by the ‘bat signal’ from Batman fame.


The residents of Bisbee are very friendly and the city proudly marches to beat of its own drummer.

I saw this bumper sticker that I think described Bisbee pretty well.


Because Bisbee is built up on a mountainside, there are a lot of stairways, which have led to an annual event known as “The Bisbee Great Stair Climb” where participants climb 1,000 stairs, distributed throughout different stairways.


Each stairway is clearly designated throughout the city and the number of stairs in each stairway is indicated for tourists who want to try climbing the stairs for themselves.


Here is another one.


This one leads up to the city park and is 127 steps.


This one was the most colorfully painted.

*My husband dared me to climb one of the longest stairways.  Click here to see which stairway he dared me to try and if I tried to scale the seemingly endless steps.


Of course, a vital part of a vacation is enjoying good food.  We had lunch at the ‘Screaming Banshee’, which served delicious basil pesto breadsticks and great pizza.

We also enjoyed eating at Bisbee’s Table and Santiago’s Mexican restaurants.


Walking through Bisbee is enjoyable, but bring comfortable shoes because you are either walking up or downhill.  

Because Bisbee is 5,500 feet up in altitude, we got a good workout walking, which is a good thing because we ate a lot of great food!


As you can see, we had a great time AND I haven’t even shown you the gardens yet!

Come back next time when I show some cute bungalow gardens, roses, cacti, hidden gardens and more 🙂

Earlier this month, my husband and I traveled to Bisbee, Arizona.


For those of you who have never visited, Bisbee is a fun, quirky place that marches to the beat of its own drummer.  I had a great time!




Bisbee is an old, mining town built on a side of a mountain.  As a result, there are different stairways scattered throughout the historical district.  An annual event is held each year called, “The Great Stair Climb” where participants climb the stairways for a total of 1,000 steps.


Tourist are welcome to climb one or all of the stairways at any time of the year.

Each stairway is marked with the number of steps that it has.  Some are rather long while others are less so.


This stairway that led up to the city park was 127 steps.


While walking through the historical district, my husband dared me to climb one of the longest stairways.

I don’t think that my husband expected me to climb those stairs – he knows that I am not the athletic type.  BUT after 28 years of marriage, I decided to prove to him that I am still full of surprises, so I started up the stairway.


I’m not sure why I took my purse with me.


For those of you who may be scoffing at my labors at this point, I’d like to point out that this photo shot is zoomed in and doesn’t accurately show how many steps I had already climbed.

It was getting pretty difficult at this point and I realized that we were at a high altitude of 5,500 feet, so I was beginning to huff quite a bit.

But, I wouldn’t quit unless I fainted.


I am happy to say that I made it climbing 188 steps!

Can you see my arms raised in victory at the top?


Here is a close-up.

Now I just had to walk down 188 steps.

I must admit that my legs felt shaky when I had climbed down, but I was happy that I had done it and surprised my husband at the same time.

After the climb, we walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch.


Along the way, we passed another stairway and my husband challenged me to climb that one.

Needless to say, I said “NO”.


As a horticulturist, I have quite a few plants on my list of favorites.  So many in fact, that I cannot grow them all in my own garden.


But, this favorite has a prominent place in my home landscape – I have four of them.



This pink beauty is what I see when I look out my kitchen window.

I can also see another one growing when I look out my living room window.

And another one when I look out my bedroom window.

You get the idea…

Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana) grows in both humid and dry climates.  Believe it or not, it is drought-tolerant too!

To learn more about this beautiful, pink plant and why you will want to add one to your garden, check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.


Do you have a vegetable garden or have you thought of maybe starting one?


Four years ago, we planted our first vegetable garden.




The kids were eager to join in the fun and helped us install our new garden.

We created a raised vegetable garden that measured 7 x 8 feet for a total area of 56 square feet of space for vegetables.

Although I have grown vegetables as a child and again as a horticulture student – this was our first time growing vegetables on our own.

It has been an incredibly rewarding an learning experience.

After the first year, we enjoyed our little garden so much, that we added an extension…


Our garden was fenced to keep our dogs out.

It was so great having even more space to grow vegetables.  You can view how we built our vegetable beds, here.

Those of you who grow vegetables, probably won’t be surprised to hear that we took it even further.  We created an edible garden along the side of our backyard, complete with our largest raised bed and added fruit trees and berries.

But, back to our original vegetable garden.  This is the garden that I see from my family room window.  Besides growing vegetables, it is also where I have masses of flowers growing, which attract pollinators.


Hollyhocks grow year after year, with no help from me.  I planted hollyhock seeds 4 years ago and since then, they come every year.

The hollyhocks are located just outside of the raised bed and get enough water from the vegetable garden.

Every year, I am never certain what colors of hollyhock will come up.  Some years, I have had white, red, pale pink and magenta flowers.


This year, it is magenta.


Nasturtiums always play an important part in my spring vegetable garden.  They help to repel damaging insects from my vegetables AND they add beauty to my garden as well.

They usually come up from seed, beginning in February.


This is the last of my leaf lettuce for the season.  Hot temperatures will cause it to ‘bolt’ soon and make the leaves taste bitter.  In my garden, this usually occurs in mid-May.

The blue lobelia came up on their own from those planted the previous year.


Onions are beginning to flower and I will harvest them once the tops die back, which should be around late May, early June.

I like to dice my onions and freeze them for future use.


My garden also has an unlikely plant growing next to my carrots – Pink Wood Sorrel.  I received a cutting of this plant from a fellow-blogger from Oregon.  Surprisingly, it thrives in its corner in my vegetable garden.  

The flowers appear throughout spring and then the entire plant dies down in the summer before growing back in the fall.


Along the front of the extended vegetable garden, sit three containers filled with a combination of flowering plants, vegetables and herbs.  It is very easy to grow vegetables in pots and you can read how to here.


The newest addition to this area of the garden is a Meyer lemon tree.  I realize that it looks rather sad, but there are quite a few new leaves beginning to bud and a few, tiny lemon fruit beginning to form.

The chicken wire is a temporary barrier for the dogs.  Eventually, we will remove it.

We selected a Meyer lemon tree because it is slightly more cold-hardy then the ‘Eureka’ variety.    Meyer lemons are sweeter them other lemon varieties because they are not a true lemon – they are a cross between an orange and lemon tree.  As a result, they are slightly sweeter then your typical lemon.

The only downside to Meyer lemons compared with ‘Eureka’ is that they are thorny.


Strawberries, malabar spinach and garlic are also current residents in my first edible garden.

But, this time of year – my favorite plant in my edible garden isn’t edible – it is my 12-foot tall hollyhocks.

So, how about you?  Do you have an edible garden, or are you thinking of starting one?

Do you like red-flowering plants?

I do.


Many of the landscape plants in the southwestern landscape tend to be found in shades of purple and yellow.  As a result, I tend to include plants with red flowers whenever I create a design to help balance the purple and yellows in the plant palette.

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) is one of my favorites because it has such unusual flowers.  

They do look like ‘fairy-dusters’, don’t they?  The unique shape of the flowers is due to the fact that the showy part of each flower is actually a bunch of stamens grouped together – you don’t see the petals.

You can learn more about this beautiful, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance shrub including what zones it will grow in, in my latest plant profile for Houzz

Which red-flowering plants is your favorite?