Summer annuals

Last week, on a trip to our local big box store, I was greeted by the pallets loaded with beautiful, red geraniums.  This is a sight that made me angry.

You may be wondering why on earth the sight of beautiful flowers made me angry.  Well, I do love flowers, (obviously… I’m a horticulturist) –  so that is not what made me mad.

What if I told you that most of the annual flowers that were on display at the beginning of April, are the same kind of flowers that were for sale in September and October.

Summer annuals


Now, if you take a minute to consider this, you come to the conclusion that the annual flowers that the big box stores are being offered for sale in early April – just in time for summer.  That doesn’t make much sense does it?

Well, winter annuals are called “winter annuals” for a reason….because they grow in the winter, NOT in the summer.  They cannot handle our hot summers here in the desert.

You may think that this problem does not apply to you if you don’t live in the desert and your summers do not get as hot as ours.  Well, I hate to inform you that this problem occurs all over the US.  

Summer annuals


I love Violas, but these beautiful hanging violas that were hanging outside of the nursery department will be toast, literally, in just a couple of months.  My violas that have been growing beautifully since late October, are starting to show signs of stress with the couple of 80+ days we have experienced last week. 

And so, this is what makes me angry this time of year, when I enter the nursery section of my big box store.  The winter annual flowers are beautifully laid out in order to entice shoppers as they enter.  You can see the shoppers envisioning how beautiful their gardens will be once they add some of these colorful flowers.  

Marigolds, Alyssum, and Petunias

Marigolds, Alyssum, and Petunias

What they do not realize is that in two months, the alyssum and petunias, pictured above, will be dead and their money wasted.**Interestingly, the petunias and alyssum are placed alongside the orange colored marigolds, which usually will do quite well through most of the summer.  

Arizona is different from many parts of the country.  Our mild winters allow us to grow annual flowers that are grown elsewhere in the country in the summer. 



People put their trust in their plant nursery and believe that they would not sell anything that would not thrive in their garden.  They rely on their expertise to sell the right plant for the right time of year.  Sadly, this is not true of all nurseries, especially those at the big box stores.  People begin to believe that they cannot grow flowers or that they have a “black thumb” instead of a green one when their newly planted flowers begin to die soon after planting.

But do not DESPAIR….there is hope!

You can avoid being a victim and the solution is really quite simple….do a little research.  It can be as simple as doing a Google Search and enter the term….summer annuals for (your city or area).  You should be given a long list of plants that should thrive in your area.  

**For residents of the Arizona and California desert, I have done the online searching for you.  You can check out the following link for information on what kind of flowers to grow and when.

Out With The Old and In With The New….

Beavertail Cactus

 Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris)

Soft, pastel colored flowers ready for Easter.  But on a cactus?  


Ready for Easter

Each year, an event occurs in the surrounding desert about the same time as Easter.  Beautiful spots of bright color start to appear on the hillsides of the desert.

Ready for Easter

Cacti everywhere are beginning to bloom.

Ready for Easter

Isn’t it amazing that such a tough, prickly plant produces such gorgeous flowers?

Purple Prickly Pear

Purple Prickly Pear (Opuntia violaceae santa-rita)

The flowers themselves are soft….unlike the cactus.

Every spring, I look forward to seeing the beautiful show that the cacti put on with their colorful blooms.  I have anxiously been waiting to share them with you and now they are beginning to bloom 🙂

Ready for Easter

I hope you have enjoyed these unusual, yet beautiful flowers.

Happy Easter!

pictures of flowers


From time to time, I receive emails from readers of my blog who ask me a gardening question or two.  Well, I love talking about plants and helping people with their gardens, so it works out well.

Earlier this week, I was so surprised to find an email from a reader who had sent me pictures of flowers growing in their garden.

pictures of flowers


To be honest, I was touched that someone would want to share with me pictures of their garden.

I love to garden, obviously…..but it is so nice to get a view of what is happening in other people’s gardens.   

Pansy & Dianthus

 Pansy & Dianthus

The beautiful flowers that I am privileged to show you are from the garden of Frank & Lynda who reside in Northeast Mesa, which is a suburb of Phoenix.

Alyssum, Geranium and Nasturtium

 Alyssum, Geranium and Nasturtium

Frank was kind enough to let me show you all their beautiful flowers.  As he put it, his wife has the ‘green thumb’ and he is the ‘waterboy’. 

gardening question

Pictures of flowers

Frank & Lynda, thank you for allowing me to share some of your beautiful flowers.

**If any of you would like to show me what is growing in your garden, please feel free to send me an email with a picture.  I would love to post photos of what you are growing, so that other people can enjoy them as well.

Have a great day!

As a child, I was a voracious reader….I still am.  One of my favorite authors was C.S. Lewis.  My mother introduced me to the first book of the “Chronicles of Narnia“,  The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe.  As soon as I had finished the first chapter, I was hooked.  I couldn’t wait to read the remaining six books in the series.  So, my mother told me that if I folded laundry for two weeks, then she would buy me the rest of the books.  Over the years, I have read and re-read those books countless times, sharing them with my children.  

In the summer of 2003, my family embarked on a vacation to Great Britain.  It was actually a family tour because our entire extended family came…aunts, uncles and cousins included.  We had a large bus, a driver and my uncle (who is a college professor who teaches classes about C.S. Lewis), as a tour guide.  We visited Scotland, Wales and finished up in England.  

The last full day of our trip was to be my most favorite.  We were to visit the home, pub, church and grave of C.S. Lewis.

Vacation to Great Britain

Vacation to Great Britain

His home is located in the village of Risinghurst, which is just outside of Oxford.  The home is generally not open for tourists and is owned by the United States based C.S. Lewis Foundation and is primarily used by scholars.  

Our time there was spent viewing the gardens and the surrounding grounds.

Vacation to Great Britain

C.S. Lewis wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia” in this home where he lived for 34 years, until his death in 1963.   Both his home and surrounding landscape played important roles in his stories. 

During WWII, he played host to children that were evacuated from London, just as the main characters in his stories were.

Although, I had been looking forward to seeing his home, I was quite surprised at how beautiful the surrounding garden was.  I love surprises that involve beautiful flowers.






My favorite flower that I cannot grow, Hydrangea.

The house used to be surrounded by eight acres of woodland.  Now, the area is smaller.  

I remember how excited I was as we walked around to the back of the house, and were greeted by the sight of a beautiful woodland with a pond.   This area is called the “C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve” and was visible to Lewis from his study window as he wrote his stories.  

My father and oldest daughter explore this picturesque area

 My father and oldest daughter explore this picturesque area.

It is said that much of the inspiration for the land of Narnia came from this wooded area.  During periods of snowfall, you can almost picture the lamp post, that figures prominently in his stories, in the distance.

Vacation to Great Britain

When I stopped to listen, I could almost hear the trees talk as they sometimes did in his stories….

You can read more about C.S. Lewis places to see in Oxford at the following link, “In The Footsteps of C.S. Lewis, Oxford“.

As you read this, I am on my way home from a visit to “The Refuge”.  I love visiting my sister and her family and will have lots to post about in the coming days….

In preparation for March’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, I took a walk out into my front garden.  I had a good idea of what was flowering, but also met up with a few surprises along the way.

few surprises

Red Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) reaches it’s peak blooming period in my garden during the month of May.  The bees are busy and the blooms are beautiful.

few surprises

Another of my Globe Mallow shrubs, but this one produces delicate white flowers.

few surprises

And last, my Pink Globe Mallow.  If it wasn’t obvious before, this is one of my favorite shrubs in the garden.  Beautiful flowers, drought tolerant, low maintenance….what’s not to love?

few surprises

A single flower from my Valentine shrub (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’).  Still blooming, although blooming will start to slow and will end sometime in April.

few surprises

Numerous yellow blooms from my Desert Senna (Senna artemisiodies sturtii) reach towards the sky.  I can view these shrubs from my kitchen window.

Firecracker Penstemon

Plumes of flowers from my Firecracker Penstemon, (Penstemon eatonii), act as focal points in the front garden during both winter and spring.

lavender blooms

Goodding’s Verbena, (Glandularia gooddingii), is now covered in lavender blooms.

**I had planted a couple of these perennials in the garden over ten years ago and did not replace them when they died off 3 years later (Verbena are short-lived perennials).  Six years later, we had a very wet rainy season and guess what?  Some old seedlings from the original plants began to come up.  The Verbena above is one of the ‘babies’ from the original plants.  While I was out today taking pictures, I noticed two more ‘babies’ coming up.  I am so happy!


People either love or hate Bougainvillea.  I happen to like them, except for when it comes time to prune them.  They are beautiful and drought-tolerant.  One of my Bougainvillea was protected by a tree from frost and is now producing flowers earlier then those that were unprotected.


As I was walking through the garden, I noticed a flash of color from my Radiation Lantana, (Lantana camara ‘Radiation’).  I was not expecting any blooms yet, but soon my Lantana will be covered with brightly colored flowers.

I hope you have enjoyed this ‘walk’ through my garden.  Please visit May Dream’s Gardens to view other bloggers and their gardens who also participate in Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.

Okay, you may be thinking, what am I talking about?  Well long ago, on a spring morning, I noticed an intoxicating fragrance in the air that reminded me of grape bubblegum.  Well, there were no candy stores nearby, but I did notice a small tree with beautiful purple blossoms.  It turns out, that the fragrance was coming from the flowers.

Texas Mountain Laurel

The flowers hung down like grape clusters and I later found out that this tree was called Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora).  

I have wanted to share this tree with you for a long time, but wanted to wait until they were flowering.  Well, yesterday as I was visiting my mother (Pastor Farmer) at Double S Farms, I noticed that their Texas Mountain Laurel were beginning to flower and so hurried home to prepare this post.

Texas Mountain Laurel

There are so many wonderful things that I love about this tree.   Of course, the fragrant, purple flowers are my favorite thing, but I also like that this tree is evergreen, drought-tolerant and easy to maintain.

They are native to Texas, New Mexico and Mexico.  They grow approximately 20 – 25 ft. high and 10 – 15 ft. wide.  They grow naturally as a large shrub, but are often seen trained as small trees. 

This beautiful tree is hardy to approximately 20 degrees F.  So, I highly recommend trying it in your landscape.  

They flower in March and their grape bubblegum fragrance is unmistakable.  Seedpods are formed shortly after flowering stops.  I am not a huge fan of seedpods in general, but I really like the ones from this tree – their creamy color and shapes add interest to the tree.

Texas Mountain Laurel

Inside the seedpods are bright red seeds that are extremely hard and poisonous.  Long ago, Native Americans would use the seeds to create bracelets and necklaces.

*One year, my nephews, (Mr. Green Jeans & Monkey Boy), took the seedpods and painted them yellow and painted little snowman faces on them and gave them as gifts for Christmas.  I still have mine and it decorates my Christmas tree every year.

There is a another variety that has gray leaves, which is also just as beautiful in my opinion.

*Caterpillars can become a problem during warm weather, but you can just ignore them and/or pick them off.  If you see loose webbing on the leaves, that is a sign that it is infected by caterpillars.  The damage caused from the caterpillars does not usually hurt the tree.  It helps if you detect the eggs before they hatch and remove them.  Since caterpillars usually infect the new growth, I just prune off the affected areas.

Texas Mountain Laurel

Texas Mountain Laurel is a slow-growing shrub/tree and so I recommend buying the largest size you can afford if possible.  Like so many flowering plants, there are those who formally prune it and remove all of the beautiful flowers – PLEASE don’t do this.

And so in closing, the next time you detect the fragrance of grape bubblegum in the air, look around you and see if you discover the beautiful Texas Mountain Laurel nearby.

Red Globe Mallow

I absolutely love this shrub.  It flowers for me fall through spring.  Normally, Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) is seen with orange flowers.  However, there are some varieties that produce red, purple, pink, white or coral flowers.  

Red Globe Mallow

I have posted about this native desert plant previously and you can read more here if you like. 

This fall, I harvested seeds from my Red Globe Mallow and I would like to offer some to those of you who are kind enough to read my blog.

Please keep in mind that Globe Mallow is native to the southwestern regions of the United States and therefore is used to a somewhat dry climate with warmer winters.  I have also listed the following for you to look over in order to help you decide if Globe Mallow will grow and thrive where you live:

– Globe Mallow are hardy to approximately 20 degrees F.

– They grow to approximately 3′ x 3′.

-Globe Mallow require full sun – no shade.

-They are extremely drought-tolerant, so should not be located in a wet area. 

-Globe Mallow attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies.

-Does best without fertilizer.

Red Globe Mallow

My Red Globe Mallow is located nearby some pink and white varieties as well, ( I don’t have any seeds from these yet), and cross-pollination does occur.  So, some of the seeds may produce Globe Mallow shrubs that produce flowers other then red.   And so…be prepared for a surprise ;^)

Obviously, I don’t have enough seeds to give to everyone.  So, I will send seeds to the first 10 people who request them.  Be sure to leave a comment and then email me your address using the email link on my blog.

I can’t wait to share the seeds with you.  This plant is extremely easy to start from seed and I am always pulling out volunteers that come up all over my garden.

I hope you are all having a great weekend!

Yesterday, I wrote about a visit to “The Farm at South Mountain”, which is an old farm that is a rural oasis in the shadow of downtown Phoenix.

The Farm at South Mountain

The farm is made up of organic flower and vegetable gardens, restaurants, a large pecan grove picnic area, artist studio, gift shop, farmer’s market and spa.  Weddings are also held here in this beautiful place.

The Farm at South Mountain

As lovely the pecan grove looks in the winter, I plan to return in the summer to see them fully leafed out, so I can enjoy a picnic lunch in their shade.

organic flower

Sweet Columbine

Although the vegetable gardens were most prominent gardens to view, flowers could be found planted in mass, such as daisies and calendulas.  But, I delighted in finding the flowers that were tucked away in unexpected places.

organic flower

Vibrant, Red Ranunculus

Although, I do like vegetables, I am a flower girl at heart and so, I had so much fun looking here and there making sure that I did not miss any flowers.  

organic flower
organic flower

Gerber Daisies grace the front of a collection of flowers.

Some flowers such as the Ranunculus and the Columbine, are not often seen in gardens in our area, and so I was happy to be able to take pictures of them to add to my photo library.

organic flower

Spanish Lavender (Lavendula stoechas)

Do any of you have a flower or plant that you just love but for some unknown reason, you have not included it in your garden?  Well, I love lavender and do not have any in my garden.  Note to self…I need to plant some lavender ;^)

Heliotrope, Gerber and Purple Daisies

 Heliotrope, Gerber and Purple Daisies.

Like I said before, you never know where you will find flowers.  This laundry basket had a few cans full of flowers just sitting off to the side.

Bright, Sunny Calendula Flower

Bright, Sunny Calendula Flower.

Calendulas grew in organized mass plantings alongside the vegetables.

organic flower

Fruity Girl (resident of “The Refuge”) peruses the flowers, herbs and succulents for sale.

Violas and Alyssum

Violas and Alyssum





Years ago, I grew Candytuft with Purple Coneflower.  I love the brightness of the white color of the Candytuft.

More Violas

More Violas

organic flower

Rows of Geraniums.

Geraniums perform very well in the desert, but generally do not survive the summer heat.  So, they are best treated as a winter-annual in the desert.

Valentine shrub with Geraniums

Valentine shrub with Geraniums.

The Farm at South Mountain

Little Farmer, Pastor Farmer, Fruity Girl, Mr. Compost, Daisy Mom and Monkey Boy.

I enjoyed visiting this special place with my younger sister and her family (residents of “The Refuge”).  My mother, Pastor Farmer and nephew Little Farmer, (residents of Double S Farms) also came.

The Farm at South Mountain is a wonderful place to visit.  I can hardly wait to visit again in the summer with my husband and kids when they will have summer flowers for us to see :^)

Tomorrow, will be my last post about this special place….

I find joy in the simple things and that includes my garden as well.

Yesterday, as I was preparing for my daughter’s 12th birthday party, I realized that I wanted to have a vase full of flowers to decorate the table.  I had no time to go to the store, so I ran outside and clipped some blooms from my flowering shrubs and one of my vines.

full of flowers

The flowers of Desert Senna, Globe Mallow and Purple Lilac Vine.

Although, there were not too many plants blooming, I was happy to have found three types of flowers that would look nice together in a bouquet.

Yes, my bouquet was simple and decidedly un-formal, but that describes me perfectly.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to bring my blooming garden inside.

And so…I plan to create a simple bouquet from the flowers of my garden each month.  I am looking forward to seeing how my bouquets will change as my garden changes through the months.

Anyone care to join me?  Even in winter, small branches from a flowering fruit tree or witch hazel would be beautiful.

Guess what came in the mail today?  Believe me, you’ll never guess…

Special Delivery
Baby Chicks

Baby Chicks!

Isn’t amazing that they send them in the mail?

These baby chicks are only 3 days old.  They can live for up to two days without food or water since they continue to live off the nutrition received from the yolk.  So, that makes it feasible to send them in the mail.

Baby Chicks

These baby chicks are the newest residents of Double S Farms.  Chicken Farmer, my sister, has everything all ready for them.

She wrote about her preparations in an earlier post “A Pair of Boots and an Empty Chicken Coop”.

Baby Chicks

Buff Orpington chick 

Barred Plymouth Rock chick

Barred Plymouth Rock chick

Baby Chicks

Their names are Flo, Effie, Ramona and Lucy.

The chicks will spend the next 6 weeks in their brooder, above.

But soon, they will be moving into their new custom made chicken coop.

Double s farms

We are all looking forward to fresh eggs…